Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pandora Hearts

** This is for the series as a whole not just the first volume **

Pandora Hearts follows young Oz as he tries to find the truth behind his "sin".  During his coming of age ceremony he is condemned for this sin and is pulled into the Abyss an unknown eternal prison of which has no escape.  He meets and forms a chain with B-Rabbit, or Alice.  Together they seek the truth behind Oz's "sin" and find out what happened to Alice's memories and the truth behind the tragedy that happened 100 years ago.  Through the journey he discovers things about himself and those around him that he may not like.  Can he find hope among the unrelenting despair that seems to follow him?

I admit this is probably one of my favorite manga series of all time.  It sucks you into the story straight from the start and continues throughout the volumes without missing a beat.  The development of not only Oz, Alice and his friend Gil, but all the characters surrounding them is amazing.  There are slight elements taken from Alice in wonderland which makes me wonder if the "abyss" is a twist on wonderland itself.  The story progresses nicely with a combination of flashbacks, memories, and present day action.  It is a story that makes you want more.  I was very impressed with this manga.

There are 20 volumes to the series, but when it ended there seemed to be lacking something, closure I think.  It didn't seem like it was indeed finished.  That really is my only complaint.  The rest of the story was well done and well presented.

Pros: Excellent story and development
Cons: Doesn't seemed finished
Bottom Line: this would be a great starter manga, it is one of the better manga I have read.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, July 28, 2014

Darkest Kiss

Pandora was charged with guarding a box which housed the darkest of demons.  That is until a group of warriors attacked her and opened the box, releasing the bad of the bad.  As a punishment the gods cursed each warrior with a demon.  Now man is bound to his demon.  Lucien has been charged to house the demon of Death, and with it the responsibility to take souls to Heaven and Hell.  His demon has become his life, the only thing he allows himself.  His appearance is scarred so no woman could ever love him only to die and he would have to escort her soul to the afterlife.  His attempts at keeping women at bay has worked until now; until Anya entered his life.  For weeks, she had been following him even into the afterlife.  But for what reason.

Cronus; the god king; has commissioned Lucien to kill Anya for reason he does not reveal.  The more Lucien tries to kill the woman, the harder it is for him to follow through.  As he struggles to find a solution he also reveals clues to artifacts that could lead to Pandora's box and possibly end his suffering with Death.  Anya, as the goddess of Anarchy tries her best to defy all law and make Lucien fall in love with her.  Yet she is bound by a curse of her own and a strong will to protect what is hers.  She also holds a mysterious key that could be the answer to Lucien's dilemma.  If only she would give it over to him.

As the Lords of the Underworld search for the artifacts Paris, keeper of Promiscuity, is weakened and Aeron, keeper of Wrath, escapes his prison intend on killing innocent women.  In his weakened state Paris disappears and the warriors are uncertain of his whereabouts.  Aeron filled with bloodlust flies away to find the women he was ordered to kill as Reye, the keeper of Pain, struggles to stop him.

So many different things occur in this novel, but it all sets the stage for future novels and the storyline to go with them. The Lords of the Underworld are fighting for their lives to find a way to stop the Hunters and find Pandora's box before they do.  But they are trapped at every turn as if someone is giving the Hunters information that the Lords know.  In this novel, the Lords find a break through in learning about the artifacts and how they can find them.  Showalter knocks it out of the park once again with this novel.  She shows love is a powerful thing.

The character she creates in Lucien is such a tortured soul; craving to be love, yet afraid of the very thing. He is a character that commands respect for his undying loyalty to his friends, and at the same time evokes compassion when he is pulled to escort souls, something that tears at his heart.  In this novel he was forced to choose, the friends he was so loyal to or a woman he was beginning to love.

Anya is the strong woman we all desire to be.  She fights to protect herself and vows to never allow anyone to make her feel inferior and not worth her value.  She struggled to keep her independence even though she knew once she fell in love, she would be bound to that man.  While Anya is a strong character, she is also jovial and energetic.  She is intent on hiding her true feelings to protect not only herself, but the man she loves.

Showalter weaves a story of love and betrayal around every corner.  She sets the stage for future novels to pick up where this one leaves off.  Will the Lords find the artifacts?  Will Aeron kill the women he was order to kill?  Why did Paris desire the same woman twice?  Only the future will tell.

Pros: Interesting story with Lucien and how his "demon" works
Cons: A lot of jumping around between stories, hard to keep track in this one
Bottom Line:  Showalter does an excellent job taking a story we know and making it her own with this series.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 25, 2014

Creatures of Lore (Part 1)

There are many creatures of legend and lore that we can recall off the tops of our heads such as vampires, fearies, dragons, lycans and more. But there are numerous creatures of lore that we don't hear about as often or rather that we do not recall off mind. Creatures like a wendigo, will - o - wisp, Dark Man, Skelki and more. Some creatures remain in the culture they originated from, others travel to other countries and have changed to resemble something else. Some creatures are innocent and good, while others are not so sweet and innocent.

Creatures like the Far Dorocha (Or Dark Man) in Irish folklore, who is infamous for abducting mortals. Far Dorocha serves the queen of the fairies and caters to her every desire from bringing her tea to riding off into the mortal realm to bring back whomever she desires. Regardless of his task he never deviates from his orders. Neither does he show emotion or remorse about his actions, all to serve the queen. He never utters a word but the desired mortal knows his intentions and is unable to disobey thus following him into the fairy realm. Few have made the trip home from the fairy world. The Fairy Queen desires a certain amount of confidentiality from those she entertains, so much so that if they violate her terms they must suffer the consequences by the hand of the dark man. Most often he will remove the offending guest's eye thus removing their fairy sight, or simply touches an arm or leg to whither the muscles within. Forever a reminder to never disobey the fairy queen.

Many of us can recall the cute adorable house elf from Harry Potter: Dobby. But did you know there is a British creature of folk lore known as Dobie? A Dobie is a fairy (some say a brownie) that would help around the house doing chores and guard family treasure (much like the Dobby we came to love). Some say that while a Dobie is helpful it also a very foolish creature. It is said they are not smart and are fairly clumsy creatures. Some enjoy harassing travelers that come past by irritating their horses. Many attributes we see in the Harry Potter character follows much of the characteristics of this creature of lore.

Gancanagh is another Irish legend that is not so nice and innocent. Ganganagh is a male fairy also known as the love taker, or love stealer. He is said to be the relative of the Leprechaun but doesn't have much in common with them other than carrying a coin purse in his pocket. He strolls through Irish valleys making love to the young country women. It is said to be bad luck should one meet the Gancanagh and if you have experienced poor judgment in the ways of love, then you have been with this fairy creature. Once a lass has fallen victim to his debonair nature, she pines over him and ultimately dies of despair or a broken heart. Never want to meet this fellow!

Will o the wisp made an appearance in a popular Pixar movie: Brave. Young Merida chases after these little balls of light which lead her to the witch's cottage in the woods. There are many ideas on what a will o wisp is from ghosts to fairy fire to even lanterns held by other creatures of lore. One of the most common ideas is that they are spirits of dead or non-human intelligence. Or even spirits of those who are unable to enter heaven or hell. They are malevolent creatures who lead travelers away from safe paths into paths of misfortune. In the movie, the wisps lead Merida to the witch who's spell doesn't have the desired effect, something these creatures would do.

Fenoderee is a friendly creature that is said to live on the Isle of Man. He is a creature of farming and loves using his scythe but is useful for carrying large stones mortal man cannot carry. Because of this they are known to be incredibly strong and are the hardest worker you will find to help in the fields. They are very friendly and love helping farmers harvest their crops. While they are very helpful and friendly, they are also nudists, old and ugly nudists. They are easily offended if offered clothing and will run away, also if you wait for them to finish working. Best way to keep them happy is to give them their food or payment and walk away while they work. Some have explained away crop circles as being the work of a Fenoderee as they tend to work alone and sometimes create patterns among the crops.

There are so many different creatures of folk lore and legend in any culture that we haven't heard of, possibly even some within our own culture. One tends to wonder where some of these legends arose from such as the Far Dorocha. These being are what help shape a culture and the stories that are told today. Personally I enjoy learning about them to help my understanding of where today's literature and story telling originated from, something new to learn.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lost Souls

Kristi Bentz has escaped death twice already and she is only 27, but she cannot seem to stay away from danger.  it continues to find her where ever she goes.  Despite the dangers that follow her around, Kristi still holds on to her dream of being a true crime writer.  After three girls disappear from All Saints College, she decides to enroll and follow their steps to write a book of their disappearances.  Everyone around considers the missing "lost souls" who have ran away from their problems.  But Kristi feels there is more to the story than people know.

A new professor has come to the campus and has gained a following from the students for his class "The Influence of Vampirism in English Literature" and his morality plays. Along with this new teacher and his questionable classes and plays, there are also rumors of a dark cult where members wear vitals of blood around their necks.  Kristi is trying to emerge herself into their world to learn more of the disappearances of these girls, one of whom lived in the apartment Kristi now lives in.

Kristi has placed herself in even more danger once more and now must play a game with the killer.  The killer is more cunning and blood-thirsty than anyone could ever imagine.  Is there a link between the class, the play, cult and the disappearances? Or is Kristi looking too far into the coincidences.

This was the first time I read a novel by Lisa Jackson.  While the story was interesting, it was too slow for me. It was a good read while laying on the beach, but it seemed a little too predictable at times.  There are too many coincidences that the story relies on.  The idea of Kristi purposely following the footsteps of the missing girls like taking the same classes they did, trying to join the mysterious cult or even being a part of the morality plays makes it completely predictable as of to how the novel will end.

Pros:  Interesting storyline and great character development
Cons:  The story was slow to develop and progress

Bottom Line:  It is a good read to just relax and enjoy reading.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Death and Dying

Everyone in life deals with death at one point another.  There are different ways to handle death and Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross does an excellent job of describing the process of grieving and handling the death of someone we love and cherish.    She explores the five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  No matter who we are or what stage of life we are in we go through each other these stages in one form or another.

This book gives readers a better understanding of why they grieve the way they do.   She goes into depth of each stage and uses ample interviews and conversations to help describe each stage and their importance in the grieving process.  The way she writes and describes these feelings helps bring our experiences to life and help us through the process.  She also includes some of her own experiences which helps add to the personal aspect of the book.

Kubler-Ross's book is said to be one of the most important psychological studies in the late twentieth century.   Many pastors, medical professionals and professors use this as a resource for educating people on this process.  As you read this book you feel as if she did her research and made sure she knew and understood the subject before trying to explain it to others.  She concludes with a chapter explaining the reactions of doctors, nurses, counselors and chaplains, professionals who deal with the dying every day. It helps understand all aspects of the grief process.

Pros: very helpful in the grieving process
Cons: Lot of information to take in

Bottom Line: If it definitely worth a read.
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Record Of A Fallen Vampire

** This review is for the entire series, not just the first volume **

Akabara has spent thousands of years looking for his queen, his love. The queen was intent on destroying the world, because the humans could not kill her; they sealed her away in order to stop her.  Akabara has spent his time searching for her to release her.  To his dismay the humans created fake seals around the world to make finding her harder.  While he search the Black Swan looks for him as well to help protect the humans from vampires and dhampires (half vampires).  When something more sinister threatens the fate of the world, Black Swan and Akabara put their differences aside to work together.

This is an interesting look at the world of vampires.  It started off with the tone of being a romantic love story of a man searching for his beloved, but quickly turns into something else as we realize his reasons for finding her.  There is a lot going on in this short manga series.  You have vampires, vampire hunters, half breeds, and possible aliens.  You have to wonder what is going on in this story for all of that to be happening.  I understand the vamps, hunters, and half breeds, but the aliens seemed to be too much of a stretch for me.  It would have been a good story without that part; it wasn't even a major part of the storyline. The background and flashbacks held more of the manga than the Big Mortar part.  It would have been fine without that.  There series is so short (9 volumes) that it seemed like so much was trying to be forced into the volumes.  At the end of the last volume there are still questions and feels unfinished.

Pros: Great characters and character development in a short time
Cons: Too much into such a short series

Bottom Line:  It is a decent manga, despite the odd plot lines.

Rating 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Gena Showalter captivates her audience once again with Darkest Lies.  This installment to her Lords of the Underworld focuses on Gideon: Keeper of Lies.  We meet him throughout various of the other novels interacting with the other Lords.  In this novel he tries to find the truth behind Scarlet's accusations that they were married (Scarlet is also the keeper of Nightmares).  Doing this, he learns more than just the truth, but is it something he wanted to know?  The story is weaved with other Lords with a secret quest with Amum (Secrets), Aeron (formerly Wrath), and William (Not a Lord but still important), as well Galen (Hope) whom appears in every novel.  There is also a dash of Strider (Defeat)

Showalter does an excellent job at making her characters come to life.  Throughout the novel she does not drop the characteristic that he needs to speak solely in lies or else he will be in excruciating pain.  Reading through the dialog an Gideon speak does take time to get used to as you have to read it as opposite of what he means; though she does have a translation sometimes making it easier to understand.   Gideon has been one of my favorite Lords for this reason.  It takes him have more compassion and loneliness as some don't understand when he says things such as 'You are ugly" he means the exact opposite.  Lucky for him Scarlet understands, sometimes.

Gena has the ability to pull you into the story.  It is something different with Pandora's box and the demons within. But with this novel, the various threads of plot weaving together seems to be a bit much and almost takes the focus away from Gideon and Scarlet's storyline.  I enjoy each of the characters Scarlet is the fireball I wish I could be, but with so much focus on other development it seems their development as individual characters and as a couple took a backseat in this novel.  The other novels in the series didn't seem to pull on the use of the other Lords as much as this one.  I have to wonder why?  Regardless, I enjoyed the story and want to see more from this couple and look forward to reading other books in this series.

There is a good reason why this is the sixth book in the series and not the first or second.  Having to keep up with Gideon's demon can be difficult and turn people away if they are new comers to the story, but after reading about Gideon for 5 other books before entering his story makes it easier to understand this poor man's situation.

Pros: Great story, great characters to love as well as hate
Cons: Too much of other stories weaving into main storyline

Bottomline: Shouldn't be the first novel of the series you read.  Read others first in order to properly appreciate Gideon.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Autumn Twilight

All they wanted was to meet together and reflect on the past five years.  They didn't expect to become a part of something bigger than themselves.  The companions meet at the Inn of the Last Home in Solace after being apart for 5 years when a woman and her bodyguard appear with a mystical staff.  During a story from an old man others find out what the staff truly is and the companions are now being hunted by the evil of the world.  As they escape they notice things that are different, things that are changing, omens that for tell disaster instead of good fortune.

As they go on their search for answers and the truth they run into creatures never before seen on Krynn.  Creatures that make even the most honorable beings afraid for what is to happen in the world. After meeting with the Forestmaster they are given a quest to travel to a city where they will find the answers they so desire.  They all swear to protect the beautiful barbarian princess who is the bearer of a blue crystal staff that all the evil is in search for, it could be proof of the ancient gods long forgotten.

Tanis Half-elven leads the group through their journey to find out the truth behind the staff, the origin of these strange new creatures, and help them band together as the evil that has come to earth tries to pull them apart.  Tasslehoff Burrfoot provides the comic relief as he wanders off because something shiney catches his eye.  Strum Brightblade is the noble knight bound by his honor to protect young Goldmoon, the barbarian princess entrusted with the staff.  Riverwind is her bodyguard, and he ever-loyal lover.

Flint Fireforge is like your grumpy old man complaining about everything and anything along the journey.   The twins Caramon and Rasitlin are opposites.  Caramon being the strong warrior always quick to the aid of his brother Raistlin the magic user who has a darker soul than any of them could imagine.  Along the way they meet people who are willing to help them in their quest.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the first book in a series that has spawned over 80 titles and thousands of fans.  The story is set in Krynn and as the story progress the author duo does a fantastic job at describing each scene to make the land seem different from another.  The tree city of Solace is completely different from the swamps they have to travel through or even the dreaded Darken Wood.  As they progress to different parts of the land, the setting and the description change not only for how the area looks, but also the tone and feeling of the new area adds to the intensity of the story.

In many other books the characters are given a short past, enough to explain who they are in the story.  But not Dragons of Autumn Twilight the characters are given to detailed past that sometimes comes back to haunt them and in the case of Rasitlin and Caramon, each other.  The story line is one that draws you in and makes you want to read the following novels.

Take the mystical journey and follow Tanis, Tasslehoff, Raistlin and the others as the journey to complete their quest for the truth of the blue crystal and the legend of the Dragonlance.

Pros:  Great beginning to a series; perfect first novel for it.
Cons: None

Bottom Line: if you enjoy fantasy novels this is a must read.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

E-reader vs old fashion paper

Which is better the e-book or good old fashion paper books?

Such a debate.  Something that has divided friendships, ruined families…okay maybe not that far, but some people have gotten heated over this topic.  Which is better for reading an ebook like the Kindle or Nook or old fashion paper?

For me personally, nothing can be better than holding a book in my hands.  That new book smell (I know I am that crazy woman who sniffs books at Barnes and Noble) or the feel of old books.  There are times when I find an old book that I cannot help but run my hand over the cover and pages. Or just flip through the pages to hear the sound they make.  Now I do have an e-reader.  I was given a Nook as a gift and I do enjoy reading some books off of there and have gotten some books free for it and downloaded a few from my local library. 

Holding an e-reader is a lot different, turning pages are different.  I spent 8 hours a day or more looking at a screen for work, so sometimes it is hard for to keep looking at a screen for leisure.  I also don’t want to take an electric into a bubble bath with me that just sounds dangerous for my wellbeing don’t you think?  But there are advantages to having one; it is easy to take places I know I will be waiting like when I get my oil changed.  Sometimes carrying a big huge book into a garage is bit difficult sometimes so having this little thing makes it so much easier. 

SO I would say I am on the fence while I still love the feel of having actual book in my hands, seeing my shelves full of books and books everywhere in my house, the little e-reader does make it easy sometimes.  So what do you all think which is better?