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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

13202496Overview: In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See takes us on a journey back to a captivating era of Chinese history and delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
 
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

My thoughts: I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I couldn’t put it down and kept reading chapter after chapter, staying up until 4 A.M. to finish it. On the other hand, the main character’s actions were disappointing. Most of the younger characters start out as something different; they’re rambunctious, active, and playful, but later they just turn into stereotypical old people, especially Lily, the main character.

The hardships of the girls kept me turning the pages. Some of their problems, such as foot binding, are gruesome. Their flight to avoid war also adds to the tension and page turning aspect of the story. However, Lily can be a pain sometimes. She seems to close herself off from the world and become shallow, sticking to tradition although her laotong, Snow Flower, strives to create her own path within the traditional structure.

Part of me had to put away my 21st century view of women to deal with this story. The two girls couldn’t do much to control their own fates, and historically, that’s the way women were treated. I think Lisa See does a great job with the historical elements and not breaking her character’s point-of-view. However, that’s also the downside of the story. When the character does have a break through, it tends to be small, weak ones as if there’s nothing Lily can do to change the past or take hold of the future. She does do a few things to change and control her children’s future, but it’s as if she gives up on making her life better, just like her mother does when Lily is little. Some of the characters’ development tends to be superficial.

Snow Flower is probably my favorite character because she tends to be a bit more unconventional, and she stands up for herself by forming friendships with other women when her laotong doesn’t treat her kindly.

It’s a good quick light read, and I’d recommend it for people interested in historical Chinese stories.

I borrowed this book from my library.

Taureg by Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa

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One of Gazel’s guests is murdered, and so he must fight to fix the wrongs according to his ancestor’s ways. His journey takes him from the middle of the Sahara Desert to a wasteland from which no one returns to a foreign city beside the sea. In this story, tradition clashes with the modern life as good intentions clash with corruption. Upholding either law only seems to add to the chaos of Gazel’s solitary war.

Gazel is a hero with a flaw, which of course makes this story a tragedy. He has a lot of persistence and resourceful skills. His presence makes the book fun to read. The other characters definitely add to the color of the story. There are Gazel’s foil, the ultimate bad guy, the nice guy just following orders, the nurturing women, and then pawns of the military. Ultimately, independence and remaining faithful to your values permeates this story.

I don’t necessarily agree with the treatment of some of the characters, but that’s probably because I’m not used to the Tuaregs’ culture. The story was translated from Spanish, but it’s still well written. It flows very well, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have any chapter markers. Every now and then, there are breaks in between the storyline and perspective changes. Some of the perspective changes are confusing because the section starts with “he” rather than a name. Grammar mistakes can be found in the book; there are a few missing verbs and common problems.

I found this book on Goodreads and downloaded a PDF version for free.

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New Release – Rescued From the Dark

Today I bring you another book on sale: Rescued From the Dark by Lynda Kaye Frazier.

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Overview:

She has no memory of their love…

Kidnapped by terrorists and sent into a drug-induced coma, FBI intern Mercedes Kingsley awakes with no memory of her ordeal—or the intimate interlude that left her pregnant. Convinced her child was fathered by her ex-fiancé, Mercy walks away from the only man she has ever loved, determined to make things work with her ex, a man the FBI suspects is implicated in her abduction.

He knows the truth, but no one will listen…

FBI undercover agent Jason Michaels remembers what Mercy can’t and those memories are breaking his heart. Forced to keep his distance from his lover and their unborn child, Jason risks his life to protect Mercy from a cell of international terrorists who have vowed to get the secrets locked in her memory, no matter the cost. Can Jason convince Mercy to trust him until she remembers their past, or will he lose her to a man who will trap her in a nightmare world of darkness from which there is no escape?

Ok, so, I’m shamelessly promoting this book for a friend. Her mom wrote this book, but it still sounds like it could be interesting. Although it’s a romance novel, the plot isn’t a typical romance formula. If you’re interested in it, I suggest you order it from the publisher’s website because it’s cheaper there than on Amazon. The website can be find here: Black Opal Books.

1fc58f6aca180a7e9d9a4f.L._V398945284_SX200_Lynda Kaye Frazier is an avid reader of romantic suspense and started her writing career with a dream. A cliche, but it’s true. She works full time at a Cardiology clinic, while writing her own novels at night. She grew up in Pennsylvania, but now lives in Arkansas where she enjoys the four seasons without a long, cold winter. She has five children and three grandchildren that she adores. Other than spending time with her family, her favorite things to do are writing, reading and listening to music, but her most favorite is going to the beach. Surf, sand and a good book, her stress relief.

Author Bio from Amazon.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui

6818019Overview: Forced by her father to marry a man three times her age, young Nujood Ali was sent away from her parents and beloved sisters and made to live with her husband and his family in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There she suffered daily from physical and emotional abuse by her mother-in-law and nightly at the rough hands of her spouse. Flouting his oath to wait to have sexual relations with Nujood until she was no longer a child, he took her virginity on their wedding night. She was only ten years old.

Unable to endure the pain and distress any longer, Nujood fled—not for home, but to the courthouse of the capital, paying for a taxi ride with a few precious coins of bread money. When a renowned Yemeni lawyer heard about the young victim, she took on Nujood’s case and fought the archaic system in a country where almost half the girls are married while still under the legal age. Since their unprecedented victory in April 2008, Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has attracted a storm of international attention. Her story even incited change in Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries, where underage marriage laws are being increasingly enforced and other child brides have been granted divorces.

My thoughts: Nujood’s family is plagued by problems, and some of those problems are poverty and the fear of adultery. To counter these issues, Nujood’s Aba decides to marry her to a 30-year-old man, whom promises to wait until she hits puberty to consummate the union. That man doesn’t keep his promises, and Nujood is left with nightmares, bruises, and anguish.

This book delves further than just Nujood’s terrifying marriage, it also follows up with her siblings’ struggles. It’s interesting how the book gives you an idea of other problems Yemen has, like trafficking, poverty, lack of education, early marriages, and so on. I know now more about Yemen than I did before.

I think the book is very good at depicting some of the problems, like poverty, but it doesn’t fully explain village customs or why those themes matter. As a non-Muslim reading this book, I don’t understand how honor works in Islam, and this book fails to put Islamic practices into perspective for others.

The book does provide notes at the end of the story, and so some things are explained further. I think it’s cool how links are provided in the text to the notes at the back of the kindle edition, but then you can’t get back to the section you were reading in the story unless you scroll back or jump there by entering the page or location number.

The biggest problem I have with this story is that there seems to be two narrators, and their voices don’t converge even though Nujood is the only one telling the story. On one hand, there’s ten-year-old Nujood, and then there seems to be a more mature educated Nujood. Maybe it’s a translation issue, but for a 10-year-old girl who’s barely literate, there are too many larger words and too many complex sentences. Maybe Nujood really does speak that way, but it doesn’t logically make sense to me. I think the journalist had more to do with the writing than Nujood did. The journalist tries to see things from Nujood’s 10-year-old girls, but then switches back to her older eyes. It causes the writing to seem jagged in some areas.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it on my kindle.

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Delivered to My Kindle 1/1/13

Another round of DTMK! Just three fiction books today:

the-aspen-account-book-coverThe Aspen Account by Bryan Devore

Description: After a colleague at Denver’s top accounting firm dies in a mysterious skiing accident, Michael Chapman is assigned to replace him on an audit of software behemoth X-Tronic. At the same time, rookie journalist Sarah Matthews of the Denver Post starts nosing into rumors that may connect X-Tronic to her brother’s death. And the reclusive Aspen billionaire who founded X-Tronic thirty years ago begins to fear that events unfolding at his company will finally make him pay for a past he would love to forget: when he sold out friends and neglected family in his single-minded pursuit of success. Soon all three will discover just how much they are willing to risk to uncover the truth behind a conspiracy that will shock the world.

 

 

Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolinexecutive-privilege-phillip-margolin-paperback-cover-art

Description:When private detective Dana Cutler is hired to follow college student Charlotte Walsh, she never imagines the trail will lead to the White House. But the morning after Walsh’s clandestine meeting with Christopher Farrington, President of the United States, the pretty young coed is dead—the latest victim, apparently, of a fiend dubbed “the D.C. Ripper.”

A junior associate in an Oregon law firm, Brad Miller is stunned by the death row revelations of convicted serial killer Clarence Little. Though Little accepts responsibility for a string of gruesome murders, he swears he was framed for one of them: the death of a teenaged babysitter who worked for then-governor Farrington.

Suddenly nowhere in America is safe for a small-time private eye and a fledgling lawyer who possess terrifying evidence that suggests the unthinkable: that someone at the very highest level of government, perhaps the president himself, is a cold and brutal killer.

 

alwaysthebakerAlways the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

Description:They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

But who would want a cake they couldn’t eat?

Just ask Emma Rae Travis about that.  A baker of confections who is diabetic and can’t enjoy them.  When Emma meets Jackson Drake, the escapee from Corporate America who is starting a wedding destination hotel to fulfill a dream that belonged to someone else, this twosome and their crazy family ties bring new meaning to the term “family circus.” The Atlanta social scene will never be the same!

Send by Patty Blount

Overview: It’s been five years since I clicked Send.Image
Four years since I got out of juvie.
Three months since I changed my name.
Two minutes since I met Julie.
A second to change my life.

All Dan wants for his senior year is to be invisible. This is his last chance at a semi-normal life. Nobody here knows who he is. Or what he’s done. But on his first day at school, instead of turning away like everyone else, Dan breaks up a fight. Because Dan knows what it’s like to be terrorized by a bully—he used to be one.

Now the whole school thinks he’s some kind of hero—except Julie. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn’t really Daniel…

My Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about this book. I definitely enjoyed reading it and read every single word. In fact, I read some parts so quickly that my brain couldn’t process what was happening, and I had to force myself to slow down. The opening was very enjoyable. I even developed a crush on the main character. He was sweet, trying to stick up for others and help them. Besides, I also kind of have a voice inside my head like his, except not as extreme, so I can connect with him. I liked reading in his perspective until he started repeating things he already said, but that’s a different story.

Then the middle section of the book came, and I started to grimace. My crush instantly disappeared at that scene, the scene which really added no worth to the book in my opinion and only added to my dislike for Julie. However, that’s probably me being biased because of my crush.

When it comes to bullying and cyberbullying, I have little to no experience in my life with those topics, so I don’t feel like I’m qualified to talk about the themes of the book. Honestly, I kind of understand all the talk about not forgiving and forgetting or forgiving and such, but then I don’t think I understand what was happening with that topic in the context of the book. I do think that it’s wonderful that Blout was able to combine all of those topics into one book, something I don’t think many people can do without struggling and thinking a lot about why and how bullying works or doesn’t work.

Towards the end of the book, I felt like the story started to fall apart. The opening was fantastic, the middle was so-so, but by the end of the book, I was ready to slap a big one-star on the book and be done with it. It’s like I was on a reading roller coaster and the cart flew off the track and crashed with a firey explosion, but I got up and walked away only with a maimed leg when I should’ve been dead. The ending was definitely over melodramatic and unnecessary in my opinion. Dan seems pathetic in the falling action, and how does no one on the beach notice? I really love how Dan prepares to move forward with his life, but at the same time, it seems horrible because he’s described as skinny and not appearing too well.

I won a copy from Joy Prebble’s blog, and the author actually wrote me notes. It was awesome ^_^. She’s a really nice person, and I hope she writes another novel some day. I’d like to read more of her fiction work.

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The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Overview: Each day we face a barrage of images and ideas—from society and the media—telling us who we should be. We are led to believe that if we look perfect, live perfect, and do everything perfectly, we’d no longer struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Ironically, it’s the pursuit of perfection that fuels the message ‘never good enough.’

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., the leading expert on shame, reveals that it is actually ourimperfections and vulnerabilities that connect us to one another as human beings andmake us who we are. We are naturally drawn to those we view asauthentic, real, and down-to-earth. It makes sense, then, that weshould stop reaching for something ‘better’ and, instead, strive tobe who we are, fully owning every aspect of ourselves.

This fresh 52-week guide can be read as a year-long program of WholeHearted living or by topic – whatever is the most meaningful for each reader. Brown engages our hearts, minds, and spirits in finding the beauty of authenticity and evolving our self-perceptions through fifteen guideposts that emerged from her latest groundbreaking research.

 Each guidepost is illustrated with essays, stories, inspiring quotes, meditations, and dynamic creative exercises designed to help us develop the skills to accept our vulnerabilities with compassion and practice loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.

My thoughts: When I started reading this book, I thought, This is great! It’s really interesting. Then I got to the guide posts…

This book is not a self-help book. It’s more about reflection, and you won’t find any definite “steps” to help yourself. You’ll just get ideas about issues in your life. Brown brings up issues in life that we need to talk about: shame, people-pleasing, and self-depreciation, among others. However, I don’t like the way she does it.

She talks about great things! What’s not to like? Well…I don’t like her approach. She mentions things about her research, and that’s a good point of the book. However, she always relates it back to her experiences and herself. She has all this research at the tip of her fingers, and she doesn’t rely on it to carry the book through. I expected to see more testimonials from other people because she had talked to other people, and those people influenced her thought process and life. If it influenced her, then why didn’t she share it with us so we can be inspired, too? I know there are restrictions on research, such that the researcher can’t share confidential data of participants, but I think she could’ve used testimonials from participants who consented to her writing about their experiences since she was just releasing research data and not the participants’ identifying information. In my opinion, the book is very weak just relying on her life stories. Reading about her life made me want to throw my hands in the air and just sigh exasperatedly. If I really wanted to know that much about her life, then I’d read a biography. I think this book would’ve worked much better as a memoir rather than a reflection “self-help” book.

The absolute number one thing that bothers me about this book is in Guide-post 7, page 103: “I had decided to go part-time at the university, and her dad was going to a four-day workweek.” Whoa, there! Back up. Who can afford that? And I don’t mean we can’t afford to let the achievements go. I mean, who can financially afford to cut down on work? Most people I know can’t. Unfortunately, the book is filled with stories like this, like when she went to the mall with her daughter and felt uncomfortable because dress-up women looked at her funny. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Back up. You can afford to go to the mall to buy make-up? Most people I know just buy it for a cheaper price at drug stores. That’s also another reason why I think it’s bad that the book is filled with her life stories. She has a certain way of life and a certain culture. Other people don’t share that culture, and so sometimes, it’s hard to relate to her and take the concepts seriously. It gets especially annoying when she tells the reader that spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship with God, but then she proceeds to talk about how God affects her life. It really made me wonder how does someone live Wholeheartedly without God? That’s not a question she answers.

The other biggest issue that I had was the guide post with the slashes around page 114. Asking the question, “What do you do?” is a social cue that means, “Tell me about your job that you do to make most of your money,” not “Tell me your whole life story.” Slashes are not appropriate. They’re bulky and inconvenient to read and just add pointless information that I never wanted to know. Yes, you have the right to own up to everything that you are, but most people in society do not care. That’s something you share with friends and not acquaintances because friends do care.

Some of the concepts were explained very vaguely. As a psychology major, I understand that definitions are hard to come by in research literature because there’s a lot of debate surrounding topics. Therefore, I understand why some of her terms, like power, were barely explained. However, to have a full experience of shame, power, and hope and figure out how they connect, it would’ve been nice to have more concrete definitions. I don’t agree with everything she says, but that’s good because at least she’s making me think and form my own ideas.

Another huge set back is that the book seems to be geared towards more privileged type A personalities. I’m more of a laid back type B personality, and sometimes I thought that Ms. Brown was just a little too serious and uptight for me. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying she’s stuck up. I’m just saying her methods of making lists don’t work for me. It would’ve been nice if she could’ve offered more advice than just writing lists and purposely planning things. All this digging deep was driving me insane. I’d rather just accept it and let that be the end of it.

Overall, this book is probably a good conversation starter for book clubs. However, the amount of impact it has on your life depends more on your culture and how you interpret Brown’s writing. For a type B person like me who prefers to think and then accept and let go of what’s bothering me, this book’s advice wouldn’t be my go-to guide for dealing with shame. This book has a lot of potential, but it just needs a different focus.

I bought this book from Amazon for about $10 with free shipping and handling.