pira

Reflected Voices

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May 26th, 2017

Manga Review: Witchcraft Works Vol 1 by Ryu Mizunagi

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What did I just read??  What a weird book.  The first chapter is just bizarre.  Takamiya is just an average guy.  His classmate, Kagari, is known at school as Princess.  She is smart, beautiful, graceful, and has her own fan club.  For some reason she keeps sitting by Takamiya.  They are always on class duty together.  She rides the same bus he does.  All of this gets him into hot water with Kagaris fan club, whose members are fiercely jealous and protective of their idol.

Then one day, the tower in the courtyard collapses and almost falls on Takamiya.  A weird girl with fuzzy  ears attacks him with an army of large, creepy bunnies.  Kagari rescues him, and he learns that she is a fire witch, he is her princess, and she will protect him at all costs.

Ooookayyyy.  Takamiya, for reasons unknown, is wanted by the evil Tower Witches.  Kagari is a good Workshop Witch, who protects the world from the Tower Witches.  I didnt really understand what the hell was going on, and clearly, neither did Takamiya.  He has been kept in the dark about why these evil witches are out to get him and his white stuff. What is his white stuff? Who knows, though we all know what Takamiya thinks it is. 

There is a ton of action, but since I didnt understand the point of all of these attacks and rescues, it didnt really capture my attention.  Takamiya is constantly waking up in Kagaris private room at school after she rescues him.  Hes an okay character, I guess, but he is kind of weak and pathetic and therefore, not very interesting.  Kagari is more noteworthy, just because she seems to be a badass with her fire magic, but she, like the other women in the story are there more for the big boobs and short skirts than anything else. 

The art is crisp and clean, with fine line work. The characters noses look strange, and I found them distracting.  The actions sequences conveyed a good sense of motion.

I checked this out from the library because I have volumes 4  9, courtesy of Vertical.  I will try to pick up the story again with volume 4, because the library currently has only volume 1 in their collection.  I dont think this series is going to be successful for me.  I didnt find it particularly amusing, and the chapters felt a bit repetitive, but Ill read at least what I have.

Grade: 3 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

Honoka Takamiya is an average student. Ayaka Kagari, his classmate who sits next to him in class, on the other hand is the class “Princess”. Ayaka is tall, strikingly gorgeous and has a regalness to her that almost exudes a royal attitude. Despite their proximity in school, over the school year the two have never shared much conversation…until today.
So today as class ended, Takamiya was suddenly attacked by a cat-eared witch and her band of bunny-costumed thugs! And if that were not enough of a shock, this average joe would then be saved, like a Princess by none other than Ayaka Kagari… a witch herself!

May 25th, 2017

Review: What Was D-Day by Patricia Brennan Demuth & David Grayson Kenyon

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With the current political atmosphere and the comparisons to Nazi Germany, I decided to read up on World War II.  I really wanted to find a YA book on Hitler, but when this book about D-Day popped up at the library, I decided to check it out and give it a spin.  I learned more from this kids book about WWII than I did in my high school history classes.

 

The author explains about D-Day and the run up to one of the bloodiest battles in history with straight forward, clear language.  She introduces the major players for the Allies and Axis powers, and goes through the planning stages and the espionage that kept Hitler and the Nazis in the dark about the upcoming events.  The book also followers some of the soldiers through the battlefields, and breaks down the Allies strategy in easy to understand segments.

This was an exciting read, especially when the battles on the beaches of Normandy are covered.  I don’t think I would have had the courage to leave the transport boat knowing that in all likelihood I would be shot or killed.  I know for a fact I would never be able to leap from an airplane under heavy fire – in the dark! – to carry out my mission.  I have a deep respect for our soldiers, and this book brought their stories lividly to life.

The book briefly touches on the horrors the troops discovered as they pushed forward to liberate Europe.  There is also concise information about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and some coverage of the Italian battlefront.  The major focus, though, is on the offensive planning to take back first France, and then the rest of Europe, from the Germans.  I did not know that Hitler built a wall all along the Atlantic coastline.  The effectiveness, obviously, was not quite what he was hoping for.  I also didn’t realize that the storming of Normandy was treated as five separate and distinct battles.  The number of soldiers and the amount of arms involved was staggering, as was the loss of life. 

I thought this was a well written book, full of interesting facts. The writing is engaging, and if you have a reluctant reader, this might get some traction for them. I liked this book so much that   I checked out the book on Pearl Harbor.

Grade: 4 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, an armada of 7,000 ships carrying 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Nazi-occupied France. Up until then the Allied forces had suffered serious defeats, yet D -Day, as the invasion was called, spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. Readers will dive into the heart of the action and discover how it was planned and carried out and how it overwhelmed the Germans who had been tricked into thinking the attack would take place elsewhere. D-Day was a major turning point in World War II and hailed as one of the greatest military attacks of all time.

May 24th, 2017

Review: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

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Where has this book been all my life?  Seriously.  I have a paperback copy somewhere in the basement that I never read, which was purchased long, long ago.  Since I read almost exclusively in digital now, there was little chance that I would go digging through boxes of books for the paper copy.  But then! the library! added a digital! copy to their collection!!!  I checked it out on a whim, and had a very fun journey with Talia and Rolan.

This book reminded me of Harry Potter in both tone and the academic setting.  It skews toward younger readers, and while magical school books usually bore me, this one didn’t.  And mainly for one reason – the Companions.  How could I not like reading about intelligent, noble horses and the men and women who ride them?  It would have been impossible.

Talia has just turned 13, and she isn’t like the other girls in her holdfast.  For one, she likes to read, something that is unseemly for women.  Second, she loves the stories about the Companions and their Heralds.  When Talia is coldly informed that she’s to be married, she runs away. And who could blame her? Her stern, unimaginative people, who think that women should be see and not heard (but always pregnant!!), are hardly the type of folk a feisty girl like Talia can flourish among.  She is extremely distrustful of men because all of the men in her life are abusive, demanding submission, and the women in her family aren’t much better.

When a white horse approaches her, Talia is awed.  Here is a mystical Companion, right out of her stories! When Rolan urges her to hop in the saddle on his back, she doesn’t fight the compulsion to do as he insists.  Once she’s seated firmly on his back, there is no going back to that unwelcoming and belittling family of hers.  Off they set, on a grand adventure, though Talia doesn’t realize it yet.

After a long journey, where Rolan takes care of Talia, leading her to wayhouses and traveling steadily toward the Collegium, where the Heralds live and train.  Once there, Talia must fit in with her new acquaintances, learn how to be a Herald, and avoid getting herself killed.  It turns out that not only is Talia a Herald, but she is the Queen’s Own Herald, and there are lots of conspirators against the crown, and they all want her dead.

I think I enjoyed this so much because of the characters.  The Heralds are all dedicated to protecting the Kingdom, and most of them don’t live to see retirement.  There is always danger and trouble afoot, and they never hesitate to rush to wherever they are needed.  The world building is interesting, and though sometimes solutions to problems were too easily found, there was always something going on to hold my attention.  Because Talia spent most of this book learning the basics of being a Herald, Rolan didn’t play a big part in the story.  But!  I’m sure that in the next installment, when Talia is out and about actually being a Herald, he will play a larger role.  I totally enjoyed Arrows of the Queen, and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters better in the next book.

Grade: 4 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

A KINGDOM IMPERILED!
Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a run-away, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.
But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes!

May 23rd, 2017

Review: The Sheikh’s Bought Wife by Sharon Kendrick

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I did not get along with this book.  I thought the hero, Zayed, was a complete and utter douche.  He learns that in order to inherit land for his kingdom, he needs to marry.  He doesn’t want to marry because he’s too busy sleeping around, enjoying the pleasures of women to settle for just one.  So he figures that if he marries for six months, and then has the marriage annulled, he will have fulfilled his obligations and can get back to the business of sowing his wild oats.

To accomplish this goal, he has to marry a woman who isn’t attractive to him in the slightest.  He thinks he’ll pick this poor woman, marry her, and then continue to entertain his mistresses.  The only woman he can think of who fits the bill is Jane, who works in the embassy in London.  So off he flies to London to spring the exciting news on her – she’s going to be a queen for six months, AND get an all expenses-paid trip to his country.  He is such a jerk.

Jane is an academic who knows that she isn’t cut out for love.  That’s her gorgeous sister’s role in life.  When debt collectors start calling Jane, demanding that her sister pay back her loans, she learns that Cleo is indeed up to debt to her eyeballs.  Just the convenient motivation needed for when Zayed makes his unemotional pitch for her to marry him.  Only Jane one ups him – she’ll marry him, but only if he gives her some cash, up front, and swears to not have lovers during their short marriage.  She doesn’t want to look like a fool, and she needs that money to bail Cleo out of the mess she’s gotten herself into.  Zayed reluctantly agrees, and off they go back to Kafalah.

And while I thought Zayed wasn’t a very likeable guy before, once Jane has her magical transformation (wears make-up and clothes that actually accentuate her figure), he was a total snake after.  Suddenly, through the magic of kohl and berry-colored lips, he feels a flutter of desire for this frumpy woman he previously thought  was somewhat repulsive.  When he suspects that she’s a virgin?  He suddenly is in lust with her, because he’s never had a virgin before.  Okay, I thought that was creepy and a huge turnoff.  I hated Zayed, and he never really redeemed himself. 

The trope is rather faithfully played up; Zayed and Jane must present a united front while in public, and they slowly warm up to each other after spending so much time together.  Though Zayed is still dismissive of Jane, his jealousy is unleashed when she is reacquainted with a college friend, and suddenly, he can’t get enough of her.  I would have enjoyed the story better if he wasn’t such a jerk.  He’s used to people doing whatever he requests, because he’s a sheikh, after all, and when Jane isn’t having any of that, he can be cutting and demeaning.  I don’t think he ever redeemed himself, and his declaration of love at the end of the book didn’t convince me that Jane would enjoy her HEA. Meh. 

Grade: 2 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

The desert king’s outrageous proposal!

Marry a sheikh in return for a hefty financial reward? Shy researcher Jane Smith would normally have laughed in Zayed Al Zawba’s handsome face. Except it’s only for six months and the money will rescue her sister who’s mired in debt& 

Sheikh Zayed will do anything to inherit Kafalah’s neighboring oil-rich lands, even wed plain Jane: he’ll never long to consummate a marriage with her! But Zayed hasn’t bargained on Jane’s frumpy clothes hiding delicious curves&or her quick mind and untouched beauty teasing and tempting him beyond his wildest imaginings!

May 22nd, 2017

Mini Review Round-Up May 2017

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Poo Penny read some books while on vacation.  Obviously, her focus was more on lounging by the pool than grinding out reviews, but she did spend some time shielding her eyes from the tropical sun while holding her Kindle above her face.  Here are a few mini reviews from her vacay.

Title: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

UGH!!! Is all I can say. I mean, I thought Annith’s story was engaging, and her background was interesting. The time spend with her at the convent was beginning to get stale and then bam, she ran away. Finally! And I was even liking her romance. I liked just about everything in this book leading up to the reveal of Balthazar’s identity. That just made me roll my eyes. They couldn’t have made her lover anyone else. Blah.

Grade: 2 stars

About the book:

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has…

Title: Riot by Tillie Cole

I don’t think I read enough of this book to leave a rating. It starts out very rapey, like, whoa there. People being trained to be sex slaves is not really my idea of a relaxing book to read at the beach. There is also some bit about a blood pit and people fighting to death, gladiator style. Next!

Grade: DNF

About the book

Stolen by the Arziani Georgian crime mob as a child, 152 was raised and conditioned to be a Monathe most subservient of the Arziani Blood Pit slaves.
Gorgeous and kind, she has been and under the imprisoning influence of the Type B drug and under the command of the Blood Pit Masters sister, Mistress Arziani, for most of her life, until the Master calls her back home to Georgia.
He wants her under his total control, and Master always gets what he wants.
But when 152 is gifted to the Blood Pits fearsome champion death match fighter as a prize, 152 suddenly finds out that the men who appear most brutal, may just own the kindest hearts. And love may be found, even when living in hell.
Freedom, family, love, 152 will have to fight for what she wants and ultimately make an impossible choice.

Title: Hisses & Honey by Shannon Mayer

This was all right, I guess I was tired of the “Alena is so hot” and Remo going back and forth. Ugh, I wanted to slap him. Also, one of my favorite series, The Elemental series, also written by SM, had been put on hold because of this series. So I have mixed feeling about it.

You know, everyone keeps telling Alena how strong she is, but its like, well, we don’t need to be reminded of every amazing thing about her. Yea? Please. I did like Ernie a lot this book, hes hilarious. And he shot one of the pantheon! lol.

Grade: 3 stars

About the book

The climactic final volume of The Venom Trilogy by USA Today bestselling author Shannon Mayer.

Humble baker turned supernatural Alena Budrene is lovely and lethal, and for the first time, shes owning it. Finally rid of her low-life ex-husband, shes free to date sexy vampire mob boss Remo, who respects her as both a Supe and a woman. Shes on good terms with her difficult mother, and shes growing comfortable with her powers.

But just when it seems things are falling into place for Alena, Hera strikes again: the Aegrus virus rages across Seattle, threatening the life of everyone in its pathincluding Remo, infected by Hades. The only way to stop the carnage is to face Hera and her army in a no-prisoners battle to determine the fate of the human raceand Alenas future.

In a sweeping voyage from the Seattle bar scene to a netherworld populated by murderous gods and monsters, Alena confronts one adversary after another on a quest to set the world right for both humans and Supes and demonstrate her powerto the gods and to herselfonce and for all.

May 19th, 2017

Review: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

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The pressure is on to catch up with the series before Silver Silence is released in June.  I think I’m looking at a July read date with the way things are going.  Anyway, I was a little disappointed that the focus was almost entirely on Kaleb and Sahara, with the supporting cast of changelings and Psy only making brief appearances.  This is almost entirely a Psy book, and they aren’t my favorite race in this world. The Psy civil war does get wrapped up, though, and there is a lot of intense action to keep the pages turning.

Kaleb has finally tracked down Sahara, his childhood friend who was kidnapped and tortured by several high ranking Psy councilors.  He has spent seven years searching for her, and when he is able to free her from her captivity, she is a shell of the girl she once was.  To endure the painful years of her captivity, and to survive having her mental shields ripped open, she created a mental labyrinth to hide in.  Emaciated and half mad, Kaleb patiently nurses her back to health, both physically and mentally.

The romances between the Psy almost never fully engage my attention.  I mean, these are beings that are trained, often painfully, from a young age to feel no emotions.  They are cloaked in the blanket of Silence, that emotionless state that allows the Psy to feel no emotions.  To save the Psy race, Silence was introduced to keep Psy from murdering each other, and it is rigorously enforced.  Sahara’s Silence was never stable, and after her traumatic imprisonment, her Silence is non-existent. 

Kaleb, raised by the psychopath Enrique Santano, was beaten and tortured whenever he had a break in Silence.  So you have a guy with no emotions and girl with way too many trying to establish some sort of relationship together, and in addition, there is Sahara’s PTSD to deal with.  I just thought that the romance was not convincing, though I guess Kaleb’s loss of control was somewhat amusing when he was overwhelmed by all the newness of everything, and the sudden passion developing between him and Sahara.

My favorite part of the series are the background plots involving the conflicts between the races, and the war between the Psy.  For a race that feels nothing, they sure do have a lot of negative energy for backstabbing and power plays.  It’s just human nature for the strong to try to take advantage of the weak, and not even Silence is going to change that.  I am looking forward to the next book to see how the Psy deal with their change in circumstances and how it effects their dealings with the other races.

Grade: 3.75

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book

Step into New York Times bestseller Nalini Singhs explosive and shockingly passionate Psy-Changeling world&
A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.
A woman whose very existence has been erased.
A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.
A deadly price that must be paid.
The day of reckoning is here.
From the alpha author of paranormal romance (Booklist) comes the most highly anticipated novel of her careerone that blurs the line between madness and genius, between subjugation and liberation, between the living and the dead.

May 18th, 2017

Review: Intercepting the Chef by Rachel Goodman

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I’m not sure what attracted me to this title.  I am not  particularly attracted to stories with chefs, but I do like professional athletes.  So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try.  I wasn’t completely hooked at first, but as I got to know Gwen and Logan, I really started to enjoy this story.

Gwen has worked hard perfecting the menu at her famous chef boyfriend’s restaurant.  She wants him to enjoy every success, even while he’s busy with other pursuits to enhance his brand.  When the restaurant wins a prestigious award, Gwen doesn’t receive the thanks she anticipated.  Instead, her douchebag of a boyfriend fires her, throws her onto the street, and tries to tarnish her reputation as an up and coming chef.

Gwen reluctantly takes a position as the chef of Logan’s new steakhouse, Stonestreets.  She isn’t thrilled with either the menu or working for Logan, her brother’s best buddy and professional QB.  Still, beggars can’t be picky, so Gwen signs onboard with the new establishment, silently gnashing her teeth at the limited, unimaginative menu.

I think I was hooked by the fourth chapter.  While I didn’t like the first person POV at first (and as a general rule, I always prefer third person POV in romances), I grew to like both Gwen and Logan as they narrated their chapters.  They are both going through a bit of a rough patch. Gwen feels stagnant in her career and knows that Stonestreets is only a stopping point on her overall journey, and Logan is struggling to play through injuries.  Neither has a strong support network to back them up.  Logan’s father, a Super Bowl winning quarterback in his own right, wants him to concentrate on the game only. They spend hours going over game tapes, and Logan suffers his father’s criticisms in silence.  His manager is a prick, and I would have just fired the guy.  Period.  Game over, asshole.

Gwen’s parents are divorced, and her mother has always supported Chris, her football playing twin, more than Gwen. Gwen is like her chef dad, and she’s afraid of becoming just like him.  He failed with numerous restaurant ventures, driving him and Gwen’s mother to divorce.  Now his is pressuring Gwen to open her own place, chiding her for wasting her talent.  The parental pressures both Logan and Gwen face weigh heavily on them. They don’t want to tell their respective parent to go take a hike, even though following their advice would make them both miserable.

I didn’t think there was much chemistry between Gwen and Logan at first.  Intercepting the Chef used one of my least favorite tropes – no commitment buddy sex.  This is one of the most over used tropes in romance fiction.  Gwen stuck to her guns after Logan wanted a relationship, despite the protests of everyone involved in his football career.  Gwen, just having been burned by her douche ex, doesn’t want a public relationship with Logan.  She doesn’t think her career can survive it. That being the case, she shouldn’t have gotten involved with him in the first place.  And having sex in the locker room? Not a good idea if you are trying to keep things a secret.  I liked that Logan was the one pushing for something more, and that he realized that he needed to find happiness and a sense of fulfillment off the football field. 

Overall, this was an engaging read.  I liked both characters, enjoyed the football aspects of the story, and even enjoyed Gwen’s menu planning and ingredient shopping.  This is a great choice for a fun summer read.

Grade: 3.75 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

Excerpt

I took a long pull of the Cabernet, then braced a hand against the cold marble next to her shoulder, transfixed at how her pupils dilated, swallowing the band of brown. I leaned in farther, my mouth a fraction away from her ear. But Ive always wanted to know, black or something unexpected?
She jerked away, bumping her elbow on the counter and rocking the stool. What?

I shrugged, despite the current of energy buzzing through me. Your bikini. Would you sport black like everything else in your closet or a shade a little more interesting?

Gwen stood, erasing what little space there was between us. Her unwavering gaze stayed locked on mine. The only time I dont wear black, Wonder Bread, she said, splaying her fingers against my chest, the heat of her palm soaking straight through my T-shirt, is when I dont wear anything at all. She winked, then sidestepped out of my reach, leaving my head spinning in her wake.

First points on the scoreboard awarded to Gwen Lalonde.
But there was still a lot of time left in the game.

About the book

Smart, sexy, and funny (Publishers Weekly) contemporary romance writer Rachel Goodman is back with a brand new series about a quarterback trying to score in the most important game of his lifethe game of love.

Gwen Lalonde is a rising star in the eyes of the elite restaurateurs of the world. But when her celebrity chef boss and now ex-boyfriend fires her, she finds herself playing a different game. Forced to flee San Francisco and return home to Denver, Gwen lands a spot as the executive chef at Stonestreets, a new restaurant owned by NFL golden boy and Colorado Blizzards quarterback Logan Stonestreet. When Logan starts pursuing Gwen romantically, she pulls a classic duck and weave and avoids any advances by throwing herself into reestablishing her reputation in Denver.

But Logan Stonestreet is persistenthe didnt become one of the best football players in the league by throwing in the towel at the first rejection. Something about Logans unwavering determinationand amazing bodykeeps Gwen around, and soon theres more thats sizzling than just the steak on the grill. Things are getting more serious than either side cares to admit, and when Logan suffers a severe injury in the playoffs, theyre both forced to make game-time decisions. The perfect romance for football fans and foodies alike, Intercepting the Chef is a delicious read thatll have you hooked until the very last play.

About the book

May 17th, 2017

Tis’ Con Season – Tips for First Time Con Goers

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Not so long ago, summer Con season got my heart racing with anticipation (then RL interfered with my attendance).  We made annual treks to San Diego ComiCon and Anime Expo.  Sprinkle in a few trips to the Chicago Comicon and a few smaller anime cons, and I can sadly say Ive spent way more than my share at conventions.  Heres some advice for first time con goers.

The most important thing to pack up before you head off to the con  10 pounds of patience.  You are going to need this.  If you want to attend any of the big events, you will be standing in line for a long time! Download a game to your phone, or a book, or bring a friend to harass while you are being a sheep and waiting for something. I certainly never take enough patience.

Print out all of your travel confirmations and make sure your bring them with you!  One year for Wizard World Chicago, I forgot the receipt showing that I had already paid for the first night at the Sofitel.  This led to a huge headache when we arrived at 1 am!! I was not a happy camper, even after the hotel sent a cheese tray and wine to apologize for the mix-up (its the call at 6am from the accounting person that really ticked me off).

Print out the daily schedules and events list if you are planning on attending any of the panels. Download them to your phone, too.  There is nothing quite so frustrating as discovering that you just missed an event that you really wanted see.  When you get to the con, check every day to make sure the schedule hasnt changed.

Pack a bottle of water! Pack two. This is critical!  Its going to be hot and humid in the dealer room, and there is nothing worse that suffering from dehydration!  Headache? Fatigue?  Go drink some water!

Charge your batteries! If you are planning on taking pics of cos-players, or entertaining yourself in long lines with PoGo, make sure you charge your batteries the night before.  Empty those memory cards and keep the chargers close at hand.  Purchase a portable charger, too. Its no fun seeing that photo op walk away because your phone is out of juice!

Pack a few snacks.  Cons are hectic beehives of activity, and you need your energy.  If youre standing in line and you suddenly realize that you havent eaten all day, a granola bar can tide you over until you can eat a real meal.  Breakfast is crucial, too!  Make sure you start the morning off with a hearty meal, or you will run out of gas long before the day is done.

Decide on a meeting place.  If you are attending with friends, and you decide to split up, make sure you have a designated time and place to meet back up.  Your cell phone might not get reception in the dealer hall, or worse, you might lose it, so make sure you have a meeting place.  Its going to be really tough locating your buddies in that mass of otakuness!

Dont rely on ATMs. The ATMs run out of cash, just like both comicbook fans and anime fans, so dont depend on being able to refill your wallet from an ATM come Saturday afternoon!  Hand in hand with this, make sure your cash is concealed!  Keep it in as many different places on your person as possible!  Be smart about flashing that hard earned cash!

Wear a comfy pair of shoes!  You will be walking, and walking, and walking, and if you have blisters on your feet, you will be miserable!  A nice pair of moisture wicking socks will go a long way, too! I pack an extra pair of socks, but maybe Im weird that way.

Dont drop your cash at the first dealer booth!  Unless you have just located the perfect cel of ChuChu from Utena, walk through the entire dealer hall and check out prices before you start unloading your dough.  This is especially true for comics,  manga, and Tees  really anything in the dealer hall.  The prices will be all over the board, and you need to comparison shop.  Obviously, if its a rare or one of a kind item, snap it up!  Also, if youre making a bulk purchase, try haggling with the dealer.  They might be willing to shave a couple more bucks from your total, more so at the end of the con.  The last day is great for bargains, because nobody wants to lug all of that junk back home again!

Think outside the convention center. One of my favorite activities at SDCC is going to the zoo.  Yes, the zoo.  I also love walking around downtown and discovering new restaurants.  Make sure you leave some time to explore the city you are visiting and take a break from the crowds at the convention.  Eat! Drink! Be merry!  Odds are, you spent a lot of money to get where you are, so make sure you dont spend the entire time inside a stuffy convention center.

Veteran con goers, can you add any tips?  Please post them in the comments!

I recycled this post for two reasons. First, con season is upon us.  Second, I was contacted about the Amazing! Las Vegas Comicon.  Dean and I went to a comic convention in Vegas many years ago, and I had so much fun that I have wanted to go to another.  Unfortunately this year, Poppys surgery made that impossible, but maybe next year?  If you are going to the Amazing! Las Vegas Comicon, check out Vegas.com for the best Las Vegas deals on hotels, things to do outside of the convention, and restaurants.  If you go, be sure to grab dinner at Serrano, and dessert at Jean Philippe Patisserie, because YUM! 

{Ed. Note  This is a refreshed post from 2007}

May 16th, 2017

Manga Review: Immortal Hounds V1 by Ryo Yasohachi

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May Contain Spoilers

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to delve into the massive TBR mountain tottering in the corner of the room.  Since I was spending the day with a recuperating dog, I decided that Immortal Hounds V1 was just the ticket for some escapism.  I really enjoyed this action-packed book!

While many nuances about the series werent made clear, this introduction to the series immediately hooked me.  In this alternate Japan, people don’t die.  If they fall ill or are maimed, they just kill themselves and voila! they are immediately resurrected, whole and hearty.  A menace is threatening the immortal lives of citizens, however.  Vectors, those carrying Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome (RDS), a new disease the stops the resurrection process, are targeting citizens.  If you have RDS and you die, you stay dead.  The police have organized a task force to hunt down and capture Vectors, who will ultimately be euthanized by UNDO, UN Disease Control.

Kenzaki is in charge of the Anti-Vector Task Force.  He has an axe to grind with one particular Vector, Kouda.  Kouda and Kenzakis younger sister fell in love, and Ikumi was infected with RDS.  To prove Kouda’s innocence, she fatally, and permanently, shot herself.  Kenzaki won’t rest until he has captured Kouda and uncovered the organization he suspects is funding the Vectors.

Okay, wow! With that kind of plot, you can bet on intense, graphic violence as the cops and the people protecting the Vectors square off.  Fuurin is an Escape Artist. It’s her job to save Vectors from being apprehended by the police.  She’s one mean chick with a really, really gianormous firearm, and she leaps into action regardless of the odds of winning.  The fight scenes are frantically paced, with tons of explosions, whizzing bullets, and dismembered body parts flying through the panels.  I thought the art was top notch, both in terms of action sequences and the more mundane scenes of interrogation, with the characters grilling the suspected criminals in non-descript rooms.  The backgrounds are bland, but the detail given to the characters more than made up for that.  I never wondered what anyone was feeling, as emotions were clearly telegraphed by their expressions.

I liked both Kenzaki and his rival, Fuurin.  I wonder what will happen in the next volume, now that Fuurin has been instructed to infect Kenzaki with RDS. She has the means to do this, using her position to lure Kenzaki into a trap.  Fuurin isn’t thrilled with the idea of seducing him, though, so she will have some internal struggles to get through, and the thought of getting close to another human being goes against everything she has been taught.  And how will tough guy Kenzaki react? I’m looking forward to finding out if these two destroy each other or team up against common foes.

Grade: 4 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

In another reality, humans never die. If they get sick or injured, they simply “kill” themselves and immediately come back to life. But then a mysterious disease, Ressurrection Deficiency Syndrome, starts spreading through the populace via Vectors. A task force is determined to solve the mystery of RDS but a group of escape artists hamper their efforts.

May 15th, 2017

Review: Given by the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

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May Contain Spoilers

Well.  Hmmmm.  I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  It’s grim and dark, featuring a protagonist doomed to die for the good of her people.  There were four POVs, which I think was a bit excessive for the length of the book, and I thought that Dara and Witt’s chapters weren’t really needed.  Though, honestly, that opinion might be because I didn’t really care for either character.

Khosa is descended from a line of women who have all given their lives to the sea to keep the water where it belongs: in the sea and not swallowing up the land and lives of the good people of Stille.  When the army from Pietra descends upon the small village where she is being raised, she runs away to the capital, where, confronted with the sea, she is overcome with the compulsion to merrily dance into the raging waves.  Saved against her will by Vincent, the prince, because she hasn’t produced a daughter to replace  herself yet, she is hailed as a hero and taken to the castle.  Once there, she spends her days avoiding choosing a mate, instead reading history texts in the massive library.

Yes, this is about a sacrificial lamb who accepts her impending doom – sort of. While she whiles away time in the library, Vincent and his adopted siblings Dara and Donil, the last members of a wiped out race, worry about the arrival of the army from Pietra.  Stille is a peaceful nation, with plenty of farmland for crops to feed the ever growing, and aging, population.  Witt, the leader of Pietra, is a young man raised to be completely emotionless.  His duty is to expand the ever shrinking lands of Pietra, where the people won’t farm because it’s a task beneath them. They rely on fishing to feed their people, but the catch has been steadily decreasing.  His people, once they are deemed unproductive, are set out to sea in a tiny boat to feed the sea monsters.  Yeah, this is an uplifting read.

I guess I was enthralled by the weirdness of this world.  You have one kingdom that cheerfully gives up each generation of a certain line of women to drown in the sea to save their own hides, and you have another kingdom that is warlike and feeds its elderly and infirm to the sea monsters.  You have a king quietly endorsing the violent rape of a young woman who is going to die to save your not so worthy life, and a leader who would prefer another way of doing things, but can’t because of tradition and the knowledge that he will be fed to the sea monsters if he attempts to change things too much.  So it’s off to war against those soft neighbors in Stille, who will be as easy as sheep to overcome.

I found parts of this novel intriguing, and others pointless, and what is up with Dara and Donil except to create conflict between Vincent and Khosa?  Khosa can’t bear to be touched, yet she yearns for Donils caresses.  Minor spoiler – Dara’s magic is death, and Donil’s is life, and I didn’t see the need for either one.

While I enjoyed Given to the Sea overall, I’m not sure if I’ll jump onboard with the sequel.  I’m not dying to learn what happens next, and wish instead that the novel had been the end of the story.

Grade: 3.5Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book

Kings and Queens rise and fall, loyalties collide, and romance blooms in a world where the sea is risingand cannot be escaped.
Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before shes allowed to dancean uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzyshe must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.
Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincents loyalty is at odds with his heart.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietrafierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation beforeare now marching from their stony shores for the twins adopted homeland, Stille.
Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire landand he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.
The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

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