(Review) Song Of Praise for a Flower: One Woman’s Journey through China’s Tumultuous 20th Century by Fengxian Chu, contributor Charlene Chu


Publisher and Publication Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. November 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, autobiography.
Pages: 488.
Source: Free copy from Charlene Chu, and Author Marketing Expert.
Rating: Excellent.

At this time, the book is free through Amazon Kindle Unlimited: Song of Praise for a Flower. 


Co-author Charlene Chu, Fengxian’s first cousin, grew up in the United States and wrote the English rendering of Song of Praise for a Flower. A financial analyst well-known for her work on China’s economy and financial sector, she is quoted widely in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Business Insider and other media outlets. She holds an MBA and MA in International Relations from Yale University. “Song of Praise for a Flower” is her first book. Charlene splits her time between Washington, DC and Hong Kong.


Back cover shares the summary of book.

Fengxian Chu is now 92 years old. She was born in the 1920’s and this is the start of the book. She began to write out the story of her life in 1989 and completed it in 1992. The manuscript waited for a reading audience until Charlene Chu, a cousin from America, came to visit Fengxian in hopes of finding historical information about her family. Charlene contributed to the book, making historical corrections or filling in the blank on certain events. The book is equal parts written by Fengxian and Charlene. Fengxian is the voice and topic of the story.

Several reasons led me to give Song of Praise for a Flower an excellent rating.

•A detailed life account of the narrator, in both the logistics of living in China during the 20th century, and her thoughts and feelings.

•A brief history of the Hunan Province, including the geography of the landscape. Later, Guangdong Province is less remarked on by way of a history or geography lesson; instead, it is shown in the daily life of the narrator.

•The society and culture in China is a huge overarching theme in the book. There is a lengthy list of various topics under the heading of society and culture but these are a few: foot binding with women, prejudice between the different provinces in China, communism, family saga, relationships between husbands and wives, relationships between parents and children, family history, education, poverty, gender equality versus feudal, and opium addiction.

•An intriguing aspect of the story is communism. Fengxian Chu has (I think this is the right word) “adapted” to communism. She believes in the Communist Party despite the horrors and abuse of the early years. She feels communism has been good for women. Charlene Chu addresses this issue in brief in the “Afterword” section.

•Over a period of years various reforms took impact in China. The Communist Party pushed agricultural reforms, anti-religious reforms, education reforms, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. All of these are explored in the book.

•Another interesting aspect of the story is the beliefs of luck, good fate or bad fate, good is rewarded and evil is punished.

Song of Praise for a Flower shows the remarkable life of Fengxian Chu. She represents Chinese women during this period who survived (and also died) during the horrors of the Japanese threat of 1930s and World War IIthe war between nationalists and communistscommunism, a changing society and culture, and extreme poverty.

“Now, in the final season of my life, I see that each of us is given only one chance at life. We must take advantage of every opportunity that life presents. For when we do not truly live, life loses its meaning.” Fengxian Chu.

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Pearl River in China 


(Review) Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children From The Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena's Children

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books paperback. 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, Poland, World War II, Holocaust.
Pages: 352.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

I’d first heard of Irena Sendler after watching a film titled, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.

There is a project and film about Irena’s life: Life in a Jar


Preface: Page xii. But while Irena Sendler was undeniably a heroine-a woman of immense, almost unfathomable moral and physical courage-she was not a saint either. To make her a saint in the telling of her story is, in the end, to do a kind of dishonor to the true complexity and difficulty of her very human choices…She was at once a heroine-although she disdained that word, too-and a flawed and average person.

All humans are “flawed and average.” A hero is someone who is ordinary in every way yet rises to the challenges set before them. The challenges set before Irena were immense. She was given an opportunity, and because of her career, to make a difference in the lives of children. Some people would have said no. Irena said yes.

Irena Sendler was age 29 when Nazi Germany attacked Poland in 1939. She was married and had a boyfriend. Irena was not Jewish. She had grown up with Jewish friends and neighbors. Most of her friends were not religious. They were educated leftist thinkers. She was a social worker. During the war she became involved in the underground network of helping Jews survive. Irena specifically worked to help Jewish children escape and survive the Holocaust.

My Thoughts:
One of the few things I disliked about the book was Mazzeo’s direct quote I gave. I don’t believe it was necessary to state Irena was a “flawed and average person.” However, I believe this was stated to show one of the elements of the book: Irena was a normal person who became a heroine by rescuing Jewish children during the Holocaust. I believe the story itself showed me the kind of person and character of Irena.
What I loved about the book:
1. I was given a broad and detailed view of the city of Warsaw-it’s people specifically.
2. The book gave me a view of the Jewish people I’d not seen before in other stories. For example, the Jews are not a 1 type people. They are as varied as any other people group. Some Jews are orthodox, some are educated, some had businesses, some were intellectuals; and some had Jewish blood in their ancestry but did not consider their religion to be Jewish. Some of the Jewish people were not religious at all, and were leftist thinkers leaning towards communism.
3. The events leading up to and during the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany.
4. The network system of getting children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
5. The individual stories of those children Irena helped.
6. Irena’s story showed me the immense task, suffering, brutality, fear, and betrayal of what she endured, as well as the other people who worked to save the Jews.
7. The after affects of surviving the Holocaust is looked at in brief. The two stories shared gave a great impact on this aspect.



(Review) The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction, World War I, Post World War II, Spy Story.
Pages: 503.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.


In 1915, Eve Gardiner joins a spy network, based in France, against Germany. World War I began a year prior. The spy network she is apart of is called the Alice Network.
In 1947, Charlie St. Clair is a young college student. She is pregnant and unmarried. Her parents send her to Europe, accompanied by her mother, to take care of the problem.
While in Europe Charlie is hopeful she can find her cousin, Rose, who has been missing since World War II. After arriving in England, Charlie breaks free from the constraints of her mother and meets Eve. She is hoping Eve will help her find Rose. At this point in life, Eve is a troubled woman, and Charlie will need courage to just talk to Eve.

My Thoughts:
I love this story!
Eve and Charlie are strong characters. Both are frayed women with big problems. They are far from being the stereotypical female characters in books. I feel the author gave each woman imperfections in order to make them stand out in memory as women who are imperfect, messy, and real. However, both of the women are courageous, gutsy, and fiery.
In The Alice Network, I saw the affects of war on civilians. There is a small story told by a survivor in a French town. The story is from World War II. Her story is a horrific reminder of what the Nazi’s did to ordinary people who were caught in their murderous grip. I also saw what civilians did to profit from the war. These people took sides in order to make money and earn a temporary power. I also saw the affects of the war on women. For example, women who became spies to help their country or women who were trying to survive during a time of war.
For both Eve and Charlie, they have pasts to process. In a way, they are both pregnant with the possibilities of new life. But their past lives held disappointments and sadness. It is important for them to deal with what happened before moving on in a new life. The process they go through is an adventure for them and the reader.
The Alice Network is a wonderful story. I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover.



(Review) The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert

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Publisher and Publication Date: Persevero Press. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Fiction, war and military.
Pages: 532.
Source: Free paperback copy from Susan Wittig Albert.
Rating: Good.

The kindle copy at Amazon is $1.99.

Tour Schedule at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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About the author:
A NYT bestselling author, Susan’s books include biographical fiction (A Wilder Rose 2013, currently under film option; Loving Eleanor 2016; and The General’s Women 2017). Her mystery fiction includes the bestselling China Bayles mysteries; The Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert. Working together, the Albert’s have also written over 60 young adult novels.
Susan’s most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her earlier nonfiction work includes Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007). She currently serves as editor of Story Circle Book Reviews and co-coordinator of SCN’s Sarton Women’s Book Awards.
She and Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and tends a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.
For more information, please visit Susan Wittig Albert’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

A compelling story of love, betrayal, and ambition by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, The General’s Women tells the story of two women–Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight Eisenhower.
Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General’s Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay’s, Ike’s, and Mamie’s), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future.
The story continues into the post-war years, as Ike (returning to Mamie) becomes Army Chief of Staff, president of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and president of the United States. Kay, meanwhile, struggles to create a life and work of her own, writing two memoirs: the first (Eisenhower Was My Boss, 1948) about her war work with Ike; the second (Past Forgetting, 1976) about their love affair. An author’s note deals with the complicated question of the truth of Kay’s story, as it finally appears in the posthumously-published Past Forgetting.

My Thoughts:
The Generals’ Women is a work of fiction. When I began reading the book, I had to remind myself this is a fiction piece. As big of a historical figure as Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is easy to become wrapped up in the story believing this is a biography.
In the past, I’ve read several nonfiction books on Eisenhower as the central figure or as apart of the World War II story. The General’s Women is not a strong military story. References are made to the battles and the advancement of the war. Meetings Eisenhower attended with ambassadors, heads of state, generals and other military are mentioned.
The story’s emphasis is on the relationship Eisenhower had with his driver, Kay Summersby. Mamie Eisenhower, back at home in America is apart of the story but not a strong part. She seemed more like a secondary character. The spotlight is on Eisenhower and Kay.
I was glad, Susan Wittig Albert, documented her research on the people discussed in the book in the “Author’s Note.” Mamie Eisenhower’s granddaughter wrote a biography on  Mamie, as well as a few other sources were studied. Kay Summersby wrote a memoir and this is utilized.
Even thought Albert explains what is fictionalized in the story. I want to mention my feelings on how I feel about historical figures who are written about in a book. It is a guess as to what are people’s motives, feelings, and thoughts. Husbands and wives who have been together many years, parents who are close to their children, and best friends don’t know everything about each other. Only the individual and God know the true self behind the flesh. Maybe Eisenhower deeply loved Kay Summersby or cared for her or it was a wartime romance. During a time of war, sexual relationships between people happen. Afterwards, on reflection, that is when a person can adequately make a judgment about what happened.
The General’s Women is an interesting and entertaining story. It personalizes the military figure of Eisenhower. He is shown as the human with emotions behind the military uniform.
I have empathy for both Eisenhower and Kay. Both people spent time together during a war. They depended on one another. They had chemistry. They developed feelings. But the relationship did not last.
I have lived long enough (age 53) that I have heard several stories from people who loved a person but the relationship did not continue. They ended up marrying another person. They spent the rest of their life remembering that great love. It is sad. But this is the reality of life. There really is no happily ever after.