Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua

Cannonball Read: 45

This is going to be a very hard review to write. I mean, literally, I have been attempting to process the book and think about what I wanted to say in my review for days now — I finished it about a week and a half ago. My overall thought, which is why I am struggling with what to say about this book, is that it left me feeling very, very angry. I was angry the entire time reading it. I was angry when I finished it. And I’m still a little bit angry.

The basic premise: Chua writes about the difference between Western parents and “Tiger mothers,” those Chinese parents who push their kids to excel. (And how she was foiled by her youngest daughter.) Super awesome way to start a book: with a giant stereotype (one that she perpetuates throughout the entire book, despite her assertion at the start that she knows not all Chinese parents are like this and not all Western parents are like “that.” You know, the opposite of Chua’s “this way.”). From there, the book just went downhill for me.

Essentially, Chua rewarded her girls when they were the best, chastised them and called them names when they were anything but perfect. She called them lazy, garbage, and even called their work trash. She constantly compares their work to the work of other Chinese children in their classes. Her girls are not allowed to have or attend sleepovers. They don’t get to act in class plays or join sports teams. They get to do homework, and they get to play an instrument.

I loaned the book to my mom so I don’t have it in front of me, but one of the things that shocked me the most is how Chua’s attitude toward her girls being the best is displayed so clearly. For instance, at one point she is talking about her daughters and the tests they take. She points out that a Western parent would be pleased and would praise their kids if they came home with an A- on an exam. A Chinese parent would demand an explanation from their child as to why it wasn’t a solid A. And a B? Chua says while a Western parent would tell their child good job (but secretly worry he or she had a “testing problem,” which is such bullshit because a B is a perfectly good grade and not an indication of a testing problem!), a Chinese parent wouldn’t ever have to deal with that because their kid would never get a B.

Yeah. There’s 300 pages of that crap.

Chua’s view of parenting is challenged by her younger daughter, Lulu, who is 13 at the end of the book, and by then, she has been allowed to play tennis (although it’s at such a low level that her mom must have a seizure at every game!). That is not enough for me to respect Amy Chua. Honestly, I am repulsed by her parenting, and while I understand her girls have plenty of good memories, too, I think their family could just a healthy dose of counseling. I know plenty of kids who went to good colleges, got involved in activities outside of the classroom and took them to a competitive level, and excelled in life without the “gift” of a crazy, whack job Tiger mother.

It’s hard for me to really feel anything but horror towards Chua’s parenting. I am not a parent, but my sister is seven, and I would never, ever stand by and let our mom call her garbage or stupid. And frankly, my mom would never resort to such bitchy, cowardly tactics.

In terms of writing, this book is solid. It’s an interesting, if amazingly infuriating, read. It’s well-paced, the stories suit their purpose, and you get a sense of the family dynamic. But really, that’s all it’s going going for it. And in all fairness, Sophia Chua, Chua’s oldest daughter, says she loves her Tiger mom. She wrote an open letter to the NY Times about the topic, and she has even started her own blog about being the “new tiger in town.” She is smart and articulate, but here’s the thing: smart, articulate children also come from parents who don’t verbally abuse their children.

Rating: 8/10 (for quality of writing and storytelling only — I don’t endorse her parenting!)

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Forbidden, Tabitha Suzuma

Cannonball Read: 44

I read a review of Forbidden and thought to myself, “What a freaking creepy concept.” And then someone on facebook posted that she read it, loved it, and if you ever wanted to feel sorry for some incestuous Brits, this was the book to read. So I got an ebook copy and read it in a little more than a day.

My initial thoughts: for about half of the book, there is a very minimal creepy factor. It’s the story of a family with five kids, a crazy mom, and a dad who’s left his family in pursuit of something better, whatever that means. The older two kids, Lochan (a boy) and Maya (a girl) are responsible for their younger siblings, who range in age from five to thirteen (I think).

Lochan and Maya essentially serve as parents to their younger siblings. They care for them, pick them up from school, take them to the hospital when they’re sick, help them with homework, bathe them, etc. Everything most parents do (or should do) for their children. So it’s no wonder when their relationship takes a slightly pervy turn and they realize that they’re not just best friends, but they like each other. You know, like-like. And then there’s kissing, touching, and eventually, there’s sex.

Here’s where some semi-spoilers come into the picture. Fair warning has been given.

 

Big surprise — Lochanan and Maya get caught. I saw it coming from a mile away. A book like this can only end one way, just like books about dogs always (almost always, really) end with the dog dying. It’s a given. What I was blindsided by was how they got found out. I won’t give details because if you read it, it’s always nice to have something left to surprise you, but needless to say I wasn’t expecting it.

And after they’re caught and Lochan is sent to jail? Oh my word. So sad. But what he does was so undeliverable to me. And the end of the book, like the very end, just left me going “No. Way. Not buying it.” Obviously when you read a lot of fiction, the expectation is that you suspend your beliefs and step into the world the author has created, but there has to be buy in to make you believe in fictional world. I had buy in right up until the end of the book.

Spoilers dunzo. They weren’t too bad, right?

 

Now. I will say I actually enjoyed this book for what it’s worth, and I actually did find myself feeling sad for Lochan and Maya because really, the stars were against the from the beginning, and if they’d been older, I would’ve said go off yonder and do your thang. But what I liked the most, that made me actually feel sorry for them, was the family dynamic Suzuma created. Lochan even points it out in one instance, telling his sister that those who were abused often become abusers, and if anyone ever found out about their relationship, they would see it as abuse. I thought this was smart: those five kids are neglected in so many ways and perhaps part of what they do is because of that neglect and the forced mother/father dynamic because of Crazy Mom’s absence.

Anyhow. It was a thought-provoking read, and now I have all kinds of weird, creepy things stored on my iPad’s cache, like “incest” and “conscentual incese” and “genetic sibling attraction.” Awesome sauce.

Rating: 8/10

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: When the Morning Comes & When the Soul Mends, Cindy Woodsmall

Cannonball Read: 42 & 43

I don’t usually do two reviews in one post, but since these two titles are the second and third books in this trilogy, I’ll go ahead and rebel against my rules. This are the second and third books in the Sisters of the Quilt trilogy. (Read my review of the first book, When the Heart Cries.). While I got the first book for free in exchange for a review, these two I didn’t get for free. I actually got the three-book set from a local Borders when it was having a 60% off sale. That means I got to give away my original copy of the first book to a friend.

When the Morning Comes
Anyhow, I digress. Morning picks up where Heart left off. Hannah has left her Old Order Amish community after being raped, getting pregnant, and delivering her baby pre-term, resulting in the baby’s death. (Wow. Apparently I am reading a Christian, Amish soap opera. Who knew?!) Anyhow, Hannah escapes to the city to find her aunt, and what she finds is an Amish birthing center, which is useful because apparently those stomach pains she’s been having? Yeah, she’s been hemorrhaging and faints because hello, she’s lost a ton of blood. She happens to pass out in front of a doctor who calls an ambulance and saves her life. What ensues is her connection with her aunt, her aunt’s surrogate family, and her journey back to her Old Amish community after many years away. (Yeah. Totally a soap opera.)

Okay, so I think it’s clear that this book is so much more dramatic than the first book. There is death (more than one!), a crazy sister who basically hears voices and is convinced her sister’s dead baby is actually not dead and hidden with Hannah (Sarah, Hannah’s younger sister). There is unrequited love (Hannah and Paul), new love (Hannah and Martin), parents who don’t love their kids, kids who are needy and sad, and so on. The story also alternates between what’s going on in Hannah’s new world and back at the ranch in Owl’s Perch, Hannah’s former life.

I have enjoyed this series so far, but I did like the first book better. Not much better, I will say. Why? Well, mostly because I wasn’t a fan of going back and forth between Hannah’s life and the Old Amish life. From a storytelling point, this transition back and forth made a lot of sense because how would we find out about all of the stuff that happens back “down home” without being there with them? I just found it jarring, though.

The other thing that made me not enjoy this book as much is because Woodsmall, while a good storyteller, has a few awkward ways of passing large amounts of time (several months, for instance) or delivering information important to the plot. The first book spans just under seven and a half or eight months, and this one, at about exactly the same length, spans two years (maybe slightly more).

Those things aside, I thought this was good, and I still enjoyed the people in this book. What is interesting is that the end of it, I am torn because I want Hannah to be with Paul AND with Martin (except, ewww, not at the same time — I just mean I don’t have one I’m rooting for more than the other). (To be fair, I accidentally-on-purpose looked at the epilogue of the third book, so I know who she ends up with, but silly me — I’m not going to tell you who it is!) Even crazy Sarah, Hannah’s teenage sister — I just want to hug her and tell her it’s going to be okay. So if you read the first book, or you’re looking for another Amish series to get into, grab a copy of this one. (Just buy the three-book set online — it’s cheaper than buying them all separate!)

Overall rating: 8/10

 

When the Soul Mends

I’m warning you ahead of time — the review for the last book has some spoilers, but I won’t reveal who Hannah ended up married to.

Soul was a disappointing conclusion to this trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I was anxious to read it, but it just seemed so rushed because Hannah had to hurry up and pick who she was going to marry, Paul (her former Plain Mennonite fiance) or Martin (her current Englichser boyfriend). Okay, okay, like I said above, I maybe decided to “check how many pages” this book had and happened to glance at the epilogue and found out who she was married to.

While Soul was still primarily driven by the characters’ relationships with one another, and touched heavily on themes of forgiveness, communication, and love, I felt like the author just needed to hurry up and end it. The thing that upset me the most about this book was how everyone reacted to Sarah, Hannah’s sister, who is out of her flipping mind. I mean, seriously, she think she’s setting these fires with her tongue and she is hearing voices and just acting crazy. Where I’m from, that’s called schizophrenia. I know that the Old Amish treat things like that differently, and they view medical intervention in a different light, but it just irritated me that no one took Sarah’s illness more seriously and she seemed more or less normal and okay at the end of the book (which spans just a few months, and the epilogue takes place several years later).

I could go on and on, except I could just sum up my thoughts about Soul pretty simply: everything ties up too neatly. Hannah’s entrance back into her family’s life. The person she marries, even though her family ends up disappointed with her choice (although let’s be real, either way they’d be disappointed, since neither Paul nor Martin is a member of the Old Amish faith). Sarah’s illness. The relationship that begins for the person Hannah doesn’t marry. Mary’s pregnancy. Matthew’s relationship. But the thing is, I guess I can’t complain too much. Amish literature is for Christian publishers what $4.99 mass market romance novels are for Harlequin — escapist literature. And for me, these books were (especially the last one!) very quick reads that didn’t require much thought or work, so ultimately I’d say it (and all three of them) served their purpose.

Rating: 6.5/10

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: a Memoir of Sorts, Ian Morgan

Cannonball Read: 41

Imagine your father, a stockbroker, has a surprise secret you discover when you’re 16. He is, in fact, not a stockbroker, but a CIA agent. His father who also happened to be an alcoholic. His father who led his family through wealth and poverty, wealth and poverty again. That is what this story is about — but it’s also about so much more. It’s about Cron’s own journey as his father’s son, and as his Father’s son, his coming to terms with his dad’s story. This is Cron’s story of his own redemption and the grace he found in his life and how he came to know Jesus.

This is a really fantastic book, simply put.

Cron slips back and forth between the present and the past, telling us his both his father’s story and his own. I am a huge fan of this technique, and it works so well with Cron’s story. Going back and forth allowed me to put the pieces of the story together, and again, a non-linear storyline forces me to really focus on what I’m reading. Cron’s story was interesting and funny enough as it was, but I loved that I couldn’t just speed through it.

And that’s the thing — this book had a great humor to it. Cron had every right and reason to be angry — deception and disease in your family when you are young sometimes leaves you that way — but has made peace with the life he has lived and instead of coming across bitter and angry, he comes across as raw and honest and funny. I couldn’t help but laugh several times throughout the book, and that made his message of God’s goodness and grace and His desire to have a relationship with everyone even more poignant. If God can help this man keep his humor, then there is hope for me, too.

I recommend this to anyone who is interested in memories and biographies, especially unique ones that haven’t been done before. I thought this was a great take on an unusual childhood.

Rating: 8.5/10

 

I received this book for free from BookSneeze in exchange for a review. I was not asked to make a positive review, only an honest one.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Praying for Your Future Husband, Robin Jones Gunn & Tricia Goyer

Cannonball Read: 41

I’m at a weird place in my life where my friends are all getting married, or if they’ve been married for a while, they’re having kids. This is hard for me because I never really imagined I’d be almost 30 without a husband and/or children. Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, not at all. I am just not exactly living the life I had predicted for myself as a teenager.

This book was probably written with a younger target audience in mind, anywhere from high school to mid-20s, but as someone very close to 30, I thought much of this book spoke to me as well. Which is great, because sometimes it’s a bummer being the only friend in a medium-sized group who is single.

I appreciated that even though the focus of this book is on preparing one’s heart for a future spouse/marriage, I wasn’t made to feel like that praying for my future husband was the only way I should find value in myself. Gunn and Goyer make me feel like this is just one aspect of my life, not the only part of the most important part.

What I really liked were the end questions at the end of each chapter. It’s so easy to read a book about prayer and forget it as soon as you’re done, so having these very real and practical questions and the end helped me focus on what I was learning and how I could apply it to my own life. For that reason, I only let myself read one chapter a day because reading more at once would have defeated the purpose of going slow enough to really apply what I was reading to my own life.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who isn’t married but desires to be someday. It’s a great way to focus on finding a spouse who is more than just someone who fills a temporary need. This book would make a great study for a single’s group or for a girl’s group.

Rating: 9/10

 

I received this book for free in return for a review from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers’ Blogging for Books. I was not asked to make a positive review, only an honest one.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later, Francine Pascal

Cannonball Read: 40

I don’t even know where to start. This book was just awful. I fully expected that coming in based on a review of the book I read here as well as publisher reviews and reviews on Goodreads, but this… This book is so much worse than the reviews say. I couldn’t even suspend my horror in an attempt to enjoy the nostalgia of the books I grew up.

Since there’s no redeeming quality, I am just going to list what sucked about this book in bullet form, since reading it has decreased my brain cells my about 15%:

  • The writing. Oh my grace (that’s a Bumped reference for you guys!), it was just bad. Tragically bad. Like, I just wanted to rewrite the book so its plot was the same but its writing was horrifying. One of the biggest problems has to do with voice. Jessica and Elizabeth’s section sounded essentially exactly the same, so Pascal and/or the ghostwriter who helped with this trainwreck peppered Jessica’s sections (both as her 27-year-old self and her high school/college self) with the word like. And it, like, totally, like, didn’t work. An example: “… there is no weather. It’s all like sun. And more sun. More silence. We are two very uncomfortable people. The evening that could have been like a fun idea isn’t turning out to be as easy as it sounded.” And so on and so on.
  • The dialogue is painful. For instance, Elizabeth says to Bruce, her BFF, “I have to get out of here. I need action, best friend.” WHO SAYS THAT?!?!??!
  • There are just more weird and uncomfortable phrases, such as this gem: “She cried after every orgasm.” Okaaaay, Francine Pascal. This isn’t Summer Sisters, where that sentence would have made sense.
  • The resolution of Jessica and Elizabeth’s epic eight-month fight is single-handedly the worst resolution I have ever read, and I read a lot.
  • The few sex scenes contain the most cringe-worthy writing. I mean, for real? “The heat and sweat of their fervor combined to fling them onto their own trajectories and land them together at almost the same time.” Also, just so you know, after their trajectories combined, Elizabeth was tear-free this time.

Some might argue that I shouldn’t be so hard on a book that wasn’t really written for its literary merit. Fair enough. But I was expecting something a little better than this. I mean, I wasn’t as avid a SV/SVH/SVU reader as I was all things BSC, but sheesh… even those original novels weren’t this horrific.

Rating: 1/10 (1 because the characters were at least similar to those in the original novels)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Bumped, Megan McCafferty

Cannonball Read: 39

I’ve seen this book reviewed on several blogs and I’ve been really excited to read it. I finally got a copy and I was super pumped to crack it open on my vacation. I know this doesn’t leave much room in the “what did she think of it?” category, but I’ve got to say, I was generally pleased with the book and am looking forward to its sequel, Thumped.

Bumped is set in the future use, in a dystopian world where the majority of the adult female population can no longer conceive, naturally or “peri pregg.” As a result, the uterus’s (I have no idea if that’s the proper plural of uterus!) of teenage girls are in high demand, and those girls can basically sell their wombs and their preggs for hefty sums of money.

Meldoy is one of those girls who agrees to be a surrogate, but she hasn’t actually gotten pregnant yet. She’s waiting for her Surrogate family to find the perfect male. While she is waiting, Melody, adopted shortly after birth, discovers that she has an identical twin sister named Harmony, and one day, Harmony, who is deeply religious and lives in Goodside, appears on Melody’s doorstep. What ensues is a look one author’s apparent critique of teen pregnancy.

I thought this was a really well-done novel, and it struck me as really poignant because of how teen pregnancy is showcased in the media these days with shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom — shows that essentially glamourize teen pregnancy. It’s especially interesting because of the very opposite natures of Melody and Harmony, and I think it’s easy to say we see those extremes so clearly reflected in our own society. McCafferty’s novel is a good exploration of a current hot topic, and I’m interested to see how the series unfolds.

My biggest issue with this book is its intended audience. It’s not a hard book to read, even with the lingo that’s created specifically for this setting. Words like “pregg,” “bumped,” and “thumped” are terms readers must figure out on their own, but given the multitude of contextual clues, it’s pretty easy. The writing level isn’t much more advanced than junior higher or maybe freshman year of high school, but content-wise, I think this is an iffy books for preteens and younger teenagers. While it’s not explicit or graphic in it’s talk of sex, it’s a book whose plot revolves around kids having sex. I’m not pro-censorship by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d suggest to anyone thinking this might be a great young adult novel: read it on your own first, and use your own judgement, especially if you have precocious readers because while it could be easily read by a ten- or eleven-year-old with advanced reading skills, it’s totally not appropriate for that age group.

Rating: 8/10

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized