Thursday, February 12, 2015

Opening doorways to wonder and tragedy

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was not an easy book to read. I'm used to books that are more action oriented rather than introspective; the shift took some getting used to. The dilemma faced by the fifteen year old protagonist was diametrically different from my halcyon days of the same age; but some things still resonate.

Kafka is a fifteen year old boy who ran away from home to keep himself from fulfilling a terrible prophecy. Nakata was a man who lost himself at the cusp of adolescence and was rendered mentally differently abled as a result. I still don't understand why Kafka's narrative was in the present tense and Nakata's in the past, but I think that has something to do with the different trajectory of their journey.

The book have talking cats, hidden forests, and a sense of lyrical magic that intertwines through the whole story; a sense of foreshadowing, a glimmer of innocence and unexplained resonance with the psyche. A very interesting examination of Japanese culture past and present, as well as a snapshot in a moment that is neither modern nor obsolete.

This is not a book to be read and discarded; but one to be poured over and contemplated. I really had to resist the resistance to scribble on the margins just so I could keep track of what's in my head.

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Wild and Steamy

Night Shift (Kate Daniels, #6.5; SPI Files, # 0.5; Psy-Changeling, #12.5)Night Shift by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anthologies can be pretty hit and miss for me, but I'd still grab it if it has an author (or two) that I adore. This book delivered to me new novellas by Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook (under the pseudonym Milla Vane) so I'm pretty happy about it all.

The first story was by Nalini Singh in her Psy/Changeling universe. I've not read the series but this novella gave a good introduction to the world and is intriguing enough to make me want to look up for more. Bastien Smith was a leopard on a mission to hunt down his mate but her elusive here-and-not-here scent is driving him nuts and leading him down many a false trail. When he finally found Kirby, he had to help her reconcile her with her wild side for them to come together as a whole. Steamy and sensuous are perfect to describe this little sojourn in the Psy/Changeling 'verse.

Ilona Andrews' romp with our favourite Security Chief of Atlanta's Pack and Dali Harimau was utterly satisfying and left me wanting more. The writing team did an excellent job weaving tributes to magic culture from Indonesia and other parts of the world in their writing in an engaging and respectful manner and this novella was no different. I do hope that they'll write a longer story for Dali and Jim after putting them both through the emotional wringer in their path to become a mated pair.

I don't remember if I've read Lisa Shearin before; she penned here a first-day-on-the job nightmare for her protagonist and made it feel like a prologue piece. Interesting world building, but the limitations of a novella perhaps made the story line a little clunky.

I was a fan of Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian movies as a child. Milla Vane hit that kink here like whoa with her fabulous barbarian romance. The journey of Mala and Kavik was condensed in this intense novella with the right amount of sizzle, adventure and ass-kicking action. And what I love most was how they saved each other.

In short, this book is super fun even if the only two stories that I re-read obsessively was the 2nd and 4th novella. *grin*

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Your fangs and claws don't scare me

Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)Radiance by Grace Draven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do I love about this book?

1. Great lead protagonists?
- Check

2. Engaging storyline and pacing?
- Check

3. Good world building?
- Check

4. Fabulous use of language?
- Check

The list above is beyond dry and does not do justice to the fantastic read that is Radiance by Ms. Draven. She has a flair for writing beautiful fantasy romance peopled with characters that are immensely likeable with a fluid and engaging storyline. I felt there was a slight shift in her writing in this book, but it is no less enjoyable than Master of Crows or Entreat Me.

Prince Brishen is merely the spare to the Kai royal house throne. His marriage to Lady Ildiko of the Gauri court was merely to cement trade and military relations between two nations. At first she was frightened by her groom's black claws and fangs (spoiler: he's not human); he was appalled by her pink-and-white skin and the way she could cross her large, blue eyes. But any chasm that society has created for them was bridged by shared humour, patience and respect; it was incredibly lovely the way they wooed each other.

There was plenty of action and intrigue in a book designed to whet the readers' appetite for the main course. Thanks to Radiance as a prequel, I cannot wait for more Brishen and Ildiko in the upcoming saga Eidolon.

Male protagonist: 5/5 stars
Female protagonist: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 5/5 stars
Pacing: 5/5 stars
Fun Factor: 5/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 5/5 stars

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Achy breaky heart

Yeah, you now have Miley Cyrus' Dad's lone hit playing on endless loop in your head now. You're welcome.

deadpool,song,stop in the name of love,Super-Lols
Deadpool is a shite.

Poets, lovers and philosophers spent centuries pondering and describing the agony of heart break. Lost love, death and failures, despair and disappointment, all could break a person's heart. The pain is literal; many report a heaviness in the chest, difficulties in breathing and a host of other unpleasant physical symptoms. The thoracic discomfort is so keen that for the longest time people thought that heart break actually affects the pumping organ. Since mental distress is often fueled by the stress hormone cortisol, the elevated blood pressure, constricted blood vessels etc manifest into cardiovascular problems for those susceptible to it.

Lament and dirges are written as paeans of tribute to heartbreaks. Emo kids slash their skin, widows throw themselves on funeral pyres (male wishful fantasy), Johnny Walker consumed by the barrel, entire Afghan poppy fields injected into the blood stream, etc etc was committed because emotional pain can be so overwhelming.

And now scientists show that your heartbreak is all in your head.

Brain signature of emotion-linked pain is uncovered - health - 14 January 2015 - New Scientist


Ehehehe ... *the snicker of the heart-whole*

Friday, December 12, 2014

"If I leave you alone you will leave England."

Awaiting the FireAwaiting the Fire by Donna Lea Simpson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If this book was written as a "horrid novel that corrupt innocent young feminine minds" in the Victorian times, I think it would have been a bestseller. It has all the requisite: a feisty heroine, a dark, brooding hero, a tempting yet menacing villain, isolated grand mansion/castle, supernatural entities, perilous moments, misunderstandings and torrid resolution.

Sadly, I find the melodrama overwrought, the heroine AND hero annoying in their inconstancy and immaturity, the plot unnecessarily plodding and tiresome, the exposition clunky and the deux-ex-machina unsatisfactory. Not to mention that I've never enjoyed any books that feature Judeo-Christian angels anyway.

Seriously, I should stop being surprised at how much blurbs and recommendations by "notables" can disappoint.

Male protagonist: 2/5 stars
Female protagonist: 1/5 stars
Storyline: 1/5 stars
Pacing: 0/5 stars
Fun Factor: 1/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 0/5 stars

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"I parked there yesterday and my Range Rover exploded."

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a reason I didn't read more book in 2014 and it's because of this author. I just got this book a few weeks ago and it's now pretty dog-eared, thanks to the multiple re-reading because I enjoy it just *that* much.

The novel is set in a world where magic is real and is the main currency for power and wealth. A small-time private investigator was tasked to persuade a powerful pyromage to surrender to his family after a series of high profile arson. She has a competitor in the chase, another catastrophically powerful mage who can level cities. A lot of mayhem and high octane action, peppered with tickle-your-ribs humour and steamy sexual tension.

The book is peopled with characters who are not just larger-than-life but also wonderfully likeable. The primary characters sucked me in and kept the book glued to my hand up to the very end. C'mon, how am I to resist when the male protagonist was described as such:

He'd traded the suit and shoes for faded jeans, a pale grey t-shirt and heavy, dark boots. The effect was staggering. The suit had toned him down, smoothing harshness with a veneer of wealth and civilisation. Now he was all rough edge and rugged strength. He looked like he needed some jungle ruins to explore or some bad people to hit with a chair. Trouble was, he was the bad people

I also adored that the female protagonist was no Mary Sue; she had a complement of vulnerabilities along with kick ass determination, wilyness and intelligence. Her Mom was a magically enhanced sniper, her Grandma talked to tanks and the heavy weaponry that she crafted, and a cybermage cousin as her sidekick. Her family was insane and fun and I can't wait to see more of her crazy sisters and cousin in the next books.

Even the psychopath was pretty endearing and made you want to root for him.

Pierce did have devil eyes. Deep and dark, the rich brown of coffee grinds, they were unpredictable and full of crazy.

Burn for Me is a new tangent for the husband-wife writing team, a book that is closer to a traditional romance in the action-adventure genre. However, the romance aspect developed more slowly, paying out over a three-book series. By the last page you are jonesing for the next book and gosh, can't they write any faster?

Favourite quotes:

1. "... Had I known that you were going to pull a pretty ribbon out of your sleeve like some two-bit magician, I would have shot you. Many times."

"Two-bit magician?"

"Men like you enjoy being flattered."

2. Small talk with the dragon. How are you? Eaten any adventurers lately? Sure, just had one this morning. Look, I still got his femur stuck in my teeth. Is that upsetting to you?

3. "I was conceived because my mother skipped bail. Her boyfriend at the time threatened to call the cops on her, so she had to do something to keep him from doing it."

4. And then he had felt her. She was warm and golden and she tore through the sterility of the ascent and reached for him. She kissed him and as she shared all of her fears and wants, he felt alive. He had shrugged off the cold serenity for her, and the world around him bloomed.

Seriously. Go get this book. You won't regret it.

Male protagonist: 5/5 stars
Female protagonist: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 5/5 stars
Pacing: 5/5 stars
Fun Factor: 5/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 5/5 stars

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hanging out in Tartarus by the river of fire would be a jolly thing to do

Styxx (Dark-Hunter, #12)Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book in my keeping for over a month before I cracked it open. One is because of its size: at 930 pages and at least 2.5 inch thick, I worry that if I accidentally drop it on my face when reading, I might break my nose.

OK, spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hurrah for gun laws.

Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam LaciSepucuk Pistol Di Dalam Laci by Hadi M. Nor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find myself picking up Malay books and discarding them by page 45. I have lost my tolerance for slower pacing, preachy drama and annoying plot devices.

But I found none of those peeves in this anthology; a marvelous cornucopia of romance (of the weird kind), urban fantasy, sprinkled with a good dose of homicidal mania and sheer hilarity.Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. 

Thanks for lending me the book, Hanies!

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NoLa on my mind ...

Dawn Encounter (Masters at Arms #2)Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't read very many Americana historical romance. Primarily it's because the more I learn about the victimisation of the indigenous people of North America, the harder it is for me to read about the romantic half breed yearning for the blonde homestead daughter. So that takes the cowboy genre out of circulation for me and except for Pamela Morsi and Rebecca Paisley, I rarely come across other settings for Americana historical.

I liked the premise of New Orleans prior to the War Between the States and Ms. Blake did an excellent job of painting the atmosphere and society of the Deep South. I also liked that she didn't whitewash slavery in the premise and did it without contemporary moralising.

However, the female protagonist annoyed me with the way she vaccilated between being so die-away and bull-headed assertion of her independence. A bit like a spoilt brat, but I gave that a pass judging by her age and background. The male protagonist was a total dyed-in-the-wool hero; brave, self-sacrificing, painfully honourable etc etc, but a bit cookie cutter. I think that both characters could have done with greater character development, but alas, that territory was not ventured.

Male protagonist: 3/5 stars
Female protagonist: 2/5 stars
Storyline: 3/5 stars
Pacing: 2/5 stars
Fun Factor: 3/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars

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