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The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

The Nine Fold Heaven

Last year, I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel back in time to Shanghai in the 1930’s thanks to Mingmei Yip’s Skeleton Women. Now my favorite Skeleton Women, Camilla, is back. She laid low in Hong Kong for a time and is ready to brave the dangerous streets of Shanghai to find her son and the other two important men in her life.

Although this could be read as a stand alone, I think that one would garner a much better understanding of how much Camilla has to overcome just to even care about others let alone go off on what could be a suicide mission to find those that she has grown to care about if Skeleton Women is consumed first.

Yip’s writing again makes the Chinese culture so approachable without over explaining or creating uncomfortable lags in the story to get her characters motivations across. I found myself not only invested in the Camilla, but respecting the boundaries in which she was forced to live.

So much of the historical fiction I see is based in Europe, but Mingmei Yip shows us the glamour, suspense, and mystery of a country that we seem to overlook as Westerners.

I’m grateful for that peek into China’s past that allows me to see that it hasn’t always been that big bad “red” wolf that we are taught to fear and despise from today’s news. It’s rather beautiful.

The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (June 25, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0758273541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758273543

 

Don’t forget to check out my review for Skeleton Women.

I received my copy from the author.

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The Doll by Taylor Stevens

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The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Book 3 in the Vanessa Michael Monroe series)

I spend quite a bit of time on the Amazon Kindle forums helping people out with their issues and often that means looking at a book’s product page to see if there are compatibility issues, page numbers, etc. Nine times out of ten, I end up looking at really random books that I would never read and make me laugh. (Sometimes the titles give way more info than the poor Kindle user wants to, I’m sure)  Early last year, someone had a problem with borrowing the second book  book in this series, The Innocent, from the library. The synopsis grabbed me, so I grabbed the first book and never looked back.

Vanessa Michael Monroe, AKA Michael, is damaged and yet her strength and ability to carve a life out of her unique skills makes her a really strong female protagonist. She’s multi-lingual, an intimidating fighter and never fails to get the job done, no matter what the obstacle. She is the person you call when all normal channels are useless. She finds the information or the person gone missing in conditions that are unimaginable to us mere mortals. Yet, her past haunts her so much that you can see her fragility and desire for normal things that most of us take for granted. The juxtaposition is what draws me to the books again and again.

The Doll made my skin crawl a bit. The bad guy isn’t your everyday flesh peddler, he makes his captives to order…into living dolls which seemed so much more grotesque in my mind than a normal kidnapping. The Doll Maker may have bitten off more than he could chew when his henchmen grabbed Michael.

Even faster paced than the first two in the series, The Doll kept me at the edge of my seat with the twists and turns. It was one of those “Just let me finish this chapter and I’ll go do the dishes” books. Problem was…I couldn’t hold myself to just one more chapter.

Taylor Stevens herself has one of the most interesting backstory, check it out at Taylor Stevens Books.

 

The Doll by Taylor Stevens

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0307888789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307888785

This book was given to me by the great folks at Read it Forward.

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The Resurrectionist

  • Feeling a bit Gothic?
  • Does fantastic artwork make you swoon?
  • Does Mythology get you out of bed in the morning?
  • Do you find yourself wondering what makes the fascinating creatures of your nightmares move?
  • Does a tale of genius gone bonkers keep you warm on a cold night?

If you answered Yes to any of the above questions, get yourself a copy of The Resurrectionist.

I am a fan of beautiful books. When I say beautiful, I don’t mean just the covers; I mean wonderful packages of words and creativity that make you see and think about those old dusty tomes in a new way. They can spark wonder, conversation, awe, and yes, even horror. This is one beautiful book for those with a slightly dark bent.

Dr. Spencer Black, rising from his resurrectionist (AKA Body Snatcher) father, showed an amazing amount of potential. In an age where deformities were fodder for traveling side shows, he wanted to go deeper to find their cause and possibly “cure” them. His studies led him to a dark conclusion however. What if what we call deformities were not something gone wrong, but more a sign of what we used to be, should me, and (shudder) were meant to be?

The first 65 pages tell the story of Dr. Spencer Black and his descent into either madness or genius, you’ll have to decide on your own. The rest of the 191 pages is his opus, thought lost, The Codex Extinct Animalia.    Billed as a Study of the Lesser Known Species of the Animal Kingdom, the sort-of Gray’s anatomy look at the creatures of legend and often, our nightmares and superstitions. Here you will find the muscular structure of the Minotaur, the bone structure of Ganesha, and just how the Cereberus was able to support it’s three heads.

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E.B. Hudspeth’s talent lay in these masterpieces.  Drawing the fearsome mythological creatures is a talent, but being able to look beneath the skin and create their inner structures is, well, a sphinx of another color. They are gorgeous.

The tale of Dr. Spencer Black is dark, very dark and may be hard to read for dog lovers, consider that a big warning, but the sheer wonder of Hudspeth’s plates has earned The Resurrectionist a place on my coffee table for it’s ability to spark conversation, horror, and even reverence at the artist’s skill.

 

The Resurrectionst:The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth

 

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (May 21, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1594746168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594746161

 

 

Note: This is also available as an ebook, but for the best results, it really needs to be seen in hardcover.

2nd Note: I thank Quirk Books for my copy and for continuing to challenge our idea of what a “book” really is.

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A New Birth of Freedom: The Translator by Robert G. Pielke

TheTranslator

This is the second book in the wonderfully fun trilogy so be sure to check out my review for A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor.

Time travel is messy when you really start to ponder it. You can’t change the past so much that you end up not being born because then you wouldn’t be there to travel back and make that change. Then there is the scary possibility that you change something bad and end up creating a whole new (and bigger) problem.

Time travel is also incredibly hard to write. The author has to explain those possible paradoxes and pitfalls without confusing the reader and getting so muddled that the prose ends up like a dog chasing his tail.

Big Note Here: You really must read the first book, The Visitor, before reading this one or you will be dazed and confused. Some books in a series stand alone, not this alternate history/sci-fi baby.

The Translator- When we last left, our somewhat fearless time traveler, Edwin Blair, had managed to bring Lee and Lincoln together to capture the Pests instead of fighting the battle at Gettysburg that we all know. Problem is Blair doesn’t know what to do from here.  He knows that some of the nasty Pests have to be left alive, but how? And just how are he and Lincoln supposed to calm the outrage, fear, and newly invigorated rebellion of the South? Blair is also dealing with a fading memory because of all of the changes he has caused and the headaches are nightmares.

Pielke does a great job of steering both his characters and the reader through the perils of time travel and once again leaves me dying to read the next book.

If you love the Civil War, enjoy alternate history, and are open to a quirky dash of time travel, The New Birth of Freedom is definitely  worth checking out.

A New Birth of Freedom: The Translator by Robert G. Pielke

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press (2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1611605423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611605426

 

I was thrilled to get this book by being part of the Tribute Books Tour.

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Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip

Skeleton Women

 

Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Midnight in Peking by Paul French. It was non-fiction and great, but what really stuck with me was the whole cosmopolitan-ness of Peking and other cities in China in the 30’s.  There was this intriguing sometimes blend and other times, complete separateness of Chinese and European culture. It left me wanting to explore more.

Enter TLC Book Tours and Skeleton Women. Here is a bit of the blub that made me say YES!

Once upon a time in China, the most beautiful and gifted women were known as “skeleton women”—the ultimate femme fatales who could bring a man to his knees, or to his doom…
When Camilla, a young orphan girl in Shanghai, is adopted and brought to live in luxury, it seems like a stroke of luck. But as Camilla grows to womanhood, she realizes that her “rescue” was part of gang leader Big Brother Wang’s scheme. Camilla is trained in singing, dancing, knife-throwing and contortion—all to attract the attention of Wang’s enemy, the ruthless Master Lung.

Skeleton Women is a fictional look at that darker side of China in the 1930’s that filled my head with wonder in Midnight in Peking, that separate side and it was a compelling  introduction to the author, Mingmei Yip.

China, in general, baffles me and I have always struggled with reading any fiction set there, even the so-called greats like The Good Earth. The problem isn’t the historical setting in time, so much as my inability to understand the culture and therefore what makes the characters tick.

Skeleton Women’s main character, Camilla, is different though. While still steeped in the period and traditions on China, Yip has written about her in a way that highlights the struggles from a viewpoint that we all share, the slant of what I guess I would call the fundamental questions being human.  What am I here for? Do I have to do what the people that raised me told me to do? What do I owe them? And perhaps most importantly, am I “good enough” to deserve another’s love?

Camilla feels trapped in her situation, She was saved from the orphanage, groomed not to have everyday emotions, and trained to become a spy that would catch a rival gangs leader’s  eye in the hope of finding his stash and killing him. Not only does she have to deal with other skeleton women trying to do, what she assumes, the same thing, but she must deal with emotions that she was taught not to feel and desiring things that she never thought to want.

While I am sure that most of us can’t relate to being raised as a sexy spy bent on destroying a rival gang leader, we can relate to grappling new emotions and having qualms about  choosing our own path as opposed to what others want us to do.

I really enjoyed this book on many levels, obviously. While I can’t speak to it’s historical accuracy, I can say that it sucked me into caring about something and someone that I would have bet you I couldn’t before. Yip’s writing was the perfect follow-up to Midnight in Peking and where other books that I have read set in China make me see nothing but how different we are, highlighted how alike we all are and just have different ways of finding our answers to those fundamental questions.

Skeleton Women by MingMei Yip

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (May 29, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0758273533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758273536

 

Author’s Website: http://www.mingmeiyip.com/

 

Thanks goes to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

 

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