All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Plot: Feng was the youngest of two daughters born into a Shanghai family. When her older sister dies, Feng is forced to marry her sister’s fiance.  Feng is angry about being forced into this marriage, and her anger forces her into making decisions which would end up destroying those around her.

Opinion: The only reason I gave this book as high a rating as I did is because it was just engaging enough that I continued reading, but just barely.  The main character is not likable at all; her anger and hatred was so toxic it destroyed everything around her.  In addition, there was much made about her ignorance concerning sexual relations, but the character was supposedly an educated woman in 1930s Shanghai, and it’s very hard to believe that in such a westernized city that someone who actually was allowed to get education could be so ignorant.  Also, the pacing of this book was terrible; the author dedicated multiple chapters to the main character’s wedding, but then rushed through years in a matter of sentences.  I also felt that there was no real resolution to this story; the book just petered out to a rambling ending.

*Note: Ramadan is getting ready to start, so I will be focusing this month on reading Islamic books.  I still plan on writing reviews Insha Allah (God willing), but the books reviewed will be Islamic.

Next book: The Prophet’s Ramadhaan: How the Prophet observed the Month of Ramadhaan by Mufti Muhammad Khan Qaadri

Top 5 Books

I’ve decided to do a post about my top five favorite books.  These are the books that I’ve recommended over and over to friends, family, and even professors.  All of the pictures are from Amazon.

1.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn By Betty Smith

I first read this book in high school and fell in love with it then.  It’s a coming-of-age story that takes place in the turn-of-the-century in Brooklyn.  I just love the characters and how they struggle against all odds to make it in a world that looked down on immigrants.  This is a great book for anyone who love historical fiction.

2. The Sealed Nectar by Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarkpuri

This is a book of Seerah (biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)).  I recommend this book to Muslims and also to non-Muslims who want to understand the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  It goes into a lot of detail, but it’s written in a way that is easy to read and understand regardless of your level of knowledge of Islam.

3. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This book is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz, but from the persepctive of the Wicked Witch.  It has been made into a Broadway play, which I hope to see one day.  I really loved this book and it was one of the first fairy tale retellings that I’ve read.  One thing I will say though is that the rest of the books in this series are not nearly as good as this one.

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This book is about two women who find themselves married to a cruel man and the choices they make to give one of them a chance at a new future.  I was really drawn into the characters and was rooting for a happy ending for both.  This is the same author who wrote The Kite Runner, which I also loved, but if I had to pick one book of his to recommend, this one would be it.

5. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This is the story of a woman who was sold into a geisha house and her experiences as a geisha.  Unlike popular notions, geishas are not prostitutes, but are women who have undergone years of training in various arts to be able to entertain men.  Not only is this the story of what it’s like to be a geisha, but it’s a love story too.  This has been made into a movie, but I think the book is much better.

 

So those are my top five favorite books.  There are so many other books that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed, but these are the ones that I recommend the most.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Sartrapi

 

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Memoir, Graphic Novel

Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: Marjane was a child when unrest over the Shah’s rule broke out in Iran.  She watched as her parents joined in the protests, and family and friends were arrested.  When the Shah was overthrown, she celebrated with her family, only to watch a new regime take over that in many ways was just as bad.  She watched as family members were released only to round up again and then executed.  She watched as the war with Iraq unfolded and saw the toll it took on the lives of those around her.

Opinion: This is the first graphic novel that I read.  I thought it was a pretty interesting way to write a memoir, and I enjoyed it.  The one thing I didn’t like is that it was told in a series of short stories, and I felt at the end that I still didn’t have a good understanding of who the characters were.  Nevertheless, it was interesting enough that I would like to read the second book in this series.

Next book: All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

* Picture from examiner.com*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 6 out of 10

Plot: Hazel has cancer.  She is living on borrowed time, thanks to a miracle drug.  Her mother decides that she is spending too much time alone and sends her to a cancer support group where she meets Augustus.  Despite the fact that she’s dying, Augustus teaches Hazel how to live and love with whatever time you have left.

Opinion: I’m conflicted about this book.  There were parts that I just couldn’t put the book down and there were parts that were very difficult to get through.  I think my main problem with this book is the way the characters were talking to each other.  They were talking to each other in a manner that I’ve never heard teens talk to each other, sick or not.  I think I would’ve enjoyed the book more if the characters didn’t sound like they were working on a philosophy dissertation.  I think it’s a good story, but you have to get through the language to enjoy it.

Next book: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane

* Edit: I was thinking about this book and realized that this book is similar in the way of topic to an author I used to love reading, Lurlene McDaniel.  She’s an author who wrote a lot of YA books about terminally sick teenagers, but I think her characters were more realistic and the books were generally well written.  If you like The Fault in Our Stars, or if you read this book and thought that the topic was good but the characters were not, check out her books!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

* Picture from npr.org*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 8 out of 10

Plot: Molly is a foster child who finds herself in trouble after attempting to steal a library book.  She agrees to help Vivian, a wealthy elderly lady clean her attic as community service.  Molly soon learns that she has much in common with Vivian, who lost her family as a child and was sent west on so-called orphan trains.  Vivian experiences a variety of homes, and is exploited and abused, but ultimately finds herself in a caring, stable family.

Opinion: I had a hard time getting into this book at first.  It alternates between the present day point of view of Molly to the 1920s/1930s point of view of Vivian.  Once I got used to the alternating points of view, I began to really get into this book and enjoyed it. I was a little disappointed with the ending, which I thought was cheesy and cliche, but the ending didn’t take too much away from my overall experience with this book.

Next book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard

Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida

* Picture from Amazon*

Format read: Ebook

Genre: Memoir

Rating: 8 out of 10

Plot: Catherine Howard is a twenty-something from Ireland who decides on a whim to apply for a job working in the hotel industry in the United States.  She gets matched with a hotel located on Disney World property, but not actually owned by Disney.  At first, she’s overwhelmed by her experience, but once she begins meeting people (and getting her own car), she begins to enjoy her experience more.

Opinion: First I will say the title is a little misleading.  I thought this was a book about someone who worked in the actual parks, but she works instead at a hotel that isn’t even owned by Disney.  There are bits and pieces about Disney World, but not an insider’s perspective at all.  Despite this, I thought it was a pretty good book overall.  I thought the author was humorous and she avoided the pitfall that so many travel memoirs fall into in that the author just complain about their entire trip.  One thing that I found a little boring was the author’s obsession with the Kennedy Space Center, which she spent as much time writing about as she did Disney World, but other than that, it was a good, quick read.

Next book: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Harry Potter and History by Nancy Reagin

Harry Potter and History - Nancy Reagin

* Picture from booktopia.com*

Format read: Paperback

Genre: History

Rating: 5 out of 10

Plot: Through a series of essays, this book covers the real history of things related to the Harry Potter series, covering everything from the treatment of witches through the ages, class issues, and even werewolves.

Opinion: I am conflicted on this book.  I thought the concept was a good idea, the idea of taking history and making it accessible to someone who might not normally read about history is always a good thing.  However, despite using Harry Potter as a gateway to history, this book was written in the manner that scholars would use when writing for each other.  While I did find parts of this book interesting, there were many places that were boring, and I can’t imagine a person who is not a fan of history sticking this book out.

Next book: Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard

May Wrap-Up

Since I have a much more reliable site to blog, I figured I’d start doing monthly wrap-ups.  I managed to finish eight books, which is really great for me.  Part of this is due to my participation in the Bout-of-books 10.0 read-a-thon, which was the first read-a-thon I’ve participated in.  I’ve already done a review on all of the books (for those read before I joined this site, please view http://cbiley1984.blog.com/), so I’m just going to give the books I’ve read and the ratings I gave them.  My two favorite books of the month are Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair.  I have been in a little bit of a reading slump lately in that I’ve been picking books that sounded good but really sucked, so those two books were a welcome change.  The worst book I read this month were Growing Up Duggar by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar.  This book was terribly written and was more about their family’s religious views than it was about what it was like growing up in their household.  Anyhow, here’s the books I’ve read for the month:

  1. Reign of Madness by Lynn Collen (6 out of 10)
  2. Fiqh-ad-Dawah by Somayah Kassas (7 out of 10)
  3. Growing Up Duggar by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar (2 out of 10)
  4. A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi (8 out of 10)
  5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (8 out of 10)
  6. The Gunslinger by Stephen King (6 out of 10)
  7. Faith Versus Materialism: The Message of Surah al-Kahf by Sayed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (7 out of 10)
  8. The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair (9 out of 10)

I don’t have any plans to do a TBR list for the month.  I am never sure how many books I’ll get through in a month, and besides, I oftentimes will pick up a book based on my mood at that moment.