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text 2017-11-22 19:04
16 Tasks for the Festive Season --9
1421: The Year China Discovered America (Audio) - Gavin Menzies

Square 2: Book themes for Bon Om Touk: Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river...

 

I love this book!!

 

In 1421, just before a period in their history of isolationism, the Chinese treasure fleet circumnavigated the globe, carefully mapping their progress. Shortly after their return, the emperor had the archives expunged of the now 'unnecessary' information that the fleet had gleaned. 

 

 

1421 is Gavin Menzies attempt to prove that the Chinese had already beaten Columbus and Magellan to the punch --and that in fact, they had used maps that were based on what the Chinese had found out. The tale of how he went about his painstaking research is interwined with what he has learned, and continues to learn, and both are absolutely fascinating. 

 

 

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review 2017-11-13 18:16
Not a Strong Showing by See
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - Lisa See

Trigger warning: descriptions of infanticide 

 

I think that if Lisa See had cut down on some of the historical elements and developed her characters more I would have liked this. I do think that part of the problem was the overly abundant coincidences in this book. And I also think that the ending was written before the beginning. One of my professors used to tell us when we are writing, to not be so focused on the ending, but on the beginning and the middle. The ending was a great gut punch, the middle and ending of this book, not so much.

 

See focuses on the Akha people (the Akha are an indigenous hill tribe who live in small villages at higher elevations in the mountains of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Yunnan Province in China). I bring that up, cause a casual reader may be confused by this (as I was at parts). I felt I had to do a lot of look up words/research while reading this book which I just wasn't in the mind-set to deal with at this time.

 

The main character is Li-yan (FYI I had to go and look that up since her real name is mentioned only maybe twice in the book, she is referred to as Girl [a good 50 plus percent of the book] or Tina [eh maybe 10 percent of the book] throughout the book.

Li-yan is the daughter of the village midwife and is expected to marry well and become a midwife as well. Her life changes though after a strange dream and then meets a young boy at the market.

 

Li-yan starts to see her people as backwards due to their traditions (parts of this story are very grim so be careful with reading this one). Li-yan realizes that she doesn't want to follow in her mother's footsteps and is going to do what she can to get placed in secondary and third schooling so she can be someone outside of her village. She also dreams of marrying a young boy from her school and having lots of children with him.

 

Li-yan's life gets off course though when she has a baby out of wedlock which means the baby should be put to death when born (not a spoiler, in synopsis) when Li-yan goes against tradition, she finds herself living a life outside of her village. 

 

The writing is just okay. I think that other reviewers have noted that there is a lot of historical information in this one and there is. I think that See decided to do what she did with her "Shanghai Girls" books and decided to have a book that covers a lot of historical events. It just loses something I think in this telling when you have a character remarking on something that I don't think in the moment they would find to be momentous. 

 

Also, I have to say, that for how "backwards" the village where Li-yan is shown and their traditions, I had a hard time believing these same people would so willingly part with them.


I also hope you like reading about tea, cause this book includes every little detail about them and I got bored. I love tea! I just don't want to read pages upon pages about how it is picked, smelled, how it should be brewed, etc. 

 

I think that the book starts off pretty slow. We begin with Li-yan relaying a dream to her family and going tea picking. You don't get a good idea of what is even going on for a good 15-20 percent of the story. See jumps around a lot (enjoy that) and goes into 

Li-yan's family, her best friend's family and some (not all) of the villagers. We get historical dumps (that is what I am calling them) throughout the story by Li-yan or other characters. Nothing quite gels together. 

 

I think for me, the moment when I totally lost interest was when Li-yan realizes the man she gave up a lot for is not what she thought. I just had a hard time buying her realization considering she ignored everyone that tried to tell her about him before. 

 

I also hate how we jump over things that I think would have been interesting. 


The book jumps back and forth between Li-yan and her daughter. I think the book would have been stronger if both POVs would have been told in the first person. Instead we get first person POV from Li-yan and just excerpts from Li-yan's daughter via her mother, teachers, and even therapist at one point. I never got a chance to know her and I really didn't feel drawn to her as a character.

 

After the 25th coincidence (kidding, but not really) the book ends. 

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review 2017-10-29 19:31
STARS ABOVE: A Lunar Chronicles Collection (The Lunar Chronicles) - Marissa Meyer

Detailed and insightful background snippets on the main cast and a satisfying look forward into their post-Winter future. Nice supplement to the series, with some moments of emotional catharsis and an astonishing peek behind the world-building scenes.

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review 2017-10-28 16:16
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles) - Marissa Meyer

Meyer does an admirable job of pulling this richly woven tale together. Dystopian take-the-castle efforts compose much of the runtime, with more twists and redirects than forward momentum, and a surprising amount of romance tucked in around the edges. The astonishingly creative and deep description continues, exploring the experiences of mentally ill, disabled and oppressed people, the nature of android and machine interactions with humanity, and political alliances. All the character journeys, relationships, motivations and storylines stream together for a big, if not entirely surprising finish that manages to weave in just one more fairytale retelling for a series already chock full.

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review 2017-10-24 22:34
Cress - Marissa Meyer

Another solid middle entry to the series. The multiple viewpoints feel natural, and the plot twists are thick on the ground. Still top marks for world building and telling details in a uniquely creative setting, touching on subjects such as childhood abuse and isolation as well as the nature of humanity. Romance-y stuff and revolution-y stuff all ramping up for the finale. Engaging read.

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