Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Good Women of China by Xinran


Xinran is a radio show host that talks about women's issues. This gives her access to women all over China to hear their stories because they trust her and it's easy to open up to her. As China "opens up" following the revolution, women are finally able to speak about their stories. Xinran tells us these women's stories, as it seems that even in the 90s, China still wasn't quite ready for them. These stories include tales of rape and abuse. The Red Guard takes away parents who don't believe in Communism, an earthquake destroys a village, a child keeps a fly as a pet while she's in the hospital. Each story is unique and each has the ability to break your heart.

I was in shock while reading some of these stories. These women have been through so much pain and they each deal with it in completely different ways. The flow of the book was exceptional, with Xinran explaining how she met these women and a bit about her radio program. Each story relates slightly to the next which helps the reader go from one to the next.

We even get a brief glimpse in to Xinran's past, though I would have liked a bit more. This book will stay with me for a long time.

This book is a translation but reads like it was written in English. The translator deserves an applause for such a great job.

First Line: "Early one spring morning in 1989, I rode my Flying Pigeon bicycle through the streets of Nanjing dreaming about my son Panpan."


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Christos Mosaic by Vincent Czyz


Drew is a smart, but lazy, American ex-pat living in Turkey. When his friend Kadir asks him to hide something for a day and someone ends up murdered because of it, Drew knows he's stumbled upon something dangerous. With a background in religious studies, Drew finds out that previously undiscovered Dead Sea Scrolls are at stake here. These scrolls are expected to have knowledge in them that would change Christianity, which makes it not too surprising that so many people are after these scrolls and that they are willing to kill for them.

Drew and his friends are hunted from Turkey to Egypt while Drew tries to find out what these scrolls mean. The question is whether Jesus was a real person or whether he is represented as a mosaic of people.

This book starts with rather lengthy descriptions of people and timelines. This made me worried about what I was getting in to as it was pretty heavy stuff. I decided not to read this section and after I finished the book I came back and couldn't even recognize some of the groups/people mentioned.

This book delves deeply in to the Bible. In order to determine whether Jesus is a real person or not, there needs to be a strong understanding of all the Gospels and Bible passages. This means that many passages are quoted within the book to help support the points being made, which makes the book read more like an academic paper than a fiction novel. Furthermore, my understanding of the Bible isn't very strong, which made me a fish out of water when it came to these passages. While I could follow the basic direction the author was heading, the difference between Bible characters and how they played in to Jesus' teachers were lost on me. This said, it is obvious that Czyz has done an incredible amount of research for this book. I just wish it was a little more digestible.

When I picked up this book, I thought I was going to be reading a religious thriller where the character hunts down Dead Sea Scrolls that could rock Christianity, with some easy explanation about why it could shake the world's faith. Instead, this book was much more detailed and a lot of it went right over my head. I'm sure there's an audience for this, specifically those with good knowledge of the Bible, but I wasn't it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "Saints lie."


About the Author
Vincent Czyz is the author of The Christos Mosaic, a novel, and Adrift in a Vanishing City, a collection of short fiction. He received two fellowships from the NJ Council on the Arts and the W. Faulkner-W. Wisdom Prize for Short Fiction. The 2011 Truman Capote Fellow at Rutgers University, his stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, Shenandoah,AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Tin House(online), Boston Review, Quiddity, The Tampa Review, The Georgetown Review, and Skidrow Penthouse, among other publications. He spent a total of nearly a decade in Istanbul, Turkey before settling in Jersey City. His work often deals with the existential themes found in art, myth and religion, dreams, and primal ways of perceiving the world.
Find Vincent on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage


When Ava finds out she's HIV positive, and her hair styling business starts to dry up because those in Atlanta are scared of her, she decides she needs a change of scenery. Ava returns to small town Michigan, where her widowed sister still lives. Joyce is happy to have Ava back, and puts her to work helping with her woman's group, the Sewing Circus. Joyce is trying to educate the women of the small town on how they should be treated, safe sex, child care, and other essential life skills. Of course, not everyone in the town agrees with these teachings and try to throw a wrench in Joyce and Ava's plans.

This book is an Oprah book club book, which I haven't had much luck with recently. This one, thankfully, was different! It was very easy to connect with the characters. Joyce just wants to help the women in her town and is passionate about doing so. Her passion is infectious and makes me hope that there are many Joyces in the world. Ava is a little more reserved, because of her disease. She is insecure and on the brink of love, not knowing whether one trumps the other. Her emotions are so real and the conflict in her head is completely believable.

While some could take this away as a romance novel, I found the human struggle the more interesting story, and how we gain strength from those closest to us. Oprah got it right with this one!

First Line: "I'm sitting at the bar in the airport, minding my own business, trying to get psyched up for my flight, and I make the mistake of listening to one of those TV talk shows."


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline

Science Fiction

Zack Lightman is a video game geek. He's spent countless hours honing his craft and has become one of the top ten ranked players of Armada. Then, one day, he sees one of the enemy's fighter planes outside of his school's window. Zack decides he's losing it, just like his father did before he died.

What if it is real though? What if Zack hasn't just seen things? Zack goes home and finds his dad's old notebooks, explaining how he thinks that video games, books, and movies have been priming the world for an impending alien invasion. Is one about to start?

I picked this book up because I loved Ready Player One. Not surprisingly, this book suffers from similar problems that book suffered from. In Ready Player One, there was overuse of 80s references. In this book, it's overuse of video game and scifi movie references. I'm not a huge video game player, but one of the quotes I did recognize, from Duke Nukem, wasn't even correct.

Learning to ignore this, like I did in Ready Player One, I still found this book a bit underwhelming. The tension leading up to the end fell a bit flat and the final twist wasn't explored that well. I would have liked to see a few additional pages to better explain where Cline wanted to go with the ending.

Despite it's similarities to Ender's Game, I still enjoyed the book.