Tag Archive | Fiction

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

taureg

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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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 Amulet by Alison Pensy

Overview from Goodreads: To seventeen-year-old Faedra, faeries were nothing more than the figurines she collected and displayed in her curio cabinet. She was in for the surprise of her life.

Faedra had no idea that faeries controlled nature, and with a book no less. Nor did she know that her descendants had protected an ancient fae amulet for thousands of years. An amulet that if ever was reunited with the book would give the wearer power to control the weather, too. She didn’t know all this because the one person to teach her died when she was just six years old. Well, now it was time for her to find out…

A letter from the grave reveals her true identity the day of her eighteenth birthday. But she barely has time to digest the revelation when she is plunged into a fight for her life and that of mankind.

My thoughts: Honestly, I’d give this book more of a 3.5. I really enjoyed reading it, but there were a few things that confused me.

Let’s begin with the impossible actions. There are a few scenes that seems impossible to me. The action described defies the basic laws of physics. I recognize that they’re in another world with magic, so it’s possible for unrealistic things to happen. However, the skeptic in my just doesn’t agree with the possibility of defying the laws of nature in a book that’s not science fiction.

I do like the main character Faedra. Her “goody-two-shoes” personality appeals to me because sweet main characters aren’t too common lately. The author does a good job of creating a character that is nice and usually follows the rules but still has quirks that makes her interesting. The one thing I don’t like about Faedra is that sometimes she seems like Kristen Stewart, except with four emotions instead of one. She’s also easily impressed and usually dropping her jaw.

There are some instances in which Faen acts out of character. It could be because Faen is guarding himself well and only let’s his real personality out occasionally, but sometimes I just don’t understand why Faen acts out of character, especially later in the book when developing his relationship with Faedra. I like their relationship and friendship, and I think it adds a great element to the book. However, their relationship seems awkward at first, and my reaction to their relationship climax was, “What the heck did I just read?!” I think the climax could’ve been orchestrated better and not seem so force.

Plot wise, I love the twists and turns. It’s not just like any other faerie/fairy story out there.  I love love how Faedra’s mother plays into this story. The mysterious mother keeps my attention, and I hope there’s more information about her in later books. I like how she purposely laid out Faedra’s task yet still left questions for Faedra to solve, allowing Faedra to grow on her own.

One other thing that bugs me is Faedra’s interactions with her family. Maybe the British act differently than Americans, but Faedra’s relationship with her father, uncle, and aunt just seem so casual. She doesn’t address Uncle Leo’s wife as “Aunt Nicki.” It’s just Nicki. To me, this is completely disrespectful. She also treats the older people in her family more like friends than family, and it just baffles me. However, I realize that all families are different, and that I should appreciate this book showing me a different style of family. It’s just very different from my own.

There’s lots of description, and some of it is chunky. It makes the book a bit hard to slug through at times. That’s the main easy I didn’t rate this book as a 4. Description can be a good thing, and sometimes it’s well used in this book. However, if some of it was subtracted or made more concise, the book wouldn’t have lost its meaning.

Also, just for kicks, since the author grew up in England, she uses lots of British terms. I learned some new words from this book. Yay, learning experiences!

I found this book for free on Amazon and downloaded it to my Kindle.

Bah, Humbug by Heather Horrocks

Description: Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller. For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block–until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes it’s the perfect solution to his plot problem. He digs in and discovers two things: one, his villain’s weapon will fit inside a snowman’s body, and two, this particular snowman was supposed to be the backdrop for Lexi’s next show. From this improbable beginning comes friendship, but can there be a happy ending for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood? Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

My thoughts: The story starts out nicely. I like how Lexi and Kyle are introduced. In particular, Lexi seems to be the most developed character; she’s my favorite because she has a straight-forward yet witty personality. Everyone else is pretty flat. It’s really annoying how the children are always grouped together. They kind of have their own personalities, but then they’re still just “the children” with generic personalities.

The beginning is enjoyable as the plot builds up, but then around chapter 9, the story takes a nose dive. The action proceeds a lot faster, and some of the actions described seem physically impossible, especially when Kenneth is having a snowball fight with Kyle and Kenneth…there’s only supposed to be one Kenneth in the story. Around chapters 8 and 9, the story also speeds up a lot. Everything seems to take place within a week, which makes no sense to me, especially considering Kyle and Lexi are potential long term love interests. It’s like the book moves so fast, they’re heading for disaster.

A lot of gender stereotypes are used. Lexi and Alyssa, the two women, are good with home making and emotions while the men just try to hold things in. Really? I understand using stereotypes, but the author could’ve at least changed them a little.

Description is kept to a minimum and the author uses lots of thoughts to progress the character development. Sometimes, it seems more like telling than showing. This novella starts out with a lot of potential and then…the potential disappears.
I found this on Amazon for free and downloaded it to my kindle.

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.

Menthol Kisses by Abby Stewart

Overview: Logan is a teenager stuck between trying to live her life and simultaneously run from it. Her need to fade from a soul-crushing reality overshadows everything else after a secret abortion and the loss of a close friend. As Logan struggles with drugs, sex, and relationships, she only further digs her heels into the distasteful small town life she so badly wants to escape from.

My thoughts: I debated for a while whether to give this book three stars or four stars. In the end, four stars won because I enjoyed the book and because I read it in one sitting. It was almost impossible for me to stop until I got to a point that made me lose interest. That being said, let me clarify something. The story in itself is a great one. However, it does have a few issues. Let’s start with the bad.

The number one problem was comma issues. The story flowed well, so that I was able to forgive missing commas and misused ones at first, but then the missing comma issue got worse towards the end of the book. That’s one reason why I wanted to give the book three stars.

Some of the story is borderline stereotypical, but at the same time, these characters feel like real ordinary people to me. A lot of cliche things happen, especially considering everything that I’ve been warned about when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and sex actually happens in the plot. Another huge stereotypical thing is that it’s set in a town in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, the tone of the story and the way it’s written makes the cliche and stereotypical things seem acceptable.

The sequence of events becomes really confusing. It seems like the author either didn’t know what else to write or she wanted to skip boring scenes and get to the juicy bits. Therefore, the story is fast paced and skips huge chunks of time, leaving me a bit confuzzled determining the timeline of the story. The main character basically goes from birth to around age 20 or so, and everything happens so fast that you can definitely tell that the main character is going to get into trouble. This was another reason I thought about giving the book three stars.

I lost interest when Logan and Brittany got to the warehouse. I understand their motives, and the scene seems very realistic, but at the same time, either the writing style changed or I just have an aversion to that kind of stuff, such that I wasn’t interested in that issue at all. In fact, I find it gross and a bit degrading, though I think that’s the author intention since Logan really gets into a tough spot. However, the book definitely gets better after that whole part (I’m trying not to spoil it).

I’ll admit that everything that Logan does goes against my morals and I would usually find stuff like that to be very sickening. However, the way it’s written takes away from the sickening part and makes Logan’s actions seem real. It’s all she knows and all her actions flow so well that I can’t really complain. Whether it’s morally right or not is an argument that I don’t think belongs here. It’s more important to notice how she ends up in those situations.

I loved two things about this book. One was the way Stewart depicted the characters as ordinary people. I love how she made them close friends even though they bonded over drugs. The way they bonded even though they were using a substance considered unfriendly and horrific really intrigued me. It leaves you with this odd feeling. They’re doing drugs yet they’re still somewhat kind to each other and good friends. Still, do good friends let others do drugs? It does bring up great questions regarding social behaviors and drugs.

The second part I liked was the ending. I loved everything in the last scene, including the fiance and all that jazz (that I’m trying not to give away). Let’s just say, it makes me happy.

For its price on Amazon, this is a good read. I think it’s worth it. On the other hand, it’s more on the PG13/R rating due to the issues it tackles. Nothing is too explicit, but at the same time, I would recommend this book to people who are around 18+. I think it would also be very good for teenagers or people who are struggling with drug addictions. This kind of book isn’t for everyone, but it is a really good read for people who don’t mind putting strong moral judgements aside.

The author has a website located here: http://abbystewart.com

I got this ebook for free from the author in exchange for a review.