Special Reader Guest: Alys

Hi friends! So I’d like to crawl into a hole with a fluffy blanket and just … sleep and rest for about a week, but I know I don’t get that. Alas. However, today we have a reader featured at ALBTALBS! These are some of my favorite posts, and I really hope you’ll read what Alys has to say. [Also – the pictures were sent embedded, which WP can’t handle – so odd formatting/whatever is on me. Forgive me.]

Unexpected MagicUm…hello everyone, this is little Alys from some blog somewhere with some twitter someplace and such and whatnot. Not really important. What is important is that for some reason, our dear Limecello (during a momentary lapse of judgment, I’m sure) felt that I was awesome enough to do a guest reader post for her much cooler blog and be on par- ok not on par, more like bask in the warm glowing limelight of equally cool writers/readers/guest posts.

Therefore, too bad for you! Now you’ll have to suffer through my enormously absurd posts. Mwahahahaha. You must endure through this post – ay, hey!! Don’t click that x in the corner and don’t even think about hitting that back button. You know your curiosity won’t let you. XP

In all honesty, I was very hesitant when Lime asked me to do a guest post. I barely update on my own blog anymore and my twitter consists almost entirely of retweeted pictures of adorable animals I don’t have and breathtakingly gorgeous places I’d never been. I guess one thing Limecello and I have obsessively in common would be our love of reading and Asian tv shows/movies and that probably gave her some measure of confidence that I’m sane enough to guest post. I’m just kidding, Lime knows I’m nowhere near sane.

Okay then, after all this ranting, let’s get to the good stuff. I do want to put in some disclaimers that would either help you, dear reader, have a better perspective, understanding or reasoning for the information and personal opinions below. Limecello and ALBTALBS are in no way responsible for what happens to you for reading this – I mean, for the contents of said guest. 😉

Strange Tales from a Chinese StudioI love stories no matter the medium, but reading has always been my first love. Many of my favorite tv series and movies tend to have been adapted from novels. I was once one of those book-starved child that read anything and everything I was able to get my hands on. I have since grown much much much picker (but not as picky as someone *coughLimecellocough*) about the contents, intents, and accuracy.

My first love had always been folklores, fairytales and legends. Thus, to this day I still obsess over anything related to them. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling has been an all-time favorite since before I was able to read.

If you watch or read a lot of Chinese paranormal or historical stories, you’ll actually be able to trace a lot ideas, themes and morals to this collection. It’s by no means a perfect collection, but for a collection dated a few centuries, many of the stories were actually pointed out the hierocracy of those that felt they were better than others. While monsters were feared, humans were even worse monsters. Ghosts, spirits and shifters that were universally feared were often more loyal than people.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan was a collection of stories from around the world featuring female protagonists. A professor suggested I read this book when she was discussing folklores and how in oral traditions, protagonists were very closely split down the middle for both genders. Once they were written down, the number went to about 70 to 80 percent male protagonists. Don’t quote me on it, since I’m writing this based on memory from like I don’t know how long ago *coughdecadescough*. I really loved this book as well and in was able to showcase a lot of different cultures. It also gave some more sources where I was able to actively look for more. Heh.

These two were often my go to faves during times of slumps and idle moments of peace. I have also have Euripides somewhere, but I cannot find it in the masses of boxes at the moment.

Speaking of story slumps, I do have a few wonderful go-to authors that really need no introductions. I just wanted to fawn over them.

Yes, Lisa Kleypas. I do love her historical romances. There was always so comforting about reading her stories. I also fangirl-ed way too much in front of her once. Now I hide in shame.

I loved the book above because of the animals. I shall shamelessly say it.

Another two go to authors whom I admire are Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh, but for two different reasons. For me, Kresley Cole books function like candy. Too much is not good for my general state of mind (since I start thinking random violence solves thing…it doesn’t), but we gotta have a little crazy randomness every now and then. I also adore her heroines for being a little out there, but always able to hold their ground.

Nalini Singh books, on the other hand, came to me at a time when I was in a deep slump and feeling unable to connect to any of the mainstream books at that time. Not only does she contain very diverse characters, but each maintained their own uniqueness that was both endearing and empowering. Also, did you know there was a Harlequin manga based on one of her very early Desire books? Yeah…it’s awesome. I haz it. 😀

Now, two more authors whom I’ve grown more and more into their books.

A Lady's Lesson in ScandalA Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran was one of the books the embodied so much of what I was looking for in historical romances. All of Meredith Duran’s books were awesome for me, her stories always contained this grittiness and realism that many writers simply glossed over or outright ignored. As much as people loved to glamourize that era, realistically, it probably wasn’t all that awesome nor exciting. That’s the time of colonization and slave trades, slums and industrialized poverty with child labor and… I need to stop myself. Getting off topic. For me, Meredith Duran didn’t shy away from many of the realities and it meant so much.

Sherry Thomas was another write that wrote wonderfully. I just want to minor-ly complain the heroes don’t grovel enough. 😛

A few other authors I adore and want to honorly mention:

Marjorie M. Liu – I adore her writing. She also wrote some comic books! Her stories and characters were so diverse and unique, all over the world really. Adore!!! Minor sidenote: I heard on NPR they were bring back romance comic books! I hope she’ll be involved. Maybe? Pretty please?

Jeannie Lin – Chinese historical romances with Asian protagonists that were stereotypes would be a mild description. Let’s just say I’m waiting for her to go full on wuxia. She needs to. Needs. To.

Sarah Morgan – she does Harlequin Presents right. Her characters are so realistic and so awesome. Yup.

Tessa Dare – Her books were also more comfort read, much in the line of my reading Kresley Cole. Historical settings and very fun characters.

Heart of ObsidianIf you are still there, dear reader, you’ll have noticed the pattern. I do love having romances and love stories. And what is an awesome novel without love and romance? Nothing. A novel is nothing without love. Why am I so adamant? Try going through life without any romance and love. Honestly, I don’t know any particular individual that can go through life without any affection for family, friends, or themselves. So whether it be a love of a character, a story, a plot, a writer – I always enjoy stories with a lot of love.

Romance novels had been a way to assure the reader that good triumphs over those that choose to harm. And female empowerment! I mean, er, we have female centric protagonists that triumphs over hardship and trials of life and still get the guy. 😉 Seriously though, reality sucks enough as it is – especially for women, so why rip on something that actively exemplified success for women? Yes, there’s a bunch of formulas and there’s no escaping trends, but the main core of these stories have always been about human strengths and struggles. It is in every culture and in every story – an universal theme, if I may be so cliché to write. 😉

So…I’m trying to draw a tangent to another topic and failing horribly, so you get to suffer this weird divergence…

Lately, I’ve been obsess – er, focusing more on Asian romance stories via mediums such as TV shows, movies and internet novels. Oh my gosh, internet novels rock so much.

The Empress in the Palace (Zhen Huan Zhuan) 甄嬛傳 

This was one of the shows that brought Limecello and I together in the first place, so I felt this had to be here. How to describe ZHZ? It is the rise to power of a woman that really did not want to go down that path, yet fate had other plans if she wanted to survive. Oh, it’s a tragedy, I admit it. A pretty historically accurate story filled with tragedy for all those involved. As in line with the trauma of Chinese historical stories, you have those perfectly doomed loves because of family and responsibilities. Oh freaking Asian people, stop being so realistic. Also, it’s coming onto Netflix soon – abridged and changed, but oh well.

The novel was actually much more extensive and less historically accurate (not in a real historical time period), but the characters were amazing. They cut out a few of my favorite characters, but the tv show still maintained the awesomeness of most characters even if the TV show made everyone much nicer (including ZH and her sister -_-). The timeline in the novel was longer, too. *sigh* Anyways, I have a small notebook filled with thoughts and analysis for review, and then I kind of gave up. Too extensive for me to tackle right now when I can be reading something else. XP

Loving, Never Forgetting 恋恋不忘 

Another show Limecello and I obsessively emailed each other about. As with ZHZ, this was once an internet novel = published = tv drama. Also has Jerry Yan. This story…I actually think a LOT of people would love it. Secret baby style. Lol. The novel wasn’t as insane towards the end as the TV show, but hey, everyone loves to embellish and drama it out. Lol. I did like how the story showcased how it was actually difficult for a single woman to raise a child. Also, I was a little upset how the kind of just forgave the Old Dad. I actually blamed him more than I did the crazy mother.

Silent Separation // My Sunshine (何以笙簫默)

Limecello was supposed to watch this one with me… *pouts* Anyways, this novel was insanely popular. Like, batsh** in a batcave dropping all over the place crazy obsessive. The TV series really shouldn’t be so long, but TV, what can you do. This story was really a reunion love story. College sweethearts (where the girl chased the guy down! Mwahaha), the separated due to youth, miscommunication and misunderstanding. They met again when they were older and it’s about their reunion/love. Under normal circumstances, I actually do not like these types of stories, but this was one sooooooooooo good. Also, realistically the guy would be impossible to be with. Yet, as with all this author’s books, I simply adored the female protagonist. Especially when she was young, that’s like my favorite type of heroine. 😀 The TV series let her be gloomy for way too long though.

Love in the AfternoonThis author has another famous novel turned TV series that Limecello refuses to watch due to the actors/actresses. Even so, Shan Shan Come Eat still deserved an honorable mention just cuz she showcased so much food. I actually really like another book by this author that wasn’t as popular, but if I start on this author, Gu Man (顾漫), I might as well just stop writing anything else and have a party. Same could be said about the author Mo Bao Fei Bao (墨宝非宝)…sooooo we’ll just move on.

Quick honoralble mention for Wuxia authors Jin Yong and Liang Yu Sheng. I would say more, but then I’ll end up descending into a thunderstorm rant with Limecello. I prefer Lian Yu Sheng’s female protagonists and stories in general, but his stories stayed too realistic (i.e. sad endings). Jin Yong gave us mostly happy endings, but I have much complaints about his female characters. They may be smarts and almost always better than the male characters, but they still maintained too much the stereotypical limitations.

A sidenote of one way I decide how much I like the book: if the female protagonist has her own group of friends. If she does not… I have a really really hard time suspending my sense of disbelief. I mean, “When Spring Ends, I’ll See You Again” by Shu Ke (蜀客), but it only worked because of the type of world it was in: xian xia. There is a very nice and solid fanbase for Chinese translated novels, please take a look at http://www.books.shushengbar.com if you can. Or have an all-nighter binge on youtube. 😀

Anyways, let me start wrapping things up… and just because I can: Ghibli, Ghibli, Ghibli. I will forever <3

Hayao Miyazaki. Fuyumi Ono was also extremely influential for me. My biggest regret (so far) was for not ever having met Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. I hope at least be able to meet Ursula K. Le Guin.

LothaireThere are many many more wonderful authors out there and while each story I’ve read so far has brought me joy, taught me about people, and showed me more about life, I hope to continue to read for that one story embody that balance of life, humor and happiness I continue to seek. So let’s all keep reading.

I hope you enjoyed this random bit of fun and maybe get you to explore a little bit more. If nothing else, I was able to annoy Limecello with stuff she refuse to watch with me. Also, sorry for any and all spelling, grammar, or insanity.

Whew! So anyway – lots of book talk yes? 😀 And shows! Also I highly recommend both Empresses in the Palace and Loving, Never Forgetting. (Aren’t you so glad my BA in Chinese has become useful? 😉 ) And of course a number of the authors mentioned too. 😀 Thanks for sharing with us, today, Alys!

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