Happy Lunar New Year!

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Today Lunar New Year is celebrated in a number of Asian countries. It’s the year of the Pig this year.

I’ve never celebrated this holiday in China, but I have in Korea – a country that also follows the traditions.

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Medal Up: A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona Marsden

Medal Up A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona M Marsden

Two couples tread on thin ice at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in this captivating duology—but love has Olympic-sized impact on their dreams.

Fighting Their Attraction: Snowboarder Brady Thompson landed in Seoul favored to win elusive gold. But instead of fresh powder, he finds that a past he can’t escape is twisting his half-pipe into knots. Figure skater Arielle Baldwin is determined to win a medal so she can walk away from her coach mom’s stranglehold on her life. Can a good girl and a bad boy reaching for their dreams make for a dynamic duo?

Man of Ice: How can the Games go so wrong for friendly, upbeat Maybelle Li? Her ex-skating partner is raining on her parade with memories of the past, and her current partner, Bohdan Dovzhenko, is the hottest thing to hit the ice this decade—and the coldest companion. He’s all work and no conversation beyond grunts and commands. But as their medal hopes rise, so does Bohdan’s word count. He’s not made of stone, and being locked outside of Belle’s sunshine is simply no fun. Now their growing closeness may be too hot to dismiss—but will it burn down their chance to forge a new future as well?

Medal Up: A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona Marsden

Tara Lipinski Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998 Triple Toe Half Loop Triple Salchow

Gratuitous Tara Lipinski winning 1998 Olympic gold GIF!

I went into Medal Up with some apprehension, as I am hugely familiar with the main themes of the book, which meant I was going to be hyperaware of any errors. I did get distracted by those aspects in the end, though I have enjoyed both these authors before.

Medal Up is actually two connected stories set at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Each one could be a standalone, but they’re quick reads with characters making appearances in both.

The reasons I was apprehensive:

#1 All the main characters are either figure skaters, or former figure skaters, and I have followed the sport closely for decades.

#2 One of the male leads has a full-on Ukrainian name. My family is from Ukraine, and with the ongoing war and the barrage of Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda still permeating the world’s media, it is SO important to me that authors write the truth.

#3 Most of the main characters are Australian – as am I.

#4 The book is – duh! – set in Korea, where I used to live. I think that in the second story Fiona Marsden made a decent effort to fit a little bit of general information about Korea in, but otherwise there’s a tight focus on the main (non-Korean) characters. Nobody’s eating kimchi or watching K-Pop, for example!

My first big issue comes up on the very first page of the book:

Ukrainian and Russian are NOT interchangeable. They’re different ethnic groups, and have different cultures, different languages, and – most importantly – Ukraine and Russia are different countries. This is the heart of the – ongoing – Russian invasion that began four years ago.

When it comes to the sporting aspects of the plot, I have no idea what the authors did or didn’t know before writing this book, but some artistic leeway has to be given.

You will have to suspend your disbelief to accept that so many Australian figure skaters in the story are world champions and Olympic medal contenders (because, yeah… we’ve never been very good at that sport!). I did love the casual references to the AIS and Canberra and all of that, however.

On the other hand, these skaters were crap! Nobody makes it to the Olympics with a basic double Lutz as the feature jump in their program. You’ll only see a skater at this level do it as a mistake. Whenever the double Lutz was referred to I got the voice of Lexie from 1978’s Ice Castles in my head, laughing as she says ‘She can’t do a triple!’.

Here is Tara Lipinski doing the first of her two *triple* Lutz jumps in her free skate twenty years ago, at the Nagano Games:

Tara Lipinski Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998 Triple Lutz Double-Toe

In order for this to be a book for adults, the skaters are a little older than many who win medals at this level (e.g. Lipinski was fifteen in 1998, and the silver medallist that year was seventeen, and Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul was sixteen when she became Olympic Champion). I can understand this, though: otherwise it would be young adult fiction!

And, in order for the romances to happen, the characters don’t know each other before the Games. This isn’t possible. Every skater would know the name, age, and accomplishments of every other skater for the last thirty years. It would be impossible not to know everything about each other in advance.

As you can see, I got very distracted by facts and technicalities. It’s the reason I’m also extremely apprehensive about reading ballet-themed books – I know too much about the subject.

Medal Up is an easy, fast read that will satisfy people inspired by the Olympic season. Just try to not be as picky as I was!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Go Canada!

Tessa Virtue Scott Moir Team Event Ice Dance Figure Skating Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 12th February 2018

Breaking up my regular book coverage to say: I am SO happy about Canada winning the gold in the weird new (as of 2014) team figure skating event at the Olympics. SO well-earned.

I do think this whole team thing is a tad ridiculous, and it leads to figure skating overkill before the real events even happen, but I am very glad to see both Canada and the US on the medal podium.

I am equally frustrated Russia was allowed into this event. How can a country that is allegedly banned from the Olympics this year be fielding a team for their country?!

How much Kremlin money reached IOC hands in order for this to be allowed to happen? Ugh.

The best thing about the Olympics being in Korea (other than that I used to live there, and am having a sort of “reverse homesickness” for the country), is that we’re basically in the same time zone, so I can watch live events at sane times!

Now, if only the Australian – and likely other English-speaking – commentators could stop mispronouncing place names…

On My Radar

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht has started appearing on publisher sites, and it’s something I REALLY want to read. Unfortunately it has a January 2018 release date, so I’ll have to be patient.

About Korea (where I lived and worked for a while), and the so-called “comfort women” – women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese in World War Two – there’s so much about this plot that draws me.

The blurb is below:

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. Following her mother’s footsteps into the sea as a haenyeo, one of the famed female divers of beautiful Jeju Island, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana witnesses a Japanese soldier threatening her beloved younger sister on shore. Desperate to save her, Hana is captured and transported to Manchuria where she is forced to become a comfort woman in a Japanese brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength and Hana holds close the lessons her mother taught her. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made. Now in the sunset of her life, Emi must finally confront the past to discover the peace she so desperately seeks. Finding hope in the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war and find forgiveness?

At once suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum puts a human face to the heartrending history of Korea and tells a story in which two sisters’ love for one another is strong enough to triumph over decades and the grim evils of war.

Korean Lamps

When I lived in Korea I started buying lamps like these. I loved them – but I left them behind when I came back to Australia. Apart from anything else, I would have needed adaptors and things to use them here, and I couldn’t be bothered (we already have that problem with our things from India!).

But now all things Korean are finally gaining some popularity in Australia, maybe there’s somewhere I can find to buy some again…

These are fom LunaHanji.

Korean Flag Screw-up

Everybody’s probably heard about this by now, but I don’t understand how anybody could be this stupid.

Hell, Olympic officials would have caused a tenth of the drama if they’d flown the American flag for Soviet athletes back in the day!

Wrong flag displayed before North Korea soccer match halts Games

THE London Olympics soccer competition started with an international incident when the North Korea women’s team refused to take the field for more than an hour after the South Korean flag was displayed on the big screen before the start of play at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

A photograph of North Korea’s number 16 Kim Song Hui, who plays for Pyongyang City FC, was shown on the screen at the stadium beside an image of the South Korean flag. The North Korean team then erupted and refused to take the field and there were angry scenes as team officials gestured and shouted their displeasure.

The match against Colombia was delayed for more than an hour and only got under way after London Games organisers issued an apology.