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review 2017-07-24 22:43
The Warrior Woman
The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston

In the world of memoirs, this one was a little difficult for me to rate. I was confused for a decent portion of it, not sure whether this was fiction or nonfiction at times. I had chosen it as part of the Read Harder Challenge for this year, task 17: read a classic by a woman of color. I suppose I could have counted Kindred but I didn't realize that it was written in 1979 until I was actually reading it and had already listed this memoir as my option for the challenge. Besides, I prefer using nonfiction for challenges anyway.

That said, I did eventually wander back over to the Goodreads and Amazon pages for this book and get it figured out.

As a whole, the book really was an amazing look into being the first US-born children of Chinese immigrants. There are flavors to the story that are familiar with my own experience of being the first US-born generation in my family too. The stories from where the family is from that don't make quite make sense in the US and the feeling of having lost so much in the migration are things that I grew up with too. I could relate to it without feeling like I already knew what was going to happen.

Here is a little bit about each story:

No Name Woman - this is the story of an aunt of Kingston's who had died back in China. She had been scorned for becoming pregnant while her husband was away and the entire family was forced to deal with the aftermath. Her mother told her of the story as a morality tale but Kingston also offers quite a bit of introspection about what it must have been like to be her aunt and what it must have been like to be a woman in China under those circumstances. She decomposes the story a bit too, rooting through for wholes in her mother's account. Set in China, it is one of the stories that showcase her heritage and the way that heritage can continue to effect even those of us not born in those countries.

White Tigers - this is the one that totally threw me for a loop. It's also written in the introspective memoir style but is actually one of the "talk stories" her mother told her and is delivered in the first person. I was so confused and kept looking at the info to make sure that this was definitely listed as non-fiction. I don't know, maybe I was just not paying an adequate amount of attention to catch it at the time because I hadn't realized from the last story that she wasn't even born in China and the entire story also takes place there. It's a great story and one that I understand her being captivated by, but it isn't her story nor does it appear to be based on one of her ancestors.

Shaman - I think this was my favorite. I love the idea of women making a great situation out of something that begins less than favorable. This takes place before Kingston is born and is about her mother deciding to be a doctor in China while her father is in the US making money. He makes more than enough to send home and for the mom to be comfortable at home, but she wants to do more with the money. Not only can I appreciate that sentiment but the very idea of going back to school after so long and how she becomes a great doctor are intriguing and uplifting.

At the Western Palace - I just love her mother so much. I get how it may have been a little hard to live her sometimes, but I love her attitude about things. My mother was much the same way. Go get what's yours. Don't take an unnecessary amount of crap from people. If life disappoints you, figure it out and move on. This story isn't actually about her mother, it's about an aunt but her mother is the larger image in it. She brings the aunt to the US after her husband never asks her to and then there's a some drama about the husband and the story is told from the point of view of Kingston herself who is just a little too young to really understand what's happening.

She understands, but doesn't grasp the gravity of the situation. She doesn't understand why it's such a big deal for the aunt and why she is so timid and so broken. Still, she gives the reader enough to see it and to feel for her aunt while also giving us a feeling of how alone she must have been with the rest of the family not understanding her. It says a lot about how culture does or does not migrate with the people who come from it.

A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe - finally we get to Kingston's own story. I did appreciate her story being the last once I understood the format because I can also understand the people around her. It would have been like reading the New Testament of the Bible without reading the Old Testament first, or even know what the Ten Commandments were. Her family and the other Chinese around her would have made less sense. I was a little horrified in the scene with the silent girl but kids can be cruel. On the other hand, I loved everything that came after her yelling at her parents to not marry her off. I cracked up at her mother's response to that.

I had looked over some other reviews when I was trying to figure out what was going on and it seems like this is generally a love it or hate it kind of book. I loved each story and would have loved for it to be advertised more as a collection of personal stories or life stories from a single person. It does paint a good overall picture of what the experience can be like to migrate to the US from China in that timeframe. It can be hard to remember what the threat of communism was like then and how countries that were engrossed with it treated their people. I am just old enough to remember seeing coverage of the Berlin Wall going down. I am also the first US born of people who came here to escape the devastating effects of communism. It's hard to explain to the younger generation now just what it meant. For that, I will endlessly appreciate this book and that it appears to have been brought into American literature classes.

Not only is the book about figuring out culture and heritage and what it means to live somewhere that you don't share the heritage, but it's also entirely about relationships among women. It's about her unnamed aunt and society and the ways that she is allowed to be remembered or not. It's about her relationship with her mother, her relationship to other Chinese children, her mother's relationship with both her own sister and her niece, her relationship to the legends of past Chinese women and the hopes of Chinese women contemporary to her.

There is one tiny problem though, and it's pointed out by almost every single person who I saw that didn't like this book. She does have a way of generalizing the Chinese. I get it, though, because I have generalized Cubans. I actually had to be taught to not do it by people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the danger of a single story. I had lumped all Cubans into a single version of the refugee story and that's just grossly untrue. Likewise, Kingston makes it sound like all Chinese do this or that or don't do this or that.

But then again, this was written well before my time. I also recognize that there have been times in the US when it was hard to set a people behind unifying themes and ideas. I recognize that there have been times when it has been necessary to make distinctions that WE are like this and not that. Perhaps that was a part of the intended purposes of all those generalizations. Perhaps, it was important to Kingston to make a claim on what is or can be Chinese vice what is or can be Asian as a whole or vice what is or can be any other group. I don't know.

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review 2017-07-22 16:55
Zodiac
Zodiac - Romina Russell

I'll be honest, I was with this book for about the first three quarters of it. And then it lost me. Actually, I was really enjoying it, despite the typical YA love triangle and a nobody who becomes the last hope of civilization. It's YA, I get it.

(Disclaimer: I LOVE young adult books, but there are those who happen to be coming of age stories but are mature and anyone could love and then there are those that are very specifically written for a teen audience. No judgement, but this is among the second kind.)

Don't get me wrong, the book isn't a total waste. I had originally chosen it for the gorgeous cover and that it's among the few titles with a "Z" in it for Litsy A to Z. It also perfect fit Read Harder's Task 12: Read a fantasy novel. I prefer science fiction over fantasy but this teeters in both so it was going to be a win. It almost was.

For starters, the world building is spectacular and I almost wish they would bring a world this well built to the big screen just so the graphic artists can play in it. I loved the way the cultures differed but were still based on the Zodiac the way that we have it now. I love the way the politics differed based on the cultures. I loved the way the Guardians form a sort of UN or something. Just spectacular.

I didn't mind Rho or her insecurities. Everyone has insecurities and this was obviously going to be a series so she needed to start off in a way that gave her enough room to grow into the powerhouse that is always the endgame for these kinds of books. I didn't mind Mathias and his brooding Edward-like qualities. Of all the Edwardesque characters I've seen over the years, he's my favorite. Even over Edward himself. Yes, I'm refering to Twilight because it makes an easy comparison as most people are still familiar with it. And then there was Hysan, who I thought of as more of a Gale from the Hunger Games. He's gorgeous and accessible and maybe hiding things but probably all wrong for some reason. They were decent characters but not as developed as some other books while not being entirely two dimensional either. Okay, they were close to two dimensional but they peaked into a third dimension that might come about in another book but this was told in the first person so perhaps it's meant to be Rho's point of view that restricts them. Given her title, I can see only anyone wanting to display only one dimension.

Then the plot. It's a little thin and the villain isn't exactly developed by the end but I also get that as an intentional part of the plot. It was in that last quarter though, that I would have thrown the book had it not been audio on my phone.

I don't want to spoil what happens but it irritated me. I still finished because I was too far along and I thought that since so much of the story was so YA that maybe it was a fake out. I felt like it happened just to avoid an awkward or uncomfortable scene that otherwise had to happen. There had to be better ways to get where the author wanted to go. It felt almost lazy to handle it this way.

And then I thought, maybe it is a fake out of a greater magnitude. I realized that this was also not a good enough reason to stick with the series. If it was a longer fake out, I would just be more annoyed when it resolved. So I'm left with this feeling of so much potential and disappointment.

Again, this is a YA book that is actually directed at a YA audience, so maybe they haven't read the umpteen million YA books that I have already and don't feel like this story has been played out. Maybe they'll love it anyway. I probably would have adored this book in my youth when love triangles didn't make me want to gag. The world building is really of a calibur that far outdoes the rest of the book. Most of the plot plays out enjoyable enough to make it worth reading until that moment in the last quarter that pissed me right off. It was going to be a solid three stars until that point. If you look over my rating scale, 3 stars are respectable here. They are still great books. 2 stars aren't common here but it's not entirely bad either. I was just really tweaked by that thing at the end. Maybe some of you will like that about it, but it's about to keep me from finishing the series.

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review 2017-07-22 16:52
The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

To say that Walls had an unusual childhood would be a massive understatement. She didn't have any of the stability with a roof over her head or meals to eat that most children in the US take for granted, but she did have some amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do things that many of us will never do.

I'd like to say that this is due to that her parents rarely followed the rules (or, you know, laws) and gave her and her siblings even fewer to follow. She was a child of people who had the kind of wandering existence that I've known some to pine for, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

In fact, it seems like it was hardly ever sunshine and rainbows. They'd have long stretches of okay times with fairly regular meals and then periods of near starvation where they had to go through the trash to eat. But their parents did have an odd splendor in the way they dealt with such an extreme level of poverty. They weren't perfect, but Walls manages to tell the story in a way that never quite judges them. They were who they were and she seems to have accepted that, even when it embarrassed her.

There were a few stories I really loved, one of which I am totally keeping in my pocket just in case I'm ever at that point with my own family. There were also lots of points in the story where my heart broke for Walls and her siblings. Some people are well suited to "adulting" and others are not, her parents are just not those people. Their hearts appeared to be in the right places though. Or maybe it's just the way Walls tells the story.

She tells the story as she encountered it, not inserting knowledge from later in life to situations, not guessing what may have been in their minds based on information she had down the road. She doesn't seem to be protecting them either, never shying away from their less attractive traits.

The movie based on her life will be out soon (August 11) and I'm thinking about seeing it, though not in the theater. We don't normally go to the theater for movies we can't take the six year old to. After reading the book, I'm not 100% sure I want to see it, but the cast intrigues me. Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson both have the ability to be heartbreakingly vulnerable about the worst parts of a person and I'm not sure how they're going to portray it. It would be easy for any director with these actors to make it heart-warming or heart-wrenching. I'd be happy with a combination. The book left me with that Good Will Hunting feeling where they went for the heart but it left me with a good feeling overall. I hope the movie does that to.

Have you read the book? Are you planning on watching the movie?

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url 2017-07-22 05:01
#24in48 -- LET's GET IT STARTED IN HERE...

It's here!  The 24in48 Readathin has started!

 

"If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like."

Source: 24in48.com
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url 2017-07-22 04:01
#24in48 One Hour to the 24in48 Readathon

 

Signup at the link which also explains:  

"If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like.  

 

And that’s it. The format never changes but it’s always an adventure."

Source: 24in48.com
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