Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hello everyone! I will be taking a break for awhile. Not sure when I will be back. But until then check out all the wonderful blogs on my blogroll and visit Blogcritics!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

'The Demon Ororon' Vol. 1-4 by Hakase Mizuki

ISBN: 1427807329
Format: Paperback, 880pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: December 18, 2007
Price: $19.99

“So it was in the fall of my fifteenth year… that my first love died. He was just some broken guy I picked up on a rainy day… some lonely devil … who had beautiful dark gray eyes… and smelled like blood.”

Don’t expect it to end happily. Not everything does. Don’t expect it to be perfect. Not everything is. Prepare to fall in love and get your heart broken. Prepare to hold your chin up knowing what will come and how it will turn out. You won’t turn away, not because you wouldn’t like to but because you can’t.

When Chiaki meets Ororon he’s sitting in the rain, soaked and hurt, waiting to die. But she takes him home with her, against the advice of her best friend Rika, and treats his wounds. Chiaki is just one of those people with a good heart; a pacifist to her core, she abhors violence, so when she learns that this mysterious man she’s rescued is none other than the King of Hell she isn’t sure what to think. But her heart, which very rarely has anything to do with the head, falls in love with him anyway.

Ororon immediately recognizes Chiaki for what she is and understands why she has been followed all her life by monsters and ghosts, and why she can give them a kind of release. Chiaki is the daughter of an angel and a human, but not just any angel — her father was the Archangel Michael. But can a half breed angel and the Lord of Hell not only coexist but love?

Because Chiaki has saved Ororon’s life he offers to grant her one wish. That wish? For Ororon to stay with her forever, which he grants without a moment's hesitation. But Ororon and Chiaki aren’t going to have it easy. Ororon left his throne and ran into the mortal world, trying to escape the constant assassination attempts made by his older brothers, each of which want the throne for themselves. They aren’t going to stop just because he’s left hell.

With a large cast of characters ranging from the wonderfully cute demon cat brothers Shiro and Kuro, demon house keeper Miss Lucy, Ororon’s brother Othello — not to mention the many evil brothers and demons that come into play — this story moves swiftly and surely toward the inevitable ending.

This is Romeo and Juliet between Hell and Heaven. The damned and the good falling in love and struggling to find that middle ground where life can be lived in all gray tones; where the stark bleak realities of a black and white world don’t overshadow a tender passion surrounded by blood and sin.

The Demon Ororon should be recommended reading for everyone, a timeless story filled with enough gore to keep the guys turning pages while the heart-wrenching love story will keep most girls involved. Not to mention the elongated stylized bodies, and the tilted faces with side long glances that pop from the page and bring each moment into painful reality.

On December 18th Tokyopop is releasing an edition with all four volumes in one. Trust me, you will want to read it this way, because once I finished volume one I couldn’t stop until I had devoured the others. Lose yourself in The Demon Ororon — a story of heartbreak and belonging, of fighting and loving and lessons in how, in the end sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

'Dancing with Werewolves' by Carole Nelson Douglas

ISBN: 0809572036
Format: Paperback, 240pp
Publisher: Juno Books
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $6.99

When the millennium came around a few things changed. But it wasn’t the computers that everyone had prepared themselves for. Instead everything that humans thought of as myth or legend revealed themselves to be true; vampires, werewolves, ghouls, witches, ghosts, and everything else that you think of while hiding under the blanket at 3am. They came out of the closet, and from under the bed, and demanded to be included in society.

Delilah Street was named after where she was found abandoned as a baby. She grew up in an orphanage, the center of constant attacks of one kind or another. Delilah is what she refers to as vampire bait. With black hair and pale creamy skin she has every vampire in a 100 mile area putting the moves on her, or at least trying to. But growing up like that taught Delilah how to defend herself. It also gave her a nose for the paranormal.

Now all grown up, Delilah is working at a paranormal reporter for a small town Kansas TV station. She’s happy there, having carved out her own spot and made herself a fixture with the local residents. She does anything and everything relating to the paranormal. But when a date with her vampire co-worker goes bad, Delilah gets frozen out at work. So with her self respect and the clothes on her back she high tails it to Las Vegas.

Once in Vegas she runs into Ric Montoya, a former FBI agent who has a nose for finding dead bodies. When the two connect over a double grave everything that Delilah knows about herself will change. Haunted by strange alien abduction nightmares and coming to terms with the fact that she might not be completely human, Delilah and Ric unravel the mystery of the dead couple.

The big draw for me with this one is the alternate history. I’ve read several paranormal novels that deal with a world in which vampires and werewolves are everyday things. Some authors handle it better than others and while Douglas’ world isn’t the best I’ve found, it is one that I wouldn’t mind spending some time in.

Carole Nelson Douglas’ writing is crisp and edgy. As I read Delilah’s voice came through loud and clear, a perfect mix of hard-nosed reporter and small town girl. She’s a likable character, the kind that you would quickly become a best friends with. Dancing with Werewolves is a wonderful addition to the paranormal genre and I can only hope that we’ll be seeing Delilah again.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

'The Tarot Cafe' Vol. 6 by Sang-Sun Park

ISBN: 142780396X
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $9.99

In the sixth volume of The Tarot Café all of the characters are finally starting to realize they have become pawns in a much larger game. The missing pieces of the broken necklace of Berial that Pamela has been searching for are coming together. Once she has all the pieces if she so chooses she can finally die with Belus’ aid.

Belus meanwhile has realized that Pamela is much more to him than just a means to an end, much more in fact than just a partner in a contract. He has told her that life with her would never be boring, and coming from an immortal being that is saying quite a lot. He has shed blood for her, come to realize that he loves her, and in the end he might even die for her.

There is only one episode in this volume, Episode 17, “Invitation to Hell,” and all the pushing and pulling, the maneuvering by some unseen hand, has finally stopped. The players and the pawns, the characters of the stories have come to face what is inside their hearts.

Pamela finally remembers details of her past and come to see the truth about those in her present. Ash still has not realized that in another life he was Pamela’s lover, her protector and savior. He has no memories of their time together and has come to hate her in this life because he believes she stole Belus’ affection. Ash saw Belus as a father, his best friend and the one person who understood him, but when Belus left Ash to return to Pamela years previously Ash never recovered. Ash would do anything to keep Pamela from stealing Belus, including murdering his former love.

Pamela also learns the true identity of Berial, what his true face is behind the beautiful mask he wears. She comes to realize that it has been his hand all along that had guided her life, ruined her happiness and love. Berial has done nothing but take from Pamela, nothing but play with her life from the very beginning. Can she find a way to escape this dangerous game?

The artwork is stunning, each character beautifully drawn and detailed. Park’s continued fascination with fairy tales and gorgeous men have given the series a distinctive feel, a flavor that is purely Tarot Café, Making this series one of the best rendered manga I have read.

The seventh and final volume will be released in June of 2008. We will see what fate has chosen for Pamela and those around her, whether her love for Belus will be enough to keep him alive. The destiny of the lonely werewolf Aaron and his protector Nebiros; and finally Ash’s fate, lover and betrayer, friend and foe. I can’t imagine it will end too happily but I’ve got my fingers crossed anyway.

Friday, November 30, 2007

'The Tarot Cafe' Vol. 5 by Sang-Sun Park

ISBN: 1427803951
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: May 2007
Price: $9.99

Pamela is a Tarot Card reader for the supernatural. Ghosts, werewolves, fairies, immortals, dragons, and other worldly beings all come to her for help. Whether she reveals something about themselves that they had not realized or points them in the right direction, Pamela touches each of their lives and in turn they touch hers.

As the story has progressed we’ve learned about Pamela’s dark and miserable past. We have learned that with the death of Ash, a dragon and Pamela’s lover, centuries before Pamela has became immortal. When his blood was spilled it touched her first, marking her and setting her apart from the rest of humanity. Lost without Ash, Pamela has spent her immortality searching for a way to end her life, convinced that there I nothing worth living for with Ash gone.

Belus, the mysteriously handsome man who hangs around the café, has offered to help Pamela achieve her goal if she will do one thing for him. Pamela must find all the missing beads of Berial’s legendary necklace. Slowly but surely Pamela has collected bead by bead and soon will have all the beads she needs to fulfill her contract with Belus.

But Belus, who when he first met Pamela centuries before, told her that she wasn’t really his type has gone soft on her. Concerned with her well being, bent on protecting her, Belus is struggling with himself torn by hidden agendas and the desire to keep things between him and Pamela as they are.

Episode 14 “Leanan Sidhe (Two)” finishes the tale started in volume four. The famous rock singer narrowly escapes the clutches of his beautiful but deadly muse. While the muse, a dangerous woman known as the Leanan Sidhe, wonders if the rocker really cared for her at all or just the talent she offered.

In Episode 15 “Perfume” Ash reveals himself to be completely ruthless. Though he is not exactly the dragon that Pamela once loved he does seem to have memories of her. He is also jealous of the relationship that has grown between Pamela and Belus, though he does not seem to want her for himself he doesn’t exactly want Belus to have her.

When Ash takes part in the kidnapping of Pamela, Belus rushes to her rescue. A twisted perfume maker is draining blood from Pamela to make a perfume of youth, Pamela’s blood being the main ingredient since it is immortal. But to get Pamela to a point where they could take her blood Ash has used a perfume on her that makes her relive her worst memories.

Stuck in a dream that will not end Pamela sees Ash’s death once again. Reliving the cold horrible moments of an attempted rape by a monk, realizing that Ash knew it had happened but done nothing to save her, and finally watching her lover die in her arms. To wake Pamela from her horrible past Belus learns that she must have the blood from someone’s heart. Does he love her enough to give his life for hers?

Episode 16 “Tree and Long-Horned Beetle” was one of the more heart wrenching stories of the entire series. A small abused boy makes friends with a tree spirit and when the boy’s father almost kills him the tree spirit makes the ultimate sacrifice for the boy.

This volume of The Tarot Café is the best one so far. We’ve learned so much about Pamela along the way and the end of her story is coming. Nebiros, the man that the werewolf Aaron has been looking for, also makes a small appearance letting us know that he plays a much larger role in this game than we could ever realize. How it will end, who knows? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Dark Lullaby' by Mayra Calvani

ISBN: 159374907
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, LLC
Pub. Date: September 2007

Dark Lullaby is the kind of novel that you will want to read in one sitting. As the tension builds, as the characters fall into their own personal hells, you are compelled to keep reading.

When Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious woman he shoves all thoughts of his ex-girlfriend Liz, a bohemian librarian, from his mind. Even though she happens to be sitting next to him when Kamilah introduces herself at a bar and invites herself into their conversation about good and evil. Liz seems to recognize that there is something odd about Kamilah but Gabriel is blinded.

Gabriel is an intelligent introspective man, he had a difficult childhood and is struggling to work out who he is. Soon Gabriel infatuated with Kamilah, her beauty and mind draw him to her. When Kamilah invites Gabriel to visit her in her homeland in Turkey. But Gabriel’s sister Elena, his twin and close friend, is waiting for him in Belgium where she is expecting a child. Gabriel had promised to be there for the birth but Kamilah’s invitation drives it from his mind.

Once he is away from everything familiar, deep in Kamilah’s territory, Gabriel becomes sick and loses his cell phone. All communication is cut with Liz, who is extremely worried about him and his sister Elena, who has become frantic with worry over her brother. With her due date coming closer and Gabriel still missing she begins to wonder if he too will disappoint her, just as everyone else in her life has.

Meanwhile Kamilah, beautiful and strange, is acting oddly around Gabriel. She always seems to be hot to the touch and she seems oddly fascinated by the nature of good and evil. When Gabriel begins to suspect that Kamilah is somehow making him sick with hallucinations he struggles to find a way to escape her. But it could be too late for himself as well as for his sisters unborn baby.

Part horror and thriller with a touch of romance Dark Lullaby is a quick read that will keep you glued to the pages. Thoughtful, entertaining, and chilling the characters and the exotic settings will sweep you away.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Arm of Kannon' by Masakazu Yamaguchi

ISBN: 1591828104
Format: Paperback, 200pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: May 2004
Price: $9.99

While browsing my husband's manga collection I came across Arm of Kannon. Curious, I asked him a little about it but he only shrugged. So I sat down to read it and find out for myself.

Mao has just turned 16 and is about to start high school. He and his sister Maya live with their mom, their dad having mysteriously disappeared three years ago and they have not seen or heard anything since then. They’ve learned to live without him and the two siblings are very close. When the father shows up claiming to have found the mysterious Arm of Kannon, a religious object of mystical power, Mao is worried. As he should be.

There are a lot of people after this Arm of Kannon. An undercover organization that is breeding men with lizards wants it for the genetic mutations it inflicts on the wearer, among other as of yet non-specified reasons. And a secret temple has sent an expert and legendary swordsman to protect the siblings from the monster that their father has become under the Kannon’s influence.

Isurugi, the swordsman, doesn’t get there in time to save Moa. Instead Moa’s father gets to pass on the Arm of Kannon in a very uncomfortable way. Unsure whether or not he has been truly infected the undercover agency captures him and sticks him in a lab where they test him in some unconventional ways.

The rest of the story is pretty much a gore fest. The characters don’t really grab me and I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of horror anyway. But I have a pretty good feeling that if you decide not to read this one you won’t be missing out on much.

The art isn’t bad, not the best I’ve come across, but you get the point pretty well. Not to mention the monsters that punctuate the story are very well done indeed, I would even go so far as to say extra creepy. Yamaguchi handles the horror aspect of the illustrations in a way that dialogue is unimportant, he goes for the big gasp or at least the little grimace. Panty shots also frequently show up just in case you get tired of all the gore.

Arm of Kannon is not for the faint of heart, rated mature for a reason you will encounter everything from swear words and rape to bodies cut up and stuck in a fridge. Even though we already own the next three volumes I don’t think I will continue to read them, I’m not that desperate for something to read yet.

Monday, November 26, 2007

'The Tarot Café’ Vol. 4 by Sang-Sun Park

ISBN: 1595328149
Format: Paperback, 184pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: December 2005
Price: $9.99

The Tarot Café just gets better and better as it goes along. Dragons, fairies, werewolves, water spirits, and ghosts all reveal their stories and in doing so show us bits and pieces of Pamela’s past. This tarot reading café owner is the big draw for me. As the series has gone on I’ve just gotten more involved in her story and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

In Episode 11 “A Butterfly in My Dreams” Pamela helps a brother and sister reconcile long after they have wronged each other. I really enjoy that each of the little episodes throw in a twist at the end, sometimes it’s a bit clichéd but it always somehow seems to work. This one is no exception, you have characters that are seemingly straight forward until the end. I guess I should learn to recognize this by now, since none of Pamela’s customers are never what they appear to be.

In Episode 12 the “Contract” we find out who Berial was and a bit of history about his legendary necklace. Berial was considered the prince of falsehood and deceit, a devil who held nothing sacred and his necklace was rumored to hold immense power. We once again dip into Pamela’s past, into her history and the recent death of her love Ash. When Pamela is accused of being a witch, just like her mother before her, Belus steps in to save her.

Belus, the Prince of Pandemonium, wants Berial’s necklace for himself and sees a way to get it through Pamela. Without Ash Pamela feels that life is not worth living and tries to end it several times only to learn that she cannot die. Belus however offers her a contract, in return for the complete necklace of Berial he will grant her death.

Belus also has more of a soft spot for Pamela than she might realize. Although he does claim that she isn’t his type he cares for her deeply despite the contract that has been forged between them. Something that the reincarnated or amnesia suffering, whatever it is, Ash has a problem with.

Episode 13, “Leanan Sidhe (One),” introduces us to a rock star and his muse. Sasha is a no name until he comes across a legend about a woman who can make you famous. When he finds her he realizes that there is price for fame and that he might not be willing to pay that price. But Pamela is approached not only by Sasha but also by the muse who is seeking redemption. The story for this one continues into the next volume.

Some of the artwork in this one is a little different than the first three volumes. The full page illustration depicting the tarot card at the first page of episode twelve is darker in tone, heavily shadowed instead of the delicate line work that has been showcased before. Just as lovely, only different and in the volume it is the only example of that style. There were also more full page characterizations in this one compared to volume three.

I’ve already picked up volumes five and six, I just can’t seem to stop myself and I have ear marked volume seven for purchase once it is released in 2008. The Tarot Café is a great series so far, with a little bit of everything, and I can’t wait to continue reading.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

'The Tarot Café' Vol. 3 by Sang-Sun Park & Jung-Su Kim

ISBN: 1595325573
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: September 2005
Price: $9.99

The Tarot Café continues in volume three of this seven part series. Pamela and Aaron, the werewolf with the painful past who now works at the café, are getting along well, even if he is a bit nosey. In the last volume, we were introduced to a character named Ash who wears a face out of Pamela’s past, a long dead love that is somehow tied into the fact that she cannot die herself.

In this volume, the relationship between Pamela and Belus, which has been hinted at as being something more, starts to come out into the light. Though they aren’t lovers and not exactly friends, we have yet to see what the exact circumstances are. We learn that Pamela must collect all the pieces of Berial’s necklace, though who or what that person is remains a mystery, as part of a contract between herself and Belus.

What this contract entails we haven’t learned yet beyond the fact that Pamela and Belus are tied to each other. Though Pamela cannot die, she can still be hurt and does feel pain. Belus can feel Pamela’s pain and tries to protect her as best he can. He has already come to her rescue several times, the last being from episode seven, “Witch Hunt,” when Ash and Pamela were abducted and almost killed.

Episode eight, “The Star of Jealousy,” dips into Pamela’s distant past. In the year 1529, Pamela met a King who fell in love with a young slave but let his jealous emotions destroy the one thing he cared for. This story relates how Pamela came to have one of the major pieces of Beria’s necklace, a beautiful blue stone that holds the reddish ting of jealousy.

Episode nine, “Lady of the Lake,” is the light hearted bit of volume three, as well as providing a little comic relief. While so far most of the stories in The Tarot Café have been bittersweet, this one actually has a happy ending. A broke collage student falls in love with a water spirit but becomes so wrapped up in giving her material things that he doesn’t realize all she really wants is his time.

In episode ten, “Dragon Heart,” we learn the more about Ash and Pamela’s love affair. Though this new Ash resembles the one from the past, and could very well be, he seems to be suffering from amnesia - though he does seem to know Pamela from somewhere and have plans of his own for her. He also knows Belus, though what their connection is remains to be seen.

When another face shows up out of Pamela’s past, she is stunned. Alecto was Ash’s best friend and for hundreds of years was convinced that Pamela had killed Ash. But when Alecto comes to take his revenge on Pamela and sees the current reincarnation of Ash, or whatever he is, Alecto changes his plans.

The art, as with the previous volumes, continues to be wonderful. Though this volume lacked a lot of the full-page carefully drawn characterizations that the first two held, it does feature a few. There is more going on with each of the characters than meets the eye, and the story is really starting to pick up. Pamela isn’t the only one with a dark past, and it’s obvious that Belus and Ash both have hidden agendas. How it all relates to Pamela and Aaron, who is still looking for Nebiros, only time will tell.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

'Key to Conflict'

ISBN: 0441015034
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 336pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: May 2007
Price: $7.99

There is a reason people read reviews. One of the reasons is that hopefully you will not spend your hard earned cash on a book that will only disappoint you. Of course when you’re an impulse shopper, like me, and you see a cover that catches your eye sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

I really, really wanted to like Key to Conflict. It’s got a great plot idea and a few characters that really grab your attention. Unfortunately the end result is something short of what you might expect. It’s clumsy and awkward in spots, with too much detail and development in which the author shows you a lot of things without letting it just unfold onto the page. There just was not enough conversation to keep the book going; Indeed, Gryphon would tell you that certain characters had talked, and this just got to be a little boring. I don’t want to be told what they said, I just want to read it, damnit.

Not to mention the fact that this is labeled fantasy… except that for just fantasy it sure does have a lot of sex going on. Or if not sex, then enough time spent inside Gillian’s head thinking about the hunky beautiful drop-dead-sexy males she finds herself surrounded by. They all want her too, she’s that perfect. I personally would have stuck this in the romance section, except that it wouldn’t really fit there either.

Dr. Gillian Key is a Marine Paramortal Psychologist. So she kicks your ass and then she’s going to ask you how you feel about it. It’s an unusual combination, and it almost works. She is assigned to a master vampire by the name of Alesksei and a charming ghost and while she is there for their mental health she is also supposed to unearth some clues about Dracula. Yes, the Dracula, who is the ultimate in bad guys and just so happens to be stirring up trouble again.

From there we learn that basically Dracula is trying to take over the world again and our brave and oh-so-sweet doctor has landed on the wrong side. By helping Alesksei, one of Dracula’s sworn enemies, Gillian has been made a target. But since part of her mission is to uncover information she’s in the perfect, if a bit tight, spot.

Soon Gillian has formed a relationship with Tanis, Alesksei’s even cuter brother and the dead but very sexy turquoise-eyed ghost she’s treating for shock over his untimely death hundreds of years ago. And Alesksei has a thing for her too, but there is that whole doctor-patient line that Gillian doesn’t want to cross… well… until later, at least.

The Dracula stuff never goes anywhere and nothing is resolved. There are hints of a second book with the open ending and I can only pray that if a sequel does show up it is less tell and more show. In the end I just started skipping pages, which I have to admit is not a good idea since there is so much information crammed onto each page to begin with.

But I couldn’t bring myself to go back and read it. So I just gave up, and I hate to admit it but — this particular Key to Conflict just might have to remain lost in the couch cushions.

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Suppli' Vol. 1 by Mari Okazaki

ISBN: 1427803145
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $9.99

If you think that manga is not for you, you’re wrong. Whatever age range, or whatever genre you enjoy be it fantasy, mystery, or romance there is a series out there for you. And speaking of romance I just found my new favorite series, Suppli by Mari Okazaki.

Minami is dedicated to her job working at an advertising agency and as a result her relationship with her boyfriend of seven years has suffered. He’s always there when she gets home and she expects him to be, taking their relationship for granted. But she’s unhappy, wondering why she can’t seem to get the words out to break up with him. But when he beats her to the punch she’s heartbroken.

Once the relationship is over and the boyfriend gone, Minami realizes that she has no friends and knows no one except her work colleagues. At 27 she is afraid that she could end up alone, the office spinster, spending her time sitting in front of the TV and talking to herself, something she seems to do a lot of anyway. So when some people from the office talk about going out she makes sure she gets invited too.

When Minami takes a break from Karaoke with the group Ishida, a younger co-worker, is waiting for her out in the hall. He is playful and kisses her but she doesn’t handle it well and later in the evening when she sees him reach for someone else’s hand she doesn’t think that he really likes her at all. She puts it behind her, thinking nothing else of it, although it is obvious that Ishida is smitten.

Then Minami meets Ogiwara, who was hired at the same time and in the same age. He’s not as playful as Ishida, more down to earth but he’s also got a ghost hanging over him. He has recently broken up with someone as well but he seems to be taking his break up a lot harder than Minami took hers. He likes her though and in the end he asks if she could just be a shoulder for him to lean on. She agrees, wanting to be there for him and hoping that a relationship could blossom.

There are some really sweet romantic moments here; the kind of things that just make your heart go pitter-patter. But it has some comedy too, so that over all you have a great balance between the drama and romance, which makes Suppli a lot like real life. Then the little bit of narration by Minami stuck here and there adds so much to the story, which gives it a very cinematic feel.

I really like Minami, her thoughts and actions are those of any woman, no matter the age; but since this is rated 18+ it will definitely appeal to the 20-somethings out there. I think that when you read this one you might see a bit more of yourself than you expect as well. We’ve all gone through similar situations and can identify with Minami as she juggles work and the possibility of starting a new relationship.

I’m really impressed with Suppli, the art is good and the Volume 2 is being released in July 2008 with volume 3 following up in March. There are six volumes but the release dates for the rest have not been set as of yet. Keep your eye on Tokyopop for the latest information though and keep your fingers crossed for Ishida, I like him best.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

'The Road to Hell' by Jackie Kessler

ISBN: 0821781030
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $15.00

The Road to Hell is pretty in your face with the sexuality. In the first 20 pages you get premature ejaculation, bathroom masturbation, and dirty talk. Imagine, if that is what you get for your first taste, what else is in store? Yeah, I can hear your brain working through my computer.

Jesse, formally known as the demon succubus Jezebel, is a stripper. Something that is not that far removed from what she did as a demon seeing as how she seduced humans to claim their souls for hell. But all that is behind her. She is no longer that demon succubus but Jesse, the now human girl who loves her job stripping at Spice as much as she loves her New York City cop boyfriend, Paul.

Jesse just thought she left that all behind. When her best friend’s sister shows up, all that soft, comfy safety flies out the window. Megaera, Jesses’ one time best friend, until she left Jesse to die, is in trouble and being tortured. Jesse is asked to help her, save her from her fate because Jesse is the only demon to ever escape hell and live to tell the tale.

But Jesse isn’t sure she wants to. She likes her human life, she likes the relationship with Paul and doesn’t want any of that to change; which of course it would if she went back to hell to save her betrayer of a best friend. But deep down Jesse is still the succubus she once was, sure she has a soul and a human body, but you can’t change 4,000 years of living one way for another over night.

When Paul gets pulled into the mess Jesse knows what she has to do. Along the way we meet a ton of fun characters. Angel, who just happens to be a real angel, is great and Jesse has a lot of fun corrupting little Miss Perfect.

The Road to Hell is being labeled a paranormal romance. It’s not. Sure this is paranormal but this isn’t exactly a romance. Jesse, though she does love Paul, doesn’t spend a lot of time with him in this. In the end he just spends too much time off stage to be a love interest or a character that I care about. Not to mention that though she is dedicated to her relationship it doesn’t stop her from letting other questionable things happen; which just flies in the face of the romance format.

Not that I mind something that’s a bit unconventional, which The Road to Hell certainly is. You’ve got strippers, demons, and a ton of in your face action of all kinds. Jesse is a unique voice and I’m sure that she will have her own fan base in no time. So if you are looking for something a bit kinky, a little dirty and a ton of fun look no farther than The Road to Hell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Angel Sanctuary' Vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki

ISBN: 1591162459
Format: Paperback, 198pp
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Pub. Date: April 2004
Price: $9.95

I picked up Angel Sanctuary because it’s a classic. There are 20 volumes in all, as well as a three-episode OVA series that ties into the manga. It was first serialized in a Japanese magazine but was then released in volume form starting in 1995 and has been in print since. And I have to say that it holds up to time well; the story still has an edge and freshness to it that I haven’t found in a lot of the older manga and anime.

But it is impossible to deny that the story line is confusing. There is so much going on, so many characters, besides who they were in another life, are introduced in the first volume that you would have to read the entire series before you understood how they all fit together. The first volume simply presents you with a few faces and lays the ground work for the long tale that follows.

At first Setsuna Mudo seems like your basic troubled high school guy; coming from a broken home he doesn’t have it easy. When we are first introduced to him he is getting his butt kicked, but besides that he doesn’t seem like he would be anyone special. Well, until we find out that he is the reincarnation of the female Organic Angel Alexiel. And oh yeah, he’s deeply in love with his sister Sara. But the blurb on the back warns you that Setsuna “harbors feelings for his sister that can only be described as incestuous” so that part isn’t a surprise.

We also find out that teenagers all across the city are dying in a mysteriously gruesome way. At the scenes a floppy disc (see I told you this was old school) called Angel Sanctuary is found and when Sara’s best friend Ruri is given one by a foreign priest on the street you know trouble is coming. Along the way Ruri meets Sara’s brother Setsuna and develops a crush on him. When Ruri asks Sara to set her up with her brother Sara freaks out a little and the reader begins to realize that Setsuna isn’t alone in how he feels.

Ruri starts to play the game on the disc given to her by the odd priest and finds out that the game is an Angel. Eventually the Angel takes over Ruri’s body and she becomes the home of the male Inorganic Angel Rosiel, the twin of Alexiel. The two have a bitter past and Rosiel is determined to kill his twin.

Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons, and humanity are at stake as the characters line up and take sides. Setsuna doesn’t realize yet that he is Alexiel, held to his human form because of his love for Sara, and this puts him a few tight spots as Rosiel gains a human body and starts building her army.

I’m not sure that I will continue reading Angel Sanctuary right away. The story is good, lots of twists and turns but all the gender-bending got to be a little much. I don’t mind some of that but when no one is who they say they are it gets to be a little confusing. But there's no doubt Angel Sanctuary is a classic and I know my curiosity will get the better of me. It’s only a matter of time before I pick up volume two.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

'Bride of the Water God' Vol. 1 by Mi-Kyung Yun

ISBN: 1593078498
Format: Paperback, 184pp
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $9.95

Bride of the Water God is manhwa, different from the Japanese manga since it comes from Korea and there are differences in the character designs and un-translated sound effects. Manhwa is also read from left to right, unlike the Japanese and Chinese counterparts, which makes it more accessible to western culture. Bride of the Water God is a superb example of this style of graphic novel and is sure to gain fans and popularity as the series continues.

Bride of the Water God is the tale of Soah, a beautiful young woman who is sacrificed by her village to the Water God Habaek. Convinced that the gift of a beautiful woman will save their village from drought, they send her out alone to face what is believed to be a horrible monster. But the last thing Soah expects is to be welcomed to the land of Suguk by Habaek the Water God, who happens to be a child.

Soah is welcomed into Habaek's household as his bride, and she spends a lot of her time wandering around the palace. She meets several of the other Gods who are living there, a strange collection of beautiful and slightly eccentric characters that I'm sure will be fun to get to know as the series continues.

Among the people living in the palace is Huye, a man that Soah first mistakes for the Water God. When Soah is attacked by a che, a monster that is similar to a tiger but has the tail of an ox and barks like a dog, Huye is there to save her. Soah hurts her ankle in the process, and Huye carries her back to the palace to the annoyance of Habaek.

Habaek, who can be a bit temperamental, just happens to be cursed. During the day he is the child that Soah knows, but at night he reverts to his adult self. While the rest of the inhabitants of the palace know, no one has filled Soah on this little secret. When she comes face to face with a grown Habaek, she has no idea who he is. Habaek, in response, panics and tells her that he is Habaek's cousin, Mui.

It gets a little tangled from there and even worse once Habaek's mother Seowangmo, the Goddess of Punishment and Torture among other things, shows up to inspect Habaek's new bride. We find out that Soah isn't the first of his human brides, but nothing is known of his previous wives or where they have gone.

Yun's artwork is spectacular and amazingly detailed, especially the clothing and the kingdom of Suguk. I was particularly enchanted by the first few pages, which are done in color; delicate and other worldly, they give such a romantic feel and make the perfect introduction for the black and white drawings that follow. Bride of the Water God Volume Two is being released in February of 2008, so you don't have long to wait for the continuing story. I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

'The Tarot Cafe' Vol. 2 by Sang-Sun Park

ISBN: 1595325565
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: June 2005
Price: $9.99

The second volume of The Tarot Café was just as hard to put down as the first. But then again once you start reading why would you want to? In this volume we finish the story of the Jester and the Alchemist which was started in volume one, learn more about Pamela and her mysterious past, and we meet a werewolf.

Episode five, “A Heartless Princess, an Alchemist, and a Jester (Part 2),” continues from volume one and finishes the tale of the evil Princess, the Alchemist who kidnapped her hoping for love, and the Jester doll that was made to please her. When the Alchemist finally realizes how truly horrible the Princess is he must make a choice between his creation and her evil.

In Episode six, “The Werewolf Boy,” we meet Aaron, a werewolf with a painful past. When his alcoholic father sells him to a mysterious man by the name of Nebiros, Aaron for the first time is given everything he wants. But Aaron feels trapped, and though he has promised not to betray Nebiros by leaving the safety of the castle he does so at the first chance available. When Aaron realizes his mistake it is too late. Cursed to wander the earth as a werewolf he seeks out Pamela, hoping that she will be able to help him.

This story is particularly interesting because we learn something crucial about Pamela, a hint of things to come, at least. Aaron makes it to the Tarot Café but in werewolf form. He attacks Pamela, unaware of his actions, and bites her on the neck. But the bite doesn’t kill or turn Pamela into a monster. Instead, the wound heals and we learn that Pamela is much more than just human.

And in Episode seven, “The Witch Hunt,” we learn a lot about Pamela’s past, things that were only hinted at in the first volume. When a man stumbles into her café wearing a face straight out of her past, it stirs all kinds of memories. We learn about Pamela’s mother as well as Pamela’s real age. Not to mention a little bit about Belus, the man who spends a lot of his time hanging out at the café, who also has connections to Nebiros and Aaron. Though the true meaning of those connections are yet to be revealed.

As in the first volume, Park’s artwork is nothing short of perfection. Beautiful and detailed, the story is told in elegant lines that simply demands attention — and once again you can tell that Park has a fascination with fairy-tales. I’m really enjoying The Tarot Café and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

'Ice Storm' by Anne Stuart

ISBN: 0778325008
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Mira
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $6.99

I am now a life long fan of Anne Stuart. After reading Ice Storm I can’t do anything else besides convert, there is just no use fighting it. You might find this a little extreme but I promise you it isn’t. And how can I even think of becoming a fan with just one book? Easily and you better believe I’m going to the bookstore to stock up on the rest of her titles in the Ice series.

Isobel Lambert is a cold-blooded professional working for a covert organization called The Committee based out of London. They have highly trained assassins stationed across the globe, cold blooded men and women all with Isobel at their head. Nicknamed the Ice Queen, or Irion Maiden, there is much more to Isobel than meets the eye.

Serafin the Butcher is the most dangerous man in the world. The Committee has already tried and failed to have him eliminated once. But when his name comes up a second time it isn’t for termination. Serafin has brokered a deal with the Committee, in exchange for his personal safety he is willing to trade information about the third world countries he’s been hiding out and causing havoc in.

Isobel, the head of the Committee, is the only operative able to go. Not to mention that Serafin asked for her personally. Her mission is to extricate him from North Africa and get him safely to England where he can be debriefed and then given a new identity. A simple job to Isobel’s mind until she discovers that Serafin the Butcher is really a man named Killian, a man from her past that she thought she had killed years ago.

With the Committee falling apart around her ears and Killian stirring all kinds of feelings she thought she could control Isobel is coming to the end of her tether. Her past and present collide putting her in the difficult position of feeling emotion once again while trying to keep from falling apart. Plus you get great sex scenes and a body count, how awesome is that?

Stuart’s characters are wonderful. I could gush at you for pages about how well she wrote Isobel and Killian, not to mention the rest of the characters who have their own titles to explore. I’m in love and I just can’t help myself. But I won’t subject you to such mushy fan-ism, what I will say is that I have rarely come across such complex and three dimensional characters. The fact that they are some of the worlds deadliest assassins helps though, too.

Ice Storm was great. No, it was nothing short of brilliantly fantastic. I literally could not put this one down and took an extra long lunch just so I could finish it. If you haven’t read Anne Stuart start now. But if you beat me to the bookstore be sure to leave a few for me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

'The Innocent Mage' by Karen Miller

ISBN: 0316067806
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 642pp
Publisher: Orbit
Pub. Date: September 2007
Price: $6.99

I don’t read a lot of epic fantasy; I’m intimidated by the large page count and tiny words. Not to say that I haven’t read anything along these lines but when it comes to this genre I tend to prefer Tolkien. But I’d been reading for weeks how good The Innocent Mage was, Karen Miller’s first in her Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duo, and I just had to see what all the fuss was about.

The characters are what really make this book readable. Asher, Matt, Danthe, Prince Gar and the way they all interact is fantastic. I read the first 200 pages of the book in one sitting and just could not put it down.

We first meet Asher, our hero, as he is leaving behind his small fishing village. He’s the youngest of the family and stands to inherit the smallest piece of the family business so he decides to seek his fortune in the city. I know this is a pretty typical beginning, it’s nothing you haven’t read before, but Asher jumps off the page and is larger than life. He is a fantastically real character and makes the cliché work.

Once in the city Asher stops Prince Gar’s horse from bolting. Asher is blunt and upfront and doesn’t particularly care either way for royalty. Because of his honesty, Prince Gar offers him a job working in the Prince’s stables which Asher accepts. This is where he meets Matt and Danthe, two members of a secret Olken circle who live their lives by an ancient prophecy dedicated to saving the world. Everything seems to be going well for Asher; he has a good job and has made friends, except that we know otherwise.

There are two races of people living in the kingdom of Lur, Doranen and Olken. The Doranen race is able to perform magic, the royalty is Doranen and all the higher offices are held by them. The Olken’s are considered the lower race, they keep the harder jobs and while they hold office it is still lower than the Doranen. The Doranen are very protective of their magic as well and it is believed that no Olken has the talent to work the magics that the Doranen’s do.

So with this powder keg of potential unrest waiting to blow we learn that Asher is none other than the Innocent Mage, the very same mage that prophecy has said would come and save the world. Danthe has been waiting for a very long time and with Asher’s coming she knows it signifies the end times. But from what is Asher meant to save the world from and why must he be kept innocent about his potential magic?

The Innocent Mage is full of vibrant characters and a decent plot. Ms. Miller effortlessly weaves each character’s perspective into the story, each voice unique and solid. You spend a lot of time getting to know the players and that only serves to make them more life like. The story continues with The Awakened Mage, the final installment in Asher’s tale. Which you just have to read once you’ve finished this one because of the cliff hanger ending.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'Legends of the Dark Crystal - The Garthim Wars' by Barbara Randall Kesel Illustrated by Heidi Arnhold & Max Kim

ISBN: 1598167014
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $9.99

Legends of the Dark Crystal – The Garthim Wars takes place 100 years before Jim Henson’s classic film The Dark Crystal and gives the reader a peek into the history leading up to the healing of the dark crystal by the Gelflings Jen and Kira.

But this is before the crystal was healed and the Gelflings almost extinct. Garthim still hunt the nonviolent Gelflings for the evil Skeksis. The captured Gelflings are taken to the Crystal Palace were they are drained of their essence which the Skeksis drink for immortality.

Lahr, a peaceful shepherd, is away from his village when it is raided by a large group of Garthim. He comes back to find everyone gone and is attacked by a lingering Garthim. Lahr successfully fights the monster off, an unheard of feat. Determined to warn the other Gelfling villages Lahr leaves behind the ruins of his past.

Neffi’s village was attacked as well and when she stumbles across Lahr’s path they decided to go on together. Soon the two heart-sore Gelflings have reached the next village. Lahr warns the elders of what is coming but the village is split in its decision to stay and fight or flee. The Gelflings are a peaceful nonviolent race and the idea of fighting and war are completely alien to them.

The art by Heidi Arnhold and Max Kim is great, very detailed and there is a lot to look at in each panel. They did a good job of sticking to the ideas of Brian Froud, who did the original artwork and designs for the movie, while making it their own. There is also a guest art gallery at the back with drawings from 16 other artists.

The gentle Mystics don’t play a huge role in the manga though the evil Skeksis make an appearance and are as creepy as ever. I really liked the idea that this story is history, set 100 years before the story we are so familiar with, and that it isn’t bogged down with cameo appearances. Legends of the Dark Crystal is new and fresh while still feeling slightly familiar. It’s perfect if you’re a fan of The Dark Crystal or are just looking for a solidly drawn fantasy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Have you heard of GoodReads? It's a free site where you can connect with other readers. You can add and review books you are currently reading, going to read, or have already read. It's a great way to share what you love with others or find something new. You start by just searching for your books, adding them to your catalogue where you can organize them on shelves. They also give you little widgets to put on your blog. And best of all there is no limit to the number of books you can add. It's all free. Check out GoodReads, and if you do let me know so I can add you as a friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Have you heard the rumors of the Harry Potter prequel? If not check out the article over at Blogcritics and let me know what you think.

There is also a new Beyond Bounds full of new releases and upcoming titles.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Upon the Midnight Clear' by Sherrilyn Kenyon

ISBN: 0312947054
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $6.99

Upon the Midnight Clear is the first novel I’ve read of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dream-Hunter series. I have to admit that I was expecting something a bit more and reading the reviews on Amazon I’m not the only one. I had really been looking forward to this one too, thanks to the hunky guy on the cover.

Aiden is a famous Hollywood actor who has had his faith in humanity ripped to shreds. Kenyon drops all kinds of references throughout the novel, including one to the movie 300, which gets a little tiring after awhile. Aiden has a psycho brother, Donnie, who has let his jealousy turn him into a monster bent on destroying everything Aiden has worked so hard to gain.

Leta is a dream goddess who has battled the god of Pain in the past and has suffered great losses. Leta, better than anyone, understands the pain that others inflict on those they love. But stripped of all emotion she refuses to concentrate on anything but revenge for past wounds.

When Donnie summons the god of Pain to kill Aiden, Leta steps in. Determined that no more innocents will be harmed and thirsty for revenge she plans to sacrifice herself if she must. What she doesn’t count on are the feelings that arise for Aiden. Broken and bitter Aiden is determined not to let Leta affect him but the more he is around her the more he can’t help but hope that not everyone hurts those they love.

I was expecting something with a bit more grit and what I got was a Christmas romance dressed up with Greek Gods. Not only did I get this sappy, makes you grimace while you read story, but I got the sappy cookie-cutter happy ending as well. Mind if I ruin it for you? Sure you don’t. They get married and have a baby. Gasp! Socking, I know.

Upon the Midnight Clear wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I had expected. Sherrilyn Kenyon is still one of my favorite romance authors and I will continue to read her stories, I have Dark Side of the Moon in my to-be-read stack right now and I can’t wait to get to it. Just when you pick this one up expect a light hearted read that will only take a few hours tops.

Monday, November 12, 2007

'A Gathering of Gargoyles' by Meredith Ann Pierce

ISBN: 0316067253
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Publisher: Little Brown Bks Young Readers
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $7.99

A Gathering of Gargoyles was first published in 1984 and is the second book in Meredith Anne Pierce’s Darkangel Trilogy. This series just gets better as it goes along and I have to admit that I enjoyed the second book more than the first.

A Gathering of Gargoyles picks up where The Darkangel left off. Aeriel has broken the spell that Irrylath was under and he is no longer a Darkangel. However the White Witch isn’t giving up on Irrylath that easily and she haunts his dreams, helping to create the distance that separates the two. Though they were married and Aeriel loves him dearly, Irrylath wants nothing to do with her.

When Aeriel learns that her part of the battle against the White Witch has not ended, and realizing that Irrylath does not share her feelings, she leaves the haven of Isternes and travels out into the wide world. Traveling across a sea made of dust she sees many strange wonders; dust whales and shrimp, veins of clear blue colored sand, and eventually islands inhabited by people the likes of which she has never before seen.

Aeriel has learned from the Darkangel’s brides, who have passed on and become stars, that the White Witch is still searching for a way to gain control of the world. Her sons, the vampires known as the Darkangels, still roam the world spreading sickness and death. Aeriel must find the guardians of the world, awaken them and gather them to fight the White Witch before it is too late.

The guardians now are few and far between thanks to the Darkangels; they have been chased off or killed, with only their memories left in the minds of the people. But Aeriel is determined to find them. When the White Witch learns that Aeriel is once again moving out in the world she sends her minions after the girl.

In her adventures Aeriel crosses paths with all kinds of creatures and people. A light house keeper that is more than what he seems, thieves and highwaymen, a nameless man, and the gargoyles that she had come to love and eventually released from the Darkangel’s tower fortress. They will all help or hinder Aeriel in her journey, lighten her load or throw burdens on her back as she does everything she can so save the world she knows.

A Gathering of Gargoyles will not disappoint readers and will only leave you waiting breathlessly for the third and final book, The Pearl of the Soul of the World which will be out in February of 2008. Of course like I’ve said before if you can’t wait for the new covers there is always your local used bookstore. But good luck finding a copy, these are the kinds of books that once bought you never give up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

'The Tarot Cafe' Vol. 1 by Sang-Sun Park

ISBN: 1595325557
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: March 2005
Price: $9.99

I picked up the first volume of The Tarot Café on a whim. I’d read a little bit about the series online and seen nothing but rave reviews. When I saw it on the shelf I thought, why not? I’m so glad that I did, I feel as if I’ve stumbled into really fantastic with Tarot Café.

Pamela is a clairvoyant and the owner of The Tarot Café where she caters to a supernatural clientele. Eventually they all come to Pamela to know what their futures will hold. A wish-fulfilling cat, vampire, fairy, and an alchemist people the stories of this volume. Pamela reads their pasts, presents, and their possible futures while reserving judgment.

In episode 1 ‘A Wish-Fulfilling Cat’ we met a cat who is able to fulfill the wishes of his mistress. This one was particularly heart wrenching as you learn that the cat has fallen in love with his human mistress only to have all in love with another.

With Episode 2 ‘Eternal Beauty’ we met a vampire who is cursed to repeat his mistakes over and over. Doomed to kill the one he loves and live with the burden he fights to break free of the vicious cycle. He comes to Pamela for help already knowing the choice he has made in his heart.

Episode 3 ‘A Fairy’ was the comic relief of the collection. To break a curse a fairy trapped in the body of a small girl must find someone who needs help. The fairy has to help this person with all her heart and only then will the curse be broken. But when everything seems to go wrong will the Fairy ever break the curse and marry her one true love?

Episode 4 (part 1) ‘A Heartless Princess, an Alchemist, and a Jester’ When an Alchemist wishes to marry a heartless Princess her one condition to accepting him is that he makes her smile. The Alchemist tries everything he can think of and eventually builds her a Jester. The Jester makes the Princess smile but soon she has moved on to other amusements at the Jester’s expense. When the Alchemist learns of the Princess’ cruelty he must make a choice between her and his doll. This is one is unfinished, an incentive as if you needed one, to pick up The Tarot Café volume two in which the episode is finished.

Sang-Sun Park’s artwork is stunning. Some of the most beautiful artwork of any manga I’ve seen, detailed and just gorgeous I would buy The Tarot Café based on artwork alone. The fact that the story lines are just as good as the art work is a bonus. Each episode has the feeling of a fairy tale with Pamela’s reality sandwiched between the stories but we don’t learn too much about our main character.

The Tarot Café has a little bit of everything. Romance, horror, and a ton of mystery. This is a great start to the series and I can understand why everyone seems to enjoy it so much. I’m looking forward to discovering Pamela’s dark past, something which is only hinted at in the first volume, and getting to know her future customers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth' Vol. 1 by Jake T. Forbes with art by Chris Lie

ISBN: 1598167251
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: August 2006
Price: $9.99

I loved Labyrinth - the movie that is. What wasn’t to love? David Bowie singing and wearing really, really tight pants. Not to mention the adventure, danger, and love. Labyrinth had it all, and I watched it so often that the tape wore out. When it came out on DVD I rushed out and bought a copy, and it’s never far from my DVD player. A few years ago, Hot Topic, a clothing store, had a whole line of Labyrinth themed clothes and accessories. I had my fair share of those, too.

So when I first saw Jim Henson’s Return to Labyrinth in the manga section a year ago, I was intrigued. I had loved the movie and was disappointed that it hadn’t been based off a book that I could devour and love. But I held off buying the manga until I could see what other people thought of it. At ten bucks a pop, for less than an hour of reading pleasure, that’s just a lot of cash to put down.

Return to Labyrinth picks up with Toby, Sarah’s now teenage brother, and Jareth the Goblin King. Toby is your typical teenager, except that whatever he wishes for seems to always happen. Of course, we know that Jareth is behind that, just as he was behind Sarah’s wish for her baby brother to disappear, and when Toby finds out, he isn’t too happy about it. Irritated with Toby’s reaction, Jareth seemingly steps out of the picture and leaves Toby to his normal life.

When Toby’s homework is stolen by a goblin who disappears into the back of his closet, Toby thinks nothing of following him through the small door. Of course, this door leads him to the Labyrinth and the Goblin City. Toby quickly picks up friends and sets out across the Labyrinth in search of his missing homework.

Along the way, we find out that Toby is being chased by rivals of Jareth’s, two sets of people determined to rule the Goblin City once Jareth steps down. Toby has somehow become mixed up in the mess. We have to ask ourselves: Why is Toby really there? What is Jareth up to? And do we really care?

The artwork inside the manga is done by Chris Lie, while the cover art is done by Kouyu Shurei. The cover art work is superior, more beautiful and detailed than what you find inside the book once you open it. To an extent, this is misleading, and I was disappointed that the artwork inside wasn’t what the cover showed. But Chris Lie is still a talented artist, and, as the story moved forward, I forgot my disappointment.

Return to Labyrinth Volume Two was published this month, over a year after the first volume hit shelves. And I'm glad that I waited to read them until the second one came out because this first volume leaves you with a cliff hanger ending. Overall, Volume One is fair. I’m a bit disappointed that it was so… well, typical. There wasn’t anything new or exciting to be found and jump start the imagination. The few cameos of characters from the movie felt stilted and awkward, while the rest of it just felt like your basic teen fluff, which has been done better. I'll keep reading in the hope that it gets better.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

'Charlie All Night' by Jennifer Crusie

ISBN: 077832107X
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 256pp
Publisher: Mira
Price: $5.99

I picked Charlie All Night up in a used bookstore for cheap. I just found myself unable to say no and I’m so glad that I lack self control, otherwise I would have missed out on this wonderful lighthearted romp.

When radio producer Allie McGuffey gets demoted from her prime time spot and moved to the graveyard shift it seems as if her career and life are over. It doesn’t help that the talent for the radio spot she had been producing happens to now be an ex-boyfriend and the woman moving into her old job his new girlfriend.

When Mark, handsome but too full of himself, tries to make nice with Allie after ruining her job, Allie does the only thing a girl can do. She picks up a random guy in a bar hoping that Mark will get the picture and leave. But the random guy Allie latches onto just happens to be the new graveyard shift talent she will be producing.

There is more than meets the eye with Charlie. As far as the station is concerned he’s temporary, a fill in until someone else comes along. But he isn’t there just to fill the airwaves; Charlie is also there investigating an anonymous letter sent to the station owner. But before he can get down to that he’s got to learn how to work the control panel and get a show going. All he has to do is lay low and keep his ears open. Allie has other plans however.

As Allie and Charlie’s relationship heats up she is also bound and determined to make him a star. So what starts out as a below the radar late night radio show soon becomes a political mine field as Charlie unearths one secret after another. Along the way there are fantastic one-liners, witty dialogue, fun characters and a happy ending. What more could you ask for?

Charlie All Night
is just plain frothy fun. You aren’t going to make any life choices here or face something deep down inside. What you will do is escape for a little while into a funny, slightly wacky romance that will make you smile. Everyone could use a little Charlie.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stephenie Meyer's Latest due out 2008

ISBN: 0316068047
Format: Hardcover, 640pp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pub. Date: May 06, 2008
Price: $25.99


The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake.

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

'Erec Rex: The Dragon Eye' by Kaza Kingsley

ISBN: 0978655567
Format: Hardcover, 360pp
Publisher: Firelight Press, Inc.
Price: $17.99

In the world of young adult fiction there are a lot of reading choices you could make. There is something for everyone out there and one of the books we should all be reading is Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye, Kaza Kingsley’s first novel in a new series about an adventurous 12 year old with a glass eye and magical cloudy visions.

Erec Rex is not your average kid, having grown up in a home where slightly odd household items are the norm. Such as an alarm clock that will jump on you if you don’t wake up. But waking up one morning to find a strange babysitter watching over him and his several brothers and sisters and no idea where his mom is doesn’t sit well. When Erec has one of his cloudy visions, a vision that lets him know she could be in trouble, he rushes out to her rescue.

Erec’s vision leads him through a magical door in the sidewalk and down into another world. Bethany, a girl who helped Erec find the door in the first place, goes with him and soon the two are fast friends. Underneath New York a whole different city is bustling and moving along. Strange shops selling silver garments line the street, men and women fly overhead, and doors keep popping in and out of existence.

Unsure of what to do or where to go, Erec and Bethany follow the crowd and end up entering a contest to be the next kings and queens of this strange magical country. Erec discovers where his mom has disappeared to but is unable to help her right away. But since Erec and Bethany are both entered in the contest they decide they might as well stay and try to win. But one bad thing after another is slowing the contests down and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

There are a ton of mysteries to solve along the way. Who is Erec Rex really? Why was his mom kidnapped and taken to this strange world? Who is behind the mischief in the contests? What do they want?

Great characters people this story and the small touches like a dancing coat rack or a pair of glasses that let you see the person you miss most are icing on the cake. Not to mention the magical remote controls — who wouldn’t want one of those? Also the vivid descriptions of the world are fantastic. Your imagination is given free rein to enjoy all the magical, wacky, wonderful creatures, people, and devices that roam through Ms. Kingsley’s story.

The Dragon’s Eye is a great introduction to a whole new world. This would be a good book to curl up with your little one and read to them or read first yourself and pass it on. The action is constant and just keeps you turning pages as you wonder what could happen next. Erec’s adventures continue with Erec Rex: The Monsters of Otherness, and I can’t wait to get started.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

'Moongazer' by Marianne Mancusi

ISBN: 0505527251
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 355pp
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: July 2007
Price: $6.99

I have to admit that I picked up Moongazer on it’s cover alone. Thanks to an anime addicted husband I watch a ton of it and the idea of a romance novel with that kind of twist appealed to me. Moongazer is part of Shomi, Dorchester’s line of romance novels that launched last July, and are written and marketed with anime feel.

Skye Brown is a computer game designer working on the release of a new game that is supposed to be even bigger than World of Warcraft. (insert gasp here) Skye is dedicated to her work and loves her job but lately she just can’t seem to get any sleep. Whenever she does finally fall asleep she has these horrible nightmares in which she is someone else.

When Skye’s world finally falls apart around her and she wakes up in a post apocalyptic world she can’t decide if she is dreaming. But she does the only thing she can do, she calls a number written on the palm of her hand. Dawn, a handsome man who seems to know her, comes to her rescue. Skye learns in the process that everyone believes she is Mariah Quinn, a women who fought against something known as Moongazing. Mariah was a revolutionary who lead a group of people called the Eclipsers and Dawn just happened to be her right hand man.

100 years in the Earth’s future the super powers of the world have destroyed everything with a nuclear war. People are now living underground and depending on their station in life and wealth they live in a richer or poorer level. Moongazing was developed by the government because the underground cities were becoming crowded. Moongazing puts your body in a kind of hibernation while your brain goes to live somewhere else, in this case an Earth before it was destroyed. Moongazing however isn’t all it’s cracked up to be since it is addictive and can eventually kill you.

While Skye believes she is not this Mariah woman they all think she is the bad guys are going to try to kill her anyway. Duske a handsome though pervy guy ends up kidnapping her right out from under Dawn. Eventually though she is rescued and starts to realize that maybe there is some truth to all these wild claims that she is Mariah.

Even though the idea is a bit clichéd I loved that the good guy’s name was Dawn and the villain’s was Duske; it brought into play that whole dark vs. light thing. The name Dawn however kept invoking a picture of a girl I went to school with when I was in elementary instead of the big hulking beautiful man that the character was described as.

Skye/ Mariah’s internal dialogue was repetitive and after awhile became annoying. The constant questions, the statements that were repeated made me wonder if the book hadn’t been through the editing process a final time. I guess it just must be the author’s style and after looking at the reviews on Amazon it must work for some people, it just didn’t work for me.

Over all Moongazer was fair. The idea is a good one but it felt as if it hadn’t been fully realized or that too much of it was based off something else. The Matrix kept coming to mind as I read and I couldn’t help but feel that they had done it better. But I’m not going to give up on Shomi, with a new line up of titles set to be released in 2008 and two more that were released a few months ago, I’m sure I will find something to love.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

'Servant: The Awakening' by L.L. Foster

ISBN: 0425218740
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 304pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $7.99

Servant: The Awakening is a new paranormal series by L.L. Foster or Lori Foster the author of more than 60 novels that have been on the New York Times Bestseller list. Maybe she thought the initials would help ease her into the paranormal market, a market that she had not until now written in. But whether it’s L.L. Foster or Lori Foster The Awakening is great. Plus it tells you right in the back of the book that it’s a pseudonym so it’s not like it’s a big secret.

Gabrielle Cody is unlike any other character I’ve read. Innocent, deadly, sheltered and yet so aware of the evil that the world contains it makes your heart ache. Gaby has lived a tough life, shoved from foster home to foster home, always on the edges of humanity she has been shunned because of her special gift. A gift that God has bestowed upon her to eliminate evil.

On her 21st birthday Gaby receives a call, a pain so intense she is able to focus on nothing else, and she rushes out to find and destroy the evil. Tall, thin, and wielding a huge knife she is more than able to defend herself even if she does look like nothing more than skin and bone. On the way to answer the call she bumps into Luther Cross a detective out wandering the mean streets of this unspecified city. He is immediately drawn to her but Gaby knows that there is no room in her life for friends or lovers.

When one of the bodies that Gaby dispatched is found by Luther he becomes suspicious of her and enlists her friend and landlord Morty to keep an eye on her. But no matter how antisocial Gaby is she can’t seem to shake the persistent detective who is interested in her for more than one reason. But Luther isn’t the only one watching Gaby; an evil so intense it hurts is trailing her as well. Never close enough for her to get a fix on, running away before she can confront it, but always there lingering at the edges Gaby knows it’s only a matter of time before she must face it.

This is completely different from any of the paranormal fiction you are going to find out there right now. God, and to an extent religion, are a big part of the story and the main character. Gaby is this powerful woman able to defeat the evil on earth because of God and she knows this. Also Gaby turns her holy adventures into graphic novels that are then published under a false name and have a huge underground following. I have a feeling that later in the series this idea will really come into play.

Along with all the serious slayer stuff there are a few funny moments. Gabby, having lived a life of deprivation dedicated to her calling, is totally unaware about sex. With no TV or radio to fill in her lack of education she corners Luther into filling her in on the fine details. While nothing too steamy happens beyond a few kisses the dialogue is sure to bring out a smile or two.

Servant: The Awakening is short and the pages just fly by; this was another one that I found myself glued to , unable to set it down, and reading over my lunch break. Better yet the story continues with Servant: The Acceptance which as of yet has no set release date besides the caption at the back of the book which reads ‘coming soon’ but for me it can’t be soon enough.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Beyond Bounds

Have you been reading the Dante Valentine series? If not you need to read the latest Beyond Bounds up over at Blogcritics. I love this series, it truly is fantastic. Such great characters and a solid world. The fourth book hits shelves tomorrow and the fifth and final one in January. I can't wait to see how it all turns out. Please let Japh and Dante stay together!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Nora Roberts Trilogy!

ISBN: 0515143804
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 336pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: November 27, 2007
Price: $7.99

I've only recently started reading Nora Roberts. I got hooked in with her Circle Trilogy. I then read the first two books of her Key Trilogy and I have several of her novels sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. The one complaint I have is that after reading the Circle Trilogy her Key Trilogy was too similar to make me want to finish it right away. She seems to have a format that she follows and doesn't change too much. But it works. And I'll keep reading.

And on that note you can read an excerpt of Blood Brothers. Or check out the trailer for the book and the next two in the series.


In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends who share the same birthday sneak off into the woods for a sleepover the evening before turning 10. But a night of pre-pubescent celebration turns into a night of horror as their blood brother oath unleashes a three-hundred year curse.

Twenty-one years later, Cal Hawkins and his friends have seen their town plagued by a week of unexplainable evil events two more times - every seven years. With the clock winding down on the third set of seven years, someone else has taken an interest in the town's folklore. Quinn is a well known scholar of local legends, and despite Cal's protests, insists on delving in the mystery. But when the first signs of evil appear months early, it's not only the town Cal tries to protect, but also his heart.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Meredith Fletcher's Latest

ISBN: 0373389752
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 288pp
Publisher: Silhouette
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $5.50

I've got this one waiting on my stack. I'm such a sucker for a good love story. And plus the girl's name is Winter! Winter. How cool is that name? I'm looking forward to diving into this one.



Juicy stories are investigative reporter Winter Archer's bread and butter. So when her beloved mentor asks her to write the biography of Athena Academy's founder, Winter jumps at the chance. But someone out there will stop at nothing—not even murder—to ensure that long-buried secrets remain hidden. And Winter can't finish the job unless she joins forces with the one man who is most definitely off-limits. Only together can they uncover the deadly plot that spans decades and threatens to destroy a legacy...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beyond Bounds

The weekly (or not so weekly) feature has gone up over at Blogcritics. I did this one over Juno Books. So there is a little bit of history about this small press as well as a round of up the titles that I have read and the ones that are in my to be read stack. Check it out!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

'My Life in France' by Julia Child with Alex Prud'Homme

ISBN: 0316067253
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Publisher: Little Brown Bks Young Readers
Pub. Date: October 2007

I can remember watching Julia Child on TV with my mom when I was little. I never sat and watched long; the distraction of playing house or a new Barbie always pulled me away, and running off I didn’t think twice about the woman on the screen with the funny accent. Then during my adolescence we took one of many trips to Washington D.C. to see the capital and visit the Smithsonian. There they have Julia Child’s complete kitchen, which she had donated to the National Museum of American History in 2001. I didn’t remember who Julia Child was and when I asked my mom she said simply, “She’s famous for cooking.”

I’ve never been much of a cook, I try and I am successful in some things, but the passion to cook doesn’t burn deep in my heart. I enjoy cookbooks though; I enjoy the idea that I too could create something so lovely and delicious. I buy them and try recipes only to be kicked out of the kitchen by my husband, the real cook in the family. But the wonderful thing about My Life in France is that you don’t have to be a cook to enjoy this delightful memoir about food, love, and life.

In the introduction Julia states “This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life; my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating. It is also something new for me. Rather than a collection of recipes, I’ve put together a series of linked autobiographical stories, mostly focused on the years 1948 through 1954, when we lived in Paris and Marseille, and also a few of our later adventures in Provence. Those early years in France were among the best of my life.”

It all started in 1948 when Julia Child followed her husband, Paul Child, across the Atlantic aboard the SS America. Newly married and never having been to Europe before, though she did serve during World War II in Asia, she wasn’t sure what to expect. But to her delight France, particularly Paris, was absolutely wonderful.

Paris was where she learned to cook, taking lessons in the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Though Julia earned a diploma from this prestigious school she was mostly self-taught. Spending hours, days even, perfecting a simple recipe for mayonnaise or cooking the same dish from three or four different cookbooks, she poured her entire being into learning the correct way to do even the simplest task. Out of this passion her first cookbook with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was born.

Mixed into the stories are wonderful photographs taken by Paul Child as well as a handful of family photos. Glimpses of Paris in the late 1940s, Julia leaning out of their apartment window, and pictures of Julia teaching others to cook or learning herself; these black and white photos added so much to the rest of the book.

Julia Child passed away in 2004 but her passion for life and food still lives on through her many cookbooks and this memoir My Life in France. Passionate and fascinating I could not put it down as I read about Paris in the early 1950s. Julia’s first forays into the kitchen, her first real cooking lessons and the fire that burned within her to learn more; it makes for some of the best reading I’ve come across in nonfiction in a long time. My Life in France is a wonderful tale of self-discovery through cooking and food, stories that you will enjoy and that only leave you wishing for more.

Friday, October 26, 2007

'Betwixt' by Tara Bray Smith

ISBN: 031606033X
Format: Hardcover, 496pp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pub. Date: October 2007
Price: $17.99

In Betwixt, Tara Bray Smith’s young adult debut, the author carefully sets the scene, meticulously building and placing each character in their human environment. But normal teenage things such as parties, parents, and relationships take on new meanings when you realize that these three normal-seeming teenagers are anything but.

Morgan is the perfect girl. Perfect grades and perfect face but underneath the gloss she is cruel and cold-hearted. As you get to know her, as facets of her life are revealed, you realize that she could go either way. The light and the dark are both offering her an option. But Morgan is only out to get as much for herself as possible and in the end she’ll chose the highest bidder.

Nix is something special. Since his childhood he has been able to see a light around a person before they were about to die; depending on the intensity of the light he could tell how long they had left. Because of this he has spent a large portion of his life running from those he cared about. Along the way he has picked up a drug habit to keep the lights at bay and to try to be as normal as possible.

Ondine is a girl that seems to have it all. Not perfect like Morgan, who just happens to be intensely jealous of her, but with her dark skin and violet eyes she is a girl that just seems to have something extraordinary about her. When her parents move away for a year, leaving her in her hometown of Portland to finish out her senior year, Ondine throws a party to end all parties.

There the three that have so little in common come together. What they’ve been feeling for so long, the changes in their bodies and minds, is hinted at. A mysterious boy by the name of Moth tells the three to come to a huge rave, The Ring of Fire, where they will learn the truth about themselves. Nix, who has been running for so long, is told to bring Ondine who is easily lost; while Morgan, headstrong and defiant, finds her own way there.

But the Ring of Fire isn’t what any of them expect. The truths that they learn, the things about themselves that they come to realize are hard for them to swallow. Ondine flat out denies that she could be something other than human. But for Nix, who has been plagued for so long by the rings of light, is relieved that there is an explanation and that maybe, finally he can stop running. Morgan is the only member of the small group to embrace the idea wholeheartedly.

Betwixt is the first in a series, as the author says “The story has just started.” It starts a little slow but builds speed until you are hurtling toward the shocking end and I’m curious to see where Smith will take us next. The idea is solid; she introduces some new ideas and weaves in the old stand bys to create a story that leaves you asking questions. Betwixt is basically a new spin on the classic fairy tales involving changelings and fairies with all the modern trappings of drugs, sex, and rock‘n’roll.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Harry Potter in the News

With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a series that had become a phenomenon came to an end. But just because we've read the final chapter doesn't mean the news surrounding this famous series has come to an end as well.

Over at The Guardian they have an article about how Harry Potter broke a new record. "A rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has fetched the record-breaking price of £19,700 at auction."

Then of course we have the fact that J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore. If you haven't heard about this yet all sorts of things can be read at the BBC News, E! News, Kansas City Star, Associated Press, Yahoo News, MTV (yes, let me repeat that MTV), ABC News, News Day, Daily Mail, Japan Today, The Globe and Mail, Sunday Mail, MSN News, and many many more. Trust me the list just goes on. It's all pretty much the same though.

Then over at Blogcritics Jet in Columbus asks Why Should it Matter?

What do you think?