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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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Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Just Wow! An author friend recommended this book stating that it was the best book she’d read in a long time. She was right. It was the best read for me in a long, long time.

There was a drowning. The family responds. That’s the extent of it. BUT we are allowed in all the characters’ heads. What led to the present moment? Who can take the fault? Who might be innocent?

This bit of mystery only leads to the inside of your own head, your own family history. It is amazing how the author does that. How she keeps the story so interesting that I had a hard time putting it down, even when it was 4 AM I couldn’t let it go until the next day.

The most interesting questions the story brought to mind is how many of our goals and passions are leftovers from the previous generation? I made me look at my grandmother and my mother and my own daughter. And even now, I wonder how much of my mother’s pushing of piano practice, for instance, brought about my son’s participation in a band? How do our personal goals affect others around us, from family outward to the occasional associates. This book brought about a strong link between us all that I think we often overlook.

And then let’s add to the story the things that make us unique, our nationality, ethics, religion or politics and we see how we think the other person is wrong. How the tearing down of others is tearing us all down. In this case, the family is half Chinese, half American. They live in a place where they are the only ones of color. Racist slurs are slung at them. When that happens, when we are bullies in any fashion, one has a hard time separating true hate from imagined hate.

As usual, the fictional family reach their own conclusions and don’t communicate with each other. That speaks to me. We often forget to say what we should. We think the other person already knows, or doesn’t need to hear it again, or doesn’t feel taken seriously. Relationships are hard, even the best of them. That’s how our fears and hurts hit as bullets on those we should give our best to.

All of these ideas came to me as I read this book. I bought the Audible version (I had a credit lying around). I know now that I want to read this again. I will have to buy the Kindle version when I get the chance. Oh, and a word about Cassandra Campbell (Narrator). She did a great job acting out the different characters. It was due to her skills that this book came to life for me.

Thank you, Patty B. for the recommendation. I loved it!

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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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KinflicksKinflicks by Lisa Alther

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended by a GoodReads group I belong to.

Once, again, I finished a book when I wasn’t able to write the review. Now in the midst of the current read, I have to remember the feelings of the previous literary adventure.

Let’s work backward. I felt the ending left much to be desired. Even though this is a hefty novel, I wanted to know what happened next. Is it possible there is a part two out there?

Okay, now it is coming back to me. I remember this getting off to a slow start. I wanted to move on to other reads. But there was something about the main character that had me curious to see what this was all about.

Oh, and the problem of POV and changing from first to third person. Argh! I couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like a mistake but then I read some of the reviews on GoodReads and realized that it was a tool used to separate then and now. Still, I could have done without that shifting.

I loved the dark, death themes that this family seemed involved in. Notice the word ‘seemed’, as in the end that might be questioned.

This was a coming of age story. Yet it involves a lot of the human experience, old amd young alike. I would think this would be best read by new adults or older, younger readers might not recognize the rebelious nature presented.

And we’ve come full circle… In the end, I was very glad to have read it, experienced life from another’s eyes. Now I need to see if I can get ahold of a sequel.

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Are You My Mother?
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is on my wishlist to own! Thank you, Washoe County Library System for carrying this book!

It is not an easy book to get through. But if you manage, you find so many diamonds of wisdom to apply to your own life.

Which of us has gotten through childhood unscathed? Which of us, as parents, release healthy, unscathed adults into the world? In Alison Bechdel’s first memoir, Fun Home, Alison addressed her life with her father. In this book, Alison tells of her life with her mother. I was amazed at how well she was able to keep the story on her own interpretation of her own life. She brings in her therapists and friends and lovers in how they help her understand why certain things happened and how she can get over it and become whole.

Though this is done in comic book form it is far from funny. Yet, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, she was able to speak volumes using this method of story telling. It brought my own mother issues to mind while reading this.

A spot of vomit on the floor. Running lines with mom for the next play she’ll be in. The inability to cry properly. Maybe these things wouldn’t cause you cathartic experience, but as you follow Alison’s path, which is also her mother’s path, it is easy to relate to both women. As Alison calls into play the works of Virginia Wolfe and Freude among others to help her understand how it all fits and how we all fit into our mother’s worlds.

This book may have triggers for some people but I think that most people will find if they stick it out there are more answers than questions through Ms. Bechdel’s story. I recommend it highly to everyone.

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