02.15.2015

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Tiger’s Curse was recommended to me by a friend who told me I would absolutely love it back in 2011 when it came out. Life got in the way and I forgot it was on my shelf for four years, then I got bored and decided it was about time I read it. My first mistake with this book was assuming that it would be the typical adventure that I love reading, what with a friend suggesting it for me specifically. Had I actually taken the time to read the inside cover of the book to prepare myself I would have realized it was a romance novel, at least as far as YA romance novels go.
I won’t judge the book for being a romance novel but I will say I have a number of problems with it. First, the way romance is treated in the book concerns me. I won’t cry bestiality the way some people cry pedophilia with the Twilight Saga, but when one character tells another something along the lines of, “you’re never leaving me, no matter how much you want to,” and the author chooses to word the situation in a way that means to make it romantic, I get a little scared to continue the series. In any real world scenario that wouldn’t be cute or sexy. That would be a giant red flag. That would be the point where I call the cops.
My second problem with the book is that it isn’t a romance that builds around the story, it’s a story that tries to attach itself to the romance with elmer’s glue. The trials that the characters go through seem horribly insignificant, like you can just substitute any randomly picked ancient trial cliché for what actually happens in the book and the plot wouldn’t change. I had hoped while reading this that there would at least be some kind of adventure in between the romantic bits but once again I was wrong. For most of the book you can’t go more than maybe five pages before the two romantic characters start going at it again. One point in particular seriously irritates me, where the two are meant to be sneaking past guards and decide to get into a tickle fight for ten minutes while flailing around a flashlight. Yet the guards never even notice they’re there.
My last problem with the story is that all but two of the named characters seem to suffer from either bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder, or some combination of the two. It’s one thing to have a flat, predictable character and another to have one who seems to be a different person every time they show up. Kelsey, the protagonist, seems to go back and forth between awkward high school graduate, crazy cat lady, Laura Croft, helpless little twelve year old, and lovesick puppy depending on which of the personalities seems to best fit the author’s mood.

I hate that my first review had to be a negative one, but I can’t lie for a book that was this bad. 1.5 out of 5.

02.10.2015

Soulless by Gail Carriger

I often wonder what kind of world would it be if the dark creatures of the night (vampires, werewolves and ghosts—mummies?) lived among us—the normal, fragile, meat-bags mortals. Well for one thing—the current pop obsession over suave vampires that glitter in the sun and the insanely ripped werewolves would probably never make it on television or inspire plenty of fan fiction submissions. Gail Carriger brings in another possibility of living with the supernatural. Soulless is set in steampunk Victorian London, where men were gentlemen and women were ladies—in public.

Mere mortals need not worry about the carnal inclinations of their fellow supernatural citizens, for they are bound by their own set of laws and customs that has perpetuated their cursed existence for centuries. I personally love this book because it is the perfect blend of humor and good ol’ cynicism. I am not a fan of romantic angst and long winded internal dialogues. Leixia Tarrabotti is a proud lady of good…um, breeding. She is not exactly a wall flower but she’s undeniably a walking contradiction. She’s an outcast in what seems to be a typical, and of course insufferable, English “high” society; however she’s is also, much to her own ignorance, a desired commodity to the shadowy figures that run the Vampire hives and Werewolf lairs.

In some respects, she is to be feared especially by the supernatural folks. You will just have to read the first book of the series to find out why. Before I end this blog post, may I suggest a cup of lemon tea with a dish of delicious assorted pastries to accompany your journey through this book? Oh and don’t forget your napkin sweet poppet—interactions with the supernatural (or at least reading about it) will be quite the undertaking.

11.28.2014

The Sultan’s Harem by Colin Falconer

I had this friend in high school who vented his problems out to me almost every week—usually Mondays. And 98% of the time the problem is his girlfriend or something involving her. After the umpteenth time of him complaining, I just had to ask him the obvious question: “Why are you still with her?” His reply was very obvious for a hormone raging teenage guy: “because she’s hot!” So because she is “hot” she bears no responsibility to the degradation of their relationship. Congratulations Mother Nature, eons of evolution brought us thumbs but not enough common sense. I’m not sure if my friend was a glutton for punishment or simply was not very bright.

In my previous post on the book Scarlet in the Snow, I said love can make you do stupid things. In this post, I would like to amend that statement. True, love can make you do stupid things but lust can make you do unspeakable—even psychotic, crazy things. I imagine this book to be a real conversation starter in many academic circles or a very spirited book club; The Sultan’s Harem, as I imagine, would make Hefner’s playboy mansion look like a Holiday Inn. The Harem itself contains the many beautiful women of the Ottoman Empire and it is here where secret liaisons are made and broken, conspiracies and bodily fluids are exchanged—just like a terrible rerun episode of MTV’s Real World, only with a lot of decapitations, and less tanning. 

The author does a very good job of describing the settings in the story. It almost made me wish it was possible to be transported back into 16th century Constantinople. But then again, I would hate to live with a man who never had anyone say “no” to him and keep their head. Also there’s something disturbing about living in fear for your life everyday; where everything you do must please the Sultan or, as you will find out in the book, the women living in his harem.

11.28.2014

Scarlet in the Snow by Sophie Masson

It is a tale as old as time—and this book is a remix…or pre-mix? Scarlet in the Snow is a retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast”. Although it is not new for classic fairy tales to be rewritten, they are generally horrible or pale in comparison to the “original”. It is safe to assume that people, in general, tend to stick or like is or are familiar to them. It’s like the movie versus book debate. Some people like the movie, some like the book depending on which medium they are accustomed to. In this case — call off the mob – Scarlet in the Snow is a fairy tale—retold, that can stand on its own.

Our heroine Natasha was taken into what I perceived to be an enchanted forest—not exactly an original concept but I like that it’s occupied by others instead of the usual trolls, elves, talking animals etc. It is here is where she meets the Beast wallowing in his sorrow and anger. She was able to infer who he was before his misfortune credited by her inquisitive nature and curious mind. She quickly deduced that he was someone of social and financial affluence; but it was her empathy that made her connection to the beast apparent.

Natasha had two sisters who adored the life at the city. The city had nightly balls that afforded her sisters the chance to dress in beautiful gowns and jewelry; and it also gave an opportunity to mingle with handsome and rich suitors. Such opulence only repulsed Natasha and for good reason. Natasha had other, much more pressing matters to attend to. For one thing, she needs to solve the mystery shrouding the beast: his past, his curse, his name! Her journey takes her through different kingdoms, speak different languages, and take on different identities. She didn’t exact had gone to hell and back for true love but far enough to make us believe: that love makes us do stupid—in this case, dangerous—things.

11.21.2014

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

A very interesting book. Loved how the cover drew me in, but the plot kept me within the covers. I loved the book to bird (Sir Bird) character. Sir Bird added in a interesting concept to the plot. White did a great job at creating the plot along with creating an ending, realistic with the characters. One I would always recommend.

 

11.21.2014

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Awesome book. Zinn did a great job at making the story line cute, funny and very interesting. Has a great plot twist, and a great set of characters.

11.20.2014

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The Japanese Geisha: Most westerners believe that geishas are generally prostitutes—culturally accepted prostitutes. They sing; they dance; they make you feel welcome into the country or at least in the tea house. However, Arthur Golden’s tale of Chiyo transforming into the fascinating maiden Sayuri goes in depth to describe geishas as true artists who live their lives as artworks while simultaneously carrying a burden that many in the world cannot.

They are artists; a figment of every man’s fantasy manufactured and brought to life in a harsh and unforgiving world. They make great party hostesses. They entertain their guests, especially the men, and dazzle the eyes of the rest with their intricate hairstyles and beautiful kimonos. It seems they are more objects than human—perhaps an object of every man’s desires? Seeing this story unfold through the eyes of Sayuri one may begin to wonder if being an object to someone is better than being who you truly are.

Sayuri’s story isn’t exactly a Cinderella tale; but it is a coming of age story about a young girl with deep, beautiful blue eyes who overcame so much cruelty in order to blossom into a woman worth more than the silk that make up her fabulous kimonos. It’s sweet to view the work through Sayuri’s eyes as a child—or Chiyo the pre-Sayuri—where life, no matter how dreary it was at the end of the day it was her life. It was familiar and relatively safe. Then came the unfortunate day she lost all certainty and her family, only to be ushered into the less hospitable ‘okiya of Mother Nitta; where she was groomed into becoming a Geisha. She resisted at first but her run-in with the Chairman gave her a new purpose in life; which was all that was lacking when you’ve lost everything and everyone.

All she needed was a purpose and she found it through the Chairman’s generosity and through Gion’s famous Geisha, Mameha’s tutelage. It’s safe to assume Sayuri in the end surpassed her mentor; although in the book she remained humble and believes otherwise…classic geisha response. Of course every Eden has a snake and her name was Hatsumomo. She was that “mean girl” every American high school is bound to have. But in the end she suffered a much worse fate than being knocked up by the quarterback.

All in all, when does your job end and love begins? It’s rare for a geisha to retire into a life of bliss filled with love and joy. Unlike prostitutes, Geisha’s have to be educated in traditional Japanese arts of calligraphy, dancing, tea ceremonies and the theatre; but my favorite is learning the art of conversation. Despite her choices, or lack thereof, Sayuri makes the best of what life has dealt her. She knew, and to an extent us the readers knew, the Chairman was her best chance at survival and happiness. We may never fully understand why some people attach the possibility of achieving happiness onto others. But in the end, it is only making the best decision on the available choices we have. Let’s just be thankful we live in a much, somewhat improved society—but I’ll be honest, I kinda like the idea of being a living-breathing artwork.

11.20.2014

The Altarpiece by Sarah Kennedy: Book 1 of the Cross and Crown Series.

Whenever we learn of a story involving monumental changes to the status quo, we often learn about those imposing change and those resisting it. But we seldom learn about the rest who are caught in the middle of the struggle. When King Henry VIII divorced Katherine of Aragon and installed Anne Boleyn as the new Queen; he unilaterally (and arbitrarily) caused a rift in the European Christendom and pitted fellow Englishmen against one another. This book tells of a microcosmic effect of the social disruption while also shedding light on the chaos that ensnared Medieval England.

Sister Catherine and her sisters of the Mr. Grace convent are an example of the most vulnerable during the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII’s rule. They were a) women b) catholic c) single. These women, like most of the “common” folks, did not have anything or anyone to protect them from the King’s soldiers and his royal subjects who seemed all too excited to act out their king’s decrees. Sister Catherine had her sisters, her faith, her wits, and knowledge in the healing arts. But it was her youth and beauty that made her much more vulnerable in Mr. Grace. (Nothing much more enticing to a man than a virgin who was originally bound to another.) Many around her believed her only salvation is to renounce the Catholic faith and seek refuge in the all too holy institution of marriage.

Perhaps Sister Catherine’s dilemma would not be one if the right gentleman comes in to the rescue. However, she is no damsel in distress. Let us hope she can come out on the other side unscathed or she will be just become another victim of another cruel era of man.

11.20.2014

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Recently I have been trying to read more “fiction” books. Personally, I prefer nonfiction books; usually I read books that sound like something I’d be required to read for a class. But, to avoid being a dried-up, spinster-like individual I thought I would try and expand my horizons and show people that I am a well-rounded, capable of creative thinking individual.

Ranger’s Apprentice-the all-encompassing title of the series—was introduced to me by a colleague at work. I went in with an open mind and came out a tad underwhelmed. I expressed my concern to the same colleague who recommended the book series to me and she reminded me that the series were for preteens. So I thought: “Ok, that makes sense.” –no blood, not enough gore, and enough angst for the usually moody and drama-filled American preteen. The book wasn’t terrible, I just was expecting more especially with the overarching plot focusing on a young man finally achieving a sense of belonging on to be confronted with dangers beyond his wildest imagination.

The authored structured her “faraway land” similar to that of medieval Europe. (You know, the era of Kings, Knights, and no indoor-plumbing.) Of course, you have your royals, villains, your mythical/magical creatures; but the backbone of the story’s plot was the guilds or the craft organizations that make up the fiefdoms in the Kingdom of Araluen.

The kingdom of Araluen awaits you. Whether you’re a child or not, I believe we can all relate to the characters in the series. We all have had grand expectations from ourselves but more than likely destiny has other plans for us.

11.20.2014

The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

I usually do not read paperback romance novels; mostly because I think of them as the sappy, corny, and predictable soap operas my mother obsesses over every weekday afternoon. But I willed myself to read this book, against my instincts, because I like pirates in general and I always root for the cliché “villain” in literature. As cynical as I am I have always been known to have sympathy for the devil or the outsiders. Princes, Kings, Knights, and all the usual “good” guys were, to me, very boring, predictable, and definitely pretentious. Besides, there’s something alluring about any villain acting out of character.

Anyways, the book is not some corny smut—a dainty woman in the arms of Fabio—rather it is somewhat a historical account (albeit it’s fictional nature) of a world when the golden age of piracy was gradually fading into oblivion. Lady Sara is held hostage—well not really—on the Pirate Lord’s ship and soon she will be a hostage on his island. Let’s see: two individuals experiencing the salty air, the beautiful sunset, and no television—yeah, draw your own conclusion. What I generally look for in romance novels is the banter between the lovers. Rose petals and doves are great and all but heated arguments over trivial things is what true love should look like. Right before passionate savagery ensues—draw the blinds and lock the door please.

Yes, the Pirate Lord is arrogant, scary, and irresistible according to Sara. And she’s a stubborn, moody, and desirable goddess according to our pirate. Thank goodness the book is not too heavily into drama. There are moments of laughter and intrigue—and don’t forget there are definitely moments of heated, clutch-your-pearls…interactions. I recommend you read this book in a cold environment just in case you burst into flames—fabulous, adulterated, corrupted flames.

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