Friday, November 21, 2014

Blog Tour/Review: The Crystal Monkey by Patrick Nohrden

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The Crystal Monkey, by Patrick Nohrden
2014, 292p, Historical Fiction
My Rating=5 Stars
Source: Received a copy from the publisher for an honest review

Little Min Li believes she lives in the world’s greatest nation until the Red Guards terrorize her village. And when her father sells her crystal monkey to buy alcohol, Min Li loses much more than a beloved toy. As she grows up, Min Li must rediscover her hope and courage in order to achieve her greatest dreams. This true-life story will capture your heart!

Min Li is a young Chinese girl who believes that she lives in the greatest nation, China, and that Americans and capitalism are evil. She is a peasant and, since she feels wealthy, she considers that to be a good thing. At the beginning of the story, she feels that the Red Guards, a militant youth group, are the bright future of China. The Red Guards have become power hungry, though, and one night, her family is required to attend a meeting where she realizes who they really are. 

That night, she rescues a crystal monkey from Mr. Li's shop, a brave act that would have serious consequences if she was caught. The crystal monkey shows up in her dreams and helps her through some difficult times in her life. She has to hide it and is disappointed when it disappears and she learns the truth of what happened to it. Over the years, her eyes are opened more and more as she learns the truth about her father and the importance of a good education as the key to creating a better life for herself. 

I loved Min Li! My heart broke a little at some of the things that happened to her. She's resilient and determined to make a better life for herself. She's almost raped twice by the same boy. The first time, she tried to press charges, but he's the son of a wealthy and influential man and nobody will stop him. After his second attempt, I was hoping he would go away but he makes another appearance and what he wanted at that point made me feel sick so I can't imagine how Min Li felt. Her father is another disappointment to her. He lives away from the family most of the time and is incredibly selfish when he does come around. He doesn't have much use for his family unless he needs them to help him with something. I loved her mother, brother and sisters. They are poor but stick together and work hard to survive.

I like that the author included a glossary at the end to help with pronunciations and definitions. I enjoy reading stories about different cultures and this had an authentic feel to it. I wasn't surprised to read later that the author has lived in China. I learned a lot about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and some of it is pretty horrible and difficult to read.

This is a fantastic coming-of-age story that will make you feel like you're witnessing history. I was glad to read that the author is working on a sequel. I enjoyed the ending but feel like there is more to Min Li's story so I'm looking forward to reading it! 

Content: Violence relating to the Red Guards; two rape attempts, neither one too graphic.

About the author:

Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Patrick Nohrden left high school early in order to join the Army. After serving in various assignments throughout the U.S. and Europe, he returned to America and to school, earning a B.A. in English with Great Distinction from San Jose State University where he won two Phelan Literary Awards. Later, he obtained his law degree from the University of Akron and practiced law in Las Vegas, Nevada. Growing disillusioned with the law, after twelve years he gave up his law practice and moved to Northeast China where he taught conversational English at Bohai University. There, he fell in love with the Chinese people and has been an avid scholar of Chinese culture and history ever since, focusing his attention on modern educational systems and the era known as the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Returning to the United States, Patrick Nohrden obtained his teaching license and earned a Master of Arts degree in Teaching Secondary English from Sierra Nevada College and taught public school in Las Vegas for three years venturing overseas again. He taught British Literature and Speech in Kuwait for a year where he met his Chinese wife, Limin, his inspiration for the character Min Li in The Crystal Monkey. A year later they were married in China, and he spent the next two years teaching English Literature in a special Canadian Program in Zhengzhou and was named Teacher of the Year. Now living in Reno, Nevada, with Limin, Patrick Nohrden teaches English and publications for a local high school.

An expert in modern Chinese culture, Patrick Nohrden has published more than thirty articles on China, as well as numerous articles on the Middle East, Russia, and methods of teaching English.


MG said...

This book sounds wonderful. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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