Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #35 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Fulfilling the requirement:

The O letter for the author's last name alphabetically.

Summary:

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also loved on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.

Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year she waited for a ship to rescue her. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

Lesson learned:

Being on a deserted island is a lonely life.

Link to review: click here

Book Review of Quidditch Through the Ages by Kenilworthy Whisp (J.K Rowling)

Name of Book: Quidditch Through the Ages

Author: Kennilworthy Whisp (JK Rowling)

ISBN: 0-439-29502-5

Publisher: Scholastic

Part of a Series: Harry Potter

Type of book: History, Quidditch, magic, Harry Potter

Year it was published: 2001

Summary: 

If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence, or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This limited edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to improving and saving the lives of children around the world- work that is even more important and astonishing than the three-and-a-half-second capture of the Golden Snitch by Roderick Plumpton in 1921.

Albus Dumbledore

Characters:

There aren't any characters in the book, just a general version of Quidditch history.

Theme:

A lot of incidents make up the modern version.

Plot:

There is no plot sorry to say. The focus is on Quidditch and how it evolved into the game that's covered in Harry Potter novels.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

Kennilworthy is a renowned Quidditch expert (and, he says, fanatic.) He is the author of many Quidditch-related works, including The Wonder of Wigtown Wanderers, He Flew like a Madman (a biography of "Dangerous" Dai Llwellyn) and Beating the Bludgers- A study of Defensive Strategies in Quidditch.

Kennilworthy Whisp divides his time between his home in Nottinghamshire and "wherever Wigtown Wanderers are playing this week." His hobbies include backgammon, vegetarian cookery, and collecting vintage broomsticks.

born
July 31, 1965 in Yate, South Gloucestershire, England, The United Kingdom

gender
female

website
http://www.jkrowling.com

twitter username
jk_rowling

genre
Literature & Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy

influences
Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Goudge, C.S. Lew...more


About this author
edit data

J.K. Rowling (Joanne "Jo" Rowling) is the writer behind the best selling Harry Potter series. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies and been the basis for a popular series of films.

Aside from writing the Potter novels, Rowling is perhaps equally famous for her "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Britain. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fandom. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and the Children's High Level Group. Rowling's mother died of multiple sclerosis, and because of this she became severely depressed for a period of time.

Real people are the basis for her characters, including one of her most famous, Gilderoy Lockhart, though she refuses to say on whom he is based.

Harry Potter is her most famous debut, though she has written other books branching off of Potter, including The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Quidditch through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.

Rowling has millions of fans and is a household name all around the world, so if you write her a letter, don't expect her to answer it. Please note that she doesn't have an email address.

Opinion:

This could be called a companion to Harry Potter novels. I found it enjoyable and interesting. This book talks about various broomsticks that are used for Quidditch, how the game evolved, rules, British teams, its popularity in different nations, fouls and so forth. I don't think this book explains how the game is played, although it does talk about various positions and so forth. I would guess that Quidditch is the Wizard European version of soccer because for America she talks about Quodpot which sounds like American football.

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 Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Name of Book: Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Author: Thomas Hardy

ISBN: 0-553-21168-4

Publisher: Bantam classic

Type of book: rape, 1800s, marriage, values, adult, descendants of wealth, adult

Year it was published: 1891

Summary:

Violated by one man, forsaken by another, Tess Durbeyfield is the magnificent and spirited heroine of Thomas Hardy’s immortal work. Of all the great English novelists, no one writes more eloquently of tragic destiny than Hardy. With the innocent and powerless victim Tess, he creates profound sympathy for human frailty while passionately indicting the injustices of Victorian society. Scorned by outraged readers upon its publication in 1891, Tess of the d’Urbervilles is today one of the enduring classics of nineteenth-century literature.

Characters:

I found Tess to be a confusing character and couldn't understand a lot of her actions. Why couldn't she keep her mouth shut about not being a virgin? Doesn't she realize how she'll get treated if she tells the truth? I also couldn't understand why she did what she did with Alec and all.

Theme:

Don't tell someone your sexual history.

Plot:

The story is written in third person narrative from multiple character points of views. The plot seems simple, in that it has the history why things have happened the way they had, but I had to admit that I found the parts where Tess was working boring. I likd the ending sort of, but it rushed on too suddenly and there seemed to be no transition between it. I also liked the division into seven phases and the author stuck closely to the phases.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
June 02, 1840 in Stinsford, Dorchester, Dorset, England, The United Kingdom

died
January 11, 1928

gender
male

genre
Literature & Fiction, Poetry

About this author
edit data

Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his facination with the supernatural. Though he regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy's poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The term cliffhanger is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy's serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the previously mentioned novel Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

Opinion:

Surprisingly I liked the novel, although I found it a boring read when it comes to Tess working and so forth. I think its mainly because I don't care much about the nature descriptions and so forth when it comes to Tess and somehow they sounded boring to me. The parts where Angel interacts with Tess is sweet and I felt sad that he had left her when he learned the truth about her sexual past. I couldn't help but see how hypocritical situation is, and it's not as if Tess had done it willingly. The separation part, I couldn't understand why Tess does the things she does such as refusing money from Angel's family and so forth.

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 Red and the Black by Stendhal

Name of Book: The Red and the Black

Author: Stendhal

ISBN: 9783829069908

Publisher: Konemann

Type of book: French, 1800s post French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, peasantry, upper class, 1830

Year it was published: 1830

Summary:

Handsome and ambitious, Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble peasant origins and make something of his life-by adopting the code of hypocrisy by which his society operates. Julien ultimately commits a crime-out of passion, principle, or insanity-that will bring about his downfall. The Red and the Black is a lively, satirical picture of French Restoration society after Waterloo, riddled with corruption, greed, and ennui. The complex, sympathetic portrayal of Julien, the cold exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions, makes him Stendhal's most brilliant and human creation-and one of the greatest characters in European literature.

Characters:

Julian is a very cold character and the love had for Mathilde as well as Madame De Renal didn't ring true for me. For Mathilde it was incredibly calculated. I also never understood why Julian was determined to die and never tried to save himself from death. I didn't understand the 1830 thinking, didn't understand the politics or anything like that.

Theme:

If a character is determined to die, then they'll die no matter what.

Plot:

Third person narrative from multiple characters' points of views. In all honesty, this was a very confusing novel for me although the writing or translation was amazing. The only parts I liked were the beginning and close ending and that's it.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
January 23, 1783 in Grenoble, France

died
March 23, 1842

website
http://www.stendhalforever.com/

genre
Literature & Fiction


About this author

Henri-Marie Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal , was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

Opinion:

My mom bragged about this book and so forth, except she was talking about a movie not a book. I really hoped I would like this book, thus I am disappointed to give it 2 stars. The book is very verbose and in order to enjoy it I think there needs to be a great deal of familiarity with French culture and thought, as well as politics. I don't like politics in all honesty thus the novel was boring for me. The characters were also very frustrating for me, especially Julian. I couldn't understand neither his motives nor actions. I wished that there would be an honest epilogue few years later instead of few months later. The courtship was confusing and honestly there should be indexes or something for a typical courtship and so forth when it comes to France.

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 #0 THe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Name of Book: The Hobbit

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

ISBN: 0-395-28265-9

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Part of a Series: Lord of the Rings

Type of book: prequel, fantasy, hobbits, dragons, dwarfs, wizard, magic, Gollum, origins, magic ring, adventure

Year it was published: 1937

Summary:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

The hobbit-hole in question belongs to one Bilbo Baggins, an upstanding member of a "little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves." He is, like most of his kind, well off, well fed, and best pleased when sitting by his own fire with a pipe, a glass of good beer, and a meal to look forward to. Certainly this particular hobbit is the last person one would expect to see set off on a hazardous journey; indeed, when Gandalf the Grey stops by one morning, "looking for someone to share in an adventure," Baggins fervently wishes the wizard elsewhere. No such luck, however; soon 13 fortune-seeking dwarves have arrived on the hobbit's doorstep in search of a burglar, and before he can even grab his hat or an umbrella, Bilbo Baggins is swept out his door and into a dangerous adventure.

The dwarves' goal is to return to their ancestral home in the Lonely Mountains and reclaim a stolen fortune from the dragon Smaug. Along the way, they and their reluctant companion meet giant spiders, hostile elves, ravening wolves--and, most perilous of all, a subterranean creature named Gollum from whom Bilbo wins a magical ring in a riddling contest. It is from this life-or-death game in the dark that J.R.R. Tolkien's masterwork, The Lord of the Rings, would eventually spring. Though The Hobbit is lighter in tone than the trilogy that follows, it has, like Bilbo Baggins himself, unexpected iron at its core. Don't be fooled by its fairy-tale demeanor; this is very much a story for adults, though older children will enjoy it, too. By the time Bilbo returns to his comfortable hobbit-hole, he is a different person altogether, well primed for the bigger adventures to come--and so is the reader. --Alix Wilber

Characters:

Besides Bilbo and Gandalf, the characters are dull and boring somehow. I am not sure why, but it feels that the characters are just names and I couldn't travel into their thoughts and personalities. Thorin did stand out as well, but besides names I can't remember their personalities. All I know is that I couldn't connect to them and felt alienated.

Theme:

Expect the unexpected.

Plot:

The story is simple to follow and is written in third person narrative from Bilbo's point of view. It reads like a child's adventure, but again, it doesn't sparkle and crackle with life but is dull instead. Its similar to Lewis Carroll (when I read it for fun years ago, I swear I thought it was a zero star book...) Tolkien tries to make the book good, but it didn't work for me sorry to say.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)
born
January 03, 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa

died
September 02, 1973

gender
male

website
http://www.tolkienestate.com/

genre
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Children's Books

influences
Catholicism, Norse Mythology, Anglo-Saxon poetry, Finnish Mythology, I...more

About this author

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English language and literature from 1945 to 1959. He was a close friend of C.S. Lewis.

Christopher Tolkien published a series of works based on his father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion . These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about an imagined world called Arda, and Middle-earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the word "legendarium" to the larger part of these writings.

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the "father" of modern fantasy literature—or more precisely, high fantasy. Tolkien's writings have inspired many other works of fantasy and have had a lasting effect on the entire field.

In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning dead celebrity in 2009.

Religious influences
J.R.R. Tolkien, was born in South Africa in 1892, but his family moved to Britain when he was about 3 years old. When Tolkien was 8 years old, his mother converted to Catholicism, and he remained a Catholic throughout his life. In his last interview, two years before his death, he unhesitatingly testified, “I’m a devout Roman Catholic.”

Tolkien married his childhood sweetheart, Edith, and they had four children. He wrote them letters each year as if from Santa Claus, and a selection of these was published in 1976 as The Father Christmas Letters . One of Tolkien’s sons became a Catholic priest. Tolkien was an advisor for the translation of the Jerusalem Bible .

Tolkien once described The Lord of the Rings to his friend Robert Murray, an English Jesuit priest, as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." There are many theological themes underlying the narrative including the battle of good versus evil, the triumph of humility over pride, and the activity of grace. In addition the saga includes themes which incorporate death and immortality, mercy and pity, resurrection, salvation, repentance, self-sacrifice, free will, justice, fellowship, authority and healing. In addition The Lord's Prayer "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" was reportedly present in Tolkien's mind as he described Frodo's struggles against the power of the "One Ring.''

Opinion:

In 8th grade, for a late holiday present, a friend of mine gave me the set of Lord of the Rings books. That was the year before the movies came out, ironically. I recall as a middle schooler I loved The Hobbit as well as the series, but reading them today and last year has changed dramatically. The author is a talented writer as well as very creative, but for some odd reason the words didn't come to life for me and there was something boring about the books, or this book rather. When I had to read LoTR for school, it was because there weren't humorous scenes interspersed with serious scenes; with this one, while the story and plot were simple, I have no idea why I find this story boring.

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

E-Reading: Book Review of #1 No Risk Refused by Cara Summers

Name of Book: No Risk Refused

Author: Cara Summers

ISBN: 9780373796953

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Part of a Series: Forbidden Fantasies

Type of book: Mystery, supernatural, 1812, 2012, New York, romance, adult

Year it was published: 2012

Summary:

From Newly Wedded magazine: "This castle in upstate New York is the stuff of fantasies! And a kiss under the arch might make your love-or lust-last forever..." Indulging a family request, CIA agent Cam Sutherland has returned to Castle MacPherson for the first time in years to investigate a decades-old theft. But more importantly, it's the place where-in a brief moment-Cam very nearly lost his heart and soul to wedding planner Adair MacPherson. And Adair is still as bewitching as ever. When Cam finds a seven-year-old erotic story written by her-and starring him-his blood damn near boils over. The only solution? To prove to Adair that fantasies are best made into realities...and the best magic happens between the sheets! Forbidden Fantasies

Characters:

The character of Adair is best described as strong, determined and sensitive. Shortly after she was dumped and fired, she began the idea of using the castle for marriage as well as the legendary arch. She is also opportunistic and knows how to take advantage of various opportunities, such as capitalizing on the legned that ran in the newspaper about the arch and true love. Cam is sensitive and resourceful, and can best be described as a good teammate.  He is also loyal to his family and takes care of them.  I would have liked to see more interactions between Cam and his family members. Just a quick question, but are Cam and his brothers identical or fraternal triplets?

Theme:

True love and second chances are possible.

Plot:

This is written from third person narrative from both Adair's and Cam's points of views. I think its because I read previous Cara Summers novels, but a number of phrases got repeated from them. I think I would have liked to see more of the aunt's romance and more family interactions between Cam and his family, as well as Adair and her younger sisters. Romance-wise, I would have liked for the novel to be more believable, I felt that it was not believable in some cases unfortunately. (Was Cam slow to pick up on when he liked Adair from seven years ago?)

Author Information:

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

Opinion:

The story is enjoyable and really written, and for some odd reason I couldn't help but wonder if it has some similarity to Ms. Summers' DeAngelis Brothers. In some ways yes because of the three sisters and three brothers scenario, as well as the plot where the girls' mother passed away and the aunt raises them (In DeAngelis it was same thing; mother has died and the aunt looked after the brothers.) As far as I know, while one mystery so far isn't solved, it doesn't revolve around the single weekend. I think also there are a lot of repeated phrases that seem to get on my nerves (blaming smartbitchestrashybooks site for that...) Perhaps also its me, but I couldn't feel the characters' personalities during the novel, and would have wished there would be more focus on the aunt's romance as well.

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, August 29, 2012

Book Review of The Italian by Ann Radcliffe

Name of Book: The Italian

Author: Ann Radcliffe

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

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

Type of book: Gothic novel, late 1700s, young adult to adult, conspiracy, Inquisition, Italy, monk, hidden identities

Year it was published: 1796

Summary:

From the first moment Vincentio di Vivaldi, a young nobleman, sets eyes on the veiled figure of Ellena, he is captivated by her enigmatic beauty and grace. But his haughty and manipulative mother is against the match and enlists the help of her confessor to come between them. Schedoni, previously a leading figure of the Inquisition, is a demonic, scheming monk with no qualms about the task, whether it entails abduction, torture—or even murder. The Italian secured Ann Radcliffe's position as the leading writer of Gothic romance of the age, for its atmosphere of supernatural and nightmarish horrors, combined with her evocation of sublime landscapes and chilling narrative.

Characters:

The characters strike me as one dimensional and very generic: Ellena is the helpless and lucky heroine who doesn't faint as much as other heroines and that's it, while Vivaldi loves her and is willing to do anything for her. There is also Schedoni, whom Ellena helps turn from darkness, kind of. Other characters don't deserve a mention but are generic and barely seen again.

Theme:

I have no idea what the theme should be: good always triumphs?

Plot:

The plot is very simplistic and its written in a third person narrative from Vivaldi's and Ellena's points of views, as well as Schedoni's. I actually miss her purple prose as well as the poetry that was written in previous novels. Since it was published after Mysteries of Udolpho, I had hoped it would be better, but it wasn't, not at all.

Author Information:

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

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

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

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

Opinion:

At first I thought it would be better written, at least from the start it sounded almost like a modern novel. But as the story progressed, the worse written it became. The story was predictable, laughable, and I couldn't relate or feel sorry for the characters. (Involving the Inquisition just because Vivaldi escaped with Ellena? Or going through so many lengths just to assassinate her?) I am beginning to suspect that Mysteries of Udolpho has really spoiled me when it comes to Gothic literature. This has got to be fifth or sixth Gothic novel that I detested and gave very low marks to. Towards the very end, I got sick of reading it, thus I read one sentence per paragraph (really reduces the story...) I also have a bone to pick with the fact that Introduction was never properly tied up to the ending. (In Introduction, a group visits a monastery where they meet a murderer who works there. Upon their questions, the murderer gives them this story to read. The story ends with a marriage and never goes into the beginning.) It's written in a very similar style to The Monk by Matthew Lewis, and this is much more readable and understandable than The Monk.

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Part XXII: The Three Generations of men from Tale of Genji

Spoilers from
The Tale of Genji

One of the favorite books that I enjoyed reading was The Tale of Genji, and getting to know the many loves of Genji and To no Chujo's descendants. I have to admit that with modern sensibilities its easy to dislike their characters and behaviors, yet one has to look past all that. (The version I read was the Seidensticker edition.) I've discovered the book completely by accident: when I was taking World literature class, one of the assignments was to read portions from Norton World Anthology Vol B of The Tale of Genji. (The chapters were from Seidensticker edition, portions from Chapter 2, 4, 12, 13 and 25. I think I desired to read The Tale of Genji due to the second chapter, The Broom Tree.) When I got my bachelor's degree, however, I rewarded myself by asking from The Tale of Genji, and since then I hadn't regretted my decision. I will simply discuss the men from the novel: Genji, To no Chujo, Yugiri, Kashiwagi, Kaoru, and Niou.

Genji:
The Tale of Genji is also very Oedipal and numerous times I wondered what would Freud think of all that was going on in the book? (Genji's mother has passed away when he was an infant, and his father got a woman that resembles his mother who took care of him. Yes, there was a romantic attraction between the two...) Genji is very loyal to the women he loves, and takes care of them. He's also very successful and enjoys life the way he does. He does have faults of his own such as kidnapping the girl Murasaki who is related to Fujitsubo (the stepmother) and marrying her eventually. He seems to also fall in love too easily and would be compared to a Gary Stu character. There are a few things wrong with him though, despite the kidnapping of Murasaki and sleeping with his own stepmother. One of the things he mourns is his lack of children. He has three natural children, two sons and a daughter, but often wishes for more. Another would be not allowing for Murasaki to become a nun like she desired, and not respecting a certain lady that caused deaths of his wife and a lover he took up into the mountains. Genji is very nurturing and few times takes care of or ends up looking after children that are not his own.

To no Chujo:
Often To no Chujo and Genji are portrayed to be rivals in many things, especially women. To no Chujo cares a lot about appearances, and, unlike Genji, has way too many children. To no Chujo tends to be on the losing side and doesn't seem to care about the women in his life. In some cases he also makes very poor decisions, such as choosing a wrong husband for one of his daughters. He is Genji's brother in law as well as his best friend.

Yugiri:
Strangely enough, I thought that Yugiri bore strong resemblance to To no Chujo rather than to his father. He seems to have no great love as his father does, and like To no Chujo has countless children. What is odd as well is that Yugiri lost his mother at an early age (his mother was possessed by a spirit who kiled her,) and Murasaki took care of him, although Genji made sure that Yugiri never saw her or never fell in love with her. At first I thought he would have one love instead of multiple loves but I was wrong. If I recall correctly, he wasn't as successful as his father was.

Kashiwagi:
He's the son of To no Chujo and is one of the more likable characters, sort of. He and Yugiri are good friends, and he strongly resembles Genji. Genji ends up becoming married to a half niece if I'm not mistaken who is called The Third Princess. When Kashiwagi sees her, despite his marriage to Second Princess (probably a half or a full sister to Third Princess,) he falls in love with her and ends up seducing her. Kaoru results from the affair, whom Genji is forced to call his son. At one point, Kashiwagi takes care of a cat that the Third Princess loves. Unfortunately I cannot recall whether he died from killing himself or being killed by someone else. (I suspect that he may have died from not having her.)

The second part of the novel, ending with Genji's death and beginning with Prince Niou who is the grandson of Genji through his daughter, and Kaoru, legally Genji's son, but in reality, grandson of To no Chujo. For some odd reason the second half was an irritating and frustrating read for me, for it sounded like a broken record (not kidding.)

Prince Niou:
He strikes me as a selfish character as well as extremely arrogant. He can be described as attractive, but he seems to mess everything up, or at least he doesn't consider others' needs. He is also in competition with Kaoru, and has a wife and some children. At one point he makes Nakanokimi his wife and she bears his child. He's not the main character, thus we don't see his point of view.

Kaoru:
He should be a likable character because he might be considered the anti-hero of this novel. (Not a villain, but a different type of hero. I often thought anti-hero meant villain.) He might be a modern type of hero, although half the time I was wishing for him to love someone else instead of Oigimi. He does get married but I doubt he has children at the time the novel was over. He's also in love with Ukifune just like Prince Niou. Ukifune loves Prince Niou, I think, and half the time I wished to tell him to move on and so forth.

The story itself in a cliffhanger: Ukifune, desiring to escape, tries to kill herself, or else fakes her own death and is found by a monastery. She desires to be a nun. Kaoru learns of her whereabouts and creates a plan to bring her to him and that's it, the end. Use the imagination to figure out whether or not he'll succeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review of Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Name of Book: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Author: Scott O'Dell

ISBN: 0-440-90042-5

Publisher: Yearling book

Type of book: Female Robinson Crusoe, Native America, 1800s, stranded, animals, taking care of self

Year it was published: 1960

Summary:

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also loved on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.

Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year she waited for a ship to rescue her. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

Characters:

There is only one character in the book, Karana. She does change throughout the novel and does acquire a unique point of view. She is best described as resourceful, strong, resilient, and in time independent. She is also compassionate and capable.

Theme:

"Animals and birds are like people, too, though they do not talk the same or do the same things. Without them the earth would be an unhappy place." (156 of the book)

Plot:

This is written in first person narrative from Karana's point of view. I have to admit that the plot wasn't much, but instead it portrayed Karana attempting to survive being alone by giving her numerous pets as well as hunting for food and so forth. The years pass endlessly and she still remains on the island.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
May 23, 1898 in Los Angeles, California, The United States

died
October 16, 1989

website
http://www.scottodell.com/

genre
Children's Books, Historical Fiction


About this author

Scott O'Dell (May 23, 1898 – October 16, 1989) was an American children's author who wrote 26 novels for youngsters, along with three adult novels and four nonfiction books. He was most famously the author of the children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960), which won the 1961 Newbery Medal as well as a number of other awards. Other award winning books by O'Dell include The King's Fifth (1966), Black Star, Bright Dawn (1988), The Black Pearl (1967), and Sing Down the Moon (1970); which were all also Newbery Honor award books. O'Dell wrote primarily historical fiction. Many of his children's novels are about historical California and Mexico.

Opinion:

Although the story had potential to be more interesting and more touching, there was something about it that wasn't, at least to me. I read this when I was in elementary school and I remembered little about it. It is a unique book because its loosely based on a true story and the heroine is a woman instead of a male. I can imagine that its a tough job making the novel interesting as well as coming up with interesting plots because its only one character, not many. I didn't understand a lot about the story, such as how it could still have wild dogs if it appeared small, or what about the feminine cycle that should have bothered Karana somehow. Despite these minor problems, the story still held my attention, which means that the author has done a good job. Also, where is the island located at? Is it near California or north of Alaska or what exactly? I couldn't understand the geography of the island.

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.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Part XXI: The Age of Innocence vs East Wind, West Wind

Spoilers from
The Age of Innocence
East Wind, West Wind

On the surface, these two books seem to have nothing in common: one takes place in 1870s New York, or "Old New York" as its styled, among the almost elite family of Archers and those they know where we see the customs and whatnots the "Old New Yorkers" have developed, while East Wind West Wind takes place in China in 1920s, also in a wealthy family. The Age of Innocence has a masculine point of view from Newland Archer's desire to marry May Welland to him meeting Countess Ellen, while in East Wind West Wind we have a wealthy girl who's married to a Chinese educated in America.

Still, dig a little deeper and you can see that these books are not as different as one thinks they are. Both are about the women, or rather the education and breaking from tradition for the women. While the question may be the same for the time period, can women become independent from men, the conclusions are drawn completely differently. I will start with The Age of Innocence and then I will discuss East Wind, West Wind.

In The Age of Innocence we meet Newland Archer, a man about to marry the beautiful May Welland, and one who desires to liberate the women, or else break the traditions that shackle the society. Newland is best described as educated and shackled. He thinks himself above the rules and laws and believes that his and May's life together will be completely different than that of others he knows. His fiancée, May Welland, has been indoctrinated very well into what is expected of her, and she has never been taught to think for herself and so on. In the beginning of the novel, Newland Archer meets a very independent thinking woman who was raised by an eccentric aunt of May's named Countess Ellen Olenska; a woman who is married to the man she detests and only wishes freedom from him. While being in her company, Newland Archer starts to fall in love with her, although he does marry May and in the end his desires are never met: he realizes the pointlessness of trying to encourage May to become a woman like Ellen Olenska because she was never taught to think for herself. Newland lives his life the way he doesn't want to do so. The marriage becomes something of a convenience instead of an equal partnership, and he is forced to let go of Ellen. While the manacles of society exist, the novel points out of what might happen should someone never take risks in life and cares too much about what others think of him. The ending is very bitter.

East Wind, West Wind does have many commonalities with The Age of Innocence, but there is a difference in ending as well as taking chances, which the characters in that book do. Just like in The Age of Innocence, East Wind West Wind focuses on the wealthy families where appearance is everything, and it focuses on the marriage between the woman steeped in tradition as well as a man who is a Chinese educated in America, and also there is great focus on the woman's brother and his marriage to an American girlfriend where there is risk. While The Age of Innocence seems to have a sort of a decay, East Wind West Wind is focused on freedom and movement, as well as the inevitable. The story is from a woman's point of view rather than the man's (one can say that in this story a May Welland is narrating it.) The woman has a difficult time adapting to the change such as stopping the foot-binding process or living in a Western styled house and so forth. Her husband seems to be a strong man with strong principles and refuses to bow down to superstition and so forth. (In all honesty, the woman started becoming more western is due to her mother saying she could be rather than something dawning on her.) After she has gotten used to the changes as well as befriending some foreigners, the brother returns with an American bride. The brother is forced to make very difficult choices when it comes the bride, but the ending is sweet and there is realization that there's pioneer spirit within the four characters, and that they're forging a path that has not existed in China for a very long time. The characters did suffer through consequences: the brother with the American wife is an outcast and no longer can be called a son by the woman's family, but instead he has to learn trade and skill to support his growing family, there is also the sad idea of the certain traditions becoming extinct.

Some other things that I find interesting is that these two books are ten years apart in publication date: The Age of Innocence was published in 1920, while East Wind, West Wind was published in 1930. They also seem to be something like yin and yang to one another, especially when one questions which path to take in life. It sounds like I'm advocating in taking risks to everything, but not true. There is safety or a net to staying on a certain path and not veering off from it, while taking a path to something can bring along unexpected surprises.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #34 Journey Home by Yoshiko Uchida

Fulfilling the requirement:

The U letter for the author's last name alphabetically.

Summary:

World War II is raging. Yuki and her Japanese-American family are forced from their home in California and imprisoned in a US concentration camp called Topaz.

After months of unbearable life in Topaz, Yuki and her family are finally released. They are free, but are left with nothing.

WIth nowhere to go, and no money to get there, the road to rebuilding their lives seems endless. But in the end, it is their unyielding faith and courage that guide them home, reunited and hopeful.

Journey Home is an extraordinary story of one's family struggle to survive one of the most tragic episodes in US history.

Lesson learned:

the world never stays the same.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #33 Jacob Have I loved by Katherine Paterson

Fulfilling the requirement:

The letter J for the title alphabetically.

Summary:

"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated..." With her grandmother's taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.

Growing on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island, Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Louise began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island where they lived. SHe dreamed of working as a waterman alongside her father, but she found that her dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.

Lesson learned:

If you're unhappy about something, please speak up instead of keeping silent.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #32 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Fulfilling the requirement:

The S requirement for the author's last name alphabetically.

Summary:

"Ma-niac, Ma-niac He's so cool Ma-niac Ma-niac Don't go to school Runs all night Runs all right Ma-niac, Ma-niac Kissed a bull!"

He wasn't born with the name Maniac Magee. His real name was Jeffrey Lionel Magee, but when his parents died and his life changed, so did his name.

Maniac Magee was a legend. Kids were always talking about how fast he could run; how high he could jump; how no knot would stay knotted once he began to untie it. BUt the thing Maniac Magee was best known for is what he did for the kids from the black East End and those from the white West End of Two Mills.

Maniac Magee was special. And this is his story.

Lesson learned:

Changes don't happen over night but gradually.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #31 The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Fulfilling the requirement:

The E Letter for the last name of the author.

Summary:

"I've got a hundred dresses." Nobody can believe it- Wanda wears the same old blue dress every day. "A hundred dresses- all lined up!" If Wanda really does have a hundred dresses, she's certainly keeping them hidden...but why?

Lesson learned:

Be careful of what you do or say. You don't know how they'll react.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #30 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fulfilling the requirement:

The G letter requirement for the title, alphabetically.

Summary:

The Great Gatsby captures all the romance and glitter of the Jazz Age in its portrayal of a young man and his tragic search for love and success. It is a rare combination: a literary masterpiece- and one of the most popular novels of our time.

Lesson learned:

Values change.

Link to review: click here

Planned Books

Books I'm Reading:
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen 17/326
The Song of the Lark- Willa Cather 28/417
The Foreign Student- Susan Choi 106/325
Vampire of the Mists- Christie Golden 29/341
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy 231/390
Great Illustrated Classics The Jungle Book- Rudyard Kipling 43/239
Island of the blue dolphins- Scott O'Dell 116/181
The Italian- Ann Radcliffe 114/289
Chenxi and the Foreigner- Sally Rippin 17/206
Quidditch Through the Ages- J.K Rowling 7/56
Traitors- Kristine Kathryn Rusch 45/382
Heavy Sand- Anatoli Rybakov 109/381
Ivanhoe- Sir Walter Scott 77/405
The Red and the black- Stendhal 453/598
Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy 22/807

Series:
The Story of the Stone- Xueqin Cao
5. The Dreamer Wakes 79/376
The People Series Quartet- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
3. People of the Earth 151/587
The Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
2. Cry of the Wind 39/474
The Angels Trilogy- Lurlene McDaniel
3. Until Angels Close My Eyes 374/552
Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkien
0. The Hobbit 54/255
Dragonlance Chronicles- Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
1. Dragons of Autumn Twilight 29/445
Millicent Min Trilogy- Lisa Yee
3. So Totally Emily Ebers 5/280

E-reading:
Forbidden Fantasies Trilogy- Cara Summers
1. No Risk Refused 51/314

Future Books:
Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen
My Antonia- Willa Cather
Prey-Lurlene McDaniel
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves- Kristina Yoshida McMorris
Witch- Christopher Pike
Fantastic beasts and where to find them- JK Rowling

Series:
Harry Potter Quartet (For my purposes books 5-7 have never been written)-JK Rowling
1.Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone
2.Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets
3.Harry Potter and the prisoner of azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the goblet of fire
Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy-Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman
2. Dragons of winter night
3. Dragons of spring dawning
Dragonlance Legends Trilogy -Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman
1. Time of the twins
2. War of the twins
3. Test of the twins

E-Reading
Sizzle in the city- Wendy Etherington

E-reading series:
Royal Brotherhood- Sabrina Jeffries
1. In the Prince's Bed
2. To pleasure a prince
3. One night with a prince
School For Heiresses- Sabrina Jeffries 
1. Never Seduce a Scoundrel
2. Only a Duke Will Do
3. "The School for Heiresses" Anthology
4. Beware a Scot's Revenge
5. Let Sleeping Rogues Lie
6. Snowy Night with a stranger
7. Don't Bargain with the devil
8. Wed him before you bed him

The Blackfoot Warriors- Karen Kay
2. White Eagle's Touch
3. Night Thunder's Bride
The Nancy Drew Series-Carolyn Keene
3. The Bungalow Mystery
4. The Mystery at Lilac Inn
5. The Secret of Shadow Ranch
6. The Secret of the Red Gate Farm
7. The Clue in the Diary
8. Nancy's Mysterious Letter
9. The Sign of the Twisted Candles
10. Password to Larkspur Lane
11. The clue of the broken locket
12. the message in the hollow oak
13. the mystery of the ivory charm
14. the whispering statue
15. the haunted bridge
16. the clue of the tapping heels
17. Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk
18. Mystery of hte Moss covered Mansion
19. the quest of the missing map
20. the clue in the jewel box
21. the secret in the old attic
22. the clue in the crumbling wall
23. mystery of the tolling bell tower
24. the clue in the old album
25. the ghost of blackwood hall
26. the clue if the leaning chimney
27. the secret of the wooden lady
28. the clue of the black keys
29. mystery at the ski jump
30. the clue of the velvet mask
31. the ringmaster's secret
32. the scarlet slipper mystery
33. the witch tree symbol
34. the hidden window mystery
35. the haunted showboat
36. the secret of the golden pavilion
37. the clue in the old stagecoach
38. the mystery of the fire dragon
39. the clue of the dancing puppet
40. the moonstone castle mystery
41. the clue of the whistling bagpipes
42. the phantom of pine hill
43. the mystery of the 99 steps
44. the clue in the crossword cipher
45. the spider sapphire mystery
46. the invisible intruder
47. the mysterious mannequin
48. the crooked banister
49. the secret of mirror bay
50. the double jinx mystery
51. mystery of the glowing eye
52. the secret of the forgotten city
53. the sky pavilion
54. the strange message in the parchment
55. mystery of the crocodile island
56. the thirteenth pearl
Sons of Chance- Vicki Lewis Thompson
1. Wanted
2. Ambushed
3. Claimed
4. Should've been a cowboy
5. Cowboy Up
6. Cowboys Like Us
6a. Merry Christmas Baby
6b. Already home
7. Long Road home
8. Lead Me Home
9. Feels Like Home

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #29 Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time by Lisa Yee

Fulfilling the requirement:

The Y letter for the author's last name alphabetically

Summary:

"We interrupt your lives to announce Stanford Wong has flunked sixth grade!!!"

All right, so maybe there hasn't been an announcement like that. But that's the way it feels to Stanford. He's used to being a hero on hte basketball court, where he's the first sixth-grader ever to make the A-team, and just getting by in class.

But when he flunks English-Flunks it big time-and learns he'll have to trade basketball camp for summer school, Stanford freaks out. His friends can't know or they'll dump him. His had has to know and it's awful. The beautiful Emily Ebers will never like him if he's stupid. And when his mom hires a tutor for him-Millicent Min, genius, jerk, and poster girl from Chinese geekdom- Stanford knows it's happened: His life is officially over.

Lesson learned:

Anything is possible.

Link to review: click here

E-Reading: Book Review of #1 Gray Hawk's Lady by Karen Kay

Name of Book: Gray Hawk's Lady

Author: Karen Kay

ISBN: 978-1-60928-974-4

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Part of a Series: White Eagle's Touch, Night Thunder's Pride.

Type of book: interracial romance White female/Native American Male relationship,1832, American west,St. Louis, wilderness

Year it was published: 1997

Summary:

When Lady Genevieve Rohan joins her father in the farthest reaches of the American West, she expects to bring a bit of genteel English charm to his dry, academic existence. Instead, she finds her father desperately ill, and it's up to her to finish his study of the Indian and publish his work- or face the wrath of his creditors.

Her troubles mount when the men hired to capture a member of the Blackfoot tribe dont' bring her a docile maid to study. They present her with a magnificent warrior- proud, outrageously handsome and simmering with fury at the loss of his freedom.

The white woman is beautiful beyond compare, but Gray Hawk can't think past his plan to exact revenge against this meddling foreigner. It's ridiculously easy to escape, then turn the tables and take her captive. When anger turns to passion, then to love, he embarks on a new quest. To claim the stubborn, red-headed vixen as his own.

Yet as their hearts strain toward each other, pride conspires to pull them apart...unless they can each find a way for their hearts to become one.

Characters:

Genevieve can both be described as modern yet at the same time historical. She is also conflicted about a lot of things and often ends up a victim. She is loyal and warmhearted towards her family and Gray Hawk however, often sacrificing herself. Gray Hawk himself sounds an interesting character because at first he couldn't stand Genevieve nor the sight of her, often calling her "woman with no honor," and so forth. Yet there is a crucial point where his feelings changed and transformed into love. Genevieve, although in love at the end, there wasn't hatred or much change for her.

Theme:

It is possible to be of both worlds.

Plot:

Although there are aspects where the plot didn't seem plausible, that still didn't take enjoyment away from the book. I felt that the ending is an open ending because one doesn't know the fates of the characters. While the American Indians were treated politely and were given a chance to speak, the author doesn't explore much of why the whites think the way they do. I also think there is a slight bias.

Author Information:

 Author of seventeen American Indian Historical Romances Karen Kay aka Gen Bailey, has been praised by reviewers and fans alike for bringing the Wild West alive for her readers. Karen Kay, whose great-great grandmother was a Choctaw Indian, is honored to be able to write about something so dear to her heart, the American Indian culture. "With the power of romance, I hope to bring about an awareness of the American Indian's concept of honor, and what it meant to live as free men and free women. There are some things that should never be forgotten." Find Karen Kay online at www.novels-by-karenkay.com

Opinion:

I honestly enjoyed reading the novel and learning a lot about the Blackfoot tribe culture and rituals. I felt that this novel is slanted towards the Native American point of view. The ending is, well, unbelievable and kind of caused me to go "all this drama for nothing?!" The white side is barely explored in the story. (Nothing against it by the way.) I wish that the epilogue could be an update of sorts, of what happened to Genevieve and Gray Hawk. Compared to Madeline Baker's novel that I read, as well as my attempt on Janelle Taylor and Cassie Edwards at one point, this is a fascinating and lively read that I would enjoy delving into it a lot.

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 #2 Journey Home by Yoshiko Uchida

Name of Book: Journey Home

Author: Yoshiko Uchida

ISBN: 0-689-71641-9

Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks

Type of book: 1940s, WWII, Internment camp, getting on with life, survivors, for young adults

Year it was published: 1978

Summary:

World War II is raging. Yuki and her Japanese-American family are forced from their home in California and imprisoned in a US concentration camp called Topaz.

After months of unbearable life in Topaz, Yuki and her family are finally released. They are free, but are left with nothing.

WIth nowhere to go, and no money to get there, the road to rebuilding their lives seems endless. But in the end, it is their unyielding faith and courage that guide them home, reunited and hopeful.

Journey Home is an extraordinary story of one's family struggle to survive one of the most tragic episodes in US history.

Characters:

The story is told through Yuki's eyes. (Something interesting: Yuki means snow in Japanese.) The characters that do surround Yuki do go through some changes, in particular Mr. Oka and her brother, although I felt that her brother's story was a little too fast for my liking. Yuki was simply an observer in my opinion. I felt that she had  little affect on the change in the grand scheme of things. The characters will be likable and the message is very profound.

Theme:

Don't expect for the world to stay the same.

Plot:

The story seemed realistic and well crafted; the family didn't become wealthy right away, but learned to work with others to try to succeed after their experiences in the internment camp. It's written in third person narrative primarily from Yuki's point of view, although once it did switch over to Ken's and Mr. Oka's point of view. Although the author tried to make this a semi light-hearted children's book, I never saw it that way, and the pain and anguish she experienced still last through words and pages.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

Yoshiko Uchida
Author profile

born
October 24, 1921 in Alameda, Cal., The United States

died
June 21, 1992

gender
female

genre
Literature & Fiction, Short Stories, Children's Books


About this author

Yoshiko, born on November 24, 1921, was the second daughter of Japanese immigrant parents Takashi and Iku. Her father worked as a businessman for Mitsui and Company in San Francisco, and Iku wrote poetry, passing along her love of literature to her girls. Though the Great Depression raged, the Uchida family enjoyed comforts because of Takashi's well-paying job and their own frugality. Yoshiko loved to write, and her stories played out on pieces of brown wrapping paper. She also kept a journal to record her thoughts and events.

Enveloped in love and tradition at home, Yoshiko weathered the prejudice she sometimes faced. Many white students at University High School in Oakland didn't invite her to their parties and wouldn't socialize with her, deeming her a foreigner. Even while attending the University of California at Berkley, Yoshiko often faced the same dilemma of being ostracized. She found friendships with other Japanese American students and was preparing to graduate when Pearl Harbor was bombed, changing her life.

The United States government rounded up 120,000 people of Japanese descent and put them into camps. The Uchida family first resided in a horse stall at a racetrack in California, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Though difficult to endure, the next move was worse. Almost 8,000 Japanese were sent to a relocation concentration camp called Topaz in the Utah desert. The detainees suffered from violent dust storms, scorpions, snakes, and exceedingly poor living conditions. Yoshiko taught second grade children there until she received a fellowship from Smith College to earn a master's degree in education.

Yoshiko and her sister both left the camp in May of 1943, with their parents gaining release later that year. Teaching for several years in a Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, Yoshiko decided to quit teaching and find work that allowed more time for writing. She moved to New York City and began as a secretary, penning stories in the evenings. Asked to contribute to a book about Japanese folk tales, Yoshiko discovered that though the book didn't come to be, with time she could create a full collection of folk tales. Writing a few pieces for adults, Yoshiko realized she was better suited for children's books.

A Ford Foundation fellowship sent her to Japan to research the culture and their stories. Spending two years, Yoshiko found her time to be healing as she learned about her own ancestry. The pain of the concentration camps lessened, and she began writing about the experiences in fictional books such as Journey to Topaz and Journey Home. Her career as an author soared as people regarded her as a pioneer in Japanese American children's literature. The author of almost forty works, including Japanese folk tales and stories of Japanese American children making their way in the world, Yoshiko traveled extensively, lectured, and wrote. After suffering from a stroke, Yoshiko passed away on June 25, 1992, in Berkeley, California.

Opinion:

It's only now that I learned this is a sequel to a book called Journey to Topaz, which I hadn't read. I'll be honest in saying that I've gotten this book awhile ago but I never really read it for one reason or another. Even though it seems like a children's book, it's not. The lessons there are designed more for adults or young adults rather than children. I'm way past the the child stage, but I found it a difficult read. It's well written and is very mature with the characters trying to come to grips with the world they live in, or trying to heal their pain and hurt in one way or another. The ending will be satisfying. What is ironic is that soon I'll be reading Bridge of Scarlet Leaves which will be dealing with the same topic that Journey Home dealt with, so I can't help but wonder if there will be any similarities between the two.

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 Jacob Have I loved by Katherine Paterson

Name of Book: Jacob Have I loved

Author: Katherine Paterson

ISBN: 0-06-440368-8

Publisher: Harper trophy

Type of book: 1940s, twins, Rass, attention, desperation, good vs evil, religion, crabbing, small community, indifference.

Year it was published: 1980

Summary:

"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated..." With her grandmother's taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.

Growing on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island, Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Louise began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island where they lived. SHe dreamed of working as a waterman alongside her father, but she found that her dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.

Characters:

The main characters are  Louise Bradshaw who is the elder twin whom everyone took for granted, along with Captain, Call, the parents and Caroline, along with the grandma that I didn't like. I should have been able to connect to this novel because who hasn't been jealous of a sibling? But in truth I couldn't and even now I'm still scratching on my head, wondering how in nine hells did Caroline wrong her sister? What was so selfish about her? How has everything got stolen from Louise? The characters aren't rounded and the change is very abrupt without warning, at least in particular to Call and Louise. Caroline, for all the prominence she plays, isn't visible. I also couldn't stand the character of Call either and could barely understand any jokes that Call often tells Louise, or why couldn't Louise have any other friends?

Theme:

I have no idea what I should have learned from the book, honestly.

Plot:

I have to admit that I found the story and setting a bit boring. I sort of wish for more beautiful nature descriptions that she sees sometimes, and am saddened that the author didn't take advantage of that. While the community is fascinating, somehow I found their lives to be boring and I couldn't wait until I could get done with the book. There is no resolution in all honesty, and I couldn't understand neither the moral nor the twin story at the very end.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

Katherine Paterson
Author profile

born
October 31, 1932 in Qing Jiang, China

gender
female

website
http://www.terabithia.com

genre
Children's Books

influences
Evelyn Husband


About this author
edit data

From author's website:

People are always asking me questions I don't have answers for. One is, "When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?" The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.

Another question I can't answer is, "When did you begin writing?" I can't remember. I know I began reading when I was four or five, because I couldn't stand not being able to. I must have tried writing soon afterward. Fortunately, very few samples of my early writing survived the eighteen moves I made before I was eighteen years old. I say fortunately, because the samples that did manage to survive are terrible, with the single exception of a rather nice letter I wrote to my father when I was seven. We were living in Shanghai, and my father was working in our old home territory, which at the time was across various battle lines. I missed him very much, and in telling him so, I managed a piece of writing I am not ashamed of to this day.


A lot has happened to me since I wrote that letter. The following year, we had to refugee a second time because war between Japan and the United States seemed inevitable. During World War II, we lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and when our family's return to China was indefinitely postponed, we moved to various towns in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, before my parents settled in Winchester, Virginia.

By that time, I was ready to begin college. I spent four years at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, doing what I loved best-reading English and American literature-and avoiding math whenever possible.

My dream of becoming a movie star never came true, but I did a lot of acting all through school, and the first writing for which I got any applause consisted of plays I wrote for my sixth-grade friends to act out.

On the way to becoming a missionary, I spent a year teaching in a rural school in northern Virginia, where almost all my children were like Jesse Aarons. I'll never forget that wonderful class. A teacher I once met at a meeting in Virginia told me that when she read Bridge to Terabithia to her class, one of the girls told her that her mother had been in that Lovettsville sixth grade. I am very happy that those children, now grown up with children of their own, know about the book. I hope they can tell by reading it how much they meant to me.


After Lovettsville, I spent two years in graduate school in Richmond, Virginia, studying Bible and Christian education; then I went to Japan. My childhood dream was, of course, to be a missionary to China and eat Chinese food three times a day. But China was closed to Americans in 1957, and a Japanese friend urged me to go to Japan instead. I remembered the Japanese as the enemy. They were the ones who dropped the bombs and then occupied the towns where I had lived as a child. I was afraid of the Japanese, and so I hated them. But my friend persuaded me to put aside those childish feelings and give myself a chance to view the Japanese in a new way.

If you've read my early books, you must know that I came to love Japan and feel very much at home there. I went to language school, and lived and worked in that country for four years. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life among the Japanese. But when I returned to the States for a year of study in New York, I met a young Presbyterian pastor who changed the direction of my life once again. We were married in 1962.

I suppose my life as a writer really began in 1964. The Presbyterian church asked me to write some curriculum materials for fifth- and sixth-graders. Since the church had given me a scholarship to study and I had married instead of going back to work in Japan, I felt I owed them something.

Opinion:

Even when I picked this book up for a sixth grade or seventh grade reading, I couldn't get past it. I found it boring within mere few chapters! Thinking that I have grown up and perhaps this book wouldn't be as bad, I have chosen it to be part of my book challenge. Apparently my younger self was a lot smarter than my current self. The summary is very misleading because honestly I couldn't see of how Louise was robbed of everything like the summary claims, (aside from the Captain that's even older than her grandmother...) Louise suffered more of an indifference rather than anything else. All she does is also whine and whine about Caroline, and I never got a chance to see or hear Caroline's side of the story.The only person that didn't like Louise is the grandmother, but then I didn't like the grandmother either. I wish I could have found the life on island more interesting because the author was trying to make it fascinating, but in truth the whole biblical along with fishing and whatnot bored me. (Postscript I hated the cover that I have. I loved previous covers.)

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review of Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Name of Book: Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

ISBN: 9780590452038

Publisher: Scholastic

Type of book: 1980s, racism, Two Mills Pennsylvania, myths, legends, orphan, kid to young adult.

Year it was published: 1990

Summary:

"Ma-niac, Ma-niac He's so cool Ma-niac Ma-niac Don't go to school Runs all night Runs all right Ma-niac, Ma-niac Kissed a bull!"

He wasn't born with the name Maniac Magee. His real name was Jeffrey Lionel Magee, but when his parents died and his life changed, so did his name.

Maniac Magee was a legend. Kids were always talking about how fast he could run; how high he could jump; how no knot would stay knotted once he began to untie it. BUt the thing Maniac Magee was best known for is what he did for the kids from the black East End and those from the white West End of Two Mills.

Maniac Magee was special. And this is his story.

Characters:

Maniac himself didn't seem to go through a lot of changes while others like the brothers and even Mars Bars did go through changes. The characters remained static in my opinion and didn't feel like real human beings. Maniac is portrayed as capable of doing everything and as able to adapt to any situation, minus the racism issue, while other characters can't seem to do that. Despite that the characters and plot itself are enjoyable and worthwhile reads.

Theme:

Events that may go badly can have long term consequences.

Plot:

The point of view is somewhat unusual because one can see things from Maniac's point of view, but at the same time there is a higher narration of another narrator who seems to be trying to put the story together, albeit poorly. I felt that there were suspension of belief moments required; how come neither the aunt nor uncle bothered to look for Maniac? Why didn't Maniac, at the time he lived with Beale family, ever attend school and so forth. I did enjoy the eventual friendship build up between Maniac and Mars Bars, and wish that there could be more moments between the Beale family and Maniac. Most likely, what will be complained about is the whole "white savior" issue, the fact that Maniac is the one who bothered trying to do something about racism, while others seemed to "support."

Author Information:

born
February 01, 1941 in Norristown, PA, The United States

gender
male

website
http://www.jerryspinelli.com

genre
Literature & Fiction


About this author

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children's book author, live in Pennsylvania.

Opinion:

I read this book back when I was in middle school, and for sentimental reasons I loved re-reading it. I did find a number of things confusing; for one thing I'm not a sports person and wasn't raised as such so I had trouble understanding the sports things. Mostly the book is about Maniac's feats; the racism idea that its well known for comes at a very end of the book. When I tried to read this book at once, it wasn't good for me for one reason or another, so I took breaks in between the chapters, which worked. There are some suspension of belief moments required, such as the fact that he never went to school, or that his aunt and uncle never tried to look for him and why at 37 years of age one of the characters is seen as incredibly ancient. ( Kids who read this novel in 1990s and all are either in 30s or late 20s...)

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 Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Name of Book: The Hundred Dresses

Author: Eleanor Estes

ISBN: 0-590-40400-8

Publisher: Scholastic

Type of book: Polish, different, artist, children's novel, bullying

Year it was published: 1944

Summary:

"I've got a hundred dresses." Nobody can believe it- Wanda wears the same old blue dress every day. "A hundred dresses- all lined up!" If Wanda really does have a hundred dresses, she's certainly keeping them hidden...but why?

Characters:

The characters do go through a change; Peggy was the active bully, while Maddie simply watched and didn't do anything about the bullying. However they are dynamic characters who seem to be ready to take responsibility for their actions.

Theme:

Be careful of what you do.

Plot:

The story is straight forward and its written from a third person narrative point of view, that of Maddie's. There is also a nice resolution as well, although the dress part did require suspension of belief.

Author Information:

born
May 09, 1906 in West Haven, Connecticut, The United States

died
July 15, 1988

gender
female

genre
Children's Books


About this author

Eleanor Ruth Rosenfeld (Estes)was an American children's author. She was born in West Haven, Connecticut as Eleanor Ruth Rosenfield. Originally a librarian, Estes' writing career began following a case of tuberculosis. Bedridden while recovering, Estes began writing down some of her childhood memories, which would later turn into full-length children's books.

Estes's book Ginger Pye (1951) won the Newbery Medal, and three of her other books (The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., and The Hundred Dresses) were chosen as Newbery Honor books. She also received the Certificate of Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature and was nominated for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. By the time of her death at age 82, Estes had written 19 children's books and one novel for adults.

Opinion:

The book itself is only 79 pages long, but most of the pages are filled pictures and the font is big. I think the book has an interesting view of bullying, that is neither Maddie nor Peggy had any idea on how they were making Wanda feel by their words. Its easy reading by the way and shouldn't pose any difficulties for anyone.

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, August 10, 2012

Book Review of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Name of Book: The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

ISBN: 0-684-16325-X

Publisher: Scribners

Type of book: 1920s, wealth, post world war I, love, waiting, forever, values

Year it was published: 1925

Summary:

The Great Gatsby captures all the romance and glitter of the Jazz Age in its portrayal of a young man and his tragic search for love and success. It is a rare combination: a literary masterpiece- and one of the most popular novels of our time.

Characters:

I am not sure if Fitzgerald tried to go deeply into his characters' psyche or not, but if he did, I didn't see it. There seems to be little to no change in the personalities, but instead they strike me as some sort of drifters who don't let anything affect them. When I did a little research for this book, like the previous novels, this was also partly biographical. (Fitzgerald's wife broke up his engagement, although except him she didn't marry anyone.) The lifestyle that Gatsby and Daisy tried to forge didn't seem to work, and values as well as morals are non-existent. There is some sort of surrealism about the book that's hard to put to words. The characters had few roles to play and were static instead of dynamic.

Theme:
(From page 160)

""I spoke to her," he muttered, after a long silence. "I told her she might fool me but she couldn't fool God. I took her to the window"- with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it- "and I said, 'GOd knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me, but you can't fool God!"

Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.

"God sees everything," repeated Wilson.

"That's an advertisement," Michaelis assured him. Something made him turn away from the window and look back into the room. But Wilson stood there a long time, his face close to the window pane, nodding into the twilight."

Plot:

This is in first person narrative from Nick's point of view which is unusual because the title is The Great Gatsby and not The Great Nick. In a way, Nick is the onlooker into the brief life of Gatsby Possibly the author wanted for the readers to see Gatsby from outside rather than inside, in a detached sort of way. Up until the last chapter the story seemed clear and well written. The last chapter was a confusing jumble for me, and I have a difficult time understanding it.

Author Information:

Born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald was educated at Princeton, which he left in his senior year (1917) to join the army. At one of his army posts, near Montgomery, Alabama, he met Zelda Sayre, whom he subsequently married. His first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a great critical and financial success. The Fitzgeralds lived in Paris for several years among the expatriates of the twenties. Upon their return to the United States, Fitzgerald completed Tender is the Night and was at work on The Last Tycoon when he died, in Hollywood, in 1940.

Opinion:

I found that the book has a strange beauty of its own, and up until the last chapter it was easy to understand. I didn't appreciate the Jewish thing, such as the fact that the Jewish character, Wolfheim? operated something called a Swastika company. (Anybody else found it creepy, that F. Scott used this symbol fifteen years before WWII began...? He died in 1940.) Its also interesting that while the story was titled The Great Gatsby, the point of view we see it from is Nick. There is also something "Jewish" about Gatsby's real name, Gatz. While I feel that the novel didn't teach me anything, the writing style amazed me because it seemed as he wasn't writing to show off, but instead was writing for the reader's sake. I recall that my younger sister had to read this for school, and when I asked her about it, she said the book was boring, while I found the book interesting. (If I recall right, I couldn't stand Ender's Game, while she liked it...hehe)

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.)

An Ode to the Vampire Series by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. My birthday book. Published in October of 1985, only few days difference between the book and my birth, but I outgrew it, my teenage self no longer finding the sustenance it needs. Guilt wracks my body for giving up, for not finishing, but life is short. If it was eons and eons long, I would not read it either, not wanting to waste my precious moments with it. I loved it in the past, amazed by her brilliant writing and lush descriptions. Ten years if not more has passed and my love has faded away. Should I feel guilty for not finishing the first three novels? I had hoped that I would be proven wrong and would like it, but alas, nay.

The book bored me to tears, every page a struggle to get through, the shining beginning dimming to a stale middle and a worse ending (if I recall right.) I will not read it anymore, nor will I touch The Queen of the Damned. I no longer care or desire Anne Rice, for she fell the way Danielle Steel fell.

Adieu my beloved vampires of the heart; the broody and boring Louis de Pointe du Lac who would put Edward Cullen to shame; the irrepressible and fun Lestat De Loincourt...oops, I mean Lestat De Lioncourt, the Brat Prince who couldn't be more interesting than Louis and so forth.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review of Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Name of Book: Where We Belong

Author: Emily Giffin

ISBN: 978-0-312-55419-4

Publisher: St. Martin's Press New York

Type of book: adoption, belonging, 1990s-2013?, chick lit, possible half Asian male/WF relationship, choices

Year it was published: 2012

Summary:

Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever.

From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her. For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light.

As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

Characters:

While I liked the character of Kirby, I didn't appreciate and was completely confused by Marian, Kirby's mother. It often struck me that the author herself was at a loss when it came to Marian's character, and the drama that she created didn't ring true for me. To me, it read that she created the drama on purpose rather than specifically. Other than that, I enjoyed the minor characters too and liked how she developed and drew them. I do have minor problems with the way men talk in her book, but other than that, very enjoyable.

Theme:

Every choice comes with consequences.

Plot:

This is in first person narrative from both Marian's and Kirby's points of views. Ironically, I found the beginning few chapters boring, but afterwards it revved up and the book became exciting. This is a surprising novel and it is well written. The story moved smoothly, and Emily Giffin did take the time to explore where Kirby's personality as well as likes came from and so forth. I also am grateful that she defied my expectations in certain things, and that she made it more family focused rather than love focused. I hope that she will write a sequel to the book and that I'll have a chance to read it.

Author Information:

Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time. The author of five New York Times bestselling novels, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love the One You're With, and Heart of the Matter, she now lives in Atlanta with her husband and three young children. Visit www.emilygiffin.com.

Opinion:

Honestly speaking, this novel defied my expectations. I've expected it to be one way, but it went another way. I was pleasantly surprised at her story telling abilities as well as the way she created Kirby who is very different from her mother and is a pleasant heroine to like. I enjoyed the messages, although I had some some hangups in beginning and often wondered if a lot of suspension of belief was required. I also didn't like the characters in beginning, but later on they grew on me. I felt that the book was incomplete though, and I do wonder at the cliffhanger ending. One last thing, something that's interesting is that the last five novels are somehow linked; but this is the first time that there's nobody in the novel one could recognize easily.  The novel is courtesy of my younger sister. I hope you'll enjoy it sweetheart.

Note about the audio: Originally I planned on creating a youtube video, and even tried to do audio clip, but no luck or success unfortunately. I got this with permission and if you listen and enjoy it, go to the website and buy it.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6z717b747ah8vp6/WhereWeBelong.mp3

http://us.macmillan.com/wherewebelong/EmilyGiffin

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.)
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