Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last day of July

It has been a bit quiet here...but it will hopefully pick up soon.

Time sure does seem to go by fast these days even when nothing uneventful. As if to contradict myself, having too many projects makes life seem stagnant.

Oh well, one day at a time...or if I could, fastforward to the weekends again please. >_<

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

This was yet another book bought on a whim that turned out to be rather awesome (oh how random browsing at a bookstore comes away with unexpected surprises). Heck, I had not even read Shannon Hale until I picked up this gem. A diary writing Mongolian girl trapped in a tower? Who does not want to read something like this? It was so different from the “norm” of young novels out there, even when we account into the diverse cultural books that have popped up everywhere. Then I found out this was based on an older folklore? Heck yes, let me read.

So how to begin this review? I’m a little stumped…hmmm… Let’s just jump in with the basic.

Dashti, a mucker girl as she called herself, was our main character and voice throughout the journey. Dashti was the maid to Lady Saren and the two were sealed in the tower together because Lady Saren refused an arranged marriage.

Lady Saren, a year younger than Dashti, refused to go into an arranged marriage with a Lord Khasar. Instead as a child, she had written letters with a young Lord Tegus and they had half written they might marry as adults.

Lord Khasar, our villain, had ruthlessly driven through one nation after another, took everything in sight and left destruction in his wake. He wanted to marry Saren for some twisted reasons.

Kahn Tegus, our hero, was rather perfect but slightly one dimensional. Tegus was a noble and compassionate young man. When he heard about what happened to Saren, he did attempt to go help, but it all came to naught.

The first half of the story occurred while both Dashti and Saren were much younger and trapped in the tower. The way they lived together, trying to survive day after day. This was also the bulk were the readers learn of their world, based on our Mongolia. The author put in a good amount of research as the world and culture felt pretty authentic.

In the second half of the story, Dashti was able to get the two of them out of the tower only to find the land devastated and barren. Dashti took Saren to seek safety on Tegus’ land as his was one of the few tribes left that had not been destroyed yet. Once there, we learn they were one the verge of war. Lord Khasar was moving towards Tegus’ land. At Saren’s request, they kept their identities hidden and they tried to survive as servants. It was during the second half we finally learned why Saren was so fearful and the source of Lord Khasar’s powers. There was a touch of magic towards the end that was not entirely out of place. Just a tad. Even so, the ideas were well ingrained into the culture of the world.

Part coming of age, part mystery, part romance and all survival, this was an interesting and beautiful book. I did not completely change my hesitancy for first person narratives, but it gave me a new appreciation for it. This also reminded me a little of the oral stories I used to often read/hear. Fairytales, folklores and stories for younger children have great abilities to weave lessons of history, culture and humanity together. This was no different.

I am much in love with Shannon Hale after this book. Probably will be buying more soon. Lol.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fall shows?

I'm so going to watch this...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Signh

Yes, this opening is different. This is going to be a really long review. Really long. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me for all the below. I put the disclaimer that it is all from the rambled messed up mind of this very poorly read, unable to write, little young minds extensive overthinking that the below came to existence. Good luck.

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Ok, we all know this was one of the most highly anticipated book release of goodness knows when for gosh knows how long. Maybe this was why the higher the expectation, the harder it was the read without preconceived notions of how the story should be. Let me just say, I was very conflicted reading this book. Very very conflicted.

I do believe it has been confirmed anything with Ms. Nalini’s name on equated to an automatic “sealed deal” for me to spill money over. Her prose, the strength of the characters and the depth of each novel will always be a “sure thing” for me. The complexity of said book pretty much reaffirmed how Ms. Nalini was a writing goddess, but I must say this: for me to have enjoyed the book thoroughly, I had to read it in a way as a semi-stand alone rather than a continuation of the series. I know, sounds insane, but it worked. This was another wonderful piece of literature by the most awesome Ms. Nalini. Her writings, the characters and storytelling…unbelievably full of depth, culture and contemporary issues all well woven into an intense and compelling story. To this day, I really do carry my beloved book around. Hasn’t fallen apart yet. XP

Please be warned, spoilers abound. I will recap and analyze, rave and complain, and mostly love in all forms of spoiler for this book.

Please DO NOT READ if you have not yet read the book.

Leave, right now. This will be one of my longest posts and will be very extensive.

Are you leaving?

No?

You’re sure you want to read this…

It’s all spoilers.

And my rants.

You’re still here? Lol

Then let me continue…

First off, this was a series a decade in the making. Everything had been slowly building up. The world, the characters, the drama. This book definitely delivered that awesome punch and resulted in much lugging around. Ms. Nalini’s awesome and the fact this book was out in hardcover totally attest to the general brilliant writing and completely believable world create. We all cared about each and every character involved. Intricate plots and interconnection of everything – this story was so much better than some of the best literature out there. The human condition was masterfully expressed and written without the usual judgment, nor were readers spoken down to like an idiot. Instead, the book was engaging, full of encouragement and taught in the best way possible.

Yes, this was a romance novel. Yes, there were sci-fi elements. And yes, more than anything, this was a work of fiction. But as any lover of stories will tell you, stories are the true histories and records of humanity. Ok, so only I said that…leave me alone. *cowers in corner* *peeks out and judged safe to continue*

The world only moves forwards when innovative minds were willing to go the distance. Well, the world moves forward regardless, but minds. Err…I’m starting to move into another territory…let me come back and continue my gushing.

This really was a great book. The war with the PurePsy reached the boiling point. Everyone involved appeared and lent to the best of their abilities to defend their homes. The build-up tension was grant, intersliced with the ongoing tension and romance between Hawke and Sienna. Their romance sure did not let me down. The playfulness and intensity, their tenderness and affection were wonderfully tangible (after Hawke caved in of course). Now, for the breakdown analysis and me dwelling too much on the hiccups.

Why I love Sienna – sometimes when I read about her, I just felt so connected. Granted, she Aces her physics class and the best I got after practically killing myself was a *coughhackcoughchokesclearsthroatwhisperslowB*. She was calm and collected, compassionate but very realistic in her outlook (almost to the point of fatalistic). Her age did throw me off at some point, but I sort of fudged that after a while.
I love books. I love romance novels. The characters, the world. Everything. BUT. I almost never “connect” with a female character. I can count on one hand the number of female characters I was able to connect with. Sienna was one of the few I somewhat connected with and that was saying a lot. I connected, but I fully admit to being not as selfless.

Why I love Hawke – he’s hawt. Nuff said. What? I gotta write more than that? Aww, fine. Shall I write an ode to his royal hindness? Ehehehe. Hawke = perfect hero. Maybe a little too perfect, but still, he was the embodiment of the ideal hero, the perfect mate: Alpha, strong, protective, playful, compassionate, tender…the perfect combination. He was annoyingly awesome. Lol.

Some random cool stuff:
- first lesbian couple, awesome! I did always wonder the lack of diversity in romance novels.
- using the legal aspects to try and keep the pack/bonds strong, every minor in the story, but extremely effective if you think about it. I never would have thought of that, but indeed very smart, Ms. Nalini, very smart.
- everyone pitching in to help Hawke towards the end and give him a little haven. Too cute.
- the “play-time” between Hawke and Sienna. Some of it almost made me cry because it was so cute and sweet… especially the where Hawke tease Sienna about pummeling him with her tiny fists… *happy sigh*
- the bebe was born! Cccuuuuttteeeee. Kit mate? Ok, ok, that’s just me being delusional…leave me be. Lol.

Onto the complaining and some unbelievable stuff.
- I don’t think this was intentional, but I found quite a lot of repetition, but that is the folly of every long term series.
X
Alice Eldridge
PurePsy War

Stuff I’m conflicted about:
- Storylines: basic three with many glimpses of the many couples we’ve come to love. It’s great, but walked the fine line of almost over-crowded storylines and jam packed full of actions.
Hawk and Sienna…mating
Walker and Lara
PurePsy War

Something simple and completely cool: Nikita.

I always suspected Nikita was NOT the evil villain often painted of her, especially for cutting Sascha out. Throughout the series, Nikita often reminded me of a very strict parent with extremely high expectations. Harsh on her own child, wanting said child to excel because she saw the possibilities, and doing what Nikita felt was the best way to protect Sascha. Nikita was more of a misunderstood anti-hero because she was not the motherly all understanding mother we wanted for the heroine we all loved. Instead, she was the type of mother that did what she felt was best for her child, even if it pushed Sascha to the breaking point. Not necessarily a good thing, but Nikita knew what it took to survive. She was a Counselor for goodness sakes, but it was Nikita that raised Sascha and in turn taught Sascha the skills to survive. I’m glad that she stayed true and that Sascha was slowly able to understand her mother rather than the other way around. I have another whole post about mothers in books, but that’s for another day.

Alright, let’s tackle a big one…the issue I’m sure that everyone has already beaten to death…mates - Sienna v Hawke v Rissa.

First off – Mates. I’m guessing this mate stuff was two-fold.
One – Once in a lifetime, one would meet their perfect mate (I hesitate to use the word we’re all thinking because I felt there was more biological explanation than the soul stuff – i.e. pheromones = compatible) where you just know said person was the one.
Two – Then you create the “mating bond” when both mates accepted one another, like a marriage/wedding, but on a deeper level.

(a) There were those that were able have a “mating bond” with another individual even though they were not complete “mates,” but were compatible enough. It works, but not as good (ex. Nate’s parents).
(b) There was also an instance when two were “mates,” but because of not accepting each other never completely the “mating bond” (ex. Indigo’s aunt? the reasons why many of the characters often say “I don’t know if my wolf/cat will accept you”?).
(c) We also had the instance where “mates” found each other too late and were unable to be together at all, much less the “mate-bond” (ex. Riaz?).
(Updated: I read on Orianna’s blog of a speech/Q&A by Ms. Nalini that pretty much blew my theory of (b) and (c) out of the running, but for the sake of my current theories…let me continue).

So…to make the SvHvR work, it would’ve meant, Hawke and Rissa were supposed to be “mates,” but due to age and unexpected death, never completed the “mate-bond.” Sienna and Hawke, then, were compatible in all aspects that they had the “mate-bond” even without being complete “mates,” but were so compatible they might as well be “mates.” Am I still making sense?

Chocolate kudos to Ms. Nalini for being able to logically work through something this complex even though there were much easier ways to cop-out. I had no problems with the development and the logistics of this idea in general. In fact, I found it rather cool and very different from the usual “oh, I know you are the one, we were meant to be, blah blah blah.” I commend Ms. Nalini for being just so darn awesome at her writing skills and extremely high intelligence to make this entire mind blowing idea reasonable and to flow so very well.

Here was my problem… Rissa as a foil. It’s not Ms. Nalini really, but more like a catalyst many many (if not all) writers used. This was something I’ve noticed since I was a very young girl feeling wronged by society/people based on my gender and my life/interests/achievements being designated as secondary or less. To cut a very very long theory/analysis of mine short and to fit only in this novel’s parameters, I felt little Rissa was used. We take a young vulnerable and otherwise good-girl and off her character as the catalyst or emotional strength for a specific character…usually male hero. This was much more prevalent back in the days comic books and super hero cartoons, etc., but we see stuff like this in romance novels all the time. Widow, widower, ex-lover – whether good or bad.

Honestly, in this case, I totally understood why this had to happen. It were no other way under any foreseeable circumstances by my puny brain. We can blame Hawke. He was just too strong of a character (in all the right ways…hard and hot…mmm…ahem) to be stopped. Rissa was used not only to scar and strength Hawke to immeasurable heights; she was also the only possible foil that stopped Hawke from doing something insane, like end the story in the first chapter and pounced on Sienna the moment she turned 18. We all saw how Hawke was the moment he finally decided on Sienna in book. No changes. No compromises. Nothing. Heck, he was willing to give up the Pack to be with her. At the same time, as awesome as he was, Hawke would’ve held back until Sienna was ready. It still would’ve been a hard struggle since even though Sienna was able to hold her own against Hawke, I highly doubt she could win…at least not until Hawke became gorgeously old. Hawke was too strong and powerful. He would have overwhelmed Sienna before she was truly ready and it would not have ended well for all of them. Heck, it was Hawke that snapped the mate-bond with Sienna. He jumped with her – you romantic fool you. *dreamy sigh* As things were, there was no freaking way the story could have progressed at all without such a strong foil – the loss of a mate.

That’s where things also became annoying. I have trouble believing Hawke truly found his mate at such a young age. To be alpha so young – well I can understand it was necessary, but from a psychological point of view…Hawke would have grown up a somewhat…er…more scarred person? I don’t know if that made much sense. My point was: he’s not supposed to be superhuman, but he was. Darn imaginary guy had no flaw. He’s too perfect. You’ve ruined me for other men, Hawke! *shakes fists at book* Not only being alpha, we saw how most mates do not survive each other all that long (i.e. Falcons, Hawke’s parents, Lucas’ parents), but Hawke was beyond a normal alpha. Given the loophole they were too young to have the mating bond, Hawke was able to survive the unsurvivable. On top of that, this mating thing gave a new twist. Was this the traditional type based on soul? The more basic one, on scent? A combination of the two? How does one recognize? Etc… more questions than answers.

And Rissa. Poor dear Rissa, she died at age five for the sole purpose of shaping Hawke. Here’s a thought, though: Do we really not change this much? That from the moment we were children, our characters, patterns, and personalities were determined and the mating bond bordered on meant-to-be/perfect-match/only-one all predestined. If we remove the mate stuff aside, I just did not feel that at age five, it was already determined Rissa was going to be such an idealized version of a woman Hawke imagined. I felt bad for her and in a way, it was kind of creepy. Hawke continued to visit her grave to calm down… He’s a thirty-some year old clinging to the memories and imagine of a five year old. Eh… It just felt wrong sometimes. Maybe when they were teens… but for such a scarred man, Hawke was too whole and perfect. I’m not saying we can’t have young love or a strong personality that stayed with us for our entire lives, but anyone other than Ms. Nalini to write this story, said book would have been thrown into the wall long ago due to plot holes.

As it was, Ms. Nalini did cover the issues well enough. It was through Rissa’s life and death that shaped Hawke to be even stronger and for him to be able to lead the pack so early on. Then again, if his personality/strength/love was all determined the moment he realized Rissa was his mate as such a young age (as we would really have to believe how powerful he was to be able to do such an incredible thing), then Rissa was only used to show that fact.

So, the conclusion was…if it was not Ms. Nalini writing this book, I would not have believed it, much less gained any enjoyment. I read the book more as a stand-alone. Removed most of the Rissa as “mate” and replaced with “deep childhood first love.” Horrible of me, I know. I can’t help it. Part of me also felt that because it was Ms. Nalini, I had even higher (non-reachable) expectation. I felt Ms. Nalini could’ve written the book just as awesome without some of these extra stuff.

Also, I had to fudge Sienna’s age. I’m sorry, but ever since Ms. Meljean’s awesome book that pointed out the nagging feeling I’ve had about the probability of an immortal and a youngen (usually female) in a realistic equal relationship was…not that plausible...it has been hard on all books thereafter. I get that Sienna had to grow up sooner since the age of five, but coupled with Hawke circumstances of having to grow up when a) Rissa’s death and b) alpha at fifteen, the disparity should have be even more so. Yes, intelligence and experience equates maturity more than age, but the experiences within a certain amount of years at a specific time or under certain environmental conditions were factors that were hard to discount so easily. Maybe it was because of personal experience/bias, but even if you’re on the same mental footing, the experience of time and generation never really goes away

So, I fudged their ages to make the relationship more plausible for my brain. I’m so very sorry, Ms. Nalini, I’m not reading the book as intended. Please don’t hate me. I did love this book for all the intensities, intricacies and relationships, but that was also the problem for me. There were just too many people, too many storylines and just too much all at once my small brain couldn’t handle it anymore. Even with your brilliant writing, I felt certain parts to be abrupt or I simply had to pause in confusion. Sometimes, it felt out of place, but your writing was wonderful.

Still, when Sienna and Hawke finally mated…it was awesome. I loved how everyone reacted and I’m sure I was not supposed to laugh, but I did. Hawke’s absoluteness, but also unsure what happened. Sienna’s shock and fear. Jeb and Hawke’s interaction right after things calmed down, “It was you!” Hehehe. It was funny to me, in the best way possible. Heck, I’m smiling right not just writing about it. Whatever the reason, the fact Sienna and Hawke mated was a beautiful thing to witness. Now, I just need to wait for Kit to get his mate. ;D Sorry, part of me still wished Sienna and Kit would’ve mated, but I know… Hawke came first. Ehehehe.

Let’s talk Walker and Lara.
I do believe it has become a universal truth that Walker and Lara were just too cute together. Their storyline was a huge highlight and balance to the rest of the plot. Their relationship was deep, intense and very loving in the most unexpectedly glorious way. There was such unbelievable tenderness I could’ve cried. I really loved their combination. Really really loved them. They somehow just fit so well together in was incredible. Perfect. Reading their story so made me want to go back to the series and see more of them, which I did. Lol. They were great. How could I have missed them entirely? What kind of annoyed me though was also because their story was spliced in with KoS. The jumping back and forth between all the storylines was quite irritating. Sometimes, I just wanted to see more of Sienna/Hawke, or just Lara/Walker. But the simultaneous storyline was frustrating and I had to switch gears almost between chapters and paragraphs. Instead of going insane, I split them up and read them separately as separate stories. Example: at the end, L/W were having hot smexy scenes, but S/H scenes were fade to black. What the heck? Gimme both! Lol. I know, so spoiled am I to Ms. Nalini’s awesome writing.

And to skirt the political issues of abortion, I was not surprised that it was used as a male catalyst, but was definitely an improvement from the usual “blame-game.” The path it took was also pretty interesting that no blatant preaching was in the place, but it did take the path of all romance novels. So, definitely interesting to read. Not ready to tackle politics in romance novel yet, so let me move on.

Ok, onto some actual straight up confusions and problems I had reading the book. *gasps* I know, as if the above wasn’t complaining already. I’m sure you’re all breathlessly awaiting the below. Lol. Ok, so here we go.

PurePsy

The PurePsy War, for lack of a better reference, was intense and a very good development. It was a very realistic storyline that continued a grew from the previous books. Even as complicated as the Psy/Changeling books were, I felt that had I just picked up this book, I would have still been able to follow this storyline. The PurePsy was a somewhat subtle criticism on our world and the problems of fanatic racism. Oh, the joys of alternate world for analysis of contemporary politics/events. The plot worked well for me up to a point and I enjoyed the progression. It also gave more diverse points of view on the situation and not label them all as evil.

What did NOT work for me was the complete lack of heavy casualty on the people we love. Not that I want anything to happen to my adored characters, but for such a large scale battle where all F-Psy saw fire and metal and blood…it was rather…clean? Yes, there were severe and life-threatening injuries. The story did show the severity and seriousness of war as well as the resilience of people. Ms. Nalini has always been great at bringing our favorite characters to the brink of total destruction/death and then saving them. I chock that up with love. Lol. The sonic blast disabled the Changelings? What a stroke of Ms. Nalini’s genius. I was shocked, worried, and excited that the PurePsy were able to develop weapons that used the Changelings’ strength against them. Shocked that I didn’t think of something like that first (I know, aren’t I horrible). Worried at how it will be used in the future. And excited at how it will be used in the future. What was upsetting, what the low body count. Again, I don’t want to kill off my favorite characters and any loss would’ve made me heart-wretched sad. Still, the fact so many people did NOT die, left open to more questions. If I were to believe there were next to no casualties on our favorite side, why would the PurePsy want to hold them as prisoner over outright killing them as previously intended. So, with that unexplained and severe casualties, it left me with a slight feeling of disbelief. Not necessarily bad, but disbelief nonetheless or that I’m missing something. Which leads us to the X designation…

X-Psy
Ok, X-fire. The powers of the X designation was finally revealed and explained. Overall, it was very interesting. It read as something unique and awesome, but the word pyrokinetics kept popping itself into my mind. I loved how this ability was so ingrained into how Sienna was as an individual. Her actions and beliefs were influenced and controlled by the knowledge (and lack of knowledge) about her abilities. This was definitely unique in its own right and I did love how the hint of how Walker’s ability was tied to help alter the X-designation throughout the series.

What did not work for me was this now unlimited energy/power resource for the Snowdances. Actually, at the climax of the fight where Sienna walked out and started incinerating everything…well, that was a very awesome move, but when the fire went out of control and started to consume all in its path…don’t hate me, please don’t hate me…but it felt overly dramatic. Only those the fire recognized were safe? What about the woodchucks? The squirrels and birds? What about the bees and insects? The irreplaceable flowers? Yes, the Sequoias have natural fire retardants, but not everything else. Normally, I probably would not have cared, but lately, I’ve really gotten into botany. So while it was awesome cool, it was also too movie style for me. Ms. Nalini wrote it awesome, but I am personally a little tired of the overdramatics that fit almost cinematic expectations. Although, I would love for this series to be made into film/tv series...then I totally would not mind this X-fire thing. :D Hollywood? Ya listening? *ahem* To continue...

The second part of the X-fire which was mentioned earlier…it has now become an unlimited source of healing and strengthening energy for the SnowDancers. I’m sure Ms. Nalini did this for a reason and we will be able to reap the rewards later on in the series, but as of now…I felt bereft. It made me all confused and full of unnameable feelings. I know there’s more depth to all of this. The double-edged sword of power that was simultaneously destructive can equally give life (sort of) and it all fell down to how it was used. The rejection of emotions causes destruction whereas the disruptions caused by emotions were probably the only links that held everything together. The balance of life and death lingered upon the depth of love.

And leading us to…Alice (gosh, I do love my name hahaha) Eldridge.

Alice Eldgridge
Lastly, Alice Eldridge. I did enjoy reading her notes throughout the book. It was great to see how the whole storyline tied back to this single human woman a hundred years ago that learned more than most people now. A little critique about how much knowledge we’ve lost in the race for technology, Ms. Nalini? Lol, kidding. I’m sure that’s just my political mind stealing itself into place. She was such a mystery that it was a great insight to have. What I was rather upset about was…she’s alive. Shaved, naked, unconscious, brainwiped, a century into the future alive... Not cool. Enough said.

Also, I it was through her that we began to see parts of the Ghost that many readers had hoped for – something akin to kindness but not truly that kept him dangerous. I enjoyed seeing more of the Ghost, but with so many discussions on this guy, I’ve kind of given up on trying to figure him out. Part of me wants the Ghost to be a certain person and part of me does not.

Now, the expansion of this world…it has been awesome, but in this book, was a double-edge sword. Luckily, Ms. Nalini was very good at that line of keeping all the various storylines and characters well tied together. Any moment when I felt a twinge overwhelmed, or too distracted, Ms. Nalini was able to pull all the diverse points of views back together.

I totally could have done without Jed and Brenna smex scenes though. As wonderful as it was to see glimpses of everyone’s lives, it did rely on the reader’s love of the previous characters to enjoy the photo-stops. Sascha and Luca’s baby, Naya, was born. It was definitely a highly anticipated progression of the series. It was so sweet how everyone reacted. The intensity of the love of the pack and the solidification of the wolves and leopards all clearly illustrated. Then again, the way this bond between child’s minds was written bordered on certain politics and science that I shall avoid discussing at the moment. I just loved how Sienna was there. How Lucas reacted. Later, Hawke holding Naya. It was the sweetest thing.

So, overall, this was a great book. I know you wouldn’t think so because of all the above. Then again, you’ll notice I spent all my time thinking and analyzing the book on the few key points the aggravated me. Sounds insane, but I actually really loved this book. I read it all in one day. Then I read it a second time...same day. I subsequently read this everyday for two weeks. Yes, I'm insane. Thank you for letting me use this blog (and the above rant) as a form of cleansing of the hiccups I had with the book. I wonder how many people actually read it through. Lol.

Ok, I need some rest now. *collapses*

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day Three: Play of Passion


It's Day 3! Happy Mid-Week! I hope everyone is surviving. I'm pretty sure I'm not, but oh well. What can I do. Oh yea, read. Hehehe.

Another short review. Hmm, feels like I'm just waiting for last review to information dump. Not good. >_<

Play of Passion by Nalini Singh

Indigo and Drew, oh Indigo and Drew. I was soooo unsure how this was story was going to work out and I don’t know why I ever worried? First off, I heart Indigo and Drew like no tomorrow. An ass-kicking, no-nonsense female lieutenant Indigo? The awesome funny, observant and loving sweetheart Andrew? Talk about a change of pace for the romance novels around. I loved it! I was very excited to know Indigo and Andrew were going to be mates. It was also interesting to see what Drew really did for the pack. This was also our first older woman-younger man story (which I’m not usually into, but this was Ms. Nalini writing) and it was great. I loved how all these conflicts came into play.

Indigo had tied with Mercy as two of my favorite characters. Both strong women on equal ground and were high level surrounded by males. They were very high up on the hierarchy and had to be strong. At the same time, both were very feminine in their own way. I love strong female characters. We don’t have enough of those in books anywhere. Although Indigo had her overly stubborn moments, she was not the usual annoyingly headstrong type. Instead, she was much more balanced, willing to admit wrongs plus learn and adapt to be with Drew. That makes her an incredible character. Smart, sassy, and so funny in a snarky way at times I just couldn’t help but laugh out loud. And the slow relationship with Drew, it was darn sexy.

Drew was also one of my favorite. I know so many people that drool over those alpha males, but I’m always more into the types that had a sense of humor to them. Which meant they were usually beta. Drew was a great balance of both. He had quite a lot of alpha qualities, but also this funny ease about him that I adored. I also loved how Ms. Nalini also pointed this aspect of his personality out. Even though Drew was the tracker (ergo, very strong and powerful), he did not let near-death, loss of family, and all those other usual “reasons” get him down. And cute little Platty? Major awwwwww… I prefer heroes like Drew…wish there were more. :)

I have my reservations about some aspects of this book, but those were just minor things easily resolved/overlooked. Ex: This hierarchy thing...eh... Drew gets shot again...eh... Sienna steals the scene...nice. Hahaha.

Both Drew and Indigo were freaking stubborn and it was both a good and bad thing. Their solid playful yet tender relationship was a great one indeed. I have a huge soft spot for people that have known each other when they’re young, grow up and realized they were in love. It’s sweet (and probably one I had secretly longed for – it’s ok, I got the old guy). And the smex scenes…woooo *fans self to cool down*.

Even with all the series moments, I felt this was a more light-hearted book, if only because it was Drew. Heart funny guys.

A good book that adds to the series. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day Two: Bonds of Justice

Welcome to day 2 of my insanity. Don't worry...it's a short one. Long review will be at the end. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Fyi: All my reviews will have spoilers.

Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh

Again, this book took me by surprise. One, I did not expect a book to be written about for Max so soon, nor did I expect it to be so darn good. Ms. Nalini…one of the genius writers around. A balanced blend of characters and storyline – this was an exceptional read. First, we have Sophia Russo, the Justice Psy. She was assigned to help get into the minds of a serial killer for the locations of the women he tortured and killed. Second, Counselor Nikita decided to hire Sophia and Max to discover and stop whoever had been killing her people. Now assigned together on two cases, Sophia and Max began their odd and intense relationship together, all the while, the threat of rehabilitation loomed for Sophie. I couldn’t help it, I’m just all up in this book. The two characters together really burned up the pages. :D
The triple storyline would have been too much, but they were done so well.

Sophia was another fascinating and awesome character. Strong, damaged, realistic and smart. Ms. Nalini sure writes very realistic women, equally damaged and strong – powerful, yet vulnerable. The one moment I knew I loved Sophie was when she spoke of her past…that she’ll never forget the three other children that were destroyed by the world Silence had created, it was so quietly powerful.

Max was the breath of air Sophia needed. With his natural mental shields, Max was literally a physical link and haven for Sophia’s nearly broken shields. Max, max, max. He was awesome. I really loved his character. Strong, sweet and somehow so unassuming. I loved how he was considered the “pretty” one and so many women kept hitting on him. Also, his interaction with his cat was hilarious. Made me love cats more even though I’m a dog person. Hehehe.

The relationship between Sophia and Max was great. They complemented each other so well it was incredibly moving. Whenever they were together, the pages would have burned up. Especially the little notes/letters they passed to each other that start off each new chapter. I loved those so much. It was just too sexy and cute at the same time. They teased and tormented each other, but at the same time gave unconditional support. The end was lovely too.

The only thing that felt slightly out of place was River. It felt a little too rushed at the end. Everything else…perfect. All the storylines interconnected so well it blew my mind away.

Favorite: Everything

Least Favorite: Don’t know because I wiped it from my mind. Hahaha.

Conclusion: Awesome

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day One: Blaze of Memory


Welcome to my Nalini Singh week. This has been over a month in the making as I started this right after Kiss of Snow. I will finish up the series quickie review mode until Friday where the bulk of my analysis on KoS will come out. Most of this week will be me insanely gushing and saying what I love about each book. Let me start where I left off… Blaze of Memory.

Blaze of Memory
by Nalini Singh

This novel took me by complete surprise and it was good. In this novel, we were introduced to the intricacies of the world of The Forgottens – descendants of the original Psy rebels. Dev Santos, current board leader of The Shine Foundation (an organization that connected and protected those of the Forgottens) walked out of his home to find an unconscious half starved beaten woman on his doorstep. It was Ekaterina, a Psy scientist that worked with Ashaya from previous books. She was presumed dead during the lab explosion, but had actually been kidnapped and tortured by Counselor Ming. The fact the main lead was Katya was a testament of how Ms. Nalini’s ability to surprise the reader (in the best way possible). Talk about reviving a character from the dead, although I’m sure Ms. Nalini had it all planned out. :)

As Katya had her mind torn into and completely tortured out, she had to re-develop herself and her abilities. This allowed for more information about the Psy without ever feeling like everything was just dumped on the reader. Katya was such a strong character in one of the gentlest ways, how else would she have survived the way she did. She was surprisingly sweet, but also packed a punch when needed to. I loved how she did not let anything or anyone keep her down. Not even Dev.

Dev was an interesting character: dark and tortured, and completely aware of it. He’s the epitome of the tortured alpha male. As with all Ms. Nalini’s heroes, he still had the incredibly strong streak of protectiveness and general mushiness. I enjoyed how Dev also brought to light some of the problems humans (the Forgottens, really) faced as well as the toll of being a leader. His abilities were also a good change from what we knew about Psy abilities. It was also fascinating to see the Forgotten’s own system and the problems they encountered.

Katya and Dev completed each other in a way that was hard to explain. They were both strong and weak in different aspects and together, they were able to hold each other up. Dev’s past was rather devastatingly sad, but at the same time, he was so very protective and strong. Katya was all alone in the world, broken and hurt, but she was stronger than even she imagined. Together, they made yet another perfect couple.

The basic storyline was also much more focused, although I am noticing Ms. Nalini’s trend of several storylines wrapped up in one: frictions within the Shine Foundation, Katya’s instinctive drive to go North, changing powers of Forgottens, and the newly found child of Forgottens. Even so, the main focus was about Katya and Dev’s relationship. Both their inability to trust Katya because Ming had done something to her mind was a very intense conflict, but Dev’s devotion to Katya even knowing the dangers was all the sweeter for this book. Their attraction was almost tangible and leapt off the pages.

Favorite part: Dev was thinking and woke Katya up, she sleepily told him to stop broadcasting.

Butt-kicking part: Katya telling Ming she’s really not that stupid and bang! Awesome!

A few hiccups:
The whole storyline about the chase North was a bit anticlimactic. It was important that Katya had a mission and whatnot, and it also revealed more of the breaking down of Silence, but it was rather distracting at times. I figured it would be a card for future usage, but it kinda of never came up again. There were a few other things that kind of made me pause, but did not take away from the enjoyment of the story.

The jumping back and forth between all the different information was distracting. Main storylines aside, the extra information of the letters from the past as coupled with the Earthtwo Logs were all interplaced. I ended up just reading them all separate to keep things more clear.

Overall, I found this book to be another great story to the Psy/Changeling series.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lisa Kleypas or Nalini Singh?

I have some reviews...which author should be next week and which author for the week after?
Lisa Kleypas first? Or Nalini Singh first?

That is the question.

What is not in question is they both will be posted. Hahahaha.

FYI - Large reviews. Especially NS's. Hehehehe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem by Marguerite Kaye

Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem by Marguerite Kaye

Dear Super Librarian,

I blame you. First you addict me to Maggie Osborne and westerns after she already retired. Then, you continually feed loving books to my local library (and the RWA was brilliant enough to recognize your awesomeness). I’m utterly spoiled by you enough as it is, and now this? This…re-obsession to category romances? Why, SuperLibrarian, why must you write that cool review?

After years of traumatization by the Westerns/Sheikh series of some authors *coughdianapalmercough*, I finally got away from certain/most category romances. Years of teasing by friends may have also dissuaded me some from obsessively buying every month all the Harlequin/Silhouette series, but I was getting better! I read only occasionally and was very selective. I know longer stared at the monthly stands at the bookstore deciding which series/category to buy. Everything was under control. The overly…er…simple social world of romance (i.e. ideologies) were getting annoying. Many stories were papercut copies. I was never into the sheikhs anyways, so it was easy to let go. Plus, the smex scenes weren’t cutting it with all those semi-fade to black and flowery insanity. Eheheheeack *chokes on cackle*

Then, here you were, writing your wonderful reviews…brainwashing me with such good books that called out to me…over and over until I finally caved and was unable to resist any longer… I bought Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem. And my goodness were your right in your assessments of said book. I’d write the author, but I blame you so you get my letter/review. That’s what you get for being my favorite Librarian. I’ve fallen back on the wagon (not that I was ever off, but I was better!) and have gone back the ways of ignorant virgin heroines and powerful borderline-ass heroes. Oh secret obsession, I’m back.

Super Librarian, you were right. Don’t you just love hearing that? :) This was one of the better books I’ve read in a while. I would even graduate it from category romance, but then that would make it seem as if category romance was lesser – which it’s NOT. Category romance rocks! So, let me throw some confetti and let’s celebrate. *throws two handful of sugar confetti up into the air* *grabbed some more, stares at tiny hand clutched around sugary goodness and hesitates* *stuffs mouth with sugar* Nommummmumm.

*ahem* Onto the review…

Let me just say, the book was very good. It was everything you had mentioned and more. This was one of the more culturally and socially balanced stories I’ve read in a real long while, much less a Harlequin/Silhouette (well, western romance in general). There were still some of the basic troupes: virgin widow and all that encompassed (one of my fav.), a high powered man (sheikh, businessman – more meh for me), Western culture educated, the exoticification of the orient as more seductive and open, etc. etc. On top of that, we must have the big misunderstanding. But this book did it all better. Heh.

The story stayed true to the time period to a certain extent and although in an alternate world, the information felt true.

Lady Celia – daughter of diplomat (ergo, Papa encouraged her to have more of a brain), oldest of five girls, Celia was in an arranged marriage with George, her Papa’s Protégé. While on travel to A’Qadiz (the author likened it to Arabia), George was killed running away from a fight. Celia was shown to be very pragmatic and with a cool head upon her shoulders. Even though the constant reiteration that Celia had the mind of a man was grating to the feminist in me, I do appreciate it stayed true to the time. In the past, it was a compliment to have the mind of man since men were supposedly superior so I let it pass.

Celia was a little too balanced in my opinion, but I really loved how she was a character that was willing to admit the truth to herself as well as apologize for her mistakes. She’s not only smart, but there were no TSTL decisions or moments. Celia was sincere and truthful, a very strong woman with such a streak of common sense it was incredibly fun to read. I found it a bit odd for them to feel that it was normal for women to be educated though. It was actually uncommon at the time. Being headstrong and speaking one’s mind for women was not only frowned upon, but would have gotten said woman in a lot of trouble. Aside from that minor thing, I very much enjoyed Celia.

Ramiz of A’Qadiz was actually the younger son. He became Prince when his older brother was killed. The guy had to be European educated and wanting to “modernize” his culture, but that was where the similarities to common sheikh stories end. Ramiz was a modern man that was sincerely very respectful to the old ways and cultures he was raised – which was freaking refreshing for once. None of that constant criticism saying one culture was better…only that change was necessary and the importance of peace (I love an alpha male like that). One thing I did enjoy about this whole virgin trope, was the type of value placed on it by the hero. Rather fear a virgin as one would a leper, the way it was tied with the idea of honor as part of the culture…well, it was just refreshing to read. I would like to point out the Ramiz did border on almost being too much of an A-hole, bomb-like temper and all around muleheadness. The author was good at pulling back just in time that he wasn’t completely unlikable.

I very much focused on the romance between these two characters. The conflicts felt very real as to why the two was able to be together and it kept me guessing how it would be resolved. It was not some flimsy, “I’m not good enough for you” or “evil woman between us” or the usual blah blah blah excuses. There were actual social and political reasons that were very grounded and very realistic. At the same time, I found that I was able to believe in the HEA for these two characters. The author was very good at showing how the two characters were very similar in their own ways. Even Ramiz commented on it several times and I enjoyed seeing a bit of role reversal where Celia was the more level headed one.

As for the intimate scenes…wow. I must have stayed away from these books for much too long because there was quite a lot of sexual tension and increasing smex acts. Most was done quite well. A few scenes were kind of funny to read and I raised my tiny brows at a few others.
There were some over-the-top scenes, but that was expected. Even so, the big Misunderstanding was very interestingly done. Again, no TSTL decisions, no life-and-death in the balance to make the characters realize their love (they were smart enough to do it on there own!), and resolution felt true to character. Overall, this was a very good book. I re-read it a few times already and am really debating if I should get sucked back into these type of brain candy… It’s rather good. And I am rather looking forward to the next installment.

Thank you, Super Librarian. You really are my favorite Librarian (plus all the ones from school… >_<).

With Love~~~

P.S. Now someone please give me recommendations for virgin heroines and decent heroes!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shock! Childhood attack!

The Secret Circle is being made into a TV series? Say what?!!! O_o X_x *gasp* *dies*

Confession time, I was once a long time addict of young adult novels. Whether it be Paul Zindel (coming of age), Scott O’Dell (strong young women, history of California, coming of age), Christopher Pike (awesome mythologies), or R.L. Stine (twisted horrors), I downed them like a chocolate addict in an all you can eat chocolatier shop. One of the few female authors I adored at the time with L.J. Smith (Lisa Jane Smith, now using the pen name LJ. Smith). With the resurgence of vampire lurv thanks to a certain series, apparent re-interest in old series of friends were now everywhere. For years, the only way to get an old book of L.J. Smith was to pay 5x the value online (I have several copies). You had to wonder what took the publishers so long.

The Vampire Diaries TV series disappointed me soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much, despite having one of my favorite actors play one of my favorite characters (*Damien foreveh, suck that Stephen mutheh**** coughs* ahem). The books themselves were also not my favorite considering, but were still pretty dark for those days. They had their own merits.

The Nightworld Series has yet to end after almost 15 years of waiting. Even though The Chosen from the series was still an all time favorite, but Strange Fate you foolish book, screw you! I’m not waiting anymore!

Dark Visions kicked darkness @$$, but it’s got nothing on The Forbidden Game. Nightmares... Then came The Secret Circle. Oh my loves, this was a good witch book.

Can you imagine how much I screamed (and in the process took the soul of my guy and ate 10 years off his life? Thank you, dear old man for sticking with me for so long…even during my screaming modes) when I saw the commercial for the new TV Series? Granted, I’m excited. This would be like Charmed and Buffy had a baby that was one of my longest companion during a rough and turbulent time in all angsty adolescents’ life. It was a good book. First thing I did, called my little cousin whom also loved these books as much as I did (who’d you think introduced her? Hehehehehe).

Now I am filled with nervous anticipation. I already know I’ll be watching it just to see. Decades in the making. Now I just need to wait for Christopher Pike’s to come out. I believe he was one of the few where there were some real sexual innuendos and such. Good stuff. Can’t believe I read them. Hahahaha

What a flashback...memories and dreams long past. Any childhood books that got turned into TV/movie for you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (story) and Michael Martchenko (art)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (story) and Michael Martchenko (art)

It was the fairytale/folklore binge...this obsession with childhood storybooks came back to whisper in my ear how delightful it would be to revisit my long lost heartfelt friends.

The Paper Bag Princess was one of those friends that made such a huge impression on me as a child, but slowly faded to obscurity as I caved into the mounting social pressures to fit in. Maybe I’m one of those twisted fools those literary snobs–I mean– literary geniuses that make a sport of comparing romance novel’s as trash and us readers as nitwits. Let me just proudly say, I like to learn from the books I read, to believe in the morals and lessons within stories and think outside the invisible box…

If I could be like Princess Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess, I totally would. The dragon came and burned everything up. Prince Roland was kidnapped and the castle destroyed, Elizabeth dons a paper bag as a dress and goes off to rescue the Prince. She outsmarts the dragon and saves the day. BUT, the Prince complained that his rescuer was not dressed like a Princess! So the Princess told him what an ugly person he really was and went off on her way. How awesome was this book? Very. Lol.

How was this not turning the usual fairytale on its head? A strong smart young woman – we should all be so lucky to have such a role model. This was the type of stories I looked for as a child. A short storybook for the children, but it was such a good reminder. :)

Conclusion: A definite read and keep for ever!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Rarely do I ever find a book like this and to have bought this on a whim = incredible and awesome. I was just walking by the rows and rows of books, laminating to myself “oh books books everywhere, where’s the one for me?” When I stopped in my tracks so fast I would have tipped over and fell flat on my face if my quick reflex had not kicked in and I clung onto dear shelf. I’m horrible for doing it, but sometimes judge books by their covers.

Sometimes.

*cowers in the corner shivering* Please don’t judge me.

Now you know one of my darkest secrets, I like nice covers and it sometimes influences me to buy…at random. I’m so sorry writing gods! It’s horribly shallow of me, but some covers just made me wonder what drug those people were on… Now, back to the topic…I saw this cover and fell in love. Just take a look at it, is it not just adorable? How does this cover not just a whisper of the ancient stories I heard while huddled next to those of our Grandparents’ generation?

Much like older generations oral tales, the narrative of this book reminded me of Arabian Nights’ story within a story. The main storyline was of Minli and her quest and through her adventure the reader was introduced to the stories of others. The writings were beautifully interwoven with slightly altered collection of well known Chinese folklores and stories. It was especially entertaining for me to recognize almost all the sources of the many tales written, the tweaks/versions and how it was important to the main storyline. So many Chinese folktales in there I grew up with, a wave of nostalgia took root and refused to go away until I watched some Tales of a Chinese Ghost Studio and re-read some more. :D

A fantasy adventure story of a young girl set out with one goal: to help her family. Along the way, she befriends a dragon, met the Emperor and learns a valuable lesson. I really would love more stories with a strong and smart young heroine on an adventure. Not full of angst and love triangles or some doomness in life (even though there were dangers and a few scares). Here, even when the main character was separated from the parents, we do not have the usual absentee adults. Heck, when Minlin first ran away, her parents dropped everything and tried find her. They gave up a little earlier than I expected and resigned themselves to waiting, but even so, the parents was not just written off. Imagine that, parents that exist in the young adult world. ;) Throughout the story, on top of the adventure story of Minlin, we continued to see growth in the adults. How cool was that?

Ok, I’m just super biased, but I can’t help it! This was just such a refreshing read. It was simple and straight forward. There were a few surprises as well as some expected revelation. I especially enjoyed the fact that we learn through stories. As Minli traveled on her quest, the characters she met would tell their stories from their own point of view. Whether it be a goldfish, the lion statues at the gate, or the lucky children she met, they all had a story to tell and somehow, they all blended together.
And was this not what we do everyday?

Even when we ask “hey, how’s it going?” We, intentionally or not, were asking an individual to recount an experience for the day/week/month/year as form of ‘oral story telling,” but I digress yet again. You can always tell my love for fairytales. Sometimes I wondered why I never went into folklore…oh yeah, sold everything for sense of security… boo!

The writing was for a younger audience, but the prose was very smooth and descriptive enough to satisfy an older audience. Such a simple story which made it a very quick read. I was also very surprised the author also drew the designs and pictures in the book. I’m also not sure how she did it, but even the titles were in color. Awesome. Every aspect while reading this reminded me for a parent cuddling a young child in bed late at night reading this book. I love how tradition was interlinked, how there was a story to every reason why. Using stories to teach and explain, this was how elders taught children back in the day. I think the stories in this book would work as a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with Chinese mythologies and folklores.

I definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this author in the future. And why didn’t I have these wonderful books growing up? Maybe I would’ve been a little less twisted. Hahaha.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

in the gardens...

Sold myself to the corporation and continued to slave away this past week. I am exhausted.
I got lazy and haven't posted, but I at least had the time to live vicariously through all you lovely ladies at RWA. It sounded wonderful. :) Thanks for letting me view all the wonderful pictures, experiences and masses of books that I would love to roll around them. Lol. Kidding, sorta.

So, in place of anything substantial... here’s a mini update on my somewhat surviving garden.

Lookie – my first Calendula flower bloomed. :D So tempted to pluck the thing and eat it…or rub it all over my face. It’s good skincare stuff. Lol. Alas, I resisted. It was too beautiful in bloom.
My sunflowers are growing tall (in the background) and I really need to fix up my comfrey plants. Can’t wait until they bloom too. :) Enjoy~~~