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The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson

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The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: Xian Li-lin #1
Published by Audible Studios on February 23, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Length: 9 hrs 51 mins
Format: Audiobook
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It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.

The Girl with Ghost Eyes is an enjoyable read, but I felt like it was straddling the line between YA and adult historical fantasy, which threw me off a little. I can’t put my finger on why it felt like that. Li-lin is not a teenager, she’s in her early 20s, I think, and a widow. So, it’s not her age. There isn’t a love triangle. I listened to the audio, and maybe the writing sounded a bit simple at times and there were definitely repetitive sections. I don’t know. Am I the only one who got that feeling? I listened to the audio and was glad that I did. Zeller brings Li-lin to life, but I also like to hear the Chinese words and phrases, not try to struggle with reading them.

Li-lin is a good character. She is tough and strong and a talented martial artist. She’s also a Daoist exorcist who has ghost eyes, meaning she can see all the spirits, ghosts and monsters that others don’t. But being a woman – and a widow, in Chinatown in the late 1890s is not easy. Her father is mean. I’m sorry, I know the it fits for the cultural and time, but he is condescending to her, does not give her the respect she deserves. The whole time I’m thinking maybe he does truly care about her, just isn’t able to show it, but in the end he totally disappointed me. Maybe that’s part of it, the issues with her dad. He treats her as if she is younger and less experienced than she is and she constantly needs to prove herself. She tends to dwell on things too, which gets a little annoying.

Tongs control Chinatown, but there is conflict between the new ways and the old ways. There’s a power struggle shaping up and the magical power that might be unleashed could destroy hundreds of lives. Of course, it’s up to Li-lin to save the day. I will say the author does not make it easy for her. She has helpers, but not many and she’s forced to make deals that may backfire on her. In some ways though, the constant need for action and fight scenes takes away from the story, at least for me.

I haven’t read many (any?)  fantasy novels that use Chinese folklore as their base, and I really liked that aspect of the novel. I loved the descriptions of the creatures and spirits. I think Boroson did a good job building his Chinatown, giving us a good feel for both the Chinese culture and the immigrang experience.

About M. H. Boroson

M. H. Boroson was obsessed with two things as a young man: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and kung fu movies. He has studied Chinese religion at Naropa University and the University of Colorado and now lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and three cats.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri

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The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #8
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on March 1, 2010 (first published 2004)
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 5 hrs 42 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Winning fans in Europe and America for their dark sophistication and dry humor, Andrea Camilleri's crime novels are classics of the genre. Set once again in Sicily, The Patience of the Spider pits Inspector Montalbano against his greatest foe yet: the weight of his own years. Still recovering from the gunshot wound he suffered in Rounding the Mark, he must overcome self-imposed seclusion and waxing self-doubt to penetrate a web of hatred and secrets in pursuit of the strangest culprit he's ever hunted.

The kidnapping of a beautiful young university student, Susanna Mistretta, rocks the community of Vigàta. Distrusting of his colleagues' ability to solve the case, Montalbano jumps in, his accute senses picking up on the subtleties that will leading his investigation on a winding trail of provincial politics, odious journalists, and delicious Italian food.

This is the second Montalbano mystery I’ve listened to in a row. To some extent, I could just copy the review from the last, Game of Mirrors; Montalbano and his circle just don’t change that much from book to book. For the most part, it’s only the plots that vary. But they’re easy, enjoyable listens, and usually available from the library, so I keep coming back to them.

This time, it’s a kidnapping, but the family clearly does not have enough money to pay a ransom, so who could possibly have kidnapped Susanna? An outsider who doesn’t know the family’s financial standing, or was she kidnapped for some other reason? The girl has a worried boyfriend and a father who would do anything to have her back. Her mother is on her deathbed and her uncle is doing all he can to help the family. I guessed most of the answer early on, although one piece took me longer.

Overall, it’s a good story. Camilleri really gives a feeling of the place and especially the people of both Sicily in general and Montalbano’s acquaintances. We do see a lot of his girlfriend this time around, and I’m not much of a fan of hers. There were several funny spots though and I found myself walking around the house repeating some of the Italian names and foods, one of the dangers of listening to a book like this on audio.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri

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Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #18
Published by Blackstone Audio on March 31, 2015 (first published 2011)
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 5 hrs 34 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Inspector Montalbano and his colleagues are stumped when two bombs explode outside empty warehouses - one of which is connected to a big-time drug dealer. Meanwhile the alluring Liliana Lombardo is trying to seduce the inspector over red wine and arancini. Between pesky reporters, amorous trysts, and cocaine kingpins, Montalbano feels as if he's being manipulated on all fronts. That is until the inspector himself becomes the prime suspect in an unspeakably brutal crime.

I’ve read/listened to several of the Montalbano mysteries over the years. It’s a series I know what to expect from. The main characters don’t change much over the years and the food always sounds delicious. For me, this is one of the series I turn to when I want something that I know I’ll enjoy.

This time around we’ve got a couple of bombings, but they both take place at empty warehouses, which is odd. Montalbano has a sexy new (married) neighbor who seems determined to seduce him. Her car’s been vandalized and her computer salesman husband is never around. To top it all off, anonymous letters and phone calls are being sent to citizens, the prosecutor and a television station, all pointing in different directions. We’ve also got a couple of drug gangs that may or may not be involved. Of course, Montalbano manages to tie all the seemingly random events together.

I often listen to the audios for this series, rather than read the print versions. I like hearing the names of people and places and foods. They sound so much more fluid than they would in my head. Also, the plots aren’t overly complicated, so they’re good to listen to as I’m doing chores or out at the gym.

As always, the writing is well done. Camilleri really gives a feeling of the place and especially the people of both Sicily in general and Montalbano’s circle. I don’t think this would be the best introduction to the series, but if you’re already a fan it’s definitely worth reading.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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