Miao-Shan: The Awakening – Gary Morris

Welcome back everyone, this weeks book is another author request. This time from an author who only has one other published book, so you might not have heard of him.

But if you haven’t, you should give him a go because this is a book unlike any I’ve ever read before. It’s based in Hong Kong and includes a fair bit about the Chinese culture and history which is fairly new to me.

Story overview

The story begins at the end of the 19th Century in Hong Kong with a small and happy family. Only to have the parents murdered in the first chapter and a rampant display of racism between the local Chinese people and the “Gweilo”, or English, people.

Typically both races believe the other to be savages purely because they do things differently. Of course, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the main theme of the book. However, it’s not the key theme so I’m going to leave that there.

Lei's need for revenge against the Triads as the long survivor of her family is what we learn to be, the key theme of the story. As such, she learn's Kung Fu to become calmer and to learn empathy.

However, her thirst to hurt "bad people" means she never quite reaches that goal. Instead, she ends up accepting her fate and became an almost merciless killer in her quest for vengeance.


My thoughts

Throughout the story Lei chooses to fight back against those that want to oppress others. And this, I believe, is something many people don't have the courage, and or, the skills to do. So good on her for standing up for what she believes in!

However, the examples we see of Lei's excessive force does scare me a little. But only because that lack of compassion or regard for human life is what typically forms the basis for a sociopath's personality.

And typically speaking sociopaths can’t change who they are or how they react to things. They can learn to mimic emotions, but they can’t feel them the same way most people can. So how can Lei truly learn and display compassion if she's unable to truly feel it?

Surprisingly enough, she does find the ability to be compassionate. And the time she finds this ability is what truly surprises me. It's at this moment that we really get to explore the difference between revenge, and justice. Can she live with the knowledge that she caused destruction and the loss of hundreds of lives.

That’s a lot for anyone to bear, let alone someone who’s only about 18-20 years old. I can’t imagine the guilt gnawing at her conscious and how difficult it would be to get to sleep each night knowing that she cut those lives short.

So knowing that she had to live with that for eternity I can sympathise with her need to leave China and be somewhere else. Somewhere different where she can come to terms with everything she’s done.

Gary has told me since reading Miao-Shan that there is a second book for me to look forward to. And I will, because I want to know what she does next!


Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. On Friday I will be reviewing Second Chance at the Ranch by Maxine Morrey.

Yes you read that right! This Friday! I look forward to seeing you again then. But don’t forget to read a little bit about this week’s author Gary Morris below.

Author info

Gary Morris

For most of my working life, I was in the collectables field. First dealing in stamps and then in antiques. I have always had a love for Asian art and history. Particularly Chinese and Japanese. I have also directed and produced a computer game.

I started writing fiction professionally in 2010, during which time I wrote two complete novels, of which Miao-Shan is the second one. At the end of 2010, I returned to the property industry, without having acquired an agent. For the next six years, I wrote part-time.

I currently have two other books completed (one an unusual spy thriller, and the other a time-travelling paranormal fantasy), but neither is ready for publication yet.

          

The Seven Steps to Closure – Donna Joy Usher

Welcome back, this week I read The Seven Steps To Closure by Donna Joy Usher. I started this book while on the plane back home after finishing up Bleddyn Hall and I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of this book because I’ve never read anything that started off with a heartbroken woman. But this was a surprisingly great book and had me hooked in so bad I stayed up until midnight two nights in a row even though I needed to get up for work at 6am. It was worth it though! It was worth crashing and being ridiculously tired the day after I finished the book at midnight, just so I could finish the book.

 

We started off with Tara who is heartbroken a yr after she left her husband after finding out he was cheating on her. With her cousin. At this stage she’s just had her 30th birthday and finds out her husband is already engaged to before she’s even received any divorce papers. What kind of a guy cheats on their wife, let alone with her cousin who she had previously been really close to?!

 

To try and help her get over Jake and allow her to regain control of her life, her 3 girlfriends encourage her to complete the 7 steps to closure from an article in Cosmo. Tara is a little hesitant to do this not thinking it would help. However she realizes that she needs all the help she can get at this stage an agrees to complete all 7 steps to closure. I’m sure most of us have been there at some point in our lives. And it sucks. The fact that she’s got 3 awesome girlfriends there to support her and help her get over her ex is amazing, and more than some people have when in similar situations.

 

The first 2 steps are really quite simple and I was surprised Tara hadn’t already done this as many woman will get a new haircut and wardrobe after a breakup to allow themselves to feel better and more empowered. But I gota say, I was surprised by step 4! Have meaningless sex. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and can go against some peoples beliefs and values so it can be really tricky. Plus if you don’t do this with the right type of guy it can even be detrimental to the healing process. So I’m kind of surprised that Cosmo would recommend women have meaningless sex!

 

Luckily Tara doesn’t sleep with just anyone and passes on a few guys that sounded really creepy. She is however committed to having meaningless sex and so goes out to have drunk meaningless sex. By the sound of what she remembers she found the right type of guy to do this with. And she seems to have held up well the morning after which was a relief to hear.

 

At this stage her friends give her her passport back so she can organise step 5, which is to take an adventurous holiday! Here I was thinking she’d be jetting off in like 3-6 months because that’s normally how long I’d spend organising a holiday since you need to get time off work, flights, hotels etc. I guess having one of her best friends as her boss meant she had more flexibility than most and could organise a holiday to head off in a few short weeks. Now me personally could never do this. My OCD and need to control details would leave me a stressed out wreck trying to organise a holiday on such short notice. But Tara manages it and jet’s off to India to stay with her ex-brother-in-law who also happens to hate Tara’s ex Jake.

 

Fate seems to have kicked in and on the way to India the guy sitting next to her keeps bumping into her, looking at her and overall making her feel uncomfortable. Until he tells her that he was her one night stand. At which point she becomes mortified, which had me feeling mortified along with her. Having to face your one night stand and having to admit that you couldn’t remember them aren’t exactly easy things to do. Luckily he seems pretty cool about it and even proposes that they do some sight seeing together. I started to get a little skeptical about Tara’s safety at this stage. Because to me this seems like a silly thing to do. Although that might just be because of all the crime based tv show’s I’ve watched where the careless girl inevitably gets kidnapped and/ or killed by the hot friendly guy she barely knows.

 

Good news is, while out with her ex-brother-in-law it turns out Matt is also friends with him. So he can’t be that bad! And after a turn of events Matt ends up having Tara tag along with him to see some of India’s sights. Along this trip there are some cringe-worthy moments where I really feel for Tara and I feel like she had to have ruined any chance of ticking off step number 6, have meaningful sex, with Matt. I mean, she got food poisoning and spent a night on the toilet which is bad enough as it is. To then have Matt offer to slide her book to her since she’s likely to be there and offer to put the TV on really loudly so she doesn’t feel as self-conscious has got to kill any feelings in that department, surely right?

 

And if that didn’t, you’d think tripping and landing on a pile of cow shit would definitely do it! Nope. Tara is one lucky girl where none of these things turn Matt off of her. And I sat there thinking, I couldn’t even get a kiss out of my partner when I went through this for almost a day and she gets sex and a relationship within a day of having food poisoning? Life is definitely not fair, and I found myself a little jealous that Tara could just jet off to India, meet a cute guy (ok technically it’s re-meet) on the plane and get to have her very own tour guide take her around to all the best places on just a few weeks or days notice!

 

And then when they got back to Sydney it all falls apart. And I gota say, I was secretly happy that this happened. Then started to feel bad when I found out that she had to publicly watch and hear how both her ex’s were moving on with their lives by getting married to other women.

 

With some encouragement from her friends, Tara ends up trying to crash Matt’s wedding to object to the marriage. Except she rocks up just a little bit late to then be hit in the leg with a golf ball from her ex husband Jake, to then swallow a bee who stung her tongue when she falls to the ground. Which meant that she needed an ambulance since her tongue and face became quite swollen. This really shows that she seems to get hit with the unlucky stick quite a lot. Which really allowed me to feel like I was her. Because I felt so similar to her.

And if she can get her happily ever after, maybe I can as well. Even if I am hard to get along with at times, seem to get hit with the unlucky stick quite a bit and that I don’t always find it easy to express how I feel and would rather withdraw and get away from what’s hurting me. So maybe I can learn to let go of my control like Tara did to really make the most of my life.

The next review will be for “His Fair Lady” by Kathleen Kirkwood. I look forward to seeing your then!

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts or feedback on this blog!

Thirty-Eight Days – Len Webster

This book got me in so many ways that very few books do, and I love that it didn't give me the typical happily ever after that so many romance books strive for. Which makes it unexpectedly engaging for someone like me who normally guesses what is going to happen before it happens. So let's jump into the book now!

We start of with a memory of a young Noel and even younger Clara, as innocent as can be and as sweet as can be. At this stage I guessed the book was a boy (Noel) meets girl (Clara) and when they are older they move into a romantic relationship and live happily ever after!

Fast forward 15 yrs and we get to Noel who now lives in Boston and has been living in America since he graduated high school. At the time we get to him he’s preparing to take an 8-week holiday back to Melbourne, Australia with his best mate Alex. That is until Alex calls to tell him he can't make it and wants Noel to go back to Melbourne as planned, but now he wants Noel to stay with his little sister to make sure she's ok since going through a bad breakup. Noel ends up accepting for the sake of his best friend, since he has to stay in New York because of a court case he's caught up in.

Then we move to Clara, and we will keep switching between Noel and Clara throughout the rest of the book. When we get to Clara we find her finishing up her final uni exams for the yr and looking forward to going home to wallow in her self-pity at being newly single. We find out that Clara considers herself a loner with no friends even though Annie, Stevie and Jarrod try to get her to open up to them and accept that she is a part of their friendship group.

Next thing Noel has arrived in Melbourne to sweltering heat and meets Liam while heading in to Clara's apartment building. Liam chats to Noel and they hit it off as buddying bro-mance straight away. Liam mentions that there is a hot brunette living on the same level as Noel's "mate" and Noel's sexual interest is immediately peaked. Then of course, because Noel is a typical Aussie bloke, he puts his foot in his mouth because he hasn't seen Alex's little sister since he left for America. And turn's out Clara has turned into a beautiful woman that Noel is instantly attracted to.

For the first half of the book Noel and Clara are fighting their attraction to each other and avoiding the other as much as possible. The final straw for this was when Noel forgot about Clara's birthday after having a great dinner with her and leaving her to pay the bill herself and then walk home alone from Lygon Street while he catches up with his ex and then taking said ex back to Clara's apartment to have sex with her while Clara ends up sleeping outside in the courtyard to avoid hearing them.

This mistake does however tip Clara over into being mad at Noel and that forces Noel to kiss Clara as an explanation of why he's been so awful to her for so long. Now I don't know about you, but if I was yelling at the guy I like coz he's been a complete ass hole then I'd be even more pissed off if he then tried to kiss me. And yet Clara has the poise and control I don't, and she simply turns around and walks out of her apartment to get away from Noel.

The next 30 odd percent of the book seems like everything is going well once Noel rescues Clara from a dive bar. They are super in love, doing cute dates, Noel even goes out of his way to show Clara how much he loves her by finding a trinket he bought for her before she was even born. The final 2 days before all hells breaks loose we know Noel spends the day making phone calls. Now they never actually confirm what these calls were, but I think that they were calls to his boss's in America to resign, to his landlord to end his lease and to organise for all his stuff to be moved as well as to start the search for a job in Melbourne.

What we do find out at the end of the following day is that he organised a custom-made engagement ring for Clara that truly represents their love. Only to have Clara end it because she won't let Noel explain what happened when she was told a lie by a spiteful ex and saw another ex kissing Noel for a split second. We get to hear how both Noel and Clara handle this heartbreak and I found myself wondering how and when they'd make up as I crept closer and closer to the end of the book. By the time I got to 90% complete with Clara dating Liam and Noel planning to ask some new girl in Boston out I found myself wondering what miracle would happen to bring them together for their happily ever after.

Only to find out that they don't have one in this book! My first thought was "thank god! It's not another sappy love story. It has a girl too afraid to really let people in who just want to be her friend, let alone want to love her. And she's learnt how to protect herself from others". However, at the same time I couldn't help but feel that this resonated with me.

I've always been fearful of letting others in, of sharing secrets about myself and who I really am in case these get used against me to hurt me. And it made me reconsider if Clara is only setting herself up for more pain by doing this. Whereas Noel was ready to open himself to this pain and got burnt. But he accepted this and is doing the best he can to move on and mend his broken heart. And this is what I will take from this book.

But stay tuned for book number 2! Because turns out this is just the first book and Noel and Clara's story isn't over yet! But next week I will be reviewing “Bleddyn Hall” by Amanda L.V. Shalaby.

47 Things – Lilliana Anderson

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed last week’s blog and are looking forward to reading this one.

When choosing to read 47 Things I couldn’t remember anything about it from when I purchased it ages ago. It was just sitting in my list of books that I wanted to read. So, I went into this book only knowing that something in the description made me buy it. I didn’t know who the author was, what style of book this was let alone what to expect from this book. Saying that, I found my heartstrings pulled throughout this book and was surprised by the turn the book took even though I guessed it ahead of the reveal.

My first surprise happened almost immediately at the start of the book when I discovered that this book was centered around a boy and girl in their final year of uni at the University of Sydney. I wasn’t expecting this book to be set in Australia, but it was a pleasant surprise for me having lived in Sydney for a few years. When Lilliana describes various locations in Sydney and the surrounding areas I found myself really seeing these locations based on my memories. When Tyler takes Sara with him to go dirt bike riding I could imagine the nature surrounding them, I could imagine the shape of the mountains in the background, the smell of the mountain dirt as well as the sound of the local wildlife living in the bushland areas. And trust me on this, Aussie bushland sights, smells and sounds are vastly different to city sights, smells and sounds. I really liked that Lilliana described the scenery in enough detail to give me the base to then add on my own memories. Since I’ve seen and lived in these areas myself I really appreciated this. But I’m not sure someone who hasn’t seen the scenery will get the full impact of these locations.

Learning about how Tyler and Sara were getting to know each other you can tell that something is seriously wrong with Tyler, but Lilliana waits until over halfway through the book to share what this is. All we know is that Tyler is amazing, attentive, loyal and everything a girl wants in a guy while he’s around. But then for some reason Tyler goes walkabout and disappears on Sara. She tried not to worry since her and Tyler weren’t really dating yet. He was just looking after her after breaking her foot. But Sara gets so worried about Tyler’s sudden disappearances that she asks his uni friends who won’t give her anything.

But after one such disappearance that’s lasted longer than most, Sara is home in Moama to visit her family for Christmas. While in town she runs into someone who was there the day Tyler left Moama and never came back. Sara took this opportunity to find out more about what happened that day. Only problem is, that information was so vague that when Sara Googled what could be going on with Tyler she found that he could have anything from anxiety through to cancer. Obviously, this scared the crap out of her and instantly made her send him a message to tell him to meet her at her apartment in Sydney in 8 hours, giving her enough time to drive all the way back to Sydney from Moama.

When Sara confronts Tyler about this he assures her that he’s not dying from cancer, but that he still won’t share what is going on. And he stresses to her that if she doesn’t like him leaving and then coming back to tell him not to come back. Otherwise, when he does leave he will always come back. As romantic and heart pulling as this part was, all I could think about was “If you really cared for her why wouldn’t you just explain why you keep disappearing? Or stop disappearing altogether?”. I feel like I spent 3 days obsessing over why Tyler kept walking out on Sara before finally getting to the point of the book where I found out why.

When I got to the point where we found of that Tyler has MS I felt like an ass. Of course, he’d want to hide his deteriorating physical condition. What 21 yr old wants to have the physical capabilities of the elderly? I know if I was in that position I’d want to hide that for as long as possible as well so that I could be treated like a normal young adult as well. How could I judge him for something that I’d handle in the same way? This really reminded me to not judge people and their circumstances until I know more information. And this applies to both my personal and professional life. I’d like to think I do this really well, but I know I’m not perfect and that I make mistakes and sometimes judge too quickly based on previous experiences with certain individuals. So, it was good to be reminded that not everything is as it seems, even if you have known someone a long time.

Once Sara hears all this from Tyler she accepts his apology and they can move on. For them this involves trying to tick off as many of his bucket list items before he reaches a point where he can no longer get around by himself; at which point he wants to be euthanized. Only, this is illegal in Australia, so Tyler, Sara and Tyler’s mum need to hatch a plan for assisted suicide so that no one can be charged for murder. Again, I can really see myself in this situation. Only I’m hoping that by the time I’m old enough to worry about this that the Australian government will make euthanasia legal for those who will have no quality of life and want the choice to end their own suffering.

The good thing, Sara wound up pregnant before his time was over and had a son to raise that reminded her of her fleeting time with Tyler. The epilogue is dedicated to showing us this and finishes up by telling us how Sara and her little boy will be travelling to tick of more of Tyler’s bucket list items. This was the final heartstring pulling moment for me and even made me tear up on the train while I read this because it’s so sweet. And it will allow the little boy to get to know his father through experiencing the things he wanted to experience but couldn’t because of his MS. So even though this book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions, it finished off on a sadly happy note that didn’t include a typical romantic happily ever after which made me enjoy the ending even more.

Thank-you for taking the time to read this blog and I look forward sharing my thoughts about “38 Days” by Len Webster next week.