Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

Synopsis:

2635587China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family’s migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation.

Review:

A wide-ranging, deep, and humanizing look at the women who work in the factories of China’s Southern coast.

These factories are huge, almost beyond comprehension.

Seventy thousand people work at [Yue Yuen’s] Dongguan factory. Imagine the entire population of Santa Fe, New Mexico, under the age of thirty and engaged in making athletic shoes.

Chang follows migrant workers as they arrive, jump factories looking for better conditions and pay, and go home to celebrate the new year. She sits in on a White-Collar Secretarial Skills Special Training Class, goes to karaoke at a hotel where women are part of the entertainment, and checks out “Assembly-Line English” where students sit for hours reciting columns of words as they float past. And most importantly she talks to these women about their goals, their dreams, and what they hope to gain by moving so far away from home in order to work.

Chang’s narrative voice is solid and assured, the tone engaging. The facts are all here and well reported but she goes further, digging for deeper truths. At first I thought a chapter detailing her own family history was a mere sidebar, but it comes back later to link in with the modern day tale in deep ways I hadn’t foreseen. It’s a technique I’ve seen in Japanese newspaper opinion pieces – talk about two wildly different things, then draw them together in masterful and unexpected ways – and Chang does a wonderful job of it. She also writes some gorgeous prose:

At night, the factories lining the highways are lit. Look closely and you can sometimes see shadows moving against a window, erratic as fireflies – as long as there is light, people are still working. Each strip of blue-lighted windows against the dark signals a single factory; one strip is set apart from the next, like stately ocean liners on the sea. From a distance, they are beautiful.

I loved reading about these women and their stories. A hearty recommend for anyone wondering what life is like in modern China.

Advertisements

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City #1)

Synopsis:

16255San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous – unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin.

Review:

Oh, how I love this book. I’m have to say right up front that I’m biased – I lived in San Francisco for a few years and location is a big part of the book. The story should be just as enjoyable even if you’ve never visited, but the vivid images I was able to pull up of neighborhoods and street corners is a plus.

And it was designed that way. Continue reading “Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City #1)”

Spice and Smoke by Suleikha Snyder (Bollywood Confidential #1)

Synopsis:

13447917To their adoring public, Avi Kumar and Trishna Chaudhury are Bollywood’s sweethearts. Behind closed doors, their open marriage lets them freely indulge in all manner of forbidden passions. The arrangement suits them both, but as they begin filming on the set of their new movie, the heat of new and rekindled flames singes the pages of what they thought would be a fresh script.

When costars Michael Gill and Harsh Mathur arrive on set, the sexual temperature goes up exponentially—at least for Trish. She can’t take her eyes off Harsh, for whom she’s carried a torch for years. Avi’s instant attraction to Michael, however, bounces off Michael’s solid wall of resistance.

Meanwhile, ex-boyfriends Vikram Malhotra and Sam Khanna, cast as fictional enemies, are finding it harder and harder to control the very real demons that once cost them the love of a lifetime.

Review:

Avi and Trishna are the darlings of Bollywood, a married couple that can do no wrong. Few know, however, that their marriage is an open one and that they both pine for someone else. While shooting their newest film they, and a bunch of other people, find that love and angst are forever intertwined.

The plot of this novella is, like the relationships, a bit tangled. Continue reading “Spice and Smoke by Suleikha Snyder (Bollywood Confidential #1)”

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

Synopsis:

24596066The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

Review:

In medicine there’s a knowledge translation gap. Information about a new treatment or a better way of doing things takes, on average, fifteen years to become standard practice. Fifteen years! In the realm of human sexuality, though, the gap feels more like thirty years. Nagoski navigates that chasm by taking clinical research, wrapping it in a bit of self-help, and presenting it in an approachable way.
Continue reading “Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski”

Until Tomorrow by Annie Kelly (Flirting with Trouble #2)

Synopsis:

27282629Carson Tucker only has one thing on her mind: getting her life back on track and pursuing her teaching career. She can’t afford to be distracted, yet no amount of good sense can compel her keep her mind—or eyes—off the brooding and mysterious Wyatt Sands. She agreed to be his tutor and help him finish his degree, but now she’s wishing she could inspire him in more ways than one…

He makes her want to break all the rules…

Still reeling from the tragic accident that took his best friend’s life and left him wheelchair-bound, all Wyatt Sands wants to do is forge ahead without any attachments. His solitary lifestyle works well until the after-hours sessions between him and his tutor turn hot and steamy. As the chemistry between them fuels a passion that is too electrifying to be denied, will Carson be able to break down the barriers that Wyatt has erected around himself—or will their fiery passion burn them both?

Review:

Like many romance readers I have trope catnip (marriage of convenience!  a bantering couple!) and trope poison (secret babies, Navy SEALs).  Until Tomorrow has none of my catnip… but none of my poison, either.  I was going to pass it by until I saw that Wyatt is in a wheelchair.  A hero that’s disabled, the rarest of the rare!  I’ll have some of that, please.

“But wait”, I can hear you say, “isn’t that guy on the cover standing?” Continue reading “Until Tomorrow by Annie Kelly (Flirting with Trouble #2)”

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles #1)

Synopsis:

9533378Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Review:

A very good start to what is sure to be a rockin’ urban fantasy series.

The good: Continue reading “Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles #1)”

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada

Translated by Ross MacKenzie and Shika MacKenzie

Synopsis:

25541152Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead- in a room locked from the inside. His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women. Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural Japan.

By 1979, these Tokyo Zodiac Murders have been obsessing a nation for decades, but not one of them has been solved. A mystery-obsessed illustrator and a talented astrologer set off around the country – and you follow, carrying the enigma of the Zodiac murderer through madness, missed leads and magic tricks. You have all the clues, but can you solve the mystery before they do?

Review:

I’m not a huge mystery person, but when I read one I want to be given all the clues up front. It really annoys me when an author holds back some essential bit of information that prevents you from figuring out the whodunit. Continue reading “The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada”

Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

Synopsis:

605663A provocative manifesto, Whipping Girl tells the powerful story of Julia Serano, a transsexual woman whose supremely intelligent writing reflects her diverse background as a lesbian transgender activist and professional biologist. Serano shares her experiences and observations—both pre- and post-transition—to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.

Serano’s well-honed arguments stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often-disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. She exposes how deep-rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this “feminine” weakness exists only to attract and appease male desire.

In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today’s feminists and transgender activist must work to embrace and empower femininity—in all of its wondrous forms.

Review:

I’m a feminist but I’ve never taken a class in gender studies or otherwise groked the different schools of feminist thought. Serano is there for me, breaking down trans/gender theory (as it stood when this book was written) and how it relates to her as a trans woman. She goes through the myriad forms of sexism and misogyny, the depiction of trans women in the media, and how LGBTQIA people of different sorts figure in feminist thought.
Continue reading “Whipping Girl by Julia Serano”

Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins

Synopsis:

1371138Though her Lexus may be broken down on the California freeway, Jessi Teresa Blake is no damsel in distress. Rich, smart, and beautiful, JT, or “Lady Blake,” as she is called, is one of the toughest sports agents around. She’s negotiated megabucks contracts for every superstar in the business, and only the most confident of men can match wits with her. Men like Reese Anthony, the impossibly sexy trucker who gives her a lift back to Oakland.

Review:

I don’t read much romantic suspense but I’m up for anything by Jenkins and I’m glad I gave it a try. The bad guy is obvious from the beginning so the suspense is more about seeing what lengths he’ll go to.
Continue reading “Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins”