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review 2019-01-10 22:07
The Sword Dancer (Rebels and Lovers #1, Tang Dynasty #4) by Jeannie Lin
The Sword Dancer - Jeannie Lin

Date Published: January 1, 2013

Format: NOOK ebook

Source: Personal Copy

Read: December 30-31, 2018

Winter COYER reading list



Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law—a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past, even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all...

Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life—and love—as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he's faced with an impossible choice: betray the elusive sword dancer he is learning to love, or trust his long-disregarded heart and follow her to dangerous, tempting rebellion...



So this sub-series to the main series started off with a bang and did not quite until the last page. Li Feng was an amazing heroine - I loved her spirit, I loved her smart ass mouth, and her brains. The cat-and-mouse game that Han and Li Feng had going on in the first third of the book really built the sexual tension as well as the plot tension. The surprise twists to the plotline kept the story moving forward even without the couple being romantic with each other. When they finally partnered up and starting scheming together, I couldn't keep my eyes off the page. I loved it and wanted to return to this part of the Tang Dynasty series; luckily I had one more book to go to finish the series, which I promptly started the day after reading this one. Since the story dealt more with the common people of Tang Dynasty rather than the Imperial palace intrigue, the story allowed Lin to really push in new directions character and story wise. 


Highly recommend.

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text 2018-12-31 23:01
December 2018 Reading Wrap Up
The Sword Dancer - Jeannie Lin
Bad Blood: Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - John Carreyrou
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women - Kate Moore

Thanks to MbD, TA, and Moonlight for hosting another round of 24 Festive Tasks. I finished the game with 66 points, so not too shabby. My final monthly wrap up for 2018:


1. The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin - 5 stars


2. Everything's Trash, But It's Okay by Phoebe Robinson - 4 stars


3. You Can't Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson - 4 stars


4. A Dangerous Nativity by Caroline Warfield - 4 stars


5. Bad Blood: Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up by John Carreyrou - 5 stars


6. Kissing the Captain (The Roses of Ridgeway #1) by Kianna Alexander - 1 star


7. Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore - 5 stars


8. Star Dust (Fly Me to the Moon #1) by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner - 2.5 stars


9. Toward the Sunrise (Until the Dawn #0.5) by Elizabeth Camden - 4.5 stars


10. The Swan: The Seventh Day by Piper Huguley - 5 stars


11. Gracie (Women and War #1) by Ellie Keaton - 4 stars


12. The Soldier's Secrets (Belanger Family #2) by Naomi Rawlings - 4 stars


13. A Gentleman's Game (Romancing the Turf #1) by Theresa Romain - 3 stars


14. Miss Kane's Christmas by Caroline Mickelson - 1 star


15. Santa Puppy (Tourist Trap Mystery #9.75) by Lynn Cahoon - 3 stars


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text 2018-12-15 16:20
24 Festive Tasks, Door 13 - Advent UPDATED WITH PICTURES
The Sword Dancer - Jeannie Lin



Book: Since today is also the start of COYER Winter, I chose a book off my COYER reading list. I will read The Sword Dancer (Tang Dynasty #4) by Jeannie Lin.


Task #1

Here's a picture of my kids' advent calendars for this year.


Task #2

British Christmas traditions: going to house/castle/hall to see the decorations, caroling, and pantos!


Took the kids to our local National Trust site, Oxburgh Hall, to see the early Victorian decorations. The hall's volunteers get together in late August to rehearse for their free 20 minute caroling show; the last song, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, is a sing-along with audience participation. They put this show on 3x a day on Saturday and Sundays in December. 


Joshua went on his field trip to the Royal Theater in Bury St Edmunds and saw a pantomime production of Sleeping Beauty - his favorite part was the dragon (of course). He didn't care for the kissing part. Sophia was supposed to go with her class the next day, but that date turned into the National Day of Mourning, and with no school came no field trip. She is rescheduled to see it in early January. 


As a family, we went to see a local pantomime production of Snow White and the Dwarves of Foulden. My friend's oldest son was in the show as fox (woodland creature) and Dipstick, one of the dwarves. Here's a pic of the program.

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review 2018-12-07 04:53
The Sword and the Spirits
The Sword and the Spirits - Robert Denton III

What happens when a company renowned for its tabletop and card games decides to publish novellas based on one of those card games and releases the hardcovers with bonus promo cards? My husband gets suckered into buying them, that’s what.



I have played Legend of the Five Rings (the new version, not the old version). It’s okay, but I like Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn better and I think they’re similar enough that owning both is redundant. My husband disagrees, and *coughsplutter* dollars later we have a vast array of L5R cluttering our house. (Apparently spreading the cards out all over the place is vital to the deck building process.) At the tail end of his card-buying frenzy (please, God, let it be the tail end), he discovered the existence of new L5R novellas featuring the various clans you can play as, and here we are.


The Sword and the Spirits is a decent story and the cover art is pretty, and that’s the best praise I can give it. Either the author assumed anyone reading it would have read the short stories and other supplemental material included with the game and clan decks and expansions (a fair assumption as he’s writing for a very niche market), or he isn’t very good at introductions and exposition. The quality of writing is about what you’d expect from someone used to writing backstory and flavor text for game manuals and cards. It’s serviceable, but also full of awkward phrasing and questionable word choice and jarring transitions. There are a whole lot of instances of random details being inserted for no discernable reason. An attempt at evoking ambiance? Or inflating the word count past short story length? Whatever the reason, there’s a bunch of stuff like this where the prose suddenly verges on purple to no good effect:


Tadaka’s eyes fell to the back of the room, where his candle revealed an altar with a lidless lacquered box. His prayer beads were like a windswept porch swing.



Suffice it to say, whatever editing process this book went through was inadequate. Novels and manuals are different beasts, and if Fantasy Flight used their in-house editors for this project, it would explain a lot.


If you’re a fan of the game and you’re not a picky, pedantic lit-snob like me, you might like this book. If you just think the game is okay-ish and you talked yourself into reading this book because you’re not sure your husband ever will and you can’t stand the thought of him paying all that money just for a few promo cards, have another conversation with yourself. Try to talk yourself out of it, if you can. And if you’ve never heard of the game and this book somehow caught your eye, walk on by. There must be far better Japanese-inspired fantasies out there.

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-30 16:42
Bloodsong Trilogy by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson)

I’ve always been an avid reader; a quiet moment to me means a chance to get a chapter or two in.  Back in the 80s while I was in the Marine Corps we had lots of down time on weekends, and thankfully a lot of Marines were into AD&D, so there was that.  Heck- once we even brought our books with us on a week-long field deployment so we could finish a module featuring a vampire named Strahd von Zarovich.  Good times.



I always wonder how much this one would be worth without all my notes marking it up...[/caption]


One slow Saturday I went to the PX to find something to read.  I’m a longtime fantasy fan (who isn’t these days, but I’m old so I can stake my claim!) who loves a good hack-n-slash featuring a female protagonist.  Back in the 80s that type of novel was in woefully short supply.  That day I came across two titles that seemed to fit the bill: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (also a former Marine- Semper Fi!) & Werebeasts of Hel by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson- a former Airman, but I won’t hold that against him).


Now, as much as I tried to like Moon’s book, I couldn’t.  The titular character was female practically in name only- she was asexual to the point of almost becoming her defining trait and the story plodded along like a broke down mule in knee deep mud.  Even back then I understood the issues with female leads in SF/F and making her a fully-fleshed person with loves, hates, needs & desires would’ve been tricky at best, but it didn’t even seem like there was an effort made there.


Then I read Werebeasts of Hel.  


Even though it was the third book of the trilogy, there was enough backstory involved so it wasn’t hard to follow.  Most importantly, I was now dying to read the first two.

Built from Norse mythology & history and billed as the “Heavy Metal of Fantasy” by Publisher’s Weekly, all three books even featured cover art by Boris Vallejo!  In the 80s that was pretty much the Seal of Approval!




Starting with Warrior Witch of Hel, the story arc centers upon a woman named Freyadis whose village was raided by the evil sorcerer, King Nidhug, who served Hel, Goddess of Death.   With her husband and infant son killed & her daughter Guthrun taken captive, Freyadis was subjected to various abuses, bound to a tree and left to die, her infant son’s corpse tied to her breast.  Never passing up an opportunity, Hel offered Freyadis a chance to return as an undead Hel warrior if she would pray to her as she died. 


Nidhug, of course, has betrayed Hel by stealing a relic of her power called the War Skull for his own ends.  After enduring even more of Nidhug’s depravities- including in gladiatorial combat- and finding her daughter in Helheim, Freyadis- now known as Bloodsong from her arena fights- is tasked by Hel to recover the War Skull and bring Nidhug down in exchange for freedom.  Must’ve been a Tuesday.


Along the way Bloodsong finds allies like Huld- an elf-blooded witch in service to Freya, Jalna- a slave unfortunate enough to catch Nidhug’s attention & Tyrulf- the warrior in Nidhug’s army who’s attracted to Jalna.  Bloodsong also has a very nasty surprise waiting for her when she reaches Nidhug’s fortress.




The second book, Death Riders of Hel, picks up a few years later: Guthrun is discovered to be a witch and studies with Huld while Bloodsong and her friends have forged a life in the aftermath.  A new threat arises from Thokk- a Hel-witch determined to both finish what Nidhug started and convert Guthrun to the dark side.  Thanks to her mistress, Thokk has a way of striking at Bloodsong where it’ll hurt her the most.  Bloodsong forms an alliance with a tribe of shapeshifting berserkers and is willing to pay any price to save Guthrun from becoming a Hel-witch.  But will the lure of darkness be too great for Gudrun to overcome, especially when being lured by a familiar presence?




Werebeasts of Hel takes place years later, but unfolds much the same way.  Years of peace after defeating Hel, life goes on, friends & lovers… then, BOOM!  Third time’s the charm, eh?  An old adversary returns to lead Hel's armies- one who knows Bloodsong's weaknesses and she's hard pressed to stand against him alone.  This time Odin himself provides a little divine assistance and Bloodsong has to forge an alliance with an altogether new breed of creatures to help stop Hel from conquering them all.


The best thing about these books is they are what they are.  Nothing fancy or elaborate- it's all straightforward, fast-paced, in-your-face adventure: here's the situation, now let's do something about it!  It’s a gloriously grim & gory Nordic hack-n-slash with good doses of horror and a few splashes of romance tossed in for variety.  This is a bleak, icy world teetering on the edge of apocalypse.  Death lurks around every turn, defeat is all but certain, friends are lost, sacrifices appear pointless and at times it takes all the heroes have just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 


It’s fucking great!!!  My copies of these are lovingly well-worn for good reason.  I’m glad I found ebook copies to help save them even more wear and tear.


Now I’ll admit the omnibus edition doesn’t thrill me at all.  Though the alterations fleshed a lot of things out it was also watered down and a lot of things were added that just flat out confused me.  But it’ll probably do for you if you haven’t read the originals.  If you can find the originals or individual ebooks, get ‘em!  You won’t be sorry!


4.5/5 stars

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