books

Jeannie Lin

Books

The Sword Dancer (2013)

The Lotus Palace (2013)

Gunpowder Archives: Gunpowder Alchemy (2014)

 

The Sword Dancer (2013)

The-Sword-DancerSet in Tang Dynasty China — AD 848

Thief-catcher Han is searching for jewel thieves. Li Feng was involved in the heist, but not for the reasons the others in her group were, so she left the group but still fell afoul of Han.

This was a book I started reading on my phone while I was waiting for various things. Normally I start a book on my phone, and then quickly switch over to my eReader, or I abandon the book entirely as something I’m not interested in.

This book, I read on my phone, over the course of several months.

It wasn’t bad, but it never pulled me in and made me WANT to know what was going to happen.

It was just a pleasant way to spend time waiting.

Part of it was that I felt as if I never learned enough about Han to make him really interesting. Li Feng is well-rounded, but when we spent so much time in Han’s mind, I felt like I should know him better.

Published by Harlequin Historical
Rating: 5/10


The Lotus Palace (2013)

The Lotus PalaceTang Dynasty China, 847 AD

Yue-ying is a maidservant to Mingyu, one of the highest ranked courtesans in Pingkang li, the pleasure quarter.

Mingyu had started training in music, dance and calligraphy immediately after Madame Sun had taken her in. She had been twelve years old at the time, older than when many of the other courtesans began their rigorous education. Yue-ying had received no such instruction. Whereas Mingyu was considered ji, an artist and entertainer, Yue-ying had been chang, nothing more than a vessel, a whore.

Bai Huang has failed Imperial examinations three times, and is known as a flirt and something of a wastrel.

She was humoring him like everyone else in the North Hamlet. This was exactly the reaction he’d deliberately cultivated, but he sometimes regretted it was so.

Although Bai Huang has been paying court to Mingyu, it is not the mistress who has caught his interest, but the maid, Yue-ying. But he has to way to talk with her, until the discovery of a dead body–and then a second murder–leads them to attempt to discover the murderer.

I found this story to be a bit all over the place. It felt like it couldn’t decide if it was a mystery or a romance–and switched back and for in tone between the two, often feeling like neither.

The mystery wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, and I found the romance to be problematic on several levels.

As far as the mystery, it wasn’t clear why Yue-ying was trying to solve the murder, except as an excuse to spend time with Bai Huang. He, at least, had good reason to research the death, since he had failed to protect one of the murder victims.

As far as the romance, I had multiple issues. First, there was Yue-ying’s past and it affected her once, and then her issues seemed to miraculously just disappear.

SPOILER

When Yue-ying and Bai Huang have sex for the first time, she doesn’t enjoy it at all, and keeps remembering her past as a whore. One who may have been sold for the first time before she was even a teenager (although the text doesn’t make it clear when her first encounter was, only that she was sold and had no choice in the matter). Then he makes advances and realizes she wasn’t into it, and so he cuddles and kisses and she relaxes.

Then miraculously she’s into sex after that.

It felt to me like the author didn’t want Yue-ying to enjoy sex off the bat, because she had been made a prostitute against her will, but Bai Huang was so sweet and marvelous Yue-ying suddenly discovered that sex was great.

I disliked the hand-waving that made Yue-ying’s past trauma disappear with no effort or work on his part. It does a disservice to both the characters and the readers.

END SPOILER

Secondly, I had trouble believing that The Thing standing between two could be resolved so easily. It’s possible the culture of the time would have been okay with a lord marrying a former prostitute, but it feels unlikely.

I wanted to like this story, but I mostly found it aggravating.

Publisher : HQN Books
Rating: 6/10

 

Gunpowder Alchemy (2014)

Set in China in 1850

It has taken me a really long time to read this; it’s been my lunch-time reading book, but I don’t always read at lunch, and after lunch I walk and listen to either an audiobook or podcasts. So–maybe I’ve been reading this for a year? Which is kind of crazy for me.

Jin Soling’s father–like all the other advisors–was executed by the Emperor after the Chinese Army was defeated in battle. After his death, Jin, her mother, brother, and an old servant fled to the country when Jin tried to keep the family together while her mother escaped through opium.

The bits about opium felt relatively true to the way the West dealt with China historically.

Our empire had been forced to grant access to the foreigners after our defeat. From their section of the port, they were able to sell and trade whatever goods they pleased and there was little the empire could do to stop them.

“Their commerce usually involves opium,” Aguda said darkly.

From what I’ve read (and it’s minimal compared to what I could learn) the British empire really did treat China that badly, using opium to subjugate the Chinese empire.

Really awful stuff, but then empires haven’t really ever been known for being benevolent.

The story involves Jin trying to sell one of her father’s inventions, and instead getting swept up in both the war against the west and internal revolution. She comes across men who worked for her father–including one who to whom she had been betrothed as a child.

This was an interesting story, but obviously not one that sucked me in, since I read it page-by-page until I finally finished it.

Publisher: Jeannie Lin
Rating: 6/10