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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.

Anyway...

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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review 2017-09-20 21:46
Readable but ultimately boring.
My Fair Concubine - Jeannie Lin

A historical romance set in China during the Tang Dynasty? Sure, why not. This is a spin on 'My Fair Lady' where a nobleman must find a replacement for his sister who was betrothed to be married. There are consequences if no one shows up. The story opens up with Fei Long attempting to "rescue" his sister (she doesn't want to be) and deciding he must find a woman (no, not for THAT reason). He stumbles upon a local teahouse girl Yan Ling who is conveniently thrown out of her job and has nowhere else to go. She'll do.

 

And we're off. If you know the basic premise of MFL then you have a gist of how this story goes. Of course Yan Ling and Fei Long don't like each other. Of course poor Yan Ling is a fish out of water and must navigate dealing with Fei Long and trying to be come a noble lady for this marriage. Will Yan Ling succeed? Will the marriage happen? What about how each of our main characters are noticing each other, despite the rather strange circumstances of how they met? Stay tuned!

 

Aaaand...not so much. Initially I found the book really interesting. I had never read anything by Lin before and originally wasn't going to bother with this (it's only available by eBook now and I lucked out by finding a relatively good paperback copy and getting it basically for free via gift card). But I was intrigued by the premise and since I like historical fiction I thought this might be worth a go. 

 

But the story just kinda drags. I suppose the MFL storyline is just too familiar to me so there wasn't much tension as to whether they'd get together in the end. I was intrigued with how this type of story could work in this time and setting but while that part was interesting I didn't really feel much one way or the other about whether these two got together. 

 

However, I did appreciate the historical fiction aspect. I also liked how the romance was gradual (looks and thoughts and building up to it) and it wasn't an insta-lust with hormones raging and a porn without plot sort of story (I'm not sure if I've read much Harlequin or if this is my first one so I didn't know what to expect). But in retrospect I could see how the seeds were planted for a happy ending and managing the arranged marriage plot point with a rather convenient out. 

 

So...it wasn't terrible. If I had a commute or a plane ride where I had to sit and reading was one of the few options of "escape) I probably would have liked this more. As it was I just found it was too easy to be distracted and to put the book down as it wasn't exactly a turn pager (but not dreadful either). It was a change of pace book for me but I don't think I'll be seeking out any of her other books even if I've got a gift card. I'd consider this a library borrow and you're in the mood for a historical romance.

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text 2017-08-31 07:30
August 2017 Wrap Up
Falling for the Enemy - Naomi Rawlings
Homicide in High Heels - Gemma Halliday
Her Holiday Family (Texas Grooms (Love Inspired Historical)) - Winnie Griggs
Mission of Hope (Love Inspired Historical) - Allie Pleiter
The Dragon and the Pearl - Jeannie Lin

 I am burning out on COYER. I need something other than Harlequin romance. Bring on Halloween Bingo!

 

Challenges:

BL/GR: 128/150; 85% completed

Pop Sugar: 2; 42/52 prompts filled

Library Love Challenge: 2; 42/36 for the year

COYER: 12; 82% of list read from June-August

 

1. Falling for the Enemy by Naomi Rawlings (COYER) (Pop Sugar) - 5 stars

 

2. Homicide in High Heels (High Heels #8) by Gemma Halliday (COYER) (Library Love) - 4 stars

 

3. Chaucer's Major Tales by Michael Hoy and Michael Stevens (Pop Sugar) (COYER) (Library Love) - 2.5 stars

 

4. Her Holiday Family by Winnie Griggs (COYER) - 4 stars

 

5. Mission of Hope by Allie Pleiter (COYER) - 4.5 stars

 

6. The Baby Barter by Patty Smith Hall (COYER) - 3 stars

 

7. Emma and the Outlaw by Linda Lael Miller (COYER) - 1.5 stars

 

8. The Bootlegger's Daughter by Lauri Robinson (COYER) - 1 star

 

9. Love, Special Delivery by Melinda Curtis (COYER) - 2 stars

 

10. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin (COYER) - .5 star

 

11. The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin (COYER) - 4 stars

 

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review 2017-08-30 21:42
Review: The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin
The Dragon and the Pearl - Jeannie Lin

Probably the best full length book in the series. Li Tao and Ling Suyin were a great couple and great individual characters (both got a raw deal character development wise in the first book). The plotline was filled with action and political intrigue. Best part, you don't have to read the first book to understand the characters or plot line in this book. One of the best examples of using flashbacks to tell the MCs back stories, like peeling back an onion. Such a great balance between the sexy times and the emotional intimacy times. Diplomacy and negotiations were dicey in Tang Dynasty China but the MCs didn't rise from poor kids in Luoyang to the Emperors' inner circles without gaining skills and reputation to use as capital during such dangerous times.

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