Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

30753646*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Author: Lisa See

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 9781501154829

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city. After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.
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I am a HUGE Lisa See fan. I own every single one of her books and I’ve always been thrilled to read her novels as they’re released. So, of course I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. See doesn’t disappoint in this book. She brings us the tale of the Akha people, an ethnic minority in China, a people stilled in time, trapped from the advances of the outside world. Their customs and lifestyle are preserved by their remote location. It is here that Li-yan comes of age, experiencing life as the only daughter in her family, growing into womanhood. She has a daughter whom she gives up to an orphanage to save her from being killed (we also get a taste of her daughter’s story as the novel progresses). She is given the opportunity to receive education for the advancement of the town. This opportunity gives her freedom, but that freedom comes with a price. She must venture to an unknown world, giving up everything she knows to work as hard as she can. Although both she and the town, in time, profit from her hard work, she also is considered an outsider to many of her townsfolk.

I thought this book was absolutely breathtaking. See creates a vivid world full of Ahka customs and traditions, described in a beautiful and accessible way, even if they are not something that modern readers have ever experienced. See provides the reader with a peak into a town as it embraces (or is transformed by) the advanced outside world. And she shares the devastation of China’s one-child policy through the Chinese orphans who are adopted into Western families. I thought that she effectively conveys the struggles between cultures, between adoptive parents and their children, between ethnic minorities and the majority within China. This is a book not only of family and matriarchal love, but also of conflicts across the board.

I did feel as though the ending was quite abrupt and would have really loved to see another 50-100 pages at the end, just to provide a little bit more resolution. Perhaps some will enjoy that See leaves it up to the reader to imagine what comes next, but for me, after such a full, rich, lovely story, the ending seemed underdeveloped. Otherwise, I have only good things to say about See’s latest novel. Her writing grows in strength with every book and I’m more and more excited to see what she comes out with next. I definitely recommend this one!

 

Review: Nostalgia by M. G. Vassanji

28363849*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Nostalgia

Author: M.G. Vassanji

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: September 20, 2016

ISBN: 9780385667166

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss. Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?


This was my first foray into the books of M.G. Vassanji, and I’m definitely ready to read more. Nostalgia introduces the reader to a future society in a mysterious sci-fi world in a concise but moving story. In this world, identity is something that no longer belongs to the individual and death is no longer an imminent threat. Humanity has lost not only personhood, but also any sense of mortality as well. People are divided by religion, by their desire to live forever or die naturally, and even by their own sense of consciousness and reality. Vassanji has weaved together a complicated story that could have easily been expanded to double the length, or even into a series. I think my main criticism would be the length of this story. So many interesting ideas and complicated topics are introduced, and there was not enough space for the author to really delve into the nitty-gritty details and to fully flesh out these ideas. I’d love to see a follow up novel to this series where more of these themes are explored.

Frank, the protagonist, is struggling to understand the world around him. He’s questioning his own beliefs and the world that he knows. His patient, Presley Smith, is having strange dreams that spark deep confusion and thought in Frank. As Frank seeks answers, he begins to learn that perhaps everything he’s known is not as it seems. Perhaps there are other answers out there.

The book has an overall sinister feel, and does not have a warm and fuzzy happy ending. It’s not a feel good book, but instead is a story to provoke thought and to cause the reader to question the transformation of technology in our own world. Vassanji posits a potential future reality for us that could be something our world one day sees.

I thought this book was very interesting and well-written considering it’s length. It made me happy to see it on 2017’s Canada Reads list and although it was not the winner, it’s a book that definitely deserved to be a contender. Although I was unsatisfied with the ending, I found the characters to be unique and compelling. Vassanji’s way of writing is slow and thoughtful, thorough and pensive. I didn’t feel rushed or hurried. I wanted to savour each page. The reader is given tidbits of information which helps build the mystery and intrigue.

I hope you’ll give this one a try, because it’s definitely worth it, especially for sci-fi fans!

Review: Strange the Dreamer

28145767*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 9780316341684

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?


I was a HUGE fan of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so I was absolutely thrilled to receive an advanced copy of her newest book. The start of a new series, Strange the Dreamer, follows the story of Lazlo Strange, a junior librarian who is known to be a dreamer. He does not have prestige or fame. He’s an unassuming young man who has a love for a mythical lost city called Weep. When presented with the opportunity to finally see the city that has consumed his thoughts and dreams for so long, Lazlo–even surprising himself–jumps at the chance.

I really liked Lazlo as a character. I found him endearing and a little silly. He’s a great tabula rasa, ready for the story to build itself around him. He comes from nothing and really has nothing, and Taylor has set him up to perhaps be an unlikely hero as the series continues to progress.

Lazlo functions in what is a very complex and beautiful world. Taylor has built a very tragic and tangible history for the city of Weep. This history very much enslaves this city, leaving it seemingly without hope. But Lazlo the dreamer sees Weep as it once was when it really was a thing of beautiful legend. The descriptions are so vibrant and real, Taylor brings the story to life in front of the readers eyes.

There is so much to this story: love, hate, death, sadness, life, ghosts, romance, gods, and so much more. I have a feeling as this series progresses, we’re really going to see more of these things come to fruition. Strange the Dreamer offers us an introduction to this magical world and I cannot wait to see what comes next!

Worn Pages is back up and running!

Hi all!

I’ve finally had some time to get back to writing and I thank you all SO MUCH for your patience. The wedding is still a few weeks away, but now that I’m nearly done preparing the decorations, I’ve been able to go back and review a few books. I’m exciting to share the upcoming reviews with you. I’ve been reading some really great books. 2017 is shaping up to be a great year for fiction. I hope you’ll all enjoy what I have to say, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts too! Stay tuned for my first review of 2017, coming to you next week.

Happy reading!
-J