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review 2018-06-28 09:46
The Hummingbird - Kati Hiekkapelto

A young woman goes out for an evening run. She doesn’t return. Her body is found the next morning. She has been brutally shot. Anna Fekete’s first day on the job as a police detective finds her head first in the investigation. Soon possible leads run dry. But then another body is found and it becomes apparent that Anna’s on a race against time to stop the killer before he or she strikes again.


This is the first in the Anna Fekete series from Kati Hiekkapelto and being someone who likes her crime series I was keen to read this one.


Anna is a complex character. She moved to the country in her youth, escaping the war in the former Yugoslavia she had settled in Finland. Keen to do well she is met with the ultimate obstacle in the form of Esko, her new partner. He is a mysognist, openly racist character who makes her life hell. Others seem to pander to him, or at least excuse his actions. Having learned in the past it is not always best to confront prejudice, Anna internalises the upset Esko causes. I wasn’t always sure I liked Anna. There were times that she came across as a caring, friendly person, eager to repay the country that had taken her in and to help others who needed it. Other times she was rash or acted in a way that I wanted to shout at her and urge her to stick up for herself. However I did feel that Anna’s personality was not fully shown to the reader. There was the impression that the author was holding something back. This makes sense in some ways as it appeals to the reader, encouraging them to want to read more stories featuring Anna Fekete. It was also though slightly frustrating as I felt I couldn’t get a proper handle on her character.


As for Esko I positively hated the man. He racist rants and childish actions offended me and it was these that made me wish Anna would just stand up to him. Again I think the author was holding something back from the reader as to his background as others seemed to excuse his actions as if something in his past warranted them.

There are a whole host of other side characters that add to the story. Virkkunen, Anna’s boss, seems to be slightly kowtowed by Esko, but hovers around in the background as most good fictional bosses do, popping up now and then to cause a headache for the lead character. I liked the interaction between Anna and the coroner and her colleague Sari.


The mystery is engaging. The reader is kept guessing and it wasn’t until shortly before the reveal that I figured out the killer’s identity.


One thing I have noticed as I read more translated fiction is the fact that, for me, the key to a great translation is the fact that I can’t tell it is translated. That’s to say I don’t think twice that the words I am reading are the ones the author intended to be read. For the most part that’s what happened with this book. But every now and then I came across a word or turn of phrase that seemed to jar, it was almost as if the translator had picked the words specifically for a British target audience and I had a little difficulty in thinking that such phrases were in common Finnish usage. They would appear every now and then to remind me I was reading a translated piece of fiction and stay a little while until I was drawn into the story again.


I loved the setting of the novel. Finland is a place I know little about but on reading this it is added to the list of places I want to visit. The insights into Finnish lifestyle was interesting, their attitude to drink for example, or how the shifts in weather and season affect the residents.


Overall I enjoyed the first outing of Anna and Esko. Luckily I have the next book in the series, The Defenceless, waiting on my reading pile so I will turn to that one soon.

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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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text 2017-11-13 17:31
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - Lisa See

Really boring with too many coincidences to be believed. I generally like much of See's work, but this whole book felt off. We rushed through too many events to skip ahead to an unrealistic ending. 

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text 2017-11-12 18:24
Reading progress update: I've read 50%.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - Lisa See

It's an interesting story, but not feeling that engaged with it. The storyline has dragged so far for me.

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review 2017-10-23 13:05
A Hummingbird Christmas (Glacier Creek Book 1) - Karen Foley

A Hummingbird Christmas By Karen Foley Book starts out with Joy and her daughter Piper who have traveled to Glacier Creek, MT to spend time with her dead husbands family. Her husband was a smoke jumper jumping from planes to fight fires, along with his best friend Cole Tanner who she just crashed into on the blizzard road. He drives them to their destination and eases Piper into seeing all the cookies that were made just for her. Joy's job here will be getting everyone to help celebrate this holiday, even though they are down in the dumps that Matt isn't there with them... They also see the hummingbird and Joy says it's a sign from heaven where Matt is. It's winter and they are not known for the cold weather. I have heard the same about cardinals-a sign from heaven. Cole takes them into town for the festivals and Piper is overjoyed. Love hearing from others who live and work in the town, such a welcome and warm community. His secrets do come out but is it what she wants to hear about....she has her own problems and wants to keep them to herself. Like how the parents treat them both and how changes need to come about as they've all been grieving too long. Kind of a predictable story line but the process was good. Like hearing of his and her careers and how they are done, also holiday decorating. Sex and romance are indicated by not expressed. Other works from Tule Publishing are highlighted at the end and an excerpt from Heat by karen Foley is included. Won this in a book contest and this is my honest opinion.

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