Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Tales from a Mountain City by Quynh Dao

Wow! What a story! This is a true account about a family during the Vietnam War and the rise of Communism. This powerful story is told by one of the daughters in the family. The writing of this memoir is excellent and contains many bits of history as well as family stories.

When the Communists move into Vietnam this family is thrown out of their house with nowhere to go. The troops want to use their house as a base for their operations and living quarters. The family finally finds refuge with a lady that the mother of the family had done business with in the past. They stay in the attic of her house along with another family who has fled their home. Many people lost homes to the troops. You were especially in danger of being homeless if you were wealthy and had a big house. Everyone was experiencing a time of great upheaval with normal daily life abruptly changed. Books were burned in the streets and Communists broadcasts blared out through speakers erected in the towns and on the streets.

The author shows how they had to live during this turbulent time, accounting for every place they went and told if and when they could come and go. At this time a lot of brainwashing began with the children having to learn slogans at school as well as having to dig trenches and go on other assignments as needed to help the troops instead of studying regular school subjects. At a certain age everyone had to fill out a form called "the declaration of personal background," which was basically your whole family history. The communists wanted to find all the counter-revolutionaries in the country. These undesirables were then either executed or sent to prisons, or as they called it "re-education camps" until they were reformed. Many friends and relatives were sent to prison to be reprogrammed. Some fled to the woods where a lot of them perished because of disease and lack of food. Luckily most of this family escaped that fate, although as a teen the author was taken from her home in the middle of the night by the soldiers with no explanation to her parents as to why. When taken by the cadres you never knew if you would be reunited with your family or not.

The soldiers would come along and take the young people to do various tasks for them. The author was in a group of other girls who had to pick tea at a secret location for a month. Others taken weren't as lucky as they had to dig up land mines, etc. Living during this time was quite dangerous. Everything was very uncertain and food was terribly scarce. Many people starved to death. Families would set up stands to sell what they could, hoping to make enough money to buy rice and other necessities.

This family, along with many of the Vietnamese people, witnessed some dreadful scenes as people were executed and everyone lived in fear from day to day. Bombs, air raids and gunfire became a regular occurrence.

This is a heart wrenching story of sacrifice and a family's hope to escape the horrible atrocities they had to live with everyday. This book also contains some wonderful old family photos.

Some of the things in this book are shocking and some will make you mad because you really care about this family and what happens to them. Quynh Dao shares a couple of funny moments as well, which lightens the mood of this book. I highly recommend this behind the scenes look into the lives of real people living under Communist rule.

Sorry to be so sporadic with my posting here

I had to have major emergency surgery a couple months ago so it's taken awhile for me to get back into the swing of things. I hope to get caught up soon and will be posting some more book reviews.

If any of you are authors I encourage you to sign your book/books up for a FREE review. It does take awhile to get to your book and have it read but it is definitely worth it because the review gets posted to your Amazon book page as well as to a couple of independent blogs.

Most genres are allowed by the site but not all. Those excluded and a few rules are listed at the top of the page. It only takes a minute to put your book on the list along with a link to your book, the genre and a brief synopsis.

Good luck everyone! Here is the link. Now go and check it out!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Growing up in Mississippi

This book is a memoir about growing up working on the cotton plantations in Mississippi. Not only did this family struggle because they lived in poverty, but they were also black and living in the south when African Americans were discriminated against and looked down on just because of their color.

When I read the synopsis for this book it sparked my interest because I was also raised on a cotton farm in the south in the 50's. I was interested in Bertha's story. I thought perhaps I could relate to what happened to her, not because I'm black but because we were also very poor back then and did our share of picking cotton when we weren't in school. I also knew very well what blacks were treated like in the south during that time.

Some of the things the author describes are horrible and are certainly things that no one should have to witness and certainly not a child. They are things that should have never happened, but most of the people in the south in those times were raised with a prejudiced attitude. It's very unfortunate when we can't just view everyone as human beings regardless of our differences. Today things have changed for the better, which is a good thing. It was hard enough growing up in poverty but I think it was downright dangerous to be a person of color in the 50's and even the 60's. You never knew when someone would shoot you dead for no reason at all.

As a reader we get to look inside the plain houses this family lived in; live the turmoil in their lives, hear the tales of what they ate, which was sometimes very little. They worked hard all day everyday and lied in their beds at night listening to the rats and the snakes in the walls. But they weren't without a few fun childhood moments. They would sneak out of the house when their mother was gone and take the boat out and go wading in the rivers, never once thinking of the dangers of snakes swimming in the same waters. My siblings and I used to wade in the muddy ditches too when we were growing up and lie in bed listening to the rats in the walls of the sharecropper's shack we lived in until I was about 13.

I could relate to this story on several levels. There was a lot of poverty in the south with people drifting here and there to find work. I found this book to be an enlightening read and a sad story. This family was treated so badly, but it's also uplifting because they stuck together through everything they had to endure and rose above the poverty and the prejudice after the civil rights movement. The author was able to go to college, which was a childhood dream, and graduate with a degree.

There wasn't a father figure present, but Bertha and her siblings had a strong mother who wanted the best for her four kids and she moved them around a lot to different plantations as she tried to give them the best life she could under the circumstances. This memoir also has some nice family photos. I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants to see what life was like back then from someone who knows firsthand. The reader can get a good feel for the characters and the places by all the description in the story. I felt like I was right there with Bertha, laughing and crying along with her. The cover on this book is a collage of family photos and quite the appropriate choice.

Just finished my first magazine

And what a job that was! I had been working on this for about three months and never realized what a job it is to put a magazine together. I began to wonder if I had taken on a job too big to handle, but it felt awfully good to get it done and was quite an acconplishment. Perhaps I'll have a greater appreciation for magazines now although I love books much more.

This job got delayed several times. I had to have emergency surgery and it was one thing and then another after that.

Of course I'm way hehind on my bloggiong posts. I have several book reviews to post and other things.

And it's hot here in the desert being summer and all, although we've had it lucky this year overall as far as temps go. Usually several weeks in the triple digits by this time of year and we've only had 3-4 days is all.

Take care everyone.