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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 2017-03-11 22:21
this is our house
This Is Our House - Hyewon Yum

this is our house is a story of a house that has seen three generations of one family. It is a sweet story that shows how similar parents' and children's experiences are.

This book received a score of 3.3 on the Flesch-Kincaid reading scale, making it a good book for third grade or above. This would be a good book to use to explain the similarities between generations.

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review 2016-09-04 14:41
Audio Book Review: Alight
Alight: Book Two of the Generations Trilogy - Scott Sigler

*I listened to the free podcast of the audio book.

Em and the birthday children are now on the planet, but can they survive? The food stores are not eatable and there are others here that are a threat to them. But the children also have their own divisions starting which is fueled by the learning of the symbols and what the grown-ups had planned. The grown-ups are also a worry for the kids too.

Yes this is the audio book I listened to but it was done in sections through podcast on Scott Sigler's site. Scott is kind enough to give us a recap of what came to pass in Alive and each previous episode of where we left off. This makes it easier to remember what was happening and how I felt at those events.

Emma returns to narrate the book, which I'm glad because the personality she portrayed for Em in the first book became Em for me. In other words, I've grown attached to her for the characters. Emma does a fabulous job of voicing the personality of all the characters, Em, Bishop's strength, Aramovski's smooth jabs at Em, and so much more for those we've grown close to. I love the emotions Emma brings to Em and all the characters she voices.

The beginning of the book gives us a great rundown of all the events Em has lived through and brings the fresh rush of fear and sorrow through living through it. I really liked this beginning. It's like Em is awakening for the first time again. The kids had to get into coffins in order to land. There is a gas that subdued them for the landing process, so in a way Em is waking again. And she feels all the fear she felt the first time blended with the fears she felt and faced in Alive. This fits so well.

We dive in with a new sight and new world. What Em and the birthday children find is nothing they ever imagined! The planet they were created to live on has been explored already. And it's ready for them. Where I thought Alive was a slower start, this book is the opposite. As they find things that are useful, they find something bad about it or countering it. The kids will all have to find a way to survive. And the comment of Brewer from Alive makes sense to Em now, 'hopefully you can break the mold...'

The first awakened kids are all scared, inside and out. The things they had to do to survive scars them inside and the battles they fought make them unique from those that created them.

I really like Em and how she leads. She knows if she can't face danger, how could she expect others to. Em is a wonderful leader. She's not the smartest in all areas, but she makes the gut decisions needed to keep everyone safe and to survive. That's what it takes in a world like this. She's a natural at this. She also knows when to delegate to those that have the knowledge in different areas.

Em stands for so much more to me than a character in a story. Her whole creation shows that people can be more than others think. You can do more with your own drive and will pushing you. Em has taken her self beyond what she was originally destined to be. Em grows in mental and emotional strength through this book. She does what needs to be done, but I worry about her when it's all said and done. The aftermath is going to break her inside, but sometimes that seems to be the sacrifice that great leaders have to make.

Em has a growing relationship with O'Malley and Bishop as these kids grow and experience feelings. But then there's Aramovsky. Grrr. He is such a thorn in Em's side! But he's so well written, tip of the hat to Scott for a job well done as I really do not like him. I dread each time he opens his mouth.

This is the second book of the trilogy, you will want to read the first book first. We get some answers to things we've been curious to. Yet a whole new struggle for the birthday kids starts. My heart goes out to Em...what she learns and how she tries so hard to do for all.

This book blew me away. For me, it was beyond better than the first book. Maybe I am more aware as to what to expect from Scott's writing coming into this book... But this book has hit way beyond my expectations with twists and turns, reveals, and unexpected events. I did listen to this as a podcast and each and every episode had my full attention. The suspense has gripped my attention in this book along with the action, unknown, and all that we learn here. My heart pounded for the kids I've grown close to. I fear for death and worse, the transfer of the adults to them.

The ending leaves us with finishing the battle to survive on the planet, but there is still worries and stresses. And new threats on the horizon.

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review 2016-08-08 00:00
Alight: Book Two of the Generations Trilogy
Alight: Book Two of the Generations Trilogy - Scott Sigler Decent read. Better than the first in the series. I liked the exploration of the planet and the ancient ruins and buildings. At times it felt like too much time passed in finding food that was not contaminated.
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review 2016-03-16 18:30
The Birthday Children are Back!!...
Alight: Book Two of the Generations Trilogy - Scott Sigler

I was so thrilled to get this ARC, the second book in the Generations Trilogy, from NetGalley & it didn't disappoint! Alight starts off right where the first book, Alive, ended. The birthday children are on the space shuttle heading to the planet Omeyocan, their new home. They're still learning who they are and now they're learning about their new home and how to survive on it, which isn't as easy as they were hoping it would be. They all face many day-to-day challenges especially Em, their group leader, who is expected to make everything o.k.


One of the things I like the most about this series is that you never know what's behind door number three. It's an adventure from start to finish, not only for the birthday children, but for the readers too. It really of reminds me of exploring on a treasure hunt, except what you find behind these doors is not always good. : )


*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Random House Publishing- Del Rey in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



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