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Review: China Dolls

September 23, 2014

China Dolls

In Lisa See‘s latest novel, China Dolls, three young Asian women meet when they become dancers at the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco in the 1930s – they hit it off immediately even though they come from very different backgrounds.  The book follows their friendship and explores the attitudes of the times.

The point of view shifts between Grace, Ruby, and Helen.  Grace and Helen are of Chinese descent and Ruby’s family is from Japan.  As you would expect, they have different upbringings and attitudes but their personalities click and they vow eternal friendship.

I went into China Dolls with high expectations but was sadly disappointed. I did enjoy the historical detail of the time period but the storyline wasn’t compelling for me.

I listened to the audio version of the book and think I might have enjoyed it more in print.  I had trouble telling the characters apart for the first half of the book and struggled to follow the plot.  Once things came together for me, I wasn’t invested enough in the story to care.  If your a fan of See’s work, you still might want to try China Dolls because most people have enjoyed it more than I did.

Jodi Long narrates this 15 hour audio book and she does an okay job.  I think I would have enjoyed the audio more if they’d used different narrators for each character.

Listen to a sample:

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.




Mailbox Monday

September 22, 2014

Mailbox Monday September 22

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued, and now hosted on its own blog.  I feel like I spent last week in  doctors’ offices but I really only had two appointments.  Things are fine, but I do need to see one more doctor now.  I’m ready to get that one over with too.  Here are the books that showed up in my mailbox:




What did you find in your mailbox last week?

Review: The Julian Chapter

September 19, 2014

The Julian Chapter

A couple years ago, I read, and loved, Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  It’s the story of Auggie, a young boy with facial abnormalities who decides to attend middle school after being homeschooled for years.  He makes friends and adjusts but not all the kids are kind to him.  The Julian Chapter is a novella that tells the story from the point of view of Julian, a classmate who was particularly mean to Auggie, and I just loved it.

Julian is one of three students the principal asks to help ease Auggie’s transition into school.  He’s not thrilled about it and when he tells his mother about it, she reacts in a very negative manner.  Feeding on her reaction, Julian resents Auggie and begins to bully him.  When the principal calls his parents in for a conference, his mother has excuses and justifications for all of Julian’s behavior, thereby reinforcing it.  When his behavior gets to out of hand, the private school he attends expels him.

Julian spends much of the summer with his French grandmother and he confides in her.  She tells him a story about a young man she knew during World War II that makes him realize how wrong he’s been.

I think both Wonder and The Julian Chapter should be read by everyone from middle schoolers on up.  Parents need to read these books with their children and then talk about them.  They tackle subjects like bullying and compassion for both children and adults.  Hopefully some parents will see how their actions enable their children’s behavior.  I highly recommend this book.

I am an Indiebound Affiliate.


Review: The Girls from Corona del Mar

September 18, 2014

The Girls from Corona del Mar

Mia and Lorrie Ann grow up as best friends.  Mia’s mother drinks too much and leaves Mia to care for her brothers much of the time.  She finds herself pregnant while she’s still in high school and it’s Lorrie Ann she turns to for help and support.  Lorrie Ann comes from a good, solid family and seems to have it all.

The girls drift apart as they got older, always keeping in touch. When tragedy strikes Lorrie Ann she shows up on Mia’s doorstep.  Mia’s attempts to help her old friend fail, making her wonder if she ever really knew her.

If I had been so blinded by the idea of Lorrie Ann that I failed to see who she actually was, I had been just as blinded by who I thought I was.

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe is a fascinating look into the love and loyalty of friendship.  Told from Mia’s point of view, it’s gritty, compelling, and thought provoking and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I thought Mia and Lorrie Ann were great characters.  Lorrie Ann is practically perfect as they’re growing up and Mia is more of a typical kid.  Still, they are best friends and, as such, they’re loyal to each other.  When they reconnect as adults, Mia can’t understand some of the decisions Lorrie Ann has made, making her wonder just how well she really knew her to start with.  Even though things have changed, she struggles to let go of their connection because it helps define her place in the world.

I felt a lot of emotions as I read this book and thought a lot about my own friendships so I think this would make a great book club selection.

The audio version of The Girls from Corona del Mar is narrated by Rebecca Lowman.  She does a terrific job and kept me engaged throughout.  The audio version is on 8 CDs and last approximately nine and a half hours.

Listen to a sample:


Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

September 17, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I found three more words in Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

1. scrag – “Of course he could blow the vest right then and there and scrag a hundred or more, but that isn’t what he wants.”

Scrag has quite a few gruesome meanings but, in this case, it means to kill or murder.


2. dosh – “He guesses that Aunt Charlotte’s biggest interest in Janey right now is what happens to all the lovely dosh Janey inherited from her sister.”

According to Urban Dictionary, dosh is slang for an amount of money.


3. animus – “At first it still doesn’t, because when Pete and Isabelle questioned him, Hodges simply plucked Abbascia’s name out of his mental file of old cases where someone might bear him animus . . . and there have been several hundred of those over the years.”

In this case, animus means a usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will.


 What words do you want to celebrate today?

Review: Pioneer Girl

September 16, 2014

Pioneer Girl

First generation American Lee Lien is forced to move back home after earning a PhD in Literature.  She’s going to work at the restaurant her mother and grandfather own until she finds a job in her field.   Lee’s not thrilled about it – her mother is headstrong and her old country ways are embarrassing at times.

Lee’s brother comes home, steals from their mother, only leaving a pin their mother brought with her from Vietnam.  The pin was left in the family’s Saigon café by an American reporter almost 50 years ago.  Lee does some research and believes the pin must have belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose.  She digs deeper and, as she relates to the Wilders, she learns a lot about herself and finds herself ready to tackle the next phase of her life.

For some odd reason, I thought Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen was a memoir when I first picked it up.  It didn’t take me long to figure out I was wrong.  Instead of a memoir, Pioneer Girl is a fabulous literary mystery and I adored it.

Lee finds herself in a tough spot – she needs to live at home until she can find a job but she finds her mother and her old school ways suffocating.  She can’t figure out why her mother acts the way she does and it is almost enough to drive her crazy.

When she notices the pin her brother leaves behind has a small house engraved on it, she pulls out her beloved copy of These Happy Golden Years to read the description of the pin Almanzo gave Laura.  The description matched the pin she was holding in her hand, causing her to do a flurry of research, learning a lot about herself and her mother along the way.

I thought Pioneer Girl had it all – great characterization, a wonderful story, and fabulous writing.  It’s a smart, clever book that had me googling the Wilders and Little House on the Prairie.  This book is sure to be on my list of favorites for the year!

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.


Mailbox Monday

September 15, 2014

Mailbox Monday September 15

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued, and now hosted on its own blog.  Another Monday and another day of me scratching my head, wondering where the week went.  Here are the books that showed up in my mailbox:





What did you find in your mailbox last week?


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