Monthly Archives: July 2012

Review: Bizenghast Vol. 1 by M. Alice LeGrow

Title: Bizenghast Vol. 1
Author: M. Alice LeGrow
Series: Bizenghast Series
Genre: Manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Personal Purchase
Pub. Year: 2006
Purchase: Amz / B&N

Blurb from Goodreads:
Time passes in every town…except one. When a young girl moves to the forgotten town of Bizenghast, she uncovers a terrifying collection of lost souls that leads her to the brink of insanity. One thing becomes painfully clear: The residents of Bizenghast are just dying to come home

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What I like: Dinah’s lolita clothing=Beautiful. That is an amazing cover.

Dinah

If you like beautiful gothic drawing, ghosts and bold eyes, then this is the book for you. The gothic and dark elements of this manga are striking. I love it.

Dinah and Vincent, best friends, have to help the spirits of the dead find peace by breaking them out of their routines. Before they can even reach the spirit, they have to solves riddles. The riddles are pretty cool but I couldn’t solve them so that is awesome. Vincent is the one solves them and helps the spirits move on. This manga has four ghosts that Dinah and Vincent have to help. The first ghost has the best riddle and answer but it is the second ghost that has the tragic love story. The third ghost involves a drowning, it is a good storyline but not my favorite. The fourth ghost involves a quasi-wolf boy elements going on and it has a great image of Dinah becoming one with a tree. It is beautiful.

The people who are forcing Dinah to go a nightly quest to help spirits are the caretakers of the mausoleum/cemetery. Bali-Bali is a crazy spider lady; she is scary. Edaniel is another entity that belongs to the mausoleum; he is a Guard that is meant to help Dinah on her quests. He is a weird cat like being but he is so adorable and funny. Reminds me of the Cheshire Cat. He is helpful in explaining in more details what is going on. Bali-Bali was more frightening than helpful. Edaniel shows that there is more going at the mausoleum instead of just putting spirits to rest. I can’t wait to see the storyline become stronger and more concrete.

Edaniel

One of the issues I take up with this first volume is Dinah herself. She is a very weak character. I think it has to do with Dinah being depressed or sick but she just has no energy. I love her bold eyes but she has no charismatic personality. The one time she shows a backbone, I don’t believe her. Dinah has been close to useless pretty much the entire length of the manga that it is hard to believe that she would keep her contract with Bali-Bali when she is offer a way out of her contract. It does show Dinah could grow into a strong character later on but first, she does have to get physically and mentally better.

The art is fantastic but the storyline is not strong. Dinah, Vincent and any human are not strong characters; they are a little one dimensional. Edaniel is a fun character and I like him very much. I hope Dinah grows a backbone because she is the main character. I love her eyes.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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52nd in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: First in a Series, Ghostly, M/GN/VG

Review: The Flower Bowl Spell by Olivia Boler

Title: The Flower Bowl Spell
Author: Olivia Boler
Series: Standalone
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: E-book
Source:  Bewitching Book Tours
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ Smashwords

I receive this novel free of charge from BBT in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:
Journalist Memphis Zhang isn’t ashamed of her Wiccan upbringing—in fact, she’s proud to be one of a few Chinese American witches in San Francisco, and maybe the world. Unlike the well-meaning but basically powerless Wiccans in her disbanded coven, Memphis can see fairies, read auras, and cast spells that actually work—even though she concocts them with ingredients like Nutella and antiperspirant. Yet after a friend she tries to protect is brutally killed, Memphis, full of guilt, abandons magick to lead a “normal” life. The appearance, however, of her dead friend’s sexy rock star brother—as well as a fairy in a subway tunnel—suggest that magick is not done with her. Reluctantly, Memphis finds herself dragged back into the world of urban magick, trying to stop a power-hungry witch from using the dangerous Flower Bowl Spell and killing the people Memphis loves—and maybe even Memphis herself.

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Random: Suicidal ducks! Read past the first fifty pages.

I found it hard to get into the book for the first 50 or so pages. It felt like the book spent spending too much time in the exposition and providing an in-depth background (that continues throughout the novel) instead of getting the witchy elements rolling. The only good thing about this long start are the small little interludes by magical creatures that fly around and distract Memphis. They are mainly fairies and the occasional duck.

Memphis was a great protagonist; she was a strong woman who dealt with crazy situations. An old friend abandons two little girls, Cleo and Romola, at her doorsteps and Memphis really has no choice but to take them in. She is a maternal person because she does her best to protect them while she tries to figure out why their mother, Viveka, insisted that Memphis take them in. It is also good to see that her journalism skills aren’t entirely useless.

The supporting cast are the ones that I love. Xien as a fairy is pretty cool. I think the character that I like the most was the French waiter, Remy. He is just funny and enchanting. More importantly, Memphis and Remy’s interaction showed that Memphis is not entirely comfortable, no, um, she is not as invested in her relation with Cooper (16 years her senior) as she would like the readers to believe. It is a little snub on Remy’s part but she doesn’t correct him right there and then. When she does correct him, it is in a flirtatious way so that provides an insight into her mind.

Memphis is at her element when she is using her magick. She has been denying her wiccan self for a few years so she is rusty but she is good. Tucker, the granddad of Cleo and Romola, really helps Memphis gather her bearings and prepare against the magical attacks against her. He is the one who understands the fairies more than Memphis and leads her to obtaining help from fairies.  The magick part of Memphis makes her an interesting character because she has always known about magick and is accustomed to weird things happening.  The more she uses magick, the more Memphis begins to feel comfortable in her own skin again (at least that is the impression I got).

Remember the in-depth background at the introduction of the novel that I mentioned, the problem with is that half of it is used to explain Memphis’s witchy background which is good but the other half deals with her mundane job as a journalist and her relationship with (boring) Cooper. It is an attempt to show her as a happy woman except she is not. It doesn’t seem like she likes her job very much (she is only friends with one co-worker) and her relationship with Cooper is not really strong. He doesn’t understand or care her wiccan background which is a vital part of Memphis even as she denies it. The intro is divided between being interesting and being boring at the same time.

Overall, it was a good novel that takes a while to warm up. It delves into the world of wicca but it not too in depth. Memphis starts out as a character that is not entirely happy with her life but ends up finding her road back to being comfortable with herself. Not happy with life but comfortable which is a better place than we find her in at the start.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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51st in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Self-Published, Witch and Witchcraft, Where Are You Reading?-California

Review: Hym and Hur by Phillip Frey

hym and hur

Title: Hym and Hur
Author: Phillip Frey
Series: Standalone
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: E-book
Source:  Author
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ B&N
I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:
In this fantasy-comedy Hym and Hur are a young couple who never age and have been in love for more than a century. They also possess an array of magical abilities, two of which are either to play pranks on humankind or to perform good deeds. Enacting both at the same time is now what gets them into trouble, especially since it’s the character of Death they must deal with to bring their plans to fruition.

The prank Hym and Hur have come up with must first be agreed upon by Death, who happens to be a rambunctious, difficult character. Once agreed upon, the prank is set in motion. Hym and Hur soon discover Death had tricked them into a contract with dire consequences for all of us.

During their attempt to break the contract, Hym and Hur try to save the relationship of an earthbound couple, knowing they are truly meant for each other. A good deed that will bring Hym and Hur even more trouble.

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This was a sweet short story about the power to bring back the death to life. Hym and Hur are a funny couple who are looking for a fun time. Hur is more into the prank because she is the one who looks for the person to play the prank on. Hym is just playing along with her trick.

Archie is the man who receives the gift of bringing the death back to life. Hur chooses Archie because he is a decent man. He may be a struggling artist but he is happy with his work. What I liked about him and his girlfriend was their disbelief in the dead coming to life. The death coming to life has to have a logical explanation like the hospital’s morgue incident. A dead man is going to be autopsy and when Archie touches him, the dead man wakes up. It was a medical mistake the reason why the man ended up in the morgue. It’s a morbid but funny situation. The medical examiner is ready to cut open the body when the body comes to life. I find it hilarious because it would be like being pranked except it’s not a prank.

The best character in the story is Death. He is cynical, sarcastic and funny. He proves why no one should attempt to cheat Death. He adds his own spin to the the prank of Hym and Hur by stretching the conditions of the prank.

It was a really nice short story about being pranked by immortal beings.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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50th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Self-Published, Where are you reading?-California

Review: Dragons Away! by K.D. Berry

Title: Dragons Away!
Author: K.D. Berry
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: E-book
Source:  Author
Pub. Year: 2011
Purchase: Amz/B&N
I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:
It seemed like such a good idea at the time … a wager with the devious, dangerous and probably quite deranged King Davkosh of the Southern Realms. Half the kingdom staked in a race between mystery contenders. Ten leagues, point to point as the -er- crow flies.

Drewdop the Illusionist is quick to point out the flaws in this plan and is tasked with a secret spy mission – to find out just what kind of invincible champion Davkosh has training at home. Travelling in magical disguise causes unforeseen complications for Drewdop, while his half-ogre bodyguard, in the guise of a beautiful woman, certainly turns a few heads.

But Drewdop soon discovers that the great race is the least of their worries. Davkosh’s glamorous, fiery and ruthless queen, Gunora, is massing an army ready for attack whatever the outcome. Meanwhile, deep in the dark forest, one of Davkosh’s elite royal messengers is facing his own perilous destiny – how to become the world’s first and only surviving dragon rider…

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Random: That is not how I picture one of their soldiers would look like.

It’s been awhile since I have a read a novel completely set in a secondary world. Those novels always remind me of Tolkien and this novel is reminiscent of that. The dwarves and the goblins hate each other. A dragon is the enemy. The only thing missing is the elves.

What I like about this novel is there is always something happening. It is filled with interesting mini-adventures and it slowly introduces other types of fantasy creatures. There is a battle with goblins, escaping from Gunora’s guard with the help of dwarves, Drewdrop’s illusions helping to defeat an invading army, and of course, the dragon race. Drewdrop is an illusionist who is kind of brave nerd character. He accidentally binds an imp to him as a familiar instead of choosing a cat. It is cute.

One of my favorite characters is Velasco who is a mischievous imp and familiar to Drewdrop.  He is just funny, sarcastic and a troublemaker. He always appears at random times which annoys Drewdrop. Fiery Flyer is also an adorable baby dragon. She grows from being a lone dragon who only had one good friend to expanding her circle of friends.

Most of what is going on in the story adds to the progression of the novel and character development. The planning of the war on both sides show just how mean and ambitious King Davkosh and Queen Gunora are but it also shows Gunora’s dependence on a magical well. I think it is supposed to show her allegiance to the dark side of magic but the well doesn’t really do much. On Drewdrops’s side, King Credos is sort of an idiot king but he is really nice. He is not concerned with coming up with a counterstrike which is going to save his kingdom but rather winning the dragon race which whether he wins or loses is not going to save his kingdom. He is not a great king but luckily, he has a great Captain, Drewdrop, and devoted followers who can think for him.

There was a little bit of awkwardness with the jokes from Queen Gunora and King Davkosh (who are the villains). “There is no such thing as a free lynch” was possibly the worst attempt at comedy from the duo. It is a cringe-worthy moment. Berry is funny when the comedy is physical or coming from Velasco. There are funny moments…just not from the villains.

Overall, it is a pretty good fantasy novel. There are great characters who are funny and quirky.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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49th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book

Review: The Faustian Host by Dave Becker

Title: The Faustian Host
Author: Dave Becker
Series: Apocalypse Signs # 1
Genre: YA Paranormal
Format: E-book
Source:  Author
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/B&N
I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:
Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who’s to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino.

After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.

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Thoughts to ponder on: Close to having religious tones but vague enough to not have them.

The Faustian Host ended up being different than I expected.  I was sort of expecting a book with a semi-Christian tone (to counter the satanic cult) with monsters but it is really different. It is a lot better than my initial thoughts on it. It is much more about Tony and the freak events surrounding him.

Tony is an interesting protagonist. At the beginning, he seem to do everything wrong. He got off on the wrong foot with his foster father by talking about religion in a negative way and at school, he made himself a target by saying and doing the wrong things. It was hard to relate to him but as the novel progressed and Tony started finding his friends, it was easier to see him as a likable character. His friends are quirky and have unique personalities but there wasn’t a lot of background on them. Tony is a consistent character throughout the novel. He repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth and screwed up his friendships. Luckily, he matured through the novel and managed to save his friendships and make new ones.

One of the quirkiest or oddest thing about the book is the town’s reaction to the plagues. It’s like “Oh, the town is covered with a very deep fog…go to school” and I’m like “What.” I like school very much but I rather stay at home than drive/walk through a creepy fog. The town was really chill with the water turning red and a swarm of flies. There was an initial panic at first but it was downplayed as Tony’s fault. He brought the plagues to town because he was cursed so people just stayed away from him. I was half-expecting a mob to go after him or people to truly panic and leave town. It is just a funny reaction from the town which makes for an interesting novel.

The villains of the story are a satanic cult and want to destroy the world. They are lead by Sinthos. He is not really charismatic. Tony is not really entice to join the cult because Sinthos is not enticing. He is not a great villain but he is good villain because he constantly interferes in the life of Tony. One of my favorite scenes of the book was when Sinthos explains why Tony is cursed. It is a unique and indirect way of explaining the curse. It was different because it leaves the reader wondering if the story was really about Tony or just a legend. I feel it is about Tony and it explains the title of the book. Goethe’s Faust is about a deal with the devil.

Being the first book in a new series, there are a couple of characters that leave me wondering. Carver and Hammon, the two teachers from the Kalos Academy, knew about what was going on with the plagues but they never brought in Tony into their confidence. There is also the question of whether Carver and Hammon are allies or not. Both teachers are wary of each other yet still worked together to protect Tony. They are an interesting pair. The biggest question is why did Hammon leave Tony and his classmates alone in the Death Valley. Hammon is either a highly irresponsible teacher, it was a test or he was setting up Tony to be taken by Sinthos and his cult. I’m not sure what his reasoning is. Carver might be more insane than Hammon because he has a creepy vibe but he is a fascinating character. I‘m looking forward to seeing what direction both men take.

In the end, The Faustian Host earns 4  butterflies from me. It has an interesting plot with very intriguing teachers. I will definitely pick up the second book in the sries.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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48th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Self-Published, First In A Series, Where Are You Reading?-Massachusetts

Review: Dead Tropics by Sue Edge

Title: Dead Tropics
Author: Sue Edge
Series: Standalone
Genre: Horror
Format: E-book
Source:  Innovative Online Book Tours
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ B&N
I received this novel free of charge from the Innovative Online Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:
IN THE MIDST OF A CATASTROPHE LIKE THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN, ONE WOMAN WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO PROTECT HER FAMILY.

Lori Nelson has always seen herself as an ordinary woman, doing the best she can to juggle family and her work as a nurse. But the most dangerous creature in nature is the mother whose offspring is threatened?

When miners release an ancient virus Lori is at ground zero of the deadly battle for survival. With the help of a laconic ex-soldier, can Lori find the strength to fight the spreading threat and save her family?

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Random: It is as entertaining as a zombie movie.

BEST ZOMBIE BOOK that I have read so far. It is fantastic and it kept me intrigued the entire length of the novel. In terms of zombie books with a high level of action, it is going to hard for other zombie books to surpass this book.

Lori is a great protagonist. She is fiercely independent and a willing fighter. She takes on the zombies in order to rescue children from the children’s ward in the hospital and in order to save her sister’s neighbors. Lori is really courageous but Edge allows the readers to know that Lori has a vulnerable side. Lori is afraid of what is going on around her but she has a need to try to help others that tends to over-ride her fear.

One of the great things about this novel is the inclusion of children as survivors. Most books and movies only have adult as survivors. Edge has included about five small children and two teenagers in the book. It shows a different perspective of what a zombie apocalypse would  be like if the adults had to worry about their children. It adds to the story because finding and protecting the children are added as obstacles that need to be overcome but also make the adults vulnerable and human. It is the children that bring down Lori’s survival character to realistic level. She is mother trying to protect her children and that is why she is willing to fight zombies.

The action is non-stop which might be the best feature of the novel. Lori is swimming with crocodiles to evade the zombies, crawling under cars, running over cars, and stealing cars. It is really exciting to read the action scenes because they have enough to details to create a movie in your head. The supporting cast also have their action scenes. The action never really stops and certain event will surprise the reader. I wasn’t expecting the final boat scene but it is one of the best one in the books. It’s not due to the action but the suspense surrounding it.

The only negative thing I could say is that I’m not entirely sure how the virus originated. Did the miners released something or did they not? I have to be honest, I really do not care because the book was highly entertaining that it made me forget to question the origin of the virus. In fact, I’m going to let it slide and not deduct a half butterfly (which is what I should do but won’t) because Lori’s journey is fascinating and heartbreaking at times.

Dead Tropics is a five butterfly. Non-stop action, a compelling heroine and children as survivors make it a fantastic book.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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47th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Zombies, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Men in Uniform, Where Are You Reading?-Australia

Happy Fourth of July!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

AmeriCat By LunarLeafSoul

I love the fourth of July. It’s Independence Day. There is no better way to celebrate it than by watching fireworks all night long and watching re-runs of Independence Day.  I love that movie. I usually head to the local high school where a fireworks show is held. After that, I head home and burn fireworks with my siblings. And continue watching  Independence Day It’s great fun.

I’m going to add something new to the celebration. I’m going to attend a parade. Hopefully, it is great. Right now, I have to go to sleep so I can make it to the parade.

Enjoy your Fourth of July (Hetalia-styled)