Tag Archive | 3 Freds

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.

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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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Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Ponzer

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Reality Bites Back is a very thick book. There are millions and millions of hours of reality TV and different types of reality TV, and so this book needs to be thick to accomplish its goal. In part, I think it does, but in other aspects, it doesn’t.

If I had titled this book, it would’ve been Unscripted Women Bite Back: Age Old Views in Reality TV or something of the sort. Most of the book focuses on women, which is probably the author’s strong point, but I think that made this book weak. Gender does not exist in a vacuum, and we know that more than one gender exists. Degrading women doesn’t just hurt women. It also hurts men, and reality TV shows men in a negative light. The book only contains a few paragraphs about men, but I feel like it would’ve been a stronger argument if a whole chapter or more was dedicated to how men are falsely represented on TV.

The themes go in between women, minorities, and LGBTQ (I’m sorry if I missed a group). It’s great that the author has lots of material, but all of it gets mashed into a big jumble and it’s hard to dissect apart. I think the author had good intentions of separating topics by chapters, but then topics blended into each, and women issues ended up in chapters about LGBTQ. Those issues are probably connected, but it would’ve been nice if she created a few borders between them so that the topics were more understandable. I thought that maybe the author could’ve divided it by TV shows, but then lots of TV shows share similar themes, so that wouldn’t have worked either. Honestly, there are just too many themes and topics to discuss about reality TV, and not all of them can fit into a book. It might’ve been better if she wrote multiple books on reality TV, each focusing on a different theme or different type of reality TV.

The chapter at the end of the book is fun and thought provoking. She encourages you to keep watching your favorite reality TV shows, but to speak up, make fun of, or analyze what’s going on as you watch the show. I wanted to try her ideas and attempted to watch The Kardashian Show…but I failed miserable. That show really bored me, so maybe I’ll try another one later.

I feel like this book just scraps the top of reality TV, like taking the sugar off the top of homemade jelly. If you really want to experience the jelly, you have to take some of the sugar with the jelly underneath, bit by bit at a time. That’s not something this book does. The book’s argument just goes on and on, which can leave you mentally exhausted. While reading this, I wanted to take a step back and just think about a point Pozner made and digest it. I also wanted to find out more information and read more sources about the topic before moving on.

Basically, if you’re interested in TV and cultural views, then I’d recommend this book, but I’d also recommend you read something else. It’s a good book to have in your repertoire to get an idea of reality TV, but I don’t think it should be the one-all and be-all book that you read. Another way to put it is if you were writing an essay on Reality TV, I’d suggest you read this book to get an idea of what to write about and basic knowledge, but don’t quote it as a source when you get into the deeper details of your paper (unless you’re actually using it to make your point, of course).

As a side note, I don’t watch reality TV unless my mom is watching. Every time she watches it, I don’t see what’s so great or attractive about watching other people’s lives. That’s just weird to me and makes me feel like an awkward peeper…

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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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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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But, Ogres Don’t Play Chess by Terri Bogard

Overview: To win the heart of the woman he loves, an ogre must pretend to be something he’s not. Can he convince her he’s more than just a set of muscles?

This story is part of The Monster Exchange Program series.

Short Story – 3700 words

My thoughts: This story is a really short one. Short and sweet. It’s beginning is probably the biggest adventure and also the scene with the most details. It takes stereotypical characters and turns them into interesting creatures with different anatomical features.

The setting seems like such an interesting place with a mix of present and sci-fi elements. However, it’s not fleshed out enough. The story is pretty fast pace, relying more on dialogue then description. Sometimes the events became confusing because they’re described pretty vaguely.

It would’ve been nice to be introduced to both sisters at the beginning of the book, and also have more information from Glumf’s side of the story. It’s a good things these guys are aliens or else I’d wonder if Glumf’s intelligence was realistic.

It’s a good short read and has a lot of potential to become something more if it’s fleshed out with more character depth, screen descriptions, and more events between the crushes and the crushees. On that note, I would like to add that I really liked the ending. I just wish it had more description on Glumf’s thought process. The last event was a bit rushed.

I found this short story for free on Amazon.com and downloaded it to my Kindle.

The Changelings by Elle Casey

Overview: Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

My Thoughts: To begin with, the opening of the story is weak. It’s easy to predict what happens and is stereotypical. Things feel forced together, not meshing until later. The main protagonist is a pain. She’s the kind of student I hate to be in class with because she’s wasting her time and yet blames it on the school, not taking responsibility for her actions. Later on, she does change a bit, so I understand why she acts the way she does in a literary sense. Still, she’s kind of unbearable at first. It’s quite stereotypical that she acts this way at school because she has a poor family life. It seems like the author has almost turned this main character into a statistic.

The scene with Jared on the beach is way too forced. I almost stopped reading at that scene because it was too obvious something was going on. It was really annoying how everything was just out in the open. The author writes more in the telling style than she does in the showing style.

The book didn’t draw me in until the later forest scenes. Sure, some of it is a bit unbelievable and too fast paced, but the writing is much better than in the beginning. The book lacks in-depth descriptions of the settings, so it becomes confusing at times. There are a lot of inconsistencies with the characters and that does detract from the reading experience. Maybe it’s because I’ve read and watched a lot of fantasy things, but the book is very predictable to the point that I rolled my eyes when the main character finally realized what was going on.

My favorite character is Tony. He seems like a well developed character and not that stereotypical although his physical description is stereotypical. I’d love to have him as a best friend. He’s very much an in-control character, which is what I loved about him. I’m really glad he and the main character don’t fall in love. That’d be too stereotypical, falling in love with your best guy friend.

I think most of the characters are a little flat. For instance, Spike smiles, has tatoos, and is the carefree “badboy” (which he’s not at all. Jayne is delusional), Flinn is a redneck who wants beer, and Chase is the strong silent type awkward with emotions. That’s way too stereotypical and common. These characters have a lot of potential that doesn’t develop well in the first book.

Sometimes, I think these characters are insane. They break into laughter over things that aren’t funny at all. I don’t understand the placement of those parts, except maybe to show how desperate they are. Jayne is a pinwheel of emotions. I understand that she acts very much like a high schooler would, but I’m not sure if her emotions should realistically flipflop that much. To me, her emotions become too far flung to be taken seriously. I think she’s a bit different from the usual female protagonist, but I wish someone would take her brain, tie it up, and keep her thoughts straight. Her sidetracked thoughts interrupt the flow of the story.

Overall, the Kindle edition has tons of grammatical errors. They keep staring me in the face, annoying the heck out of me. There are missing commas, misplaced commas, and misspelled words. I think the author needs to check her work or get a better editor. I felt like I was reading a rough draft.

The story had a Hunger Games feel to it, except I think this book is much better than The Hunger Games. Although I don’t particularly like the main character, I didn’t want her to die like I wanted Katniss to. This particular story is geared towards older high school students. This is a book that will probably never make it to any high school library due to the language and implied sexual themes. Honestly, the author does a good job at getting into the mind of a teenager, but by doing that, she has reduced the audience to people who are ok with vulgarity.

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, then you’ll probably like this book. However, be warned, this book contains lots of curse words. It’s not as kosher as The Hunger Games.

I found this book on for free on Amazon and read it on my kindle.