Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Well, hello Book Club Friday, visitors. I haven't linked up in a looong while, mainly because I haven't felt like writing. But, never fear, I HAVE been reading. I picked up And the Mountains Echoed maybe a few months ago, and put a "starter" version of this post into my post list, but never finished it. So, here's the final entry for Book Club!

I was a big, big fan of The Kite Runner and and even bigger fan of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni. So, when And the Mountains Echoed came out I put myself on the wait list at the library immediately. I finally got tired of waiting and ended up buying it from Amazon.

{Source: Goodreads}


The plot of the story is split. The  novel begins with a father telling his kids a story. We meet a brother and a sister, and learn a little about their lives in a small, rural town of Afghanistan. What follows is an extraordinary story. The kids are split and sent follow drastically different life paths. Meanwhile, war comes to Afghanistan and the people and places they knew are changed. 


I have to say, I wasn't wowed. It was good. Hosseni is a great author and this novel had some good characters. But, at times, I felt like it moved slowly and I had a hard time staying with it at some points. I also got really confused, sometimes, about who was who, so then I had to go back and read to remember who everyone was.

That being said, if you enjoyed his other novels, you should read this one. It is powerful. As an American who has never been through the uncertainty that war brings it's easy to forget how simple our lives really are. This narrative is a strong reminder of how the world functions for many of it's inhabitants and how as humans we can be more aware of the impacts we make on others.

What books have you read lately?

To catch up on what I've been reading, visit me on Goodreads or my Pinterest Books board.

Also, here are the top 10 books that have stayed with me.



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My Top Ten

People often ask me what my favorite book is. That, friends, is an impossible choice. I like so many of them and so many have had an influence on my reading habits, and frankly, my life. So, when my cousin Samantha challenged me to list my top 10 books on Facebook, I thought it was a more manageable list than just 1.

In no order, here are the books that have influenced me the most or stayed with me in some way:

1. The Mists of Avalon; Marion Zimmer Bradley: This novel was one of the very first fantasy novels that I read where women were the heros and the strong ones. Still one of my favorite series.

2. Outlander; Diana Gabaldon: One of the kids I babysat had a mom who was a big reader, and when she found out I read some of the same stuff she did, she told me I should read this novel. I put it off for awhile and FINALLY picked it up last January. I ended up reading the whole series straight through {thank goodness the library had all of them for my kindle}. Now, I gush about this novel {and series} any chance I get. You can read my review here. Run, do not walk, to the bookstore to buy the whole series. Then ensconce yourself in a flurry couch with some coffee, and tell your friends you won't see them for a few months. They're THAT good.

3. The Red Tent; Anita Diamonte: Again, with the strong women! This is a biblical fiction novel about Dinah, a sort of foot-noted character in the Tanach. The story really illustrates the type of society we could have where women take care of each other. It was an awesome read.

4. The Giver; Lois Lowry: I love dystopian novels, and as far as I am concerned this one is the best. I read it twice before I *had* to read it in 8th grade. I couldn't get enough. It simply doesn't compare to other novels. It is the best one.

5. The Little House on the Prairie; Laura Ingalls Wilder: I secretly wanted to be Laura when I grew up. And, to some extent I have. I can bake bread from scratch {and cook for a crowd}, I love being in the woods, I'm practical with money, I'm a teacher. I'm not very good with livestock, but we can't have everything in life!

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; JK Rowling: Let's be real, the whole series should be here, but the last one was the most poignant for me. I do re-read the whole series once every few years, and I'm due another re-read {the last one was when I first came to China}. Harry Potter is my childhood.

7. The Sleeping Beauty Series; Anne Rocquelaire: You know what I really love about this series? It's erotica written by a woman for women. It's intense and full of fantasy and wonderful.

8. Ender's Game; Orson Scott Card: I got this novel first from a friend in high school {hi, Ben!}. I kinda took his and he had to buy a new one. I've now read most of his series and they're pretty solid in the way of science fiction-y spaceship novels.

9. The Chosen; Chaim Potok: Reading this novel was the first time I laughed out loud at a novel {that I remember}. It was just so....Jewish! The mannerisms, the stuff I recognized from my own life, it was all there. I never realized how a novel could connect me so much to my own background and identity.

10. The Cry of the Kalahari;  Mark and Delia Owens: I read this book as a freshman in high school and, really, I devoured it. The Owenses sold everything and made their way to Africa to study lions in Botswana. I read the sequel, also, and it was fantastic!

11. Flow; Mihayli Csikszentmihayli: Well, I cheated and added another one. Flow basically guided my entire thesis and it's not really about sex at all. Czikszentmihayli argues that a flow experience is one where we lose track of time and everything around us, and it's used quite a lot in recreation theory. It's highly readable, and fascinating.

And, of course, there are many more. So, some honorable mentions go to: The Time Traveler's Wife; Wuthering Heights; Shanghai Girls; Monique and the Mango Rains; The Host; My Life in France; The Boxcar Children series; The Babysitters' Club series; Into the Woods; The Lemon Tree; Ready Player One; The Queen's Fool; The Children's Book; The Uncoupling; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Pillars of the Earth; Island of the Blue Dolphins; The Forgotten Garden; A Wrinkle in Time; The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  

And, let's not pretend this is all of them. Just what I could remember when I went through my Goodreads list!


What books have stuck with you?

Monday, September 01, 2014

Hong Kong: Disneyland

You know it's part of my Bucket List to visit all the Disney Parks, right? I've knocked a fair few off having worked at Walt Disney World and then visiting Tokyo Disneyland last October. Now that I live in Guangzhou, I'm very close to Hong Kong, and thus, Hong Kong Disneyland.

This one is different than other Disney Parks because it is very small. Space is at a premium in Hong Kong, even more so than it was in Tokyo {which still had two parks and two resorts!} which means that many of the things I take for granted at Disney {Tower of Terror!} just aren't there.

Still, the parade was fantastic, Cast Members were wonderful and it was a fantastic, stress-free day. I'm gonna go back soon!






Have you been anywhere exciting lately?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Last Days in Tianjin

I've been turning over this post in my head for days. Would I write it? Would I be able to? Would I remember to take enough pictures or be able to put how I feel about this city into this space? I've been pretty vague about my life here. I share a lot of adventures but not a lot about my personal life and work. Part of that is because, despite writing on this blog, I am a private person. I prefer to really control the information I put on the internet as much as I can. I'm not one of those passive-aggressive Facebook status-updaters and I don't really share my struggles electronically.

But, a lot has happened to me in Tianjin. I've made friends, I've lost them. Work was a battle ground, for awhile. I worked very hard for a promotion, then got it, but it didn't make me as happy as I thought it would {see above with work being a battle ground}. Being far away from my family has been hard for many reasons {illness, death, etc.} and I've thought many, many times of just coming home. I kept hanging on, though, because some of the best people I've ever met live here. I have had some crazy fun nights  and I have grown more as a person here than I have anywhere in a long time.

And then, the decision to leave Tianjin was made for me by my company. I've moved to Guangzhou. When I first heard the news, I was OK with it for awhile, and excited for a new adventure. Then, suddenly, the idea of leaving was overwhelming. Time was slipping away and I realized that I might not see some of my favorite people for a long time, if ever again. Being an expat is not for the feint of heart, and especially not in a place like China where people come and go so frequently.

But, I also realized that I could preserve these memories and tuck them away. And that, in this age of easy travel {by train, by bus, by plane} that it really isn't goodbye. It's 再见 {zai jian}, which means, roughly "until we meet again." So, here are some pictures from my last few days and weeks in Tianjin.







Good memories!