[Book Review] Megan’s Munchkins

Today I received an email to review a new children’s book series Megan’s Munchkins, by Pamela Foland.

It is the first book in a series of thirteen year-old Megan, who lives in Texas. The book starts off with Megan finding a box of stray kittens. She manages to hide her kittens in her room for five weeks, without her parents knowing. The book ends with her coming clean to her parents after she comes home during the day to realize her mom and sister-in-law are at the home too; her parents decide to let her keep her kittens.

Reading it as an adult, it was hard for me to be excited about it (even as a teacher, I am NOT an elementary teacher); however, it reminded me of book series that I read as a kid in like sixth grade — books like Sweet Valley Twins, The Baby-Sitters Club, etc. The book is corny as an adult, but cute as a kid’s book… but I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Judy Blume though, or other classics like the Betsy-Tacy series (or my favorite classics like Little Women or Charlotte’s Web).

I felt the whole bit of calling the kittens “munchkins” was a bit cheesy. It reminded me of my high school students going around calling their friends “babe” in the hallway between classes. I also found it too convenient and unrealistic that Meg’s parents were oblivious to cats living in their home for over a month — I had a cat that I loved very much, and he was just one cat… there’s no way of disguising the smell of a litter box.

However, I am sure there will be middle school kids out there that will enjoy. I appreciate Ms. Foland for the opportunity to read and review her new book, and I wish her success with her series.


[Book Review] Puppy Training

Today I received a book to review: Puppy Training: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crate Training, Potty Training, Obedience Training, and Behavior Training — by Julia Chandler.

It’s a good instruction book that is best suited for a first-time dog owner. It has beautiful photos of various dogs which helps the book a lot visually. It’s an easy read with some great tips. The paragraphs are broken up very neatly instead of being long and compact. There’s some really good info in the book like poisonous plants, the kind of collar to choose, click training, etc. I highly recommend for someone who is getting a puppy for the first time.

Thanks to Ms. Chandler for the opportunity to review her book, and the best of luck for her success with it.

[Book Review] Your Breakup, Your Blessing

A few days ago I received an email to review a new book: Your Breakup, Your Blessing: Breakup Self-Help — How to Live Before, During and After Divorce, by Karen R. Rivera.

This is a self-help book for women going through a divorce. On Amazon, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It is very straight forward and offers some good advice and insights. However, I find that most of the info in the book can be found by just using Google, where there are thousands of articles written about this subject. I, myself, have written lots of posts on my blog on dealing with a breakup.

With self-help books like these, on relationship advices, I find that most women are seeking answers to questions that their common senses already are telling them — but breakups, especially a divorce situation, is hard to deal with, and sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else instead.

The main criticism I have on this book is that it starts off its first chapter with different types of abuses in relationships. I don’t think this is a good self-help book for general breakups or divorces, automatically assuming that relationships are always caused by some sort of an abusive relationship is not accurate.

Like most self-help books, this one is targeted towards a female demographic, but I think it is best suited for someone in a relationship like Kourtney Kardashian, dealing with an alcoholic womanizing baby daddy relationship… or Nicole Simpson, who was actually in a physically abusive relationship.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to review her book, and I wish her lots of success with it.

[Review] Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency

I was given a digital copy (PDF) of a self-help type book, learning a new language, for review: Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. The book is available on Amazon.com for purchase as a digital copy (Kindle), and it’s free for those that have the subscription service Kindle Unlimited. The book is authored by Janina Klimas.

The book starts off with the usual self-help books, especially with language learning, which is basically that you can do it. You can do it if you put the time into it.

It’s not a learning book in the sense of an actual language book. It’s not teaching you a new language, but gives you tips and advice on how you can learn a language. A lot of the things are common sense knowledge; and as a teacher, a lot of it is common core knowledge.

As someone who speaks conversational Cantonese, and have an elementary understanding of French, being a native speaker of English; here’s my advice — submersion is key. Especially with today’s technological society, even being in a place far removed by my beloved NYC, I can still find ways to “submerged” myself in rural Buddha-land Iowa somewhere. Movies, music, books… I spent a whole summer about two years ago watching French movies, listening to French music, and flirting with French military pilots while my ex-fiancé was sleeping.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s worth the read. Otherwise, it’s $6.99 for the digital copy. I’m not sure if there’s an actual physical copy of the book though, there wasn’t a format option on Amazon.com for it.

I wish Ms. Klimas the best of luck in her continued success in writing and teaching (and learning). Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to review your book! ♡

“The Little Voice” [Review]

In December, an author found my blog and asked if I would write a review for his book. (Sorry it has taken me a while to filter through my blog emails, especially during the holidays!)

The book, The Little Voice, by Joss Sheldon is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

The theme of the book seemed to be rebellion against society and social norm. It’s a short novel and I finished it in one day. I felt it was missing a plot, and the storyline seemed very monotonous. The characters could have been built on more, and this seemed kind of all over the place. When I think of other “societal rebellious” novels like Catcher in the Rye, although it was only Holden as the main character, it was focused on what happened to him in a span of just a few days from prep school back to NYC.

This jumped from grade school to adulthood, and there was too much narrative explaining what was going on instead of the book being able to do it on its own through the story. Another “rebellion” novel, I think of, The Basketball Diaries, the grammer sucked and I’m quite certain Jim Carroll was high when he wrote it, but it was incredible because it didn’t feel pretentious.

With Sheldon’s novel, there was way too much quotes from Lao Tzu in every chapter (he’s the ancient Chinese philosopher who wrote The Art of War, for those of you who don’t know); and maybe he could have focused more on one aspect of the character to make the story more readable.

This was a novice book, and I’m sure Joss Sheldon will only continue to improve with his writing. I did not particularly like the novel, but that’s just me. I strongly recommend my readers to give it a try and see for yourself. There’s a Kindle version available for only $2.99, as well as a paperback and hardcover edition.

Joss had emailed me a PDF format of his novel, and the cover art looks great. Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to review your novel, Joss. The best of luck in your continued success! ♡

The Great Gatsby

This is one of my favorite 20th century novels, I read The Great Gatsby when I was thirteen years old. I loved it back then, and I’ve recently saw the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which I liked much better than the one starring Robert Redford.

I recently bought the book on Amazon.com, and I read it in one day. It’s a very short novel. Funny, I seem to have remembered the book as being so much thicker for some reason, but I guess to my 13 year old mind the whole world was a lot bigger than it is now.

I fell in love with this book all over again. It’s so much better reading it as an adult, I felt there were things that I’ve missed before — like Nick’s witty dialogues and narratives, the tragic love of Gatsby and Daisy, the selfish and shallowness of Daisy, etc. The disdain from those whose old-world wealth was being mixed with those whose new-gain riches in society, was met with haughtiness. The American mainstream era during the roaring twenties was that anyone could be rich from any background, you no longer had to depend on aristocratic names or pedigrees… this of course was scorned by those established families who felt that the “new money” didn’t hold the same prestige as the “old money” did.

What I found very “renewing” was my compassion for these star-crossed lovers; especially since Gatsby went overseas during WWI and was a lieutenant in the Army, and I think Daisy never really loved Tom at all… I thought it amusing that Daisy’s character never drinks. This is definitely more tragic and romantic than any corny Nicholas Sparks novel!

Plus, I just love any book about NYC. I love when I read about areas I know, places I’ve been to… even when they talk about the two “eggs” and the “valley of the ashes”, all pseudonyms for locations in the metro-NY area that I’m well acquainted with.

The 2013 movie was excellent, in my opinion. I know that there were mixed reviews with critics, and a lot of people felt that it fell short of its bar… but, this is also an adaptation of possibly the best novel of the 20th century, so the expectation was impossibly high. I also think that the characters were very difficult to play, but that this cast was the best adaptations of the characters so far. I think this version was also the most faithful to the book, including the dialogues. A little bit was changed, but not significantly like other movie versions previously were. The soundtrack was also really good; but the costumes, the production design, and visual effects were spectacular. The whole movie was so vibrant with colors… and of course, I think DiCaprio was the best man to play Jay Gatsby.

Anne Frank: The Biography

Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Müller is interesting… however, I’m already very cautious of it. In her introduction, she claims in her own words to have a sort of fascinated obsession with Anne Frank and her world — this is understandable, as I’m currently having a bout of Anne Frank mania right now too. However, there are just some things that I can’t take in a biographical, scholarly, or historian stance on though.

As a biography, she doesn’t use any footnotes, how is one to know she didn’t simply make up some bits of “facts” just to establish the book? Everyone is dead, it’s hard to gain any certainty, that will always be her greatest defense to any accusation of false, misleading, or inaccuracies in her book… who’s around to state otherwise?

Right away, I had a problem with some of the things about her book (which by the way, I still found as a very interesting read) — unlike Miep’s memoir, which had copyright references from established Anne Frank foundations of photos, Müller’s book had none of that, it only had captions. Who’s to say what those captions states is really true? — for example, a supposed picture of Otto Frank with his class in the Lessing Gymnasium… the picture of Otto is so far away you can’t even tell who the young man looks like or is. Yet, on a Google image search, there were no hits for that supposed picture of Otto Frank, which I found highly suspicious. 

I am as weary about this novel as another novel by some Jewish American woman trying to cash in on some sort of relevance by claiming she had some sort of adoptive father figure in Otto Frank through a few supposed letter writings. I right away saw her agenda and motive. The first publishing of this book was called Love, Otto: The Legacy of Anne Frank, but has since been retitled to Dear Cara: Letters From Otto Frank … I’m thinking many people were not happy with this Cara Wilson who was trying to make some sort of assertion that she had any kind of relationship with the Frank family at all… hence the title change.

I digress!… in Müller’s novel, not only is there no footnotes like a legit biography should have, but also there’s no references, only an index in the back of the book for a particular subject in her own book. Now, although I’m not finished with the book yet, another suspicious reserve of mine is that a lot of her info seems to be from some woman named Gertrud Naumann… someone I’ve never heard of, but supposedly was very closed to the Frank family… says who? The only info about her is from Wikipedia, which anyone can edit freely and without accuracy.

I particularly didn’t like the dialogue Müller gave… how can she write what was said of people or make up conversations with no authentication? Who claims any of those dialogues existed at all? Especially the more intimate ones about how one of the Frank members were feeling, again… says who?

I do not recommend this book as something of a scholarly or academic reference. Instead, for a more accurate biography, I recommend The Biography of Anne Frank: Roses From the Earth, by Carol Ann Lee — my recommendation is based on the fact that this biography was used as a reference multiple times by the editors of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation in their academic publishing of Anne’s writings… and is also the institution that has ownership of her writings, as her father had willed it to them. This in itself makes Carol Ann Lee’s biography reputable as reliable, given the institution’s multiple usage of it as a referring source.

The Kitchen God’s Wife

I finished The Kitchen God’s Wife, by Amy Tan. It’s a very good book. I then started reading an American classic, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I just want to say this about Hawthorne’s classic — the “preface” is 36 pages long, and Chapter 1 is only one and a half pages! The preface is titled as an introduction, and called The Custom-House.

It took me two days to get pass that 36 pages. It was so boring I kept falling asleep, or I had to re-read the same paragraphs and pages five times to let the words sink in because my brain wasn’t really paying attention to anything I had read. What a terrible start to a novel! (I’m reading it because it’so one of my Barnes & Noble Signature Editions that I bought… hardcover with a beautiful cover jacket, only $6.95!!!) I suggest you skip the preface and go straight to Chapter 1; the thing with the preface was I wasn’t sure if I was reading an introduction to the novel, which I usually never read anyway, or if I was actually reading the novel itself. Anyway, I digress!

The Kitchen God’s Wife is a New York Times Bestseller (like all of Tan’s novels), and like her first novel it deals with the inter-cultural relationship of a Chinese mother with an American daughter. The novel was first published in 1991, and is considered semi-autobiographical of the author’s own life. The book was on the NYT Bestseller List for a total of 38 weeks. It has since been translated into multiple languages, and the body of the novel is Winnie Louie (also known as Jiang Weili) telling her daughter about her life in China before she arrived in America.

Weili is the daughter of a wealthy businessman, but she is disgraced when her mother abandons her and her husband, supposedly for her own desires. The era of the story is during the Second Sino-Japanese War (which later became part of the greater WWII conflict after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor), and the Revolution era between the Nationalist and Communist parties. I personally enjoyed the novel because it reminded me of so many things that my mother tells me about China.

Weili is set up by the local matchmaker into a marriage with a bad man from a bad family, only she doesn’t realize this until it’s too late, and she foolishly believes that she has been given a good match. What I enjoyed the most about this novel is the historical accounts of the war (although a fictional novel). I mean, I’ve read so many novels about Jews during WWII, about Americans during WWII, even about the Japanese during WWII, so I’m glad there’s a novel about the Chinese during WWII. Although there are many non-fiction books about this era available too, like what happened in Nanking and biographies about John Rabe and Japanese atrocities in the Pacific Theater, things like that… but research books are usually very dull for me. (John Rabe is one of my humanitarian heroes, along with Oskar Schindler, during the WWII era.)

The book is filled with detailed descriptions of clothing, traditions, customs, places, foods, etc. It really is a very vibrant and colorful account of China. I’m not sure I’d call it a “love story” though, seem like more heartache than anything else; but Weili does fall in love with an American service member named Jimmy (James) Louie, who is in China as a translator for the government during the war. He meets her at a Christmas party that the American service members are hosting, and the Chinese Air Force personnel are invited along with their spouses. By a chance encounter, fate or destiny, they meet again five years later. He helps her to escape her abusive husband, Wen Fu… and I wouldn’t say the novel has a “happy ending”, but it seems that way because the bulk of the story is very sad and depressing, so you’re kind of relieved when she’s able to finally be reunited with Jimmy in America.

There’s a part in the novel that made me cry. It was very sad… it made me think of my eldest brother who has passed away, and how sad my mom must be about him — he died in China and he’s buried on our family land over there. He died as a baby, before my other brothers and I were born.

I suppose I like this novel so much because it breaks a little of the cultural barrier I have with my mother. I think of my mother as this backwards Chinese traditionalist, who is so unsophisticated with the modern world — but I’m sure she sees in me, her lazy, greedy and ignorant American daughter.