Archive for April, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , on April 17, 2008 by Lisa

Also posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been on everyone’s blog in the last year or so. Most everyone loved it to death. I put it on my paperbackswap list and got it in the mail some time last year, but never got around to reading it. This January, I put it on my personal TBR challenge list (found here.) Last week when I was looking for a book for this challenge, I picked it up. I read about a third of it, and then decided to take a little break to have a baby. I took the book to the hospital and on my last day there mostly finished it. (I spent a lot of time hoping to sleep, but due to being in a “semi-private” room didn’t really sleep. Or read. Or watch tv. Just laid there trying to ignore my roommate and her family.)

Snow Flower is about two women, Snow Flower and Lily, who are pledged together as laotong- a special type of friends. Lily is poor and uneducated, but has perfect feet. Snow Flower is from a wealthy family and is very proper and educated. Over the course of the book we see both women from about age 7 until their death(s). The girls get their feet bound, are matched and married, and become mothers themselves. The laotong friendship is supposed to benefit both girls. From the beginning it is obvious how this will benefit Lily. The connection with a wealthy influential family will give her some prestige and Snow Flower will teach Lily manners she wouldn’t learn at home. It is not so clear how this helps Snow Flower. The girls marry off in very ritual ceremonies and then… wait, you don’t want to know what happens, right?

This book was fascinating look at the history of the women in China. The rituals of footbinding and the marriage traditions are very interesting. The way the women lived was very eye-opening to me. Much of the book is about nu shu- a “secret” women’s writing that Lily and Snow Flower used to communicate when they weren’t together. Snow Flower and Lily use nu shu to write important events on the folds of a fan which travels between the girls as well. The books is written as a memoir written by Lily, looking back at the past.

The pages of the book just flew by. I expected it to be hard to get into the groove because of the time period, but there was never a moment of slowness. At the beginning, I was a bit annoyed at Lily’s heavy foreshadowing of what would happen. By the end of the book it wasn’t so noticable, and it started to feel like the way Lily was berating herself rather than foreshadowing. The trajectory of the girl’s lives was perfect and dramatic. Details were revealed very slowly but when you did find some new detail it was both surprising and expected due to what Lily had already known. (Ok, that makes no sense, but trust me on it.) Overall, an excellent book, highly recommended.

This review is for avidbookreader‘s TBR challenge, and also fulfills a book on my own list. I have barely proofread it, as I have barely slept and find that prospect much more appealing. My apologies.

TBR Challenge: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (2003)

Posted in Christian, Gina, Non-Fiction, Religious, TBR Challenge with tags , on April 15, 2008 by Gina

Blue like Jazz was a breath of fresh air for me. It has been the best book of the year. Probably one of the best ever. Miller takes Christian spirituality and puts it in a different perspective than mainstream Christianity. He breaks the mold. He takes on the Christian right and introduces us to the Christian left. I am not one to quote huge sections of books; however, the author’s note is worth a large chunk of text. So here it goes.

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.

I hope this is true for my life that I can show someone–anyone– that I love God and that it affects my being and my life. Anyway, back to the review. Awhile back, I was sent a link to a review of this book. It was a good review. It made me want to read it. However, I keep coming back to the problem that the review was wrong. The review was based on the fact that the reviewer didn’t consider Miller Christian. This is untrue. Miller is a different type of Christian–but he is one just the same. It is bothersome to me that the reviewer could be so close-minded. Although, it is more bothersome to me that many Christians would agree with her. You see Miller is politically liberal. He lived with dope smoking hippies in the woods. He cusses openly. He is a sinner and not perfect. Many in Christian society find this to be unacceptable. They believe that Christians must act a certain way, behave in a particular manner, and only show the positive sides of their lives to the world. This is the way they choose to set themselves apart in order to bring others to Christ’s love. This is not Miller’s way nor is it mine. I will state it right here for all to see in the great chasm of the internet. I am not perfect. I sin. I have problems. I don’t always do what I believe is right thing. On occasion, I don’t even try. I am human. But. I also love Jesus Christ. I believe in Him. I trust the movements of my spirit and my heart. I trust the answered prayers so prevalent in my life. I love Jesus and not in that bumper sticker way. Miller has challenged me to go even deeper with this love that I have for Jesus.

I wanted to briefly include parts of a favorite passage of mine. This passage follows a time when Miller and a few fellow believers set up a confessional booth at Reed College’s Ren Fayre festival in Portland. They were confessing the sins of Christians against the world to the students.

I felt very strongly that Jesus was relevant in this place. I felt very strongly that if He was not relevant here then He was not relevant anywhere. I felt very connected to God because I had confessed so much to so many people…I had been forgiven by the people I had wronged with my indifference and judgmentalism…I was out of the closet now. A Christian. So many years before I had made amends to God, but now I had made amends to the world. I was somebody who was willing to share my faith.

If you are a Christian, then you should read this book.
If you are a non-Christian, then you should read this book.
If you can read, then you should read this book.

It is funny. It is refreshing. It is honest.

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts

Posted in Fiction, Gina with tags , , on April 15, 2008 by Gina

This book was a gift to me for my birthday.  Thank you C & L.  Everyone loves Nora Roberts.  I read often and as yet had not read anything by her.  In any of her various incarnations.  Lisa has sent me the first half dozen of the In Death series she writes under JD Robb.  Still I didn’t read.  Another friend has lent me another series she has written.  Still I didn’t read.  Blood Brothers –stuck in a care package alongside some sinfully delicious chocolate chip cookies– changed my feelings regarding this author.  See, ultimately, I was worried that she may not live up to the hype.  I was wrong. 

Blood Brothers is the first installment of the Sign of Seven Trilogy.  It follows three men (Caleb, Fox and Gage) who unknowningly set something evil loose on their 10th birthday.  The town of Hawkin’s Hollow now experiences this evil every seven years for one week around their birthday.  This evil brings chaos, mayhem, and murder to this tiny town.  This year a writer, Quinn Black, has come to research Hawkin’s Hollow for her new book. This book focuses on Caleb and Quinn.

I loved this book.  I thought the writing was clean and strong.  The plot was well thought out.  The backstory on the ultimate evil was original enough to suit me.  The romance was there without making the book a romance novel.  I anxiously await the next installment, The Hollow, coming out this May.  I will probably dig around and find the other Roberts’ books that are currently hiding under my bed to read in the very near future. 

One note though.  The romance is written very much like a romance novel romance.  I am not sure exactly what is different about it; however, it is a distinction that I clearly made.  It is more than a paranormal series with romance overtones.  It is more than a romance novel with a paranormal twist.  It is, in my opinion, one of the rare books that can be both. 





Intro to Literature Virgin returns!

Posted in Birth, Poetry on April 5, 2008 by muerta

Waiting with Two Members of a Motorcycle Gang for My Child to Be Born

by Stephen Dunn.

I was talking to “The Eliminators”
when you were born,
two of them, high as slag heaps and
uncles to be,
all in black for the occasion,
All you wanted was out;
you couldn’t have known that you
were Life;
when you came, or that your father
was let loose
from graduate school, a believer
in symbols.
I expected “The Eliminators” to
disappear, snuffed out
by a stronger force, a white tornado
of my own.
That’s not what happens, though,
in life
as you will learn. They smiled when
they heard of you
and shook my hand. And another time
it might
have been my head. May you turn
stone, my daughter,
into silk. May you make men better
than they are.

How could I resist that title??

I do love the image that this poem brings to mind. Three brothers sitting in a hospital room, awaiting the arrival of a newborn baby. Two are hard-core bikers; one was the scholar (although I am not sure if he left or flunked graduate school in pursuit of other things). As kids, they would have wrestled to show affection– I assume that the bikers are the older brothers as they most likely headlocked the younger and tousled his hair as a way to show affection. Instead, now, their brother is a man, a father, and the two bikers shake his hand as an agreement that he is now a man, a father, and they are uncles to a newborn baby girl. It is this new life which makes these tough men turn to mush, knowing that there is a new life in the family, a frail baby, and thus their tough image is not needed but rather, nuturing father figures are brought forward rather than the emotionless men. And for this, the brother is thankful to his daughter because it was with her birth that she united all three stood on equal ground of respect. No more were images or differences or conflicts regarding lifestyle, but instead three men who were ecstatic about their new roles in life.

I really liked this poem.