The Fire and The Cloud by David Bigman/Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin: Two for Tuesday Review

The Fire and The Cloud by David Bigman

The Fire and The Cloud by David BigmanWhile I enjoyed my reading of The Fire and The Cloud by David Bigman, I must admit to feeling a bit out-of-place as a non-Jewish reader.

Much of this book was over my head in some respects due to not understanding a lot about the Torah. I still recommend this book to both Jewish and non-Jewish alike, simply realize that if you are not familiar with the Torah, it may be a bit puzzling to understand at times.

I only got about ½ of the way through, and that’s after about a year of reading this, as I kept going back to reread portions. This is not the fault of Mr. Bigman, but rather my lack of knowledge about the Torah and other aspects.

I fully intend to continue in my reading and research so that I shall be able to read it with a more comprehensive understanding.

On a rating scale, based on what I have read, I give this book a **** rating. I can foresee when I have finished it finally that it will support that same rating.
I received my copy of this book from Gefen Publishing House in exchange for an honest review.

Butterfly Swords by Jeannie LinButterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin

My experience with reading Butterfly Swords was pure pleasure. From the first page to the last, I was captivated and intrigued.

Ms. Lin weaves together a story you don’t want to put down, even when it is finished.At least, this was my experience. A Harlequin Historical, Harlequin did well chosing Ms. Lin to write for this imprint (line)

Set during the Tang dynasty, China, 8th Century, Ai Li is the only daughter of the Empor who was thrust on the throne, and not being born to it. Raised a princess, her grandmother taught her to use “8 chop swords”. which Ms. Lin refers to as Butterfly Swords in both the title and the book. Ms. Lin chose to use this name and not the name used by the Chinese because of the hard/soft aspect of the sound of it, and, the romantic and action-like  connotations that the name Butterfly Swords depicts of the Asian setting and time.

Whatever reason Ms. Lin chose the name, I’m glad she did. From the moment I saw the cover, and Ms. Lin revealed it would be published, I have wanted to not only read, but own a copy of this book. I now do, thanks to winning a contest on a writer’s blog in the not so distant past. (Several months ago, actually.)

Ai Li has been transported to meet her as yet unseen husband to be, when she discovers he is responsible for her Fourth Brother’s death. Unable to bear the thought of being with this monster, as she sees him, she flees with the help of a trusted supporter. Along the way, she meets a golden-haired barbarian, a foreigner to the Empire.

Ryam has been in the Empire for some time, fighting and living with a band of brothers, so to speak. His best friend is married to the former Empress of the Empire, who fled the throne, leaving Ai Li’s father the new Empor.  He has been battle-scarred, is tired and hungry when we meet him. He is struggling with the deaths of the men intrusted to him by his friend, and commander.

Ryam spots Ai Li, who has fled her betrothed, Li Taos,, due to his duplicity and is dressed as a young man in disguise. Our hero sees through this disguise and is amused that she seems somehow able to pull it off. Ai Li spots the hungry “White Demon” as her people call him and offers him her bowl of rice which he’s been smelling all the while watching her.  When her companions all begin to drop, and a band of men, most likely Li Taos, men attack her and try to take her with them, Ryam comes to her rescue with his sword and his ability to wield it. He also discovers that Ai Li is more than capable with her Butterfly Swords which she has studied with her brothers for a considerable amount of time.

Ai Li and Ryam head toward Changan, the hub of the Empire her father rules. The princess proves to be not only beautiful, but strong and courageous, though at times, a bit deceptive with the hero. The two fall in love as they walk, ride, and fight their way to Ai Li’s parents home where she hopes to convince them that she cannot marry Li Taos.

When things don’t go as planned, Ai Li and Ryam must decide what is most important. Honor and Loyalty, or Love? Neither believes it possible to have both.

This was such an enjoyable read. Full of exotic descriptions of the “Silk Road” and the Tang dynasty era, one cannot escape the love that simmers and then boils over between  Ai Li and Ryam. Throughout the book, Ryam calls our heroine Aylee, which in part helps us to understand how one would pronounce her name. This made reading Butterfly Swords just a little easier when it came to the heroine’s name.

If you enjoy reading historical, like Asian culture, you’ll enjoy Ms. Lin’s debut novel, which was a 2009 Golden Heart Winner. Unlike many historical set in the Regency period, this one gives us both a beautiful and dangerous time to read about.

I give this a 4 1/2 stars without a doubt. I encourage you to pick it up and read it. Like me, you’ll likely find yourself drawn to the other books since published by Ms. Lin, many of which are also set in the Tang dynasty era.

As I stated earlier, I received this as a prize from a blog of writer, not Ms. Lin. I chose to read and then review it honestly.

Have you read Butterfly Swords or THe Fire and The Cloud? What did you think of them? Perhaps you understand the Torah better than I and can explain it to me. Maybe, you are an avid reader of Ms. Lin and can recommend the next book of hers for me to feast upon. (I have read and reviewed “Capturing the Silken Thief”, a novella)

Capturing A Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin/The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas: Two for Tuesday Reviews

The Oracle of Stamboul

Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. “They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch.” But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora’s mother dies soon after the birth.

Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.

For me, The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas had so much promise, and just did not deliver it. The magical quality with which the story began, the flock of purple and white hoopoes, the mysterious midwives who suddenly arrive lead one to believe that the book will continue in this way, but it does not. For the first bit of the book it does, but once Elenora’s father dies, Elanora becomes really a very bland character with no real personality. The book also takes on a much more passive quality to it, where in things happen TO Elenora, rather than her actively participating in things.

It’s really too bad that the author, who had such a delightful premise going, apparently did not know how to bring it to fruition. Over at Goodreads, you’ll find some reviewers felt much the same way.

On a star rating, I’d have to give this only a ***. It truly was only average. I’ll admit, my star rating would lean more toward 2 1/2 stars than a three if it were possible to do a 1/2 star review anywhere.

Next up is a short story by Jeannie LinCapturing a Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin

Capturing a Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin was a quick, fun read. Set in Changan during the Tang Dynasty in China 823 A.D, we follow the heroine, Yang Jia-jing, and the hero, Luo Cheng through about 56 pages of a richly detailed novella.

Jia is a young song girl who plays the Pipa while Luo Cheng is a farmer boy who has studied for the Imperial Exams, which he has already failed once. If he fails again, he will be forced to return home in shame.

Jia mistakes Cheng for a scholar in possession of a rare treasured book. Eventually, the end up  searching for the book together. It’s a brief romp through Changan, but full of fun and adventure.

More happens, but you’ll have to read Capturing the Silken Thief for yourself to find out what, and how the story ends.

I enjoyed reading this short novella immensely, and it was my first time reading Jeannie Lin. I’ll be reading more of her books for sure. (Come back next week to find out what I thought of Jeannie Lin’s book, “butterfly Swords”.

On a Star rating, this is a **** for sure. Leaning toward 4.25 stars. I do suggest this if you want a quick read and haven’t read Ms. Lin before.

Have you read either of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? If you have not read either of them, are you interested in one or both of them? Comment below and let us know what YOU think.
Disclaimer: I received both books in exchange for an honest review.