Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
It’s hard to live happily ever after when you discover your demanding and controlling mother-in-law is literally a witch, determined to steal the magical powers you didn’t even know you had. Jane narrowly avoided Lynne Doran’s clutches when she escaped on her wedding day, and has been hiding out in New York City. But she can’t hide forever.
When Jane learns of the one thing Lynne wants most, she sets out to provide it, hoping her good turn will persuade her mother-in-law to stop hunting her. Unfortunately, Jane’s daring plan will send her right back into the witches’ den—the Doran clan’s multistory town house on Park Avenue. But thanks to a tricky spell, blond architect Jane will be transformed into Ella, a dark beauty with a whole new look . . . and all of Jane’s budding powers. Though the stakes are life or death, nobody said “Ella” couldn’t have a little fun along the way, too.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Title: Gate 7
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 10/25/2011
Before I go any further with this review I have to state that I've only read the first chapter of Gate 7, the oneshot that started everything with this series. CLAMP works tend to have plots that reach far beyond one chapter, so I want to stress that all I can do is give my impressions of what I have.
Get ready for another exciting new series from best-selling manga creators, CLAMP (Chobits, Clover, Cardcaptor Sakura)! Chikahito Takamoto has always read about the beauty and mystique of Japan's ancient capital city, Kyoto. Now, two years into high school, he's finally visiting there for real. But wandering the grounds of Kyoto's legendary Shinto shrine of Kita no Tenmangu, he chances upon a mystery that his guidebooks didn't prepare him for - two handsome men and an attractive woman, all strangely-garbed, wielding powers...and fighting monsters! The two men treat poor Chikahito with suspicion - but the girl seems to like him. They aren't worried about what Chikahito's just seen, because they have the power to erase his memory...except for some reason, that power doesn't work! And why does the girl kiss him before sending him away? One thing's for sure: Chikahito is going to be seeing a lot more of these three strangers...
You can't read any CLAMP manga without admiring the gorgeous style that is their trademark. It might change as members come and go, but it's always beautiful and worth looking at on its own merit. This doesn't really change in Gate 7. I absolutely loved looking at the art in this story. It might not be their strongest work (their earliest works will always be my favorite), but this is beautiful. I can't say enough about it.
Story-wise, I can see where this will draw in a lot of readers. It's not entirely my style, but there's a decent base here to expand upon. It's a little on the vague side, but since this was just the first chapter I don't feel right giving any final judgement on the storyline of this series. (Supposedly what I read was just a oneshot but it looks like it was definitely intended to be a promo for a series.) I've done a little snooping on the internet for information and it looks like this series will get pretty interesting as the volume progresses. It just doesn't seem to be my cup of tea, but that's OK. I'll just wait for Dark Horse to release the inevitable artbook. (Hopefully they'll re-release some of the out of print artbooks TokyoPop used to carry.)
I have to say, this will definitely find an easy audience here in the states. CLAMP can rarely go wrong in my opinion and they're giving us more of what they do best. Gate 7 will definitely appeal to those who loved X and xxxHolic.
3.5 out of 5 stars
(Reader copy provided by Netgalley)
I have to admit, I've got mixed emotions about this. Offhand I'm going to say that I'm really irritated that you can't download any of the manga you purchase. You can only view it via the website, which takes away the whole convenience factor. Even if they release an app there's still the whole inconvenience of knowing that you're reliant on the website being up and being in an area where you can access the app/website.
The cool factor lies in the titles the site has to offer. JManga brings in some titles that have never been officially released in the US as well as titles by defunct publishers such as CMX. Some of the bigger titles are limited to 1-2 chapters, possibly because many of the bigger publishers are offering their titles via similar storefronts. I was more excited to see how many different series they have and the variety.There's a lot of selection, although I was slightly disappointed to see that there's listings for manga that aren't available on the site. (My pulse quickened to see a Higurashi manga listed, only to get let down when there wasn't even so much as a preview available.)
Here's something that might put a damper on some of the excitement, though: while the site does list industry heavyweights such as Naruto and Haruhi Suzumiya, most of these pages only have preview chapters available... if they have anything listed at all. This might be due to many of these publishers moving towards similar business models as JManga and preferring to keep their manga on their personal sites. It's just a little frustrating to see so many of these series come up and end up being previews only. The previews are all free, but it's still frustrating nonetheless.
The translation is a little on the wonky side. It works and won't leave you wondering what they were trying to get across, but it just doesn't flow like some of the other translations out there. I don't see this being a big problem and I figure that as the company's translators get more comfortable with translations it'll become a little more smooth. Right now though, the translations come across as a little too overly literal at times or like the translator isn't entirely comfortable with the English language jut yet.
JManga's final point worth mentioning is that you pay via "points" rather than a set price point, which seems a little unnecessary to me. For $10 you get 1000 points so I can't help but wonder why they don't just list it at its dollar equivalent. I doubt that this will really irk people as much as that there's no way to just purchase points when you choose. To purchase manga you have to submit a credit card and have a monthly subscription. You can cancel anytime you choose, but it just seems a little overly complicated to have to constantly have to sign up and cancel if you're the type that doesn't really want to make purchases each month. The points last for about a year after they're applied to the account and you do get bonus points (these only last for 3 months), but I'd rather have the option of applying points without having to go the subscription route. On a plus side, if you're a subscriber who plans on reading a lot of manga there is the option of buying more points per month.
Overall I'm just a little underwhelmed by this site. I love that you can preview things for free but so far there's not a huge amount of wow factor to this site and not being able to buy points without a subscription is incredibly irritating. It's worth keeping an eye on since I like the idea of a company that brings over titles that might not otherwise have been picked up.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
James Barker is a happily married man. He thinks he has it all -- until he witnesses a gruesome suicide. Haunted by the death, James seeks therapy for post-traumatic stress. Finding that the answers he seeks don't lie in the therapists' office, James embarks on a journey. Who was this man, and why did he kill himself?
Now haunted by visions of the dead man in his home and in his nightmares, James begins to wonder if he is losing his mind. Surely the dead can't return?
As his obsession spirals out of control, James uncovers the terrifying truth of the stranger who died at his own hands. Is the ghost following James a result of his stressed and damaged mind, or do the dead really return?
Find out, in OBSESSED.
Available September 1st, 2011 from www.damnationbooks.comAuthor website: http://fionasfiction.wordpress.com/
Trailer Design: Su Halfwerk - http://www.su-halfwerk.com
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Author: Aron Warner, Philip Gelaff
Artist: Brett Weldele
Publisher: Sea Lion Books
Brent Marks is not a freak. He is one of the Pariah, a group of teens who become extremely intelligent after being cured of a genetic disorder. Although in most ways a normal teen, Brent is considered dangerous and is tracked down by the government who see these kids as an enormous threat. Can he evade them? What do they have planned for Brent and the others?
Aron Warner is the Academy Award®-winning producer of the animated blockbuster “Shrek” series. Mr. Warner joined PDI/Dreamworks in 1997 working as the producer on the animated film, Antz. He is currently in partnership with director Andrew Adamson in Strange Weather where they and partner Jeff Fierson are developing a slate of live action and animated feature films and television shows. He, producing alongside James Cameron, just wrapped the Untitled Cirque Du Soleil 3-D project, which was written and directed by Adamson. Pariah is his first graphic novel series.
The first thing I noticed about this comic was the artwork. Weldele chose to eschew the traditional comic artwork for a more dreamy, lush style. It works well to help the comic stand out, much as the main character of Brent does. It's gorgeous to look at and to me, was one of the best parts of the issue. It's more true to life than the traditional styles are, yet still reminds you that you're reading a comic.
The story of this is so far rather simple in design, which works for and against it. People looking for a ton of action will be slightly disappointed by the first issue since so much of it surrounds Brent trying to fit in at his school and appeal to a female friend. There's an ever present hostility due to the widespread public dislike of the Pariah, but that doesn't really come into play at first. By the end of the first issue I was hooked, but I have a feeling that this isn't going to be as well-loved as your average mainstream comic. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. Some of the best comics have been ones that have taken the comics world by surprise.
Overall this is something that's going to appeal more to readers of comics like Sandman or Bone. As the series unwinds and shows more of its wares I'm sure that we'll see more action, but this looks to be a comic that will appeal more to our human sides than the Michael Bay part of our brain.
3.7 out of 5 stars
(Reader copy provided by Sea Lion Books)
Title: Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum (Xavier Paranormal Investigations #1)
Author: Stephen Prosapio
Release Date: 05/10/2011
Available Through: Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobles
Zach Kalusky, host of Sci-D TV's Xavier Paranormal Investigators, is ecstatic when he's given the opportunity to explore the most haunted site in Chicago for a Halloween Special: Rosewood Asylum, a place long made off-limits by the local government, plagued by decades of mysterious fires and unexplained events. It's Zach's dream investigation- but there's a catch: the network forces Xavier Paranormal Investigators to partner with the more dramatic-but less ethical-Demon Hunters. Now, Zach must fight for both his show's integrity and his team's loyalty while trying to protect his own secret: that he, himself, is possessed.
If I had to describe this book in one word, it'd be unusual. Prosapio has given us a rather interesting read in Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum in that it's rather hard to pin down to a specific genre. At its heart it's a ghost story but it also has the feel of a nice cozy mystery (minus the murder that always happens at the start of a cozy mystery) as well as a touch of urban fantasy.
The idea of a group of ghost hunting college students (their ghost show takes on the name of the university) is an intriguing one. There's a lot that can be done with this idea as well as with the celebrity angle, which is a good thing since this is going to be a series. I liked that the characters were so varied, although not all of them stood out as much as I'd have liked them to. This is forgivable since there's a rather huge cast in this book and a lot of "first novel" ground to cover. My only true gripe with the book is that it took a while for some of the plot's more basic elements to be explained (such as the reason why the show is named Xavier and that almost everyone in the group is a student at St Xavier).
This novel is a little rough around the edges but it's overall an entertaining read. The book included a sneak preview of the next book, which seemed to be pretty promising. This is a series worth checking out.
4 out of 5 stars
(Reader's copy provided by the author)
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Title: Under His Spell (My Boyfriend is a Monster #4)
Author: Marie P. Croall
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Release Date: 04/01/2011
Bethany Farmer's life is a boring high school routine, and she likes it that way. Soccer, coffee, homework, more coffee, and no goofy romance. That is, until foreign exchange student Allein Atwood shows up in her Midwestern town, and her life turns epically weird. Allein has unearthly good looks, princely politeness, and a bunch of goofy, romantic pick-up lines. But is his country really so foreign that they don't know anything about soccer? Or coffee?
To her horror, Bethany is swept off her feet by Allein's spellbinding ways--and then knocked flat by savage creatures set loose into suburbia to hunt Allein down. Suddenly Bethany's normal town is twisted upside down, and nothing is what it seems. Can Bethany rescue her prince of a boyfriend and keep them both alive long enough to go on a second date?
So far I've found that this series is sort of hit or miss. For every volume that's absolutely great (My Boyfriend Bites), there's a volume that's somewhat mediocre. This volume falls under the mediocre category.
One of the most distracting aspects of this story really had to be the artwork. The quality of it just wasn't very consistent. On one page it would be very well done and on the next you'd see proportions that just weren't very realistic or feasible. There was one panel where our heroine Bethany was giving a solid kick to one of our villains and her leg and foot seemed to be unnaturally twisted. It made it look a little malformed, as if she'd broken it. The only thing about the artwork that seemed to stick to the same level of quality was the backgrounds, which were generally very well illustrated. This was just really disappointing to see since one thing the previous volumes did have in common was some decent artwork. I just couldn't help but think that the artist's work detracted from the story.
I can't blame everything on the artist, however. The basic gist of the storyline is decent. Girl meets fae boy. (I'd consider this a spoiler except the cover pretty much shows that he's a faerie.) Despite this being a pretty common story element, there's a lot you can do with this and I can't help but think that the delivery felt a little flat. I never really felt like the characters came to life for me and to be honest, neither did the chemistry between our lead characters.
There are some nice things about this volume, such as the section of the book that was in full color. It was a smart move and it did pay off well. It was one of the better sections of the book story and art wise. Parts of this book showed me that this really wanted to be a better story than what it was and I wish that it could have been.
If you're looking to read this, I'd recommend getting it from the library. This just wasn't one of the strongest offerings in the MBIAM series. Read it first via the library and then decide if you want to buy it for further re-readings or save up and wait on the next book in the series.
1.5 out of 5 stars
(ARC provided by Netgalley)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Title: Storm Born Vol 1 (Dark Swan book 1)
Author: Richelle Mead, Grant Alter
Artist: Dave Hamann
Publisher: SeaLion Books
Buy it from: Amazon.com
Release Date: 10/4/2011
(Note: This review is based on issues 1 & 2 of the series, not the whole volume.)
Eugenie Markham never asked for any of this. Until now, she''s been content with her job as a freelance shaman, battling and banishing Otherworldly creatures. When a prophecy suddenly makes her the Otherworld''s most popular bachelorette, Eugenie finds herself fighting off unwanted supernatural suitors, as well as the evils that begin emerging from her past...
Wow. Just wow. Richelle Mead has been on my list of authors to check out so Sea Lion Book's offer to preview one of her comics was pretty exciting. After all, thousands of screaming fans must mean that she's doing something right, right?
Sea Lion Books was gracious enough to allow me to post some of the covers as well as a few pages from the comics. Eugenie (aka Odile) has such wonderful expressions that it's easy to get wrapped up in the story. I do have to warn that there are some adult situations in this volume, although they are very tactfully done. You won't see any full nudity in these comics and any "extracurricular activities" aren't overly graphic. Parents might want to preview this before handing it over to their teens, but this is rather tame in comparison to some of the things seen in other graphic novels out in the market. (Although there is a risk to teens of getting their libraries raided so the parent in question can read the novel format of Storm Born and find out what happens next.)
Story-wise, my curiosity is piqued. There's been a lot of different things in the urban fantasy world, but shamans are rather under-represented. Necromancers or witches? Plenty. Shamans? Not so much. There's a lot of room for Mead to expand in & showcase Eugenie's talents in this series.
So far I've got my theories as to what's going on with certain characters, but I'll have to wait until I finish the graphic novel or book to find out. I'm also sort of predicting some future romantic entanglements, or perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part. (Eugenie's roommate is pretty intriguing.)
My two issues ended on a very big cliffhanger so I'm really looking forward to reading the full volume when it comes out in October. I've been informed that volume 1 will cover the first half of Storm Born, with volume 2 completing the novel.
Fans of Mead will also be happy to know that her much loved Vampire Academy series has also gotten the graphic novel treatment, with the first book coming out this August.
5 out of 5 stars
(Reader copies provided by Sea Lion Books)
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
This is a story about Mythakians— Greek-speaking human villagers living on a fictional representation of the real Ithaki and all the metaphorical ones; creatures created through inspiration, written words, and long coffee-flavored nights. It is a story about Greeks—the Greeks who once lived with hearts pulsing with the deepest emotions (such joys, sorrows, rages, passions), with bodies toughened to shoot and run and love and conceive, with minds sharpened and haunted by life’s most tragic scenes, with spines steeled by centuries of warfare, repression, and revolution. It is a story about Germans, about Italians, about Australians, about Brits. It is a story about farmers, fisherfolk, shepherds, monks, leaders, soldiers, children, killers, lovers. It is about neglectful gods and timeless myths, about a God of miracles and mercy, about a civilization of poverty and pride.
Most of all, The Art of War: a Novel is about my friends, my dreams, my nightmares, my family, my soulmate, and myself. It is an exploration of who I am—and, through me as a sample, an exploration of humanness. It can also work the other way around (usually, of course, it’s both); after researching and writing about other human beings, I discover more about myself. It’s a two-way street that your pen walks you down, whether you plan it or not.
But it’s not that at all—or rather, it’s not all that, only. It’s far more… It begins like that, you see, and then it evolves, like a tree whose soul you’ve planted in the ground in springtime and which by summer begins unfurling branches and dropping fruit from angles you never even knew existed.
That is why sometimes I am hesitant to say: My dear, this character was based after you… but he sort of took a life of his own along the way. He says what he wants, he packs off and goes to war without asking me, he almost gets himself shot in the head like a fool. This being a war novel, you must know, chances of him getting shot are huge. So it isn’t you, you see! Except he is your namesake—or you are his, I always get that mixed up—and his compassion, wit, and rugged good looks are all you. I like to include you in my writing, because you’ve either make a big impression on me as a person, or I simply loved your name and had to use it, or I wanted to feel close to you (on a more intimate note, I like to sketch the faces of the people I love most when I miss them). So as that Elton John song goes, “I don’t have much / but it’s the best I can do / my gift is my song, yea / and this one’s for you…”
This kind of all ties in to the reason I actually began writing. I read a lovely quote once that I really disliked but couldn’t help agreeing with. It went something along the lines of—and I’m paraphrasing here, so forgive—writers are people who shun society in order to speak with and connect to society. It’s a pretty little paradox, but to an extent somehow I think it works. There’s the self-imposed aloneness, of course; but there’s also an imposed loneliness, of a sorts. The latter is mine. It’s as they say; sometimes your choices form your circumstances, and sometimes your circumstances form your choices. When I was still a kid, I moved half-way around the world and was homeschooled in a very rural region of Europe. I had a lot of precious time to spend in the company of my family’s big wheezing computer and my rampant imagination.
I wrote a lot of fantasy when I was little—mostly because I could have things my way. My world, my friends. I could bring all the people I loved and missed so much, talk with them, remember them, imagine their reactions, and invite them in a world that I’d created. No surprise then, how this pattern of attachment and connection continued, even when I was back in a busy-as-a-beehive university surrounded by amazing people I’d also come to love. I decided these people deserve to be written about, too.
A lot of people, when they write fiction, like to disclaim that any and all persons within their books are fictional and any resemblance to any real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Sometimes, okay, I’ll let it slide. Other times, sorry, but it’s obvious bullshit. That’s a red flag trying to camouflage itself in a jungle. This book is probably inspired by all the people I know but legalities are freaking me out so let’s not say it.
Okay, not everyone in my novel is based on someone. Some characters were just dreamed up along the way, simply because they were needed there. But many were inspired by real people, people like me and you. If you recognize yourself in this book—and you might just catch one name, or one character trait, or one all-too-familiar phrase—just know that you’re in there for a reason. At some point in my life, you’ve touched my heart, and I sought to keep and thank you just so.
The Art of War: a Novel. From me, to you, with love.
You can purchase The Art of War: a Novel via Smashworlds. You can also view trailers for Angela's book, which I'll be linking to below:
Title: Zombies of the World
Author: Ross Payton
Publisher: Slang Design
Release Date: 06/15/2011
If you're like me, you probably never knew that there were different types of zombies other than "dead" & "really dead". Ignorance of the different species can not only be deadly but it can also lead to the extinction of several rare & intriguing zombie kinds. By shooting first & asking questions later, you might be missing out on the chance to watch the the well choreographed Dancing Zombie. Or you could anger a Revenant, which is insanely hard to kill & will most likely end with you being a greasy smear on the pavement.
Fortunately for you & I, this book covers at least 20 species of the undead. We're given not only a brief synopsis of the specific species's history but also images telling us where they can be located & how plentiful they are. (Joining a zombie sight seeing tour is discouraged without properly checking their credentials, year the company was formed, & their CorpseFax, which details all of the skirmishes, fatalities, & infections they've had. More than one person has lost their lives by signing up with a fly-by-night zombie tour!) The book also lists which humans (living ones, not dead ones) you should try to avoid if you're trapped in a zombie attack. If you're reading this book (or this review) then your chances of survival are already far better than that of the uninformed citizen.
We're also treated to a brief but highly informative history of the zombie race in general, starting from its ancient beginnings to the present day. Author Payton also treats us to a bright, hopeful vision of the future where zombie science will eradicate death, illness, & enable us to lead better and happier lives.
However if you're one of the skeptics who insist that zombies aren't real & that this book is nothing but a novelty item, you might still find this guide useful for role-playing games. It's a valuable resource that you can use to heighten your game playing experience. It might also save your life when the "fictional" zombies break in during your Friday gaming night.
5 out of 5 stars
(Reader Copy provided by the author.)
As a bonus I do want to say that more & more home owners are seeing the appeal of having Dancing Zombies congregate on their lawn to perform surprisingly well choreographed dances. While the North American Necrological Research Institute (NANRI) does not recommend encouraging these displays (mostly due to horrific public overreaction), it does recognize that certain displays are far more likely to appeal to the Dancing Zombie.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Everyone, it's my sad duty to inform you that beloved author LA Banks passed away yesterday morning on August the 2nd, 2011. The website doesn't say, but I believe that it was due to her battle with cancer.
She will be much missed in the literary community. That much is painfully obvious.
What we can do to ensure that her memory is never forgotten is to take a moment sometime to recommend her books to someone and/or to do a good deed for those who are suffering from any sort of cancer.
I just want to say that I'm grateful for having been able to read LA's books. They brought me countless hours of joy & I know that they've done the same for others. Rest in peace, Ms Banks.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really enjoyed reading this book. From the very first page I was hooked. The suspense in this was well done for the most part & unlike some of the previous books, I couldn't instantly discover who the true killer was. The romance in this was also pleasant, albeit a little too overly similarly plotted to the romances in the previous books. I'd like to see a romance in this series (there's still one more character to match up) where the love interest didn't instantly go the skeptical route or have that be a big focus of the match up. It just gets a little overly tread after a while. Even with this handicap our main characters are still well matched. Their romance isn't "set the pages on fire" hot, but it is sweet.
One of the strongest points in the book was the book's atmosphere, which was helped along by Graham setting the story in Salem, Massachusetts. The name alone gives the reader a certain mental image, which helps out greatly in this book. It also doesn't hurt that Graham decided to bring in the idea of witch hunting, comparing the hunts of the past to those of the present. It was a bold but smart move by Graham.
It's not a completely flawless book, however. At times I really couldn't help but wish that Graham had fleshed out some of the characters more, especially our whodunit. The whodunit wasn't an outrageous surprise but a little more development would have made the finish really stand out. I sort of blame this on the fact that this book was part of a series. It was only when the KoH had to be involved that the book started somewhat unraveling & I feel like if our two heroes had to do more of the footwork themselves (rather than relying on people who could quickly do it offscreen) the book would have been a little more tightly woven. This would have been an excellent standalone novel.
I'd still highly recommend this as a last minute vacation or "yay, the kids are back in school" read. Despite a few stumbles, this was a lot of fun to read & I would recommend it even if you haven't read or been all that entranced by the previous books. I'd go as far as to say that this is easily the best book of the series so far.
(ARC provided by Netgalley)