Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip

peach blossom pavilionPeach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip

Description from Goodreads

A seductive and evocative debut that opens the doors on life as a Chinese courtesan in the Peach Blossom Pavilion…

Behind the doors of the pavilion, a world of sensuality and intrigue awaits…

Xiang Xiang’s life as an innocent girl is about to change beyond recognition.

Falsely accused of murder, Xiang Xiang’s father is executed, and her mother forced into a Buddhist nunnery. Xiang Xiang, alone and friendless at thirteen years old, is tricked into entering the Peach Blossom Pavilion, where she is given the name Bao Lan – Precious Orchid.

There she is trained in the fine arts of womanhood, studying music, literature, painting, and more importantly, the art of seduction and pleasuring men; and becomes one of China’s most successful courtesans.

However, Precious Orchid is determined to avenge her parents and sets out on a journey that includes passion, adventure, danger, fame, and finally, her chance to achieve the justice she has sought so long.

An enchanting tale of opulence and desire, perfect for fans of Anchee Min and Memoirs of a Geisha.

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. It was a memoir, a journey through life, a story about overcoming misfortune and rising above it.

The writing was of a very high standard and I enjoyed reading about China in this period and experiencing the sights and sounds of the different regions. The many descriptive passages of the settings were wonderfully vivid and expressive. The culture of this world was riveting.

There are no doubt many that will draw numerous parallels between Peach Blossom Pavilion and Arthur Golden’s, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, but I feel that doing this would be doing a disservice to oneself. Apart from the setting and the general subject of the book, these were very different stories.

The inner workings of the many Pavilions’ and the lives of the prostitutes that worked there were illuminating.

I quickly became invested in the protagonist Xiang Xiang, and her relationship with Pearl was interesting. The development of the main characters, and the building of fascinating and involved backstories, that were later relied upon as motivation for future events, was cleverly expounded. I liked the way that Xiang Xiang grew and developed into a successful prostitute, but also her inner strength and drive to avenge the wrongs done her family, and ultimately her growth as a woman.

It was interesting to unravel the continued involvement, through coincidence, that the man that had started the series of events that resulted in Xiang Xiang ending up in the prostitution house, had in her life.

I found this an easy book to get lost in. It was well paced, with the story moving along rapidly.

It was interesting to see the Xiang Xiang of the present, and how different her life had been in the period she was remembering and relating.

I would most certainly recommend this as an enjoyable read. Despite the differences between this and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, I believe that both books are cut from a similar cloth, and if you enjoyed Arthur Golden’s novel, then you will most certainly enjoy this extremely well written and remarkably executed story, by Mingmei Yip.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slight and Terrence Tasker

The Antigone PoemsThe Antigone Poems by Marie Slight and Terrence Tasker

Description from Goodreads

Passionate, brutal, and infused with extraordinary lyricism, The Antigone Poems provides a special expedition into the depths of the ancient Sophocles tragedy. The work’s obsessive, ritualistic and ultimately mysterious force brings into sharp focus the heroic, tragic figure at the center of the primordial compact between gods and humans. The work, a collaboration between poet, Marie Slaight and artist, Terrence Tasker, was created in the 1970’s, while the artist were living in Montreal and Toronto.

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book immensely. I am a keen reader of poetry of all kinds.

This book was a combination of extremely powerful poetry by Marie Slaight, accompanied by incredibly haunting artwork from Terrence Tasker. The combination is a work of epic proportions.

The poetry was very dark and evocative, in keeping with the theme of Sophocles original tragedy, Antigone. This is a beautifully presented book, and will keep readers coming back to it again and again, getting something extra from it on each new reading.

I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in poetry and in particular in a different slant on Sophocles work.
This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Summer on the Moon by Adrian Fogelin

Summer on the MoonSummer on the Moon by Adrian Fogelin

Description from Goodreads

It is the beginning of summer vacation. Socko and his best friend Damien entertain themselves playing with the decrepit old elevator in their tenement or throwing things off the roof, taking special care to avoid the local Tarantula gang and its leader, Rapp.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read, perfect for secondary school age children, but with enough interest for those of us that are a little older, but still young at heart.

This was a story of change and escape. Escape to a better standard of living, from a world in which fear and worry were the dominant factors in the life of the protagonist, a life of poverty, to one in which he was introduced to a different world, a world in which he felt part of a family. It was about the struggle to move on and leave behind his best friend, knowing that his friend’s life would begin to landslide as a result. It was a story of loyalty between friends, under difficult circumstances.

The story was also about learning to deal with new situations and people. Our protagonist learned how to connect with people from a different generation and also about the joys, and confusions, of first love.

I really liked the protagonist, Socko, named for the Greek philosopher, Socrates. What a cool name. The characters the author created seemed very real and I enjoyed the relationships that Socko had with his best friend Damien, and then with Livvy. How the friendship, and love, blossomed between Socko and Livvy was fun to see, as was the lack of realisation that Socko had about it.

Livvy was also undergoing a pivotal life change, although hers was in the opposite direction to that of Socko, coming from a far more privileged background. The changes that both were experiencing eventually brought them together, each starting from opposite ends of the spectrum.

I really liked this story and would certainly recommend it to others. It had a message of hope, that by helping others, you would ultimately be rewarded. It was a book about growth and change, and that bad people receive their just desserts.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

If It Rains Pancakes by Brian P. Cleary

If it rains pancakesIf It Rains Pancakes by Brian P. Cleary

Description from Goodreads

Brian P. Cleary explains and demonstrates how to write two types of ancient Japanese poetry: haiku and lanterns. Short introductions outline the basic rules of each form, and the poems range from hilarious to touching, with lighthearted illustrations adding to the books appeal.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading this short taster of the haiku and lantern poetic forms of ancient Japan. It is a great way for children to be introduced to these forms, and to poetry in general.

Illustrated throughout with fun pictures by Andy Rowland, the images help bring the poems to life for children and grab their attention.

The simple and relevant poems will be fun and interesting to children and adults alike. Children will be able to relate easily with the content and topic of the poems. The book is reasonably short and so can be read with them in one sitting, or maybe two, splitting the sessions between the two poetic forms.

I would recommend this book as an enjoyable and informative read to share with your children. Learning whilst having fun is always the best way.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

The Kill by Emile Zola

The Kill by Emile Zola

Description from Goodreads

The Kill (La Curée) is the second volume in Zola’s great cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart, and the first to establish Paris – the capital of modernity – as the centre of Zola’s narrative world. Conceived as a representation of the uncontrollable ‘appetites’ unleashed by the Second Empire (1852-70) and the transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann, the novel combines into a single, powerful vision the twin themes of lust for money and lust for pleasure. The all-pervading promiscuity of the new Paris is reflected in the dissolute and frenetic lives of an unscrupulous property speculator, Saccard, his neurotic wife Renée, and her dandified lover, Saccard’s son Maxime.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book a great deal. This is the second part of the infamous Rougon-Macquart cycle of twenty volumes by Emile Zola, and follows on from ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’.

For a relatively short book of 260 pages this took me an inordinate amount of time to read. I kind of lost my way at the midpoint and didn’t get back to it for a few months. That is not to suggest that this was the fault of the book though. I gave this book four stars out of five despite the high quality, since I know that other books in this cycle are even better.

The writing was technically very proficient, as one might expect, and the descriptive passages evocative of everything one imagines of Paris of this period.

It was an interesting insight into the influence of Haussmann on the architecture of, and ultimately, the face of the future Paris.

The power of this book, I believe, is the authors ability to bring to life the hedonistic lifestyle followed by many Parisians, and the debauchery that prevailed at the time. He combined this with an exploration of the underbelly of Paris and the corruption associated with the development and rebuilding of the city.

I enjoyed the character development, which was superb, along with the relationships of Renee with her husband, Sacard and his son, her lover, Maxime. The characters were interesting and fully formed. I liked the numerous small links to the family history, as this both tied the story in with the previous volume and set the stage for future volumes.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Paris of this period, due to the dearth of information that can be gleaned from it, or those interested in classic French literature. It was a fantastic account of the period, and an excellent read.

Antiphony by Chris Katsaropoulus

AntiphonyAntiphony by Chris Katsaropoulus

Description from Goodreads

In this novel that explores the intersection of science and spirituality, Theodore Reveil, one of the leading lights in string theory physics, is on his way to present his latest research at a triumphant meeting of his colleagues from around the world when he realizes that he has lost the notes for his presentation. Verging on panic, he is in the middle of ransacking his hotel room for the missing notes when he is stopped in his tracks by a voice—and a vision. Shaken by what he has just experienced, he takes the stage to deliver his speech, note-less. In the midst of his distraction and confusion, he poses the question “What if the Universe, instead of being a giant machine, is really a giant thought?” Then, before his astonished colleagues, Theodore makes an even bolder assertion: “The unsolvable terms in our equations may be road signs pointing to consciousness—to God—as the missing piece of the puzzle.”

Antiphony traces the downward spiral of Theodore’s career in the wake of his controversial statements, as well as the remarkable transformation that threatens to lead him to the depths of madness—or the revelation of the Final Theory, the ultimate secret of the universe. Readers interested in the nature of the universe, consciousness, and spirit will find this novel engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this book. Having a personal interest in string theory and fundamental physics, the subject matter was fascinating for me, as were the philosophical questions raised regarding the existence of God and the melding of God and science in the search for that elusive theory of everything.

The story was built around how making one small mistake, in the wrong place, can bring the walls tumbling down, life crashing down around one’s ears. In this instance, the protagonist, Theodore Reveil, a physicist researching perturbation theory, found everything that he had known and worked for crumbling before his very eyes. It was interesting to see how fast a life and career that had taken years to build could unravel.

I liked Theodore Reveil. I found the crisis of conscience that he was going through fascinating – God versus science, or God and science, as opposed to all of his previous beliefs about God having no place in science or in a theory of the universe.

The character development was good. The relationships that evolved between Theodore and his family and friends, were interesting. Theodore came across as many people’s view of the eccentric, obsessed scientist, lost in his work, not really understanding or paying attention to the day-to-day world around him. He was over-analytical of everything he observed. He attempted to place common day occurrences and events within the spectrum of his knowledge and interest, questioning the most mundane of things and building some convoluted theory around them.

The book was well paced and used numerous literary devices to great effect. His ‘religious visions’ seemed to be expressed in a ‘stream of consciousness’ manner, with thoughts and images coming out roughshod and disorganised, in a rapid, rambling fashion and a blurring together of ideas. There was little punctuation, creating a kind of breathlessness to these passages, driving the reader on to the more manageable pace of the general narrative. They reminded me of the style of many passages in James Joyce’s, ‘Ulysses’.

Hearing voices in ones head is not generally accepted as a good thing, especially when one acts, based upon these voices. Theodore seems driven to act by what he has experienced, or at least during and shortly after the experience, without any real knowledge of what he is doing and against his ‘better’, or more rational, judgement. This sets up a deep internal struggle within his consciousness.

I liked the wide range of influences and topics apparent in this book – classical music and music theory, string theory, poetry, literature, mythology, spiritualism and religion. The author took all of these and used them to weave a descriptive cloak around the characters and plot.

I found this book to be well written and an enjoyable read. The ending was a little open ended for my liking, I would have liked there to be another chapter to wrap things up for me, but I suppose that this way we get to draw our own conclusions.

I would recommend this book if you are interested in the science and god question. If you enjoy literary fiction, combining poetry and prose, that deals with deep philosophical questions about the universe in which we exist, and indeed about existence itself, then you will surely enjoy this book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Pig and Small by Alex Latimer

Pig and SmallPig and Small by Alex Latimer

Description from Goodreads

Pig and Bug just want to be friends. But their size difference is proving to be a BIG problem. Pig wants to play games – but Bug is too small. Bug wants to make things for his friend – but Pig is too big! Just as they’ve given up all hope for their friendship, Pig has an idea But will it work? (Yes, it will!)

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story, and the message behind it. It was a story of friendship between two very different creatures, a pig and a teeny weeny bug. Despite their obvious differences, in particular their sizes, they managed to eventually forge a great friendship, albeit after travelling a rocky road.

This story is a lot of fun for children and teaches some valuable life lessons. It is a tale of how true friendship ignores, or overlooks, immaterial differences between people, such as size. It shows how there are differences between us all, and that friendships have to be worked at and an effort made. It teaches children that we do not all enjoy the same things, or are able to do them, but that we can usually find some common ground.

The book is illustrated throughout with many great, fun pictures and will be enjoyed by children of all ages.

I would certainly recommend this book to parents looking for a fun, interesting story, that also provides a valuable lesson about friendship and getting on with others.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Addicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie

Addicted to youAddicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie

 

Description from Goodreads

She’s addicted to sex. He’s addicted to booze…the only way out is rock bottom.

No one would suspect shy Lily Calloway’s biggest secret. While everyone is dancing at college bars, Lily stays in the bathroom. To get laid. Her compulsion leads her to one-night stands, steamy hookups and events she shamefully regrets. The only person who knows her secret happens to have one of his own.

Loren Hale’s best friend is his bottle of bourbon. Lily comes at a close second. For three years, they’ve pretended to be in a real relationship, hiding their addictions from their families. They’ve mastered the art of concealing flasks and random guys that filter in and out of their apartment.

But as they sink beneath the weight of their addictions, they cling harder to their destructive relationship and wonder if a life together, for real, is better than a lie. Strangers and family begin to infiltrate their guarded lives, and with new challenges, they realize they may not just be addicted to alcohol and sex.

Their real vice may be each other.

I gave this book five out of five stars.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I found it a compelling read and hard to put down. It was well paced and the plot always kept one interested in knowing what would happen next. It was not your average rich kid romance, with them coming from a position of entitlement, and I found that extremely refreshing.

This book deals with adult themes of addiction and ultimately this was a tale of addiction and love. The attempt to overcome an addiction for the sake of another, for love.

I thought that the authors’ ability to breathe life into their characters was excellent. I loved the two main characters, Loren (Lo), and Lily. They were fully rounded characters and I loved that they were complete, rather than just a vehicle for their addictions.

The progression of their relationship, from a fake one used as a means to hide their individual addictions of sex and alcohol, from other people, to a real relationship, and ultimately a desire to be better people for one another was really interestingly handled. The replacement of their separate addictions, with a new, joint addiction, each other, was a predictable outcome in light of their addictive personalities.

It was also fascinating to see how other people penetrated the closed circle of Lily and Lo. This inclusion of other people in their life, particularly having real friends that cared for them and didn’t care about their surnames, they had their own, in addition to reassessing their relationship with their families was revealing of the degree of growth that they experienced, both personally, and as a couple.

Actually fighting their addictions, rather than embracing them, and changing how they had interacted with one another after such a long time, was illuminating. It was a story of progression, progressing from a point where they had separate addictions that were just part of their lives, they were functioning, to one where they found something more important to live for. Each other.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a romance with a difference. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, although I did think that the truth of the identity of one of the supporting characters was rather mundane.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Claude on the Slopes by Alex T Smith

Claude on the SlopesClaude on the Slopes by Alex T Smith

Description from Goodreads

Meet Claude. He’s no ordinary dog–he leads an extraordinary life! Each day when his owners leave for work, Claude decides what adventure he will have. What will happen today? Claude and his best friend, Sir Bobblysock, go to the Snowy Mountains to swish down the powdery slopes. When their winter wonderland threatens to avalanche, Claude must come to the rescue.

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

What a fun book. Children will love reading the continued adventures of Claude, the beret wearing dog, and his sock companion Sir Bobblysocks.

Children of all ages will enjoy exploring the snowy slopes with this pair of friends and will find the story fun and exciting. The author has created some entertaining and amusing characters, and a story that is packed full of laughs, not only for children, but also for those of us that are a little older, but remain big kids. Sorry, I meant young at heart.

This book will be especially interesting to those children that have already been exposed to the earlier adventures of Claude, and will leave those that haven’t wanting to find out more.

This book contains great illustrations throughout, accompanying the text and providing additional enjoyment and allowing greater interaction with the book for younger children too.

I would recommend this book as a great bedtime read for the kids. I thought this book was just the right length for that purpose. I look forward to reading further adventures of Claude and Sir Bobblysocks.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Whistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden

whistle for the crowsWhistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden

Description

From one of the world’s classic authors of romantic suspense comes the thrilling tale of a young woman caught between the desires of two very different brothers while researching a family’s secret history in an eerie Irish castle.

For Cathleen Lamb, traveling to Dublin to record the history of the mystery-shrouded O’Riordan family is the answer to a prayer. Still grieving over the accident that killed her husband and baby daughter, she hopes to lose herself in other people’s lives.
But something sinister is going on at the ancient castle at the edge of the moors . . . something beyond the scandalous skeletons rattling around the O’Riordans’ closets. The former heir was killed three years earlier in a suspicious fall. The same night, the family matriarch suffered a stroke that left her mute.

Despite the malice that surrounds her, Cathleen is drawn to the brooding, darkly passionate man who is plotting to control the family. But even he may not be able to protect her when the crimes of the past reach into the present to terrorize the living.

I gave this book three stars out of five

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this book. It was a relatively straightforward read that was easy to immerse oneself in. The setting was perfect for the story that evolved, particularly the gloomy, half ruined castle on the moors in rural Ireland. The author painted an excellent picture of the location with many great descriptive passages.

The story was a nice mix of a number of different elements. It was filled with family history, scandal, investigation, suspense, although I thought that it was a little short on the actual romance.

I enjoyed the interaction between Cathleen and the members of the O’Riordan family, especially Liam and Rory. The rivalry between the brothers for Cathleen’s attention was interestingly handled, and gave great insights into the characters of these men.

I enjoyed the authors skill at character building. She gave us a number of well-rounded characters that were interesting and deep. It was easy to invest in the characters and their lives.

The plot was interesting and moderately paced, although a little slow in places.

The introduction of snippets of back story and the revelation of more and more skeletons from the close to bursting closet of the O’Riordans was cleverly done.

I enjoyed the conclusion of the story and found it interesting and somewhat different to how I had expected.

I would certainly recommend this book to those interested in an eerie mystery story, but would be more reluctant in recommending it as a romance, as this element seemed to be very understated.

This review was based upon a complimentary copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Media as part of the Retro reads program.