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review 2014-05-15 18:56
Nice listen
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China - Jung Chang

The audio performance of this book is truly good.

                The Dowager Empress Cixi – power hungry witch or misunderstood woman.

            Chang goes with misunderstood.

            This biography of the Dowager Empress at times borders on hagiography.  At times, it almost feels like Chang wants to make the Dowager more sinned against than sinning.  But then, also she isn’t frightened to call a murderer a murderer.

            There is much political debate and maneuvering in this biography.  It is unclear whether or not Chang’s contention of the Empress as a reformer is totally on target.  But there is a good point about the bad press.   The connections between modern history and education were interesting.

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text 2014-05-13 13:46
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China - Jung Chang

I don't know very much about Chinese history, so I have a question.  One reviewer of this book got upset because Chang uses the term tael to indicate a monetary value (50 taels or something).  The reviewer noted that a tael is a unit of weight.I should note that this is a reader/reviewer and no established publishing review (ie New Yorker) has pointed out such a mistake.


However, the looking I've done (and I'm not citing Wikipedia here) states that until 1933 a tael was used as a monetary standard.  One tael equaled about 1.3 oz of silver.  This was because China did not have a set currency.  So when Chang says something like - the worth was 50 taels  - is she wording it in the correct way?


Just checking.  I understand the desire to catch a writer in a mistake - but if Chang is using the word correctly, it isn't a mistake.  So is she using the word correctly?  She seems to be from what I can find.

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review 2014-05-06 18:56
Good follow up to Times article
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan - Jenny Nordberg

Disclaimer: ARC read via Netgalley.  ARC did not have pictures.


                I requested this book because I read Nordberg’s original piece for the New York Times.

                In certain parts of the world, Afghanistan only being one, there is a strong emphasis put on the importance of sons.  A woman’s only duty is to give birth to sons, or mostly sons.   Women in these cultures are usually seen as less important, less valuable.  However, there is a tradition, as Nordberg discovered, of taking a girl and transforming her into a boy, at least, in some cases, until puberty or it is time for her to marry.  This type of girl is called a bacha posh.

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review 2014-04-26 20:43
Wonders of the World Series
The Forbidden City (Wonders of the World) - Geremie R. Barme

This book is packed with information about the Forbidden City.  It is not told in a linear fashion, but that’s why I found it charming.

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review 2014-02-20 15:49
So the critics got it right
Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China - Paul French

Sometimes you read a book and wonder why the hell it won all the acclaim listed on the cover.

                This is not one of those books.


French’s work details the investigation of a murder of a young English in Peking just before the onslaught of the Japanese.  To say that the book is engrossing would be an understatement, and to say that the whole book is engrossing would also be wrong.


     It does start off very slow but picks up around page 40.


      French keeps the reader’s attention because he plays with the ideas of guilt and innocene.  In many ways, the reader is like a third investigator in the case or perhaps the jury while French is the advocate.


            Either way it is a thrilling ride.

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