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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would gladly give this book 5 stars. But making poor people (the Kindle version is $12.99!) and/or those with vision problems to buy the audio-book ($19.99) is just plain greedy! Sure the Audible version helps the reader know how certain words are pronounced. And the narrators are very good. And (although I had to wait until I had a credit over there) it was ‘free’ on Audible. I could have had that Kindle version back to the library earlier had I been able to listen to a Text-to-Speech as I read. All that inconvenience and not being able to save my credit for something else I was planning on, should actually lower my rating. But, doggone it! This was a fantastic book! Please, dear author (Lisa See), since the book is about poor people and their struggles, consider the struggles of those who can’t afford to buy your book and or have vision problems!

Gripe ended. The book was so good that I didn’t want to stop reading it for anything! I loved the amount of research the author put into the whole story. And yet I didn’t feel inundated with information. It all felt quite naturally a part of the tale.

It is told mostly from Li-yan’s point of view in a minority village of China. Later her daughter, Haley’s, point of view as an orphan in Orange County, California. What is genetic, instinct, or just natural curiosity? In a culture discouraging more than one child and girls the least desirable, what are the results on those poor girls sent away? What happens to the country that makes that happen? What are the results for the family or parents that are forced into this kind of situation?

These questions are answered. AND you will learn more about tea than you may ever want to know but find yourself longing to know more!

It has been over a week since I finished reading/listening to this gem. I still miss the characters and wish I knew what happened next. I doubt there is a second book in the making. The book leaves you just wishing for more. If you can get the book or audio recording, I think you will like it! Thank you, Leslie, for recommending it!

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Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


1Q841Q84 by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fulfilling. That what I think describes finishing this book. It kept me going. I wondered what would happen next. With fantasy, anything is possible, even if it is in 1984.

And that brings me to the next thought. We didn’t have cell phones and internet access the way we do now. Often I would think, check your cell and realize that couldn’t happen then. They had pay phones and word processors. If a person had a computer it wasn’t user-friendly. So one has to keep that year and those thoughts in mind.

Next was the curiosity of the two moons that signify to our main characters they weren’t in true 1984 but an alternative reality. That was why Aomame called it 1Q84. I loved her name. She was the main character, by the way. I craved Edamame the whole time I was reading it. Yes, the ‘mame’ part means pea. I love how often the author used that theme.

I loved the characters. But I felt the description of their clothing or appearance over done. In fact, this book needed a good editor to go through and get rid of all the unneeded repetition. I often felt like throwing the book (my Kindle) across the room. I wanted to get back to the story and see what happened and telling me one more time about the two moons or the wrong clothing or any of the millions (I may exaggerate here) of other times something was repeated. I understand that the author wanted to stress certain things but it insults the reader to do that too often. But who am I to say that, an unpublished author of 12 books compared to his mass of highly acclaimed novels. Just trying to be true to what I felt as I read it.

This book took me ages to finish. It must be hefty in hardback. It was a library book so I had to spend every moment reading as I have two more books that are due next week. Still, it was worth the struggle and I miss the people already.

Stop reading this review here as this might be a spoiler. I wish I could read more of what happens next to the main characters. And I felt there were threads in the two-moon world that I wanted to see worked further. Well, maybe that didn’t reveal too much after all.

If you get the chance, please read this book. My friend, Patty B. was right. This was a very good book!

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When the Future Comes Too Soon (Malayan #2)When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds the first book in the series, I jumped at the opportunity to read this second book. It continues the history of Malaya from the next generation dealing with WWII. It gave me a perspective I hadn’t had before of what happened to that part of the world. My education seems rather USA restrictive. It seems if you are teaching history that it should be more global. They are called World Wars.

Though I miss the main character of the first book, we are introduced to a new generation dealing with new governments and loyalties. I found the new main character equally engaging.

The author uses some words or phrases to help the reader feel the ambiance of the time and place without it causing a distraction. And to get to hear about the female point of view on both of these books is so rewarding. I love Herstory! There is not enough of it out there!

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A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over a decade ago, I met an online friend that would change or at least, modify my life. I met Judith on LiveJournal, you remember that old site, better than MySpace but not quite as social as FaceBook. Judith was chatting in her journal about Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo scene (Which resulted in my first novel being written between the Ides of March and the Ides of April. I didn’t finish the novel then as we had to move to a new city and I just couldn’t stay with it. But I added more than enough wordage to that novel in November 2002 to “win”. (First of 10 or 11 novels since.)

The other thing Judith introduced me to was BookCrossing.com. The concept that grabbed me with BC was how my read book could be recycled to others and then the new reader and the old could discuss this story. The book could travel even when I couldn’t, so it felt like a message in a bottle thrown out to sea. It is fun to see where your book could end up and the friendships that develop over said book. I still belong but since my eyes aren’t what they used to be, I am happy for the invention of Kindle and other e-readers. So I release far fewer books nowadays.

Besides Judith, what do the above paragraphs have in common, and what do they have to do with ‘A Tale for the Time Being’? The art of writing and the art of reading. Both concepts play strong in this story. Rather than a message in a bottle, this message floats ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox in layers of freezer bags. The writer was in Tokyo, the reader/finder in Canada. Years separate the two. Yet a bond is formed. Oh, yeah, Judith read and reviewed this and hooked me in. I think she didn’t like the Zen parts of the book. I found that part delightful. I have to admit that most of the book is believable whereas the Zen bits are a little more ‘magical’. But the title twinkles with that magic. If you read it right.

Anyway, I HIGHLY recommend this book. I actually read it one and a third times. I borrowed the Kindle version from the library. Between reading it on my Kindle app on my Tablet and listening on my old Kindle text-to-speech, I managed to get to about 36% in. Then I found that my library also had the OverDrive version. So I restarted reading the book with the author’s voice. That pumped up my ratings for this wonderful tale. Each layer of depth into the story has its own built-in amazements. Level one, tree book, and the Kindle version, there are many footnotes and definitions to help with a deeper understanding of that time in history or that country, language. But the narration includes minor helps. Hearing a voice say the Japanese names or words adds to the believability of the whole story. Ms. Ruth Ozeki has an impeccable voice and narration, her variations of voices for each character supreme! I enjoyed rereading the first third with her help. I felt I gained deeper understanding just by hearing her. Please, if you get the chance to pair both versions, go for it!

By the way, I want to thank Jonelle Patrick and her Mysteries and website: http://jonellepatrick.me/ for introducing me to many contemporary Japanese subjects presented in A Tale for the Time Being. At least I was forewarned.

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Desert Places: A Woman's Odyssey with the Wanderers of the Indian DesertDesert Places: A Woman’s Odyssey with the Wanderers of the Indian Desert by Robyn Davidson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew! I am glad to be finished reading this book. Not that the writing was poor or that I hated the author. Quite the opposite. Having just finished Robyn Davidson’s ‘Tracks’ about her trek across Australia, I wanted more. So when I saw this book was free with Kindle Unlimited I grabbed it. And as tortuous as the book was to read, I am glad I read it.

If someone were to ask me where I’d least like to go to visit, India would be at the top of the list. Too many people, too caste-set. But before you get on a high horse and tell me what for, I will allow that I never would have wanted to go to Alaska either. But I loved that trip so much! There isn’t a day I don’t think of the beauty and wonder of that cold world. So if the opportunity came, I think I would go to India. Just to see for myself if I could be won over.

But this book didn’t help my prejudices resolve. In fact, it all became worse. With each chapter, I was more and more depressed for the author. This was not her favorite trek. As a woman, a feminist, India isn’t a place to show your independence. Robyn is both and thereby found her way blocked at every turn.

Look, I wanted to give this book five stars. The writing is that good. But how can one rate highly a book that makes one miserable? The saving grace? Camels! I have learned to love these creatures through Ms. Davidson’s eyes. Okay, up from three to four stars. Let India’s rich, corrupted men see that lack of a star as a judgement of them. I challenge them to prove otherwise.

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The Ugly DaughterThe Ugly Daughter by Julia Legian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why do I read? I read to travel to other places. I read to get inside other people’s lives and or minds. This book certainly satisfied all of that.

Reading about Julia Legian’s life made me grateful I didn’t have to live her life. Reading about her part of Vietnam made me grateful to be raised in Southern California and in the USA. Yet, I did feel enriched by reading about her young life.

Though it was a quick read, after all the author is still alive, the writing was done well. I was sorry to see the book end, but I think there may be more to come. No cliffhanger. Just as the family seems to be in a safe place, the book ended. I do look forward to reading more about the rest of Julia’s life.

Oh, I guess I should tell you that Ms. Julia wrote to me to inform me that she was giving a Christmas gift of the book. Thank you. By presenting it as such, I felt no pressure to read it right away. Nor did I feel there was an expectation of a great review. I try to be honest even when that happens. By the way, it is only $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited.

Oh, maybe I should warn you of the abuse that could have triggers for those who have been through similar things. And this is post-war Vietnam so life is far from safe even in the best of circumstances. Still, it was nice to get to know her through her story.

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