Kay, Rekindling

My book reviews blog.  I love hot coffee, rainy days, and the ocean.  Oh, and books.  Lots of them.

The One, Volume 1 - Nicky  Lee This was an unexpected indulgence read for an overtaxed brain. Sometimes, I just have to look at pretty drawings and read about lighthearted romance to detox.

This seemed to fit the bill: a story about an aspiring model looking to make it big in the industry. The protagonist Cane Lele's initial motivation to break into the industry is to meet a famous male model whose portraits, to her, are an art form. She ends up meeting his twin brother, and sparks between them fly. However, as she faces personal tragedies, her quest to become an international model has a much different purpose.

Considering that I had thought I would lose interest quickly, I was pleasantly surprised by the story. Nicky Lee's depiction of the modeling world is, I suspect, quite romanticized. But she skillfully deals with personal and professional issues that arise in such an industry. Like much of shoujo manga, romantic situations are lighthearted and a little unbelievable, but this wasn't anything that I wasn't expecting. I actually think Nicky Lee touches upon the dark nature of loneliness and anger better than she does on fluffy romance.

For now, I am up to volume 7 (I clearly enjoy the story more than I let on in this review). I'm not sure if I will continue until the end, but for now, it's a great escapist read.

The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life - Dawn Jackson Blatner On a whim, I decided one day to try this New Age vegan diet thing for about a week to see how I like it. It seemed like an appropriate--and the easiest--time to pursue a vegan diet as it's summer and there's no better time for fresh produce than now. Plus, it's beach weather.

So I tried it for a week.

It was not fun.

On principle, the prospect of cutting out whole food groups makes me nervous. No meat, fish, animal byproducts (cheese, milk, eggs, etc.) at all? OMG, who are these people and how do they do this??

[b:The Flexitarian Diet|4066949|The Flexitarian Diet The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life|Dawn Jackson Blatner|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349040224s/4066949.jpg|4114047] offers a more "middle ground" perspective on going vegan (or vegetarian). The idea revolves around adding more into your diet, rather than taking out. I can eat more now? Sign me up!

In practice, the idea is simple: consider your normal diet, and add in more plant-based foods. To make room for the increase in greens, you will gradually eat less meat and animal byproducts. According to the book, plant-based foods are the healthiest things you can eat and incorporating more into your diet will result in tremendous health benefits. You can still enjoy that steak dinner, but make it a splurge, rather than a regular. On other days, replace meat for legumes and tofu as a source of protein.

Over half of the book contains recipes for easing into and maintaining this sort of lifestyle. The recipes are very simplistic, often needing just a handful of ingredients, and very easy to make. Good when you're in a rush, not so great when you're trying to impress a dinner crowd.

What did bother me about this book was that the writing was repetitive, the ideas weren't super groundbreaking, and there were no pictures. *gasp* I kind of regret paying for a book whose ideas could be explained just as easily with Google searches, and also for the very tame recipes. It's as if the author couldn't decide whether to make this a diet book or a cook book, so instead decided to make it both by cutting out some vital parts.

Overall, though, I think the author makes a lot of valid points for switching over to a plant-based diet, and I like that her book acts as a bridge between a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. 3 stars for motivating me to eat more greens, though I strongly suggest you flip through the book first before buying. In my opinion, it would be more worth your time (and money) to keep the flexitarian idea in mind and search the Internet for good vegetarian recipes.

The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner This book was okay. On one hand, I can't deny that Megan Whalen Turner is a great writer. Her command of the English language, especially her rich descriptions of a pseudo-Greek landscape, is superb. On the other hand, I found the story very slow up until the very hasty end, and the ending felt a bit off.

I should have known to not let my expectations get out of hand. Reviewers did offer cautionary notes that the next book in the series, Queen of Attolia, was much better. From the book synopsis and the author's writing style, this seemed like a blend of The Lies of Locke Lamora and partially Finnikin of the Rock. An arrogant thief caught up in a larger power game between empires, forced into performing an impossible task, and coming to terms with his own limitations. What's not to love?

To be fair, the story was less a swashbuckling adventure with extroverted plot twists, and more a contemplative and slow-moving character study. Most of the book read like a dysfunctional road trip with grouchy and unrelenting dads, uncles, and sullen cousins. The main focus was on the dynamics among Gen, the magus, Pol, Sophos, and Ambiades, with each revealing surprising complexities and individual quirks. Good thing too because once the journey begins all they do is travel, travel, eat, sleep, travel, travel...you get the gist.

It’s not until the party reaches the temple that things start to speed up and the plot actually starts to unfold. Secrets are revealed, some more surprising than others, and the book takes twists and turns to end up in a place that I'd never expected.

It just takes a while for them to get there.

Overall, the book wasn't bad. In fact, for the type of story it was, I'd like to give it more stars for being able to keep my attention for so long. I appreciate the effort put into developing the characters, but the beginning dragged on way too much. Plus, considering how the book progressed, I found the twists and turns at the end erratic.

A solid three stars, and recommended for those who like meandering, journeying plot lines. I was, however, impressed with the writing and will be picking up Queen of Attolia soon.
Ghostland (Ghostland World, #1) - Jory Strong 1.5 stars, and abandoned. It wasn't that the plot was bad, or the writing that horrible. I just got really tired of reading about Zurael's "rigid cock" busting through his pants page after page.

Maybe I'll write a more detailed review...later...
The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile - C.W. Gortner After my semi rant about there not being enough fiction about Isabella, I was ecstatic when I saw this book.

A story from a notable historical fiction author about a woman and her husband who, in a highly patriarchical age, made Spain from

image to -> image ?

Yes, please!

As this is my first time reading fiction on Isabella, I have to say I'm impressed at the author's grasp of the time period. He certainly isn't shy about weaving abundant historical commentary into the narrative, and his treatment of the time period seemed well rounded, if not a little cautious.

Plot Summary

The book narrates Isabella's life from her time as an disenfranchised and impoverished princess, up to the birth of her last child. Second in line to a heavily disputed throne, the most Isabella could hope for was that her mother and her heir brother could provide some stability for her future. This changes when Isabella and her brother are called to court by their half-brother, the current king. Though Isabella tries to distance herself from the corruption and intrigues of court, that proves impossible when whispers of the illegitimacy of the king's heir drives a wedge between the king and her family. Then, when her brother dies, Isabella finds herself thrust as the new queen of Castile and the realm.


At the epicenter of a tumultuous era, Isabella provides a perfect insider's perspective of the inner workings of the time. As well as gaining top-level political insights, I expected to feel Isabella’s inner turmoil, her love of her state and her king, her doubts and her strengths. But while I found the political and historical narrative to be strong, the portrayal of Isabella as an actual living, breathing, hot-blooded young woman was very lacking.

Isabella seemed too distant and too above the political corruption and discord of the Spanish court. I can partially understand why the author portrayed her thus. Isabella does not attract the controversy of more colorful women such as Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette, and is instead cast as a the pillar of moral rectitude, regardless of her age and experience. Unfortunately, this makes her character in the book rather boring. The only times I saw Isabella as a real person, rather than an untouchable figurehead, was her dealing with Fernando, and since the couple spent most of their time separated with their numerous campaigns, those scenes were not as frequent as I would have liked.

I also don't like how the author didn't dirty Isabella's hands in any of her political dealings. He glazed over Isabella's role in the Inquisition. Rather than delving into Isabella's motivations and beliefs, the author was very cautious and assigned most of the responsibility of the persecution and expulsion of Jews on Torquemada and Fernando

Overall, the book was a good introduction to Spanish politics during Fernando and Isabella's reign. However, rather than a complex, ambitious, and far-seeing monarch, this book's Isabella seemed more like an empty vessel, a conduit through we which were able to explore medieval Spain.

3 solid stars and recommended for people who want an introduction to Medieval Spain.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty - Anne Rice, A.N. Roquelaure WARNING: ANIMATED .GIF DUMP, just because I can't take this book seriously.

Finished, and I am so glad that this book is now out of my life and hidden away. This book elicited very strong emotions from me, from disbelief to WTF to OMG enough with the spanking already! in as little as 30 pages.

I've mapped out my emotional progression from the beginning to end:

Pre-read with high expectations:

Pages 1 - 100:

Pages 100 - 200ish:

Page 200 - end:

This book is absurd. I know this is supposed to be some glorified BDSM sex fantasy, but all I could think when the princes/princesses were punished was How do they *not* get diseases? Rubbing honey on your crotch to attract flies overnight? Being swept down there with the bristles of a dirty broom? WHAT THE F-

The worst part is that all of these fetishes, quite shocking when we are first exposed to them, get so darn repetitive. I've never read the word "spank" as many times as I have in this book because it's noted on almost every single page. It was a relief to finally finish the book, not just because of the perversity (not that it's lacking--this book is dirty) but because the overused plot devices became quite laughably boring.

I really don't have anything against BDSM or anyone who's for it. But when it's handled in such an unpolished and over indulgent manner, it's hard for me to place much literary value on a book.

Therefore, 1 STAR and recommended for those curious individuals who can stomach some of the more experimental and dare I say grotesque elements of BDSM.
The Mayflower Project (Remnants, No 1) - Katherine A. Applegate I've always been a huge fan of Katherine Applegate's Animorphs and Everworld series, and enjoyed every re-reading. It never occurred to me until recently to pick up Remnants, partly because no fan of Applegate ever talked about the series.

After reading the first book, I think I know why.

Plot Summary

The world is ending. Not because of a nuclear meltdown or global warming, which is presumably under our own control, but for cataclysmic events out of our control.



Hopelessly underprepared, humanity's last ditch effort to preserve a smidgen of Earth is to send 80 people aboard the spaceship Mayflower. They will be put into hibernation pods as the spaceship hurtles millions of light-years into space to find a new world on which to settle.

My Reactions

The five harrowing days of panic and hopelessness leading up to the launch of the Mayflower make up a majority of the book. And it is massively depressing. I guess it's a credit to the author's writing that while I'm not an extinctionist by any means, her portrayal of the end of the world made me wonder what humanity could do when faced with something like this.

The movie Armageddon proposed drilling a hole into a meteorite the size of Texas and detonating a nuclear bomb inside of it. That granted some measure of comfort until my Astro professor likened it to dropping a nuclear bomb into a mile-deep hole actually in Texas. Would Texas split down the middle from that one measly bomb?

No, not this time, Bruce!

I found that the characters were blander than in Animorphs or Everworld. Alternating perspectives introduce us to the main players, but it is initially difficult to differentiate them. This is one of the main reasons why I did not enjoy the book as much. If all of humanity has died except for these few people, I want them to be extraordinarily interesting. With the exception of the First Son in whom I see the makings of another Visser Three type character, none of the others held my attention for long.

Overall, I did not enjoy the book very much. Again, the writing itself is not bad--as always, the author's style is no frills and harshly realistic. But the characters were too swallowed up in the intensity of the story for me to continue past this book. I may pick up the second book sometime in the future and see if that salvages the series for me, but in the meantime, 2 STARS and recommended for people who are (1) diehard fans of Katherine Applegate, or (2) can handle realistic depictions of the end of the world.

Now, excuse me while I make massive donations to NASA's meteorite detection fund.
Froi of the Exiles  - Melina Marchetta How can I do justice to this book?

With a well-deserved 4.57 average rating over 1,484 ratings, what more can I say that hasn't been said?

This book is good. Really, really good. It's a book that will make your feel like your heart is being torn vein by vein out of your chest. It's a book that will fill you with fierce warmth and affection, and then dunk you in icy cold water with just one word. It's an emotionally exhausting journey, but it's one that I would endure again and again if I could.

Finnikin of the Rock was a fine novel, but Froi of the Exiles upped the ante. The scope was bigger, the heartaches more painful, and the characters darker. Three years after Lumatere's curse has been lifted, tensions between Charyn and Lumatere are at a breaking point. The new queen Isaboe and her consort Finnikin send Froi on a secret mission to Charyn. However, things get complicated as Froi uncovers terrifying secrets about this barren, cursed kingdom that force him to peer into this own dark soul.

The main driver of this book was the characters. Froi. Oh, Froi. It takes guts to make your main character so conflicted and dark. Marchetta never lets us forget Froi's sordid past, but his path to redemption was incredibly touching. Quintana was the other power player of this novel. I expected to feel sympathy and curiosity for this insane princess, but identifying with this dirty, unpolished, mentally unstable girl? Didn't expect that. Marchetta is the queen of turning freaks and exiles into heroes. I could go on and on about the others in the book all day. Lucien, Phaedra, Beatriss, Rafuel... Almost every person populating this novel was multidimensional and alive.

As always, Marchetta's writing is superb. She doesn't bullshit or mince words, but she evokes outpourings of emotion with just a sentence. Marchetta's power is in gestures and small acts of kindness and cruelty. The hesitation before a kiss, lifting the hem of a skirt just above the thighs, wrapping a dead spouse's shawl around your body... Marchetta evokes tears without tears.

Clocking in at around 600 pages, this is a long, ambitious novel. But don't let the length deter you--no part of this story dragged, and despite the number of issues that this book touches on, Marchetta gets her point across while never being preachy. Be warned that this is a book that deals with dark themes, but as always with Melina Marchetta, she explores these themes with insight and respect.

Read this book. And if you haven't, read Finnikin of the Rock as well. Even if they don't make you shed tears, the books will make your heart hurt and challenge you to think about some difficult issues. The Lumatere Chronicles really is a fantastic collection of novels, and Melina Marchetta is an amazing author who deserves more recognition.

Overall, A MILLION STARS, and highly recommended to everyone!
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories - Angela Carter Hovering between three and four stars. Need to think before reviewing...
Quintana of Charyn - Melina Marchetta UPDATE 10/24/2012: Just got Quintana of Charyn in the mail! If only I didn't have a job and bills and rent and errands and obligations to family and loved ones!!!! WHY ISN'T THE WEEKEND COMING FASTER RAWR!


If I make a really cute face, will you please release this book in the US before 2013? No?

But but but how about this one? Huh? HUH???

Tangled Tides - Karen Amanda Hooper Giraffe = me
Bird = book


Don't be lured by the pretty cover--trust me.

I'm frankly baffled by the high ratings for this book.

Yara, the main character, is whiny and insufferably immature. Treygan and Rownan are equally unlikeable, though Treygan has a little more depth. There is very little build up to when Yara becomes a mermaid (which happens around page 6), and from there, all she does is whine, moan, and worry about what her boyfriend would think of her being a "freak" (i.e. mermaid). There is no story development, and whatever revelations there are, Yara meets each of them with more whining. The story does get incrementally more interesting past the 100 page mark, but really, no book should take that long to become bearable.

Plus, does anyone else think that people should stop kidding themselves and call C-weed just "weed"?

I gave it a good shot, but I couldn't get through it. 1 star, and even that is being generous.
The Forbidden Game: The Hunter; The Chase; The Kill - L.J. Smith Finally finished the entire trilogy, and overall, 4 STARS. I must say, this is one of the better YA novels that I've read. I would recommend this read for younger teens for optimal enjoyment, but don't let that stop you if you're an adult.

This one volume contains three books, each with its own plot and story. Here my reactions for each book as I finish:

The Hunter

This story begins when Jenny stumbles into a shop to buy a game for her boyfriend's birthday. She is greeted by an inhumanly beautiful boy, who sells her a game to lure her into the shadow world where she and her friends must face their darkest fears. If they win, they get to leave. If they lose, Jenny must stay with the dark price who has fallen in love with her.

The story was intriguing. The concept of the Game reminded me a lot of the movie Labyrinth. But instead of fuzzy muppets, we get actual nightmarish creatures. While the nightmares did get repetitive and formulaic after a while, what really struck me was how well the author wrote Julian. He's a charming, handsome, dangerous Grade A serial stalker...and yet, despite his psychopathic tendencies, it's hard to ignore his charisma and appeal. The interactions between Julian and Jenny are balancing acts that teeter between fear and intrigue.

Story rating: 3.5+ stars, but not quite 4 stars

The Chase

This story has two main parts: pre-Game and post-Game. The first part of the book focused on the remaining six players dealing with Summer's death, while frantically trying to locate the thieves who may or may not have released Julian once more. Of course, he comes back, and he's hell bent on making Jenny fulfill her promise. His method: Another Game.

I liked the character development in this story. Circumstances force Jenny to stand on her own and become a stronger woman. I also related to Jenny's confusion about herself and how that led to changes in her relationship with Tom. Though Julian didn't make an appearance until the middle of the book, the interactions between him and Jenny that followed were electric. The beginning was a bit slow, but the story really picked up pace after prom.

Story rating: 3.5 to 4 stars

The Kill

This was the best story out of the three. Jenny and her friends jump into action as soon as the book starts. We get to know about the Shadow World, Julian, and the Shadow Men.

Jenny at the end of this book is a very different from the person in the first. She's stronger, independent, and truly becomes a heroine. We also get to see a side of Julian that transforms him from villain to anti-hero. The ending was beautiful and sad.

Story rating: 4 stars

Overall, 4 STARS for this entire volume and highly recommended for younger teens.
The Kill - L.J. Smith 4 stars and a wonderful conclusion to the series. I can't say I was surprised or 100% satisfied with the choices Jenny made, but it ended well.

I will be reviewing the entire trilogy at once here.
The Chase - L.J. Smith Rating: 3.5 stars to 4 stars

I will be reviewing the entire trilogy at once here.
The Hunter - L.J. Smith Rating: 3.5 stars, though not quite 4 stars

I will be reviewing the entire trilogy at once here.
Mistborn: The Final Empire  - Brandon Sanderson Actual rating is 3.5 to 3.75.

When I think back on this book, the first thing that comes to mind is amazing magic system and thorough world building. Usually, I tend to see magic and world building as spices that enhance plot and characterization. Without it, the story could turn out to be bland and tasteless, but the story itself would still exist.

Well, in this case, without the magic system and world building, there would be no story.


Imagine a post-apocalyptic medieval world, buried in ash and scalded by a red sun. Then imagine almost all the inhabitants of this cursed land, let's call them skaa, enslaved by a tiny minority of noblemen. Oh, and let's not forget about the immortal Lord Ruler, who over his one thousand year reign has mercilessly quashed every single skaa rebellion.


The setting of the book explores the question: What if the hero fails? What would the world look like? The world of the Mistborn seems like a very likely possibility.

What really sets this book apart was Allomancy, the magic with which our downtrodden heroes seek to subvert the status quo. Allomancy is a skill where those born with the ability can ingest certain metals and "burn" them to gain superhuman skills. Think superhuman strength, emotional coercion, and even flying through the air.

Both of the main characters are intimately connected to Allomancy. Vin, our leading lady, is a Mistborn, someone who can burn all Allomantic metals. Kelsier, the other main character, is also a Mistborn who keeps the story rolling with his grand schemes to steal the Lord Ruler's vast stores of atium, a rare Allomantic metal and the foundation of the world's economy. We learn about the complexities and intricacies of Allomancy through them.


Well, Reason #1 is that it feels like the author spent more time developing Allomancy than his characters and story. Vin, while a delightful and relatable character, seems to belong more in YA fantasy bildungsromans than a dark fantasy focused on two, rather than just one, complex character. Same with Kelsier, though maybe his character is not as YA. Both bear deep scars, and I would have much preferred that the author spend 600 pages exploring just one of them than both.

Reason #2, the pacing of the story was uneven and odd. The author bangs out in 15 or so pages a skeleton plan of how to overthrow an immortal dark lord over a roundtable brainstorm session with Kelsier jotting notes on a board. The entire scene was more a weekly management meeting to discuss quarterly profits than a serious discussion of achieving the impossible. Furthermore, later chapters focus almost excessively on Vin's infiltration of the nobility, i.e., going to balls and wondering which dress she'll wear... you know, petty things in light of the ultimate goal. The imbalanced amount of time spent on Vin's activities as opposed to the rest of the crew's diminished the scale of the revolution efforts.

Also, though this probably is a personal issue, Reason #3: is there supposed to be romance or not? The back cover quoted a favorable review from Romantic Times, so I thought there would be more romantic elements. There were...kind of...but a lot of it was show-and-tell and left me emotionally untouched. The author expressed many different emotions well: Regret, yes. Guilt, yes. Love, yes. But romance, um why and how?

However, even despite those three road bumps, the book was extremely readable. Once I got past the first 50 pages or so, I could not put this book down. The book has nonstop action, and Allomancy is so seamlessly woven into the narrative that it feels almost natural. Despite some pacing issues, this book is a fine read and a must for all fantasy lovers.

3.5 to 3.75 stars and highly recommended for all fantasy lovers.

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