10 Sep 2015
in Books, Reviews
Tags: Alexandra Curry, china, courtesan, geisha, historical fiction, Penguin, war
I received The Courtesan from First to Read (a Penguin program). It was published by Dutton in September of 2015.
After her mother dies in childbirth and her father is executed, Sai Jinhua is sold to a brothel and expected to learn the art of pleasing and pleasuring men. Along with many other young girls, she is repeatedly and brutally taken advantage of. However, one day, a gentleman comes and tells Jinhua that she was his lover in a past life and proceeds to purchase her and install her as his concubine.
Although it isn’t obvious, The Courtesan is Alexandra Curry’s debut novel. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the gritty beginning of Sai Jinhua’s life as a Chinese courtesan (cross between a geisha and a prostitute). While her story starts out a lot like Memoirs of a Geisha, an excellent book in its own right, The Courtesan quickly establishes itself as something quite different.
I can thankfully say that even though Jinhua is married young and taken to grand places, this book is by NO MEANS a sweeping romance–and thank goodness for that. Half the fun of the novel is the underlying bitterness that comes with Jinhua’s being sold as a child with no say in her future. She does manage to steal some time to live her own life in Germany while her husband, a Chinese Emissary, is traveling in order to make contacts and secure alliances for China. Her desire to understand and feel love is her most endearing trait. Because of this desire and a strong sense of curiosity, she refuses to stay indoors as her husband commands.
Through learning German and exploring, Jinhua builds her reputation and legacy. So, while Curry’s novel is neither completely fictional nor completely historical, it is a wonderful tale about a girl thrown into another culture, another world, and her determination to do what is right, even if it tears her world apart. I may not be able to relate to the brutality that Sai Jinhua endures, but her desire to understand love and her need to choose her own path resonates deeply.
TITLE: The Courtesan
AUTHOR: Alexandra Curry
ALSO WROTE: Nothing, yet!
SORT OF LIKE: Memoirs of a Geisha, Dreams of Joy
FIRST LINE: It is the Hour of the Snake, a time of day when the sun works hard to warm the earth.
25 Aug 2015
in Books, Lost and Found in Books
Tags: Branson, Bruce Lee, Don DeLillo, Handwriting, Libra, Secondhand, Used Bookstore, Vacation
While on vacation in Branson, MO this year, I found a cute little bookstore called Calvin’s Used Books. It was a little messy, a little cramped, and a lot of fun. I found quite a few goodies, including a beautifully well put together Bruce Lee biography (with tons of exclusive and gorgeous photos–the owner commented, “Well that didn’t last long here!”) and Honolulu, about a young Korean girl named Regret who escapes to Hawai’i.
The third book I added to my collection was Don DeLillo’s Libra. I’ve yet to read the novel, but I’ve read a few of DeLillo’s other works. They intrigued (or confused) me enough to purchase Libra. (See White Noise–an excellent commentary on ad pollution.)
Inside Libra, More
21 Aug 2015
in Books, Informational
Tags: convention, Holly Black, John Green, Lev Grossman, NerdCon, patrick rothfuss, Rainbow Rowell, Welcome to Nightvale
In October, I’ll be attending NerdCon: Stories. Their aim is to celebrate all things nerdy, which I’m always up for. On the agenda is a host of fun story-telling-themed panels and events. While they’re still setting up the actual schedule, the one thing that’s caught my eye so far is “Life Online: From Meme to Memoir.”
In addition to exciting panels, NerdCon is playing host to a huge number of podcastors, novelists, cartoonists, musicians, poets, etc. Some people I’m excited for:
John Green More
18 Aug 2015
in Books, Reviews
Tags: class, elf, emperor, goblin, politics, race, teenage
The Goblin Emperor is a 483 page novel, by Katherine Addison, published by Tor Fantasy in April of 2014. I read the novel with a friend, who suggested the book to me in the first place.
Maia, a half-goblin teenage boy, is forced to leave his secluded home at Edonomee after the emperor–a man who may have begot Maia but certainly never raised or loved him–and the emperor’s three sons die in an explosion. Maia assumes a busybody life at the Imperial Court, taking his place as the new emperor. Roughly the first half of the book deals with Maia being awkward, confused, and embarrassingly ignorant about goings on in the empire and the machinations of the Imperial Court. More
20 Jul 2015
in Books, Reviews
Tags: children, Landline, life, love, magical realism, marriage, Rainbow Rowell
After learning Rainbow Rowell was going to give a talk/signing at my local library (and that she’s going to be at NerdCon), I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and start reading her books. I was not disappointed. I started with Fangirl, which is still my favorite. Even so, Landline is a solid novel–published in July of 2014 by St. Martin’s Press.
The narrative revolves around Georgie’s (possibly) failing marriage. She gets the break of a lifetime when a network wants to pick up the show she and her best friend Seth have been writing together since college. Unfortunately, they want episodes written in the next couple weeks, which span Christmas-time. While Georgie backs out on going to Nebraska with her husband and children, she also proceeds to fail to write anything while she is consumed with worry at the bumps that have come up in her relationship with her husband, Neal. More
07 Mar 2015
in Books, Reviews
Tags: Annihilation, biology, environment, horror, Jeff VanderMeer, mystery, psychology, sci-fi, science fiction, separation, supernatural
Annihilation is a sci-fi/supernatural/horror novel by Jeff VanderMeer, published by FSG Originals in February of 2014. The other two novels in the Southern Reach Trilogy were both released in 2014 as well.
A journal belonging to a woman who was part of the twelfth expedition to mysterious and dangerous Area X–a place where no one has ever truly come back alive from–is found by an unexpectant reader. Myself. I personally adore novels written in the form of a journal and Annihilation only served to reinforce that adoration.
The main character, a biologist, set out to Area X with a psychologist, surveyor, archeologist, and lingiust. They’re charged with exploring the walled off Area X but things don’t go the way any of them planned. More
03 Mar 2015
Tags: Casual Vacancy, Escapism, fantasy, reading, Real life, sci-fi
I realized the other day how long it had been since I’d written a review when I got turned down for an ARC of a book. On Netgalley, that has never been the case before and they suggested updating my blog.
After getting a new job, moving, and trying to settle in to a new routine, reading had been the last thing on my mind. But now that I’m settled… I’ve jumped into the “start a million new books” phase. I just started reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, which is the excellent sequel to Annihilation, The Way of Kings by a favorite of mine–Brandon Sanderson, and I’ve about finished Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds which rides on the blazing space cowboy trail left by Firefly.
Devoting time to reading has been so refreshing… Damn, I just love a good book. Here’s to many more in both of our futures.
06 Jan 2015
in Books, Reviews
Tags: Mars, science fiction, space, Survival
The Martian is a 369 page science fiction novel by Andy Weir. It was originally self published, then picked up for publication by Crown in February of 2014.
The book begins with Mark Watney writing in his log that while his team (of astronauts on Mars) thought he died in a windstorm, he actually survived and now is living alone on Mars. As an engineer and botanist, Mark devises many different ways to extend his survival on Mars–all the while trying to figure out how to contact his team or Earth, both of whom believe him to be dead and his mission to be scrapped. The plot revolves around his triumphs and failures on Mars and his ingenuity as a lonely man and only resident Martian. More
05 Jan 2015
Tags: BookTrope, Giveaway, Larry N. Weiner, New Cover, Publishing, trilogy
Paradise Rot, Island Trilogy, Book 1, Larry N. Weiner’s first novel, was originally self published. To celebrate being re-published by Booktrope Publishing, the novel gets a new cover! It looks pretty fantastic, in my opinion. I will be reading and reviewing the book (description below).
If you’d like to enter for an ebook copy (10 lucky winners on that one) plus a grandprize Amazon gift card, ebook copy of Paradise Rot, Kenneth G. Bennet’s Exodus 2022 and The Guide, and more check out the Rafflecopter giveaway.
01 Jan 2015
in Books, Informational
Tags: 2014, goals, Mini Reviews, Neil Gaiman, Saga, Sandman, Wesley Chu, year in review
I have been falling terribly behind in my reviews (from 2014)! But I am still reading diligently. I probably won’t be reviewing all the books I read this year, but I will go back and review a few of them. (The Martian by Andy Weir is coming up soon.)
In 2014, I surpassed my reading goal of 60 books by 26. That’s right, I read 86 books last year! Okay, a few of them were graphic novels–no regrets. I devoured the Sandman series–10 graphic novels written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by many fine artists. I loved the series and the Sandman himself. Gaiman blew my mind with a lot of the clever meta narrative and the entire Dream landscape was just fantastic.
I also read the Saga series (only four volumes out right now) by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet in space/the future. Very cool.
One quick series I read in 2014 was the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Set in the future, it’s about a society of people who have been turned “pretty” by the government. Their bodies are adjusted to be average and pretty when you turn 16, but it’s not just people’s bodies–it’s also their minds. This was a great social commentary on perceptions of beauty and worth. It’s a four book trilogy (strange, I know) and is a strong representation of excellent YA.
I attended a convention (my first) called CONvergence in the summer of 2014, and it was absolutely amazing. I got my book, The Lives of Tao, signed by Wesley Chu and picked up its sequel, The Deaths of Tao. These books are about an alien species that crash land on Earth and inhabit human and animal bodies to fuel their epic war. It’s sort of like The Host with a martial aspect. I hope to read the sequel sometime this year.
In 2014, I also graduated from college and got a job. SO we shall see how much reading time in I have in 2015 once I start working 8-5 every day. My goal for this year is 72 books. I have a few books I’d like to read… but if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear what you’ll be reading or what I should be reading this year.
I am excited to read some new stuff and look forward to a year in reading!
03 Oct 2014
in Books, Reviews
Tags: African American, bomb heist, Dean Koontz, juju, music
The City is a 398 page sort of paranormal fiction by Dean Koontz, published by Bantam in July 2014. I received an ARC from Netgalley for review.
The story centers on a young boy, Jonah Kirk Bledsoe (plus about 7 more musician’s names in between) and his experience with music, adult friends, a deadbeat father, and a spiritual embodiment of the city, known as Miss Pearl. Additional plot focuses on a bank heist, some murders, and some “intrigue.” Jonah, as a young, black piano player, idolizes many famous black musicians of his day (the 1960s). While some of the name drops of musicians and songs were an interesting add, it often didn’t feel like it had an impact on the story. More
21 Sep 2014
Tags: academic writing, blogging, Chegg, class, college, learning, Storify, Wartburg, writing
I am currently taking a class called Theory and Practice of Writing. Our first assignment, besides reading, was to write a Literacy Autobiography. This is an approach to understand how we learned to write, why we write like we do, and really just learn about our writing. I took a few examples from learning various writing approaches and talked about my how my need for perfectionism in writing really stunted my desire, and therefore ability, to write. While this has almost nothing to do with book reviews, I wanted to share my story with you.
How did you learn to write? Do you remember? I had to ask my mom about it, because I have poor memory of my childhood. Ask your parents, or elementary teachers, because the response could be really interesting. Either let me know in the comments or keep the information to yourself. Anywho, here’s my paper. More
19 Sep 2014
in Books, Reviews
Tags: CONvergence, CVG2014, drama, Gentleman Bastard, Locke Lamora, Republic of Thieves, romance, Scott Lynch, thieves
The Republic of Thieves, published by Del Ray in October 2013, is the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence, written by Scott Lynch. BEWARE, there be spoilers here. If you haven’t read the first two, I would recommend either not reading this review or not caring about spoilers.
The main plot of the novel deals with Locke, who was poisoned at the end of book two, and Jean trying anything and everything to find a cure to the poison. Awesomely, they turn to the dangerous and exciting Bondsmagi to help cure him–in exchange for a political stint attempting to keep their government power. So, while the magic and Bondsmagi are cool, the political aspect is less interesting, except, of course, for their silly and dangerous shenanigans keeping things interesting. More
16 Jun 2014
in Books, Reviews
Tags: Booker Prize, British Novels, England England, Inheritance of Loss, Julian Barnes, Kiran Desai, Man Booker, Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald, Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman
This is the second part to my reviews from the 20th Century British Novels class I took this semester. Here’s part 1. I read a lot of books for class this semester and really fell behind on reviewing them. Considering it has been a while since I read most of these books, I thought I would just do some mini reviews to round out the semester.
All books chosen were either Man Booker Prize winners or shortlisters. More