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review 2017-05-25 12:25
A Golden Age ★★★☆☆
A Golden Age - Tahmima Anam

All in all, this book was just okay-to-good. It tells the story of an apolitical widow who is caught up in the 1971 Bangledesh War of Independence, and of her reluctant contributions as her son and daughter join the resistance. And it really is her story, as the author shows us her grief and fear and longing, but once war begins, we are kept removed from events and even, to some extent, from the emotions. Still, the story is populated with refugees and soldiers and citizens who must choose where their loyalties lie, so it kept my interest through the end.

 

Hardcover version, which I picked up as a discard from a Friends of the Library sale. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Adventureland 24: Take the Jungle Cruise. Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover. This book fits because it is set in East Pakistan, in Asia.  

 

Previous Updates:

5/13/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1562356/a-golden-age-progress-7-276-pg

 

5/20/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564032/a-golden-age-progress-17-276-pg

 

5/20/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564145/a-golden-age-34-276-pages

5/21/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564253/a-golden-age-77-276-pages

 

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review 2017-05-22 03:37
The Sacred Willow by Duong Van Mai Elliott
The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family - Duong Van Mai Elliott

This book would make fantastic supplemental reading for a course on Vietnamese history. The author chronicles more than a hundred years of the country’s recent past, using her family’s experiences as a focal point. It begins in the mid 19th century, when several of her male ancestors served as mandarins in a society that revered educational attainments; moves on to French colonialism and Japanese occupation during WWII; then to the Viet Minh struggle for independence, which doesn’t seem to truly divide the family despite their winding up on all sides of the conflict – the author’s father serves as a high-ranking official under the French while her oldest sister and brother-in-law join the rebels in the mountains, and her uncle, a wealthy landowner, puts his resources at the Viet Minh’s disposal. Then it traces the American intervention and the dramatic days of the communists’ takeover of South Vietnam, before ending with Vietnam’s struggles as an independent country.

It’s a lot to pack into 475 pages, and the author balances the story of her family with a broader historical perspective. The history appears well-researched, and based on her bibliography, draws heavily on Vietnamese as well as English-language sources. It also seems balanced; at times, when family members’ paths during the war diverge sharply, we get separate chapters covering the same events from different perspectives, and the author doesn’t seem to be advocating for either one over the other. Though the author’s parents threw in their lot with the French and later South Vietnam, she – like many Vietnamese – seems to respect the communists’ commitment, and while the American intervention was a short-term boon for middle-class families like hers, she ultimately seems to conclude that the communist victory was both inevitable and not as awful as propaganda had led the South Vietnamese to expect.

The book’s biggest weakness is that it is rather dry, much more focused on facts than building a dramatic narrative. Though it is in part a memoir, we learn little about the author herself; she tends to relate the facts of a situation with perhaps a bald statement of her feelings, but without developing any of the emotional detail that might allow readers to experience the story along with her. There are exceptions, though; her account of the dramatic last days before the fall of Saigon (through the eyes of several family members) is downright gripping.

Overall, I’d recommend this book, but more for educational purposes than entertainment. It is a strong answer to the rest of English-language literature about Vietnam, which tends to be from an American perspective and focused exclusively on the war.

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review 2017-05-20 05:46
Infected: Life After Death (Infected #3)
Infected: Life After Death - Andrea Speed

Aw, poor Roan. :(

 

There were a lot of heartfelt and bittersweet moments in this installment, which again gives us two books in one. Roan's mourning has been significant, and while he's now back in the land of the living, he's still not yet finished mourning. His depression has also hit an all-time low, even with friends and a possible new love interest making sure he doesn't retreat back into himself. 

 

The characters continue to be the strong point of this series. Paris still has a presence here, especially in Book 1, and his wish to see Roan looked after is very much fulfilled. We get to meet a couple of new characters also, including the hilarious dominatrix Fiona and the complex hustler Holden. And of course, there's Dylan, who understands Roan in a way few others can. He's also loved and lost, and he offers an ear and friendship when Roan needs it most. 

 

 

The cases in Book 1 aren't as involved, and one even gets dropped, though there's a note at the very end briefly explaining it's outcome. Book 2 brings back the political unrest of the first book, along with Eli, and the new cases here are a bit more involved. It's suiting to Roan's moods as the book progresses that the cases get more complex, but they're still not quite at the level I'm used to expecting.

 

I still wish Ms. Speed would delve more into the hows and whys of the virus. We get a teensy bit more here, but not much. It's still unknown how the virus started (but come on, there have to be conspiracy theories) or how it really works, or why Roan's case is so vastly different from every other infected. I'm getting a little better at rolling with all this shifter business, though I am worried Roan's going to give himself throat cancer or something if he keeps tearing up his larynx like that. The shifter stuff is interesting, I suppose, though I'll never respond in a "ooh-la-la" way to it. I mean, I love my cats. I just don't loooove my cats. ;)

 

The ending of Book 2 was rather rushed. The final chapter was definitely epiloguey in the way it wrapped everything up. I'm greedy when I'm enjoying the world I'm in. Don't sum up; show me everything! The big talk between Roan and Dylan is completely skipped and barely even glossed over. I wanted to see that. That's a very important step not just for Roan moving on with his life but for Roan and Dylan figuring out their fledgling relationship. Why would you skip that?

 

There were a few continuity errors - such as Book 2 being noted as being "one month later" after Book 1, but then it's said Roan hasn't seen Matt in a year. No, it's been a month. There are also several mentions of Roan's funky bedsheets in Book 1, which even get bloodied at one point, and Roan keeps thinking about washing them, but who knows when he ever does. They're little things, but they bugged me. A good content editor should've pointed those things out. (And since we find out later Roan had just gone through a transition cycle four days before the start of this book, there's no reason for his sheets to be funky at all - at least not until Roan gets into bed all bloody and gross. He was in a cage every night for at least three nights in a row. No one thought to do some laundry? Epic fail, guys. At least spritz some Fabreeze, geez.)

 

I don't recall if I already mentioned Ms. Speed's used of parentheticals. I love parentheses, so that doesn't bother me. What did start to annoy me was the use of (?) and (!) throughout the text. It started to feel like the author wanted to nudge the reader toward certain emotional responses. And in one case, the transexual prostitute, who we learn a great deal about but never actually meet, the use of (?) after her name was ... I'm not sure what it was. At first I thought it was supposed to indicate that Roan wasn't sure it was actually her, even though he identified her immediately in the previous paragraph. But as I read on and she was mentioned again later, I started to feel a transphobic vibe from the text. It was very odd. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, at least for now, and assume clumsy exposition. 

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review 2017-05-20 04:05
Going Postal (Audiobook)
Going Postal - Terry Pratchett

I know these are all supposed to be (supposedly) stand-alones, but I still get the feeling at times that I'm missing things by jumping around. Like Moist Van Lipwig. It felt like I should know who he was at the start of this, even though this is listed as the first Moist Van Lipwig book. True, anything relevant to this book was stated up front, but that niggling feeling that there was more backstory than the book was giving me didn't quite go away. Maybe it's just the completist in me. *shrug*

 

Anyway, the idea of the post office as a sort of purgatory was great. And not just any post office, but the dead mail post office. Full of mail from literally everywhere and everywhen. This has all the typical Pratchett humor and wit, and the little observations about the idiosyncrasies of our own world that get leaked into Discworld to warped proportions. 

 

Moist, a conman in his former life, learns to put his skills to better use and even rights some wrongs - though not all of those wrongs were his. I really enjoy the way Pratchett does character development here. Moist clearly has things to learn, and does learn them, but not at the expense of who he is but through learning to use his powers for good instead of selfishness. Plus, it's just fun. :D

 

I was hoping for a guest appearance from DEATH, but sadly he never showed up. Oh, well, maybe the next book. :)

 

The narrator, Stephen Briggs, was perfect for this story and captures the whimsy of the characters and settings very well. 

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review 2017-05-19 21:50
The Devil in Spring ★★★☆☆
Devil in Spring (Kleypas) - Lisa Kleypas

This book was a little disappointing, relative to the others in the series. I’m not sure why. The heroine was both strong and adorable, the hero was both strong and sensitive, and I was pleased that the story didn’t stop at the wedding, as so many stories do.

 

But…

 

The heroine’s quirkiness seemed a little cloying. The hero’s willingness to adapt and accept strained my ability to suspend disbelief, even knowing that I have to exercise more determination in this area when I read in this genre. Maybe I’ve just had my fill of Romance (capital R) for now and need to spend some time away from the genre.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Once again, Mary Jane Wells provides an excellent performance.

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