Friday, May 30, 2014

READING GOAL

Every year I try to challenge myself to read a certain amount of books by the end of there.  Then throughout the year I try to challenge myself a little more with various different things such as reading a book outside of my typical genre of choice or reading books that began with the letters of my name (The Joy Luck Club , Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1) , The Neverending Story , The Nosferatu Scroll (Chris Bronson) ).  There is a site I am a member of “Goodreads” that has a group I am in that helps with different challenges and what not.  But so far I am behind on my goal for this year and I am ashamed of it.  I wanted to read 85 books this year and I am behind by 12!  That is a horrible amount to be behind. 

I thought it would be so easy to read 85 books within the year, but I guess I was wrong.  The older I get the harder it is to just sit down and read for an extended amount of time.  Almost as if time just slips away from me no matter how hard I try, guess I need to try harder.  I look around my room and I have piles of books that need to be read and a pile of books by my bed that are currently being read not to mention the scores of books on my Nook or Kindle App.  I don’t know how I am going to get through them all but I am determined to make it to my goal and hopefully surpass it as well!  Maybe I should read a few books that are shorter than 700 – 1,000 pages.  Sometimes I think maybe those should count as two books haha.

How about you all in interweb land, do you challenge yourselves to read a certain amount of books each year? Or even different challenges throughout the year?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ART OF WAR

I am not one to read military literature, but Art of War is one of those books that needs to be read. As I was reading this book, I kept feeling like a lot the things Sun Tzu spoke about could be applied to many aspects of life such as business, personal/romantic life, even politics not just war. It not only talks about tactics to plan and win a war but also ways to be intelligent about it. Art of War talks about thinking things through and considering your surroundings before taking action. That’s something we should always be considering: looking at the big picture rather than the outcome that we want to accomplish. He doesn’t focus solely on winning, but also know when to admit to defeat. Something many of us are reluctant to do in our lives.

The book also talks about how to determine if the war is worth winning or if it is better to come to a truce, compromise; basically the saying pick your battles applies here, something commonly heard among parents. It is about deciding what the best possible reality for the situation at hand through devices on planning the right strategy. It talks about choosing battle grounds, weapons, even the time of day. Art of War is a great book on many different levels.

One thing I enjoyed was the way it was written, while some may have seen it as hard to read, but the simplistic nature of the language made it easier to understand. Maybe it was the edition I was reading, but I found it fairly easy to grasp the concepts Sun Tzu was presenting. Everything was not all jumbled together, but separated neatly into individual sentences. I think if everything was paragraphed out it would be harder to grasp the concepts being presented. This is a book that you can read more than once and get something new out of it every time. I also enjoyed seeing some of the Chinese history that goes along with the military strategies that Sun Tzu speaks about. He uses both in an interesting way to where you aren’t realizing that you are reading about Chinese history, I know I didn’t the first time I read this.

Art of War may seem like a book not everyone will enjoy and that is true. It is a book worth reading and should be read, but not everyone will enjoy the book. It definitely is a niche market book, if you like mysteries or romance, you won’t be interested. On the other hand if you like military or philosophical reads, then this would be a good book to pick up and see what you can get out of reading it. While it is simplistic in sentence structure and somewhat easy to understand it is difficult to read in one setting. There is a lot of ideas and philosophies to take in at once.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Final Review: This is not a book for everyone, it is definitely a niche market.  But if you want to read something outside of your normal, then check this book out.

Pro: Gives you a lot to think about regarding how you address situations in your own life.

Con: A lot of politic and military jargon to get through


Friday, May 23, 2014

THE MERCHANTS DAUGHTER

The story is that of a young merchant’s daughter, Annabel.  Her family is down on their luck and she constantly has the bailiff (who is old enough to be her father) wanting to marry her.  One day he gets rough with her as she refuses him once more.  The new nobleman (Lord Ranulf) rescues her, a man people fear and rumors fly about.  In order to pay for her family not sharing in the indentured services, she offers herself to serve the young noble man.  While in the castle she makes numerous friends, and gains the affection of a few of the workers in the field and those working on the castle.  Once the nobleman realizes she knows how to read, he orders her to read to him out of the Bible each night.  As she does a bond is developed between the two of them. Annabel finds herself in a situation that may but Lord Ranulf’s future in danger.  I won’t go into too much more detail cause I do not want to give the story away, what fun would that be?

Melanie Dickerson has a captivated me with this novel.  At first I didn’t realize it, but this is her version of the classic fairy tale; Beauty and the Beast; Annabel being beauty and Lord Ranulf being Beast.  She did the transformation beautifully.  She added the Christian elements so stunningly, they didn’t feel pushed or pressed upon the reader.  It was more of Annabel’s beliefs coming across the pages.  The setting of 14thCentury England helps add to that because in that time faith in something was highly important and it wasn’t completely unusual for young women to want to enter a convent, it was however for them to be able to read.  The romance and relationship aspect of the novel was remarkable as well.  Most novels today, girl meets guy falls madly in love with him.  In The Merchant’s Daughter, the relationship takes time to develops on it’s own as it does in reality.  That was probably one of my favorite things about this novel.

The character development was outstanding!  From the first meeting of Baliff Tom, his actions and personality makes you instantly despise him, then throughout the rest of the novel he continues to be the pervy character and you despise him more.  He has his dimensions of being the bad guy from the get go and it adds to the story rather than take it away.  Annabel is the strong female lead we all look for in a novel.  She doesn’t wallow in self pity or blame others for her actions, instead she takes actions to save her and protect her family.  She does what she needs to in order to survive.  We see her spirit and compassion, again, for the beginning of the novel and it never once sways.  All of Dickerson’s characters remain the same throughout the novel and only grow.  You don’t sit and wonder “well why would that character do that?”

While you do get the feel that the story is similar to another like Beauty and the Beast or even Jane Eyre, but you don’t not get the sense that it is the same story just told with different characters.  She takes elements that made such classic and amazing stories and weaves them into a story that completely unique and her own.  I see within it elements that would this novel be considered a classic in and of itself one day.  This is the first novel that I have read of Melanie Dickerson’s and I enjoyed reading.  I know I am going to purchase the other books written by her.  I recommend this novel for anyone of any age, it is a fantastic read.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Final Review:  It is a good novel for young women.  It does focus a lot on the faith of the young woman.

Pros: Good romance novel for young teens, focuses on romance not sexual aspect of a relationship.

Cons: very religious in nature.  If you aren't okay with the novel focusing so much on it, it's not for you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TAO OF POOH

Ever wonder what Winnie the Pooh’s ideas are on Taoism and the ways of life?  Wonder now more, the Tao of Pooh gives you a glimpse into the thought process of many philosophical theories, but through the mind and thinking of the beloved bear from our childhood: Winnie the Pooh. 

I came across this book in the library and thought, I love Pooh bear and I enjoy learning different things, so let’s check it out.  There are so many different things to enjoy about this book; it is hard to pin point just one.  The author Ben Hoff presents the Taoist theories and beliefs in such a manner that it is easy to understand.  He utilizes the humor and personality that is Pooh Bear to help express those theories.  The personality of Pooh Bear fits with so much of the basic teachings of Taoism, it is no wonder Hoff uses him as a sort of teaching these basics.  It’s a great way of relating how to put them into practice of every day life with such a memorable example.    One of the basic concepts is wu-wei which means “not doing”; doing nothing against the natural flow of life.  Hoff demonstrates this by telling about Pooh Bear and how Pooh bear has a mind that sees what’s in front of it.  Pooh Bear is the type of personality that literally just goes with the flow.  Knowing the type of character that Pooh bear was and his personality, gives us a visual of the theory making it easy for us to understand how to put it into practice.

I absolutely loved reading this book.  Not just for the fact that I got to learn something new about Taoism, but also because we see a different side of Winnie the Pooh.  The Pooh Bear we recognize is a little forgetful, easily distracted, a character we wouldn’t think to know the inner workings of Taoism, which is something we see Owl explaining.  So adding this aspect to Pooh Bear gives him a little more dimension for this adult mind of mine, but also keeps the child-like innocence I remember from my childhood.   Hoff describes everything in an easy to understand manner.  You will not be left scratching your head wondering what in the world did you just read.  Instead you will find yourself thinking “oh that makes sense.”  I was afraid this would be like many other books I have read that went into a lot of detailed which made it even harder to understand the concepts.  While Hoff describes things in detail, he does it in a manner that is easy to understand and grasp. 

If you are looking for a great book to help give you understanding on different ways of life, of feeling less stressed and “go with the flow” more, then you need to pick this book up.  While it does have stories related to the Winnie the Pooh series, but it applies those to the Taoist practice.  It is well worth a read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Final Review:  It wasn't what I expected but I highly enjoyed reading this book and getting a better understanding of Taoism through the mind of a beloved character.

Pro: put things simplistically with Pooh Bear

Cons: None

Saturday, May 17, 2014

CINDER

Cinder is an interesting twist to the well known fairy tale of Cinderella.  Cinder is actually a cyborg who needs new parts but her step-mother/caregiver will not allow her to purchase these parts and she is forced to use old and small parts.  She runs her own shop in the city and those around her are afraid of her, unsure of her because she is a cyborg.  Regardless, she is also the best mechanic in the city.  One day the prince comes to her with an important project; he needs her help in fixing his android.  A Lunar race watches from above waiting to make their move and start war with Earth. The fate of the world depends on Cinder.

In this novel we are introduced to futuristic China, as the story takes place in New Beijing, where we see a mix of technology and enchantment.  As mentioned, the novel retells the story of Cinderella.  Cinder meets Prince Kai early on in the story and comes in contact with him throughout the novel.  We soon come to realize that Prince Kai may have to marry Queen Levana, the Lunar queen, to prevent war.  Is this something he is able to do for his country is not the world?  There is a subplot of a plague having broken out and various citizens of New Beijing contracting the plague including the king and Cinder’s step sister.  In order to find a cure, doctors are doing tests on the cyborgs to see what they can find and Cinder’s step mother offers her up as a test subject.  Her blood is found to be different from all others and potentially has what is needed to help those inflicted with the disease.  Not much is used with the plague throughout the novel, just little snippets and hints towards other things.

The character developments that Meyer creates are wonderful.  Cinder is not your typical Cinderella character.  She gets down and dirty and loves doing this work.  Her spare time she works on a broken down car trying to figure out how to make it work so that she may escape the tyranny of her step mother.   I love that there is such personality to Cinder, a heroine with a mind of her own.  She is a really strong character with a strong presence even when the story diverges from her for a moment.  She doesn’t need a “fairy godmother” to help her out, she tries it all on her own.  Another thing I enjoyed was Meyers turned the evil step sisters into characters we can learn to like; in fact Cinder is close with the sister that contracts the plague. 

Meyer’s descriptions throughout the story were so vivid; I could imagine everything in great detail.  She creates and develops her characters wonderfully.  She doesn’t just through in a character and expect them to fit.  When a new character is introduced it is done in a refined manor which shows it was well planned.  The way she writes make everything seems so thought out and precise.  I am looking forward to reading her other novels in the series.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THE STORY OF EVIL

The Story of Evil, not much a story of evil rather than a story of good.  The story focuses on three young people, in their twenties roughly.  It is the time of year for celebration and Steve Brighflame is about to win his final joust with the city watching including his friend Ty and a very pretty girl Kari. Out of no where the city is attacked by monsters such as the like of Ogres, Orcs, Minotaur and more.  Being a warrior Steve must fight his way to the castle to help defend the king.  There he gets a special task and learns so interesting information.  Then the story switches to Ty who is watching his friend in the competition when boulders fly into the arena.  He scrambles to get to his friend to help him before joining the ranks of the aerial squad.  He as well needs to fight his way to the stables to his trusting gryphon to head to the skies.   He must help defend the city from other flying monsters like a gryphon, phoenixes and dragons. 

Then we have another switch to Kari who is a young woman in the stands watch Steve joust thinking young woman things when the town is attacked.  She scrambles out of the arena and tries to run for her home shooting monsters with her astounding archery skills.  When she gets to her home she find a phoenix has set it ablaze and she decides to take on the beast.  When it seems as though the phoenix has won out from the sky falls a handsome elf; Ty.  They team up and make their way to Ty’s brother’s home.  Then they are dragged out of the home to the center of the city to witness the truth behind the attacks.  There they see Steve imprisoned and ready for hanging but surprise rescue him. 

There is more throughout and after this point, but I don’t want to give away the ending or anything.  There are many good things and many not so good things about this novel.  Let’s do a mixture of both.  First the novel starts off very slow and seems very drab.  When reading it got the feel of just another story about a boy who wants to be a knight, seems as though it has been done before.  The author spends a lot of time on descriptions and back stories in the first section; building up the character of Steve.  So much emphasis is placed on this back story that a lot of the actual story gets lost.  I understand the author is striving to make Brighflame the hero he is intended to be, but so much back story could be done without.  Some is important to the story line such as how he came to be raised by Sir Titus.

The second thing that brought down some enjoyment was after I finished chapter 12 and was really pumped for Brightflame’s story and to see what was going to happen; the story jumps all the way back to the beginning to follow Ty.  Then as Ty’s story start getting really good, we go all the way back to the beginning to Kari.  What would have made it more fluid and flow a lot better and gain more excitement for the story, is if each of their stories were mixed together.  For example while Brighflame struggles on the arena with a minotaur have Ty jump from his seat to rush forward to help save his friend while helping others and noticing the things he notices.  When they part ways Brighflame rushes off towards the castle battling on the crowd Ty rushes to the stables toward his gryphon.  Other novels do this as following one character then stop their story at a point then pick up at that same point but a different character.  Brighflame watches the tower crumble and runs to get out of the way of debris.  Ty watches from above praying his friend is safe while he battles the phoenix and is knocked from the seat.  Kari is cornered by a phoenix and from the sky fall Ty.  Interweaving the storylines make a connection between the characters noticeable and makes the readers hope they meet up at some point and do battle as a team rather than all fighting separately.  

Now for some good things about this novel, it is a good story.  There are great elements in the storyline that get you into the story and loving the characters.  Some of the ideas he creates are interesting such as knowing the type of element a monster controls by the color of their skin and how strong they are in that element based on how pale or brilliant the color is, it shows both strength and weakness in the characters.  That is something I haven’t seen done yet and I was impressed with that idea.   Tony does a great job with the story, I just think there are things he could have done to make it better.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Final Review: There are a lot of things that took the rating for this novel down a star.  There are elements that are remarkable and I wanted to see more from.  Chapter 12 was best part.

Pros: Great character descriptions/design, story developed well.
Cons: Restarts the story from the beginning with each new character.  Didn't like re-reading the same events all over again. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

WAY OF SHADOWS

All Azoth wanted was to escape the slums. To no longer be a guild rat struggling just to feed himself and his friends. The only way out, in his mind, is to become an apprentice to Durzo Blint, one of the most infamous wetboys in the city. It is a high risk, but in order to survive Azoth sees no other choice. Blint never takes apprentices, but for some reason sees potential in Azoth. In order for Azoth to enter into the world of assassins, he needs to leave the life he lived behind, including abandoning his friends and never contacting them again. Is this something Azoth can do? Azoth soon takes on a new identity as Kylar Stern, a nobleman of low rank. He navigates both the noble life as well as the wetboy life. Throughout his career he is faced with choices which could mean life or death, are they choices he is ready to make?

The story starts out with some detailed descriptions of the life in the Warrens, which does include child abuse, sexual abuse, and extreme violence. Azoth faces some horrors during his life on the streets and does what he needs to in order to apprentice with Blint, even if it means killing someone. Azoth soon learns he has Talent (magical powers of sorts) but for some reason has been unable to use them. While Azoth and Blint complete jobs they learn secrets from the nobles which include plots to kill various other nobles and incite a war. As Kylar grows up he begins to meet new people and experience things that teach him who he needs to trust.

There is a lot that happens in this novel. Not only does it follow Azoth/Kylar’s training with Blint and him trying to figure out his Talent, but we also follow the plot to overthrow the king and others in positions of power like the Shinga. Secrets are revealed and people are killed left and right. There are points when it does become confusing trying to keep everything together and remember what is happening and when it’s happening. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and remember who is who especially Aleine the king and Aleine the prince. The interesting part of the story was the secret to why Kylar cannot use his Talent (magic). It was an interesting twist to the story and an interesting solution to it. I am looking forward to seeing what is coming in the next novel of the series regarding this.

The characters all have their different personalities which is feat with so many different characters in one novel. I enjoyed Kylar’s character because he was the moral conscience of the story, he was the one who would rather focus on moral judgment rather than the shear fact that someone was a “deader.” He found value in all life and as you read the story you can feel the turmoil when he needed to kill someone. Whereas with the character of Blint; he is the character who threw morals away long ago. Through his pain he fears letting someone close, he fears seeing people as a person rather than a potential job. A common quote used throughout the story was “life is meaningless” and one wonders if Blint feels this about his own life.

The other characters seem to represent another virtue or value that Kylar seen as important in a person. Doll Girl was hope, despite the pain and turmoil she went through she had hope and love. Logan was friendship and loyalty even when there were rumors about his beloved, he refused to believe them. Even Count Drake represented kindness and gentleness. Momma K displayed power no matter the role she played, she was powerful. That was a highly enjoyable part of the story, to see these characteristics personified into the characters. You cannot help but like many of the characters; I found myself wanting more from Doll Girl (Eilene). You soon get attached to the characters and are saddened if they happen to die.

The descriptions Weeks used throughout the novel were excellent; I could almost see the action playing out as a movie as I read from scene to scene. I kept thinking to myself “this would make for a great movie.” Each setting was distinct and had its own features; many other novels tend to have the same features in different scenes. Not with this novel. The Warrens where completely different from the castle in the way they were described you could almost smell the stench of the Warrens compared to the semi-fresh air of the castles. Each castle even had their own distinctive characteristics; the Drake castle was completely different from Aleine’s castle. Whenever I read about a castle or palace the same images are always used. Here Weeks takes those images and twists them into different things. Where the Gyre home had books and historical d├ęcor; the Jadwin home focused more on art work and sculptures. Weeks has a talent of painting a beautiful picture with his words.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Bottom Line: the story was slow to start but really picks up after a while.  There is a lot to take in at first but it sets the stage for further novels.

Pro: good plot and storyline, interesting character personalities

Cons: takes too long to develop the actually story.  Gives a lot of background details.

Friday, May 9, 2014

THE ART OF HAPPINESS

As human beings, we have always been on the hunt for happiness, and we will forever be on the hunt for it.  We consult gurus and sages, people we think have found the path to true happiness.  The Dalai Lama is one of those people that as a society we tend to turn to find wisdom in our search for happiness and other aspects of life.  His book “The Art of Happiness” helps us get one step closer to finding what we are looking for and passes on his wisdom for not only this generation but thousands to come.

The first thing a reader needs to realize is that his book was not directly written by the Dalai Lama himself but by Howard Cutler, who based the book off of his numerous conversations with His Holiness.  The focus of the book is that happiness is a product of the mind, not something tangible we can access.  The book explores that idea in depth and approaches the subject in a way that is practical and easy to put into action.  One important thing His Holiness does is make a distinction between happiness and pleasure, something we often times confuse with one another.  Once we ourselves are able to make that distinction then we can be on our way to happiness.

This book displays the humility and compassion that we all know to be characteristic of the Dalai Lama.  We see the reflections of his spirituality, kindness, and wisdom among many other things.  Through his words to Mr. Cutler, we are given things to meditate on and see the wisdom that he has accumulated throughout the years.  One thing that hit home for me about happiness is that we let our own demons (pain, heartache, anger, guilt etc) come in between us and happiness.  Not only does the book help us come to the realization that we allow those things to hinder our search, but always helps us learn how to avoid those things and defeat the ones we deal with currently.

While the book is about the Dalai Lama’s reflections on the art of finding happiness, there is a lot of Cutler’s commentary and analysis of the principles that His Holiness speaks about.  Cutler even provides examples from his own practices.  The reader is able to tell the difference between the two speaking and thought processes.  While I appreciate hearing Cutler’s take on the things the Dalai Lama speaks about, his commentary began to take away from the effect of the book and teachings of His Holiness.  His practices help getting a general idea of putting the reflections of the Dalai Lama into practice, but I would have maybe wanted that at the end, almost like an afterward.

This was a very hard book to put down.  I enjoyed reading some of the reflections and insights from His Holiness.  It enlightened my own insights on what happiness was and searching for true happiness in my life.  I do suggest this book to anyone who wants to have a book that will make them take a look at their own lives and see what they can change.  I highly suggest reading this.

  Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Final Review: This is a book that needs to be read, it will change how you view and interpret different situations.  Add it your shelf/coffee table.

Pros: very insightful, changes views on happiness and how to achieve it.

Cons:  NONE

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MALCOLM X

I have never been one to read autobiographies. There are a few stories that have gained my interest and held it throughout the book. Malcolm X’s autobiography is one of those stories. The story held my attention from the moment I began reading it. At a young age Malcolm witnessed the horrors of racial violence and bias. The story progresses from his time in foster care, to living the nightlife, to prison where he learns of Islam. After he gets out of prison he gets involved in the Detroit branch of the Nation of Islam. Where he rises in rank and works to advocate for black unity and militancy, which begins to frighten some people in the organization and he is forced out. The rest of the auto- biography finishes his life.

Very few auto-biographies have moved me the way this one did. While I learned about Malcolm X in high school, his actions and beliefs were never discussed in detail. Why I am not sure, but this book shows everything he stood for and everything he tried to achieve the best way he knew how. There is no need for fancy words or literary devices in this book. You can feel the tension, the passion, and everything in between just through the telling of his story. Reading this auto-biography you get an insight to who this man was; what made him the man he was. You gain a better understanding of why he chose the tactics he did to get his beliefs across. It’s almost as if you are transported into each period of Malcolm X’s life as you progress throughout the auto-biography.

After reading this auto-biography you have a better appreciation for many different things including men like Malcolm X. It is one of those books that no matter how hard you try, you cannot put it down. It pulls you in straight from the beginning and never stops amazing you. It never feels dull or that it drags on like some biographies/ auto-biographies. There is constantly something happening that keeps you interested. Malcolm’s life is an extraordinary one, not simply because of whom he is and what he represented, but because of everything he endured. It is one of the stories that needs to be read regardless of who you are because it will change your viewpoints and how you see the world around us.

There are moments of graphic violence, so parents make the judgment call on if you want your teen reading it and at what age. I know when I have kids I will have them read it as they get older. This is a book that needs to be added to any book collection, not just borrowed. It is one of those auto-biographies that you want to read more than once because you never know what you will learn the second or third time around.

 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Final review:  this was a powerful book to read.  It opens your eyes to what this man accomplished.

Pros: Gives you a better insight to his thoughts and actions

Cons: there are scenes that are gruesome, and hard to read.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

CLOCKWORK ANGEL


All Tessa wants is to be with her brother once again.  She crosses the ocean from New York to London to be with him, but once she gets off the boat she is kidnapped.  She finds London is full of all kinds of horrifying things, but she doesn’t know exactly what until she finds out she is a Downworlder, and there is a world of paranormal creatures she knew nothing about until now.  She learns through torture and hardship that she can turn herself into another person, at will, and a mysterious man known as the Magister wants her for some unknown reason.  She is rescued by the Shadowhunters and now works with Will, Jem, Charlotte and Henry to find out what happened to her brother, what she is, and who exactly is the Magister and what does he want from her.  There are a few twists in the story that make you wanting more.

True to Clare-style this novel is filled with vivid images and compelling characters.  There are some of the characters we remember from the Mortal Instruments such as Magnus Bane.  William Herondale is slightly mentioned in the Mortal Instruments and his importance to Magnus Bane, we are introduced to Will in this novel.  I was excited to see Clare taking a few characters she talked about in a previous series and continue to use them in another series.  I am hoping we see more of Magnus Bane throughout this series.  The character of Tessa starts out as a little whiney, but given her circumstances I would be whiney as well.  She grows throughout the novel into a powerful woman intend on protecting those she cares for at all costs.  Clare does an excellent job at developing her characters at an even pace, giving a little information here and there.  Even to satisfy the audience, but not too much to give everything away; she leaves mystery to her characters.

Clockwork Angel has its moments of dullness, where it seems to drag on to the next scene.  But with that being said the scenes Clare creates are well done.  While sometimes they seem dull and to drag, it’s because the rest of the book has so much going on that when there are mundane moments at dinner, it seems uneventful.  But those moments are essential to the storyline.  Clare takes her time developing the story and the characters a like.  One thing I enjoyed was there was a lot of references to classic literature such as Shakespeare and Dicksons.  That added to the Victorian atmosphere that Clare was trying to establish throughout the novel.  In the beginning Tessa is a proper lady worried about how a lady should act and present herself, but she loses that throughout the novel as she grows as a warrior.  I was overjoyed with this novel and cannot wait to begin reading the next one.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Final Review: there are a lot of the same elements in this novel as in the Mortal Instrument series.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your thoughts.

Pros: Good character development through the novel, not all at once.

Cons: A lot of similarities with Mortal Instruments; wondered if reading about the same characters just different situation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING

There is a lot to be said about a novel that doesn’t follow the typical style of an author.  Saving Fish From Drowning is that novel for Amy Tan.  It is very different in that it does not have the mother daughter conflict most of her novels focus on.  Saving Fish From Drowning begins with the death of our narrator: Bibi Chan, then the rest of the story is told through her eyes as she watches over her friends during to trip through Burma. 

Along the way they deviate from the plans that Bibi painstakingly created and got themselves into a huge mess of trouble which includes eating food that disagreed with their bodies to disappearing while out sight-seeing.  While the group is out exploring the land and buying trinkets to take home, a young member of the group shows off some magic tricks to the natives.  This in turn makes them believe he is what they believe is the “Younger White Brother,” who they believe will save them from repression. This story is as much about the tribe who kidnaps the travelers as it is about the travelers.  The novel engulfs numerous other backstories on several of the character no matter how minor they may seem.

There are still some aspects of the mystery of magic, religion and the aspects of human nature we see analyzed in Tan other novels, but Saving Fish From Drowning takes on a more political view of things.  She discusses a lot of the aspects of Burmese and Chinese politics through the things the travelers need to deal with when touring the countries.  While the imagery is beautifully written and described with vivacity the jargon of politics took away from the awe feeling within the novel.  While the novel doesn’t focus mainly on mother/daughter relationships like many of her novels, there is still some aspects of that theme through the characters of Esme and Marlena.  So many Tan wasn’t able to break away from her normal themes after all.

The characters all have characteristics that we all can relate too.  Bennie is the one who wants to please everyone even if it means sacrificing himself (this is who I related to the most), Mott is the show off while his son Rupert is the adventurous young man (the one seen as the “Younger White Brother”).  Marlena is a single mother who unknowingly missed her daughter growing up trying to provide for her while her daughter Esme is both annoyed with her mom, but loves her more than anything.  Harry is the television playboy who simply wants to be loved while Heidi is the cautious one who thinks ahead and is weary of everything around her.  Wendy is the clingy girlfriend who tries to use every opportunity she can to be naughty with Wyatt her boyfriend who simply doesn’t want to hurt her.  Roxanna is the documentarian who wants to document everything happening around them while her husband Dwight thinks he knows everything about everything.  Last is Vera who simply wants to reconnect with her past.  We all know people with these same characteristics so it is easy to think of someone while reading about these characters.

The novel is a great read with a lot of rewarding elements, but it is also hard to get through.  I personally had to push myself to get through the political talk and see the story as it should be. The one quality of the novel I enjoyed was Bibi Chan.  She was a unique character who tries to aid her friends but fails because she cannot communicate with them.  She emits strong emotions and you feel them yourself as if you are Bibi herself watching your friends.  I do suggest reading this novel if you are a fan of Amy Tan.  If you have not read any of her work before I would suggest another novel like maybe The Kitchen God’s Wife or The Joy Luck Club.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Pros: The book does deviate from Tan's typical theme.
Cons: There is a lot of political talk which seems to take away from the true story she is trying to tell.

Final Review: While Tan does stray from her normal themes she does stick with her unique style.   She include great imagery of the surroundings and emotions of her characters.

Author: Amy Tan
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons