Book Reviews

More Exciting News!

My friend, Laura Manivong, has her first book coming out in March. “Escaping The Tiger” is a fictionalized account of her husband’s escape from communist Laos in 1992. I can’t wait for the book’s release as I’ve only seen one chapter (which enthralled me). Check out the Kansas City Star’s interview of Laura and her husband, Troy, or you can return here in a few weeks for my own interview with Laura.

Correction: This is her first novel. 🙂


I’ve kept quiet about some of this until I knew it would happen. Several months ago I discovered a favorite author of mine, Guy Gavriel Kay, has his next novel, “Under Heaven” coming out and it’s set in Alternative World Tang Dynasty China. Once I recovered from shock (he’s always stayed in Europe before) I contacted his press agent and was given the go ahead to receive a galley for review purposes. The reviews will go up in China History Forum Online’s newsletter, The Historical Novel Review site (where I currently have “Ransom” by David Malouf reviewed), The Ron Empire, my facebook account, She Writes, GoodReads and anywhere else I can think of to put it. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I feel like a bird of prey hovering over my mailbox.

It did not come this morning. I hope it arrives by Friday as I will have two hours of mine-all-mine reading time that morning. Can we say excited? I thought we could. 🙂

"A Tiger’s Heart: The Story of a Modern Chinese Woman" by Aisling Juanjuan Shen

Many thanks to guest reviewer, Susan Blumberg-Kason for today’s book review:

A Promise to RememberIf your parents physically and emotionally tormented you when they weren’t plain ignoring you, how far would you go to escape and live on your own terms? The author’s honest and eye-opening memoir takes the reader on a highly emotional journey starting from when she’s born to a poor peasant family in rural China. As if frigid winters with no heat and long days with little food weren’t bad enough, Juanjuan’s mother at one point dares her daughter to kill herself. When she’s lucky enough to attend school, she finally finds something that keeps her going. Staying late to finish her homework and avoid her dysfunctional family, Juanjuan dreams of something no one else in her hamlet has ever done–to go to college. The book takes us through the many incarnations of Juanjuan, as she goes from working as a middle school teacher, to being a secretary, an Amway saleswoman, a translator and finally a businesswoman for a knitting machine factory.

Harbour by Paul House

A book review by Mirella Patzer of Historical Novel Reviews.
Harbour is a novel about Hong Kong society in the months leading up to the 1941 invasion of Hong Kong by Japan. It is a time of great contrast, of decadence and deficiency, of prejudice and acceptance, of greed, and of love and hate.
Molly is a young girl of mixed blood caught between two worlds; those of her Chinese mother and her American military father, Willard Russell. Willard is wheelchair bound in Hong Kong and near destitute. He sends for his wife and daughter who must make an onerous journey from their home in China to Hong Kong. Along the way, Molly’s mother dies and Willard must now raise his young daughter alone and in poverty.

When Willard receives an invitation to allow Molly to become the companion of the beautiful Tung Nien, the wife of a Chinese drug overlord and head of the Dragon Triad group, Chen Liew, under the guidance of Miss Dekyvere an ex-pat making her home in Hong Kong, he readily accepts. Deep in the throes of grief, Willard drinks himself into daily stupors. He soon meets Kenji, a Japanese barber who becomes his mentor.

Dr. Laughton and his wife Mary are childless and their marriage is failing. The moment Dr. Laughton sets his eyes on Tung Nien, he is intrigued by Tung Nien and lusts for her. Bored with her loveless, sexless marriage, Tung Nien begins a heated affair with Dr. Laughton.

As the days of the imminent invasion grow closer, the lives of the novel’s characters intertwine, enmesh, and collide. Their lives spin out of control and degrade. Each must confront their own destiny in search of happiness.

Paul House does an excellent job of displaying his characters with all their faults and strengths. Like a tapestry, he weaves their lives together, sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in ways most detrimental to their lives. This keeps the interest strong throughout the story. Not only does he depict the political climate, he also includes the criminal element, the drug trade, in the story.

If you’re interested in reading a good novel in a unique setting, then this is a good one to pick up.

Book Review: "I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade"

by Diane Wilson
The book opens with the main character as an elderly woman telling her tale to her granddaughter. So while there is never any question as to the main character’s survival, this YA book nonetheless captured my imagination and I am not someone who routinely reads YA. Ms. Wilson’s fantasy is fluid, descriptive and unobtrusive. You’ll never realize she holds the reins.
If you rate by the tears-o-meter, it is by far the best book I’ve read in months.

When Oyuna of the Kerait tribe is mamed – her foot crushed – by a black mare, she is marked forever. Her parents try every treatment imaginable, but there is no cure for her foot, her life or her luck. Still, Oyuna knows she is meant for more than stirring mare’s milk into ayrag. She dreams of speed and freedom, but needs a fast horse to win the next great race and make her dream come true.

Yet when her father allows her to pick a horse, her choice is Bayan, a mare well past her prime. But Oyuna cannot turn away when she hears the horse’s plea for help. Reluctantly, Oyuna rescues Bayan and their friendship changes Oyuna’s life.

The soldiers of Kublai Khan take riders, food and horses from Oyuna’s tribe, including Bayan. Rather than lose her mare, Oyuna masquerades as her stepbrother and leaves with Bayan and the soldiers. Oyuna is discovered and she and Bayan are dismissed from military service. They now serve as a currier to the great Khan. This is good news to Oyuna, who knows the Khan has a herd of ten thousand white mares. If she and Bayan deliver his precious message in time, perhaps he will give her a fast horse.

She and Bayan brave many dangers crossing the Gobi, but at last reach Kublai Khan’s court. Received well, Oyuna develops a friendship with the Khan, but he wants Bayan for his own. Rather than leave her friend or trade her for the mount she wants, Oyuna stays in her ruler’s service. Then tragedy strikes the Khan’s herds including Bayan. Only Oyuna can save her beloved mare, but time is faster than any horse.

You must read “I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade” to discover the ending. Nothing will induce me to tell, but be prepared when you read this book. Pack a lunch so you won’t have to get up and have tissues close by. You’ll need them.