18 July 2022

Bookishness / Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne

Feather and Flame book cover shown next to book information: Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne (The Queen's Council #2), published June 14, 2022 by Disney Hyperion. Genre: Historical Fantasy. Audience: Young Adult

As a phoenix rises from the ashes,

And a dragon soars through the storm,

So an empress ascends.

It was a hot summer’s day in 1998 when my mom and I settled into our velour-covered seats, eager for the premiere of Disney’s animated Mulan. We weren’t the only Chinese Americans in the movie theater that day. Who could resist seeing the first East Asian Disney Princess in action, let alone one based on such a legendary female warrior? Yet from the first scenes with the matchmaker to the final fireworks over our new hero of China, my mom kept up a steady whisper about how un-Chinese it was. Disney’s rendition was a far cry from the Fa Mulan she had grown up with. My teenaged self, though, could relate so much to the character’s struggles with identity and belonging. Conclusion: Mulan must be American Born Chinese (ABC) like me! Not Chinese enough for some, yet different enough to stick out in the neighborhood.

Twenty-two years later, with the publication of Feather and Flame (The Queen's Council #2) by Livia Blackburne, we have a new sequel to the animated film that attempts to address some of these cultural gaps while keeping true to the Mulan many of us came to love on screen.

The story picks up a few years after the movie. Village life hasn’t slowed down our hero one iota. Mulan has built up a powerful all-female militia to protect her home region, and their success has reached the Emperor’s ears. Yet he has different ideas about Mulan’s destiny when he makes her his heir. The royal ministers aren’t happy about having a woman on the throne, though. Like vultures, they circle and taunt throughout the book, questioning whether Mulan truly has the Mandate of Heaven, the divine right to rule. 


20 August 2021

Bookishness / Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Land of miracles
Holds dark secrets betrayed.
Hero, where are you?

It sometimes takes a single word to spark an intrigue, and in Kristin Cashore's latest book, that word is zilfium. During an age of exploration, the backward kingdom of Monsea discovers a shiny new neighbor: the eco-tech country of Winterkeep. This frosted nation is filled with airships, democracy, telepathic beasts, and more: mysteries surrounding the energy-producing zilfium, mysteries that some would kill to protect. Winterkeep (Graceling Realm Book 4) is a rather refreshing read after the disappointment that was Jane, Unlimited (2017), with the vivid world-building and intrigue that Cashore is known for. But the moments of moral preachiness and plot unbelievability distract from what is otherwise a new exploration of the Graceling Realm.

07 August 2021

Changes for email subscribers

A view from a plane, with sculpted clouds below and an impossibly blue sky above.
Looking beyond, at 50,000 feet. From my first flight since January 2020.

Hi folks,

This PSA is rather late, but for those who receive email updates from this blog, Feedburner will be discontinuing their automatic email subscription service for the Blogger platform this month. I've been considering some alternatives, so if you receive an email from me later this month from a different email service, do pay attention because you may need to resubscribe to continue receiving updates (which I certainly hope that you will!).

RSS feed readers shouldn't be affected, but watch this space regardless because I might be doing some more blog maintenance in the future.

Seriously, website and blog maintenance can sometimes be a pain, especially juggled in the midst of other pains. But this site has needed some TLC for a while, so I hope I can show it some additional care in the coming months. It's called Building Beyond, after all -- building beyond current limitations, building beyond into new things -- even including a more functional blog post delivery system.

More soon, dear readers.


04 June 2021

Bookishness / The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani

There is no looking away from injustice.
The only choice is to journey into the dark,
in the hope of bringing light. 

I'll be upfront, dear reader: I've had quite a bit of trouble writing this review. Perhaps my writing barriers are due to an excess of love because I fell into The Theft of Sunlight and want you to love it, too. So I will try to be straight-forward -- just as Rae, the no-fluff protagonist would be.

I read The Theft of Sunlight (Dauntless Path Book 2) by Intisar Khanani in a heartbeat, prior to its release in March. Just as Thorn (Dauntless Path Book 1) has the persistent Princess Alyrra as its backbone, we have Rae at the helm of Theft. I loved Alyrra's quiet strength, yet I am now thoroughly part of Team Rae. She's the older sister you wish you had in your corner, with such a fierce protectiveness for those she loves that she becomes relentless in her quest to find her best friend's missing sister and solve the mystery of the snatched. A country girl taking on kingdom-wide challenges? Rae is no mage or fae, yet she steps up to the intimidating task.