Hi, my name is Jacqueline, I'm a bibliophile, and I'm in love with this book.
This thing kicks ass. And, I don't mean in the "let's-create-comedic-commHi, my name is Jacqueline, I'm a bibliophile, and I'm in love with this book.
This thing kicks ass. And, I don't mean in the "let's-create-comedic-commentary-for-the-sake-of-an-amusing-hyperbolic-review" kind of kick-assery. I mean legitimate, I-glommed-this-mofo-in-one-day level of quality. So, what's this puppy about? Okay, quick run down; The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lie, a historical romantic mystery set in China during the Tang Dynasty which follows Yue-ying, a scarred indentured servant working in a Courtesan pleasure house, and Bai Huang, a privileged aristocratic playboy, both of whom are set by circumstances to solve a Who-Done-It murder mystery. And subsequent awesomeness ensues.
First off, let me just put it out there that while I do have some issues regarding the story (we'll get to those a minute), I have to say it; The Lotus Palace is basically the literary equivalent of the TARDIS. I shit you not, from Chapter One this sucker takes you out of your Modern Day Bore-ville and transplantes your ass to ancient China. The textures of the writing are hardcore realistic. So much effort is put to the smallest details in the setting, from Chinese social class structure to the character's attire to dietary rituals, making your brain feel immersed in awesome culture all without becoming boring or textbook-ish.
That said, while I'm fangirling over this thing like a Belieber at her first Justin concert, there are a few figurative landmines sprinkled in the recipe of this novel. "The characters, perchance?" you might be thinking. Nope. In fact, I am completely on board with the ideology that says Huang and Yue-ying are IRL people. While Yue-ying does seem to be given more character development, with Huang kind of feels pushed to the back-burner, I'm okay with this criticism. For the most part, The Lotus Palace is largely told from our heroine's point of view. So such favored attention makes sense. Both characters are still likeable, believable, and interesting.
"The plot?" you could be pondering. Nope-nope. The external conflicts of this piece of fiction, while obviously serving as the Forced Proximity Vehicle by which our two leads are granted interaction, it works. The mystery is believable because just enough focus is directed its way without feeling like a Scooby Doo special. What's more, it paves the way for allowing the book's secondary characters to feel fully realized and dynamic.
"Screw you, Jacquie, I'm done playing your guessing games!" you're now thinking. Okay! Here it is; the big ol' answer to What The Hell Is My Problem is basically the romance between hero and heroine. Yeah, okay, so that was a lot of hyperbolic expository buildup for not a lot of payoff; sue me. As is, while I was in copious love with the initial sexual tension and relationship dynamic between Huang and Yue-ying during the first arc of their story, it kind of died a quiet death from the second to third act. I really can't explain what happened, either; which is not helpful, I know. The two had really rockin' chemistry in the first several chapters, but after the story got rolling it's like their relationship was simultaneously rushed and ignored. What's worse, along with getting fewer relationship development scenes the more the story progressed, I also really struggled buying them as couple-material.
AND THIS FACT KILLS MY SOUL! Why the text-screaming? Because the quality of this story was frackin' phenomenal! The writing was amazing, the pacing was amazing-er, and the characters were the book-people equivalent of chocolate+orgasms+free money; basically all the things that make life awesome. Sadly, our two leads just felt stale, especially when considering their relationship culminates at the end of the book in a pretty unbelievable way. Without activating the Spoiler Bomb, I will say that while I straight up demand an HEA in my romances, I want my Happily Ever Afters to not feel as fake as Pamela Anderson's chest. Even more of a bummer, the ending of The Lotus Palace does give me my couple being a couple, but it does so in a very rushed, unsatisfactory delivery.
Still! Aside from all my bitchy bemoaning, I still gotta give high fives to the author of this little gem. Jeannie Lin kept me hooked throughout my reading experience with this book. I did genuinely care about the characters, and my attention was all wrapped up in the story like a puppy with a ball made of bacon. Yes, I do wish more time had been spent on Huang and Yue-ting's relationship, and yes, while I seriously regret this author's use of time-fast-forwarding in the book, I still stick by my recommendation. Ms. Lin, your book was awesome. Please, give me more!
Oh, don't mind me. Just, you know, sitting here, basking in the brilliance of one of the most exciting roller coasters of fiction I have ever read. Ev
Oh, don't mind me. Just, you know, sitting here, basking in the brilliance of one of the most exciting roller coasters of fiction I have ever read. Ever. Hyperbole might admittedly be my thing, but let's lock that bitch right up and never refer to it as anything but copious truth. The facts are these:
1. Kristen Callihan will one day be a national treasure. 2. Moonglow is one of the most adventurously entertaining stories you will ever read. 3. You will feel All Of The Feels throughout the course of this novel. 4. Orginality is NOT dead; it's name is Moonglow.
Dear wondrous bacon, where does one even begin?! I mean, logically it's first with the characters, who deserve a damned review all on their own reality of "These People That Aren't People Be Kick Ass." Aside form all the necessary adjectives (likable, believable, interesting, etc.), Daisy and Ian are so much more than simple description. If Einstein, Kant, Kipling, and Sherlock Holmes were given a decade and an endless supply of cocaine, even they couldn't convey to you the earth-shattering, level-this-sucker-to-the-ground depth and complexity embodied by our two leads. Their evolution as whole-bodied characters reveals itself layer by layer, each chapter in the book pealing back more interest and emotional agency to their existence as people. Am I in love with Daisy and Ian? Well.
Truly it's not my fault, for obviously there's a national conspiracy at hand that has genetically engineered the perfect construction of plot with excellent writing quality. Callihan delves into a paranormal world that feels such a part of the fabric of reality within its fictional setting. The historical elements mesh perfectly with the other worldly-ones, which are fundamentally unique in their own right. Yes, we've read about werewolves, but not these lycans. Yes, we've seen be-gifted heroines with powers over the elements, but not with this backstory. Yes we've seen the animated dead, but not with that steampunk Grim Reaper twist.
You really don't; not til you read the book. (Seriously, hon; read this thing.) I mean, in this single novel we've got smokin' hot romance that is emotionally fueled by the most heartbreaking needs-some-lovin' hero and heroine, a Who Done It mystery, a monster on the loose, one hella screwy love triangle that is an acid trip into Feelville, a bloody half-century family feud even Dr. Phil wouldn't touch, all topped off with some of the most NO-WAY plot twists that would leave Steven King salivating. And, if all that wasn't enough to make you want to devour this book NOW, DAMMIT, then at the very least ignore that huge run-on sentence, for my sake. Additionally, know that you're crazy.
*Dodges the hate.* Okay, so aside from my being a douche-nozzle, I will admit that if the book contained a single flaw, it would have to be that a LOT is going on in this story. Such is a good thing, in that it makes for some hella-damn interesting story telling...but not such a good thing for crowding out room for more emotion-building between Daisy and Ian. While it would have been nice to see just an itsy-bitsy bit more of these two constructing their emotional connection, the specific plot points that occur do believably allow Daisy and Ian to short-hand their way to the lovey-dovey sentiments. Confused?
(view spoiler)[Basically Ian gets his flesh literally eviscerated (facial muscles mutilated, bloody chunky inside bits falling out...yeah) all to ensure Daisy's well being. Daisy's trust in Ian's humanity sparks a bond that supersedes the need for copious love-growing exposition. So, yeah. If that's not enough to excuse the lack of an extra heaping spoonful of emotion-cresting-telling, then may Alan Rickman help you. (hide spoiler)]
The non-spoilery answer is that Kristen Callihan is a goddess, and you should worship on her alter of awesome writing skills, dammit! She creates spectacular spectacularness and you effing -NEED- this in your life for your own well being! Moonglow's entire cast of characters are all equally well written and they're just waiting to be your friend, and you want to know the future of your friends don't you? DON'T YOU?!
Read this book. Now.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Nope. No, wait, make that double-nope. In fact, let's go ahead and take an ass-huge heaping pile of no, cram that sucker with a bit
Pages Survived: 254
Nope. No, wait, make that double-nope. In fact, let's go ahead and take an ass-huge heaping pile of no, cram that sucker with a bit of nope, add three more scoops of nope-nope to the mix, and top that piece of culinary hell with one more face-full of nopey.
Hyperbole much? Nope. If I can offer any sage words of experienced wisdom for the youth today, it's basically to metaphorically be this badger in regards to Laurie London's book, Bonded By Blood...
"But, Jacqueline!" are you're indubitably not gasping aloud, "What could London have done so atrociously wrong to make you be this big of an ass-clown about her work?!" Well, as a nonexistent great philosopher that I just made up never said, "The greatest crime a novel can commit is that of boredom." Basically, that's this rearrangement of 26 letters; Bonded By Blood is ostensibly a glorified Lunesta commercial, with less panache.
Heartbreaking, yes, but when characters have as much chemistry as paint meeting oxygen, and the plot is more flaccid than a castrated 90 year old man, there's some serious screwy issues with such a novel. The technical construction to the writing was fine, and I applaud London for knowing how to write a book. But, to be extra-special dorky for a hot minute, I'll quote Sherrilyn Kenyon's Acheron and say, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." And, oh-damn-baby, London shouldn't have.
So, lack of a believably driven plot? Check. Supposed romance novel's characters with passion the equivalent of evaporated milk? Check. Lack of believability in the people within the universe the book centers? Yeah, that too, so check. Basically, we've got all the makings for a novel that fails hard, but not even in a fun, "I can't believe it's not butter" kind of failing. 254 pages into a book, and I got nothing, nada, and zilch after over a month of trying. So, DNF status? You bet your chunky-monkey.
PS: Here's your consolation prize for having waded through this monstrosity eye-brain rape of a shittastic review. Enjoy...
Tropes can be an awesome thing. Often they have a negative connotation, but realistically, they allow a reader an immediate yes-no understanding of whTropes can be an awesome thing. Often they have a negative connotation, but realistically, they allow a reader an immediate yes-no understanding of what devices a certain book uses that may or may not suit a readers taste. I love tropes. The book Take Me uses all my favorite tropes. I did not, sadly, love the book.
The characters, frankly, sucked...kind of. The unsatisfactory acquaintance I had with these two leads is a bit surprising, considering they did lend come across as somewhat more realistic than words-on-a-page. Lily and Travis both showed believable emotions, both on- and off-screen. The protagonists were, also, occasionally believable as human beings, and, sometimes, as a couple. So, what's the problem?
Despite being realistically believable in most matters, they weren't humanly relate-able. The decisions both hero and heroine made came across as a spastic, hyperactive Gemini with a Schizophrenic disorder thrown into the mix. I literally lost count of the times that the heroine would make some sort of out-of-character statement or decision, act upon it, and then completely 360 her actions. The hero, too, would jump from one mentality/mind-set to another without any framework or shift transition at all. I could buy this issue being just a "personality" trait, if it were present in just one character, but not in both. No friggin' way.
Aside from the Energizer Bunny hop-skippity-jump issue, I was also HUGELY unsatisfied with the romantic aspects of Take Me. Literally, from the very opening page, the hero and heroine go from NO previous on-page interaction to wham-I-want-your-penis to smexy-times to internal monologueing of I-don't-know-what-this-is to, literally, insta-love; from insta-lust to insta-love.
I could understand if it were just insta-lust, and that evolving into something more, assuming the characters had JUST met one another literally in the very scene we see the holy-hot-pants reality. Such is not the case. Lily and Travis had been friends for years prior, and, despite being emotionally closed down from one another now, saw each other frequently over the course of their recent lives preceding the novel's opening. I'm sorry, but I absolutely did not buy the hey-purdy-dress, hey-alcohol, let's-do-it!-lurrrve book set up.
The initial stages of the romance sucked, the intermediate stages of the romance sucked. Throughout the "falling in love" time period is literally never shown. They're a'banging, and all of a sudden, wham-o, love from the Closed Off Hero's Heart is there. Even though the writer makes it a point to inventory some of the things that Travis has personally learned, and come to love, about Lily from the time they've been spending, the things he notes (spider fear, something about her favorite food, etc.) are all things which are told to us, never shown. Thus, the majority of the "getting to know you" of this novel happens off screen.
And, of course, there's the ending wrap up of the romance, which also sucked. The romantic conclusion of this book was SO unbelievably spastic that I'm almost awed by the level of what-the-fuckery therein. The resolution of the story was sweet, and believable, and probably its only excellent point, but the climax was so God-awfully random that, put with Lily's spontaneous self-actualization and realization, I just couldn't deal.
While there were quite a bit of negative chunks to this book, I can't say it was totally disappointing. I do think Lily's insecurities and weaknesses in personality made for an interesting heroine. While occasionally she did feel a bit forced, and a huge portion of her back-story whitewashed over, to her detriment as a character, I feel, she was not completely without merit. Likewise Travis, too, was an interesting guy to read about but, like with Lily, as with the romantic plot, too, I think so, so very much more could have been done to make this story more interesting, and better, than it ended up being.
On a plus, the pacing was good, and the story didn't painfully drag on endlessly, but on the minus, I just didn't buy this as being a good romance, or even a good work of fiction. Strong enough, and interesting enough characters and tropes to keep it out of the DNF territory, but not strong enough to rank better than a "Meh. Okay. Easily forgettable" reality....more