Hello, hail, fair day and well met! Welcome my friends to the 6th Annual Ja No Read Mo!

For the new folks, I am a serious reader, to the point that I have a minor hoarding problem.  I have a mountain of books in the bedroom waiting for me to read them.  And Ja No Read Mo is my way of ensuring I make some kind of dent in it every year, as every January I challenge myself to read a certain number of books in a month.

Now sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t.  This year to make it a wee bit more interesting, I have decided to start doing themed challenges, be it I read nothing but fiction or romance, nothing but books on vampires or zombies or cats.

Last year I challenged myself to read 14 books but only read 12.  This year I am going to try and beat last year’s record and try to read 13 books this month.  I have also decided to stick to fiction books, as I have a few historical and contemporary fiction book series that are starting to pile up.  Might as well try and knock it out.

So that being said, I think we’ll start with a historical fiction one with Peony in Love by Lisa See.

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“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

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