Top Ten Tuesday: 8/16

Tuesday

Top Ten Books Set In Historical Times

  1. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran | This is still one of my absolute favorites — I hate mummies, but I’m a little bit obsessed with historical fiction involving ancient Egypt.
  2. Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran | This was my first jaunt into the historical fiction realm, so it’s near and dear to me.
  3. The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan by Stephanie Thornton | I also love books about ancient China, and this one was exceptionally well written.
  4. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran | Also maybe I’m just obsessed with Michelle Moran.
  5. The Moon Palace by Weina Dai Randel | I just finished this one and really enjoyed it.

L

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

25577005A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive. – Goodreads

Political intrigue, prophecies, history, ruthless killings…this is like Game of Thrones, ancient China style.

I was immediately drawn into this book and had a hard time putting it down. I really enjoyed Mei as a main character — she was strong, determined and focused on her goal (even if that was winning over an old dude who was possibly crazy, enjoyed hurting people and couldn’t keep it up). She’s not the only determined one — plenty of other girls are also determined, and will stop at nothing to get ahead of the others. Backstabbing galore!

I loved the worldbuilding in this — it was easy to picture the characters, the palace, the attire. Randel’s writing flows well and I was definitely invested in the characters, who were also constructed well.

I really enjoyed the romance aspect of this book — it wasn’t the overarching theme, and it was subtle — however, it was heartbreaking to watch Mei pursue a violent, terrible man in order to rise through the ranks while being completely in love with Pheasant, a kind-hearted prince who stood no chance of becoming Emperor.

The book isn’t for the faint of heart — there is plenty of blood, gore and violence, including a maid being trampled by horses, a flutist being killed by his forbidden, someone getting kicked in the face by a horse, someone getting beaten to death, etc. Very vivid imagery on those passages.

Overall, I rated this a 4/5 — I wasn’t so in love with it that I will be picking up the second installment, but it was a very enjoyable and intriguing read.

L

The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

23299513Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. – Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t IN LOVE with it, but it was a fun, quick read that was very refreshing after being in a reading slump for so long. It definitely made me realize how much I miss the Fantasy genre, that’s for sure.

I have one tiny gripe with the book, and it’s a personal problem…so I’ll get it out of the way and get on to the positive aspects of the book, which are far more numerous. I hated the names. Hated them. They felt made up and forced — Ravenspire, Lorelai Diederich, effing’ Kolvanismir Arsenyevnek…I could not stand the names. Again, tiny gripe.

I loved the characters, names aside. Lorelai was strong and confident and embodied many characteristics that I appreciate in a strong female MC. I also really liked Kol — rather than treating Lorelai like a damsel in distress, they were a team. Irina was a fabulous villain, especially because the POV would occasionally switch to her. The only character who lacked significant development was Leo, Lorelai’s brother…I’m hoping more is coming on him in future installments, because he fell flat for me.

The worldbuilding was great, especially between Ravenspire and Eldr. I could clearly picture the two, the magic system, etc.

There is some romance, but it’s not the primary focus on the story. It’s a little instalove-y, but not enough to turn me off.

In all, this is a great retelling of Snow White — if you enjoy magic, retellings, light romance and strong female leads, check this one out. I rated it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

L

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

22716447In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”) – Goodreads

Let me start by saying — I love Mindy Kaling. I wish we were friends. Hell, reading her books (and watching copious amounts of The Mindy Project) kind of makes me feel that we are.

This is Mindy’s second book, and though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, it was still a fun read. Rather than focusing on her biography as her first book did, it talks more about her current career and time in Hollywood. She does have a weird relationship with BJ Novak, America is incredibly fixated on women’s weight (her commentary is hilarious while tackling a serious issue) and other Hollywood drama.

I adore Mindy’s writing style — I read it in her voice and the humor reads just like the writing on her show. Her sense of humor is quirky and punchy, which I like.

Overall, I would rate this one a 3.5/5. It wasn’t super intriguing — I would read a chapter here or there when I had a moment or wanted a laugh, but I wasn’t driven to read it in one sitting. I still highly recommend her first one, though!

L

The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij, Eder Montero, Rebecca Flint Marx

25893750A collection of 100 Basque recipes from Alex Raij and Eder Montero, the acclaimed chef-owners of New York City restaurants Txikito, La Vara, and El Quinto Pino.

Few cuisines have captured more diners’ imaginations, or inspired more chefs and restaurants around the world than that of Spain. And within the Spanish culinary pantheon, Basque cooking from the north is considered one of the country’s most fascinating and essential traditions. In Basque, star chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero take readers on a tour of the Basque countryside, in the process revealing the iconic ingredients, cooking techniques, and traditional dishes that define Basque cooking. They also share dishes from their award-winning New York restaurants, all inspired by the Basque kitchen but featuring elegant preparations and delightfully unexpected flavor combinations. The result is a complete primer on Basque cooking, with a wide array of recipes, ranging from a simple pil pil or refrito to showstopping pintxos and mains. – Goodreads

The first thing I noticed about this book was how incredibly thick and dense it was. There’s something I love about dense book — it’s so full of information, and The Basque Book was no let down. Filled from cover-to-cover with beautiful photography and commentary, it was almost overwhelming.

I live in Boise, which has a robust Basque community (hence requesting this book for review). What I did not realize, however, is how unique their food and culture is. So many of the dishes in this book look amazing, however, I live in Boise — they don’t exactly sell squid ink at Walmart. There are also a lot of seafood recipes, which are difficult for me based on my location. Not the book’s fault, but I wish I would have been able to use the book fully — I was definitely limited.

This was a beautiful book, but is definitely suited for those who are more advanced at cooking and have access to specialty ingredients. I rated it a 4/5. I received a copy of The Basque Book in exchange for my honest review through Blogging for Books.

L

Hiatus…hopefully over?

I must confess, I completely fell off the face of the Earth when Kiesha left LBR. I stopped reading (well, read much slower and less often) and haven’t posted a damn thing since May. Apparently getting a new boyfriend is distracting, especially when it comes to reading. And blogging.

But I’m back (don’t worry, still have the boyfriend — we’re just in that ‘k, i’ll read and you play video games’ stage now).

I will be catching up on reviews of books I read while on hiatus. I’m looking forward to more TTTs, lists, etc. I definitely miss reading AND blogging, so I’m pretty excited to be back.

L

The Comprehensive ENFP Survival Guide by Heidi Priebe

26838309Life as an ENFP is no walk in the park.

Despite the happy-go-lucky attitude they exude, only those who share the specific preference for extroversion, intuition, feeling and perceiving on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can truly understand the unique form of chaos that governs this type’s restless mind. Embodying a profoundly strange stack of cognitive functions, ENFPs approach the world with both the enthusiasm of a child and the wisdom of an old soul.

In this detailed, type-based survival guide, seasoned MBTI author and shameless ENFP Heidi Priebe explains how to manage the ups, downs and inside-outs of everyday life as one of the most passionate yet self-contradictory types. – Goodreads

Once upon a time, I thought I was an INFP.

I was wrong.

First off, I love Heidi Priebe. After all, I just finished How You’ll Do Everything Based On Your Personality Type. If you haven’t checked her out on Thought Catalog, I highly recommend it. If you don’t know your MBTI, go here.

As an ENFP, I feel crazy about 98% of the time. “Having a thousand great ideas that you never follow through on”, “wanting to be alone….but like, with other people nearby” and “being a walking contradiction in almost every way” are my three favorite descriptions of myself that I read in this book. Along with a multitude of others, because that’s the point of MBTI, right? To read a description, snap your fingers and go, “Yes! Someone gets me!”

The book is split into sections — Introducing the ENFP, Growing Up ENFP, ENFPs in the Workplace, Unhealthy ENFP Behaviors, ENFP Relationships, etc. The breakdown made sense and flowed well. The ENFP in me fought to skip past the boring cognitive function section, but it proved useful and actually quite interesting.

My favorite part of the book was the section on Unhealthy ENFP Behaviors. Yes, it’s all fun and games to read funny stuff about your type. But the nitty-gritty-shitty stuff is where it’s at. Of course, as Priebe states in the book, it’s a spectrum. Characteristics range from healthy to unhealthy and all the bits in between. For example, a healthy ENFP is reflective, meaning they need alone time to recharge and reflect on their emotions. However, on the flip side, an unhealthy ENFP may become reclusive, where they avoid social interaction in favor of obsessing over their feelings. There is a difference between being principled and self-righteous, etc. It was enlightening to read about these behaviors and spot the ones where I may lean toward the unhealthy side — IE the difference between being agreeable and a pushover.

It was a long, delightful read that I looked forward to opening each night.

In the end of the book, a group of ENFPs describe why they love their type. This one summed it up perfectly, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

“I like that I can lead a group, sit in solitude for days, think far ahead, improvise, be a huge ball of energy, calm down others when they’re stressed, be a mushball, be tough and decisive, create new opportunities for myself, adapt to the world around me…I defy so many stereotypes, and I like it that way!”

If you’re an ENFP, pick this up. If not, pick up her other book that features all of the types. Or hit Thought Catalog. Whatever. I rated this a 4/5.