Jade Dragon Mountain

When I looked at my TBR list the other day and realized that I am into my September ARCs already, I sat back onto my heels a bit. How are we already this late into the year? This weekend marked our one year anniversary in Dallas. We have been here for a WHOLE YEAR! What a ride it has been.

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I’ve had Jade Dragon Mountain in my queue for a long time…for some reason I received it way in advance. It felt strange to finally pick it up. This is Elsa Hart’s debut novel, and she has done a pretty decent job with it.

The story takes place in 1708 during the Qing Dynasty. Kangxi Emperor is passionate about astronomy and has calculated that an eclipse will be visible in Dayan. A festival is being prepared for his arrival. Li Du, an exile and imperial librarian, must visit his magistrate cousin on his way to Tibet, and arrives during the preparations. While he is there, a Jesuit priest is murdered, and Li Du sets out to find the killer before the emperor arrives.

Jade Dragon Mountain is part historical fiction, part Sherlockian mystery. I was fascinated by the Chinese lore and history–although most of the actual characters I think were made up, excepting the Emperor himself, the facts about the Jesuits and Kangxi’s fascination with astrology, all of that were real. A festival like this could have really happened. We are discussing this in my Coursera class–the art of historical fiction requires the author to stretch the truth just enough to convince the reader to believe the lie.

The mystery portion of the story was a bit of fun as well. It loops around and around, providing the bits of science and historical context, all while giving us a Sherlock/Watson kind of banter between Li Du and Hamza. Hamza is even a storyteller…which, hello, today he would TOTALLY be a blogger! *wink* Ok, maybe that part is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t help but make the jump. Fellow Johnlockers will understand.

Jade Dragon Mountain comes out September 1 and is bound to interest any fellow historical fiction lovers. It’s a great debut for Elsa Hart and I’ll be interesting to see what she comes up with next!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

The Good Earth

Today we are shooting across the globe to China and reading about yet another culture I haven’t spent much time in. I’m so glad to be opening my world up beyond the normal White America that is so prevalent in publishing.

I’m thinking about doing an Around the World challenge–reading a book from every country. Does anyone know of any “Map My Books” apps or websites? I have what I want in my head but I’m not sure if they are out there. I’d really like a way to track the books I’ve read from outside of the US in certain places, and maybe look up books in countries I’ve not read yet. Not sure if anything like that exists.

Just brainstorming. May be a challenge I’ll put together for 2016–and that’s still a ways away. Hmmmmm…..

Aaaaannnyyyywayyyyy….Back to China.

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The Good Earth takes place in the late 1800s-mid 1900s in mostly northern China. Wang Lung starts his adult life as a poverty-stricken farmer living with his old, grumpy father. He wants a wife, so he skimps a few coins to buy an ugly (but not pock-marked) slave from a rich family in town. She becomes his life-long friend and companion, not only giving him many children, but because of her help in the fields, they are able to grow the farm to success–with a few struggles along the way, of course.

I loved the first half of this book. It’s almost a Fiddler on the Roof kind of love story (OK, so I MAY have watched that episode of Gilmore Girls last night where Kirk is in an elementary play.). They don’t start by loving each other, but they work next to each other in the fields, hardly talking, gaining mutual respect, and it’s a marriage. It’s a hard life, but a seemingly happy one. O-lan supports his constant yearning for landownership and never pushes him towards material things. It’s a simple life that they both want.

But, something breaks in Wang Lung after the first famine, when they have to go south, I think. After they get back, he immediately starts gaining new land and capital, and is never the same. When he realizes how rich he is, and above the Old Lord, his ego overcomes him and his life just goes downhill from there. The more “successful” he is, the less fulfilled he becomes.

I did have to remind myself a few times that this is a different culture, and so things like concubines and sons getting education over working in the fields were normal. But I was so frustrated for O-lan. And I did not always understand the dynamic between Wang Lung and his uncle.

Really, I think my main takeaway is just that you don’t always need to be rich in order to have a full life. Oh, and Chinese farm wives are badass. That too. O-lan, you’re pretty much my hero right now. “Just bring me a sharp reed, and stay out.”

Ok, O-lan, whatever you say, O-lan.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #18:  A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

The Great Zoo of China

If you didn’t know this already, I am a big Michael Crichton fan. We own several of his books, so I’ve been working my way through them, and the ones that I read are completely thrilling. Prey and Next and OF COURSE Jurassic Park. I mean, he basically wrote the book on dinosaurs, right? Fiction anyway.

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So when I started reading The Great Zoo of China, and a crocodile expert gets invited to this brand new mysterious “Disneylandesque” park in China…of course my radar is going off like crazy. I’m practically screaming, “WE DID THIS ALREADY!!!!!!!”

And then the author goes and freaking references Jurassic Park. HELLO. How much more obvious can you get? We know your book is exactly like Michael Crichton’s. Please, give me something different.

Ok. So, there is something different, and awesome and fun about this book. I can’t really tell you what is different, because that will give away the surprise. And, I enjoyed the book…because it is reaaaaally similar to Michael Crichton…obviously. Any fans of his are going to enjoy this book too. You’re just going to be yelling the whole time because, well, you’ve seen this movie already.

Matthew Reilly’s book is for sure a page turner, and is full of action. The main character is a kick ass female too, which is always a plus. Even though it’s a familiar plot line, I still recommend it. It was a fun read, and I really liked the twist on an old favorite.

 

Disclaimer:  Received for free from NetGalley

Fulfills PopSugar #13: A book set in a different country

I Grew My Boobs in China

Travelling has always been a great dream of mine, especially international travel. America is wonderful and vast and varying, but aside from a jump across Niagara, I’ve never been out of it.

There’s so much world to see, and the more travel memoirs I read, the more I long to go.

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When I read I Grew My Boobs in China, I was hit with two impressions:

1. Holy crap, I want to smack this super annoying teenager right in the face. Seriously, her whining drove me crazy the entire time. One moment she’d come up with some really deep, well thought out things about how much this trip was changing her…and then boom, she’d start back in on how terrible everything was and how she missed the internet. But…I’m an adult reading a book written by a girl going through puberty in a foreign country with a giant pack strapped to her back. I’d probably whine too if it were me.

2. If Elizabeth Gilbert had a daughter…Savannah Grace would be her. The way she talked about her mom’s journey through divorce–giving up her life, taking off on this epic journey across Asia, that’s what it reminded me of.

I finished this in one day, and thankfully it was a lazy, “do nothing but laundry and read” kind of day, because I couldn’t put this down. I Grew My Boobs in China is only the first part of a 3 part series (at least so far):  Sihpromatum. The first two are on Kindle Unlimited, and you should definitely check them out. I am looking forward to the second book, to see what happened to the family in Russia!