Apr 30, 2013

Book Review: Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner

Kim Wong Keltner's memoir describes her life growing up under the thumb of a demanding and stoic Chinese mother. Kim says she suffered from lack of affectionate hugs, outward shows of love, words of praise from her mother, and eventually moved away from their home in San Francisco after her marriage to native Californian, Rolf Keltner, to gain independence and a better perspective. But she says this about her mother:
The Reamer (Irene, her mother) didn't coddle me. But it wasn't for lack of love. She did not coddle me because she loved me. She wanted me to be strong so I could live without her." (ch. 38)
Kim gives this message to Tiger Parents, those parents who push their children to extremes toward success.
Tiger Parents,you may be asking yourselves, "What is the point of this book?"
Love your babies, and show your babies that you love them. Withholding acceptance and praise while pushing your children into achievement might yield certain results, but that kind of pressure stifles other aspects of growing up." (epilogue)
And there are messages for the children of Tiger parents,  for whom she wrote this book:
"Have an emotional life. Please yourself. Second best ain't worth killing yourself over...."
The author cites Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as an impetus for her book and as a response to Chua's Tiger Mother perspective.

To those who were not born with Tiger Parents, this sort of advice may seem unwarranted, but the author clearly feels everything she puts into the book. And there is a lot of emotion here. The memoir seems to rant at the beginning and even to generalize about who Tiger Mothers are and how they came to be. However, the author soon gets into specifics with examples from her family, acquaintances, and from her own life.

Not all Tiger Children escape unscathed from their parents' upbringing as Kim did. Some are forever stifled, she shows. These Tiger Children include those who never leave home and are brought up with the sole idea of being their parents' caretakers, or the child whose romantic and personal life is squelched by overwhelming family /parental disapproval.

One of the early drawbacks: living in a "Tiger box" made it hard for Kim to develop female friendships while growing up. Other Chinese girls in their own Tiger boxes wanted to show independence or exhibited one-upmanship, which prevented close alliances.

One exception to the Tiger parent rule was Kim's kinder grandmother Lucy, whom she remembers with fondness and brings into mind the difference between the generations in bonding with children.

I understood and felt everything that the author was trying to say, even though my parents are a generation removed from the "old country." A strict culture filters down inexorably though it may dissipate somewhat on the way down. I am anxious to see what others think about Kim's memoir, those who weren't raised within such strict confines. There is a lot in the book for general readers, to understand the interior of a traditional (though what might seem a somewhat stereotypical) Chinese family.

Title: Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised By a Tiger Mom But Could Not Be Turned to the Dark Side by Kim Wong Keltner
Published April 30, 2013; William Morrow paperback
Genre: memoir
Objective rating: 4.5/5

For other reviews of the book, visit the TLC Book Tour schedule.
About the author: 
The only thing that keeps Kim Wong Keltner from writing is when she’s trapped under an avalanche of her daughter’s stuffed animals. Kim is the author of The Dim Sum of All Things, Buddha Baby, and I Want Candy. Tiger Babies Strike Back is her first work of non-fiction. You can reach her at kimwongkeltner.com

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for an ARC review copy of the book.

Also submitted to Teaser Tuesdayhosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, and to Cym Lowell's Book Review Link-Up Party.

Apr 28, 2013

Sunday Salon: Yoga Gripes, a book I should write

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also submitted to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday at MariReads.

We are having scattered showers after a perfect sunny day yesterday, when we sat and read in the backyard and pulled a few weeds. This morning I saw a northern red cardinal feed its mate (or was it a juvenile?) some bird seeds it gathered up from the ground. How sweet!

I also went to gym yoga and have to decide whether or not to keep going or just stick to the studio yoga that I started last week. At gym yoga, the instructor focuses on yoga postures mainly for the exercise value. At the studio, the instructor combines yoga poses with deep breathing exercises and meditative relaxation - the complete package that is quite relaxing.

At the gym class, one guy scoffed when I repeated the traditional yoga "namaste" after the teacher at the end of the class. "Namaste" is a sign of respect to the teacher and from teacher to student.  I don't feel I am performing a religious ritual when I do yoga, repeat it's phrases, or do meditation. Many people want the yoga exercises only and then wonder why it's not that much fun, not at all relaxing, but just a lot of hard work. They then skip a lot of their classes.

 I do feel grumpy today :) The good stuff? New books and ARCs for review.

The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau, a comic novel

Do You Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul A. Offit, M.D. An "expose" about vitamins, supplements, herbs, oils, saunas, and more. He does say that some nontraditional methods for healing do work!

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo, a memoir by the Iranian American actress and Oscar nominee who left her home country and husband after the 1978 Iran revolution.

The Abomination by Jonathan Holt, a thriller set in Venice and written by an English literature grad from Oxford. The first in the Carnivia Trilogy.

Historical Novels:

The GI Bride, by British writer Iris Jones Simantel

Motherland by British writer William Nicholson, set in post-war England, France, India, and Jamaica.


A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner, a legal thriller set in New York City. A high-profile attorney agrees to represent a popular rap artist accused of murdering his pop star girlfriend.

Rese's Leap: An Island Mystery by Darcy Scott, set in Maine, the second in the series.

Matinicus: An Island Mystery by Darcy Scott, the first in the Maine series, honorable mention in the New England Book Festival contest.

Book tours coming up:
Tiger Babies Strike Back, a memoir by Kim Wong Keltner
Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I, historical novel by Sandra Byrd

Library books:

The Dance of the Seagull, an Inspector Montalbano mystery by Andrea Camilleri

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie, the 15th in the detective series set in England

This should last me a while....What have you been reading?

Apr 26, 2013

The Belly Dancer: A Novel by DeAnna Cameron

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.

"I think I'm coming down with something." She kept staring. Three boys in short pants, screaming and batting at a ball with brooms, the sunlight bleaching the tops of their heads into halos.
"I know when you're ill, and you're not ill."
"You don't know everything."
"I know you."
Book description: At the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, with exhibitions from all over the globe, young socialite Dora Chambers is given the task of enforcing proper conduct in the Egyptian belly dancing exhibition. She accepts, trying to please her socially ambitious, aloof husband and earn the approval of the local women of high society—the World's Fair's Board of Lady Managers.

Dora is captivated and shocked by the Egyptian belly dancers and by their enigmatic manager, Hossam Farouk. Her eyes are opened to the world beyond her own life of social expectations and quiet servitude and she discovers the truth about her own desires and passions.

Title: The Belly Dancer: A Novel by DeAnna Cameron
Published March 6, 2012; Berkley paperback
Genre: historical fiction
Source: copy from the author, a book win from Naida at The Book Worm

Apr 24, 2013

Book Review: The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Paperback reprint April 2, 2013; William Morrow
Genre: romantic fiction

Lucy Jorik was last seen running away from her fiance, her family, and her wedding in a previous book, Call Me Irresistible, a book that follows her disgraced maid of honor Meg and Lucy's left- at-the-altar would-be groom, Ted.

The Great Escape, the sequel to that book, is Lucy's story, of what happens to her after she takes off, escapes from her wedding to Ted and follows a stranger - the mysterious and scruffy-looking Panda. Panda picks her up on his motorcycle as she flees the wedding and tries to persuade her to return to her family, but Lucy is determined to stay away to think things over. She follows Panda to his island home on Lake Michigan and refuses to leave.

What happens is intriguing as well as predictable to some degree. I enjoyed the great escape and makeover that Lucy decides to give herself on the island, even down to her new nickname, Vixen. Too bad reality has to force its way in after a while and then a great lark of an adventure turns into more sobering experiences.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit but hated to have it turn too realistic towards the end. It seems the author was trying hard to make the novel relevant as the book started out as a good escapist romance. Nevertheless, a very good read. I recommend it for romance readers as well as for general fiction readers.

For more reviews, visit the TLC Book Tour schedule. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of the book.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soared onto the New York Times bestseller list with Dream a Little Dream. She’s the only four-time recipient of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife and mother of two grown sons. Visit her website, susanelizabethphillips.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Apr 21, 2013

Sunday Salon: Spring Has Sprung

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also submitted to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday at MariReads.

Spring seems to have arrived after a scare of snow flurries early yesterday. The sun is out for the most part and robins are busy making nests. The dark-eyed juncos that stopped by the backyard for about a week are mostly gone, probably to their summer grounds in Canada and into the Arctic. I also noticed an Eastern towhee outside the window a few days ago. These upper areas are its breeding grounds; it lives permanently further south.

Spring cleaning is going pretty well. Organizing and clearing out the basement is slow but steady. I may have space to sit and read comfortably down there soon!

Library books I've borrowed include:
Scarlet: Lunar Chronicles #2 by Marissa Meyer, a sci-fi fantasy based on the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood
The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks by Gillian Royes, a mystery novel set in Jamaica

What was in my mailbox?

Three ARCs:
The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers, the third and final mystery novel in the series set in the Belgian Congo
Slingshot: A Spy Catcher Novel by Matthew Dunn, a thriller
Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich, a romantic comedy

A memoirOnce Upon a Gypsy Moon by Michael Hurley - his two-year journey on a sailboat from Maryland south.

A mystery: Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol by Gyles Brandreth, sixth in the mystery series

Am almost finished with The Great Escape: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips for a book tour on Wednesday. Come back then to see my comments!

I have started yoga again after a winter break and back to a new teacher at the gym who is turning out okay, though I miss the Swami who teaches at the yoga studio. There are also good online yoga videos.

What's on your plate this Sunday, besides breathing sighs of relief that the tragic events in Boston are basically over?

Apr 17, 2013

Book Review: Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine

I think when I go home, I'll see female colleagues less in terms of our age differences and more in terms of the shared experiences of our gender. (Mia Fontaine, ch. 13)

Claire Fontaine and her daughter Mia take a trip to seven countries in Asia and Europe, to renew and strengthen their mother-daughter relationship, to find out more about themselves, and to find out about other women around the globe.

They travel to China, Malaysia, Nepal, Cairo, Greece and the Balkans, and to Avignon in France as well as to Budapest. There they interact with and observe other women, mothers and their daughters, as well give us the feel and the flavor of the countries they visit. The trip is designed as a scavenger hunt for the travel group they are with, where each group chooses things or places, foods or events to find and experience. Along the way, mother and daughter manage their inevitable conflicts, ask each other pointed personal questions, and share new discoveries.

Reading the book was having an interesting armchair travel experience, seeing the countries and people from their points of view and also learning about the shared history that made up their first memoir, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back. Mia has come a long way from the runaway teenager and user that she had been to a more independent and responsible woman and daughter.

I did find myself confusing one person with the other while I was reading, as mother and daughter share chapters, both writing as in a journal. Claire's entries are in regular print and Mia's thoughts are in italics. As I found their writing styles not too dissimilar, I would forget to switch and would sometimes read Mia's entries thinking it was Claire's and vice versa. That was the only confusion for me, keeping them straight at all times, in spite of the difference in the fonts.

I like that you can pick up the book and start at any chapter. Here is an excerpt from Claire's thoughts, chapter nine:
My heart and soul, however, came alive in Plovdiv, a verdant, historic hilltop town in Bulgaria.Till now, I wasn't sure why. As Mia and I sit for lunch against a low stone wall and a cascade of ivy tendrils and the wind blows the little green corkscrews across my cheek, I suddenly understand....
It lies on the same latitude, exactly, as Cleveland Heights, where I was born and spent much of my childhood. It has the same plants and flowers, the same trees, insects, climates and constellations, the same fragrance, light, and colors. One I hadn't been surrounded by in decades.
I did enjoy their travel narratives and interactions best of all.

For more reviews of the book, visit the TLC Book Tour schedule.

Title: Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World by Claire and Mia Fontaine
Published April 2, 2013; William Morrow paperback
Objective rating: 4/5
Genre:  memoir, travel

Claire Fontaine is a former screenwriter living in the US and Europe. She is a certified relationship and life coach. Mia Fontaine is a motivational speaker who has written for the New York Times, blogs for Ms. Magazine, and is at work on a narrative nonfiction book. She lives in New York City. Find them at their website or on Facebook.

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for a review copy of the book.

Linked to Cym Lowell's Book Review Link Up/Ben's Recovery Fund.

Apr 16, 2013

The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers. First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. Opening sentences in a book can help readers decide if the book is one they would continue reading. 

Before I died the first time, my husband left me broke and alone with our two tiny children and it made me feel very depressed, etc. It's the same old story: He went to buy cigarettes and never came home. Really. Wouldn't you think you'd want to pack a bag or two, leave a forwarding address? Couldn't he have at least taken the dog? These were the things I wondered in the beginning. Not: was he having an affair, or: was he mixed up in something nefarious, but: I can't believe he wouldn't bring his datebook, his favorite loafers; I can't believe he didn't change the light bulb in the hallway before deserting us. He knew I couldn't reach that light bulb. The whole thing was unlike him. Then again, I was the one who died, which was unlike me, too.
"SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IN LIFE IS A FABULOUS PAIR OF SHOES—AND A LITTLE HELP FROM A MERMAID. Formerly a magazine editor, Jenny Lipkin is raising two children in a cramped Park Slope walk-up. When her husband, Harry, vanishes one evening, Jenny reaches her breaking point and a split-second decision changes her life. Pulled from the brink by an unexpected ally, Jenny rethinks her ideas about success, motherhood, romance, and relationships." (publisher)

Title: The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel by Amy Shearn
Paperback published April 2, 2013; Touchstone
Genre: women's fiction

Would you keep reading, based on the first chapter, first paragraph? 

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found...