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review 2018-04-20 15:07
The Good Women of China / Xinran
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices - Xinran

When Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to “open up” China took root in the late 1980s, Xinran recognized an invaluable opportunity. As an employee for the state radio system, she had long wanted to help improve the lives of Chinese women. But when she was given clearance to host a radio call-in show, she barely anticipated the enthusiasm it would quickly generate. Operating within the constraints imposed by government censors, “Words on the Night Breeze” sparked a tremendous outpouring, and the hours of tape on her answering machines were soon filled every night. Whether angry or muted, posing questions or simply relating experiences, these anonymous women bore witness to decades of civil strife, and of halting attempts at self-understanding in a painfully restrictive society. In this collection, by turns heartrending and inspiring, Xinran brings us the stories that affected her most, and offers a graphically detailed, altogether unprecedented work of oral history.

 

This is a heartbreaking book which I would never have picked up except I was looking for an X author for my Women Authors A-Z reading challenge this year. I never know how to rate books like these because it’s important to know about the situations in countries other than our own, but I always feel helpless and angry when I know that women are having such frightful difficulties.

I have to bear in mind that this book was published in 2002 originally, the author having moving from China to England in order to be free to do such a thing. A lot can and probably has changed in 16 years, plus many of the stories related in this book are from earlier years yet.

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) seems to have disrupted relations between men and women and the nature of family relationships to an extreme. Survival was top of mind for everyone and each did what they had to. Xinran reveals the painful stories told to her by Chinese women—of having children horribly injured, daughters gang raped, husbands treating them like servants (or livestock), work denied, promotions skipped over, you name it.

As China seems to be heading into another iteration of their authoritarian regime, there will undoubtedly be more issues for women. I hope there is still someone like Xinran to listen to women’s voices and to articulate what they are able to (Xinran herself had to walk a fine line so as not to offend the Communist Party).

In the era of the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns here in North America, we have to hope that our sisters on other continents are able to achieve some gains as well.

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review 2018-04-17 00:36
Review of Women and Power by Mary Beard
Women & Power: A Manifesto - Mary Beard

This book is a simple collection of two speeches that historian Mary Beard gave on Women and Power.  the lectures look at how the role of women in positions of power have been viewed beginning in ancient times with parallels that can still be seen today.  I think this is a very important book for all people to read, and my only regret is that she did not take her themes and expand them into a full book.  However, I understand that is not the point.  With that said, it does make me want to read more in this area and it does give me a new perspective when thinking about the role of women in history.

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review 2018-04-15 00:07
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has a plan: she's going to attend Insomnia Con and win the grand prize with her app idea, and then she's going to go to Stanford and become an amazing web developer like her idol, Jenny Lindt. She has no desire to get married, despite her parents' wish that she find herself the Ideal Indian Husband.

Rishi Patel is looking forward to meeting his future wife, Dimple Shah, at Insomnia Con. Both his parents and her parents think it's a good match, and Rishi is a devoted son who genuinely likes the idea of an arranged marriage. He has romantic visions of his marriage working out just as wonderfully as his parents' marriage. Sure, his mom beat his dad with an umbrella when they first met because he'd taken her seat on the bus, but they'd eventually fallen in love. Unfortunately, what Rishi doesn't realize is that no one has told Dimple about him.

Oh, this was lovely. So cute and fun.

The scene pictured on the back of the book (at least on my hardcover copy) really does happen. It's Dimple and Rishi's first meeting. Rishi, overly excited about meeting Dimple and thinking she already knew who he was and that he'd be at Insomnia Con too, introduced himself by saying "Hello, future wife. I can't wait to get started on the rest of our lives!" (25) Dimple responded by flinging her iced coffee at him.

Things went better than I expected after that. Rather than being angry at Rishi, Dimple was more upset at her parents for arranging a marriage for her behind her back. She was sympathetic towards Rishi - she saw him as another victim of her parents' decision not to tell her what was going on.

For the most part, Dimple and Rishi were great together and balanced each other out pretty well. They got along amazingly well considering their first meeting, and although Rishi wasn't as into web development as Dimple was, he worked hard on their project because he knew it was important to her. He also kept Dimple from immersing herself so much in her work that she forgot to enjoy herself.

Rishi loved being around Dimple and seeing her excitement as she worked on her app. If I had one complaint about him, it was that, when he first started hanging out with her, it felt a little like he was waiting for an opportunity to convince her to be his future wife. However, that gradually changed into him just wanting to be around her.

It would have been nice to have seen Dimple and Rishi interacting with a greater number of decent Insomnia Con attendees. Unfortunately, most of their on-page interactions were with attendees who said gross things to Dimple or who were otherwise rude. Celia, Dimple's new friend and roommate, became friends with that group, not realizing how horrible they'd been to Dimple, and I was worried she'd morph into Dimple's enemy, leaving Dimple with no friends except Rishi. Thankfully that wasn't the case.

There was a bit more drama near the end than I expected, and I had some issues with the way one particular thing Dimple did was resolved. She had good intentions but acted without Rishi's consent, and when he found out about it and things blew up, she had the gall to call him a coward. I felt that things went a bit too smoothly and easily for her at the end. That said, this was an excellent book overall and just as fun as the cover made it look.

Additional Comments:

The book references a few Bollywood movies, which I wrote down in the hope that I could then give them a go via Netflix. The only one mentioned that I'd seen was Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which I wholeheartedly recommend. Unfortunately, it's no longer in Netflix's catalog, at least in the US. In fact, it looks like the only movie mentioned in the book that's still available is Krrsh.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2018-04-12 19:19
TBR Thursday
Heir to the Empire - Timothy Zahn
Just One Damned Thing After Another - Jodi Taylor
Unbuttoned : a History of Mackenzie King's Secret Life - Christopher Dummitt
The Dirty Book Club - Lisi Harrison
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami,Alfred Birnbaum
Lion in the Valley - Elizabeth Peters
Magic's Price - Mercedes Lackey
Smilla's Sense of Snow - Peter Høeg,Tiina Nunnally
Tithe - Holly Black
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices - Xinran

My TBR pile has got a bit out of control!!

 

First ones due at the library are Heir to the Empire, Just One Damned Thing After Another, and Unbuttoned.  There are also holds on Smilla's Sense of Snow and Tithe, but those dates are further away.  Plus The Good Women of China is an interlibrary loan, so I will have to pay attention to it.

 

Heir to the Empire, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and Magic's Price are all part of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project, which I am enjoying getting back into.

 

My guilty pleasures are Lion in the Valley (Amelia Peacock, I want to see what you're doing in Egypt this time) and Tithe (Holly Black's world of the Fae is calling to me).  But neither of them will count towards any of my reading challenges for 2018.

 

My other task for this weekend is to take a load of books to the used book store to trade and to sort out books to donate to the Calgary Reads Book Sale which will happen in May.  I've got to find some boxes that I can part with to pack, too.  (And then in May I'll attend the book sale and undo some of the good that I have done for my bookshelves).

 

I've also got to bake something to go to brunch on Sunday--I'll probably either make a tried-and-true Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread (http://www.lazyglutenfree.com/2013/06/gluten-free-cinnamon-swirl-banana-bread.html) or I'll try an experimental Pumpkin Pie Crumble (https://www.calgarycoop.com/cooking/pumpkin-pie-crumble). 

 

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-11 18:33
Anger Management
Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith,Robert Glenister

Soooo ... turns out I listened to book 3 almost straight on the heels of book 2 after all, because I've had some fairly major anger and sadness issues to go through lately, and nothing helps in that process like a really dark-hued book, right?

 

As a matter of fact, it turns out that yours truly wasn't the only person in need of some healthy dose of anger management here.  I knew going in that this is a serial killer novel (that much is clear from page one); actually, though, the person ultimately revealed as the killer is only one of several seriously sick and violent bastards, all of whom have a major personal gripe with Strike and therefore pretty much auto-suggest themselves as suspects -- I mean, who other than someone pretty obviously out to make Strike's (and Robin's) lives hell would send them body parts and go stalking Robin, intent on ultimately killing her, too?  (No spoiler here btw.; this, too, is obivous right from the beginning.)

 

But speaking of Robin, in this installment she is having to deal with some pretty substantial anger management of her own in turn, and she's unfortunately not doing all that brilliantly ... in fact, for the better part of the novel she's behaving more like a sulking teenager than like a grown up woman.  We learn a lot about her background here, and about the reasons why she gave up university and kept on clinging to Matthew, her boyfriend of nine years, despite his obvious dislike of her work as Strike's assistant -- and up to a point I can empathize with her insecurities

(she's a rape victim and developed agoraphobia as a consequence, which it took her a full year to overcome and even so much as venture out again at all).

(spoiler show)

  However, I have decidedly more of a problem empathizing with her for throwing a major fit every time Strike doesn't go to the end of the world to treat her as a full-fledged partner -- and for her coming within an inch of fatally jeopardizing both her own and Strike's lives, not to mention his work, on several separate occasions as a result; not least towards the very end.  For an army / MP veteran with 15+ years of experience on the job as an investigator to accord that kind of equality to an untrained temp secretary who'd started in his office barely over a year earlier would be a ludicrous expectation under any circumstances, but even more so after she had repeatedly failed to follow his orders, thinking (wrongly) that she knew better, with disastrous consequences every single time. And no, Robin, you don't get to chalk that one up to your experience in university, horrific as it doubtless was.  Because this isn't a matter of anyone denying you your basic, inviolate human dignity -- it's a matter of (un)realistic expectations, plain and simple; and if you did have even the most marginal claim to the position to which you aspire on the job, this would be the first thing you'd realize.  I don't doubt that your experience created major insecurity issues, but if those are truly still overwhelming to this degree, Strike is even more justified than he is, anyway, on the basis of your lack of training and repeated misconduct, in not treating you as an equal partner.  For him to be able to do that -- and trust you with the blind assurance that true partnership in a dangerous job such as the pursuit of violent criminals would have to entail -- you would have had to demonstrate that such trust on his part would be justified.  You, however, have demonstrated the precise opposite.

And I can empathize even less with Robin for her petty bit of revenge on Strike at the very end, getting married to Matthew after all -- not because she's determined she really loves him and he is the man in her life now and forever, but simply to get back at Strike for sacking her ... for what had been her most blatant act of stupidity and professional misconduct yet.  I hope by the time we get to the beginning of the next book, which it turns out is due to be published sometime soon now, she's got a grip on herself.  And if her marriage had gone to hell in a handbasket in the interim, I wouldn't feel particularly sorry for her -- you don't marry for revenge, period.  Even less so a guy who you've realized is the wrong guy for you to begin with and to whom you're only clinging for sentimental reasons now (as you're very well aware, too).

(spoiler show)

So anyway, minus one star for Robin's temper tantrums, but full marks, as always, for the writing and for Strike's character development -- as well as for introducing us to a guy named Shanker, who I very much hope is going to make a reappearance or two in the future.  The serial killer plot isn't of the ingenious, never-seen-before-new variety, but more than merely competently executed, and I've also had quite a bit of fun touring Northern England and the Scottish borderland with Strike (and, in part, Robin) on the hunt for the killer.

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