Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride was my last read book of 2014, and it will be my first of 2015. If I hadn’t paced myself at five chapters a day the first time around, I would have sped through it in a matter of hours. (UNFORTUNATELY, my availability is limited at the moment, so this could take a while…) Opening this book is tantamount to travelling back in time and stepping into late 1800s Malaya (present-day Malaysia). Yangze’s descriptions and cultural context are so rich and so real that I can’t help but crave more. To my heartbreak, The Ghost Bride is Yangsze’s debut novel. Rather than cruise over to her next story, I’m helplessly stuck revisiting Li Lan’s journey. Either until this intense need for more Yangsze Choo novels fades or her next book comes out (pleasepleaseplease), I did my best in searching for other rich and word-pretty books.
Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace! Gosh, what did I just buy? I don’t even know. The *ratings are high-ish, the cover is nice, but also: historical China! Romance! Mystery! And I don’t know what else! But I was pretty damn excited when I ordered this book, okay.
The Lotus Palace is the first in the The Pingkang Li Mysteries series—or, by the sound of it, The Jade Temptress might only be a companion piece or stand-alone sequel. It centers on maidservant Yue-ying, a street-smart but sensible girl. For Yue-ying, to live in the shadow of her mistress sounds like a perfectly agreeable lifestyle—but all this changes once Bai Huang enters her life. A privileged tomcat, Bai Huang’s leads a life that Yue-ying can only dream about. But as they work together in order to solve a “deadly mystery,” the two begin to wish for lives of different circumstances. Yue-ying’s status can never surpass a concubine should she marry Bai Huang, so which will she forsake: love or pride?
Oookay. (Love, Yue-ying! Love! Don’t settle if you aren’t HBIC. But why do I feel like it will all work out anyway?)
When I ordered The Lotus Palace, I was all over its historical Asian setting with a plot that encompasses both mystery and romance—all qualities shared with The Ghost Bride. What I overlooked is that Jeannie Lin’s novel is a Harlequin book, and Harlequin LOVES romance. They love romance A LOT. As in a lot more than me. I’m more of an action girl who likes romance on the side, slowly developing between characters as the narrative progresses. I worry, because Lin’s novel has the set-up of a very generic romance and commonplace mystery. I can only hope it proves me wrong.
(*It holds a 3.92 rating on Goodreads. Not bad… right…? For romance enthusiasts, maybe?)
Uh, move over. My future love just walked in.
I may be wrong, but most (not all) of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books give me heavy European vibes. Perhaps a day will come when I don’t feel baseless opposition to these settings, but at least for now, I’m staying away. But who knows—his strong fanbase promises a great fantasy no matter which book you go for. One might even break this aversion spell. For now, I’m only psyched about starting Under Heaven and River of Stars—both historical fantasies, and both brilliant (or so I am told, though I don’t doubt it).
Under Heaven takes place during the Tang dynasty of 8th-century China, following Shen Tai. As the son of a noble general, Tai lives out two years burying the bones of both armies from his late father’s last battle. In acknowledgement of his devotion, Tai receives the dangerous gift of 250 Sardian horses. It’s said that one is given as a reward; four or five to dignify and bestow mortal jealousy. But 250 is enough to overwhelm and make an enemy of an emperor. The gift, however, cannot be delivered unless Tai accepts in person.
(Not quite a sequel, River of Stars takes place in the same universe as Under Heaven and occurs approximately 400 years later.)
I’m personally stoked to read this. It’s been on my TBR list for years, and I figured there’s no excuse to put it off if I own it. One problem: I’m a library girl, and I often favor the public one over my personal collection. I did, however, list both books in my conquer-like-Azula shelf, which I made sure to keep preemie-small. Checking these off should be a breeze, especially if they’re as lovely and dazzling as everyone claims.
But I do have one VERY BIG GRIPE. If you look at Under Heaven, there is noticeable damage.
Ideally, I like my books in perfect condition, but I acknowledge that it’s not always realistic. A scratch or two or a small bend to a jacket or page is bound to happen. But what is this? I purchased this on Amazon from -daily deals-, whose book description promised a “brand new, unread” copy. Ha ha, new, oh I get it. So it’s like tossed-in-a-grinder “new”? Oh, it’s supposed to be new-new. What? The spine has separated from the actual binding, and pages are in beginning division stages. The jacket shows crude scratch marks, and both the cover and book bear evidence of being bent and bumped. In other words: this is one worn-out book.
“New,” they said. “New.”
I was deeply disappointed, sure, but peeved. I paid close to $14 for a new hardback that, in truth, I wouldn’t pay $5 for. There are books kept in worse condition sold at higher value, but that misses the point. The product didn’t live up to the seller’s guarantee, and I stated as much in my two-star feedback. The seller did not like this! In exchange for removing my negative feedback, I was refunded my $13.86 and was allowed to keep the book.
So. Yeah… *shrug* But I’m still mad.
I might be a really big nerd at heart, but I feel sorry if you don’t know what Robotech is. Mainly because it’s a great story that expands generations, but also because its initial airing was in the 1980s. For quality snobs like me, you will probably suffer—although you can hope that your love of story will conquer your love of quality. (It does happen.) I was fortunate enough to watch it during my growing-up years (thanks, Mom!), but I haven’t been able to ready myself for a re-watch.
In the event that a re-watch never happens, at least I have the Robotech novels, and ohmygod. I am impossibly excited. So excited that words fail to convey how I feel right now. These books are NOTHING like Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride, obviously. But they’re likely to become my next new obsession, so watch out. I’m stealing my mother’s incomplete collection to read this series—which is why I put cash down on The Invid Invasion, the omnibus for books ten through twelve. Not all the books are easy to find, and books #13 – #17 are still amiss, so I’m on alert.