Sunday, July 6, 2014

China Dolls, by Lisa See

I tried to give this two stars, but the more I thought about it, the worse it seemed, and I just didn't think it deserved the second star. The premise was interesting, but I didn't enjoy this book at all. 

When I read Song of the Silk Road , I thought it was just terrible, terrible writing. Now I wonder if it was a deliberate style, because I've read Lisa See's other books and the writing was beautiful—but why would she choose to write like this? I thought it might be that she wasn't good at writing first-person narrators, but no, all her other books had those (I couldn't remember at first). Then I thought it might have been the time period, that she was going for some kind of historical feel—but Shanghai Girls takes place in the same setting, and it was amazing. Okay, some of it is a Chinese style, with the stupid proverbs and bizarre adjectives that I have to admit, I just hate. "Top-top stars," "no-no girls," "true-heart friend," and all that. But the narration is a different thing, and I don't understand why such a good writer would intentionally use such an unsophisticated style. 
"Lee, Tom, sweet ones, let me give this to you straight," I declared. "Grace and I won't go to New York unless you hire Helen and Eddie too." The two men exchanged glances. Could we really be such prima donnas? YES!

Around noon, Joe arrived, wanting to check on us. He looked just as unsettled as we felt: This is bad, very, very bad. 
Before Grace could answer, someone pounded on the door. Double fists! Terror shot through my body as my woman parts constricted, yanking in fear up to my heart.

I'll say this for Charlie: he loved kids. He was patient with them too, as long as they kept quiet. Quiet? What a joke!
Here's the other thing, besides the writing: I hated the main characters. Hated them, especially Helen. They've all been through terrible experiences, things that make me feel for them, make me willing to forgive a lot—but even so, they all went past what I could tolerate. When I wasn't cringing at the language or seething with rage over the disgusting racism of the 40s, I was furious about whatever new despicable thing a character had just done (usually to one of the other protagonists). Why were those women friends for so many years?? I don't think there is any explanation that could justify their friendship to me, and if there is, it certainly wasn't in the book. They're terrible to each other—not just gossiping behind each other's backs kind of terrible, but reporting each other to the FBI kind of terrible. There is no way their relationships should withstand the things they do to each other.

Not liking China Dolls was even more frustrating than disliking Amy Tan's new book was. I read most of it in less than 24 hours, but what drove me was the desire to have finished it, to know whether it stayed as bad as it seemed to be. It did. For how excited I was to read this, for how much I loved her other books, this experience can best be summed up by the word "disappointment."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Knights in Plastic Armor

Remind me, if I'm ever in the market for a child's knight costume, to buy it from this website. Check out these two pictures they advertise prominently, whereas a Google search for "child knight costume" otherwise delivers about eighty bajllion pictures of boys! Awesome.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 Halfway

Of the 97 books I've read so far this year, 66 were by women, and 47 have female protagonists (something like six or seven were books of poetry or others that don't have protagonists). On the one hand, that's twice the number of books by men, but on the other hand, I've lost some of the lead I had earlier this year. I want to get that back. I'll have to start paying attention to those picture books, because it looks like they're the main culprit. I also read three Terry Pratchett books, and the Harry Potter series—while all at least written by a woman—really bring down the female protagonist number. Have you noticed that, by the way? How relatively few books have female protagonists? Even with two-thirds of the books I've read this year having been written by women, barely half are about them. I find that sad.