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review 2020-07-13 19:58
A wonderful discovery in the form of a web novel
Mr. Tycoon's Daring Wife - Xincerely


If you love a good love story, with a dark past and plenty of hardships to overcome and a thoroughly satisfying ending then this one is a must.


What happens when you live through a horrific trauma? It changes you. There is no other way. You either succumb and die or you get stronger and you live, but you are a different you. And that is what our strong heroine is, she is a changed person who changed for the better, for the stronger and for the smarter. And she kicks as$ (quite literally).


Zhao Lifei has never had a good emotional upbringing but she was raised in wealth and that is what made her conceited and arrogant. When she survived something terrible and managed to work through her trauma and her mistakes, she was built up as a new, improved version of herself. With this still struggling version of herself she meets her destiny in the form of an amazingly hunky and dangerous CEO Yang Feng, oh and by the way, he also rules the shady part of town. When they meet they grow as people - into people whom they are then proud to present to the world. All of that happens with a world of suffering, torture, deaths, humiliation, struggle, kidnappings, resolving their pasts etc. It is a struggle worth going through because it is written in a very compelling and smart way with a dark undertone.


The characters are flawed, as well as they should be. I hate characters that are cookie cutter characters lacking any realism. These characters are flawed, yes.

Zhao Lifei is too stubborn, bottles up her feelings, builds walls around herself and projects things from her past into current situations.

Yang Feng is a bit obsessive and possessive and stubborn as all hell when it comes to things and people he loves.

They both have a dark past and are dealing with their demons. What matters is that they grow, they mature, they lessen their bad characteristics as they spend more time with each other. They help each other. I see plenty of reviews saying the male lead character is too possessive, he is like this and like that but what they fail to mention is that his first thought is like that yes, but then he is actually much more considerate in his actions albeit still a bit too possessive and then he gets burned by our kickas$ female lead and he learns, and he adapts and he realises he can do better and he does. Isn't that the point? Going through hardships and misunderstandings to actually accomplish something, realise something, grow and mature? I certainly think it is.


The storyline is great, the plot keeps getting more and more complicated and the mystery is compelling and you just want to keep reading and discovering and enjoying the process of getting to that sweet wonderful ending.

The characters are wonderful, flawed and full of battle scars and you care for them every step of the way.

The pacing is also done well, there weren't any long scenes that you'd feel like you wanted to skip or that you'd look later at and say that was completely unnecessary. It all has a meaning, gives clues and ties the loose ends in the end.


One thing that I found quite amusing was the ending itself and no, I won't spoil it. I'll just say that it has more endings than The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King XD I kept thinking my goodness, that is amazing, ah this was so good, so that is how it ends and then you turn another chapter and then there is more, and then another and another and another and in the end I might as well say that no stone was left unturned, everyone's story had a proper ending and kudos to the writer for managing it. Well done.


All in all, it was a wonderful experience and a journey I'd sign myself up for at any time.

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review 2020-03-22 15:16
Run Me to Earth - Paul Yoon
Run Me to Earth - Paul Yoon

Yesterday, I took a day off. The official motto at my house was "Go ask your Dad". It was fabulous.


This little book was the perfect way to spend the day. It demanded to be devoured at once. I found that taking breaks longer than the amount of time needed to fill my coffee mug, really disrupted the author's flow. I found I had to go back and re-read a few passages if my break became too long. I found it was difficult to appreciate the structure of the book if you took too long between chapters. 


It was a beautiful book about the Vietnam war and it's aftermath. Three orphans who are forced to find their way in a war torn country. A doctor who tries to protect them. It's got epic saga written all over it. However, I think Yoon would have lost something if this book had been any longer. Yoon has a gift. Anyone who can make the kind of impact he made in so few pages is nothing short of a genius. 


I look forward to reading more of Yoon's work (as soon as I'm able to get back to a library). Asian culture is definitely something I don't read enough about. I don't think Asian authors and/or books get enough press in general. My goal of reading the Ultimate Historical Fiction list has made this painfully obvious. 


Read 3/21/2020 - 3/21/2020

Book 20/75

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review 2020-03-05 16:54
Spring Moon - Bette Bao Lord
Spring Moon: A Novel of China - Bette Bao Lord

My knee is still bothering me. It's cold. It's windy. It's raining. All of these things combine to create the perfect excuse to stay in and catch up on some reading. 


I'm continuing my year long quest to work through The Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List: Chapter 1 - Historical Fiction. Spring Moon is book number 12 of 68 for me. It's one of only eight books said to take place in Asia. There are books that take place in the Middle East which for the most part is part of Asia but the creators of this list lump the Middle East in with Africa. And even when there are books that take place in Africa, they all take place in Egypt which is typically culturally considered to be the Middle East. So it could be argued that there aren't actually any books on this list that take place in Africa.  I need to stop this rant or I'm going to be here a while. The moral here is that the more I dig in, the more I realize this list has a huge issue with diversity. 


Spring Moon is the story of Spring Moon. She is a girl born in the dying days of Imperial China. Her story takes us through the first half of 20th century China and the rise of communism. It's a beautiful story full of tradition. It's a tragic story. Many reviewers compare Spring Moon to Gone with the Wind. I've never read Gone with the Wind but it's on the list. I have seen the movie over and over again. Spring Moon is a much more complex and likable character than Scarlett O'Hara. 


I know I've already said it but I'm coming back to the word beautiful. Lord weaves stunning details into her story about Spring Moon's coming to terms with the destruction of the world she knows. Lord captures the struggle between China's old ways and a new generation of citizens who long for change. 


The only issue I had with the book was the sheer number of characters. Lord does a masterful job developing each of her characters but I felt like something was missing. I wanted just a little bit more time with Nobel Talent. I wanted to watch Enduring Promise grow. The story was never really meant to be about either of those characters on their own. This was very much Spring Moon's story. Those two characters specifically had such large roles in Spring Moon's life, it seemed like a huge disservice to them to be cut so short. Understandably to give more life and depth to some of the secondary characters, the author would have needed another two hundred pages. I would have been perfectly content with another two hundred pages. 


Read 3/1/2020 - 3/5/2020

Book 16/75

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review 2019-08-21 07:59
The Warrior Maiden (Hagenheim #9) by Melanie Dickerson
The Warrior Maiden - Melanie Dickerson

When Mulan takes her father’s place in battle against the besieging Teutonic Knights, she realizes she has been preparing for this journey her whole life—and that her life, and her mother’s, depends on her success. As the adopted daughter of poor parents, Mulan has little power in the world. If she can’t prove herself on the battlefield, she could face death—or, perhaps worse, marriage to the village butcher.Disguised as a young man, Mulan meets the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, who is determined to save his people even if it means fighting against his own brother. Wolfgang is exasperated by the new soldier who seems to be one step away from disaster at all times—or showing him up in embarrassing ways.

From rivals to reluctant friends, Mulan and Wolfgang begin to share secrets. But war is an uncertain time and dreams can die as quickly as they are born. When Mulan receives word of danger back home, she must make the ultimate choice. Can she be the son her bitter father never had? Or will she become the strong young woman she was created to be?





In Dickerson's take on the Chinese legend, Mulan has been adopted into a European family in 15th century Lithuania. When war comes to the area, teenage Mulan decides to disguise herself as a man to take the place of her father, who had passed away. Mulan has numerous reasons for taking on this dangerous mission of sorts --- not only does she herself crave the chance to find adventure and a sense of purpose, but she also doesn't want to see her mother have to face possible homelessness!


Her family's well-being now reliant on her success as a soldier, Mulan goes into battle against the Teutonic Knights. Should she fail to bring honor and victory to her family and community, the alternatives could be either death or being married off to the local butcher, Algirdas, a union likely to lead to a lifetime of soul-crushing hard labor for Mulan. Also along for the journey is Mulan's childhood friend, Andrei, who poses as her body servant. He's in on her secret, naturally, but does his part to keep the truth under wraps... in more ways than one.


Disguised as a man, going by her father's name, Mikolai, Mulan meets Wolfgang, the son of the duke of the German town of Hagenheim. Wolfgang was pushed to join the army after his brother, Steffan, went against their father's wishes and chose to join ranks with the enemy, the ruthless Teutonic Knights. Now odds are good that the two will have to face each other on the battlefield. (Note: If you read the earlier Aladdin installment in this series ---- The Orphan's Wish ---- Wolfgang and Steffan are the brothers of Kirstyn, the love interest of Aladdin from that book. Another of Wolfgang's sisters are also featured in Hagenheim #6: The Golden Braid, the Rapunzel retelling).


Wolfgang initially sees Mulan as just a fumbling embarrassment of a soldier, but over time a slow friendship develops. He also notices that while Mulan's sword skills could use some work, she's actually an impressive archer and solid equestrian. 


I've seen quite a few high reviews of this book from reviewers who admit they know nothing of the origins of the story of Mulan, either through the Disney version or the original story the movie is based on. Being pretty familiar with both myself, I felt like Dickerson's Mulan was only a tepid nod to the fierceness and bravery of the original figure. It only lightly touches on the elements of honor and strength within the original Mulan's character that made her such a force to be reckoned with in the stories.



I also struggled with a number of things within the plot itself:


* While the friendship between Mulan and Wolfgang is sweet and builds naturally, the romance is largely one dimensional. Not to mention how her decision to call him "Wolfie" brought out serious cringe in me. 


* The pace of the story ran pretty slow for what you might expect in this kind of story, but I give extra points for the bit of excitement brought in near the end when it's decided that the fate of Mulan's mother will hinge on the outcome of a jousting tournament.


* This series in general... though I've only read from #6 on and am working on backtracking to the earlier ones .... but man, in these latest installments, there is so much white savior complex written into these retellings, it kinda ruins the spirit of the original legends for me. 


* The Warrior Maiden, with the Christian undertones that are worked into the entire series, came out much more preachy than previous books. For me, it didn't flow all that naturally in this environment, but more awkward... the way it was pushed into the dialogue at times read clunky to me.


I'm curious to backtrack into the earlier installments of this series and see how some of these characters had originally started out and where they go from here; to date, my favorite has been The Silent Songbird, the Little Mermaid re-imagining, 


FTC DISCLAIMER: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2019-08-09 17:09
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Days in the Caucasus - Banine
Days in the Caucasus - Banine,Anoushka Rava

Well, looks like I was tempting fate after all.  As it turns out, not every memoir set in the former USSR in the years before and during the Russian Revolution was really shouting out to be written.  This is definitely one such -- which is particularly disappointing as the writer's father was a leading Azerbaijani (oil) industrialist and a minister in the short-lived 1918-19 Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.  I realize that Banine was a child during the years that she describes in this book (up to her emigration to Paris in 1923 at age 18), but she was an adult woman when she sat down to write it some 20 years later, and for her memoir nevertheless to contain no more than an extremely superficial description of the political circumstances of the day, absolutely zero analysis (political or otherwise), and instead a relation solely from the perspective of her spoiled child-self of those years is pretty underwhelming.  This could have been so much more.


As a side note, Anoushka Rava is going straight onto my list of "never again" narrators.  Note to publisher: A narrator with no ears for narrative rhythm, flow and texture does decidedly not add to the authenticity of the narration, for however much their accent may (presumably) resemble that of the author when speaking a foreign language.  It is also emphatically not necessary to spend nine hours yelling at the reader / listener in order to convey the impression of a household in which conversations conducted at that level of vocal exertion (equally exercised by all speakers, and moreover at the same time) was apparently the norm.

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