Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Virginia PyeThanks to Caitlin Hamilton Summie of Unbridled Books, I am giving away one print copy of Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye.

Description of Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:

During the dangerous summer of 1937, a newly widowed American missionary finds herself and her teenage son caught up in the midst of a Japanese invasion of North China and the simultaneous rise of Communism. Meanwhile a charismatic Red Army officer requests her help and seems to have shared some surprising secret about her husband.

Shirley must manage her grief even as she navigates between her desire to help the idealistic Chinese Reds fight the Japanese by serving as a nurse and the need to save both herself and her son by escaping the war-ravaged country before it’s too late.

Taking her own grandmother’s life as inspiration, Virginia Pye, author of the critically-acclaimed debut novel River of Dust, has written a stunning new novel of Americans in China on the cusp of World War II.

My Thoughts on Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:

In 1937 Shirley, an American woman is left in North China with her Teen-aged son, Charles when her Reverend husband dies in an accident.  She mourns for a very long time.  However, one day a bunch of Chinese end up on her door step trying to escape certain death from the Japanese invaders.  Many are injured and since Shirley use to be a nurse, she sets up a hospital in her house.  

Meanwhile the head Reverend is making plans for all of the Americans in the complex to go back to the U.S. soon.  They are not part of the war but they also know that they won’t be safe for much longer in China.

While Shirley tends to the wounded, her son, Charles is left to his own devises.  As happens with most teenagers, he gets into mischief.  A very dangerous situation with the Japanese presence.    However, he also does a lot of growing up which, Shirley doesn’t even notice until much later.

Do the Americans get out of North China in time?  What happens to Shirley and Charles?  You will have to read the book to find out.

While reading the book my admiration for Shirley really grows.  She ends up being a strong female who makes her own decisions and rescues many people from death were their wounds to go untreated.  However, I also get really mad at her for practically abandoning her son.  Just because they live in the same house doesn’t mean that she is being a mother to him which, he desperately needed.

I have to confess that it took me until the fourth chapter to really get into this book. However, once I got to chapter four, I found it almost impossible to put the book down! The drama and plot builds and builds while the main characters are well drawn out.  I think Virginia Pye captures the place and time beautifully.  So much so that I felt like I was transported to 1937 North China.

I highly recommend Dreams Of the Red Phoenix!


I received this book for my honest review.

Praise for Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:

“A missionary family is trapped by the invading Imperial Japanese Army in the “hard and disastrous land” that’s northern China, 1937 . . . . Shirley becomes further entangled with the revolutionaries until she’s forced to make a not-quite Sophie’s Choice but one that leaves her morally bereft . . . . There’s a comparison to Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, but this unflinching look at a brutal era in a faraway place shares truth in its own way.”-Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping, convincing, and heartbreaking, Dreams of the Red Phoenix is powerfully evocative of the complexities of life in 1930’s China.  A real page-turner and thought-provoker — wonderful.”-Gish Jen

About Virginia Pye:Virginia Pye

Virginia Pye’s essays can be found in The New York Times Opinionator blog, The Rumpus, Brain, Child, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, River of Dust, was an Indie Next Pick and a Virginia Literary Awards Finalist in Fiction. Carolyn See in The Washington Post called it “intricate and fascinating;” Annie Dillard said it’s “a strong, beautiful, deep book;” Robert Olen Butler named it “a major work by a splendid writer;” and Caroline Leavitt described it as “a gemstone of a novel…a masterpiece.” Virginia has published award-winning short stories in literary magazines, including The North American Review, The Tampa Review, and The Baltimore Review. Her short e-book Her Mother’s Garden was published by SheBooks in January, 2014.

She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. Virginia currently divides her time between Richmond and Cambridge, MA. Her new novel, Dreams of the Red Phoenix, inspired by her grandmother, is due out in October 2015 from Unbridled Books.

Giveaway of Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:

Hurry, this giveaway ends at midnight, October 28th!  You can enter here: http://theteddyrosebookreviewsplusmore.com/2015/10/giveaway-dreams-of-the-red-phoenix-by-virginia-pye.html#.Vi3QprerS70

 Pub Date: June 12, 2012 | Ballantine Books | 400p

 It is mid-15th century Spain and with her father, the King, dead Isabella and her brother Alfonso go into exile with their mother.  Their half-brother, Enrique becomes King.  When Isabella and Alfonso become  pre-teens, Enrique sends for them to join him in life at court. 

There, they meet a second cousin of theirs, Fernando of Aragon, who is there visiting.  He walks in the garden with Isabella with loose supervision and announces to her that they will eventually marry.  She’s not sure about that but she does like him and enjoys his company.  However, he goes back to Aragon and she doesn’t think a lot on it. 

She has too many things to worry about at court.   The two young siblings soon learn how ineffectual a ruler Enrique is and Alfonso is taken by Archbishop Carrillo of Toledo and other to strike up resistance to King Enrique with the goal of crowning Alfonso.  Isabella is accused of treason and is held prisoner. 

For awhile, it looks like Alfonso will succeed in his mission but he eventually dies and Isabella takes his place.  She marries Fernando, even though Enrique forbids it.  However Isabella does make peace with her half-brother and he vows that she will rule when he dies.  He leads a very unhealthy lifestyle and soon dies.

Enrique has a daughter who in all likelihood isn’t really his but she also strikes up a fight for the crown.  However, her attempts fail and Isabella becomes Queen.  Though she is Queen she shares her power with Fernando, though she ultimately has to make most decisions on her own.  With hardly any money in the treasury and unrest all over Spain and Europe, will Isabella be able to start the healing process for her realm? 

C.W. Gortner creates a brave Isabella who, like most people is also conflicted.  With all male advisors and a sign of the times she often gives into what she thinks must be done, even though it conflicts her ethics.  It is a time where many countries all around are trying and killing people for heresy and eventual Isabella agrees to it for Spain, which we know as the Spanish Inquisition. 

Gortner paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be there in mid 1400’s Spain.  With the stroke of his pen his characters come to life and leap off the page.  This is the third book I have read by C.W. Gortner.  If it wasn’t official before, it is now, I am a fan!  I didn’t think he could top The Last Queen or The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, but I think he has with A Queen’s Vow.  I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next.


I was given this book for my honest review.

View the Trailor:

About C.W. Gortner:

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


Thanks to Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and C.W. Gortner, I am giving away one copy of The Queen’s Vow.

This giveaway is open to Canada and the U.S. and ends on July 2, 2012.  Please use Rafflecopter to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Mini Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on December 28, 2011
Posted in Books Read in 2011ChinaHistorical Fiction  | 10 Comments

Description of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See:

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are–Shanghai girls.
My Review:

I listened to the audio version of this book.  I was really looking forward to it because Snowflower and the Secret Fan made a lasting impression on me.  It was one of those books that have stayed fresh in my mind, even 5 years after I read it.

Shanghai Girls was quite a different story from Snowflower but I enjoyed it.  For the most part, I loved the relationship between Pearl and May there were just a few parts that didn’t really work for me.  For instance, while they were confined at Angel Island, May gives birth to a girl.  However, she has Pearl fake a pregnancy herself so everyone thinks she is the mother.  Pearl gives birth in the women’s shower, right  next to were the women sleep, yet no one heard a peep when May was giving birth.  Next thing you know the other women wake up with a new-born among them.  I just found that unbelievable.

The writing itself was wonderful as was the character development and the love hate relationship between the sisters.  That was very realistic to me, having an older sister myself.  Lisa See really captured the period in history in rich historical detail of the Japanese invasion in China and the Chinese immigrant experience in the United States.


I borrowed the downloadable version of this audio book from my library.


Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.