The First Excellence by Donna Carrick

When I first started using Twitter, my main focus was promoting myself and my freelance work. I didn't expect to make great friends. 
Sporadic chats with other writers introduced me to a new world. A literal literary world, with discussions on style, prose and publishing. Although I often felt out of my depth when it came to fiction, I was welcomed into the fold quickly and the Carrick writing team of Donna and Alex helped me develop.
I often retweet authors notes, links and information. There is a kindred spirit in battling with the self-promo beast.
All that said, I wouldn't necessarily pick this particular book up if I was browsing in a book store. We all know the cliché of judging a book by it's cover, but I know I'm not alone in doing so.
The First Excellence doesn't leap out at me, there is nothing remarkable about it's cover design. To me it looked straight laced, stuffy even. I'm intrinsically drawn to covers with people, I think a draw from factual books.
Reading the synopsis didn't help either. I often read with a dictionary to hand. I have to know the meaning of the words. Would this book have too many Asian references, who I be too distracted looking up meanings to follow the story?
Previously Donna had written a Penny Serial, which I immensely enjoyed. Frequently pestering it's author for the latest instalment or some 'inside' news. But this was whole new genre.
Having downloaded the book from Smashwords, I read it with an open mind. I knew Donna and Alex extended their family to include an adopted child and part of me thought the story may be a touch voyeuristic, or sentimental.
The first time I started to read the book, it was already too late. I quickly read the first eight chapters, getting sucked into the story. The characters were believable, I wanted to share this journey with them. 
I struggled with the names, I wasn't sure how to pronounce them, so I 'Englishised' them. 
There were a few things I had to look up, Kindle integrates a dictionary into it's iPhone app. so this was easy to do without having to leave the story. Carrick writes the story with a western view, so the character Fa-ling explains a lot of key things as she and the book develop.
I don't want to give the plot away, but the separate stories intermingle in a beautifully crafted manner.
The last chapter, which feels like an add on as the story has evolved triumphantly, had me in tears. 
I admit I cry easier at books that films, but the other authors who have done so write tear jerking tales. These include Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, House Rules) and John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas).

Remarkably researched, creatively and convincingly crafted, decidedly daring, extravagant experiences. 
I am so pleased I delved below the surface to read this story, it is truly gripping.
I cannot wait for the sequel and will no doubt be pestering Donna to keep writing.

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