Book Review: Stuck in the Middle (Sister-to-Sister Novel 1)

Stuck in the Middle on Kindle

4 open books the girl in the steel corset

Author: Virginia Smith
Genre: Christian Fiction/Romance
Published: February 1, 2008 by Revell

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Synopsis: 

Joan Sanderson’s life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement. That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal–to get a date. But it won’t be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can’t compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut.
Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.

Book Review:

First of all, this is my second time to read a Christian fiction. The first one was when I was in college, and I couldn’t remember the title.

And although I’ve read books from LDS authors, like Stephanie Meyer, they were’t really centered around God, you know.

So anyway, I thought I’d give Christian romance a try, and this book, Stuck in the Middle fits the bill just fine. The cover looked interesting and I thought maybe it’s not that boring after all.

Well, it wasn’t in the first few pages of the book. I liked how the writer introduced Joan. You can already tell from the first parts that the main character, had some issues in the past that she can’t let go or is having a hard time letting go. And you could tell that despite having her family close by, she’s lonely and needs someone in her life to fill the gaps. While reading her story, she sounded like a 40-year-old spinster instead of a mid-20s young professional. She was that serious in her life, which fits the plot perfectly.

Joan is this young heroine who needed to be saved from her self before she turns into an old spinster, lonely and stuck in the same place where she grew up.

Then enters Dr. Ken. The young, dashing medical doctor who moves in next door. Now, before you fantasize him as being the bad boy who’ll take her breathe, he’s actually the opposite. He’s not boring, but he’s not all that fun either. I’d say he’s the kind of guy you would probably want to settle down with for good. Not when you want to have fun. He kind of reminds me of that guy, Ty, from Dawson’s Creek who was kind of religious because he doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex.

Anyhoo, let’s continue with the review.

Stuck in the Middle is actually a nice story. It’s not just about love and romance. It’s also about caring for your family, forgiving oneself and letting go of the past. More importantly, it teaches you that God will never forsake you. Ever.

Now, for some atheists, agnostics and non-Christians, this may sound weird and unfamiliar. But to me, as a Christian, it’s something I can appreciate because I find the book uplifting and faith-strengthening. By the end of the book, I felt my faith renewed.

Moving on, I find the book well-written. There were also some parts that had me laughing, such as the part where Joan and her sister, Tori, were competing for Dr. Ken’s attention. I thought that was refreshing in a non-slutty way. It was also very wholesome, which is just right for a Christian book. You don’t have to worry about skipping some pages because of some sexually explicit parts so it’s really nice.

I also liked the development of the story, particularly the characters. Joan really grew up and learned how to take charge of hear life instead of being afraid of people leaving her. I kind of felt what she felt because of something that happened in my life. Since then I kind of always hold back because I’m afraid that if I give it all out, I’d get hurt. Joan is also relatable, especially for those who are going through a lot.

However, I find the pacing a bit dragging. There were some instances that I wish it would be over. It’s was interesting in the first few chapters but when you reach middle I kind of felt stuck (did you get that? haha). Like there was no progress in the story at all. It’s nothing to be concerned about, though, if you have all the time in the world.

Another thing is that it lacked the solid emotional connection that I’m looking for. Sure, I can understand why Joan was a bit hesitant to open her heart, but I felt disconnected from her. It’s like I’m watching from a far and that I couldn’t really grasp what’s really the problem for holding back. There was also a part wherein she just found out the major reason her dad left her. But instead of feeling in denial or angry, she just sat there and cry. If it were me, I’d probably cry out in frustration and shout, “My life is one big lie!” She was close to her dad and that was just her reaction? She was like I’m just going to sit here and wallow for a few minutes while my sisters are in the kitchen or wherever. For someone who’s attached to her dad, I think her reaction after finding out the big truth was just too passive in my opinion. But then, again, maybe that’s how the author envisioned her to be. Who knows?

Overall, the story was nice. I’d give it three open books for my rating, but I like that Ms. Smith injecting some spiritual enlightenment in the story. For that reason, I’m giving this four open books. If you want something clean and wholesome, Stuck in the Middle can be an enjoyable one. Just don’t expect any sob fest or drama because this book lacked that element.

P.S.
This is a book series, and Stuck in the Middle is the first one. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be reading Age Before Beauty and Third Time’s a Charm anytime soon. I might in the future, though.

Favorite Quotes: 

Spending time with someone who insisted on being the center of attention was just plain tiring.

Men don’t know what they like. They rely on us to tell them. And you’re going to convince Dr. Gorgeous that he likes tall, athletic, beautiful brunettes.

You could tell a lot about a women by watching her interact with her family.

Keep in mind that 55 percent of the impression you make on someone is based on your appearance and body language, 38 percent on your style of speaking, and only 7 percent on what you say. So what you say doesn’t matter that much, as long as you look good saying it.

You see, our God doesn’t supply only what we need to scrape by. The almighty God is our Father. He loves us. He delights in delighting us. He wants to give us treats and enjoys hearing our joyful laughter in return.

He’ll change us as much as we allow him to.

God said, “I’ll never leave you, nor forsake you.

God had been trying to get her attention and she had ignored him because she was afraid. Afraid of being called a fanatic. Afraid of giving up control. But most of all, afraid of being hurt again.

 

 

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Book Review: Paper Towns

Paper Towns book cover

image source: Goodreads.com

3 open books

Genre: YA
Published: September 22, 2009 by Speak
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Synopsis: 

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew…

Review: 

I didn’t know about Paper Towns until I saw a film trailer with Cara Delevingne in it. And since I like her quirkiness, I thought I’d give the book a try before the I make the mistake of watching the movie first.

Now on to what I think about it.

I had high hopes for this book. It started out strong, witty and funny. The character development was really good. The first chapters have really piqued my interest.  I was really hooked. I wanted to get to know Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman more, and I wanted to how their story ends.  I also wanted to know whether they will end up happily together or not.

It started with who Margo Roth Spiegelman to Quentin. It then went on to their first hang out after a long time, pulling pranks on Margo Roth Spiegelman’s ex-boyfriend, ex-bestfriend and some kids at their school.

Now I got to say that the pranks they pulled were pretty hilarious. They had me laughing out loud my neighbors prolly think I’m crazy. If they were real people, I’d probably feel sorry for them.

Of course, the story doesn’t there. Spending an all-nighter pulling pranks was just the beginning.  The real story is when when Quentin and his friends go on a man hunt to find Margo Roth Spiegelman (excuse me for writing her full name because you just have to, lol!) using clues that she left behind. Now the whole thing was fun and exciting. You never know what they’ll uncover just from the quotes and highlights that Margo — okay, I’ll just say ‘she’ since it’s quite a type — she left. I’ve also learned a thing or two about her (you know who). Like, the way she finds pleasure in planning. I’m kind of like that too. I like to plan things, but I have a hard time following through with them. Usually, I just ask someone else to do the laborious tasks. Haha. But of course, when my OC-iness kicks in, I can be a perfectionist.

Anyway, when I reached the part when Q finally find out that she was staying at one of the paper towns in America, that got my excitement going. I spent an all-nighter myself one weekend just to get to the good part.

But alas, I was disappointed. I thought it was going to be a happy ending for Q and M (now that’s a better shortcut), but nay. It was a good ending, though. At least, it teaches you that you can’t expect everything to bend your way. No matter how much you exert effort, there are just things that aren’t meant to be. Nevertheless, you learn more about yourself along the way.

Now, you’re probably asking why only three open books even I had fun reading it? Well, despite having a good laugh while reading Paper Towns, it wasn’t as fulfilling as I hoped it would be. Like I said, I didn’t like the ending. After all the climax it sent me through, it just ended with a short, abrupt anti-climax. I was like, was that it?

That being said, it’s a fun read if you’re looking for something to pass the time. But if you’re looking for a happy ending, this isn’t the book for you.

Favorite Quote: 

The pleasure isn’t in doing the thing; the pleasure is in planning it.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice 1)

A Game of Thrones

4 open books the girl in the steel corset

Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre: High Fantasy
Published: August 2005 by Bantam. First published on August 6, 1996
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Synopsis: 

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Review: 

Whew! I thought the book would never end. Haha.

I started reading The Game of Thrones in June of this year. It was only now that I finally finished it. And I’ll explain why in a bit.

First, a bit of an introduction of how I learned about this. If it wasn’t for a former work colleague who called herself “Khaleesi,” I wouldn’t have known that this high fantasy exists. It’s funny because I thought that was her real name. Another funny thing is that I thought J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was already epic. It turns out I’m wrong. 😀

That was in 2012.

I know. I wondered, too, why it took me that long to get a copy and read it in its entirety. But I’ll tell you why:

It was because of Jon Snow being stabbed by his black brothers on the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones!

Haha! Crazy, I know.

I just couldn’t accept that he was going to die. After Ned, Rob, Catelyn, and Drogo being killed off in the previous seasons, I don’t think I can handle it anymore. He’s one of the reasons I’m still watching the show! Oh, the feels.

Anyway, when my friend told me that that the scene wasn’t exactly in the book, I just have to find out. And what better way to dig in for the truth than to start at the very beginning: Song of Fire and Ice book 1.

Now about the book.

It’s a quite a read. Although I’ve read books with more pages than it has, like Gone with the Wind, which I finished in less than a week, reading A Game of Thrones felt really long. Like reeeeaaaallly loooong.

And I guess there three probable explanations as to why I think so.

First, I saw the show before reading it. So, that’s a big no. If you haven’t caught the GoT bug, I suggest you read the books first before you watch the TV show. Otherwise, you’ll spoil the thrill. That’s what happened. Since I already know the majors plots of the story, I no longer have the patience to read.

Second, I was afraid to reach that part when Ned’s head got cut off. I was so disheartened when he was guillotined in the show that witnessing that part vicariously for the second time is like rubbing salt on fresh wounds. I didn’t think I can handle the feels. Haha! And that’s the reason it took me this long to finish the book.

Third, the first half was just so dull and boring. While I was reading the first few chapters, I was, like, when will George finish the describing the scenes? Who are these people that he mentioned, were they in chapter two, chapter three? And What is he talking about?

…. .

I’ve read classic books before and I never had any problems understanding them. For this one, however, I sometimes have to go back the previous paragraphs just to understand his point. The writing style wasn’t bad, though. In fact, I think George R.R. Martin is brilliant and talented. It’s just that there were too many characters mentioned, the plots and sub-plots were intricate, and some jargons weren’t common English terms. It’s like he created a new language just for the book series, and I guess that’s what makes it special.

In the book, George R.R. Martin used the point of views of different characters to the tell the story. There’s the side of Jon, Arya, Sansa, Ned, Catelyn, Daenerys, Tyrion and Bran. And each character has their own story to tell. George did a good job at that because I think it would be really hard to understand the character’s thoughts, feelings and actions if he did otherwise. You’d be really lost if you’re reading such a complicated storyline as if you’re in the bleachers watching the whole thing unfold.

Overall, A Game of Thrones will definitely take you to a completely different world. Although the setting is similar to the medieval era, with their clothes, knights, lords and castles, but it’s nothing like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s also not based on legends. And, it’s definitely not like The Lord of the Rings. Sure, it has its own share of dragons and magic, but you couldn’t really tell that they’re the same. Anyway, I’m not making anymore sense here. Haha.

So yeah, if haven’t seen the TV adaptation, I suggest you start reading the book. It’ll prepare you for the worse that will come. Also, even though the genre is fantasy (high or epic), I think this should be for 18 years old and above due to written scenes depicting violence, nudity and sexual. Parents, this is nothing like Harry Potter, I tell you. 

Lastly, don’t get warmed up on the characters because George R.R. Martin is known for killing off  important people in the book. You don’t want to end up like me in a sob fest when Lord Eddard Stark was killed.

Favorite Quotes: 

A Lannister always pays his debts.

I think I will try and sleep. Wake me if we’re about to die.

Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day to your sorrow.

A bruise is a lesson … and each lesson makes us better.

The seeing, the true seeing, that is the heart of it.

Just so. Opening your eyes is all that is needing. The heart lies and the head plays tricks with us, but the eyes see true. Look with your eyes. Hear with your ears. Taste with your  mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking, afterward, and in that way knowing the truth.

Fear cuts deeper than swords.

Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Strong as a bear. Fierce as a wolverine. Fear cuts deeper than swords. The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords.

Never do what they expect.

They say wisdom oft comes from the mouths of babes.

You must make that choice yourself, and live with it all the rest of your days.

When soldiers lack discipline, the fault lies with their lord commander.

Fear can fever a man’s mind and give him queer thoughts.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The life-changing magic of tidying up

image source: Goodreads.com

5 open books

Author: Marie Kondō and Cathy Hirano (Translator)
Genre: Self-Help
Published: October 14, 2014 by Ten Speed Press
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Synopsis: 

This guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this book featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Review: 

Do you find it frustrating to spend hours on end cleaning and organizing your house or room only to go see it go back to its messy order after a few hours or days of cleaning?

Then you’ve got to read this book.

Let met tell you a bit of a background about myself, first before I go on with my review. I’m OCD. Not the kind who spends hours cleaning a grape or arranging books according to size, alphabetical order or color, though. But I do have my share of “Sheldon Cooper” tendencies.

Despite that, I have a tendency to leave things around whenever I’m in a hurry. So that two hours spent on organizing my desk or folding my clothes is usually wasted in just several minutes after I cleaned. That spacious table gets cluttered before I know it.

I know. It’s frustrating.

I’ve tried different techniques on how to discipline myself to keeping my home organize, but I always get a relapse after.

Thankfully, I’ve discovered Mari Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. For me, it’s the solution to my tidying problems. And if we share the same frustrations, then you’ll find this book the holy grail to a clutter-free life. More than that, the principles she share can also be applied in your life, which can lead to a healthier, happier, more balanced and more successful one.

Now on to the review.

The book is a short read and very straightforward. I like that even in her introduction, she already shared the secret to de-cluttering your home and your life, which she calls the KonMari Method. By the way, I can sum them all up in three principles. It’s that easy to learn her method.

After that, the next proceeding chapters were instructions and explanations mixed with stories and experiences from her clients. This makes reading entertaining. Nothing like you’re reading from a school textbook.

The instructions were easy to follow. I haven’t even reached halfway when I started cleaning. However, you’re going to need a lot of patience as you do the first step, which is discarding. But once you pass that, the rest are going to be easy-peasy.

Be warned, however. Her methods are going to change everything you know about the art of tidying. In fact, they’re going to challenge decades-old practices. At first, you’ll find it hard to let go of them. That’s what’s happened to me. The KonMari Method went completely contrary to what was being taught to me. But her explanations were an eye-opener.

For instance, she stated, “Storage experts are hoarders.” That’s a bull’s eye hit on my part since I had lots of storage boxes. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job. But according to Mari, “A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage.'”

So yeah, that completely changed my view of storage.

By the end of the book, I was able to reduce two suitcases of stored clothing to a medium-sized duffel bag where I keep clothing items that have sentimental value to me. Those that bring me happiness whenever I touch them. Also, I was able to keep bureau well-organized up to this day.

And that’s why I give this book five open books. It’s easy to read. The translator did a good job in explaining Japanese texts to English. More importantly, the approaches that Ms. Kondo taught are meant to keep any rebound effects at bay. Once you truly master her methods, you’ll never revert to clutter again.

And that’s why it’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. 

Favorite Quotes: 

People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.

If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset.

Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. Of the two, discarding must come first.

Tidying is a special event. Don’t do it everyday.

Don’t even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding.

We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.

Take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow flower and the secret fan book cover

snow flower and the secret fan rating

Author: Lisa See
Genre: Novel, Historical Fiction
Published: February 21, 2006 by Random House
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Synopsis: 

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men.

As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Review: 

If it wasn’t for Gianna Jun, one of my top favorite South Korean stars, I wouldn’t have learned about this book. After I finished watching her TV drama, My Love from the Stars, and her movie The Thieves, I just couldn’t get enough of her. So while I was searching for more movies with her, I chanced upon her 2011 film Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

As it turned out, the movie was a film adaptation of Lisa See’s novel of the same title. This piqued my interest. After all, who would want to make a film based on a book if it’s sucks, right?

It wasn’t a long read, as the book is only 200+ words, but it was long in the sense that it’s a novel about the lives of two women, starting from when they were little until they were old. Yet, despite that, it was an interesting read.

Snow Flower and the Secret fan is a didactic tale about friendship, family, honor, tradition, etc. Not only that, it’s also peppered with historical facts and Chinese cultures, such as the Qing Dynasty, the Taiping Rebellion, the Laotong relationship (a bond between two girls for eternity, Nu Shu (a phonetic form of women’s writing in that time) as well as the ever popular foot binding.

It begins by way of narration by the main character, Lily, as her 80-year-old, widowed self, contemplating on her life in the past, the sufferings she had endured all in the name of love, for wanting and expecting it. She then proceeded to tell her story, starting from when she was born, her childhood and how she, a third child from a poor family, was privileged to be matched for a Laotong relationship with a girl of the same age from a rich family, their marriages and the reversal of fortunes, her insecurities, the sufferings, the ups and downs of their friendship, and lastly, old age.

It was a quite a read for short novel, but it was thought-provoking and insightful nonetheless. Aside from that, reading it brought me in to an emotional roller coaster ride. High whenever something good and positive happened to them, like Lily being matched to a wealthy young man and then being able to produce a son for him. Low when Snow Flower had an unfortunate marriage match as well as whenever she and Lily would fight. There was also the part where the process of footbinding was narrated, and it just made me cringe the whole time. Boy am I glad to be born in this day and age. The thought of it just made me think of bones crackling and braking. Ugh (shudder).

Another reason I like the book is that it gave me a glimpse of my husband’s culture. Although they no longer practice Chinese tradition in its purest form, and I say that because there are still some practices that they follow but only a pinch, it helped me understand his ancestor’s culture.

Overall, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is rich with historical facts and cultures. Insightful and engaging. However, it’s not for light reading. If that’s what you’re looking for, this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you want something new to learn, albeit not for everday application, but just for added knowledge, then this worth the time.

The writing is flawless. The style is quite old school, but I guess that’s pretty understandable since it’s supposed to be a narrative. An autobiography of some sort for Lily. That’s why I said it’s not for light reading because you really have put your mind to it in order to understand. I had to re-read some paragraphs just to understand them. Of course, if you’re used to reading historical fiction then it won’t be a problem. The last time I read a classic was two years ago, so I had to get used to it again.

Just a tip. When you read, have your marker ready because you’re going to want to highlight excerpts and insights you’ll learn along the way. That’s what I did. And that’s why I like the book. 🙂

Favorite Quote: 

You may be desperate, but never let anyone see you as anything less than a cultivated woman.