Monday, 21 June 2021

Carole's Monday: Peony in Love

Author: Lisa See
Narrator: Janet Song
Title: Peony in Love
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Published: June 26th 2007
Where I got It: Audible

In seventeenth-century China, three women become emotionally involved with The Peony Pavilion, a famed opera rumored to cause lovesickness and even death, including Peony, the cloistered daughter of a wealthy scholar, who succumbs to its spell only to return after her death as a "hungry ghost" to haunt her former fiancé, who has married another

I've been wanting to read this book for a long, long time. Sighs...I was scared to actually dive in because it seems people LOVE it or HATE it. Finally got myself to check it out. I decided to do the audio version since I like the narrator. 

We are in seventeenth-century China and three women like so many others become emotionally involved with the opera called The Peony Pavilion. This opera is rumored to cause lovesickness and even death. This happens to Peony who is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy scholar. She succumbs to the opera spell and after her death, she returns as a hungry ghost to haunt her former fiance.

HEAD'S up...there are some spoilers here because I just could not help myself. I tried to control myself so I avoided BIG spoilers just little ones so move forward with caution. ;) 

Okay...I will admit I struggled tremendously at first. I had issues with Peony, her parents, and the world overall. They want these girls to be pure and be sheltered to the point of madness sometimes. They call it lovesickness....but these girls want love and freedom. They want it so bad that they cannot see past it and just decide that they are done with life. They can't control anything but what they put in their they starve. Poor things. issue was how selfish Peony was. Yes, yes, I get that she can't help but be in love with the first non-family dude she sees because of how sheltered she was. BUT girl legit knew him for 3 days. He thinks he loves her too but they do nothing. "Well - we are engaged to others soooo byeee.", and in protest of marrying another man, she goes all emo. Writes sad poems and starves to death??? SIGHS. Maybe WAIT and see who it is that you are engaged to. You never know!!! And lo and behold it was your dream guy. Tragic so tragic. How dare you do that your beloved father and mother. You are their only child. How could you be so selfish and dramatic about a guy you knew for not even 3 days. You talked for just a few hours overall. GAH.

Of course, everyone blames the opera that she got to watch. "YEP, just another girl who becomes cursed." OKAY...........MAYBE, JUST MAYBE IT IS THAT SHE HATES HER LIFE! Maybe she wants to know who she is marrying. Maybe she wants to go to town or just be treated like a human and not a goat being sold. Crazy thought...maybe talk to her........see what's going on. Maybe tell her who the to-be-hubby is. I know, I know it was the world and it was that bad for these girls so it was realistic. It just drove me insane. 

After she died things got really, really interesting. I couldn't stop listening. I had to know what was going to happen next. It was an interesting view of what the afterlife is like. It was so sad in so many ways. 

I loved when Peony realized as a ghost she has certain abilities. So cool. Wrong on how she used it at first, but we all would do the same thing. I know I would for sure. It was nice seeing her use her abilities for good near the end.  

Watching Peony grow and mature as a ghost was the best part of the story. I honestly wept when she and another ghost (don't want to give away BIG spoilers) did what they did at the end to bring happiness to people who deserved it. It brought a tear to my eye.

This was a really emotional book. I think we are supposed to have strong feelings throughout this which I did. I hated Peony and the human world. I was sad when she died and had to say goodbye. I felt scared for her as she was trying to find her way as a ghost. I wept when her parents seemed to have neglected her and didn't finish the funeral rites they needed to. I felt her anger and pain seeing her love remarry. I felt her desires and wants to be loved and remembered. I felt her despair and her joy. I felt all the emotions. When this ended I couldn't help but smile and wipe a tear away. 

I honestly think the narrator really helped with this. I do not think I would've liked it as much if I had to read it. The narrator is amazing. She really brings so much life to the characters and story. Fantastic! She did great. 

Okay...okay...I'll stop while I'm ahead. I can honestly ramble about this because there is soooo much to discuss. Perfect for a book club I think.

I'll give this 4 stars. It would be 5, but I did struggle at first. 

- #35 for Audiobook challenge

Friday, 18 June 2021

Audio: Just last night by Mhairi McFarlane

By: Mhairi McFarlane

Narrated by: Maya Saroya

Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins

Release date: 05-04-21

Publisher: HarperAudio


To review

This one turned out to be really compelling. The secrets! I just really wanted to see how it all turned out.

Eve, Ed, Justin and Stevie are best friends. Eve and Ed had a thing years ago and there was always something there. Even though she has moved on, and Ed has his Hester (that no one likes). But then something happens, and secrets! Omg juicy secrets that had me craving more. Nothing is what it seems like. What is friendship worth? How much do you really know someone?

I liked Eve, she was just normal you know. Suzie seemed like a handfull, Ed no, he was a doormat, Justin, well I never really got to know Justin. Sorry Justin. I was all over how Eve would handle things.

I can't say too much. Things happen, secrets come out, people are not who you think they are, and someone from her past comes around, and I wonder if I can hope.

A story about loss, secrets, friendship and lies. I really enjoyed it. When I had to stop listening I was all nooo, what about x!?

The narrator was great and really had me hooked. She had good voices for everyone and kept the tempo going

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too. 

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction....

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Thursday, 17 June 2021

The Irish princess by Elizabeth Chadwick

Paperback, 480 pages

Published April 16th 2020 by Sphere (first published September 12th 2019)

Historical fiction


It has been ages since I read my last Chadwick! I wasn't a fan of he E of A books, so I stopped. But then I noticed a new one, and another new one, and I had to try again. I have missed her books, they are always filled with details and she brings out people you would never read about otherwise. And she really loves and excels at the 12th century.

Aoife is a princess of Leinster. And the Irish Kings keep fighting each other, then her family has to flee and end up in England. The choices her father does will doom Ireland, but then again, the English would have come sooner or later. Help us, and you can have some pieces of Ireland. Well thanks for that Diarmait! 

To get some English help, Aoife marries Richard de Clare. And it was here I started to know this family, it all came together. Their child would marry William Marshall. Quick fact, Isabel and William will have a bunch of sons who never manages to get any kids (except one daughter). It was said to be a Irish curse, spooky! But their male lines would die out. Ok I got off track, but this is what her books makes me do, google the shit out of everything.

She made me like Aiofe, and everyone else, ok maybe not the horny dog that was Henry II, or Richard's sister. But it is all fascinating, and I am so there in her books. At those battlefields, during the ordinary times.

Another winner from her.

Ireland, 1160

Aoife MacMurchada is just 14 years old when her father Diarmit, King of Leinster, is brutally deposed, and her family is forced to flee Southern Ireland into English exile. Diarmit seeks help from King Henry II, an alliance that leads him to the charismatic Richard de Clare, lord of Striguil, a man dissatisfied with his lot and open to new horizons.

Diarmit promises Richard wealth, lands, and Aoife's hand in marriage in return for his aid, but Aoife, has her own thoughts on the matter. She may be a prize, but she is not a pawn and she will play the game to her own advantage.

From the royal halls of scheming kings, to staunch Welsh border fortresses and across storm-tossed seas to the wild green kingdoms of Ireland, The Irish Princess is a sumptuous, journey of ambition and desire, love and loss, heartbreak and survival.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Audio. The wolf and the woodsman by Ava Reid

Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld

Length: 13 hrs and 10 mins

Release date: 06-08-21

Publisher: HarperAudio


To review

I really enjoyed this one. But then I am all for as many monsters as possible in my fantasy.

Evike is a pagan, everyone else in her village has powers, she does not. It is not easy for her, and I would let that stupid village rut. She is half Yehuli too (Jewish), so the strikes keeps on coming. I liked Evike, even though I felt that for someone that is 25 she sure acted like 17 at times. This is an adult book, but yes she could easily have been a teen and this YA. She does make stupid decisions, and if this is fantasy then she is practically middle aged already.

Omg, so much happens, how will I cram it all in!

So her village is filled with asshats and they offer her up as a sacrifice so off she goes with the woodsmen. Ugh her village, srsly, Evike was too nice.

So this world, fake fantasy Hungary is ruled by a king whose ancestors have conquered nearby pagans. Pagans should be killed screams some, since yes this fantasy world is ruled by a certain fantasy religion. And there is nothing I despise more than zealots. We are right, everyone should burn! Grrr, they make me so angry. Evike and her asshat village are peaceful and kind. And just cos they do not believe some fake god then they are bad. They believe what they can see, like all the monsters out in the woods (there are plenty), and the magic they craft. And put in some Yehuli (already told you who they are), who are also persecuted cos of their believes.

This world, even if it does borrow a lot, was just so wonderful. Creepy monsters, interesting magic, and ugh zealots! And political intrigue. Gaspar, the rightful heir, had a foreign mother so now he is a Woodsman (hunting monsters, killing pagans), his father the king a real piece of work, doomed him to it. And he has a creepy brother who is the biggest fanatic of them all and wants it all for himself, but since he is a bastard (literally), that can't happen.

I just keep going with this review!

Gaspar and Evike hate each other, tolerate each other, likes each other a tiny bit, and more develops. I liked their journey to the capital, she kept telling these stories and I like a story within a story.

What more, it seems that the country up north is fantasy Finland? I mean cold, reindeer, the finnish name for sky, the count from that part has a Finnish name. I mean I did listen to the audio so I could be wrong, but Hungarian and Finnish are related so yes why not make them closer in this fantasy world.

Rich and interesting fantasy world. Steeped in Hungarian history, and Jewish mythology. Fascinating magic and a quest that seems utterly hopeless.

I mentioned Evike acting young and it feeling YA then, but you know what, the end, that was pure adult. It was a good happy ending, but it was a real ending, and the only ending I wanted. It stayed true to this world.

A fantasy book I could recommend to everyone

I liked Saskia, she is a great narrator and she does a wonderful job with this world. I am right there with them, she gives voices to everyone and catches the feel of the book. Perfect for audio

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline - her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman - he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.


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