The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

“Tea reminds us to slow down and escape the pressures of modern life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from June 24, 2018 to June 26, 2018.

Apologies for the lull in posts, I have been away visiting family and did not prepare as well as I would have liked since I was fairly overwhelmed with work prior to leaving. #excuses?

It isn’t very often that I read a description that legitimately makes me want to read a book and sticks with me. It hit a few things off my list: the plot is set in rural China, which since I am living out in Hong Kong I always find intriguing, secondly, tea is a major topic and anyone that follows this blog knows how much I love tea! I found this book on Netgalley but the jerks didn’t approve me for it. The book clicked around in my head for a few months and I finally decided to cave and purchase it, I have no regrets. This is also my first Lisa See novel and at this point, I can assure you it won’t be my last.

Li-yan and her family live in a remote village in Yunnan and are a part of an ethnic-Chinese minority called the Akha. Growing up, Li-yan’s life is ruled by strong traditions, superstitions and, of course, tea. Tea is the lifeline of her family and of her people. It is backbreaking work but it is what her family has always done. As Li-yan grows, she becomes the only educated person in her family to speak the mainland’s language and when a stranger appears in their village wanting to make his own pu’reh tea on their land, Li-yan becomes his main correspondence. The connection will transform the way their small village has lived for many years.  Li-yan falls in love with a young man her family does not approve of and when he leaves for work and she falls pregnant she breaks tradition, and instead of slaying her daughter she reluctantly gives her up for adoption. When her man returns a few months later she tries to rectify her terrible mistake but she is too late, her daughter has been adopted out to a family in the United States.  She leads a terrible life with her husband in Thailand before returning to China to start her own tea business.  She is very successful but the hole left in her heart from her daughter never goes away. After a remarkable meeting with an old woman near a marriage market, her life takes a turn she could never have expected. There may be hope that she might see her daughter again…

This story is captivating yet is also a very easy read. Lisa See knows how to sculpt her characters and draw her readers in. I also really connected with Li-yan, maybe it’s an age thing or perhaps the strength of her character.  If this is what Lisa See’s stories are normally like, then I definitely need to add more Lisa See to my TBR pile.

This book would appeal to a wide variety of readers. Anyone that is interested in a happy ending, China, tea, family and survival stories would adore this book. It is a well-rounded story and Li-yan will touch the hearts of many.

Neverwinter by R.A. Salvatore

I miss the Companions of the Hall but this is a necessary turn for the Drizzt series.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 346 pages.
Read from June 14, 2018 to June 20, 2018.

This series is my reliable go-to when I am in a book slump and this saga has, in general, been a good surprise and turn from Salvatore’s standard fare.

Drizzt has begun a new life. One remiss of his old companions. He is burdened by grief and anger but also a guilty sense of freedom that he was not expecting. This newfound feeling scares him as he feels himself becoming more primal, more dark-elf-like. He agrees to help his new companion and lover Dahlia on her quest for revenge, a prospect that he would never have agreed to before. Dahila intrigues Drizzt as she is a warrior and a woman that he has never known before. Their ventures bring them face to face with old frenemies that make Drizzy nostalgic and confused about his path and his moral choices.

After a solid start to this saga with Gauntlgrym, this novel was a little lacklustre. However, there is a great spoiler in the novel that confirmed my suspicions about Barrabus’ real identity that was exciting. I do have to admit though, I miss Drizzt’s regular companions and his old life but Salvatore had to make this move. When you are this far into a series you need to keep your characters dynamic and adaptable and this saga of novels delves deep into the core of Drizzt’s moral compass.

What works with this saga is that it is dark and that Drizzt needs to get in touch with his inner self again which mirrors what made the first books in this series so memorable.  This book, however, does seem weighted down with a lot of side plots and not-so-memorable characters making for a plot that isn’t as concise or fluid as others.

While I miss the old companions and mourn them I can see the necessity of this change. However, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that they will all magically make a come back at some point.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neil

We were just acting out the strangest, tragic little roles, pretending to be criminals in order to get by. We gave very convincing performances.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 368 pages.
Read from June 4, 2018 to June 14, 2018.

This book has been heralded with awards and accolades for its unique and outspoken story about Baby, a twelve-year-old girl just trying to make sense of the world and how she fits into it.

Baby is her name. Her real name, not some cute nickname. Baby’s parents were very young when they had her with her mother exiting from her life at an early age. Jules, Baby’s father, loves her but unfortunately, he seems to love heroin more. Jules does the best he can but often finds himself in less than ideal situations for raising a child. While Baby is on the cusp of leaving her childhood behind her, she tells her story with the frankness that can only come from that of a child yet she is slowly becoming more aware of how abnormal her life is with her father as she ages. While there are many pervasive aspects to this novel involving sexuality, drugs and prostitution, the quirky and honest way that Baby delivers her story makes for an enthralling combination of awe, shock and amusement.

“Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the side walk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your partner was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.”

The success of this book comes with how the author has delivered it in combination with some beautiful, and at times, poignant writing. Baby’s understanding and sense of the world is appropriate for her age yet reflective and insightful enough to engage any reader. Even if you had the idea of a normal childhood, the delivery of Baby’s story will still appeal to you because of how she approaches childhood and the insights she has on it. Childhood, in many ways, is horrible and magnificent time, which is reflective of the tone of this book. It is a portion of our lives that we can truly never ever relive or experience again for better and for worse.

“As a kid, you have nothing to do with the way the world is run; you just have to hurry to catch up with it.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Baby’s story and found the book to be highly readable and engaging. I think most fiction lovers will appreciate this quirky, awkward and honest rendition of a peculiar and traumatizing childhood.