Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I Read in June Part II

What I Read in June Part II . . .

Dragons of Silk (Golden Mountain Chronicles, #10)Dragons of Silk by Laurence Yep -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

This book tells the story of several generations of formidable Chinese and Chinese-American women as they struggle to keep their families safe and happy. Their stories are bound together with the tale of the Weaver Maiden who abandoned her loom to be with her cowboy. But Heaven would not allow this, and put the Milky Way in between them. Silk is in their blood from the early days of growing the worms and weaving the cloth in China to the present day, the women of the story have to find a way to honor their past and look to the future.

I really liked the first section of the story set in 1835. I couldn't put it down. Though I found there was entirely too much description of caring for silk worms, I found the culture fascinating. The story is compelling and I stayed up too late wondering what would happen next. It's a bit predictable but something shocking happens. I didn't like that when the time period changed, characters dropped out of the story. I kept wondering what happened to one character and that isn't resolved until the end. The second section is also compelling and I found the culture of the girls' house very interesting. Again there was too much description of factory life and the silk industry. The story gets sped up and comes to a rushed, predictable conclusion. I loved the women in these sections. Their struggles and their feelings seemed so real. They're very strong and courageous women. The writing is also very beautiful and descriptive. I liked how the tale of the Weaver Maiden was woven through the story.

The next several sections are really short and rushed. I didn't like them as much. They were dark and depressing without any of the light-hearted moments or the cultural ties that made the first two parts so interesting. I found it difficult to believe that Little Swallow could have such an annoying daughter and I wanted to slap that woman. Lily/Little Swallow was a bit too serious for my tastes. I didn't really understand her or Rosie at all because her story was glossed over. One minute they're children and the next they're adults. What happened in between? I felt bad for both girls and wanted to see them happy but I felt the sections needed to be longer and they needed something to balance them out. It also made me sad that the family stories and traditions pretty much got lost through the generations. The final section deserved a lot more attention. It sort of brings the story full-circle to a conclusion but it isn't given enough attention. I didn't read any of the other books in the series and I'm unsure how all of the characters are connected but I enjoyed this one a lot despite all the serious subject matters. I recommend it for older teens and young adults. 

The Serpent's Children (Golden Mountain Chronicles, #1)The Serpent's Children by Laurence Yep -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Cassia and Foxfire are two children belonging to the Young clan of Three Willows village in nineteenth century China. Their father is a revolutionary who fought the Manchus and now fights the Demons (British). Cassia is a firebrand like her father and Firefox is an idle dreamer. Like the children of the white serpent in Cassia's favorite legend, she'll fight and fight again, while Foxfire dreams of going to the Golden Mountain to free his family from poverty. The siblings do not get along but they must learn to stick together and fight to save their family during a time of poverty caused by bandit raids, drought, rainstorms and politics.

This book needs some explanation to make the plot really work. There's a lot about Chinese history that I didn't know and the author's note doesn't really explain it. If I hadn't read the last book in the series first, I would have been more confused. The plot is interesting but takes awhile to get going. The story took too long to conclude, yet I couldn't put it down. It's very heavy and depressing for a children's novel. Some of the subject matter is quite mature for the younger end of the age group (12). I really liked the fiery Cassia, yet I felt like she was not a very nice person for all she tried to be like her mother. She struggled to find herself and after she did, the plot dropped and turned into a basic summary of what was happening. I felt sorry for Foxfire. He was the most sympathetic of the main characters. My favorite character is Aster, a "stranger" who befriends Cassia's family. She's spunky, loyal and brave while still managing to be a kind person. She should have been the main character.

Does anyone know how all the characters in the series are connected? I need a family tree!

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