Tag Archive | women

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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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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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.

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.

Sex and the City Uncovered

Overview: Sex and the City, the popular television series and motion picture franchise, glorifies the lifestyles of four fashionable New York women who hang out in bars and talk bluntly about their broad range of sexual experiences. 

The awards lavished upon the show would imply it holds some redeeming value. However, despite claims that Sex and the City is ultimately about the longing for a committed relationship, the glamorization of casual sex and always looking fabulous can take a toll on impressionable young women.

Just ask Marian Jordan. In Sex and the City Uncovered she admits, “A painful existence of ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ is hidden behind images of couture fashion, witty dialogue, and beautiful people. I know this to be true because I’ve lived it.”

A former party girl with her own stories of hookups, hangovers, and heartbreak, Marian now speaks about the unfailing love she has found in Jesus and helps struggling women fill their hearts with this same joy.

Marian Jordan is founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, showing girls of all ages how to apply God’s truth and promises to their unique circumstances. She speaks to students across the nation, lives in Houston, and holds her master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

My thoughts:I found out about this book by reading the advertisements on the back of the toilet stall walls in a hall at my university. It really pulled me in solely because it exposed the media. The author actually came to speak at my university, but for some reason or another, I didn’t go.

I honestly thought that the book would have been a bit different, but it’s a bit simple minded. When I first read it, all I could think of was the Condescending Willie meme saying, “Tell me more.” Many times my brain responded to the writing with “Well, no, duuuuh!” I don’t mean to disrespect the author, but my thoughts were quite mean because I’m not her targeted audience. It’s more geared towards college-aged women who actually keep up with today’s media. The language is very casual, and it sounds like it’s written by someone for someone who’s very active in the social world.

The author approached the topic of media affecting people through a religious point of view. More specifically, she details her struggle and points out how the show Sex and the City can mislead some people into thinking it’s a great lifestyle without problems. I honestly thought it would have more scientific facts, but it focuses more on a woman’s relationship with God. Sometimes the examples she uses are a bit extreme, and she doesn’t address the middle ground. Let’s just say sometimes social drinking doesn’t always lead to out of control hooking up and drug abuse and may not lead to emptiness. I also think that the author makes too many generalizations about women wanting to feel needed or desired by men to have worth. It’s true that society, especially the media, places a lot of emphasis on women’s beauty, but personally, I’ve never felt that being wanted by men makes me a woman. Sometimes it was hard for me to place myself in the shoes of her audience and actually accept her advice.

Overall, the book in itself is pretty complete, and the best part is that the author reminds every woman that she is worth something. I’d recommend it to young Christian women who want relationships, intimacy, friendships, and a place to belong. It’s great that it warns women about the dangers of believing the media, but I think it sort of sells itself short solely relying on God. It’d be a lot more convincing if she cited more studies about the damaging effects of media and then mentioned how a pathway to God can help heal the damage. Either way, it made me consider my distant relationship with God and made me question if I was walking the right path although I’m not a party girl or an empty girl. The book does have some value, especially if it’s read by the right audience.

I borrowed this book from my college library through a inter-library loan.