book review

A very fair and nice review of Her Son's Hero from a fellow MMA fan, Asia Morela. She makes some very interesting points about self-defense, self-control, MMA and violence. Your thoughts?



Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
by Amy Chua

I've been struggling with this review because it's impossible for me to judge the book without inserting my own life experiences. And, frankly, some of them are very angsty.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the brutally honest memoir of a Chinese-American mother raising her two daughters the "Chinese" way. Chua is careful to point out that not all Chinese or Asians do this, just as not all white people raise their children the "Western" way. The book got a lot of press and criticism after an excerpt was posted in the Wall Street Journal. After reading the whole book, the descriptions of the harsh treatment Chua imposed upon her daughter while practicing piano were probably taken a little out of context. Because there's no way I could have read this book without an enormous grain of salt.

Tiger Mother is not a parenting book. In fact, I'd go as far to say it is the antithesis of a parenting book. While the author time and again tries to show us how well-balanced and successful her daughters turned out, and how her personal sacrifices of time and sanity paid off, I personally cannot, with good conscience, recommend her impossibly demanding strictures be applied to anyone being raised in a Western society.

And so, I read this book with half a mind reminding me that this book could only be part satire, with Chua playing the role of moaning martyr mother. She talks very little about the details of her own upbringing except to say "this is how I was raised, and look at how great I am!" It makes me wonder exactly she left out. Still, it's an engaging read, but definitely not for the easily enraged who think that children are precious and must be shielded from life at all costs.

I should probably mention that tigers are known to eat their young. This is not one of the facts Chua includes in her book.

From My Point of View--Being Raised the "Chinese" Way

In my experience, Chua's outlook is not an uncommon one among traditional Chinese parents. Harsh discipline, withholding praise, comparing children, and verbal reprimands that border on abuse, all in the name of making stronger, more successful children is something I grew up with, and something many my friends grew up with. The efficacy of these methods remains in question largely because the idea of success is entirely subjective. If we don't become concert pianists, doctors, lawyers, bankers or productive mothers, if we don't earn tons of cash at the expense of our happiness, then what, exactly, are tiger mothers striving for when they force their kids to practice piano three hours a day and deny them playdates?

While there's lots to be said about not giving today's kids enough rigid structure or discipline and letting them run wild and become spoiled ingrates, there's just as much to be said about dictating every minute of your kids' lives, all while telling them they're worthless, garbage, that they'll never amount to anything, that their siblings are better than them, that you'll abandon them at the orphanage if they don't do exactly what you tell them to do, etc.

I was raised between the two parenting styles. My parents owned their own business, working eight-hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who went to work with my father once my sisters and I were in full-time school.

My impression of the time was that we didn't have a lot of money, but were more than adequately provided for. We had a Nintendo system and a piano. My mom did try to get us to take up piano and violin. She wanted her daughters to grow up cultured, knowing classical music and reading books. But with her long working hours, Mom didn't have all the energy and enthusiasm Chua had. She certainly didn't stand over us and make us play until we cried or chewed on the piano keys.

Piano and violin lessons petered out after a couple of months. The truth was, none of us had the patience or the passion, and I think Mom realized we wouldn't work at anything we didn't love. We were bright, energetic, and impatient to learn more and move on: not ideal candidates for the strict Suzuki methods our teacher ascribed to.

The "Chinese" method of parenting came mostly in our academic studies. I would get 99% on my tests and still Mom and Dad would demand, "Where's the other 1%?" Part of me was always hurt by that question, but another part of me knew they were kidding. Mostly. Still, I strove for that perfect 100% and was always disappointed when I made that one error. Frustrated though I was, I never fought the system, never told them how irritating it was to be asked why I wasn't perfect. Maybe that's why being a writer suits me—because I'm used to criticism. 8 P

Reading Chua's account opened my eyes only a little. Living in a Western society where every after-school special hammers home the idea that your parents love you unconditionally has allowed me to believe that is, in fact, the case. I know my parents love me because they haven't abandoned me at an orphanage. And though they never told me they were proud of me, though we do not hug or phone each other just to talk every week, I know they love me, and I love them.

Chua loves her daughters, and they love and respect her and what she did for them. That much is clear in the book. But I'm not sure the same can be said for all Chinese-raised kids and their parents.



It's been way too long since I've reviewed anything, so I'm going to throw a bunch on short summaries on some stuff I've read and watched lately.


Green Lantern

As much as I love Ryan Reynolds's abs and smile, this movie was terrible. Bad dialogue, shallow characterization...I just didn't know what to make of this film. I'm guessing there's more on the cutting room floor that might make it more palatable, but I can't recommend it...unless you want to have a drinking game where you take a shot every time you see Ryan Reynolds's dimples.

Captain America

On the superhero kick leading up to next year's Avengers, this origin movie featuring Nazis, little guys becoming big guys, and muscles doesn't get much better. Try not to think about the logic or physics, and you're going to have a lot of fun. Great performances by all, and Tommy Lee Jones steals the show.

Horrible Bosses

I barely remember what this movie was about. Revenge on bad bosses, hijinx go wrong...and that's about it. I think I laughed at a couple of places; it was fairly predictable, but a good rental. Or download for a quiet night in.


The Hunger Games trilogy
by Suzanne Collins

Fast-paced action, clean and simple but engrossing writing, terrific characters...I don't know why you haven't yet read these books. The Hunger Games (book 1) remains my favorite of the three, but the series holds up well as a full story. I'm looking forward with cautious optimism to the movie, slated for March 2012.

Tangled Past
by Leah Braemel

I read Leah's first in this series, Texas Tangle, and this prequel holds up well. It's a Wild West frontier threesome, with a great story and steamy hot sex. Fun times!


WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! So happy and relieved! For the uninitiated, RT Book Reviews is like the Publishers Weekly for category series romance. Here's the content of the review:

HER SON’S HERO (4) by Vicki Essex: Fiona MacAvery reluctantly agrees to let martial arts fighter Dominic Payette give her young son Sean lessons, as the boy is being bullied by kids from school. Fiona is instantly attracted to Dom, but is afraid that Dom won’t be a good influence on Sean. Dom is dealing with his own ghosts in the form of another MMA fighter who’s been in a coma since his last fight with Dom. Dom’s guilt and Fiona’s indecision are both well drawn, and the sexual tension is instantly apparent.

Reviewed By: Alexandra Kay

Also, June 1 marks the soft release (immature giggling here) of Her Son's Hero, available immediately as an Adobe ePUB ebook on the Harlequin site, or for early shipment before its July release date (if you're in Canada, keep a possible postal strike in mind).

You can get the ebook here:

And you can order the book off the Harlequin sight here:

It's available as a large print book, as well.


Sh*t My Dad Says (book)

by Justin Halpern
The story goes like this: Justin Halpern got dumped by his girlfriend and had to move back in with his parents at the age of 28. While working from home, he compiled the things his retired father said to him and started a Twitter feed called @shitmydadsays. Since then, the younger Halpern has gained more than 1.5 million Twitter followers, been given a TV series based on his work, and has become a New York Times bestselling author.
Sh*t My Dad Says a small book, but it's packed with the kind of wisdom only fathers seem capable of dispensing--often crusty, sometimes bitter, occasionally dirty, but right at the core message. It's a little like getting a handful of Reece's Pieces out of a 25-cent vending machine and discovering they're all stale, but you find a peanut mixed in your handful, so it's totally worth it (unless you're allergic, in which case you're screwed.)
The anecdotes from Justin's childhood are at once hilarious, ridiculous, offensive and touching. It's a book you can pull out at parties after a few drinks to share with friends. S*it My Dad Says is as unique and outrageous as our own fathers and their pearls of wisdom.
Even now, I recall my own father's bits of wisdom passed to me over the years. I remember I was transferring out of the high school I'd enrolled in because it wasn't a "right fit" after only 2 weeks in grade 9. I'd been terrified he'd be disappointed in me for not sticking it out. "It doesn't matter where you go to school," he said evenly, driving me to my last day, "whether it's in this school, another school, or in the toilet."
If you think that's funny, make sure to read page 5 on Justin's First Day of Kindergarten.

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Note: I'm applying a 5-point V system to my reviews from now on. Because it's cool!

Texas Tangle by Leah Braemel

Ebook published by Carina Press
Description via Carina Press website:

Thanks to her cheating ex-husband and her thieving brother, all horse breeder Nikki Kimball has left is a bruised heart, an overdrawn bank account and an empty home. When sex-on-legs Dillon Barnett and his brooding foster-brother Brett Anderson start showing more than just neighborly attention, Nikki is intrigued...and a little gun-shy.

Dillon and Brett have a history; back in high school, the two friends fought a bitter battle over Nikki. Now, ten years later, Brett still longs to be the man in Nikki's life, but he's determined to stand back and let Dillon win Nikki's heart.

Society says Nikki must choose between the two men she loves. Is Nikki strong enough to break all the rules in order to find happiness?

There's something about a threesome that both terrifies and intrigues me. Apart from the physical logistics of such an encounter, whether it's M-F-M, F-M-F or any iteration, straight or gay, as a writer, I am somehow incapable of wrapping my head around the emotional dynamic that must exist for such a relationship to work. In trying to put myself in the heroine's shoes, all I can think is: "Oh, God, what do I... Where do I... How are we...I mean, does that go there...? And who does the laundry?" Sweat, tears, and recriminations may ensue.
That's the beauty of Leah Braemel's Texas Tangle. This story not only gives the reader a scorchingly erotic ride, but it also beautifully captures the all-encompassing love and respect the two heroes and the heroine have for each other. There's never any doubt in the reader's mind that they all want the best for each other, and that they respect each other too much to step on one another's toes. Which is what makes their ultimate act feel absolutely real and devastatingly conflicted without any of the squick.
Written with lots of humor, heart-wrenching betrayal and plenty of heat, Leah Braemel sweeps the reader from drama to delight page to page. Cowboys, family troubles, small-town settings...this book has it all. A great read for anyone who has never read a menage romance, and for anyone who has!

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

Like Raybourn's Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary and Silent on the Moor, TDTF features strong and interesting characters, a likable heroine, an intense, mysterious and brooding hero, and an irresistible Victorian setting with a deliciously Gothic flavor. This book reminds us all of the origins of the current vampire craze and the chill it should bring...without sparkles. If you enjoyed Raybourn's other works, you're sure to like this one.
Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

The first in a new YA trilogy set in Snyder's fantasy world of Sitia, Storm Glass follows the trials and tribulations of Opal, a glass-making magician whose hang ups about being a "one hit wonder" are almost as destructive and thwarting as the bad guys she keeps clashing with. I found it hard to read this book without comparing it to the award-winning Poison Study, Snyder's first work in the worlds of Sitia and Ixia. Though it took me a while to get to like Opal (I couldn't put my finger on why until a character actually pointed her flaws out) the plot carried me along, driving me from location to location in the company of a few interesting fellows. A light but meaty read for lovers of YA fantasy.
Ponyo (film) by Hayao Miyazaki

The latest offering from one of my favorite artists and animators is true to Miyazaki's spirit of innocence. It goes back to Studio Ghibli's tradition of blending mundane suburban/rural Japanese life with childhood fantasy. Similar to My Neighbor Totoro, we follow the adventures of a five-year-old boy named Sasuke and his enduring innocent love for a magical goldfish, Ponyo, who escapes from her magician father to live among humans. While it is loosely based on the Little Mermaid tale, this film is infinitely more child-friendly. Adults won't be treated to the visual and dramatic treat that Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away were--in fact, the animation and art seems to have been deliberately toned down with more primary colors and smoother textures. But if you can allow yourself to remember what it was like to be a kid with dreams, to accept reality for the grand adventure it can be, then Ponyo won't disappoint.