Friday, August 25, 2017

New in September

     Just a few days until September! Exciting month! New school year, new job, and soon, new adventure! I learned a lot in this past year. Despite the fact that I didn't accomplish what I wanted, the things I have learned brings me some hope. Anyway, September has is a fresh new start for me, and one of the things that will start me off is the following list of book releases. They are all coming in September and I hope to read some of them. Enjoy.

                                      1. Little Fires Everywhere

                                                 Publication Date: Sept. 12, 2017
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Little Fires Everywhere is written by Celeste Ng. The story takes place in a peaceful, happy suburb. Elena Richardson's family rents out a house to Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. The Richardsons and the Warrens become friends, but this is threatened when old friends of the Richardsons decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby. This leads to a custody that divides the town. Suspicious of Mia's motives, Elena investigates Mia's past which comes at devastating costs.

2. The Black Tides of Heaven

Publication Date: Sept. 26, 2017 
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    As infants, the Protector's twin children, Mokoya and Akeha were sold to the Grand Monastary. Mokoya developed a strange prophetic gift while Akeha saw what moved adults into action. They saw the sickness at the heart of their mother's protectorate. 
     Rebellion grows. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world everyday, while the Tensors fight  them and preserve the state's power. Unwilling to continue  be used in her mother's schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and follows the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step  away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?


3. I Eliza Hamilton

Publication Date: September 27, 2017

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     Elizabeth Schuyler, a general's daughter, is used to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no other visitor to her parents' home has affected her as much as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They quickly marry and despite the uproar of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.  
     In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but also his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.


4. Once an Heiress

Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Image result for once an heiress renee ryan
     Boston society darling Gigi Wentworth leaves behind everything she holds dear for the sake of love—only to learn that the man with whom she’d planned to elope is nothing but a thieving scoundrel. Abandoned in New York City and saddled with debt, Gigi must sell a prized family heirloom, but even that sacrifice isn't enough to get her home. Her determination drives her to take on work as a lady’s maid, keeping her identity a secret…until she’s discovered by a former friend with a hidden agenda.

Although dealing with his own serious family issue, Christopher “Fitz” Fitzpatrick sets out to return the missing heiress to her rightful place in society. But the more he interacts with this new Gigi, the more shocked he is to find her so changed. Gone is the frivolous beauty in expensive gowns. In her place is a woman he could grow to love. When secrets are revealed, will Gigi and Fitz find the trust they need to confront the past and open their hearts?

5. Little Soldiers

Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Image result for little soldiers lenora chu

When American mom Lenora Chu moved to China with her little boy, she faced a tough decision. China produced some of the world’s top academic achievers, and just down the street from her home in Shanghai was THE school, as far as elite Chinese were concerned. Should Lenora entrust her rambunctious young son to the system?

So began Rainey’s immersion in one of the most extreme school systems on the planet. Almost immediately, the three-year-old began to develop surprising powers of concentration, became proficient in early math, and learned to obey his teachers’ every command. Yet Lenora also noticed disturbing new behaviors: Where he used to scribble and explore, Rainey grew obsessed with staying inside the lines. He became fearful of authority figures, and also developed a habit of obeisance outside of school. “If you want me to do it, I’ll do it,” he told a stranger who’d asked whether he liked to sing. 

What was happening behind closed classroom doors? Driven by parental anxiety, Lenora embarked on a journalistic mission to discover: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? How hard should the rest of us work to stay ahead of the global curve? And, ultimately, is China’s school system one the West should emulate? 

She pulls the curtain back on a military-like education system, in which even the youngest kids submit to high-stakes tests, and parents are crippled by the pressure to compete (and sometimes to pay bribes). Yet, as mother-and-son reach new milestones, Lenora uncovers surprising nuggets of wisdom, such as the upside of student shame, how competition can motivate achievement, and why a cultural belief in hard work over innate talent gives the Chinese an advantage.

Lively and intimate, beautifully written and reported, Little Soldiers challenges our assumptions and asks us to reconsider the true value and purpose of education.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

China Dolls Review

China Doll by Lisa See


     Last month I read China Dolls. China Dolls is the story of three girls(Helen, Grace, and Ruby Tom) who have the goal of becoming dancers. They become friends as soon as they meet and face the challenges of being Asian Americans during the 1930s and 1940s. They all struggle through the ups and downs of being night club dancers. The story takes a major turn when a betrayal threatens to tear their friendship apart. 
      The story was good and I had a good time reading it. Sorry for the short post but today I have a hard time writing. I will get around to writing a follow up post. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Review of Samurai Girl(Book Series by Carrie Asai)

Titles: Book of the Sword(book 1)
          Book of the Shadow(book 2)
          Book of the Pearl(book 3)
          Book of the Wind(book 4)
          Book of the Flame(book 5)
          Book of the Heart(book 6)

Author: Carrie Asai


Intro

     If you ever see a book series in which all of its book were published in less than a year, do your time one big favor: don't...read it. That's exactly how I feel about Carrie Asai's Samurai Girl. The only way in which I benefited from reading it was an opportunity to write this book review. Below is my opinion of the series:

Plot:

     I must admit that the plot had good potential. It is about a sheltered, Japanese rich girl named Heaven Kogo who was adopted at six months old after becoming the only survivor of a plane crash. The story starts when Heaven is at her wedding ceremony(it's an arranged marriage) and a ninja attacks her. Her brother, Ohiko, fights the ninja and dies trying to protect her. Heaven runs away and finds Hiro, one of Ohiko's friends, and asks him for help. She spends the entire series trying to find out who killed her brother as well as why she is being hunted.

My review:

     I thought the story was interesting and that is what kept me reading until the end. Unfortunately, the series' potential is ruined by the author(s) own doing. The first way it is ruined is the fact that book 6 is the last book in the series. The series needs at least one more book to complete the story. Yes, it is true that many books have cliffhangers, but when cliffhangers are so big that they equate to an incomplete plot, it ruins the story. That's how me and many other reviewers online felt about Samurai Girl. I considered watching the mini series for it, but I changed my mind after reading a blog post from angryasianman.com. The blog post writer makes it clear that the TV version is apparently worse than the books were.

     The plot holes are my biggest problem, but the second one is poorly developed characters. If the characters were at least better, perhaps the reader would consider forgiving the author(s) for their corny ending. I must say though that when writers rush, stuff like this happens. There are several reason why I think the characters turned out to be flat. The first is the fact that the each book revolves around Heaven a little too much. The people who help Heaven do not seem to have any personal ambitions or motives outside of what relates to Heaven. As a result, they seem to be there only to be Heaven's helpers. Now, of course, considering that Heaven is the main character, most of the book is going to naturally revolve around her thoughts. Yet, in order  for readers to get the best enjoyment out of a book, side characters must have goals, needs, wants, desires, and weaknesses just like the main character. They can't be just convenient throw ins.

     Heaven is also what many authors would call a Mary Sue. Everything just falls her way no matter what even if the situation doesn't call for it. She also is also miraculously good at everything. How is her fighting better than all the thugs who chase after her? It just doesn't make sense. And it appears that every reviewer on Amazon thinks the same. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Home Is a Strong Word

     Pachinko is a novel about a Korean family's struggle over several generations. I wrote about it in my last blog post. Today, I will be talking about the beginning quote. It says, "Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration."----Charles Dickens.
     Home is indeed a strong word and home is in different places since people come from different backgrounds. Most people are proud of their home to some extent. Some show a strong degree of family pride. Others show strong patriotism while others show pride in their home town or the long lost heritage of their ancestors. When we think of home, we do not merely think of a specific building, but rather the pool of memories and emotions related to it. The mere thought of home could change our mood. For some people, it could change their day.
     Charles Dickens' quote suites Pachinko because home is a concept commonly seen throughout the novel. The first mention that I remember is the time when Sunja marries and thinks about whether she will see her mother again. She must move to her husband's home in Japan and start a new life. Throughout the book, many of the Korean characters long to return to Korea. These characters had loyalty to Korea since it was their home.
      Home is a very strong word. It is where we have spent most of our lives and it's the place where our true personality shows. Have you ever seen somebody who you thought you knew and then saw them at home and realized they weren't who you thought they were? You're not alone. The same thing has happened to millions of other people. And it will continue happening.
     Everybody wants a home. A home may be a physical building, but it could also be wherever our comfort zone is. One of the comfort zones could be when we're among family, the second thing we think about when we think about home. Family is not always our blood relatives. In fact, sometimes people outside our genetic families are better than our real families. Regardless of where home is found, it remains part of our identity. Family is the biggest part of our association and where we live can have a major impact on our lives. For example, many college graduates could not find jobs in their career majors simply because those industries were located away from where they planned to live. Those who couldn't move had to work elsewhere.
     Many people are still looking for homes. Some in a physical sense, and some in an abstract sense. I am looking for a home in an abstract sense. A few weeks ago, I realized I should probably look for another language to learn. For years, I wanted to learn Spanish, but I am not sure if I am passionate enough about Spanish culture to continue. I have to learn more about myself before I know where this figurative home is. I think this home is with Chinese, but I am not sure.
     As for identity, Pachinko touch on this as well. One of the characters committed suicide after seeing his mother. The book does not say why, but it gives enough information to give us a conclusion: he could not face the reality of his identity after finding out who his real father was. He wanted to run from it. Had he grown up with his real father, the suicide would have likely never happened. Yet, only the author could imagine how he would have turned out. He would have been different because his childhood home would have been different.
     Identity is part of home since home defines who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Home is indeed a strong word. And we have a longing for it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Pachinko

Pachinko

Author: Min Jin Lee

Published: February 2017

Publisher: Hachette Audio

Summary

     Pachinko is the first book of a saga featuring generations of a Korean family. The first two chapters feature the story of how Sunja's parents got married. Afterwards, the real story begins. Sunja lives in a boarding house with her mother during a time in which Japan controls Korea. She falls in love with an older man and gets pregnant with his child. This leads a visitor at the boarding house to marry her to save her from shame. Unfortunately, Sunja must abandon her mother to move with her new husband's family. Pachinko shows us the journey of Sunja and her new family as they fight the hardships such as poverty and the political changes imposed on them by the Japanese. 

Review

     I listened to the audio book audition of Pachinko. The first two chapters move slower than my tastes, but the overall themes make up for this. This book covers issues that even our American society needs to examine such as prejudice and identity. This book feels realistic and I feel that I can relate to some of the character's experiences despite never having to go through most of their challenges. Readers must realize that the problems in Pachinko can happen anywhere and not just in Korea. The characters experience loss, disappointment, shame and rejoicing. Sunja is a caring mother, but she too has made mistakes. But the best part about her is her ability to recover from them. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to the sequel. How did you like the book? Let me know in your comments below.
    

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Amber Keeper

Title: The Amber Keeper

Author: Freda Lightfoot

ISBN: 978-1477826157

Publication Year: 2014

Summary

     After her mother commits suicide, Abby Myers returns to her home town with her illegitimate daughter to reunite with her family after seven years. Her family blames her for her mother's death and Abby is filled with grief and turns to her grandmother, Millie, for answers. Her grandmother tells her the story of how she became a Russian governess and struggled to survive in the Russian revolution. As the events of the past are revealed, it becomes clear to Abby that the past is now threatening the family's peace.

Review

     The Amber Keeper takes place in 1960s England and 1910s Russia. Although this book struggled to keep my attention in many parts, the story was interesting and well thought out. It offers a perspective of the Russian revolution that does not focus directly on the monarchs. It focuses on the servants of the aristocrats instead. The Amber Keeper does not demonize the aristocracy neither does it glamorize it. It shows three lessons that everyone could learn from:

1. Assumptions could damage relationships. Abby and her family were at odds for almost the entire book simply because they assumed the cause of their mother's death rather than thinking more about it.

2. Lack of communication can damage relationships: much of the book's conflict could have been avoided if both Millie and Abby's mother had simply told the family the truth to begin with. Everything from the jewelry shop's decline to the trouble  Millie went through when her daughter was a teen could have been avoided if the truth had been revealed earlier.

3. Some bad people never change. There are some people who will always do the same thing no matter what they experience or what consequences they pay for their actions. Countess Olga(a very important character in Millie's past) learns noting from the Russian revolution and commits the same mistakes for all her life.

The Amber Keeper is a good read and I would recommend it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Joy Luck Club

Author: Amy Tan
Title: The Joy Luck Club
Publication Year: 1989

Summary

The Joy Luck Club was published in 1989 and prides itself as being a New York Times Best Seller. It has multiple main characters all of whom know each other. The book begins with Jing-Mei Woo's narration. In the first chapter, Jing-Mei takes her recently, deceased mother's place at the Joy Luck Club and listens to the life stories of various club members. She also remembers when her mother tells her about her first marriage and her life in China. Jing-Mei learns that she has two sisters in China who her mother tried to find for decades. The Joy Luck Club has eight main characters and who narrate parts of the story. At the end of the novel Jing-Mei goes to China to see her sisters for the first time.

Worth a Read?

Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club was okay. I just hope that Tan's other novels were better though. The positive elements include the story's insight into the differing experiences of the mothers who narrated the book and the daughters who narrated. The wants of the two generations clashed from time to time in a way that many families can relate to. For some reason, the book did not fascinate me as well as it should have and it was tough to get through many of the parts. The good parts of the book drew me in, but unfortunately the book had too many characters. It was tough to keep up with all eight of them. Worse yet, every time I became attached to a scene, the character would change. I didn't feel as attached to the characters as a should have been. What do you guys think? Leave a comment below if you wish.