Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Goliath

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Published: September 2011

Pages: 560 pages (hardcover)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Standalone or series: Third and final book in the Leviathan trilogy.

Why I read it: Loved the first two in the series (review of 1st book, Leviathan, here)

Source: The library

Let’s start out with a bold statement, shall we? This is the best YA adventure series I’ve read in years. Seriously. I glommed the 1000+ pages of the final two books in this series in 2 days and even live tweeted my reading of Goliath. (While it could be called YA steampunk, fantasy, historical, etc I’m just going to call it adventure ;)

So why is this is the best YA series I’ve read in years? Well, I love adventures with scenes that make sense, scenes that are necessary to move the action of the story forward, as well as the growth of the characters as well as the development of their relationships with each other. Sometimes action scenes can seem redundant, or the travel/road journey parts too long, but in this series, and Goliath especially, every scene and interaction absolutely served a purpose to the overall arc of the story. The timing of revelations, the way Alek, or Deryn, or the lady boffin Dr. Barlow all reacted were so poignant they kept me so engaged as a reader.

There is absolutely something for everyone, there are battles between bats dropping metal spikes and giant squids, blimps made of fabricated whales versus a rubberized ship with electricity shooting cannon, Deryn with naught but a handful of spices against dangerous men hijacking super-sized elephants. There’s political intrigue, a reimagined World War I, travel to turn-of-the century Japan, New York and even Mexico.

There’s romance…oh the romance! Subtle but powerful! I mean, how could I not adore this series with a dedication page like this?

Alek and Deryn were faced with some difficult choices, and were separated for some important, and dangerous events, but I loved how they were always thinking of each other, and although young, I was continuously impressed on how they handled themselves in the war-torn world. Their behavior was believable as Westerfeld deftly portrayed their struggles on how they would handle the tough situations as they talked it out with each other (their deep friendship is another of my favorite parts) or we got inside each of their heads as well.

And of course the steampunk and science behind fabricated animals. It really was amazing how Westerfeld was able to draw on true-life scientific ideas and re-imagine them for the purpose of the series, Telsa especially was fascinating, I had no idea how much of his electricity experiments were real! I mentioned in my review of the first book that I’m not personally particularly into steampunk, so while I was continuously impressed by the imagination in this world of twisted DNA strands and steam powered robots it’s just not something I geek out over, but it added a LOT to the story obviously.

Ok the only part I really geeked out over was the perspicacious lorises. I could quote Bovril all day, what clever, hilarious little beasties!

With my limited knowledge of steampunk fantasy it seemed like Westerfeld took no shortcuts, the setting, the science, the technology were fully created and detailed, and sometimes illustrated (oh the Keith Thompson drawings were to die for).

Even though Goliath ended with one revelation left somewhat unresolved my imagination absolutely took over after the last page and I’m more than satisfied with my own little fan-fic reel playing in my head. (I also read the bonus chapter on Westerfeld’s blog)

Alek watching The Perils of Pauling moving picture at Hearst's dinner

Oh and the last quote? UTTER PERFECTION.

“Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria, nube.”  Let others wage war. You, lucky Austria, shall marry.

Genius series. Absolutely genius. I got all 3 from the library but am ABSOLUTELY going to invest in buying the trilogy in hard cover so I can lend them to my friends, my future children, my future children’s friends, and re-read them myself all. the. time.

So obviously this post isn’t so much of a formal review, I’m just one of millions of fans and would love to hear if you are too! And if you haven’t read them? Well, barking spiders, why not? Don’t be a Dummkopf, sorry to be a sticky-beak but you need to read them immediately!

A- overall to Goliath  and the whole Leviathan series.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

 OK all this lovely lovely information was supposed to copy paste from Goodreads, but was just messy HTML, sigh. So here is the detail:

  • Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  • Authors: John Green and David Levithan
  • Pages: 310, hardcover
  • Published: April 2010
  • My Goodreads rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Really this book should be called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Tiny Cooper, but the title was long enough already. Although the two Will’s coming together is part of he catalyst for great change in their lives, it is really their friend in common (or boyfriend as one of the Will’s struggles with coming out) that wreaks the most havoc, in an ultimately positive way, in both their lives.

Although it can be argued that the stunning clarity and realness of the both the Wills’ characters is offset by the seemingly unreal Tiny I absolutely enjoyed this YA novel set in Chicago by two fabulous authors. Reading YA as a adult can be hard to remember how much drama occurred in the lunch room, at your locker, over the phone, and now of course, over social networking sites, but I felt every scene and type of interaction was handled so deftly, and sometimes to depressingly realistically that it was almost like I was back in high school myself.

I knew nothing of the book before I picked it up, it was the only John Green book my library had in stock and I was determined to read something by him, so I had no idea how emo this book was, and would make me, but I definitely recommend it!

How to Knit a Wild Bikini, by Christie Ridgway

  • Title: How to Knit a Wild Bikini (awful title, the book is 100 times better than that title implies)
  • Author: Christie Ridgway (author website)
  • Published: June, 2008
  • Pages: 304 pages (mass market paperback)
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Standalone or series: Can be read as a standalone, first in a connected three books about half sisters finding love in Malibu. 
  • Why I read it: AnimeJune’s fantabulous review.
  • Source: Library.
  •  This was my first Christie Ridgway book and I’m salivating to read the rest of her backlist, and I don’t usually even like contemporary romance!

    This book was super fun, cute, and very entertaining. There was a LOT going on though, and while I thought the author handled the many many plot threads well, and all the secondary characters, heroine’s issues from being raped as a teen, lots of other emotional baggage and current obstacles for the H/H to get together were also handled well, I felt like some of them could have been fleshed out more, or left out to concentrate on a tighter storyline.

    That being said I don’t really know what I would change because I enjoyed each of those pieces of this book sooo much! Playboy and confirmed bachelor Jay changed his ways quite a bit during the book as his new pretend-lesbian-live-in-chef Nikki starts to get under his skin and into his heart. But that doesn’t mean his thought process changes right away and it was fun being in his head, like this quote when Jay is observing his friend confessing his devotion to his lover:

    “How could you imagine that I don’t love you? That if something happened to you, it wouldn’t kill me too?”…

    Jay shuffled back, embarrassed by the other man’s very Latin, very emotional outburst. He almost held his breath, just like he did when he got in an elevator with someone who was sneezing. Shit like that might be contagious.

    Jay and Nikki’s scenes together were also full of such fun dialogue and observations about each other, the writing throughout the book was snappy and attention grabbing and I felt each scene was important.

    Ok, how many times have I said fun now? So while this would make a great beach read some of the emotional baggage from past issues definitely covers heavier topics and really got to me emotionally, so I felt satisfied on all levels of my reading preferences. Including the lusty scenes, they were pretty steamy, though I wouldn’t have minded of seeing more of Jay’s prowess due to his oft-touted history ;)

    A- overall grade for me, I loved following Jay and Nikki’s journey to their acceptance of their feelings for each other.

    Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols

  • Title: Going Too Far
  • Author: Jennifer Echols (author website here)
  • Published: March, 2009
  • Pages: 245 pages (paperback)
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Standalone or series: Standalone.
  • Why I read it: Um, have you NOT heard the buzz about how awesome this books is? It seems like every book blog I read last year sung it’s praises, but I only just got around to reading it.
  • Source: Library.
  • This book is ABSO-FECKIN-LUTELY as fabulously wonderful as everyone said it is. READ IT NOW. Why haven’t you read it yet?! Yes you (I see you!). Recommended for anyone who likes literary fiction, any type of YA, chick lit, and romance novels. This is a book you could recommend to pretty much ANY female in your circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. I would also recommend it as a book club read. While it is labeled as Young Adult there is quite a bit of sex and drugs raciness as well as seriousness surrounding death, phobias, and diseases.

    There was nothing I didn’t like about the book. Literally nothing.

    I’m usually not a fan of first-person narratives, especially in romantic types of stories, I want and need to hear both perspectives of how they fall in love, but Echols’ character development was so deft, detailed, and poignant that the clues were all there to pick up on, even if we only heard 17 year old Meg’s point of view.

    I also really connected with Meg, even with her dyed-blue hair, living in a trailer, working for free at her parent’s greasy spoon diner, sleeping with the town’s rich-boy-druggie…someone SO different from me the reader, I connected with her. This is no mean feat. But being inside Meg’s head, listening to the way she describes herself, the way she sees people around her, the way she observes the world – I got her. She was refreshing and cynical at the same time, a very mature 17 year old that’s for sure.

    One of the ways the writing enables us to connect so well with Meg is that she almost has running inside jokes with us, the reader. The book opens with her getting arrested for drinking and trespassing on dangerous railroad tracks on a bridge. Her punishment is to miss her senior year of high school spring break, the first time she would ever get out of her bumblefuck Alabama town, and spend the week riding with the cop who arrested her.

    She first thinks he is much older than he is, he’s so big and built and his uniform and confident way he holds himself confuses her on his age. She imagines his kids at home reading comic books, his wife cooking fruit cobbler, and anxiously listening to the police scanner while she waits for him to come home.

    While Meg finds out her cop (and he does become her cop more and more!), John, is actually 19 she still has that inside joke with us about the fruit cobbler. Every now and then she’ll bring it up, but relating it to herself.

    Here is one of my favorite passages, giving you an idea how fun it is to be inside Meg’s thoughts, and how she sets up scenes, inside jokes with us, and describes things so we can really connect with her:

    Before this I’d entertained a miniature thought of what might happen if I saw John when my official punishment was over two nights from now. The small thought had not become a large thought because it had no room to grow. Currently John was pouring Miracle-Gro on the thought. I was just getting out the hedge clippers to cut the thought down when he parked in front of Martini’s…

    [John walked into the bar to break up a potentially dangerous fight]

    I gripped the front of the seat with both sweaty hands to keep from jumping out of the car and running to him. And then I got completely freaking furious with myself. I did hope that I was not entertaining a plot to somehow date Johnafter? I cranked up the chain saw to cut down the plot made by Miracle-Gro.

    He got back into the car with much clinking of the weaponry attached to his belt. “What’s wrong?”…

    I pressed one finger between my eyes, still concentrating on the chain saw. Feel the chain saw. Be the chain saw…

    The chain saw had run out of gas.

    Life hasn’t been easy for Meg, and she hasn’t made it any easier for herself either. Her baggage and reasons for her rebellious nature are a few of the many layers of this amazing book. I turned each page super fast just to peel away each layer from both her, and John. Even though we’re in Meg’s POV she still keeps some secrets from us and when they are revealed, and when John finally reveals some of his own…well you won’t be unaffected, let’s just say that. Not everyone is a crier like me, but there is no way to read this book and be unaffected.

    This was my first Jennifer Echols book and I can’t wait to read more by her. As a lover of all things romance and stories that affect me on a deep emotional level I couldn’t ask for more than what I found in Going Too Far.

    All my fave bloggers have read and reviewed (and loved!) it too:

    Because of YOU Karen Marie Moning!

    Thanks to Kelly Clarkson and team for creating this song so I could change the lyrics and dedicate it to Karen Marie Moning. Because of HER I’m addicted to the Fever series after just reading all 4 published books in 2 days.

    Original lyrics here and video below.

    I will not read any other books besides yours
    I will not let myself
    Cause my heart so much misery
    I will not break just like Mac didn’t
    She fell so hard
    She learned the hard way
    To never lose her sidhe-seer hope

    Because of you
    I never stray too far from your
    message boards
    Because of you
    I learned to play
    Mac vs Shades; now I can’t do work
    Because of you
    I find it hard to trust not only Barrons, but everyone else around Mac
    Because of you
    I am addicted

    I lose my way
    And it’s not too long before you point it out
    I cannot sleep
    Because you write such cliffhangers in your books
    I’m forced to read
    your blog, your interviews for any hint
    My heart can’t possibly take
    Any other ending beside Mac & Barrons

    Because of you
    I never stray too far from the lights
    Because of you
    I learned a new vocab of Gaelic and Fae terms
    Because of you
    I find it hard to trust anyone besides Dani around Mac
    Because of you
    I am pri-ya

    I watched the beast die
    I heard a cry at night under the garage
    Mac was so young
    She didn’t know better than to lean on Barrons
    She never thought of outside Georgia
    She just learned of pain
    And now she hunts in the middle of the night
    For the same damn Book

    Because of you
    I keep rereading the lusty scenes from Dreamfever
    Because of you
    I learned to make up crazy theories so Mac ends up happy
    Because of you
    I try my hardest just to forget everything (that came before the Fever Series)
    Because of you
    I don’t know how to wait until
    Because of you
    I’m ashamed I took so long to read your books
    Because of you
    I am addicted

    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

    Title: Leviathan

    Author: Scott Westerfeld

    Published: October 2009

    Pages: 448 pages (hardcover)

    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Standalone or series: The first and only published book in a new series. The next one, Behemoth, will be out in October 2010.

    Why I read it: Oh the Book Smugglers of course *grinning* who else? (Their awesome review is here)

    Source: The library

    First things first, I have no knowledge of this “steampunk” business but thoroughly enjoyed this adventurous tale of two teens from opposing nations on the precipice of war. I loved the story and the language. It certainly wouldn’t be the same without the steampunk elements, but in terms of my reading preferences I could take it or leave it. Just personally I don’t get all excited about imaginative machinery possibilities or fabricated animals.

    It was definitely cool, but other people will geek out over steampunk way more than me. I was more all about the adventure, action, and the heart of the story. Two teenagers destined for great things during war-time! Ahhhh the classic YA fantasy set up :)

    And the heroine is disguised as a boy to stow away in the British (air) Navy! *closing eyes in bliss* I just love those spunky disguised heroines!

    The language piece of this world building was so awesome with made up phrases, expressions, machines and animals such as the Monkey Luddites vs Darwinsits, fabricated animals vs Clankers, and I’m trying to introduce “barking” into my vocabulary, as in “you’re barking mad, hubby!”

    While (supposing I was part of this world) ethically I’d be fine with fabricated animals made from spliced, combined, and twisted DNA strands, I definitely sympathised with some of the Monkey Luddites’ reactions to the “fabs” where I got a little nauseous at the descriptions of dogs with 6 legs, flying on the tentacles of a giant hydrogen filled octopus, and walking through the inside of a flying whale with skin, bones, and mucus all around you.

    This was my best read in all of February coming in at an A-, and my first time reading anything by Mr. Westerfeld. I will absolutely be picking up the next installment in this series (from the library at the very least, the $20 price tag is a bit steep!) and am excited to read more about Prince Aleksandar and Airman (girl) Deryn Sharp.

    Bookish wrap up of 2009

    The idea of a wrap up covering a whole year of lusty reading greatly distresses me, and thus I allowed it to loom over me, my fingers felt too intimidated to even attempt typing such a thing. Last month blog posts summing up the year popped up all over the internet, whether it was my 20-something blogger friends, DC blogger neighbors, or everyone out in the book-blogosphere…I wanted to hitch my caboose to that train but didn’t have the gumption to even begin attacking such a monumental task.

    So I decided I wouldn’t.

    Wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it that is…I don’t keep a fancy spreadsheet (the one I made in 20 minutes for the sources I got my books from the past 6 months notwithstanding), I don’t have any cool bookish stats about publishing dates or sub-genres, and I counted the total number of books I read last year manually by adding them together after running my finger down an MS Word document on my screen. I can’t even begin to think of summing up all the highlights of my blogging life in 2009 in general!


    From my finished reading list you may have guessed what some of my favorite books I read last year were, or if you checked out my guest post at The Book Smugglers you may have gotten an even better idea. But I’m going to go ahead and lay it all out simply, in a low-stress way (for me) and hope that y’all get some good recommendations out of it or agree with me on a few!

    *attempting relaxing breathing exercises*

    Here goes nothin…

    I read a total of 156 books in 2009

    There was a good sprinkling of new releases but I think the majority were older books; so I’ll separate my best of lists between new and “new-to-me”. 

    My top books published in 2009 in NO particular order:


    Belong to Me, by Maria de los Santos (Contemporary Lit Fic)

    A literary fiction book with a happy ending! Quelle surprise! This charming yet emotionally-hard-hitting book explores relationships through family ties, difficult marriages, fatal illnesses, and how hated-new-neighbors can turn into friends.


    Branded by Fire (#6 in series), by Nalini Singh (Paranormal Romance)

    I only just discovered the genius Ms. Singh and this series last year and hoooo boy did I just love this 2009 release! After reading all 7 in the series in a row this one really stuck out to me and is in my top 2 faves of the series, mainly because of the awesome H/H.


    Not Quite a Husband, by Sherry Thomas (Historical Romance)

    Wow, I actually reviewed this one, check out my full thoughts here! *patting self on back* This was a pleasant surprise since I don’t usually enjoy the premise of estranged husbands and wives reconciling.

    Revealed, by Kate Noble (Historical Romance)

    I love a story with a solid romance foundation but layered with intrigue and cannot *count* how many Napoleonic war spy books I have read, but the freshness of the characters in Revealed made it a top read for me. So often in romance we read about the bluestockings, the on-the-shelf misses, the destitute urchins who get a make-over that I was just dying to read about a pretty, popular, nomal-by-society’s standards heroine when Phillipa Benning came along. A true diamond of the first water sailing her way through the ton she has unexpected depths that make her and her heroe’s love story just that much better.

    My Soul to Take (#1 in series), by Rachel Vincent (Paranormal Young Adult)

    Wow, another one I reviewed (check it out!) *grins* I write so few, it’s a pleasant surprise to find it now that I’m looking back! I was capitvated by the world building and unique types of supernatural beings, the 2nd book in the series recently came out, I hope to pick it up soon!

    Tap & Gown (#4 in series), by Diana Peterfruend (Young Adult)

    I actually blogged about the entire series as one, but the last two were my absolute favorites. Maybe because that’s when the real romance came into play for protagonist and Secret Society girl Amy Haskel? Le sigh, I am so predictable. But Tap & Gown (last in the series) was released in 2009, and the 3rd book Rites of Spring (Break) rivaled it for my favorite in the series.

    New to me top reads in 2009:

    Slave to Sensation (#1 in series), by Nalini Singh (Paranormal Romance, 2006)

    Thinking about this book wraps me in warm fuzzy feelings. Although I mentioned the 6th in this series being near and dear to my heart it can’t quite knock Slave to Sensation from it’s pedestal. I mean did you read my review about how it changed my reading life? I made an MS Paint picture about it for cryin out loud!


    Savannah Blues, by Mary Kay Andrews (Contemporary Lit Fic, 2003)

    Why don’t people talk more about this author? She is awesome! I discovered her on accident but am so happy I did! Check out all my thoughts on this book here, but I highly recommend this lit fic/chick lit book. It’s so super fun, will make you RL LOL, and is injected full of Southern charm.

    My Lord and Spymaster, Joanna Bourne (Historical Romance, 2008)

    I’ve run into (online) many a squeeing Bourne fan, and for good reason. 99% of My Lord and Spymaster was an A+++ for me, but although there was one tiny little thing that didn’t work I greatly respect and admire this debut novel for it’s beautiful language and prose, unique H/H, and heart pounding intrigue and action that barely detracted from the romance storyline. This only slightly edged out Ms. Bourne’s connected second novel Spymaster’s Lady which was maybe 90% an A+ but the happily ever after ending was a little too hard for me to fully buy to get a top spot.

    Pleasure for Pleasure (#4 in series), by Eloisa James (Historical Romance, 2006)

    I read about 7 books by the esteemed Ms. James this year and had my ups and downs with them, some good, great, or not so good. But Pleasure for Pleasure really struck a chord with me. Luckily you don’t have to read the first 3 books in the Essex Sisters series to enjoy this last one about the youngest Josie in her quest to launch her rounded figure into society, living down ridicule for her very curvy frame and finding her true love who’s been under her nose the whole time!

    A Summer to Remember, by Mary Balogh (Historical Romance, 2002)

    Yes yes, I know, how could I not have read this one before! Here is my blog post from earlier this year where you can read alllll my thoughts on it. I am a huuuuuge Balogh fan but somehow never picked this one up. I already have a few of her books on the keeper shelf and this new-to-me read will be one more!


    And there you have it folks! Some others came close, but when looking back at my list these were the ones that really gave me the warm fuzzies.

    Phew, it’s like 1000 lbs have been lifted from my shoulders. *sigh* I have to admit though, that next year I hope to have fancy stats on how many historical vs. paranormal vs. YA vs… books I read, how many new authors I tried, etc. Now that I’m blogging its so fun to keep track of things to better understand my reading habits, likes and dislikes. I have to admit that after a year of book blogging the landscape of my reading has forever changed…for the better mostly. I am absolutely choosing books that I will more regularly enjoy whereas before it was just such a slap-dash guessing game. IF I can find the willpower to keep better notes I’m sure it will only continue to improve.

    Belated happy reading for the new year to everyone!


    Obsession with the internet and iPhoto Booth

    Have you ever noticed that when actors are using computers on TV, especially in commercials, they make them look all into it and all active and all expressive about it? Like look, I know it’s boring to watch someone scroll down and down, but no ones eyes shift that much or waggle their eyebrows when reading a computer screen about some pharmaceutical shit. It looks fake to me and bothers me. It’s the little things, the really little things, that get to me in life. Stop looking all expressive when reading page after page of the internet!


    Like seriously, no one REALLY lol’s (well maybe if you’re reading lilu, or becky of SMUK). In fact as I spent the last week or so catching up on my MONSTROUSLY out of date google reader (i could not click mark all as read *whimper* i just couldn’t!) I found out two things:

    1. i am obsessed with the internet, awesome links i found to follow

    2. i found the photo booth feature on our Mac and had WAY too much fun taking pictures. the first of which was accidental so i know EXACTLY what i look like while scrolling webpages:

    Now this <—- is what they should make people look like when they’re perusing the interwebz! I will seriously sit in the same position, finger poised over the mouse, scrolling, and clicking, and x-ing out, and opening new tabs in the same hunched over pose until both legs fall asleep and I have a hand mark on my cheek from holding my head up. That’s what happens when you have over 300 unread posts in google reader and people include lots of great hyperlinks that are just begging to be clicked.

    Now the following links were things I stumbled across that definitely brought some expression to my droopy face!!! Hopefully they will entice you to do the same!!!

    Some Link Love:

    1. NYT stalks netflix users: I love dorky statistics and I love movies so this NYT article with maps of most popular netflix rentals BY ZIPCODE of several large cities including DC, Chicago (what-what Chitown!), and Dallas is perfect for my geeked-out, voyeuristic style.

    2. WTFckery: These are some of my fave posts by KB, the first one in her most recent WTFckery post about an*l sex just kills me, I promise I RL LOL’ed at that one.

    3. Old timey stuff and names: More than dorky statistics I ADORE names, the history of them, family traditions, meanings, and odd ones, and the really good finds. Couple that with old timey stuff (yummm i love historical books and movies!) and you get this awesome post about names and old timey London stuff from a great old book find by Carolyn Jewel on Risky Regencies. T.R. Wardleworth was one of my faves.

    4. CBS show “I Get That A Lot”: In case you missed this on TV you can watch ENTIRE episodes online, but the one with Heidi Klum disguised as a pizza waitress and denying her true identity to anyone who thinks they recognize her is the bestest.

    5. Shaddap You Face: Hubby and I discovered this new (to us) song with the greatest lyrics and keep telling each other to “shut uppa you face, this-a nice-a place!” and our friends think we are being rude to each other, but we dissolve into giggles every time. Ever heard of Joe Dolce? We wikapedia-ed the shit out of him after hearing his awesome song Shaddap You Face that came out in the 80s. Pleeeease listen to the whole song, it is teh awe.some.

    And now…drumroll please…the blog post that made my face look like this (combination shock and awe, i told you had too much fun with the photo booth feature!):

    5. True Book Pr0n: While this Book Pr0n in pictures blog post by author Meljean Brook is safe for work…the dog-eared vs. doggy style and double penetration had me cracking up like no other

    Please click away, I hope you enjoy my link love and it brings some expression to your internet-perusing-face.

    It’s a Lusty Smugglivus

    Today’s the day! *bounces up and down* No, not the day the teddy bears have their picnic although I’ve had that song stuck in my head forever. But today is the day I am featured as a guest blogger on none other than The Book Smugglers’ site!! Want a peek into some of my top reads of the year? Of course you do, you bibliophilic voyeur you! I’m so chuffed to be a part of Ana and Thea’s Smugglivus event. If you’ve kept up with my Finished Reading List tab, some of my top picks for 2009 won’t come as a huge surprise, but it was so fun to look back over my year in books. I read a whooooole lotta lusty bits!

    Stay tuned for a sum up post here around the Lusty Reading Den in a few weeks as I read so many great books not published this year that I’d like to talk about, but for my best reads from 2009 please head on over to my guest post!

    Kushiel’s Chosen, by Jacqueline Carey

  • Title: Kushiel’s Chosen 
  • Author: Jacqueline Carey
  • Published: Tor Fantasy, March 2003
  • Pages: 704pgs mass market paperback
  • Standalone or series: Second in Kushiel’s Legacy series.
  • Why I read it: Despite my reservations about the first in the series I wanted to try the next one since I had bothered to memorize an entire complex world, and the first book ended on such a cliffhanger! 
  • Thank you all for joining me in discussing the world of Phèdre and Terre D’Ange in my post yesterday on the first book in the series, Kushiel’s Dart. Part of the reason I couldn’t help but make it so long was because I felt like background on this fantastical land was too important to gloss over. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do before we get started today!

    While I did place so much importance on the mythology and religion Ms. Carey created, the plot was equally as fascinating and important. D’Angelines have much pride in their kingdom, not only is Terre D’Ange rich in resources and trade, but also wealthy in arts, culture, sophistication, beauty (they are descendents of fallen angels) and loyalty to each other. Thus other nations have turned their eyes and greed towards gaining some of Terre D’Anges many types of wealth for themselves.

    The final scenes of Kushiel’s Dart brought the ginormous cast of characters (what high fantasy doesn’t have this?) to the culmination of a epic war (again, what high fantasy doesn’t have this) with a traitor to the new, young queen apprehended. While the physical battle comes to an end, the traitor does not…thus the political intrigue continues into Kushiel’s Chosen.

    And that wasn’t the only cliffhanger-the budding romance between Phèdre and her valiant Casseline defender Joscelin that seemed doomed before it even began got hints of a potential future. But how, when he has sworn a vow of chastity and protection? And when Phèdre is driven by sexual urges, is a courtesan, and consistently puts her life in danger? Obviously I had to read the next book in the series, even though my fellow romance readers warned that most conventional romance novel lovers (aka moi) wouldn’t find the  romance for these two protagonists super satisfying.

    If I had a hard time keeping up with all the characters, their cities and countries, and belief systems in the first book, that was NOTHING compared to Kushiel’s Chosen. The good news is I finally got ahold of the world of Terre D’Ange, I feel like I memorized the bible in Swahili, but I got in down pat. The problem is this time Phèdre’s quest to find the traitor, and who was involved in the plotting, brings her to La Serenissima (modeled after Venice as we know it) and then to multiple islands throughout the “Mediterranean” and “Greece”, each with its own distinct language and characteristics. At points I sorta of gave up trying to keep peoples’ names straight and what language they were speaking, thinking more along the lines of “he’s the one with black hair, she’s the priestess who was nice, he’s gay but hiding it…etc.”

    But even when being lazy I couldn’t help but continue to admire the detail of this medieval fantasy world being interwoven with an exciting plot, in depth characterizations and growth, as well as symbolism and social commentary. Take this quote for example showing how a few lines of dialogue and a moment of introspection by Phèdre covers sooo much territory:

    “It is a fair day,” I mused in [his language of] Illyrian. “Is it not, Ushak?”

    “Y-yes.” He was red as a boiled lobster, and stammering with it. “Every day is f-fair, when it is graced with the sight of you!” He said all in a rush.

    I halted, gazing at him. “Is that why you came, Ushak”

    His throat worked convulsively. “It is…it is one reason, my lady,” he said stiffly. “I think…we do not have such things on Dobrek, such things as you…to die in your name, it w-would be an honor!”

    “To live would be a better one,” I said gently. “I am D’Angeline and Naamah’s Servant, yes, but beauty is not worth dying for.”

    He shook his head, blushing and swallowing fiercely. “Not that alone, my lady. You, you were kind to us, you learned our tongue, you laughed at our jests…even, even mine.” He swallowed again and added helplessly, “You were kind.”

    I thought on it, searching the empty blue skies. “Is the world so cruel then, that that is all that is required to move a man to risk his life? Kindness?”

    “Yes.” Trembling and gulping, Ushak stood his ground, holding manfully onto my arm. “Sometimes…yes, my lady,” he finished firmly.

    Ah, Elua! I bowed my head, overwhelmed by nameless emotion. I understood Kazan, and the debt he perceived; I understood the Ban and his kin, weighing merit against risk. Even those of Kazan’s men who had been my shipmates, I understood better; we had forged a bond, we had, during that dreadful flight, and the terrors of the Temenos. But this…this came straight from the heart.

    Love as thou wilt.

    They are fools, who reckon Elua a soft god, fit only for the worship of starry-eyed lovers. Let the warriors clamor after gods of blood and thunder; love is hard, harder than steel and thrice as cruel. It is as inexorable as the tides, and life and death alike follow in its wake.

    I continued to get goosebumps everytime I read Elua’s precept, “love as thou wilt,” such a powerful way to live your life. I also continued to have the same reoccurring issues, Phèdre so often says she feels “compelled” to keep scheming and strategizing and putting her life in danger and also “compelled” to damage any chances at a relationship with honorable Joscelin through continuing in her BDSM courtesan ways. Sometimes I just wanted to say enough already! Take care of yourself for once! It was noble of her to care for her queen and country so much, and certainly a D’Angeline trait, but too many awful things befell her, as soon as the escaped the clutches of one horrible situation, she was imprisoned in another. Maybe this was done on purpose as sort of a fate or destiny type thing, but I felt manipulated after time and time again her quest was elongated and she was put in even more peril.

    And don’t even get me STARTED on Melisande. The bitch just won’t go away, argh! (And she is in the THIRD BOOK that I’m reading now too). Yesterday in the comments I thought Carolyn Crane brought up an excellent point, would I find understand Phèdre’s love/hate/sexual attraction/sadomasochistic feelings for Melisande more understandable if Melisande were a male character? I don’t know, but that certainly made me think. I’m tempted to say NO WAY I will never empathize with Melisande, she is evil through and through and there is nothing to commend her. I can see that as a literary character at the very least she is “interesting” but I’m pretty blinded by my hatred for her and like Phèdre less for her feelings towards Melisande.

    In conclusion, I was much more engaged with the characters, plot and world Kushiel’s Chosen. Any grievances I have are more personal in terms of romance preferences, and difficulty accepting some of the morals and belief systems. And like I said yesterday, I’m investing in reading the next installation, a 704 page hardcover, only because I think it’s worth it. Or maybe I’m starting to be a bit masochistic too ;)