Book review: American Accent Training

Many (including native English speakers and other non-Chinese speakers) people have asked me how I managed to acquire such a heavy American accent, despite the fact that I’ve never been to any English-speaking countries. Furthermore, numerous ESL learners and even some native speakers (Americans included) thought I was an ABC (American-born Chinese), until I told them otherwise. Well, this book is the answer. It was very helpful during my early years of studying how to speak “the American way.” It goes without saying that consistent, frequent practice and actual application (i.e. by conversing with Americans) are essential for your pursuit of the otherwise elusive American accent (that is, if you weren’t born and raised in the States). Trivia: Back when I was dating an American girl, she insisted that I must have stayed in the USA for a long time and that I simply had memory loss. Like I said earlier, I’ve never been to the States to this day. If I could make it, you can, too. Trust me, you CAN change your accent, provided that you’re committed enough and that you do your practice regularly for a considerable amount of time. Fake it until you make it.

To conclude, I can’t praise this masterpiece enough. Ann Cook surely knows what she’s talking about. If American accent (by which I mean the so-called “standard American accent” commonly heard in public broadcasts such as NPR and among educated Americans) is what you’re aiming for, you do not want to miss this book.

It’s not a hyperbole to call it the Holy Grail of American accent. Period.

I finished reading this book sometime around 2012-2013, so this book review is long overdue!


Book review: Barbarian at the Gate: From the American Suburbs to the Taiwanese Army

As an R.O.C. citizen who just finished his national service (though it only lasted for a year), I can relate to the stories and tales in this book. I am not sure if I’d do the same if I were in his shoes, i.e., renouncing much-coveted American citizenship in exchange for R.O.C citizenship whose country is not officially recognized by most of the members in the international community. That said, I enjoyed the book from cover to cover, feeling like I was also being yelled at by the master sergeants and given all the raw deal along the way as I flipped through it. Indeed, I did get roughly the same “treatment” as the author did in the army, and that in a way only manifests an important point he’d been seeking :being treated like anyone else, not left alone.

I am glad he found a sense of belonging to the place where I was born and raised, for I feel the same for her.

For foreigners wanting to know more about Taiwan, aka Formosa, you don’t want to miss this book.

Book review: 1984

Not too bad. This was a very inspiring book but its character development wasn’t as good as I had expected……The torture part was very disturbing and honestly I didn’t quite enjoy it. I flinched as I flipped through the pages.

Having said that, this is a legendary work that powerfully warns us not to take our hard-earned freedom for granted.

Book review: The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr.

Loved it. The book offers a great deal of tips on how to write succinctly and beautifully. It’s something worth pursuing however difficult it may be. I’ll keep it at hand as a reliable and handy reference book.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s keen on writing in the English language elegantly.

Book review: Dictionary of American Idioms (Barron’s Dictionary of American Idioms)

Some slang is quite interesting, but I found some to be offensive without being attached with a disclaimer whatsoever. For example, “for a coon’s age” meaning “for a long time” is covered among other slang expressions in the book. However, I was told by an African-American friend of mine that the word “coon” is offensive and is better avoided altogether.

Book review: Word Power Made Easy

Well organized and extremely helpful for anyone wanting to expand his vocabulary. It goes without saying that studying etymology of English words will efficiently boost one’s vocabulary, though it can’t be achieved with constant and extensive reading. That said, knowing a thing or two about etymology is arguably the most efficient way to expand one’s linguistic pocket.

Highly recommended!

Book review: Thinking, Fast and Slow

I thought it was quite inspirational. Knowing that there are such conceptual two systems in our brains counterbalancing one another is insightful to say the least. We often think we’re rational beings, only to realize that our acts have been driven by our irrational/impulsive selves most of the time. That said, having read this book, I know more about myself and about humans for that matter than I did before.

I recommend it.

Book review: Beyond the Chocolate War

Having enjoyed The Chocolate War, I couldn’t help but want to read more books Rober Cormier has written, whose writing is certainly top-notch. Though the plot of this sequence is very similar to that of its predecessor, this book nevertheless had me on the edge of my seat, as if I had been one of the characters, suffered, smothered, and hung in suspension as the story unfolded. What impressed me most was his delicate use of similes as well as metaphors.

Beautiful yet though-provoking writing.

Book review: The Chocolate War

It’s the first so-called “dark book” I’ve ever read. I liked the character development and the vivid writing of the author, making me feel as if I had lived in the story, shocked by the malicious plots and held anxious with the twists and turns along the way.

In short, I enjoyed the book, though the ending left me somehow depressed and wistful. One that reveals the evil human nature and almost always tough reality. Having said that, I suppose that’s just cruel reality that we ought to face, like it or lump it. I am looking forward to its sequence, After the Chocolate War.

Book review: Not SARS Just SEX

When I picked it up from the shelf in the living room of my shared apt, I didn’t exactly expect to get a whole lot from this book. The ownership of this book still remains to be a mystery, which somehow made this book more intriguing to me. Most of the content being trivial personal anecdotes notwithstanding, I’d still managed to extract some valuable stuff from this read, which was that it’s not customarily in the American culture to knock on the door when somebody else is doing his or her business in the bathroom. It was to some extent a culture shock to me as knocking on the door to see if any given restroom is occupied has long been practiced (I don’t even know when we started doing that) in Taiwan, and Japan for that matter. It might strike us as being rude when somebody outside the john is trying out the doorknob instead of knocking while we happen to be taking a dump/piss (sorry about the language) in there. The expected response to the knocking is to knock back to indicate your presence on the other side of the door. It’s a case in point where innocent cultural differences can make otherwise deep-rooted customs eccentric or even rude, as in this particular case. Okay, that was a bit off-topic.

I’d say folks who have extra time to spend and have been meaning to come to this island for the very first time might want to have a casual read of this book, as far as living it up in Taipei is concerned, which I suppose is rather self-explanatory given the title.