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review 2017-11-01 09:27
Very Brief Thoughts: The Liar's Dice
The Liar's Dice: A Lotus Palace Mystery (The Lotus Palace Mysteries) - Jeannie Lin

The Liar's Dice by Jeannie Lin
The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #2.5 (novella)



Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D.
Lady Bai, called Wei-wei by her aristocratic family, has always been the perfectly obedient daughter--but only on the outside.  Inwardly she dreams of freedom.  When she dares to pay a forbidden visit to a public tea garden in men's clothing, only Gao looks close enough to notice her borrowed robes.  Alas, looking closely at the enigmatic Gao tells Wei-wei only one thing: he's a scoundrel.

When the pair witness a fatal stabbing, Gao surprises her by staying at her side as she investigates the brutal crime.  Together they uncover more secrets, somehow tied to her brother and the seedy gambling dens he's been visiting on the sly.  Gao seems to know far too much about the brutal ways of the street, but Wei-wei is drawn to him and his habit of seeing through all her disguises.

Wei-wei revels in her newfound independence and her growing feelings for her mysterious companion, but all too soon she's faced with a cruel choice -- discover the truth and bring the killer to justice, or protect her family at all costs.

A lovely short read for a character I'd been interested in since the first book.  Wei-wei is wonderfully crafted to be smart, bold, and beyond her times; while at the same time she's unassuming enough to understand her own faults.  I wish the "disguised as a man" part of the story would have been a bit more fleshed out, since it is one of the classic romance tropes I love; but as a novella, I suppose it'll have to do.

The romance in this novella was understated, with the focus being more on Wei-wei's self-revelations about herself and her role in her family.  I would love to see more of Wei-wei and Gao, as their relationship is one that would definitely be disapproved of enough in the traditional, historical Chinese sense to be an interesting development if allowed to progress.



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review 2017-11-01 09:24
Thoughts: The Jade Temptress
The Jade Temptress - Jeannie Lin

The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin
Book 2 of The Pingkang Li Mysteries



Welcome to the infamous Pingkang Li—home of the celebrated Lotus Palace courtesans, and a place of beauty and treachery...

Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter.  She has all men wrapped around her finger—except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.

Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu.  But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail.  Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences...

My first thoughts while reading The Jade Temptress were about how much development there has been for Mingyu since the events of the first book in this series.  She was cold, untouchable, and as high on a that Empress pedestal her Lotus Palace sisters accuse her of placing herself on.

But even as the book begins, and progresses, Mingyu shows a different side of herself that is different than her first introduction the Lotus Palace--she is the elder sister that Yue-ying loves, who wants nothing but to survive her life and see her sister happy and safe.  She's just a woman trying to make it in life, with what little opportunity being a woman allows her during these times in China; and she's a woman who begins to dream that maybe there could be more for her than eternal servitude to the foster mother who owns her, and the men who pay for her company.

I think I loved this book more than the first book, though, if only because of the complexities of both our main characters.  This is not to say that Yue-ying was not a complex character, because she was definitely so much more than the standard romance novel heroine.  And Bai Huang never truly showed his complexities until nearing the ending, but even then I was hard-pressed to truly appreciate them.

In contrast, Mingyu has so many layers to her that it was quite interesting to watch her progress through her few self-revelations.

And while Wu Kaifeng seems like he's only got one personality--upstanding, blunt, aloof--his layers are also quite interesting to witness as they peel away.

While the attraction between Mingyu and Kaifeng felt a little too fast to be credible, their subsequent interactions were sweet.  It was nice watching both of their exteriors chip away, a little at a time with each meeting or chance meeting between them.  And even while they knew that they both lived in two different worlds, and that their romance would be hard to attain, they didn't spend too much time languishing in the angst that could have come up in the beginning of their courtship.

The murder mystery of The Jade Temptress was quite well outlined, and certainly, for a moment in the book, I followed the wrong red herring, even as I had kind of touched upon the actual truth behind General Deng's death already.  Either I'm slipping, or the twists in this mystery had been clever enough to confuse me.

The Jade Temptress is a historical romance with intrigue and mystery, and is rather quiet and tame compared to the events and high drama of the previous book.  I don't know if it's because our couple are both rather settled, quiet individuals, while the previous book's couple were young and exuberant.  But somehow, this is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Jade Temptress a bit more than The Lotus Palace.

Nonetheless, enjoyment was had.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/11/thoughts-jade-temptress.html
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review 2017-10-29 03:20
The Cowboy Rides Away (The Marvells of Montana) by Jeannie Watt
The Cowboy Rides Away (Marvells of Montana Book 3) - Jeannie Watt


Nothing is as it seems in this tale of star crossed romance and adult angst. What happens when doing the right thing turns out to be all wrong? The Cowboy Rides Away is a story of missed chances and mending fences.  The road to forever is littered with obstacles but the reward is the healing of two broken hearts.


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review 2017-10-06 02:18
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin - My Thoughts
Gunpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles) - Jeannie Lin

This book had been unavailable for a good while (rights reverting to author etc...) but at last it's been republished by the author.  And it's good!  Worth the wait.  :)  I'm pretty sure I was guided to this by something one of my fave authors, KJ Charles said on Twitter, so thank you KJ!

What we have is ... I guess it's best termed as a steampunk adventure, set in the mid-1800's in the midst of The Opium War, with a lovely undercurrent of romance. 

Soling is the heroine and while she's young - 18 years old - she's not annoyingly young.  The daughter of a brilliant engineer executed by the emperor when she was but a child, she's had a hard and hardscrabble life over the past eight years.  She takes care of her opium-addicted mother and her younger brother and is a very smart cookie in her own right.  She heads from her small village into the city to sell the last keepsake she has of her beloved father to feed her family and the adventure begins. 

She meets a bunch of different people from her and her father's past. Men that worked with her father.  The man she was once betrothed to.  The Crown Prince too.  And not only are there the devil English foreigners, there's an army of rebels to contend with.  And through it all, she refuses to panic, refuses to give in to her fears, refuses to give up on getting back to her family and getting them to safety.  The girl has gumption, dammit! *LOL*   And she has flaws as well which makes her likable and not obnoxious.

And there is some romance.  There's a spark between Soling and one of her father's protegés as well as tons of chemistry between her and he one-time betrothed.  In fact, there's a scene between the two of them where he's measuring her foot for a mechanical boot type thing that is SO damned sexy while being so simple.  AMAZING!

I had one small problem while reading and that was that in my epub copy, Chapter 29 ended up as being Chapter 31.  So things that were referenced in the following two chapters I hadn't read yet!  Most annoying, but shit happens. 

Anyway... great book!  VERY enjoyable and I will be looking forward to the next part of Soling's adventure!

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review 2017-10-06 01:24
Thoughts: The Lotus Palace
The Lotus Palace - Jeannie Lin

The Lotus Palace
by Jeannie Lin
Book 1 of The Pingkang Li Mysteries



It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans.  At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China...

Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties.  Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress—until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.

Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life.  Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine—will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?

The first time I read a Jeannie Lin book, it brought back memories of when I used to watch historical Chinese television series all the time.  While I still watch the occasional Chinese historical, I don't marathon them like I used to.  Reading The Lotus Palace, I find that that feeling is still there--of course, the television series are a bit more chaste, while this book has a few steamy sex scenes, but that's still the feel.

And of course, because of this, it might make me a bit biased towards this book, with it's historical Tang Dynasty setting, the beautiful descriptions of clothing, the streets, the vendors, the residences... and a lovely sweet romance that makes your heart ache.  Because these are those same elements (once again, minus the sex) that had made my love for Chinese historical, Chinese wuxia series grow with every viewing.

The Lotus Palace may be a mystery, but it is definitely first, and foremost, a romance.  And with that in mind, it's easy to appreciate the silly interactions between Yue-ying and Bai Huang as the two of them amateurishly investigate the death of a famous courtesan.  I'm not entirely certain I would actually describe their interactions, or even their entire relationship as sweet, really.  Between Yue-ying and Bai Huang, their love story hinges more on the young, first love variety, where everything is over-dramatic and angst-ridden and almost dream-like.

I'm not even entirely sure I cared much for their romance, really.  They certainly made a cute pair of friends, that's for sure.  But Bai Huang came off a bit too naive and idealistic for my liking.

And this is where I find I really liked the characters--yeah, I know I contradict myself.

Neither Bai Huang nor Yue-ying are your typical romance novel hero or heroine.  Bai Huang is a flamboyant, flirtatious scholar, who spends his days and nights making light of everything.  Yue-ying is a hardened girl, a maidservant who used to slave away in a low-end brothel as a prostitute, simply trying to survive each day of her life, trapped in a world where she has no freedoms or choices as a woman.  By fortune, she is taken in by the most famous courtesan of the Pingkang Li, Mingyu, and now works as her maidservant, never having to service men with her body as long as she stays with Mingyu.

It's a typical Cinderella romance between our couple where, of all the beautifully adorned and decorated women in the Pingkang Li, Bai Huang happens to notice the quiet maidservant, who all but tries to make herself blend into the wall at all times, whose face is marred by a red birthmark cover one cheek from eye to chin, and becomes intrigued enough by her to pursue her.

The Lotus Palace isn't an entirely memorable experience.  The romance has it's moments, of course, where it strays from the typical tropes.  For instance, I like that Yue-ying doesn't fall for Bai Huang immediately, and reacts in the appropriate fashion, slapping him when he tries to kiss her.  I like that Bai Huang's charms don't really work on Yue-ying, and in fact only serve to make her more annoyed with him.  I like that Yue-ying is always trying to be practical about whatever chemistry is brewing between herself and Bai Huang--tell him that he needs to back off, that they are from different worlds, that his interest in her can only cause trouble for the both of them.

But I also like that Bai Huang is so persistent, knowing that this is a girl he needs to work for in order to court; that she obviously won't just melt in his arms just because he's good-looking, or powerful, or pushes her for more.  However, on the other hand, I also love how flawed he is, and it takes him nearly half the book to realize how naive he is about real life, and it takes Yue-ying's harsh words to make him start looking at things in a more practical sense.

I like that the first sex scene wasn't mind-blowing, and in fact, even touches upon the hardships of Yue-ying's past, which is what makes that first sex with Bai Huang kind of depressing.  I like how it takes the two of them some time to work up to a more intimate relationship, and even after sleeping together, they still have to work on their relationship--sex doesn't fix everything, obviously.

What I wish could have been touched upon more, however, was the base mystery that brings our couple together as an investigative team.  It wasn't like the mystery was forgotten, because it was very much in the foreground of the book, brought up again and again as Yue-ying and Bai Huang continue to search for answers.  But for some strange reason, when thinking about my reading experience, I have to admit, I'm not entirely sure I recall a whole lot about the murder mystery that was really all that intriguing.

It was a fairly standard murder mystery; I had my thoughts on the events that took place surrounding both murders.  But that's about it.


I enjoyed The Lotus Palace a lot.  In fact, I practically devoured it, because it was so beautifully written and easy to follow.  Of course, as I'd already admitted, I have my biases.


Halloween Bingo

This book could also count for:

  • Murder Most Foul:  A murder takes place, and out main characters are out to solve it!
  • Amateur Sleuth:  Yue-ying is a maidservant, and Bai Huang is a scholar.
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Terrifying Women



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/10/thoughts-lotus-palace.html
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