Witness to Revolution

Title: Red Fire: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Author: Wei Yang Chao

Setting: Beijing, China 1960s

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a witness to history, to watch these watershed moments take place in front of your eyes? From what I’ve read, the answer is – terrifying. Wei Yang Chao was a witness to one of the biggest revolutions in history, especially if you go by the sheer number of people involved. He attended one rally that included over a million people, and the prospect of violence at every turn. He was lucky to survive.

This book  is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution in China. Chao was there after the Summer Palace was destroyed. He was a witness to the rise of the Red Guard. He saw teachers and other “enemies of the state” tortured, sometimes to death. His own parents were victims of a “struggle session” as soldiers his own age smashed through the house and beat his parents.

This was an incredible but grim read. To me it was nothing but terror and abuse, as the country fell into chaos. But Chao was more caught up in the struggle. At times, he wanted to fight against the class enemies, but when people he respected became targets, he would question why this revolution had to be so violent.

I would definitely recommend this book. I knew little about this time, so I found it darkly fascinating. It’s not for everyone. It is violent. But it’s an important record of real life.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Review: City Mouse

For all those out there who think the suburbs are hell, this is the book for you.

Title: City Mouse

Author: Stacey Lender

Themes: suburbs/city, social mores, motherhood, female relationships, working, marriage

Setting: NYC and a nearby suburb

Format: physical book

Source: ARC – thank you, Kaylie Jones Books and Library Thing

Jessica and her husband are finally ready to make the big move from the city to the suburbs, but Jessica doesn’t find the paradise she expected. She’s having a little trouble making friends, when the neighbor brings over a treat and invites her to a cookout. Everyone is friendly at first, but on closer acquaintance, she finds a few flaws. These new friends fight too much, drink too much, swear too much, and that’s just the warm up.

But Jessica is so desperate to fit in that she ignores all the warning signs and throws herself and her two kids into every activity she can fit into her schedule. She’s got the nanny, the preschool, the giant mortgage, the commute – so why isn’t it as fulfilling as she expected?

So far, this is about what I expected from this book. For all that I believe in sisterhood and feminism, I know that the mommy wars can be nasty. They shouldn’t be. We should support each other. But in reality, so many women are insecure about their choices and they take that out on each other.

 

My main complaint about this book was the amount of sex in here, and the amount of casual cheating going on in this group of friends. Maybe my friends are the exceptions here, but I would NEVER consider flirting with, much less sleeping with a friend’s husband, and I’ve never had one hit on me. (So awkward!) Really, I didn’t identify with these women very much at all. It was like reading about a myth of suburban life, and nothing like what I actually experience. For this reason, I have to give it 2.5 stars.

Review: City Mouse

Title: City Mouse

Author: Stacey Lender

**I received this book for free from Library Thing and Kaylie Jones books. My views are my own.**

Jessica and her husband are finally ready to make the big move from the city to the suburbs, but Jessica doesn’t find the paradise she expected. She’s having a little trouble making friends, when a neighbor brings over a treat and invites her to a cookout. Everyone is friendly at first, but on closer acquaintance, she finds a few flaws. These new friends fight too much, drink too much, swear too much, and that’s just the warm up.

But Jessica is so desperate to fit in that she ignores all the warning signs and throws herself and her two kids into every activity she can fit into her schedule. She’s got the nanny, the preschool, the giant mortgage, the commute – so why isn’t it as fulfilling as she expected?

So far, this is about what I expected from this book. For all that I believe in sisterhood and feminism, I know that the mommy wars can be nasty. They shouldn’t be. We should support each other. But in reality, so many women are insecure about their choices and they take that out on each other.

My main complaint about this book was the amount of sex in here, and the amount of casual cheating going on in this group of friends. Maybe my friends are the exceptions here, but I would NEVER consider flirting with, much less sleeping with a friend’s husband, and I’ve never had one hit on me. (So awkward!) Really, I didn’t identify with these women very much at all. It was like reading about a myth of suburban life, and nothing like what I actually experience. For this reason, I have to give it 2.5 stars.

Standalone: Book Review of Crimes Against a Book Club

I saw this great idea over at bookslayer33414407reads, to focus on Stand Alone books once a week or so. I’m making this one my first entry.

Title: Crimes Against a Book Club

Author: Kathy Cooperman

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Source: Kindle First book

Format: Ebook

Synopsis:

“Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.”

My view:

This sounded like it would be right up my alley. I love my book club, I love humor, I love caper stories, so this seemed like a natural for me. And there were definitely parts I liked. But the parts I didn’t like really bugged me!

I could totally sympathize with Annie. I have three kids with medical problems and the bills can be overwhelming. My kids sometimes wonder why we didn’t take vacations to Disney, why we didn’t sign up for dance lessons and music lessons and have nice cars. Easy – all our money went to medical bills. The idea of coming with some crazy scheme to finance a new therapy – sign me up.

And I appreciated that they weren’t taking money from other cash-strapped moms, but from the upper crust, the ones who want whole heartedly support conspicuous consumption. I got a little tired of how outstandingly attractive Sarah was, how she only had to show up and everyone wanted to talk to her, to be her. You know, she’s been on hormones to get pregnant. That makes you gain weight and get puffy.

My real problem was the secret ingredient. SPOILER:

It’s cocaine.

And that’s my biggest complaint. Annie comes up with this brilliant scheme to make her skin care creme more attractive, to give it that extra something. I was expecting something kind of like this, but really? Has she never heard of the health risks? She takes a few really basic precautions, like telling Sarah not to sell it to pregnant women, but that’s about it. What about those elderly women? What about those with heart problems? It’s so unbelievably stupid for such a supposedly smart woman to do. And then when the consequences inevitably hit, I just had to roll my eyes. There was a lot of potential in this one, but in the end, I just couldn’t buy it. Sorry, but not recommended.