Tag Archives: SharaLee Reads

Book Review – ‘The Dragonfly Saga: Book I: Empress of Canton’ by Juliann Troi

 

img_1267

Kathryn Hopewell is the wealthy daughter of William Hopewell, the head of the powerful Hopewell Trading house in Canton in the early 1900s. She has just stepped off the docks after completing business studies at Harvard University in America, and is off to a good start in what she believes will be her position of taking her father’s place as head of the trading empire. Alas, alack, gasp! An unforeseen circumstance has appeared! It turns out Kathryn’s father only sent her to Harvard because he had the money to burn and thought real university would knock that idea out of her silly little head. He has engaged her to a useless Australian named Collin McNeal, who will be the one taking over Kathryn’s hopes and dreams and who is apparently completely devoted to her, even though he has never met her.

There is unrest in China during this period. Warlords and generals vie for provinces and citizens are caught in the crossfire. Kathryn and her friend Lucy go shopping for one fateful day in a district outside their safe zone, and are captured.

Lucy, who is British, is (of course) snuffed out (in fact, anything not American is looked upon as slightly inferior in this cloying melodrama), but General Cheng Jiong’s nephew Wang Ti-wei (who is acceptable as a secondary character because he, too, has gone to school in America and has Americanized his name to Ty Wang before returning to China and getting embroiled in family and national politics) has fallen in love with Kathryn and protects her by offering to lead her to General Cheng’s home in the north where they will be free to escape and he can return her to her father.

Like Disney’s version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, within three days, they have declared their undying love for one another, and become married in the peasant fashion (eat a meal and sleep in the same room together – which makes me wonder how many people I can claim as spouses today: all interested, come forth into my fold!)

The book ends with their arrival at General Cheng’s home of Shaoguan, which it turns out is actually Wang Ti-wei’s childhood home that was appropriated from him after his mother died. There they complete their final act of marriage, all in a rosy glow of prayer and Bible reading and endless repetitions every five seconds of his ‘sable’ eyes and her ‘teal’ ones.

This book attempts to produce a strong female character, and Kathryn is indeed feisty, but only through an arranged marriage can she receive her inheritance, even though she is more qualified, and the romanticization of the role Westernization played changing China forever, the fact that Ty has to be somewhat Western to be equal to Kathryn, is for lack of a better word, appalling, as though he could not have been legitimate without her as his wife, or she could not somehow have survived without a husband. The image below illustrates how I feel Troi uses Kathryn: she idolizes her – this ‘Chinaman’ is lucky to have her, and his many ninja-esque exploits only serve to feed into the fascination of the exotic that this book only uses as though to say, ‘What a fascinating time before they finally caught up with our American society’.

img_1268

I give this book 2 stars out of 5, because the writing isn’t entirely terrible, but nothing more than that, for not only being sexist and racist and very ‘Murican, I could not believe the amount of times ‘sable’ was used to describe Ty’s eyes. There is such a thing as a thesaurus. His eyes could also have been ‘black’, ‘dark’, ‘ebony’, ‘jet’, ‘jetty’, ‘raven’, ‘dusky’ or ‘dusty’, but no, ‘sable’ was the only adjective used to describe them, and that was enough to lose at least one star. Don’t even get me started on the many other adjectives she could have used instead of ‘teal’.

Advertisements

Book Review – ‘Gethsemane: A Story of Us’ by R. Douglas Jacobs

Gethsemane

This was an especially difficult review to write, mainly because over the course of time, I have come to deeply appreciate Jacobs’ friendship and the style of his prose writing, via letters and emails. He has a poetic elegance that is woven through everything he has written me, and I have found his correspondence delightful.  Perhaps that is why I was a bit disappointed by his poetry.

According to the blurb on the back of the book, Gethsemane (a book written in the style of an epic poem consisting of 148 stanzas that are each constructed similar to a sonnet, with no repeated rhymes) is touted as ‘the kind of book that maybe comes around once in a lifetime’, and as ‘a literary innovation destined to be a cultural artifact’. Now, I have read and truly come to appreciate other examples of epic poetry that actually are cultural artifacts, like Beowulf and The Song of Roland, and while I think the premise behind this poem is truly sweeping and vast, I do not think epic poetry was the kind of medium that could truly have done Jacobs’ story justice. I find the emotions and ideas and connections in the work to be intriguing, but I would not put it in the same category as the previously mentioned epics.

I really enjoyed Act I of this book, as it seemed the most promising, and did live up to the vastness of the idea originally presented (which is Lucifer’s story in parallel to ours as a human race). The notion of seeing things from Lucifer’s perspective was dark, yet interesting, though it took me a while to distinguish between the various ‘hes’ since God is ‘He’ but every angelic being is ‘he’, yet each verse begins with a capital letter, so sometimes it seemed as though the honorific ‘He’ had been given to an angel instead of to God.

Act II covered the fall of Lucifer and other angels who were his followers from Heaven to Earth, and how they possessed men and slept with human women, creating a race of monstrous giants called Nephilim that roamed the Earth. The concept has always fascinated me (and its source can be found in Genesis 6 in the Bible), but I found the retelling to fall somewhat short in style and technique than I had hoped, considering Jacobs’ prose style. The poetry was poorly worded and contrived, with little flow. It was difficult to follow on a rhythmic level, and the word choices (like ‘pizzazz’) were often anachronistic and fell short of the grandeur of what Jacobs was trying to achieve.

As for Act III, it seemed completely out of place and disjointed from the rest of the poem. The other two Acts are sweeping and vast, while the last one reads like a cheap paperback, not in content, but in style. Lucifer (who is now calling himself ‘the Gent’) falls in love with a personal trainer named Celeste (the significance of whose heavenly moniker was not lost on me), then discovers her in the act of cheating on him with another man. He feels so betrayed, he possesses the man’s body, essentially rapes Celeste, then kills her and sets the world on fire (clearly what the author believes Lucifer truly does wish to do to anyone or anything associated with Heaven). The content could have been better handled. I felt that the stanzas had been rushed near the end of this poem, the words chosen to describe the events were poor, and not much time was taken to truly explore the depth of the story that was presented. Though he prides himself on the fact that no rhyme was used twice in this epic, I found that in some places, it would have served the story better if that had been the case.

A truly talented writer with big ideas, R. Douglas Jacobs would be best served concentrating his poetic vision into some aspect of the prosaic world, where it could truly be brought to life. Immense effort was clearly put into the creation of this work, but it would have benefited from 2 or 3 more drafts to smooth it out and bring it to its full potential.

2 stars out of 5.


‘Someone To Call My Own’ by Bianca Harrison

Featured image

It has been said not to judge a book by its cover. This one, however, is just as strange and confusing and loosely tied together as the cover would suggest. First off, it begins with the main antagonist, Camille Young, having a dream (a foreshadowing dream, at that), which automatically puts it straight on my cheese shelf. Before I knew it, and without attaching me as a reader in any way to the characters in this book,  I was catapulted into Harrison’s world of interwoven extramarital affairs, kidnapped newborn babies, stabbings, shootings (it’s amazing how many people can apparently get stabbed or shot but not die in this book, except Nikki, whose injuries didn’t even seem bad enough to cause the damage that killed her), and one-dimensional Detectives named Floyd and Ball (who is actually described as being both short and round. I half expected Detective Floyd to be called Detective Chain instead, but since that might actually have been a good idea and we are apparently supposed to take this book seriously, it was not to be). As a mother, the part about the kidnapped newborn was extremely upsetting and difficult to read as it was not handled properly. The baby in question was put in several disturbing and life-threatening situations, the severity of which were not treated with the proper restect, and having the concept of kidnapping a child that young merely for revenge treated so cavalierly was very off-putting. It was like being forced to read 48 chapters of all the worst parts of The Young and the Restless.

It did not seem to me that any serious research had been done at all for this book. Greg Langston, the married man who is cheating on his pregnant wife (mother of previously mentioned kidnapped newborn baby), is a lawyer, and there is a lot of TV legal drama lingo used when trying to find his kidnapped son, all of it vague and none of it effective or truly making sense. The police force is also misrepresented, as in the scene where Detective Ball and Detective Floyd find Greg at Camille’s house. He has gone there to question her regarding the disappearance of Greg, Jr. (yet another original name), and has found baby items. He tells the detectives he suspects Camille of having stolen his son, but decides to HIDE THE EVIDENCE HE HAS JUST FOUND IN CASE SHE HAS NOT DONE IT. And instead of attempting to get a search warrant for her house, they take him to the police station for questioning for TWO HOURS, since he is a person of interest in the case, and he doesn’t even tell them about the baby items!!! No parent in their right mind would do that, and the police would normally have interviewed both Greg AND Camille, would they not?

ALSO (and this is one of my biggest beefs about this book): when it is discovered that Camille is… shall we say….”troubled” (have I mentioned that she poisoned her first husband because HE was divorcing her for another woman?), it comes out that in the previous State she lived in, she was seeing a therapist and that she has been diagnosed with ‘a bipolar disorder’. AND THIS APPARENTLY EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. Um, bloody hell it does. I happen to live with Bipolar Disorder myself and nothing about Camille or her behaviour is indicative of that particular mental illness. I’d believe that she’s a sociopath or a psychopath, in the truest clinical meanings of those words, but bipolar? If she is, her behaviour is too calculated (she plans for MONTHS to kidnap Greg, Jr. and even has a special soundproof closet built into her OWN closet so no one will hear him crying) and does not line up with what I know of the disorder (and believe me, I’ve been through and know a lot of people who have experienced a lot in regards to that disorder and done many things, but none of them like the things she did to Greg Langston and his family). Harrison shows an attitude of ignorance and disrespect to people with mental health issues that simply cannot be ignored. I just can’t believe there are still people out there who actually think all criminals are crazy or vice versa or who even use the terms ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ to refer to people with mental health issues.

To put icing on this lovely little cake, there is an actual STUDY GUIDE AT THE BACK to examine the moral dilemmas presented in this book, with such peerless gems as “Do you really think Camille was insane or using that as an escape to not go to jail? Why or why not?”, “Was Michelle wrong for sleeping with Detective Floyd?”, and “Who do you think kissed who first (Michelle or Ed)?”. I’m supposed to read all of that and then take it seriously and try to learn from it, too?

An absolutely jaw-clenching, terrible read. 0 stars out of 5.


What I’m Reading – January 23rd, 2015

The first post on my YouTube channel, SharaLee Reads! (and yes I know my camera skills are terrible. Any hints would be most welcome!)