[Review] The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Publisher and Publication Date: Scribner. April 3, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women in literature.
Pages: 393 pages with writing.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women in literature.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.


Li-yan lives in the mountains of China where tea is grown and harvested. She is an Akha people. They are a culturally distinct group of people who live in the rural Nannuo Mountain area of Yunnan. Yunnan province is located in the southwestern area of China, and near the countries of Myanmar and Laos.

Li’yan is intelligent. She enjoys school and does well. Her teacher encourages her to take a test so she may attend a school of higher learning.

Meanwhile, she meets a young man whom her parents’ dislike. They believe he is not right for her. They will not be a good match.

Li-yan begins secretly meeting the young man until he leaves the area to try and earn a better living for their future.

The story is told in five parts each separated by periods of years.

My Thoughts:

The first two chapters are depressing. I wondered if the entire story would continue to be filled with sadness. If so, I decided to take a break and read something else and later come back to it.

Part three issued in a new and lighter storyline. The atmosphere of the story changed. New characters are added. The scenery and environment changed. Whew.

I am drawn to read stories of women who live in China, Japan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, and other countries located in this region of the world. I want to learn about their lives. I want to learn about the culture, religions, and customs. It gives me a chance to travel without leaving my reading chair. I feel a little knowledge about other people groups helps enrich my mind.

Several reasons why I love The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane:

  1. I love tea. It is a huge bonus in the story that I learned about a rare type of tea.
  2. Li-yan is a person to admire because of her strengths. She is a person who is a dimensional character. I see her positive and negative character traits. She has struggles. She has fears. She has tenacity. She has perseverance. She is a person who at first sight can be disregarded because of her size or cultural heritage. I consider her a diverse person. I consider her a hero.
  3. I love the structure of the story in that there are actually 3 stories in one book. The stories are not back and forth in time but travel chronologically and geographically.
  4. I love it that the males in the story are not the strongest characters. I mean that both ways. They are not strong in character and they are not the primary characters in the story.
  5. I am fascinated by the culture of this diverse and unique group of people called the Akha. I don’t always understand or agree with them. I dislike immensely one of their superstitions.

[Review] Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Books. 1993. First published in 1937.
Genre: Fiction. American literature. Classic literature.
Pages: 112 printed pages.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of young adult through adult. Readers of American literature.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Further links on John Steinbeck.

  1. The 15 Best John Steinbeck Books Everyone Should Read, from Reedsy Discovery.
  2. The Steinbeck Institute.
  3. Nobel Prize.
  4. Book Analysis. This site is heavy with pop-ups and ads.


The time period is the Great Depression, the 1930s.

Two men are traveling together to work at a new job as laborers on a farm. They are in California, on the valley side of the Salinas River.

The men are George and Lennie. George is a small man. Lennie is a large man.

They stop beside a green pool to take a drink. They are hot from the walk. They’d rode a bus to a certain point and must walk the rest of the way.

While beside the green pool they have a conversation that they have had other times. So many times, George is tired of it.

George reminds Lennie often of staying quiet at the jobs. Don’t say anything. Stay out of trouble. If he gets in trouble, George will find Lennie.

Trouble seems to find Lennie.

It is never fully explained, but Lennie has an intellectual disability (I think.) George, at some point in the past, became a caregiver of Lennie. This caregiving role is stressful.

George feels responsible for Lennie. He looks after him.

At the new job, trouble erupts.

My Thoughts:

I first read Of Mice and Men in the 10th grade. When I began reading it yesterday, I remembered a little about the storyline.

It is a novella. A short story. A sad story. A story that makes an impact. It is a story that I had to remind myself that these people don’t think like me, and they don’t live in the society and culture I live in. For example, animal abuse is never okay. To abuse another person because of their skin tone or intellectual ability or income level is never okay.

And a big question that is gnawing at me. What can be done in response to a person (the daughter-in-law of the boss) who is sexually suggestive, lonely, and will not stop bothering the working men in the bunkhouse? My first thought is “Run Forest, Run!” However, these men need the job. They need to work. The situation is precarious.

As an adult, I understand so much more about this story. I picked up on things (aha moments.) For example, Curley is the adult son of the boss of the farm. However, throughout the story his main task is looking for his wife. He walks into the bunkhouse, “have you seen my wife?” The situation is pitiful. Is his wife bored? Lonely? Does she have unmet needs or expectations? Why did she marry Curley? Doesn’t she have farm wife things to do? Taking care of a farm is hard work. Being a farm wife is hard work.

Another question I have: George knows Lennie is strong and can hurt someone or kill them. Why did he command Lennie to respond with violence? Did George regret this action? Is this why the book ended as it did?

Lennie at some point, knows good from bad. What is going on with him that he knows the bad only after it happens?

Of Mice and Men is a book that encourages discussion. But as a kid, I don’t remember conversation in class about the story except from the teacher.

I love, love, love, the setting of scenes which includes more than just descriptions for the reader’s sake, it is the setting of the tone and mood or a pulling away from the dire situation to a place of calmness (for example pages 92-93.) Steinbeck’s descriptions, even of a barn is brilliant.

It is a story with strong inward and outward conflicts.

Some themes in the story: dreams, self-control, grief, justice, injustice, hope, tolerance, deception, shame, sacrifice, suffering, and judgment.

[Review] Marmee by Sarah Miller

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 423.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Those who love the story, Little Women.
Rating: Very good.

Sarah Miller’s Goodreads author page/website/ Instagram/ Facebook/ Twitter.

Link @ Amazon.


The character, Marmee, is the mother in Little Women. This book holds her story, and from her own voice.

Marmee is written in a chronological journal entry format. The first entry is December 24, 1861. The last entry is December 25, 1868. Some of the entries are brief and others are a few pages.

Some themes in the story: marriage, relationships between mother and daughter, war, poverty, 19th century culture and society, maternal health, dying and death, peace, suffering, injustice, dreams, grief, charity, hope, sacrifice, family, honor, and heroism.

The story has internal and external conflicts. The war is a huge external conflict, but so is sickness and suffering. Poverty is an external conflict. Internal conflicts are anguish and sadness and fear over a loved one who is at war. Other internal conflicts are dealing with grief and civilian life in general during a time of war.

My Thoughts:

Most, if not all, of my readers are acquainted with the story of Little Women. If you have not read the story, then you have seen one of the film adaptions.

If not:

The story of Little Women is about the March sisters who live in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Their parents are Amos and Margaret (Marmee.)

Their close neighbors are Laurie and his grandfather, Mr. Laurence.

In Little Women, the focus is on the March sisters, primarily Jo. In Marmee, the focus is her voice, feelings, and opinions. I see the family through her eyes.

What I love about Marmee:

  1. I love the shift from the original story, and in seeing the family through Marmee‘s point of view. It is a fresh perspective, and this leaves me with the feeling of reading the story anew.
  2. Marmee is a strong character. She is a dimensional character. I see positive and negative traits. The strongest character traits she has are compassion and determination. When she sees someone in need, she cannot help but give her all to them.
  3. The Civil War is talked about more often than in Little Women. The fear and anguish that effects the community when a soldier is missing, sick, imprisoned, or dead. They read in the newspaper or through conversations about the battles that take place. Most of the men are gone to war. The women care for family and home. The women are left with trying to feed the family and this is difficult.
  4. Marmee is an educated person. She went further in school than most women of this era. However, she cannot earn a living to financially support the family. In the society and culture of this era, the women were limited in options of securing an income. She wrestles with this problem. She is angry.
  5. The story begins and ends with grief. This is unusual in a historical fiction book. The end is a solid and satisfying closure because Marmee looks to the things she is grateful for. However, there is a pronounced and palpable grief. This is another strength in her character: the ability to give grace and receive grace.
  6. My blogger friend, Becky @ Becky’s Book Reviews, remarked on Jo: Is Jo a person who would now be in the LBGTQ community. She has no idea and neither do I. I did not see that the author brought Marmee to that conclusion either.
    What I see is a young woman who has a huge dream of becoming a writer. Jo is a brilliant and intelligent and very much an individual type of person. The dream is so pronounced that everything else is a distant second until after there is a death in her family. It is possible that after this death her thoughts on relationships regarding marriage changed.
    Most of the women I know personally were very focused on dating and romantic relationships as teenagers and young women. This includes me. As a result, many of us married young and did not pursue or finish college that led to a strong career and independence. I know a few women who dated, but their complete focus was finishing college or graduate school and creating a career. Later, these women thought about and invested in romantic serious relationships. I believe some of this has to do with a person’s character, how she feels about self, socio-economic choices (to a degree), and their friend’s influences.
    Marmee did see some of her personality in Jo. It is an interesting and sober thing when as a parent we see certain traits in our children that we too have.
  7. I feel that each character in the story is spot on as in the original story. Marmee goes deeper and wider.
  8. I love the substories of the various women from all walks of life. This is probably one of the most wonderful points of the story. There is a woman who had breast cancer. There is a woman who is a widow with several children to care for. There are women who grieve the deaths of husbands and sons who were in the war. All the substories give Marmee a bigger story outside the March home that is not in Little Women.
  9. The story is strong in dialogue and not a strong descriptive story about the setting, etc. I remark on this because some authors are strong in painting the scenery or environment for readers.

[Review] A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2011.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. World War II. France. Holocaust. Women and literature.
Pages: 374.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of history, World War II, French Resistance, and the Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Goodreads page for Caroline Moorehead.

Link @ Amazon.


A Train in Winter is the story of French women, from all walks of life, who were arrested and jailed in France in 1942 by the work of the Nazis and the French who were collaborators. This is also the year of the Jewish round-up in France. In January 1943, they were sent by train to Auschwitz, Birkenau. Later in the war, the women were split up and sent to other camps. For example, Ravensbruck and Mauthausen.

These women had been a part of the Resistance in France. Many of them were members of the Communist Party. Most of the women had husbands and lovers who were in the Resistance. Some were swept up in the arrests because of their affiliation.

There were 230 French women who arrived at Birkenau. Most of the women died of dysentery, disease, abuse, starvation, and execution.

My Thoughts:

This is the first nonfiction history book I’ve read specifically about the French women involved (in some way) in the Resistance during World War II. They were political prisoners.

An important thing to note about this book is it does not focus on one woman or a few women. It is a broad look at many women. When reading a book with a long list of people, the book can come across as a fact-based book. There are brief personal stories included, not lengthy stories, but brief, and these bring a personal intimate look at several of the women. In some instances, it was a mother and daughter who were arrested. In some instances, the women had young children or were pregnant. In showing a large sweeping group of women, I see a fuller picture of the Nazi’s brutality against not just a few people but a huge group of those who stood in their way. I know this in theory. I realize the depth in a book like this.

One of the women prisoners is a psychiatrist. The area she worked in brought her in to contact with Joseph Mengele, the German physician who did medical experiments at Auschwitz. She gave witness to horrendous acts.

The horrific acts against them are emotional and provocative.

One of the most important chapters is at the end. The after-effects of trauma inflicted on the women. How they were not able to articulate what had happened. Its effect on their personal lives after the war.

There is a follow-up chapter addressing those Nazi’s who brutalized them after the war ended.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books. 2011.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women and literature. The book may especially be of interest to Hemingway fans.
Rating: Good to very good.

Goodreads author page for Paula McLain.

Paula McLain has written another book about the wives of Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is book one about the first wife.
Love and Ruin is the third book about the third wife.

Link for The Paris Wife @ Amazon.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway. They married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Their son was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. His nickname was Bumby. He was born in 1923. He died in 2000.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway. They married in 1927 after his divorce from Hadley. Hadley and Pauline had been friends. Ernest and Pauline had 2 sons: Patrick and Gregory (Gloria). Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940.


The Paris Wife is from the voice of Hadley. In the first pages, Hadley is grieving the death of her mother who she had a strained relationship. She takes a trip to Chicago and at a party she meets Ernest. It’s only been a couple of years since Armistice Day. Ernest is a young, ambitious, vibrant, charismatic, charming, persuasive Romeo. He is a strong pursuer.

Hadley is older than Ernest by 7 years and 8 months.

Hadley has not had the social life of dating and relationships that Ernest had. She has lived at home. She’s had three deaths to grieve in her lifetime. Each taking a little bit more away from her psyche.

The story follows their relationship to the end and especially during their Paris years. In the final chapters of the book, it shares about Hadley’s later part of life. The book does not share the detailed life of their son Jack or Bumby (as he was called as a child).

My Thoughts:

The main point I do not like about the book is the structure or form. Hadley shares her story in her voice, but every once in a while, Ernest (in italics) shares his story. I dislike him having a voice at all considering Hadley points out more than once that his personality is so big, he fills the room with his presence. This is another way of saying he sucked all the air out of the room. So, I’d say that through Hadley sharing her story, Ernest has a big enough presence that I don’t need him to have any more voice than he already has. I want to clarify. I enjoy reading Hemingway stories. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a favorite. I want Hadley to have a complete book in her voice. It is her story.

Later in the book, Hadley shares that she feels she had the best of him-the early years before he was a famous writer.

Hadley is a wife who is very supportive of his work. She praises and encourages him. There is a point in the story where she finally has an emotional event. She has been supporting him. She has been giving her all to him. She lives for him. But she has had enough. She is emotionally frayed and starved. I’ve known several women, especially those from the previous generations who completely live for their husbands. Their feelings and thoughts and goals and desires are not really their own but their husbands. The wife has no hobby of her own. She has no work of her own. She has no other opinions but his. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. To lose oneself in another. And I dislike Ernest’s reaction to her emotional event. In essence, what she did was finally open her mouth and rise up and say no. No, she did not want him to go. And for this he was angry.

From the start, I immediately like Hadley. She is imperfect (as all people). Even though there is a vulnerability and sadness, I also see a strength that I don’t think she realized she had until later in life. I certainly have empathy for her.

I enjoyed reading about their life in Paris. Where they lived. The people they met. The places they visited, especially the travels to other countries.

I enjoyed reading about how his writing style evolved or transformed.

I enjoyed reading about the cultural changes starting in about 1921.

I’d certainly like to have read more about the Shakespeare and Company book store located on the Left Bank in Paris. It is mentioned but not in descriptive detail.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer died in 1979.