Thursday, May 26, 2016

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: 1200L
Genre:  Non-fiction, Research, based on personal experience
My Opinions: Initially when I received this book from my English teacher my freshman year, I expected this to be an extremely boring, purely stats-filled non fiction book. I mean...after reading Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide on the front cover, I expected it to be full of fluff and to retain a "go feminism" type of vibe throughout the entire book. However, I took the book from her hand simultaneously believing it to be a huge mistake and holding a forced smile - I couldn't deny an offer from my english teacher.

Of course, I was proven wrong because I just reread the book again. I opened the book and it was unlike any other non fiction book I had read. Sure it had its prelude of facts and stats regarding the realm of human trafficking. However, WuDunn and Kristof immediately dive into a series of chapters that are developed based on their own experience. For example, Kristof writes about his experience meeting several human trafficked girls in Asia and Africa. The couple than transitions into personal experiences where they meet families whose wives and daughters suffer from poor hospital conditions and poor medical supervision during child birth in places like Africa. Like this, the two authors go on and on discussing details from their trove of experience in various countries and meeting various women and girls of all ages. Everything they discuss is related to a main issue females face today.

Their accounts provided vivid details. Nothing was sugarcoated. Everything was raw, intense, and had a call for action. That is what I LOVED about this book. The authors were not simply just reporting the problem and waiting for another to write a book about how it could be solved. They take the initiative to complete the circle by providing various solutions for both the victims and the readers. They don't just stop with the facts. They take the next step by analyzing their collected information and providing detailed solutions.

These solutions went hand in hand with the project I was currently working on. I am the Director of our school's UNCHAINED Fashion Show. It is a local non profit that aims to abolish human trafficking. The show seeks to raise awareness and knowledge of the issue so that community members feel empowered to take a stand against traffickers. Suddenly, the reason why my teacher had handed me the book that day became clear.

I am an abolitionist. She was a fellow abolitionist seeking to fuel my mission.

For example, I was truly able to connect with the message in the first ten chapters. These chapters honed in on the physical, mental, and social strain created for girls and women in human trafficking. Instead of just pouring out their personal accounts, the authors dug deeper to make connections between the victims' experiences and physiological and psychological impairments. Towards the end, Kristof and WuDunn provided examples of ways the reader could prevent human trafficking - one being to simply "raise awareness and knowledge for it". Once I read this, my work with UNCHAINED in hosting their fashion show to prevent human trafficking year after year felt validated. I felt complete knowing that this show will definitely impact many lives. 

10/10 Recommend :) Perhaps this is a sign I should start exploring more non fiction options. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Happy New Year!

2016 is going to be a huge year for me as I finish up second semester of junior year, start my college search, and work on those application this fall! Makes me dizzy just thinking about college!

Where has time gone? 

It just seems like yesterday I started this blog as an 8th grader in 2013. With all the crazy school and extracurricular schedules, I am incredibly lucky to call Bookaroma as my safe haven for me to sit down, relax, and let my mind and fingers guide my thoughts about something I love - reading.

To kick off the New Year, I chose to reread one of my all time favorites: Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah.

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: 960 L
Genre:  Non-fiction, Memoirs
My Opinions: This riveting memoir of Adeline Yen Mah's childhood in a wealthy Chinese family during the 1940s provokes both the reader's sympathies and intrigue as Mah tells the story of her painful childhood and her ultimate triumph and courage in the face of despair. Considered bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her, Mah only falls into more misery after her father remarries (get the Cinderella reference now?). While her stepsiblings are spoilt, Mah and her siblings are left to carry the burden of an antagonistic stepmother. Despite her successes in boarding school, successes in literary competitions, and struggle to maintain her relationship with her beloved grandfather (Ye Ye) and Aunt Baba, nothing is enough to compensate for what Yah truly yearns for: the love and understanding of her family.

The story mostly revolves around her stay at boarding school and the ending the story makes her memoir a lot more realistic. I will give you a clue: it is not about marrying Prince Charming. All I can tell you is that her dreams do come true without the help of a fairy godmother, pumpkin, or a couple of mice.

This is an excellent book for school projects (middle and high school) because of its rich concentration of literary devices and positive morals.

This book reminded me of Bittermelon by Cara Chow (reviewed earlier) because of the background both characters come from, the pressure surrounding their academic lives, their passion for writing, and the struggle to find a place where they truly belonged. As I mentioned in the review for Bittermelon, I felt a strange connection with the character Fei Ting. The same can be said about Adeline and me. It is not necessarily our families that are similar but rather our backgrounds and the atmosphere we are living in. The atmosphere that forces us to strive for the best in anything we pursue; that places a working-spirit on us.

My first 2016 request to you: get this book and read it! 

Hoping 2016 will turn out to be all and more than what you wished for!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Still in the process of finishing the second book of the Game of Throne series; however, I decided to be a little rebellious and change the material I was reading every night before going to bed. With all the textbook and article reading at school, I definitely needed a change from elevated language that required me to look up a word every five seconds or so to something familiar, plausible, and easier to wrap my head around. I found this break in the mystery section at the library...

Specifically, I found my savior in (drum roll please) Tom Rob Smith's The Farm.

Nowadays, I feel like people are more interested in the long titles and they fail to place equal fascination for books with succinct titles such as this book. This book kept me sane throughout the first semester of junior year; however, its insanely complex plot kept me awake and sleep deprived for most of the first semester of junior year -- and I am not complaining. Let me explain...

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: N/A but I would say about 1000HL 
Genre:  Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Realistic Fiction
My Opinions: Imagine getting a frantic call from your father, the man you believed to be headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement with his wife. The man who had sold his home in London to move into a remote farm in rural Sweden with his wife. However, that one phone call changes everything.

He tells you that your mother is not in a good mental state and has been falling into episodes of hallucination. He informs you that she just had a psychotic breakdown. He promises you that she has been imagining terrible, terrible things and had to be rushed to the hospital. Worst of all, right before you decide to fly to Sweden, your father calls to tell you that she had just escaped and no one knows where she is.

Coincidentally, you hear from your mother telling you to believe no one and to meet her in London.

These two are your loving parents; they've raised you since the second you were out in the world; nurtured you; developed you; loved you; trusted you. Both seem unlikely criminals yet you are caught in the middle of this puzzling situation, a web of lies, secrets, conspiracies -- unsure of who to believe or trust.

This is the situation Daniel is in.

I had to force myself to turn off the lights and go to sleep each night because this book literally pulled me like a magnet the minute I opened it. With the book being mostly from the perspective of the mother, Smith does a really really good job of coaxing the reader into entering the mind and life of the characters. Smith keeps the reader guessing by fostering an atmosphere of tension and unease. Well-developed characters and a masterful plot are just a few reasons for my five star rating. It is a must read if you are looking for a psychological thriller.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: N/A but I would say about 1100HL (recommend for ages 16 and above)
Genre:  Fantasy, Mystery
My Opinions: So yes. The Game of Thrones craze has begun. However, with the books for now and not the TV show yet. I always stick to reading the book before watching its movie or show. Finished the first book a couple days ago and it was great to get back to some fantasy after a while. 

There are so many details and plot twists in the book that it would take forever to tell you about everything. The book is divided into three different view points: from the Seven Kingdoms, the Wall, and the East. So here is my attempt in trying to give you a nice intro to what you will expect in the book and hopefully, none of the juicy details and suspenseful events will slip out of my fingers while I type this. here it goes...

After the rebellion against the Targaryens, Robert Baratheon becomes the king. With the recent and mysterious death of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King and Ned Stark's brother-in-law, the King offers the job to Stark. After some hesitation, Stark accepts and takes his daughters with him to King's Landing while the rest of the family stays at Winterfell. During this separation, Bran is pushed off a roof, Catelynn tries to get revenge over her son's unfortunate experience, Robb becomes lord of Winterfell, Sansa must betray her family, Arya is lost within the city walls, Jon is sent to the Wall, and...okay, I am not going to say anything else. Murder, romance, need for power, and war fills the pages of this novel as the Seven Kingdoms struggles to find the best fit for the Iron Throne.

I know after reading the book, you will probably say "Wow, Anitra missed a lot of details from the book!" But I don't want to ruin it for you all! There are so many details, characters, twists, and perspectives intertwined within the plot which I wish I could blurt out in my review. But why ruin the fun for you all, right? 

As hyped as you may be for the next episode of Game of Thrones, show the same level of enthusiasm as you dive into the novel. I promise you will not feel sorry at the end.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kind of Cruel by Sophia Hannah

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: N/A but I would say about 980HL
Genre:  Realistic Fiction, Mystery
My Opinions: Here is my definition of a cliche mystery book: something is stolen or someone is kidnapped, bring in the detective who is the main character, sniff out the clues and red herrings, and detective is victorious and finds the perpetrator. Here is the mystery behind this novel: Amber, who suffers from chronic insomnia, is arrested for the murder of a woman she knows nothing about two hours after visiting a hypnotherapist, the detective is a side character who does not believe she is the criminal, and a surprising discovery at the end puts the reader in awe as Sophie Hannah was able to concoct this elaborate tale. Never have I ever encountered a mystery book which makes memories the most important clues in a case. 

At first, it was extremely confusing. It is crazy how all the loose ends she leaves for the reader end up connecting at the end to provide an extraordinary end to the book.  At the hypnotherapist, Amber was put under hypnosis. During this treatment, she hears herself saying "kind, cruel, kind of cruel." The words awaken a vague memory, but she dismisses the whole episode as nonsense. Two hours later, she is arrested for the murder of a woman she has never heard of and the only way to clear her name was to remember exactly where she had seen those words before.

As a side story, married detectives Charlotte "Charlie" Zailer and Simon Waterhouse tackle both the case and their relationship as the investigation unexpectedly reveals a shocking insight into Simon's psyche. 

The reason I gave this book a four out of five was primarily because I felt like Hannah was ruining the plot by adding too many unnecessary characters and dragging the details on. The book over-analyzed every new detail and Hannah was simply just squeezing the goodness and excitement of the details dry. If I had a suspenseful and amazing book to read, I would be up all night wanting to finish it; however, in this case, I felt like I had to force myself to turn to the next page at a few parts. Nonetheless, if these issues were not existent, it could've gone into "My Hall of Famers" list.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Locked in Time by Lois Duncan

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: *****
Lexile Level: 990L
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, Romance
My Opinions: Nore comes down to Shadow Grove to spend time with her new family and father. Since her mother's death, her father had been an unsuccessful writer. However, after meeting Lisette Berge, he fell back into his normal routine and Nore couldn't have been happier. Upon arriving, things are just plain weird. The way her family acts and the way they talk. After discovering her new family's secrets and coming close to death, the question is: Will Nore be able to save herself and her father?

I read the book in about three hours. It has a Nancy Drew feel to it which I was totally excited about. It was suspenseful and definitely a page turner. So it is definitely a great pass time book, especially when you don't have a lot of homework on a rainy weekend. Therefore, anyone can read this but I would not recommend this book for schoolprojects because there isn't much going on beneath the tip of the iceberg in this book. It is a clear plot and easy to understand.

The reason I gave this book a 3/5 in satisfaction is because with the title in mind, I already felt like I knew what the secret behind  her step-mother's family was by about the sixth chapter. The way Josie, an awkward 13 year old, Lisette, the perfect stepmother, and Gabe, a highly attractive stepbrother, acted in the beginning sent red flags into my brain to note that this was no normal family. Personally, it would have been nice to not know the secret ahead of time and instead have Duncan write a plot twist in the middle. Also, if the drama between Gabe and Nore and the romance between Dave and Nore had been extended, it would  have made the book a little more entertaining. It just all seemed too easy for Nore by the end of the book.

Read it for the relaxation, but don't expect the book to be impactful. Like I said before, it has a teen-detective feel to it but it definitely has an interesting plot for sure. 

On a side note, I can't wait to see Age of Adeline coming out next week because it is also about a woman, played by Blake Lively, who is locked in time. Trailer looks amazing!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

My Ratings:
Vocabulary:  *****
Ingredients: *****
Satisfaction: ***** 
Lexile Level: HL460L
Genre:  Historical Fiction
My Opinions: This might be the first book I have ever given full five out of fives for all three categories. I loved every page of it and it was a great source of historical information from the French Revolution. While reading this for English, we were actually studying about the French Revolution in History; therefore, it was a great academic tie because not only was I learning the facts, but Dickens' writing helped me delve into the feelings of the French men and women during this time. 

It was the best of times and worst of times in London and Paris as this family's story takes the reader through duality, resurrection, and the revolution. Several characters such as Dr. Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton are recalled to life in several ways as the turmoil erupts in various fashions.

The story is divided into three books and the first two books spill the details about all the characters and untold secrets by Dickens. By the third book, every detail comes together to explain the crazy and random, i.e., abhorrence of the Manette family by Madame Defarge or the story behind Dr. Manette's imprisonment. Dickens provides us with the puzzles in the first two books and later pieces them together to provide the reader a clear visual of the whole plot line. Just reading the last book gave me chills. 

It is really long but is extremely worth reading. I highly recommend this book for any student looking to read a book for an English project. Great source of vocabulary and literary devices. However, before reading this book, I recommend just brushing up the history behind the French Revolution because there are many terms in the book which would require some outside knowledge to understand. 

Overall, please just READ IT!:) Let me know what you think by commenting!