Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

200px-The_Russian_Concubine_(Kate_Furnivall_novel)_cover_art[1]“A sweeping epic and stunning debut, this novel brings to life the war-torn China of the 1920s. On opposite sides of a political and social divide, an exiled Russian girl and a Chinese Communist boy find love; a mother must face what she would rather forget; and an idealist realizes his greatest enemies might be his own kind…” ~ From the jacket copy of The Russian Concubine

I love novels that transport me to a new time and place I know almost nothing about. The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall is one such book. Lydia Ivanova fled Russia with her mother, Valentina, during the Bolshevik Revolution and they now live in the International Settlement in Junchow, China. Without passports or prospects, Lydia and her mother struggle to survive. Set against the backdrop of a community on the cusp of its own revolution, in a city where cultures are colliding, Lydia meets and falls in love with Chang An Lo, a young Communist. They face dangers and from the Black Snake Triad, Chiang Kai-shek’s army, and the British government, as well as the censure of their peers. Can their love survive?

For me, this novel takes place in a unique moment in history and was not one I had read before. Ms. Furnivall does an amazing job sucking you into the setting of her story. She brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells seamlessly within the story. Because her mother lived as a White Russian refugee in China, I’m sure she had a personal connection to the story which lends a life and brilliancy to the tale. There is also a really good balance of adventure and romance. This book definitely earned a place on my bookshelf (along with the sequel A Girl From Junchow).

So in between Olympic events, give this book a read and let me know what you think!

Advertisements

Anne’s No Rules Friday 01

Read Part I

黃金比例
(The Golden Ratio)
Part II

With dragging steps, I entered our shop’s darkened door. A rush of air hit me. It was heavy with smoke, yet everywhere clung traces of her perfume: orange, plum, clove, jasmine, peach, and vetiver. Eager to find Māmā inside, I tripped over an overturned clothing rack, and my knees slammed into the floorboards. Come morning I was going to be a solid bruise. Crawling on hands and knees over the wreckage that had been a successful dress shop hours ago, I made my way behind the counter.

I brushed against an assortment of scissors, bobbins of thread, and stacks of price tags before locating a zhǐ xīng jí. The paper crinkled between my fingers. I prayed it was one to light the oil lamp, but couldn’t see my hand in front of my face let alone the number written on the delicately folded paper. It took most of my strength to heft the oil lamp off the counter. I managed to bang it against the counter with a metallic clunk. The inky black of the shop pressed down around me.

The world shrank until all it contained was the hand that held the zhǐ xīng jí and the oil lamp. Even my steady breathing had ceased to exist inside an endless night. I snapped my eyes closed and squeezed them tight, sucking a quick breath and holding it, I lifted the thick glass shade and gave the wick raiser a quarter turn. I sent a quick prayer to Māmā and our ancestors for luck.

I gripped the very edge of the zhǐ xīng jí and said, “Flame!”

A small burst of light shone pink through my closed eyelids as the paper caught immediately. I smiled and held the dancing flame to the wick, a warm glow greeted me like an old friend. I replaced the shade and yanked the lamp back onto the counter. Shadows remained in the corners. The upended mannequins resembled bodies, causing me to shiver violently.

continue reading …

“Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling Inspires Anne

黃金比例
(The Golden Ratio)

“Jin Zhēn-Zī!” Māmā shouted from the back room over the slam of the door. “I told you not to leave the back door open.” The sharp click of the lock admonished me further.

A pristine sheaf of paper laid in front of me as empty as it was when I first sat down. The chair abraded the wood floor and banged into the wall when I got up too fast. “I’ve been working on sums all morning, Māmā! I haven’t left my desk.” Only the second part was true.

Harsh afternoon light streamed through the shop’s front windows. It bounced off the metal hangers holding the repaired garments along one wall. Bolts of fabric were stacked on tables and piled along the other wall. The new embroidered silk tunics were displayed in the very front, the price tags discreetly hidden in the sleeves. The back room stood dark where the sunlight couldn’t penetrate, the silhouette of my mother blended perfectly into the shadows.

When she appeared — her eyes opened wide like an owl and her mouth a tense slash across her face — all the muscles tightened along my body. Another figure moved behind her, materializing into a man holding a long silver blade in gloved hands against the base of her skull. The brush dropped from my hand, splattering black ink all over the polished wooden floor.

“What happened?” I said, my voice croaked against my tongue. I swallowed and tried again. “Māmā, are you okay?”

She kept her hands outstretched above her shoulders. I knew that pose and curled and readied myself for a fight.

continue reading …