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All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

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Reason for Reading:
  • Beautiful cover, 1930′s China, how could I go wrong?

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson’s stunning debut novel. Set in 1930s Shanghai,the Paris of the East, but where following the path of duty still takes precedence over personal desires, a young Chinese woman named Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman. In the enclosed world of her new household-a place of public ceremony and private cruelty-she learns that, above all else, she must bear a male heir. Ruthless and embittered by the life that has been forced on her, Feng seeks revenge by doing the unthinkable. Years later, she must come to a reckoning with the decisions she has made to assure her place in family and society, before the entire country is caught up in the fast-flowing tide of revolution.

My Review:

This book has huge strengths and just as big of weaknesses.  But I’m in that strange place where the weakness isn’t really a big weakness to me, due to the other reading I’ve done about China during this time period.  So – here is the weakness:  There really isn’t much information about the historical situation in China, but this isn’t a book that really advertises that it has that information.

This semester in school we talked a lot about history is based around wars and the events leading up to them.  There is very little history taught in schools that centers around homemaking methods of women, or the methods of horse-shoeing by men.  This is one of those kind of books, however.  Historical fiction which takes a look at the way the women of 1930′s China ticked – their honor system, their treatment of daughters, their pride, and their choices.

Duncan Jepson fully explores what might be one possible reason behind the actions of a woman leading to the removal of her daughter from her home.  Feng is so sweet and pure at the start of this story as she explores gardens, and deals with grubby hands and the scorn of an older, “wiser” sister.  Due to a twist in circumstances, Feng ends up married to a man not of her own choosing, and placed into a home that is, for all intents and purposes, a pit of vipers.  My heart broke, not only while watching Feng transform into a woman who could hold her own, but also at the circumstances surrounding that change.

Another slight issue I had with the book, however, was the sheer amount of time spent on things such as the leading up to and impregnating of Feng (which read a little like a sadistic porn novel), and the fact that Feng really had nothing to complain about with her husband, other than the fact of course that she didn’t choose or love him, which I admit is no small thing.  Still, he treats her well – there’s no abuse or anything of the sort, so nothing to worry about with that, but.. I guess you’d need to read the book to understand why it bugs me a bit.

Overall – I thought the story was a beautiful look at the history of the woman in China in the 30′s.  The focus was so intent on Feng, her choices, her lifestyle, and her family, that everything else falls to the wayside.  Lush language makes the book very easy to fall into, and I was up until 2am to finish it last night because I didn’t want to put it down.

About the Author

  • Information regarding Duncan Jepson:

For more reviews on All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson, please follow the book tour.

 

 

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • I won Eona, the sequel to this book recently in a giveaway and had to read the first book before I began it.

Summary from GoodReads:

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he’ll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon’s power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and if discovered Eon faces a terrible death.

My Review:

Yes yes yes yes yes yes YES!

Oh my goodness did I love this book.  I started it because the book I had been reading was left outside in the car, it was late at night, and I wanted a book to read without having to go out into the cold.  Then I couldn’t put it down.

In spite of massive loads of homework, I devoured Eon.  I was caught up in the incredibly complex, but so satisfying magic system, fantastic characters and the strength of Eon, the crippled, 16 year old girl who has taken on so much responsibility even my shoulders felt its weight.   Not only is there a complex political structure and magic system in place – but there’s huge uproar in this story as well.  It’s the end of the world as these characters know it, and every move is carefully plotted out and executed.

While I can easily see younger boys and girls loving this story, I do want to put a word of warning out there.  If you aren’t prepared to talk to your children about castration and men dressing and feeling as if they are women, then you might want to hold off on this one.  I thought the entire thing was very tastefully done, but I would also understand if this book is one that was held back until those reading it are a bit older.

Overall though – fantastic story and ideas.  Epic struggle between what is good and what is evil and sometimes just how hard the gray area in between can be.

Check out these review(s):

Mel’s Books and Info

The Book Smugglers

 

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • I’ve read everything Sharon Shinn has written and I love her style of writing for young adults.
  • I seem to be on an Asian kick lately – so why not alternate realities centered around China?
I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

As a Chinese adoptee in St. Louis, teenage Daiyu often feels out of place. When an elderly Asian jewelry seller at a street fair shows her a black jade ring—and tells her that “black jade” translates to “Daiyu”—she buys it as a talisman of her heritage. But it’s more than that; it’s magic. It takes Daiyu through a gateway into a version of St. Louis much like 19th century China. Almost immediately she is recruited as a spy, which means hours of training in manners and niceties and sleight of hand. It also means stealing time to be with handsome Kalen, who is in on the plan. There’s only one problem. Once her task is done, she must go back to St. Louis and leave him behind forever. . . .

My Review:

If you haven’t read Sharon Shinn’s YA works, I recommend them.  What I love most about Shinn is her books, while sometimes involving romance, never center around that romance.  There’s no predictable endings and the characters always face complex issues.  While Gateway isn’t as good as The Safe-Keeper’s Secret was, it still has plenty of strength on its own.

Daiyu is the adoptive daughter of a couple who was unable to have a child of their own.  Adopted from China and brought over to the States when she was a baby, she knows very little of China and has never been to visit it.  Now a teenager, she is a hard worker and looking to go to college soon – that is, until she stumbles across a “gateway” to another reality, a reality in which China discovered the United States.

St. Louis is renamed, the landmarks we all know are gone, and the largest minority are Caucasians.  But evil still exists – and it’s against that evil that Daiyu has to figure out where she stands and what decisions she needs to make regarding her future.

This was a very easy book to read, the story flowed well and Sharon Shinn’s development was great, as always.  It seemed a little stilted in parts, however, almost like she was writing for an audience younger than the subject matter would normally speak to – but overall I had a blast with Gateway and will be recommending it.

Check out these review(s):

Bookworming in the 21st Century

Bear