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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

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Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Title: Dead Witch Walking
Author: Kim Harrison
Series: The Hollows # 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Personal Purchase
Format: Mass Paperback
Pub. Year: 2008
Purchase: Amazon/B &N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves—creatures of dreams and nightmares—has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the “Inderlanders” reveal themselves, changing everything.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland’s best runner . . . and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death . . . not to mention her own roommate.

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What I love: Red hair, I love red hair.

I really love the world building of the Hollows and its origin story. Bioengineering gone wrong and killing a quarter of the human population. It allowed paranormal creatures aka Inderlands to reveal themselves and take their place in public. It sucks that people became afraid of science and medicine but I do understand where they are coming from.

What I like about the book is that the physical description of the characters, Rachel is mentioned as a redhead and there are repeated mentions of this. The characters have concrete looks that are reinforced by Harrison so the readers have a pretty good image of what the characters look like instead of our minds making up the physical attributes of the characters.  All the characters are really different from each other. Ivy is a vampire, Jinks is a feisty pixy, Nick is a human who knows about demonology and Rachel a witch. They all bring something different to the group. All the characters have professions that helped Rachel avoid the hit on her. She gets injured a few times but she survives nonetheless; Rachel is a real strong character. It takes gut to leave an organization that will probably try to kill you.

Certain parts of the story felt slow like the whole mink incident. Rachel disguises herself as a mink to gather evidence that  Trent, our antagonist,  is running biodrugs (which are illegal) but she gets trapped by him. It’s interesting but feels a bit dragged out. No, going after Trent three times feels sluggish and the last time, where she is successful, is sort of really simple and super easy.  Trent is probably a good antagonist because she only slowed him down. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.

It was a pretty good first book in a series. All the characters contributed to the plot and were unique. The plot was pretty interesting and left plot bunnies for the second book in the series. Even if the mink incident was slow, it was still a pretty interesting section of the book.

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5 BB- Total Keeper

24th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: 1st in a Series, Witches and Witchcraft, Cupcake War, Where are you reading? -Ohio

Review: XXXHolic Vol. 1 by Clamp

Title: XXXHolic
Author: Clamp
Series: XXXHolic Vol. 1
Genre: Fantasy manga
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal purchase
Pub. Year: 2004
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Watanuki Kimihiro is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. Seemingly by chance, he encounters a mysterious witch named Yuuko, who claims she can help. In desperation, he accepts, but realizes that he’s just been tricked into working for Yuuko in order to pay off the cost of her services. Soon he’s employed in her little shop—a job which turns out to be nothing like his previous work experience!

Most of Yuuko’s customers live in Japan, but Yuuko and Watanuki are about to have some unusual visitors named Sakura and Syaoran from a land called Clow. . .

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Cover Love: It’s so pretty. I love it.

I love this manga. The characters are fantastic and the artwork is beyond superb. Plus, the cover and the inside of the manga have beautiful butterflies.

Let’s meet our main characters. Watanuki can see ghosts, it’s a family tradition, but he no longer wishes to. In order for his wish to be fulfill, he has to work for Yuko until the cost of the wish equals the act of not seeing ghosts. I liked him right from the start. Not only does he wear glasses but he acts so serious in comparison to Yuko that it just makes it funny to see what Yuko is going to put him through. We don’t delve too much into his background but we do get to see that he is believing in and trying to understand what Yuko is telling him about the world he has stumble upon. His crush, Himawari Kunogi, also makes an appearance. Not too much on her but she is cute.

Yuko is the wish-granting witch who has serious moments of philosophy and turns around with a funny comment. She walks the fine line of being a mentor and being a comedy relief. She is really funny with her childish antics and remarks; I couldn’t wait to see what her conversations would turn out to be. She is definitely a complex person who hides her past behind an aloofness about life. She is really beautiful but the beauty carries in a mix of power as well. She is not just a pretty face.

The first volume takes place during the course of two jobs that Yuko takes on which have to deal with bad habits. I love the philosophy that she spouts. Bad habits can only be broken by the person committing bad habits and only if they are doing it for themselves. Or else the person doesn’t really quit their bad habits. The consequences for not dealing with bad habits can be quite severe and damaging. I did like the moral compass of the manga even as Yuko left one of her clients to fend for herself. Yuko can’t provide much help if her clients are just going to sidestep her.

The artwork is the best feature of manga. The clothes are wonderfully detailed and I envy the long legs of Yuko (and her wardrobe). The shading allows for dark images that give the manga a gothic look. The manga has gothic elements such as the mysterious witch that Yuko is, mysterious and strange events happening, the blurring of established lines, and all of it happening at a mysterious home.

It’s an interesting quirk that Clamp references it’s previous work in the manga such Cardcapter Sakura with the mentioning of Clow Reed and having Sakura show up at Yuko’s place. I’m looking forward to seeing what type of relationship did Yuko have with Clow Reed, after all, she did call him a “creep.”

It gets 5 black butterflies from me.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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10th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: 1st in a Series, Witches and Witchcraft, M/GN/VG, Where are you reading?-Japan

Wishlist Wednesday # 4

Wishlist Wednesday is hosted by Pen to Paper. It is the place to showcase one book that has been on our wishlist. Click on the image if you feel like joining in on the fun.

On My Wishlist is: Bewitched by Alex Flinn

Bewitching

Bewitching can be a beast. . . .

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t.

I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age.

You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out.

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it.

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.

I love this cover. How pretty is that dress, I want it. I’m usually not a fan of one-shoulder dresses but it is fantastic. The blurb makes me want to read this book because it sounds like a good, clumsy witch who just can’t get the right story to work. It looks like a Cinderella re-telling so I’m looking forward to a new version of this fairy tale.

Reviews: Dark Shadows by D.J Arneson

Title: Dark Shadows: The Original Series Story Digest Interrupted Voyage
Author: D.J. Arneson
Illustrated by: Joe Carta
Series: Standalone
Genre:  Supernatural, Horror
Source: Netgalley
Format: Galley
Pub. Year: Feb. 15, 2012
Purchase: B&N /Amazon
I received this book free of charge from Netgalley in return for an honest opinion.

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What I will remember: A great mix of supernatural creatures.

I had to get this book from Netgalley, it’s Dark Shadows. It was a gothic drama on daytime TV in the late 60’s -70’s and again in the late-90’s. If that doesn’t captivate someone, Johnny Depp is playing Barnabas in the new Dark Shadows film by Tim Burton. My favorite combination, Depp and Burton.

Dark Shadows

Barnabas and Quentin

I absolutely love the artwork that accompanies the book. The art has an old feel to it which I love. It has very dark tones and shades. The best part is that it accompanies the storyline so the pictures capture moments in the story. Plus, all the characters are drawn there so there is no need for a physical description of them. It may have to do with the fact the story was written while Dark Shadows was on TV. I wished I knew what the art style was called so I could better explain it.

Story wise, I love it. It is a gothic tale through and through. We have Annabelle as the ghost, Barnabas as the vampire turned human, Angelique as the evil sister of Annabelle, and Calandra the witch. Oh, and Michael the zombie as well. The setting also contributes to the gothic feeling. It is a shore city where the inhabitants don’t trust strangers and are into burning at the stake. Plus, it is a tragic love story where the lovers (Annabelle and Michael)  are both dead and are trying to reunite with each other in the afterlife. A very lovely story.

The bonus features at the end is something that I really enjoyed. It mainly consists of the photographs of the original Dark Shadows with Jonathan Frid as Barnabas.  Some photos are of the cast posing for pictures and a few screenshots. Most are in black and white but some are in color.

Final thoughts on Dark Shadows, it is awesome. The artwork reminds me of the style use in comic books. It has an eclectic mix of supernatural creatures and somehow it makes sense for a witch to control a zombie. It is a gothic tale. Plus, Johnny Depp is going to be in the film adaptation and so is Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix from Harry Potter and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd) but more important, Tim Burton is directing it. I totally have to see this film. The only thing that would make this film even more exciting would be having Alan Rickman in it. Oh, I love him.  Hmm, getting off topic. Um, this is a five for me because I’m a huge fan of Dark Shadows and the movie has me pretty hype up.

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5 BB- Total Keeper

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows Photo Promo (from Teaser Trailer)