Thursday, January 8, 2015

#tbt ~ Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon -- Welcome Aboard or Walk the Plank?

Destiny is a freight train rolling along on a set course that only the conductor knows. When we get to the railroad crossing in our car, we can choose to stop and wait for the train to pass us by, or try to pull out in front of it and beat that bad boy across.
That choice is our free will.
If we choose to rush ahead, the car we're in might stall on the tracks. We can then choose to try and start the car or wait for the train to plow into us. Or we can get out to run, and fight the destiny of the train slamming into us and killing us where we stand. If we choose to run, our foot could get caught in the tracks or we could slip and fall.
We could even say to ourselves, "there's no way I'm dumb enough to fight the train" and hang back to safely wait. Then the next thing we know, a truck rams us from behind, throwing us straight into the train's path. 
If it is our destiny to be hit by the train, we will be hit by the train. The only thing we can change is how the train turns us into a hamburger. 

This analogy on free's so
1) appropriate for this book that I'm at a loss for words
2) appropriate in general--I've never given free will too much of a thought but this, this got me thinking...thinking that this may be my own view on the idea as well

Title: Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
The JudgmentFirst Mate {You, fine piece, are my right hand. I cannot live without you, and neither can this ship. Thank you so much for your beautiful existence. You cannot leave this ship, no can do.}

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends...until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he's next on the menu.
As if starting high school isn't hard Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that? 

Judging the Book by the Cover: Love, love, love the font and design of the title. The rest...well, it's a good cover in general. Nothing about it makes me want to rave about it, but it's good as far as covers go. The cover model fits my mental image of Nick, but the sigil seems unnecessary, which is a judgement based on after reading the book--there wasn't any mention of any sigils, magic circles, etc so I don't see the point of it, but I suppose it gives a hint that the book will deal with the paranormal. All in all, good cover.

My First Thoughts: This was my...second? third time? reading this book so of course I started off with a lot of thoughts. Most of these thoughts consisted of me trying to piece the book by memory. I'd remembered bits and pieces, but not enough to skip the book and move on to the next one. I looked forward to rereading it though. If anything, I definitely remembered that Nick was one of my favorite characters. I was too excited to hear his sass and sarcasm again. The boy has a way with words.

Other than that, I was eager to jump into the world of the Dark-Hunters. From the few bits I'd gathered through teasers and reviews, the world of the Dark-Hunters enticed me. The world-building seems so complex, yet seamless. I want in. And speaking of world-building...

The World-building: There's two levels here: on one hand, we have the physical location of New Orleans, the place of mystery and mysticism, a perfect backdrop for the secondary, yet main world: the paranormal world of the Dark-Hunters, gods, etc. I'm going to make a leap and attribute Nick's quick adaptability to the weirdness in his life to growing up in New Orleans--he'd lived around people with sixth senses, zombie hunters and such. Initially, he sees himself as the levelheaded one, but a quick demonstration of magic from Acheron dispels that idea and he comes to wrap his head around the idea of another world among their own.

Little is done to introduce me to the world of Dark-Hunters *boooooo* but we are given a small sampling of what's to come. As far as I can discern, Nick has met all the major players in the game, the people who are going to be around him for a while. Each seems to have their own agenda concerning him though, and no one but I seem to know of this. Poor, poor Nick--is what I would say, but this puppet seems to be guiding their fingers instead.

Acheron: We're told, for the very beginning, that this man will both be Nick's best friend and his worst foe. Whether betrayal is involved is something for a later time. My guess? The dude exposes him to a world of danger, which leads to Nick losing loved ones.
More than that, somehow, some way, Nick had glimpsed his true god form.
Kill him and be done with it.
That was probably the most logical thing to do. But Kyrian, for whatever misguided reasons, had his heart set on saving the kid. Closing his eyes, Acheron used his powers to see into the future--to what would happen if he killed Nick.
Nothing was there.
Just a vacuous space of nothingness.
Kody: I would never, never would have thought that little miss fluffy here would be a warrior of light.

Buuuut I was surprised...pleasantly surprised. Badassery is always a plus, and being a warrior of light kinda puts you high on the badass list. Anyways, onward to her plans...
No matter what, she wouldn't be so stupid again. 
"Have no fear, Sraosha. I've learned from my mistake. This time, I won't fail. If we can't turn him, I will kill him."
"You better remember that. Because this one is even stronger than his father and now he's being embraced and trained by the Dark-Hunters. If we don't turn him, he will be the one who finally destroys us all."
And she would be the one to blame for the death of humanity. 
Ambrose: Ambrose...he is clear-cut. He makes on effort to hide his purpose: make sure Nick doesn't end up where he himself has ended up. And it doesn't seem like this is his first effort to do so. Or his second.
Ambrose stared at the wall, where he saw himself as a boy. Nick Gautier had no idea how the random small decisions he was making right now would turn him into the beast Ambrose had become. 
I have to save myself.
More than that, he had to save the ones he loved. Before it was too late.
But how>
God, how could I have been so stupid, even at fourteen? It was hard to look back and see the faces of his friends and loved ones, especially since he knew what would become of them if he didn't alter history. It cut so deep that it alone was almost enough to make him insane.
How do I stop it? 
Kyrian: Now he...he is a strange one. We know nothing of him, besides what he tells Nick. Time will tell which side he's on.
"Nick..." Kyrian's voice was strained. "Look around. I'm not going to miss it. You were headed the wrong way down the street, when, for whatever reason, you made a right turn. No one made you do it. You did it by yourself. My goal is to keep you on the right path. And I know that desperate people do desperate things, so this job will help eliminate some of that temptation. You're a good kid and you deserve a break, which I'm sure life hasn't given you much of."
But, there is something that allows me to make a hypothesis on Kyrian...something Acheron said:
"Nick isn't Jason. It's a different time and place, General. Don't let the past ruin your future."
Kyrian is obviously a man carrying some sort of baggage, baggage he feels he can absolve through being a mentor to Nick.

I don't think I need to worry about him...*weeeell, I worry that he might be heading into a future much, much worse than what is planned by those with good or bad intentions, but I'm trying to have faith in him--don't blame me for having a hard time; forgive me if it's hard to completely, blindly trust a fourteen year old being guided by his raging hormones*
She's dangerous to you. Avoid her.
He scowled at the deep, scary voice in his head. It sounded almost demonic. WTH?
"I'm going crazy with boredom." Only a lunatic would want to avoid a girl as nice and pretty as Kody.

Reading about a fourteen year old, who holds the fate of the whole world in his gaming hands, is all well and good, but may the lawd have mercy and never let this be a real-life situation kind of thing. PLEASE.

The Guy:
 " I am a socially awkward mandork."
That is the first sentence in chapter 1, and it also happens to be the least apt description of Nicholas Ambrosius Gautier *Nick*. Case in point. Poor Nick is subjected to bullying at school [which his mother naively writes off: "No one's going to pick on you, Nicky. The school has a strict no-bullying policy."...ah parents and their ignorance on the actual workings of high school] But despite the bullying, to make his mother happy, he wore something of
...color and style were bad enough. The fact it was covered in l-a-r-g-e pink, gray, and white trout (or were they salmon?) was even worse. 
The boy has more courage than I ever would. Does this mean he's a socially awkward mandork? Hell to the no. The boy can manage to get the cute, new girl to like him WHILE wearing that monstrosity.
"I like a man who takes fashion chances. It's the mark of someone who lives by his own code. A rebel." 
10 points for Nekoda! In all seriousness, i'm scared of the prospect of the female population being in his vicinity while he's dressed to the nines. Hearts shall be broken, my friends.

But more than that, Nick has a heart of gold when his mother is concerned. He'll wear ugly shirts for her, be embarrassed in front of his rich, entitled classmates [Nicky's smart! #scholarshipkid], and take the fall to protect her feelings.
It'd always been just the two of them in this world. Team Fabulous. That's what she'd called them as far back as he could remember. Together they could make it through anything.
Being the only child, and having his murdering (surprise!) dad out of the picture, Nick has the be the man of the family...or else, according to daddy dearest:
Take care of your mom, boy, or you'll answer to me. You lip off to her and I'll cut out your tongue. You make her cry and I'll kill you myself.
Now THAT is some serious motivation, but in Nick's case, he takes care of his mother more out of his love for her than the threat by his dad.

Not all is perfect about Mr. Nick though...desperation makes him vulnerable which makes him prey in the eyes of the street kids he calls his "friends" [between you and me, Nick, those a'int your friends--Caleb, Bubba, Mark, now THOSE are friends...tough that you learned that distinction the hard way, kid]. But in a way, he should be thankful for these so-called "friends"--if it wasn't for their mugging job they'd tried to rope Nick into, Nick wouldn't have met Kyrian or have been exposed to the Dark-Hunters. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen, as Ms. Nekoda aka warrior of light, views it as a bad thing. But then again, I also know next to nothing about these "good people". Who is to say they are not the bad ones? Do their ends justify their means?

Okay, yeah, derailed a bit there.
But onto the right path, weirdly enough...which iiiiis Nick's main and fatal flaw that all these scheming people in his life fail to consider: he is human. Remember that fun analogy about fate up top? There is more than one definition of fate in this book. Here is the other version, Nick's version to be exact:
I, personally, don't believe in this crap. I say I control my destiny and my life. 
No, nothing controls me.
And more than anything in this world, I want this to be true, for both in general, and for Nick. I want there to be a chance that Nick doesn't have to end up like Ambrose, alone and demonic. Oh, there I go again, derailing. BACK ON TRACK. Nick can't be sugary good like Kody expects him to be or be pure evil like Adarian is hoping him to be. He's...human. He's both. At one moment, he is helping out old ladies take out their trash, but the next moment, he's imagining how he'd kill the bastards that betrayed him. And that's okay. Because these tiny actions are what make him a master of his own fate, the actions that would determine where he would eventually end up. At one time, those actions would lead to a total tragedy, with him losing everything and everyone he ever loved. But this time...this time, no one knows where they are headed. The puppeteers have lost control and are scrambling to have the strings on their fingers again, but Nick is finally free and damn if anyone can control him ever again. Nick, you're a good kid in my book. I hope you end up happy.

On that note...

Captain's Log: Great, great book. I rarely enjoy reading a male perspective because not many female authors carry it out properly. It can't be helped; there is a difference between writing the book with after a lot of research and writing the book after a lot of research AND having a knack of pulling it off. And Ms. Kenyon, pull it off you did. Looking forward to reading, ooooh, pretty much all your books. Oh, and Sherrilyn Kenyon and Infinity, WELCOME TO THE JOLLY ANNE! I have high hopes that the future books will join the loot, with a full five stars.
-Captain Kaelyn

PS: Favorite lines
  • Wow. They were both rays of sunshine that broke through the darkest cloud...
           In hell.
  • Kyrian put the phone in his pocket. "I learned a long time ago not to judge people by what they look like, sound like, or by the clothes they wear. Just because a house is nice and shiny out front doesn't mean it's not rotting on the inside. Your mom's a good woman with a good heart and I'm glad you're mature enough to appreciate that about her."
  • "It's okay. You'll see. Just when you think nothing get better, it always does. Trust me. My akri says that tragedy and adversity are the stones we sharpen our swords against so that we can fight new battles. This is just a minor skirmish and you'll be back in the fight. You'll see." 
  • "Intentions don't matter. It's the end result we're all judged by. Evil in the name of good is still evil. And when you dance with the devil you seldom get to pick the tune." 
  • "It's something my dad used to say when I was a kid. To infinity, meaning you'd see something through the end."

    Nick didn't get it. "Infinity is never-ending."

    "That's right, which means you keep going and going no matter what happens or what obstacles you meet. Over, under, around, or through. There's always a way. And if you have to chase something to infinity, strap on your big-boy pants, hiking boots, and go."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Captain's Log 3/13/2014 - love146, Chong Kim and Sex Trafficking

I don't speak of serious topics much on this blog, but this one has touched me very deeply, lads and lassies. It started when I randomly came across the story on Facebook: a story of an escapee sex slave by the name of Chong Kim.

Her story had left me in tears. I think the downside of being an avid reader is the vivid imagination. And that imagination managed to paint a movie of her life in my mind. Yet I don't regret reading the story or anything like that. I only experienced second hand what she had experienced first hand. Even now, thoughts of what she had to go through make me cry.

Click here to read a milder version of her story [can't find the article I read :/ ]

After this, I watched Michelle Phan's latest video, Remember The Girl.

And through this, I got introduced to the love146 organization. Here is an official statement from their page:
In 2002, the co-founders of Love146 traveled to Southeast Asia on an exploratory trip to determine how they could serve in the fight against child sex trafficking. In one experience, a couple of our co-founders were taken undercover with investigators to a brothel where they witnessed children being sold for sex. This is the story that sparked our abolition movement.
“We found ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder with predators in a small room, looking at little girls through a pane of glass. All of the girls wore red dresses with a number pinned to their dress for identification.
They sat, blankly watching cartoons on TV. They were vacant, shells of what a child should be. There was no light in their eyes, no life left. Their light had been taken from them. These children…raped each night… seven, ten, fifteen times every night. They were so young. Thirteen, eleven… it was hard to tell. Sorrow covered their faces with nothingness. Except one girl. One girl who wouldn’t watch the cartoons. Her number was 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring out at us with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. There was still life left in this girl…
…All of these emotions begin to wreck you. Break you. It is agony. It is aching. It is grief. It is sorrow. The reaction is intuitive, instinctive. It is visceral. It releases a wailing cry inside of you. It elicits gut-level indignation. It is unbearable. I remember wanting to break through the glass. To take her away from that place. To scoop up as many of them as I could into my arms. To take all of them away. I wanted to break through the glass to tell her to keep fighting. To not give up. To tell her that we were coming for her…”
Because we went in as part of an ongoing, undercover investigation on this particular brothel, we were unable to immediately respond. Evidence had to be collected in order to bring about a raid and eventually justice on those running the brothel. It is an immensely difficult problem when an immediate response cannot address an emergency. Some time later, there was a raid on this brothel and children were rescued. But the girl who wore #146 was no longer there. We do not know what happened to her, but we will never forget her. She changed the course of all of our lives.”
-Rob Morris
President & Co-founder
We have taken her number so that we remember why this all started. So that we must tell her story. It is a number that was pinned to one girl but that represents the millions enslaved. We wear her number with honor, with sorrow, and with a growing hope. Her story can be a different one for so many more.
Love is the foundation of our name because it is our motivating drive to end the trafficking and exploitation of children. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” We hold that to be true.
 love146US YouTube page ~ the stories

I hope, you too, have been inspired to support this great cause. I know I have been. Already, I am planning an event or two for my college to spread awareness. I implore you to do the same at your school, college, neighborhood, whatever. Save innocence. 

-Captain Kaelyn

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons -- Welcome Aboard or Walk the Plank?

Surely I must have drunk too much wine, because all of this--his touch, his concern, his friendship--it's left me heady and hopeful. I marvel at how easily he can touch me right now, me, a monster, and he's as steady as always.

Warning: the beauty in the intimate scenes may cause ugly sobbing to occur. In case such an event occurs, please proceed to cry till your eyes are swollen and your face is a wet mess. This must be done immediately or the pent up feels may cause you to explode in the near future.

I never knew this day would come so soon--that I'll be speechless and at a loss for words in writing a review. But that is what Ms. Heather Lyons has done to. She has left me struggling to organize my feelings. I will, nevertheless, try to write review that does justice to this amazing book.

Title: The Deep End of the Sea
Author: Heather Lyons
The JudgmentLOOT!!! {This. This is what all I review strive to be. Not a part of the ship but a part of the loot, forever immortalized, forever enshrined, loved, gazed upon in awe. Truly a master piece. You have Neptune's grace.}


"What if all the legends you’ve learned were wrong?

Brutally attacked by one god and unfairly cursed by another she faithfully served, Medusa has spent the last two thousand years living out her punishment on an enchanted isle in the Aegean Sea. A far cry from the monster legends depict, she’s spent her time educating herself, gardening, and desperately trying to frighten away adventure seekers who occasionally end up, much to her dismay, as statues when they manage to catch her off guard. As time marches on without her, Medusa wishes for nothing more than to be given a second chance at a life stolen away at far too young an age.

But then comes a day when Hermes, one of the few friends she still has and the only deity she trusts, petitions the rest of the gods and goddesses to reverse the curse. Thus begins a journey toward healing and redemption, of reclaiming a life after tragedy, and of just how powerful friendship and love can be—because sometimes, you have to sink in the deep end of the sea before you can rise back up again."

Before I get to my thoughts on the book, I just HAVE to do this...

Cover Analysis: I know I haven't done this for other books before, but I figured I should do this for books with covers that have given me a pause--both good or bad. Now, let's get cracking at this cover.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the font used for the title--it doesn't really portray the sexy-sometimes-dark-other-times tone of the book. But that's a minor nuance. Let's get to the main point: the girl and the water.
That picture, with those colors, and that pose? Perfect. I am spazzing so hard about the cover now that I've read the book. Before, the cover was "meh", but now? 
But really, that alluding thing the cover has going on ? Totally digging it. *Spoiler start [highlight to see] I mean, the whole thing concept of Medusa being trapped by the water, aka Poseidon, being stuck there, even as a girl, it's just brilliant. Spoiler end*
*Side note* I'll be experimenting with a new way of doing reviews. Let's see if it works out! [wanted to get more analyzing done, beyond just what's on the surface]

My First Thoughts: I actually had no opinion, good or other wise, about this book going in. The concept was just I'd never encountered a book like this before, one that humanizes a monster, one that humanizes Medusa. Now, I've taken my fair share of Classical Mythology classes and have studied the subject since elementary school, non-stop [what can I say, I was hooked ever since I picked up D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths in 5th grade. A brilliant book, by the way, one to discuss at another time] And the Greek myths, guilty for doing so, have always glorified (that bitch) Athena against Arachne, against Medusa. Even in my learning, Medusa doesn't get much of a back story, only the slaying by Perseus. That said, in retrospect, maybe I did come in with some thoughts: pleasure at knowing that Medusa gets her story told too. Maybe I've just been watching too much Once Upon A Time and been keen on learning the back stories of the "villains".

The World-building: There are a total of three places in this book [as indicated by the partition of the book into three parts due to where she was]: Gorgona, Olympus, and Jackson, Wyoming. It's a brilliant move, I would say, separating the book based on where Medusa currently was. It allows Ms. Lyons to concentrate on that one place and build it in such beauty and intricacy [whether that was her intention or not, I do not know, but that's how I perceived it] Besides the physical world-building, the overall "world" that was created was also great. My only problem was towards the end, where everything seemed...rushed. Overall, the ending seemed too perfect and convenient :/ *Spoiler starts [highlight to see] It was too perfect that to end the struggle of the Council over Medusa's fate that it was found that Hades and Persephone were her parents. It also seemed harried. BOOM, enters Demeter, tells the truth that she made them give Dusa up long ago, Poseidon can't win, everyone lives happily ever after, while I'm still reeling from trying to deal with Dusa's decision to give in to Poseidon. There was potential for a second book, in my opinion. Spoiler end*
The Girl: Medusa. Dusa. Maddy. What ever your name is you beautiful person,  never have I ever had the urge to hug someone so much [but you'd rather prefer his hugs anyways sooo ;]
I'd spent most of that night collecting the pieces which once made a whole man, blubbering in misery.
I-it's not your fault, Dusa!

The sound of waves crashing against the shore sends my eyes to the horizon. I've tried to drown myself in those waters more times than I ought to admit over the years, but the sea always spits me back out.

Dusa, in Gorgona, is a very sad girl. She's just...tired. Tired of failing to kill herself, tired of failing to stop accidentally killing innocents. But thank God for small mercies that she still has that spark of life in her, after so long! Those small mercies come in the form of her friend Mikkos [a blind man] and the god Hermes. These both are the support system that keep, no force, Dusa to keep going, even when she's at her lowest. 

If there is one thing Dusa illustrates clearly, it is that inner beauty is a real thing, ladies. There is something my mom always says: your inner thoughts reflect on your outer appearance. Basically, no matter how blessed you are with the most flawless skin and such, if you are have a horrid personality, it WILL show. What we have with Dusa here is the exact opposite of that example. Her personality, her abundance of humanity is so overwhelming that it doesn't matter what she looks like: she is simply beautiful because her inner radiance burns so brightly. I was, and still am, in awe of the amazing amount of humanity this girl has in her. Years after being cursed. Years filled with involuntary murder. 
Maybe this is why she chose to mold me into a killer; maybe she knew that my heart, to often called soft by those who knew me well back when I was human, would not be able to handle the actions I had no control over.
Yet she still held within her compassion. She didn't become what Athena wanted her to be: a monster. Despite the odds against her, she had not one, but two precious friends who came back for her over and over again. What can I say, she's my new role model. I now aspire to be her. [I will say that the author molds Dusa to be so good without being infuriatingly perfect--it's Dusa's actions that show her personality and not the comparison of Dusa to less-than-perfect people around her. Magnifico!]

The Guy:
I sneak a quick peek over at him as he leans forward, arms against his knees. He's wearing one of my favorite t-shirts of his, a thin and fraying red one whose picture of a surfer has faded to the point of obscurity. The first time I saw him in it, I thought him to be exactly what a beach bum traversing the Mediterranean ought to look like--all gorgeous and golden in skin and hair. As I find him to be the most beautiful person I've ever met, inside and out, I can only imagine how the ladies in the outside world must fall at his feet.

Well hellooo there God of Sexiness. I don't blame you, girl, I'd sneak a peak too. Except you have restraint and can look away while I might end up staring at him forever.

But in all seriousness, how is it that Hermes is so hot, so kind, and so compassionate, without being bland? Maybe it was the dash of sexy. Whatever concoction Ms. Lyons used to make Hermes, she had it all perfectly balanced out.
"I find that I cannot sit back and allow for this to happen anymore," he continues quietly. "The simple fact is, my uncle raped you, and somehow my bat-shit insane sister blamed and cursed you for it happening in one of her temples. In no way did you deserve what happened to you."

Hmm, maybe it was also his "knight complex" as Dusa likes to put it. Can't hate a guy who wants to save everyone. DEFINITELY can't hate a guy that can look beneath the surface and befriend a "monster" like Dusa :')

Girl x Guy: I'm not going to tell you who Dusa ended up in the end. I'll let that be a pleasant surprise for you. I will warn you, as I did above, that the romance between the two was too beautiful. I kid you not, I CRIED so much. He was...just so accepting of her. He defended her, worked hard to keep her safe, and pretty much went against everyone to protect her. They both are meant for each other, this I have no doubt about. Also, HALLE-freakin-LUJAH, there is no insta-love or love triangle.

Captain's Log: Overall, I'd say the book was...meh. Oh wait, thinking of the book I'm currently reading. OVERALL, I'd say...

This is literally me right now, as I contemplate how I can ever enjoy another book again...because this book was THAT GOOD. Like, some of the book I had been "looking forward to" are sitting untouched in my Kindle. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME, MS. LYONS?!

-Captain Kaelyn