Archive for TBR Challenge

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , on April 17, 2008 by Lisa

Also posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been on everyone’s blog in the last year or so. Most everyone loved it to death. I put it on my paperbackswap list and got it in the mail some time last year, but never got around to reading it. This January, I put it on my personal TBR challenge list (found here.) Last week when I was looking for a book for this challenge, I picked it up. I read about a third of it, and then decided to take a little break to have a baby. I took the book to the hospital and on my last day there mostly finished it. (I spent a lot of time hoping to sleep, but due to being in a “semi-private” room didn’t really sleep. Or read. Or watch tv. Just laid there trying to ignore my roommate and her family.)

Snow Flower is about two women, Snow Flower and Lily, who are pledged together as laotong- a special type of friends. Lily is poor and uneducated, but has perfect feet. Snow Flower is from a wealthy family and is very proper and educated. Over the course of the book we see both women from about age 7 until their death(s). The girls get their feet bound, are matched and married, and become mothers themselves. The laotong friendship is supposed to benefit both girls. From the beginning it is obvious how this will benefit Lily. The connection with a wealthy influential family will give her some prestige and Snow Flower will teach Lily manners she wouldn’t learn at home. It is not so clear how this helps Snow Flower. The girls marry off in very ritual ceremonies and then… wait, you don’t want to know what happens, right?

This book was fascinating look at the history of the women in China. The rituals of footbinding and the marriage traditions are very interesting. The way the women lived was very eye-opening to me. Much of the book is about nu shu- a “secret” women’s writing that Lily and Snow Flower used to communicate when they weren’t together. Snow Flower and Lily use nu shu to write important events on the folds of a fan which travels between the girls as well. The books is written as a memoir written by Lily, looking back at the past.

The pages of the book just flew by. I expected it to be hard to get into the groove because of the time period, but there was never a moment of slowness. At the beginning, I was a bit annoyed at Lily’s heavy foreshadowing of what would happen. By the end of the book it wasn’t so noticable, and it started to feel like the way Lily was berating herself rather than foreshadowing. The trajectory of the girl’s lives was perfect and dramatic. Details were revealed very slowly but when you did find some new detail it was both surprising and expected due to what Lily had already known. (Ok, that makes no sense, but trust me on it.) Overall, an excellent book, highly recommended.

This review is for avidbookreader‘s TBR challenge, and also fulfills a book on my own list. I have barely proofread it, as I have barely slept and find that prospect much more appealing. My apologies.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Posted in Lisa, Non-Fiction with tags , , , , on March 22, 2008 by Lisa

(crossposted from Books. Lists. Life.)

One day last weekend while I was confined to my chair by the weight of a lethargic almost-three-year-old I was faced with the problem of having no book within reach. My laptop was here, but I’d already read all of the internets. So I did the unthinkable, I asked my husband to choose a book for me. I should have known better. My husband reads as much as I do, but our tastes very rarely overlap. He has a strong preference for non-fiction, specifically relating to WWII, Mt. Everest, business, and baseball. He is often saying things like, “you should read this one, it’s really good!” and I say, “Sure dear, one day.” Well, that day finally came.

The book he handed me was Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. Now, we have entire shelves devoted to baseball. We watch a lot of games. It is hard to live in this house and NOT pick up on some of the names and facts. So this book didn’t come as a complete and total shock. I’d heard bits and pieces of it before. Regardless, it’s sat on the shelf for a couple of years while I said “Sure dear, one day.”

The short version of what the books is about is: it’s about how the Oakland As continue to win despite having the second lowest payroll in MLB. The long version is: oh my god there are some SERIOUS baseball geeks out there (and I’m married to one of them.) See, Oakland realized that if they didn’t do something different that they didn’t stand a chance against teams like the Yankees who have huge bankrolls. There was no way they were going to be able to buy star power. They had to find a way to work with what they could afford and still have a winning team.

They start by not listening to the scouts. They needed an all new way. They hired Harvard grads and stock traders and analysts who knew how to read the numbers. They didn’t go with “wow, he looks great” but rather “THIS stat is the one that directly correlates to wins. Who can do THAT?” When they lost s great player they carefully determined how to go about replacing what he really meant to the team. There are entire chapters devoted to single players (ie Jason Giambi). It talks about why pitching isn’t the most important factor, as I believed. There is a chapter devoted to Bill James, who is near unto a god at my house.

I wasn’t surprised that I found this interesting. I mean, it’s hard to live with baseball as much as I do and not be a little interested. I was surprised to find it entertaining. It’s really easy to read (except when it’s NOT because it does go a little over my head in places.) My only complaint is that occasionally there was a sentence in need of an editor. I don’t claim to be the world’s best at grammar- I can’t use a comma correctly to save my life- but there were way too many instances where the sentence was missing something vital- like the verb- or where the clauses didn’t match up or something. (Please note this lovely sentence I have crafted to describe my complaint!) Overall, thumbs up. If you (or someone you love) is obsessed with baseball I’d recommend reading this one.

TBR Challenge –My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding Edited by P.N. Elrod (2006)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, Short Story, TBR Challenge with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by Gina

I have joined a challenge. Avid Reader over at avidbookreader.com is hosting this TBR Challenge. Here’s what you do.  You read books from your TBR pile and review them on the 3rd Wed of each month.  Everyone who participates each month now until Dec gets entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card.

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding is a collection of nine short stories.  Short stories aren’t my favorite writing medium.  I find that authors typically try to tell too much story and end up not writing it thoroughly enough.  However, I do like reading collections like this one because it introduces me to new authors and lets me sort of test drive them.  I was ultimately disappointed in the book.  There are nine stories in the collection.  My favorite was Lori Handeland’s Charmed by the Moon.  I really thought that she did a nice job of keeping the number of characters proportioned correctly for the length of the story.  I didn’t feel like the characters got short-changed at all.  I felt there was more story to tell afterwards without feeling like the author just left me hanging.  While I enjoyed Sherrilyn Kenyon’s A Hard Day’s Night-Searcher, I felt that the Rafael and Celena’s story was told in too hasty of a manner.  I fell in love with the characters but their story was finished too completely in this short story.  I enjoy reading Charlaine Harris and Rachel Caine.  Their entries were good but did not live up to expectation.  I had to force myself to finish three of the nine stories.  I won’t recommend this particular book to my friends as it fell short of my high expectations.