Tag Archives: TBR Challenge Review 2024

TBR Challenge Review: Blossoms in Adversity

(This is a review of the drama (惜花芷)  not the book with the same name, because alas it isn’t translated. I just checked and it seems the book is 694 chapters with 18 “extras.” The length is often a bit misleading because the chapters are short and in no way compare to the ones we’re used to.)

ANYWAY! Blossoms in Adversity – LET’S GO!

The series description slightly edited from MDL:

A devastating tragedy of asset forfeiture to the throne suddenly befalls the Hua family. The men are forced into exile, leaving behind the women and children in dire straits. Hua Zhi, the young lady of the family, no longer stays low-key and steps up. She braves hardship and leads the women of her household to manage to avoid starvation and danger. She transforms not only their lives but also the feared Commander of the Security Bureau, Gu Yan Xi, into her beloved “Mr. Yan”. During these lively and heartwarming moments, Hua Zhi rises from a sheltered lady to the head of her family, leading her toward a brighter future.


The native title 惜花芷 actually means more like “Cherish Hua Zi” – I think the original drama title was going to be The Story of Hua Zi but it turned into Blossoms In Adversity which fits even better because 花 means flower, and it’s the family name. I loved the story and how everything made sense. Even when it was so frustrating I loved seeing the growth of the characters and how the family came together. I think it’s important to know that in ancient China society was made up of four classes: (scholar-)government officials, farmers, artisans and merchants. (And slaves). So the Hua family goes from the highest social class to the lowest. I think that helps explain the elders’ resistance to Hua Zi doing business. Also in the first episode, people might miss it, but Hua Zi shouldn’t even show her face on the street because she’s the daughter of an aristocratic house. (In fact she shouldn’t even have left the manor, but she’s an “unusual” girl and was “spoiled” by her grandfather who took her along with him to travel when he was performing his official duties when she was younger.) She goes into business not only to provide for her remaining family members, but also to redeem the menfolk from exile. Hua Zi knows under an obscure law that if she pays 500,000 liang (silver taels) one person can be redeemed. So she needs to make 21.5 million taels to bring back all 43 exiled family members. It is a staggering amount. I don’t know the dynasty equivalent or conversions, but at times one silver tael – a liang – was 1000 wen/copper coins. And I think there’s a scene that said an average family lives on 2-5 taels (though they said coins so 2-5k wen) a month. So … 21,500,000 is just … mind boggling and why her mother and aunts think she’s insane and just an immature child unreasonably dreaming. Continue reading

TBR Challenge Review: 戾王嗜妻如命 (Tyrannical [Prince]’s Beloved Wife) by 昭昭 (Zhao Zhao)

戾王嗜妻如命 (Tyrannical Wang/[Prince]’s Beloved Wife) by 昭昭 (Zhao Zhao)
Chinese historical romance published in 2016

Tyrannical Wang’s Beloved Wife by Zhao Zhao book cover

Other people’s bad reputation, if not because of themselves, then it’s slandered by others. Jing Wan’s bad reputation wasn’t because of herself, but schemed by her future husband. Jing Wan’s bad reputation wasn’t caused by others, but of his design, only for the sake of marrying the woman he has had eyes on for two lifetimes! One unable to take a bride, one unable to marry. Because he was the number one handsomest man, but she wasn’t the number one beauty. So it was still her who has earned? What the hell?

After marrying, the husband’s close beautiful servant girls didn’t try to crawl onto the bed, but instead served her like an ancestor. The previous stewards didn’t monopolize the power, but instead handed over in great detail all the properties and even the husband’s private funds. So strange no matter how one looks at it! After getting along day and night, she discovered that her husband suffers from a severe case of crazy, please cure!

“Husband, just what do you like about me? I’ll change, just please stop being weird.”

His disease acting up in seconds, telling you with his actions, just how strong his possessive desires towards you are, that’s how much care you must give back.

Alright, for the sake of his disease not becoming more severe, and seeing how there’s no concubines or mistresses or other little demons, Jing Wan rolled up her up sleeves and went all out. – taken from NU 

I’m late with my TBR review because of life and site issues … and I didn’t know which book to review for the April TBR prompt of “No Place Like Home” … but I decided to go with Tyrannical [Prince]’s Beloved Wife because in the end the characters go home. It seems silly but this is a behemoth of a book. A quick estimate is that the book is roughly 2,356,000 words. (There are 1178 sections and the translator had indicated each was usually around 2,000 words. Formally the book has 589 chapters, and 68 extras.) What impressed me was despite how just almost insanely long this book was, I read all of it – I skimmed at most parts of five sections, which is not much at all. (And most of it was just schemes I wasn’t interested in.) There was so much rich history, character development, just an incredibly vibrant world created here. Continue reading

TBR Challenge Review: 三嫁惹君心 (Marry You for Three Times) by 明月听风 (Ming Yue Ting Feng)

三嫁惹君心 (Marry You for Three Times) by 明月听风 (Ming Yue Ting Feng)
<dHistorical romance published by Jiangsu Phoenix Art Publishing House in 2012

Novel/original cover of 三嫁惹君心 (Marry You for Three Times) by 明月听风 (MingYueTingFeng)One is a blind girl, the embodiment of an orchid, intelligent with sophisticated grace, and the other, a young noble who loved his wealth as if it were his life.

His endless teasing, and her numerous counter-attacks. She planned every advance with detail, and he met her with each step. As he excitedly went about making life difficult for her, all she did was sigh at his childishness.

The uneasy-proud-young noble’s odd actions, contrasted against the calm plotting of an unfazed blind girl.

*Haih (sigh), one should never invite the attentions of a petty man…*

The two were at loggerheads from the very beginning, and to no one’s surprise, they soon saw each other as the enemy, and neither tried to understand the other’s position. And thus it came to this, as long as the Young Lady did not give in, then the Young Sir would not leave her in peace.

A blind girl thrice married, but to the same person every time.

Thrice wedded, thrice wedded to; but together forever after. (Taken from NU)

The premise for March’s TBR Challenge is “Not in Kansas Anymore” which was super easy for me as I’ve still only been reading translated Chinese romance novels. No rebirth, transmigration, or revenge in this one, and yet it was so very delightful. In fact I loved it so much as soon as the book ended I immediately hit play and listened to it all over again. The blurb this time is pretty clear – but I didn’t have it when I started the book. The blurb in Hoopla was:

Stingy man are not to be taunted, “Vent one is hatred better than create more enemy!” If the girl doesn’t apologize for a day, the man will be pestering for one day. The relationship of them started with a cup of tea. A piece of music lifted and touched his heartstrings. Although he does not understand her qin (a stringed instrument), he does understand her feelings. She is blind and considerate. Blind women marry three times with one person. No matter what happens, I will be with you.

(Fair warning I’m watching a Cdrama, listening to an audiobook in Mandarin, and writing this review all simultaneously so my zero attention span is really cresting today. Apologies for mess and confusion.)  I was really curious as to how and why our couple would have to get married three times – and honestly was expecting a lot of melodrama and angst and misunderstandings, and was pleasantly surprised we didn’t really have that. First of all, the premise is great, the story is engaging, and the characters are all so interesting. We also have a bit of “enemies to lovers” which is NOT my usual trope – but they of course were never actually enemies, and I loved it so much! Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review/Rant: 暴君请放手 by 一抹初晴

暴君请放手 by 一抹初晴
(Tyrant, Please Let Go aka “Beauty’s Fault“) by Yi Mo Chu Qing
Beauty's Fault Hoopla Audiobook Cover

他擁有絕美的容顏,卻因此淪爲仇人的玩物;她爲報救母之恩,替他承歡於他的仇人身下。終有一天,她助他得以飛出囚籠,重獲新生。本以爲可以從此自由,誰料他殘忍下手,揮劍刺向她的胸膛。“怎麼,想離開我,回到他的身邊去?”他絕美的脣角掛着陰鷙的冷笑,長劍的劍尖上還淌着殷紅的血。他的劍,怎會刺進她的胸膛?這樣的結局,是她始料未及。他冷冷地指着她:“你逃不了!我不會放過他,也不會放過你!”
He has a beautiful face, but because of this he becomes the plaything of his enemies; in order to repay the favor to her mother, she acts his body double and makes nice with his captor on his behalf. One day, she helped him fly out of the cage and regain his life. She thought she could be free from now on, but who would have expected him to be so cruel that he stabbed her in the chest with his sword. “Why, do you want to leave me and go back to him?” There was a sinister sneer on the corner of his beautiful lips, and the tip of the long sword was dripping with red blood. How could his sword pierce her chest? This ending was something she had never expected. He pointed at her coldly: “You can’t escape! I won’t let him go, and I won’t let you go!”

First of all … I spent too much time hunting down the actual book blurb, and “translating” it – TBH I obviously used google translated and edited what it spit out … What it says in Hoopla is this:

“Canon grave” is based on Jiang Feng as the main line, wrote about the jiangs pawnshop in three hundred years throughout the country. The story took place in different times. The Jiangjia Pawnshop before liberation and the Jiangjia Pawnshop after liberation were staggered.

… which is obviously fucking wrong. Also I started listening to the book in my car so it’s not as if I could’ve tried to find the source material and plug it into a translator. Anyway I’m salty AF. Especially since all the [Chinese] sites I’ve found it on label it as a romance. A ROMANCE! NO!

While the prompt for the TBR challenge this month was “furry friends” I’m ignoring it because I need to rant. (Also I considered writing a review of a book I enjoyed that had a dog, but look … I need to talk about this goddamn book more.) Calling the … I don’t even want to call him a “male lead” – even in my notes I just called him “dude” other than my descriptive “13 year old shitprince” … anyway, calling him a dog would be an insult to dogs. And not just because I LOVE dogs. I felt insane while I was listening to this book. I didn’t DNF it because I’d DNF’d like eight books over the weekend – so many that I didn’t even bother putting them all into GR. I kept listening because the first part was ok, and more I kept hoping it’d get better. I kept thinking, “it has to get better, right? Everything is going to turn around.” Well, I WAS WRONG. I think this might be the most “what in the goddamn fuck” book I’ve ever read in my life. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager (宫斗不如当太后) by by September Flowing Fire (Jiu Yue Liu Huo, 九月流火)

It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager (宫斗不如当太后) by by September Flowing Fire (Jiu Yue Liu Huo, 九月流火)
Historical romance published in 2021

It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager by September Flowing Fire Book CoverTang ShiShi was the number one beauty. She was arrogant, domineering and aggressive. She accidentally acquired a book and learned that she was just a vicious female second lead in a palace struggle. Later, she would fight for favor with the female lead, and eventually she was ruined and died miserably.

Now, they have just entered the fief of Jing Wang, and the first meeting of the male and female leads has not happened yet. There are two paths before Tang ShiShi. The first is to hold the heroine’s thighs tightly and join the female lead camp early; the second is to please the male lead and steal the favor of the female lead.

Tang Shishi chooses the third way.

Tang Shishi knew that the male lead’s adoptive father Jing Wang seemed to be low profile, but in fact he was overly ambitious. In the near future, he will invade the capital and proclaim himself emperor before the imperial court, but it is a pity that he passed away before passing the throne to the male lead.

This year, Jing Wang is twenty-four years old, still young, and has yet to marry a wife.
Anyway, she already in the game. Instead of being the concubine of the male lead, it is better to be his adopted mother, the empress dowager in one step.

————–

Zhao Chengjun had no intention to get married, so he adopted his subordinate’s son as his heir. He thought he would be with his army his whole life.

Later, the imperial family sent a team of beauties to Prince Jing, and the leader was named Tang ShiShi.

His young, adopted son and his subordinates also persuaded: Your Highness, this is a beauty trap.
Jing Wang: I know.

The so-called beauty trap was merely a bait for those who wish. – lightly edited from Novel Updates

The prompt for this month was “Once More With Feeling” and I figured since this is the only Chinese romance novel I’ve re-read so far, it fits. We’re going with loose interpretations here. It’s Better to be the Empress Dowager features another delightful mad romp of a story with a loveable heroine, a grumpy but entirely devoted hero, and a frustrating cast of characters you love to hate. I described the heroine as an utter chaos muppet, and I stand by it. She’s such a delightful mess handicapped by what she thinks is a “life cheat” and it makes her constantly second guess herself and make the “wrong” choices that ultimately of course turn out to be entirely right. Continue reading