Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review: Ubik by Philip K. Dick

ubikTitle: Ubik
Author: Philip K. Dick
Series: Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source:  Personal library
Pub. Year: 2012 (1969)
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.

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Random: So  much to talk about, so much that I didn’t talk about but I think I got the most important parts down. By the way, my love for Philip K. Dick’s books is like my love for Batman so I’m a strong supporter of his work.

Philip K. Dick is a trippy author that I immensely adore but his books tend to make doubt what I actually read. Ubik is no different. As readers, we think we understand what is going on until the final chapter just spins it on its head.

Glen Runciter is an important character but I feel the lead character is Joe Chip who does not know how to live in a capitalist world. He is always out of cash, he doesn’t know how to use consumer products properly; he doesn’t have his life in order. The world of Ubik  is a world where capitalism has been taken to an extreme. In order to use a home coffee machine, the characters have to pay it 5 cents. To open the door to an apartment requires money. To leave said apartment, it requires money to open the door. It’s a harsh world and Joe Chip has no concept of money so he is constantly struggling to survive in this world.

Joe Chip and the surviving crew members of the expedition return to Earth and find that their money is “funny.” Sometimes it is worthless but other times, the “funny” money can buy items. The technology is going backwards and becoming less sophisticated and the crew makes a half-hearted attempt to understand why but they just go on with their life. Joe, Al, and Denny are the only ones who make an attempt to understand what is going on.

People who have recently died or in the final moments of death can be placed in “half-life” which means they are reanimated if they are death or in suspended animation if they are almost death. As long as their some brain activity, half-life is possible. Think of a zombie virus that doesn’t turn people into flesh-eating zombies but just keeps them sane  a little longer. That’s half-life but the key is it’s half-life so the world inside half-life tends to collapse on its self and return to a simpler technological society because the mind begins to deteriorate so the people are losing their memories. They tend to remember their earlier memories more than their recent memories. With that in mind and the fact that Joe Chip’s world is regressing, it’s safe to say that it’s Joe and crew who are in half-life because it makes sense.

The product called Ubik comes into play because Runciter wants Joe Chip to find it and use it in order to protect himself against a malevolent force that is killing them in half-life. The book shifts into a quest of finding this mystical product that Joe keeps finding but in primitive forms. He needs to find Ubik in a spray can form because it is toxic in tonic form. Even when he does find it in a spray can, he cannot buy it because he has no money. Capitalism is working against him when he is desperately trying to find his salvation but he cannot purchase his salvation when he finds it. When he obtains money, the world has further regressed and the shop is no longer there so it’s a constant battle just trying to keep his world stable enough for him to just move forward with his life.

Of course, what I just said about Joe Chip being in half-life can be thrown out the window because it’s Philip K. Dick and he loves to mess with his readers. Everything about half-life is true and Joe Chip is not a good consumer in a world dominated by consumer products. Is he in half-life though? That depends on how the last chapter is interpreted. In the last chapter, it is Runciter who sees “funny” money. It is a “WTF” moment because everything the reader knows is displaced and the novel doesn’t have a solid, full circle end which can be annoying. The novel already has a deep meaning through its use capitalism and its implication for society. The ending just adds to it because it’s blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. It asks us, the readers, to decide that and that decision is based on our beliefs of our interpretation of what happened in the novel.

The novel ends up bringing faith into the novel. Joe needs to have faith in order to survive in a capitalism-driven world. Every chapter begins with ad about Ubik as a bra, a bank, pain pills, toothpaste and so on. The final ad ends with Ubik being God; “I am Ubik and I have always been there before humanity existed” or something like that. Consumer products have become their own of religion because they are so vital to our lives like God is. It sounds like blasphemy but how many of us could live without consuming and buying computers or an IPhone? I know my IPhone is vital to me, I panic whenever I misplaced. It’s a product that holds my identity and the sad thing is that’s true for many of us. We can deny it and say “It’s just a phone and you can always buy another one.” Only one part of the sentence is true, I can consume another IPhone but it’s just not an IPhone alone. It has a deeper meaning. It has my contact list which is vital because I don’t know anyone phone number from memory. Not even my Mom’s number. It has my pictures. It’s my connection to the world ( I wrote half of this review on my IPhone, irony). Our lives are define by consuming products and our worth is define by the products we consume instead of our humanity. It sounds cold but it is reality. Or at least, it is one version of humanity because reality is dependent on what we know and accept.

This is why I love Philip K. Dick. He makes his readers question everything about their world and that is what a great author does. They challenge our perspective and really make us wonder about how we are living our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I probably won’t make a change and depend less on technology but I’m definitely going to re-examine my relationship to products and technology.

5 BB- Total Keeper

5 BB- Total Keeper

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Qualifies for: Dystopian Challenge

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Review: Venus City by Tabitha Vale

venuscity-v1Title: Venus City
Author: Tabitha Vale
Series: Legacy of the Sares # 1
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Format: E-book
Source:  Author
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amazon

I requested a copy from the author and it was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 

Blurb from Amazon:

“His magenta eyes flashed up to meet hers and for a moment she thought she saw something spark behind them—something fierce, something challenging.” In a city where boys’ eyes are magenta and their emotions of lust, anger, greed, and ambition are remarkably absent, spoiled Braya Vace finds herself in the biggest problem of her young life when she meets handsome, blue-eyed Asher Benedict. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone else living outside Venus City. As she tries to unravel the mystery of Asher and his group of foreigner boys, the rest of Braya’s life seems to crumble apart around her. A disapproving mother, a sick younger sister, a mysterious brother, and a humiliating career as a Bride are just a few of the things that Braya has to deal with. Those, and her conflicting feelings for Asher.

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Random: An annoying main character that later grows on you.

A dystopian society that reverses gender roles is always interesting because of the implications. Venus City is intriguing because it has women in power and the men are forced into submissive states. It is also an isolated city that has no contact with the outside world so when are outsiders break in, it changes the people within.

Character-wise, Braya is a character you love to hate because she is so annoying at the start of the book (and even two-thirds of the book in, honestly). She has a condescending attitude, essentially friendless (thanks to her bad attitude), and just treats people like they are worthless. It was hard to believe that she was going to be a romantic interest for someone but then Asher as the Romantic Interest was introduced; it was believable that he would fall for her and vice versa. Asher is a member of Locer Shark ( a possible terrorist group) but more importantly, an outsider to Venus City who didn’t grew up with the ideology that “men are stupid and women are superior in every form.” He challenges Braya and her understanding of men. Aspen is Braya’s brother who may not be like all the other men in Venus City and when Aspen and Braya are together, Braya looks hideous because she is vicious towards him. Bellamine is the younger sister of Braya and Aspen and she suffers from Tristant, a debilitating disease. It is only when Braya is next to Bellamine does she appear to be compassionate and so much nicer.

As for the villains, I didn’t particular care about them because it is not obvious who the villains are. They are absent throughout most of the book. The most obvious villain or antagonist is Charlotte, Braya’s mother, who treats her children like they are worthless. She is dominating and scary.

I realize I haven’t talked about the plot yet so let’s remedy that . Asher and the Locer Sharks are outsiders who are going to “de-haze” Venus City and forced the city to interact with the outside world that is being ravished by a war. Venus City doesn’t know a war is going on because it is isolated or at least, it’s citizens don’t know that. Asher and Braya get to know each other through the de-hazing process and fall for each other. As this is happening, Braya has to find the cure for Tristant for her dying sister.

Venus City is quite an interesting city. It is a negative-stereotype-of-a-feminist’s dream come true because it just constantly beats down on men. The women who are Crowns (the wealthy) are like “ Don’t be friendly with men, they are worthless” and treat them like crap. Braya doesn’t treat Aspen, her brother, with respect because she grew up believing that she should not like men. The book is a bad feminist’s dream on the surface but as we dig deeper, we realized that even though the women are in power, they are actually quite weak. They have no compassion for one another and there are no sisterly bonds that are genuine. Braya and her “friends” hang out together because they are forced to be together and they are constantly at each other’s throat. The idea of domesticity is viewed as repulsive, having children is repulsive and it is a twisted ideology coming from Braya who was indoctrinated by her mother, Charlotte.  At the same time, the domestic aspect of life is connected to being Brides who are essentially breeders and they have to reproduce beautiful children. It seems like young females can raise their status by being breeders so there are two trains of thoughts running. There is a Bride school where Brides are given husbands so the society has no concept of romance and love.  It’s a society of mistreatment and hatred.

One of the unique characteristic of this novel is the insults. “Mud” for the males and “Finches” for the females. It was quite creative on Vale’s part because it is like cussing yet not cussing. I do wish she had come up with something new instead of using “effing.” Using “effing” breaks the illusion that Venus City is a world apart (or a few hundred years apart from now). What the word “effing” does, it connects Venus City to our current world and I don’t think they should be connected because Venus City is following a different timeline. However, it is only the first book and it might be that the planet Venus City is located on is Earth so “effing” is possibly foreshadowing this relation. At this moment, “effing” is bothering me and it doesn’t jive with the book.

Overall, I like the book because as annoying Braya is with her attitude, she has enough human moments that make her tolerable. The ideology that half of the characters spout is interesting because it is twisted and both sides of the argument are represented. At the same time, the ideology doesn’t dramatically altered the normal status quo of the world because it still keeps heterosexuality at the core of society.

3 BB-Pretty to look at

3 BB-Pretty to look at

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Qualifies for: E-book Challenge

Review: Death Note Vol. 2: Confluence by Tsugumi Ohba

deathnote2Title: Death Note Vol. 2: Confluence
Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Series: Death Note Vol. 2
Genre: Supernatural thriller manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Public Library
Pub. Year: 2003
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:

Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects – and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal…or his life? Light thinks he’s put an end to his troubles with the FBI – by using the Death Note to kill off the FBI agents working the case in Japan! But one of the agents has a fiancee who used to work in the Bureau, and now she’s uncovered information that could lead to Light’s capture. To make matters worse, L has emerged from the shadows to work directly with the task force headed by Light’s father. With people pursuing him from every direction, will Light get caught in the conflux?

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Random: I love how I know what is going to happen yet it still as exciting as the first time I saw the anime.

An excellent continuation of the first volume and more intense than the last one. It is not as philosophical as the first because the manga is moving forward with the investigation into Kira.

The character cast is still the same with the added addition of Naomi Misora, the fiancé of Raye Penber. Raye and Naomi played an interesting part in this volume because Light ends up using both of them.

There are three main events in this volume. The first deals with Raye Penber and the FBI. The previous volume allowed Light to gain access to Raye’s name which is crucial if he wants to kills someone. Raye introduces the reader to Naomi whom he has a condescending attitude for. He is like “Be a housewife only, you can’t be a housewife and agent and don’t intervene with my case.” What a little chauvinistic man. We learn through a flashback how Light tricks Raye into writing down the names of the agents and later kills all of them. Light made sure that L could not track him to a specific agent but Light dealing with Naomi gave him away in the end.

Naomi comes into the picture because she is a former FBI agent and believes that Kira killed Raye so she wants to try to bring him down as well. She is a very smart person who figures out more about Kira’s methods of killing which places Light in danger if she can get the information to Kira Task Force. This leads to the most intense cat-and-mouse game ever… at least on Light’s part. It is so intense because he is desperately trying to gain access to her real name and how he convinces her, it’s pretty awesome. At the same time, I feel like Naomi was underused. She is a smart and strong woman and Light just kills her because she is a threat (which I understand) but there is no strong women in this series. I wish she had a longer or a more important role other than to make Light feel threatened. I really liked her character.

L or Ryuzaki as he would like to be called by the Kira Task Force is now dealing face to face with the task force. He is extremely logical and is well-prepared with neat gadgets like GPS belts for the task force. Naomi’s disappearance tips L that Kira had contact with Raye Penber because he believes that Naomi would never have committed suicide over Raye’s death. It leads to Ryuzaki placing cameras on the two families that Penber was investigating; the Deputy Director General and Detective Superintendent Yagami (Light’s father and head of the Kira Task Force). The cameras showed just how paranoid (or cautious, take your pick) Light truly is. Having little tricks that show if anyone enters his room.

The artwork is fantastic. It’s the same as in the previous manga. Light still has a somewhat innocence face. Ryuzaki looks childish in certain pages which hides his real age.

My favorite part of the volume is Ryuk panicking over the loss of his apples because apples are like cigarettes, very addicting. He is like “I’m not on your side but I will help you because I need apples.” Best source of motivation.  I also did not know that he likes to play Mario Golf, that is so random that it is awesome.

Overall, this is a 5 Black Butterfly rating because it continues the excitement of the first manga and it is just as intense. Ryuk and Light are still my favorite characters.

5 BB- Total Keeper

5 BB- Total Keeper

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79th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Serial Killer, TV Addict, Second in a Series, M/GN/VG

Review: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 2 by Keiko Nobumoto

Wolf2Title: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 2
Author: Keiko Nobumoto
Series: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 2
Genre: Science Fiction Manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Library
Pub. Year: 2004
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

There is no blurb for this book so all I will say is “The epic conclusion to the search for Paradise  ”

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Random: Different ending in the anime and a different Blue. Watch the anime instead, it did come out first.

Wow. I thought the first book was fast-paced but it doesn’t compare to the second and final volume of the story. It is overloaded with information and action. It really should have had at least two more volumes.

No new characters were really introduced (except a few minor characters) but there is more background on the motivations of the characters. We learn why Quent hates the wolves and it has to do with his family. His background was well-executed for being a minor character. Darcia wants to open paradise for Hamona who was cursed by Paradise or the quest to find Paradise placed her in a coma. He wants to awaken her using Paradise but the manga doesn’t say how she entered a coma state. As a villain, Darcia has the interesting look but without knowing the story about Hamona, he is not a fantastic villain. She is driving force behind Darcia so it is necessary to learn about her in order to understand him. Cheza’s past is also reveal and she has a tragic story behind her but at the same time, it’s not her story as it is the story of those who created her. She didn’t suffered through the fates that they did but it is still very sad. I wish there was more details on Cheza’s creation and her powers. She is a creation of the Nobles to open Paradise but there is so much of Paradise that is left unanswered. What is Paradise exactly? How did Darcia obtained that special eye of his?

The elements of tragedy were poorly executed in this manga. There is not enough of a background on the characters for the readers to feel truly sympathetic. Quent’s background and Kiba’s background are the only stories that have a well-placed empathy trigger. Another well-placed trigger is Blue but that might be an anger trigger because Blue’s story follows a different path than the one she followed in the anime. It’s the complete opposite of her anime path so that is interesting and honestly, it’s a little hard to believe in…if the reader has a knowledge of how the anime goes.

I may not know a lot about art but I recognized a fatal flaw in the artwork. There is a specific scene where the original flower maidens died and formed a skeleton mountain. It’s supposed to be a beautiful but tragic death. The mountain looks nice but it lost the full affect of the beautiful tragedy when the mountain was split in half because the center of the mountain is the book bind. Only one side of the mountain is visible so it’s not as grandiose as it could be. That mountain should have taken up both pages or one full page where the magnitude and the tragedy of the deaths could excel.

While the tragedy aspects of this manga fall short, it is really great at wondering what Paradise can mean to anyone. Quent feels he lost Paradise with his family but then questions whether Paradise means humans helping each other. Not just humans but also wolves and humans helping each other. He is a character that has a complete transformation cycle. Darcia’s Paradise would leave everyone else behind so he has a darker view of Paradise. Tia, the flower girl that Toboe met, believes that Paradise can be created anywhere, that it is not a specific place. Her line of thinking is in like with Quent’s.  One thing is clear that the majority of the character agreed that Paradise is about unity. The ending is quite nice (and different than the anime); there is a sense of hope that everything will work out. There is a final battle between Kiba and Darcia which is not as epic as in the anime but it’s still a nice battle.

In the end, this manga should have used a few extra volumes to hash out the details and the background of the characters. The artwork tends to have great facial expressions, especially the eyes, but there are just certain scenes that did not work. The majority of the artwork is solid and pretty good though. Read this manga as a companion to the anime but not as a standalone. Quent’s background and the idea of Paradise  are what makes this manga worth reading.

3.5-Pretty to look at, maybe capture

3.5-Pretty to look at, maybe capture

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78th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: M/GN/VG, Second in a Series, Science Fiction, Dystopia, TV Addict

Review: Trigun Maximum Vol 1: Hero Returns by Yasuhiro Nightow

trigun 1Title: Trigun Maximum
Author: Yasuhiro Nightow
Series: Trigun Maximum Vol. 1
Genre:  Science Fiction manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Public Library
Pub. Year: 2004
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
As an anime series, Trigun gained a multitude of fans across the otaku landscape before gaining a huge mainstream manga audience. Now, Trigun goes beyond the storyline laid out in the anime and the first two volumes of the manga into brand new territory! Our hero Vash the Stampede disappeared for two years after blasting a crater onto the moon orbiting the desert planet he saved from annihilation. But, with good and bad people alike trying to track him down he won’t stay lost for long! Count on more crazy gunslinger action, new dastardly villains… and a new outfit to boot!

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Random: Again, I’m a huge fan of the anime , Trigun, that I had to pick it up and it’s a little different than the show.

First off, the manga doesn’t start with a bang but it does start with something similar because it is extremely fast paced. It feels like it’s the second or third volume of the series which makes sense since the series was cancelled previously and picked up by another company. Now, I have watched the anime before so I wasn’t as confused but even I was like “Whoa, this is dropping way too much information without the appropriate background info.”

Let’s meet the character cast. Vash the Stampede is the lovable blond who wants to lead a peaceful life but he is prone to causing massive amounts of destruction. He is an expert gun marksman and not quite human. Nicolas D. Wolfgang is a traveling priest who is a bit of a pessimist and carries a large (human-length) cross that is actually a gun. Meryl and Millie are insurance investigators who have a connection to Vash. The main antagonist of the series is Knives who is the brother of Vash and a ruthless murderer.

The relationship between Vash and Nicolas is quite interesting. Vash, according to the world is a trigger happy gunman, yet it is Vash who tells Nicolas “not to kill people” which is ironic because Nicolas is a priest. They are further contrasted in their beliefs about humanity; Vash is optimistic about humanity whereas Nicolas is cynical and doesn’t believe that they should help everybody that stumbles their way. Their conversations tend to be about morality and choices.

This volume sets up the future volumes of Vash and Nicolas searching for Knives but it also introduces Legato who is interested in Vash as well.  The main event of the manga is a hostile takeover of a train between rival families who are seeking to control a plant. The Earth is essentially a wasteland and plants provide the energy for life on Earth so whomever controls the plants are powerful individuals. Vash becomes involved because that’s the type of person he is; he is the type of to intervene in problems in hopes of solving them a little more peacefully.

It further showcases two different perspective on Vash. There are those who see Vash as a destroyer of humanity but there also those who are friendly with Vash and understand that he is actually keeping them safe from his homicidal brother. Vash also shows his different sides, one as a funny and very cheerful guy. He is singing “La-la-la, Oceans of Blood” ( pg. 148) right before entering a hostage situation. His other side is the serious and deeply scarred emotional man that agonizes over the death of any human.

In terms of artwork, I like it. I love the funny faces and small caricatures. There is great detail on Vash’s red outfit. The majority of the solid black comes from clothing and hair. Overall, the art is well done. There is a sense that the Earth is a barren wasteland.

In the end, I’m looking forward to the next installment and seeing the reunion between Vash and Millie and Meryl.

4.5 BB-Ready for capture, Total keeper

4.5 BB-Ready for capture, Total keeper

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77th in 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Science Fiction, 1st in a Series, M/GN/VG,

Review: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 1 by Keiko Nobumoto

Title: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 1
Author: Keiko Nobumoto
Artist: Toshitsugu Iida
Series: Wolf’s Rain Vol. 1
Genre: Manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Library
Pub. Year: 2003
Purchase: Amz/ B&N

Blurb from B&N:

Four wolves on the run from mankind answer the highest, most dire calling-they seek the legendary Paradise. From the creators of Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne comes this new manga take on the hit suspense anime Wolf’s Rain. Humans thought the wolves died off two centuries ago in this bleak post-apocalyptic wasteland. But some survivors lurk among the humans by mentally cloaking their animal bodies. One white wolf, Kiba, scours the land for the scent of the Lunar Flower that will lead them all to Paradise…

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Random: Starting to notice a pattern. Watch anime, then read the manga version.

I love the anime of Wolf’s Rain so I had to pick this manga up. It’s a much faster pace than the anime though.

Character wise, the majority of the anime cast is present in the book. The wolf pack consists of Kiba (the emotionless but true believer of Paradise), Tsume (cynical of Paradise), Hige (always hungry) and Toboe (the kid). They are not best friends and just join forces because when you are being shot at, it’s the only rational thing to do. We have Detective Hubb Lebowski and his ex-wife, Dr. Cher Degre. Cher is the scientist who is analyzing Cheza the Lunar Flower and key to Paradise (so the wolves are tracking Cheza). There is also Quent the wolf hunter and his dog, Blue. They may play an important part later because he is determined to kill the wolves. The villain is Darcia who looks fantastic with his crazy porcelain mask and black hair flying everywhere. He is what a villain should should like. Strong and paralyzing. Everyone is pretty much interested in Cheza and her abilities.

What Paradise is..is Paradise like the Garden of Eden. The wolves are looking for it because they are near extinction. It’s not explicit as to why Kiba is looking for it but it could be a new home for the wolves because it looks like only wolves can track Cheza down. Cher has to analyze Cheza for the sake of science. What Darcia wants with Cheza is not explicit in the manga yet but like all good villains, I hope he will eventually reveal why he is after the Lunar Flower’s abilities.

Like I said, it is fast paced so perhaps not all the character are completely open to the readers. All the main characters are introduce right way but it is easy to keep track of them because they are drawn with unique features. The plot is pretty simple, everyone is looking for Cheza. They just want to find or have her. There are some minor sub-plots like Toboe meeting Tia and learning about the flower legend and the complicated relationship between Hubb and Cher.

Overall, it was pretty decent. It’s not a complicated plot, it’s just “Find Cheza.” All the characters are unique so there is not problem to identify them but they haven’t been given much of a personal background. They almost appear one dimensional but they are not. The art is amazing and so is the dialogue. The dialogue can be funny at times like Tsume saying that if they (the wolves) have to resort cannibalism that they shouldn’t eat Kiba because “he is full of crap.” I think it is hilarious; Tsume with his cynical and sarcastic is probably the best character of the series.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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76th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: M/GN/VG, TV Addict, Science Fiction, Dystopia, First in a Series

Review: The Highway Shooter by C.E. Chesscher

Title: The Highway Shooter
Author: C.E Chesscher
Series: Standalone
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: E-book
Source:  MuseItUp Publishing
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ Smashwords/MP
I received this novel free of charge from MuseItUp Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Amazon:

In The Highway Shooter: A South Texas Cozy Mystery, newspaper reporter Glennis Dunning and Deputy Sheriff Jake Briggs join forces to fight for justice for a Hispanic teenager wrongly accused of murder.

As Enrique Sandoval awaits his murder trial, disenfranchised Latinos, convinced of the teenager’s innocence, rise up for the first time ever to challenge the entrenched power structure. As Latinos flex their new-found power, a labor movement arises from neighborhood meetings in 1967 Pettrolius, Texas, a Coastal Bend oil town.

Dunning and on-again, off-again boyfriend Briggs mount an effort to bridge the racial divide and restore order before the town spirals toward disaster. The pair has a month to disentangle the real murderer’s web of deceit. If they fail, an innocent boy faces the electric chair, and the town’s wounds may prove permanent.

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As it turns out, I’m not a fan of cozy mysteries. I never knew that until this book. Or maybe it is just this book. I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about this book.

Character wise, Glennis Dunning was a good main character. She was independent and questioning of her 1960’s society. She was like “No man tells me what to do and I don’t report to any man” so she was pretty cool. Deputy Briggs was the man Glennis wasn’t reporting to and he seemed a little slow. He wasn’t a captivating male lead because he didn’t have a defining feature that made him stood out. He wasn’t sarcastic or funny; he was just there.I didn’t particularly cared for the villain or the supporting cast.

Let’s get down to went wrong, for me, in this book. One of the most crucial things is how Glennis goes about solving the case. There is not one shred of physical evidence that could be admitted to a court of law. It’s all conversations and what people tell her. It’s hearsay is what a lawyer would say and I agree. I think she is a smart lady for putting it together but it’s not pieced together elegantly. And if the villain had not revealed what he knows in a fantastic Law & Order style, then Enrique would have gone to jail. Keeping quiet is the always the right move for the villain but really, when are villains rational?

Another issue with this novel is the amount of dialogue. It read like a play and that is frankly annoying because I’m not reading a play, I’m reading a novel. A lot of the information was revealed through dialogue or events that as readers we are not privilege to but that’s going along with how the case was solved. It wasn’t lacking in details but there is something missing in the book. It may that it needed more world-building…I guess.

What it did right was just the handling of relationship between the characters. Glennis and Jake have a complicated relationship and it shows. Glennis tends to get mad at him quite often but they do work together well. The relationship between Glennis and her mother is an important one because it showcases where Glennis’ independent streak comes from.

The political nature of this book was believable and great until Chesscher decided to portray the Hispanic leader as a sleazeball. It pretty much ended my positive view on the way the tensions were highlighted. The tension between whites and Latinos was apparent in the way the town was divided and how the Sandoval family was treated. The politics of the book are a hit and miss with me because it hits right at the mark of what the Hispanic community went through during that time but having a sleazeball as a leader just devalues it. It’s a little disappointing but I suppose I understand where the author is coming from. If the white leader is a sleazeball, then so must the Hispanic one in order to be fair.

In the end, this book is not for me. Not because it is badly written or subject matter. It’s not for me because I prefer serial killers over innocent bystanders, people with legal training over reporters, and book that don’t deal with politics unless they are really political books.

2 BB-Library

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75th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Men in Uniform, E-book

Review: Batman Year One by Frank Miller

Title: Batman Year One
Author: Frank Miller
Series: None
Genre: Graphic Novel
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library
Pub. Year: 1987
Purchase: Amz/ B&N

Blurb from Amazon:
A deluxe trade paperback edition of one of the most important and critically acclaimed Batman adventures ever, written by Frank Miller, author of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS!

In addition to telling the entire dramatic story of Batman’s first year fighting crime, this collection includes reproductions of original pencils, promotional art, script pages, unseen David Mazzucchelli Batman art and more.

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It is really hard to properly review any Batman-related item because I love Batman so I’m extremely biased. Extremely biased.

Miller reintroduces Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, Catwoman, and Gotham City to the readers. Bruce Wayne still has the same background story of his parents being murdered. He tries to have the playboy personality. He shows his commitment to trying to clean up the city. I wasn’t expecting Catwoman to show up in the first book. Catwoman is pretty awesome (in general) and her history is changed. She doesn’t have a costume right at the beginning of the book. The most fascinating character to me was Jim Gordon. He has an interesting background that I didn’t expect or know. His wife is Barbara, not his daughter like in the animated series. I always knew he was a clean cop but Miller shows that clean doesn’t always mean a wimp because Gordon places his enemies in their place. Gordon appears to be the moving forward factor in this book.  Harvey Dent makes a quick appearance as well. Interestingly enough, he seems to be on the side of Batman instead of chastising him.

The villains, oh, I’m a huge fan of Batman villains and villains…mostly. Since it is at the beginning of Batman’s career, the well-known and crazy villains are not in the book. The villains are common people and the corrupt police officers. That’s an important feature because Batman hasn’t perfected his crafts and it makes sense to take on villains that are not as “out there.”

Artwork, I really love it. It is so different than manga artwork. For starters, there is a color. It’s amazing how much that changes the attitude of the work. The artwork appears to be more of a classic style of comic so there are more block-like shape characters but a little darker. There is a dark mood in Gotham City.

There are some extras features at the end of the book like a letter from Miller describing his thoughts on Batman. Extra sketches and rough drawn sketches. They are nice to see.

At the end of the book, Gordon mentions The Joker and his threat to the city just like in Batman Begins. That was great of Christopher Nolan to give a nod to this graphic novel.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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74th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: M/GN/VG

Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Vol. 1 by Ichiro Okouchi

Title: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Vol. 1
Author: Ichiro Okouchi
Series: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Vol. 1
Genre: Manga
Format: Paperback
Source:  Public library
Pub. Year: 2008
Purchase: Amz/B&N

Blurb from  Amazon:
In the year 2010, the Holy Empire of Brittania declared war on Japan. Powerless to stop them, Japan surrendered in less than a month. Freedom was lost and Japan was renamed “Area 11” and its people became known as “Elevens.” Lelouch is a Brittanian and his friend Suzaku, born an eleven, has achieved the status of honorary Brittanian. As a boy Lelouch vowed to crush his own government, but now seven years later and in high school, he’s accepted that he can’t change anything. That is until he meets a mysterious girl that gives him the power to control people’s minds – the power of Geass! He dons a mask and becomes the ruthless terrorist known only as Zero, destroying any who might stand in his path – including his boyhood friend Suzaku!

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What you need to know: Political drama at its best.

Code Geass is one of my favorite anime, I love the show. I was thrilled to see the manga in the library so I had to pick it up. Wow, it is similar to the anime but there are differences.

First thing is first though, let’s meet our wonderful cast. Lelouch, as the blurb says, is a Brittanian who suffered at the hands of the Empire and wants to bring down the downfall of the Empire. He has a sister, Nunnally, who has health problems because of what the Empire did to Lelouch’s family. Suzaku Kururugi,an Honorary Brittanian, who is friends with Lelouch and works for the Brittanian military. He believes in changing the Empire from within. Kallen Stadtfeld, half-Brittanian, half-Japanese girl, who believes the Empire needs to be change by force. C.C is the being that grants Lelouch his Geass which he uses to control people. We also meet students from Ashford Academy (the high school Lelouch attends) but they are not that important yet. Still want to meet his Academy friends? Milly is the class president, Shirley likes Lelouch and finally, Rivalz drives Lelouch to his gambling games.

Plot-wise, it’s the same as the anime. Lelouch wants to bring down Brittania because he wants to avenge himself and his family. Once Lelouch obtains the Geass, he begins the process of acquiring his “chess pieces” to move against the Brittanian Empire as well as gathering information as to who killed his mother. There are two intertwine plot lines already being established which is fantastic. Prince Clovis mentioned another royal member, Prince Schneizel, who may know more about the death of Lady Marianne (Lelouch’s mother) so I’m looking forward to meeting his manga persona. Prince Schneizel is pretty awesome in the anime series.

There are major differences between the anime and the manga. One of them is how Lelouch discover who Kallen really is and what she does when she is “sick.” The very first time that Lelouch dons the mask of Zero is different and the event is more intimate but less majestic. New events have been added to the manga that were not in the anime such as the defacing of Prince Clovis’ statue and Lelouch saving Kallen while they were on campus. Certain events have remained the same like Lelouch’s interest in gambling, Prince Clovis and Lelouch’s showdown, and C.C’s appearance and gift.

Art-wise, I love the images. They are really defined with good solid lining. The inclusion of little funny scenes make the manga funnier than the anime and it’s a good dash of humor when the situation is dark.

Overall, I really like the manga version of Code Geass. The new scenes didn’t really bothered me and it makes the manga seem new because what happened in the anime may not necessarily pass in the manga.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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73rd in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: M/GN/VG, First in a Series, Science Fiction

Review: Flight by Alyssa Rose Ivy

Title: Flight
Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy
Series: The Crescent Chronicles # 1
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Format: E-book
Source:  Bewitching Book Tours
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ B&N
I received a copy of this novel from BBT free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Barnes & Nobles:

Sometimes you just have to take flight.
A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

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If you are expecting a paranormal book with lots of excitement, then let me the one to burst your bubble. If you are expecting a paranormal romance, then you are correct. I admit, I was part of the first group. I kept waiting for action that never came.

When it comes to the paranormal genre, I’m used to fast paced action happening every 60 pages like sex scenes in an Anita Blake book. It’s jarring when the pace slows down and nothing (exciting) happens. What is lacking in action is made up by the development of a real relationship (more like a fling). This is a romance book that is tinted with paranormal elements. The pace of the romance and the book (in general) is really great.

Character-wise, only the main characters are truly developed so Allie and Levi. They are both quick with their words and are just plain interesting. Allie is one of the realistic main characters that I have come across. She varies in her emotions; pride, resentment, love, and anger and all the emotions fit at the right time. Levi was interesting with his attitude. He wasn’t a jerk as much as he was cocky, a little too cocky. The secondary characters like Jared and Owen, friends of Levi, are not developed as characters. Some basic information is given about them but not enough to know them. Same thing with the adults and the villains.

World-development, it was unique and new. What Levi is, is not what I was expecting. They  are a very unique form of shifters. Some background is given as to their role in New Orleans which is deeper than expected. There is a royal family and some prejudices against other types of paranormal creatures (that is to be expected yet it still is surprising). The book barely dips itself into the paranormal world so it’s another “good introduction book” for those new to the paranormal literature.

(Little Spoiler up ahead)
I’m super happy that the book ended on a sour note. I am thrilled. Allie has a right to be beyond angry and she is behaving like a real person instead of that “Yeah, I like you so I’ll forgive you right away.” She may like him but she is being realistic about the emotional turmoil that Levi has inflected. (Spoiler Here)What really ruffles my feather is that Levi said (and I’m paraphrasing) that if Allie had never ran away, then she would not have kidnapped and almost raped (End).  It’s like “Are you seriously playing the blame game with someone who did not know what the ring meant?” It immediately brought down his likability as a character which was already down because he kept vital secrets from Allie that she should have known prior to physically being with him.  To make matters worse, the whole relationship read like a summer fling to me and not a true relationship. They both keep their past mainly hidden and they never discussed their future or hopes for the future. It’s a relationship that is fun but superficial on some level. On a different level, Levi invites her to his paranormal world but without explanation before he traps Allie in New Orleans, it means nothing.

I like the book because it has a new paranormal creature. It’s creative. At the same time, it’s not fast paced and I don’t believe in the relationship is as real as Levi thinks it is. It reads like a fling yet it is not, apparently. I’ll read the second book in the series because I want to see Allie’s anger (eventually, it will fizzled out) and see how it becomes a true relationship.

3.5-Pretty to look at, maybe capture

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72nd in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Self-Published, Where are you reading?-Louisiana