June in Review

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June in Review

Ahh, I've been struggling with reading and blogging lately. It has taken an absolute backseat to the work stuff I've been dealing with lately, but I am almost caught up! I'm hoping to get back to my regular schedule or at least something like it soon! I've been awful with my blog tours... either not getting through books or pushing off reviews for later dates. I hope I can be forgiven for that. =( Also, I plan on returning to at least a somewhat more regular commenting on other blogs as well. I have not deleted anything in google reader for a while and have over 800 posts JUST in my "favorites" folder, LOL! Those are the blogs where I read everything. So, I will get there!

Anyway, reviews for the month: Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth and You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and Rebecca Gladding, MD.

If you missed my interview with Girl in Translation author, Jean Kwok, please check it out!!! I also have a couple giveaways to announce winners for:

The Last Summer of Louisa May Alcott

goes to


Girl in Translation

goes to

Red Headed Book Child!!!

That's about it for this month! I'm dying to get back into reading and blogging so hopefully I'll be around more!

You Are Not Your Brain

Monday, June 27, 2011

Title: You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution
Author: Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D. & Rebecca Gladding, M.D.
Pages: 338
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology
Publisher: Avery (Penguin Group)
Pub. Date:
June 9, 2011

Once again I haven't been the best reader (but I'm definitely getting there!) I didn't quite finish this book but I did read part and hope to finish it soon. Despite that, I've already read so much useful information and have even brought some of what I've read into my therapy with clients too.

The basic premise of You Are Not Your Brain is that a lot of the bad habits, anxieties, and other unhealthy issues that we have are things we can change by changing the way our mind (vs. our brain) looks at and deals with our issues. Ultimately, what these authors tout is cognitive behavioral therapy which, in my experience, many therapists use anyway. It's all about identifying your unhealthy cognitions and reframing or relabeling them so that your feelings eventually change and that leads to better behaviors. What Drs. Schwartz and Gladding do, however, is break the concept down even more so that it can be used more easily as a self-help book and is more readily accessible to the reader. They identify and re-label concepts such as your "wise advocate", your "true self", and the difference between emotions and emotional sensations. They also add the topic of neuroplasticity which is a way of actually re-wiring your brain to do things differently. This is what takes it another step past just regular cognitive behavioral therapy.

I think the authors did a great job of taking what can be some complicated concepts and ideas and break it down well for the average reader. The book is long enough to include all the information needed but is small enough to not feel too daunting. There are plenty of case studies throughout that vary so readers will likely relate in some way to at least one and may find it easier to relate the concepts to their own issues. There are also parts with worksheets for the reader to write in and participate in throughout the reading. It id in some parts feel a little repetitive, but I think that's partially a result of the book being written as a self-help for the reader. Were it merely a factual book they may have only needed to mention each thing once, but as a self-help or tool for the reader to use it really needs to make each concept as clear as it can.

So, even though I have a little left to read, I have already found this book immensely useful both for myself and for use with others in therapy. I look forward to finishing it and putting it all together. I would recommend this for readers who have issues that they would like to work on.

Check out the other stops on this tour:

Tuesday, June 7th: Silver and Grace

Monday, June 13th: The Book Faery Reviews

Tuesday, June 14th: Always Well Within

Wednesday, June 15th: Bookshipper

Thursday, June 16th: Guinevere Gets Sober

Friday, June 17th: Positively Present

Monday, June 20th: A Room of Mama’s Own

Tuesday, June 21st: By the By Books

Wednesday, June 22nd: Overstuffed

Thursday, June 23rd: Today’s Path

Friday, June 24th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Friday, June 24th: Luxury Reading

Monday, June 27th: Take Me Away

Tuesday, June 28th: The Scarlet Letter

Wednesday, June 29th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, June 30th: The Things We Read

Wednesday, July 6th: Arriving at Your Own Door

Hello Goodbye

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Title: Hello Goodbye
Author: Emily Chenoweth
Pages: 273
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: May 5, 2009 (hardcover); June 14, 2011 (paperback)

Synopsis (from bn.com):

In the summer after her freshman year of college, Abby Hansen embarks on what might be a final vacation with her parents to a historic resort in northern New Hampshire. The Presidential Hotel, with its stately rooms and old-fashioned dress code, seems almost unbearably stuffy to Abby, but the young, free-spirited hotel staff offers her the chance for new friendships, and maybe even romance.

However, for her parents, Elliott and Helen, their time spent together in the shadow of the White Mountains has taken on a deeper meaning. By inviting family friends to join them, they open their marriage up to a lifetime of confessions, and they must confront a secret about Helen's health that they have been hiding from their daughter.


I had some trouble with this one. There were paragraphs upon paragraphs with beautifully written passages but, for me, the story and plot didn't balance out the writing. There was an inordinate amount of reflection which I supposed is fairly normal for this type of storyline, but it just seemed like so much to me. It made the reading very heavy. The author also seemed to fully stretch out every sentence with so many descriptors. One the one hand it was nice, but after a while it, too, became too much and brought me out of the story itself.

This story is based on the author's real life experiences, and she explains in the back why she didn't write this as a memoir. I wonder, though, if I would have related to it better if it were written in memoir form because I had a little difficulty maintaining interest in the fictional characters. I also think sections of it would have worked better as a short story.

All this being said, the writing itself was lyrical so those who enjoy that may like this book. Those who can relate to the situation or any of the characters will also likely enjoy this book more than I did. I also can't rule out the fact that I've been busy and had a lot going on, so it's possible that I wasn't drawn in as much as I might have been because of the lack of action.

Jean Kwok (Girl in Translation author) on Immigration Today (Q & A, Giveaway!!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My favorite book of 2010 as listed here was Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation about a mother and daughter who emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn. I am so honored to have Ms. Kwok here today to talk a little bit her book, the immigration experience today, and childhood of two cultures. And at the end, there is a giveaway for one copy of this book!! (U.S. only)

1. I’ve heard you say that parts of this book were based on your own experiences. In what ways do you think this made it easier and in what ways harder to write this novel?

It’s true that much of this novel was based upon my own experience. Like my heroine Kimberly Chang, I also moved from Hong Kong to Brooklyn as a child. I was only five, younger than Kimberly, but I also started working in a clothing factory in Chinatown and our family lived in a run-down, roach-infested and unheated apartment as well. The descriptions of the apartment and sweatshop are exactly as I remember them. I think the great advantage this has given me is that I know I’m not exaggerating – I lived through those hardships and I am certain there are others who were or are in the same situation. The power of my memories lends a certain authenticity and energy to the narrative, I think. At my readings and public appearances, I have the confidence of knowing that this story is mine to tell.

However, you are right in that this also made the story harder to tell in some ways. I needed to have a certain amount of time and distance from these events in my life to be able to handle them at all, because some of that time was so painful for me and my family. I also chose not to write a memoir because I wanted to create a compelling, seamless narrative for the reader and I needed to use fictional techniques in order to do so. I hoped to form characters people would love and put them in a story that readers wouldn’t be able to put down. I was only able to do that after I had trained enough as a writer.

Ultimately, I worked with the hope of combining authenticity and a great story to give my readers a wonderful reading experience.

2. Childhood can be difficult enough, but having to grow up within two different cultures is, in my opinion, significantly more difficult. What is it about Kimberly that makes her so resilient and able to acclimate to this situation?

My heroine Kimberly doesn’t waste time on self-pity. She’s as vulnerable as any other young girl but at heart, she’s a survivor and she’ll focus on whatever she needs to do in order to escape their situation. She’s blessed by having a loving, gifted mother and even though Ma may be powerless in this new life, their bond helps make Kimberly strong. And of course, Kimberly has a true gift in her talent for school. That leads to her double life between exclusive private school and sweatshop, and ultimately, to the love two very different young men have for her.

3. How do you think the immigrant experience would be/is different now than it was 30 years ago? (Or do you think it isn’t different?)

I think that many things have changed for the better. The most important is that people are now much more aware of the difficulties many immigrants face. Bilingual help is much more readily available, and many teachers now know that some of their students may not have necessary materials or support at home. I remember when I was in elementary school, my teacher assumed that I could read my parents’ daily newspaper in order to pass the daily current events quiz. We couldn’t afford to get any newspapers and I was often working at the factory after school until 10 PM at night. I was a child and exhausted by the time I got home; I wasn’t going to watch the late news on our tiny black and white television. It was impossible to listen to the radio at the factory since nothing could be heard above the screech of the boilers and the hammering of hundreds of sewing machines. I failed that test every day. Of course, it never occurred to me to tell my teacher the truth. I was too ashamed and I didn’t think she would believe me anyway.

I think that even now, many working class immigrants have much harder lives than people know. They often work extremely long hours simply to survive. They’ve left behind their loved ones, diplomas, culture and language. I believe awareness is the first step toward understanding and change, and I’m very glad that my book is a part of that process.

4. One of my favorite things, which I mentioned in my review, was the dialogue between the characters and the way they used proverbs and metaphors to express themselves. What was your experience like incorporating this? Was it something you were so familiar with that it came naturally, or did you keep a list of phrases you want to include, (etc.)?

I’m so glad you liked that because it’s one of the most important parts of the book to me. I wanted the reader to experience what it was like to be a Chinese immigrant; I wanted to put her into the heart and soul of a non-English speaker. That’s why at the beginning of the book, when Kimberly’s English is weakest, we also hear English as gibberish. However, all of the Chinese comes through fluently because we, like Kimberly, are native Chinese speakers and we can hear all of its humor and wisdom.

It was a challenge to write because in my mind, I kept veering towards either Chinese or English and sometimes would get stuck on one of those languages. I had to have a clear idea of which language was actually being spoken in each scene and make sure that my thoughts were in that language. Fortunately, I’ve been bilingual from a young age so I knew what it was like to have my thoughts flow from language to language but I didn’t want to be sloppy. I was constantly checking to make sure I wasn’t making any mistakes with the Chinese. There are so many homonyms (words that sound the same but mean different things) in Chinese and I needed to compare the sounds with the written version to know that I was translating them properly.

5. Just because I'm wondering, the scene when Kimberly gets in a fight with Luke at school, did that happen to you? I loved how she handled that!

You really are an insightful interviewer! Yes, that did happen to me, almost exactly as is depicted in the novel. I did “fight” with a much larger boy and it was terrifying. Then (and now) I was quite small for my age but I didn’t run. Thank goodness he secretly had a crush on me or I would have been pulverized.

6. Do you have any info to share about what you’re writing now or anything you’ve finished since Girl in Translation? When will we get to read your next book? :)

I am hoping to be done with the next novel by the end of this summer! In between my BA at Harvard and my MFA at Columbia, I worked for three years as a professional ballroom dancer. The new novel is set both in Chinatown and the professional ballroom dance world. Again, it’s an immigrant family story and a love story. I hope that readers will enjoy stepping behind the curtains of the professional dance world.

The only thing is that I do need to handle a large number of publicity requests now because the novel has been published in 15 countries and won a number of prizes, so I am trying to juggle both the publicity and finishing the next novel at the same time. After the new book is finished, it’ll probably hit bookstores about a year later (if all goes well, fingers crossed!)
Thank you so much for stopping by and answering those questions!
If any of you have not read this book yet, you must!! For a chance to win a copy of the book from the publisher (U.S. only) please fill out the form below.
You can visit the author at her website: www.jeankwok.com

Blog Tour: When God Was a Rabbit

Thursday, June 2, 2011

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Synopsis (from bn.com): This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about secrets and starting over, friendship and family, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms.
In a remarkably honest and confident voice, Sarah Winman has written the story of a memorable young heroine, Elly, and her loss of innocence-a magical portrait of growing up and the pull and power of family ties. From Essex and Cornwall to the streets of New York, from 1968 to the events of 9/11, When God Was a Rabbit follows the evolving bond of love and secrets between Elly and her brother Joe, and her increasing concern for an unusual best friend, Jenny Penny, who has secrets of her own. With its wit and humor, engaging characters whose eccentricities are adroitly and sometimes darkly drawn, and its themes of memory and identity, When God Was a Rabbit is a love letter to true friendship and fraternal love.
Funny, utterly compelling, fully of sparkle, and poignant, too, When God Was a Rabbit heralds the start of a remarkable new literary career.

Thoughts so far: Ok, so I've been a bad blogger lately... we know this. My reading is sl.o.w.l.y picking up but I have not yet read a lot nor did I finish this book. That being said, I'm about halfway through and I am truly loving this book! I don't know what else happens, but I'm thinking it's going to be up there with one of my favorites this year. It's a coming-of-age book. It's one of those that's told from the child's perspective, yet the writing is still so sophisticated and astute. It's subtle, too, so we learn things about the main character, Elly, in unexpected ways. Also loving so far the sibling relationship (similar to Francie Nolan and Neely in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which this book sort of reminds me of). At the point of the book that I'm in, the characters are still children but from what I understand the story follows them through adulthood. That being said, Elly (and her friend Jenny Penny!) will probably be characters that stay with me just like the aforementioned Francie, Christy from The Outside Boy, and Oskar from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, just to name a few! I'm super excited to finish reading this book. It's not a difficult read at all, and if I were in my normal reading state I would have finished this in a day or two because it's one of those that every time a finish a chapter (well, really in this book it's just sections) I want to keep reading. Please stay tuned for the full review!!