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Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Dawn of the Arcana by Rei Toma

Book Description:
Publication Date: June 5, 2012 | Series: Dawn of the Arcana (Book 4)
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences rated teen.
Princess Nakaba of Senan is forced to marry Prince Caesar of the enemy country Belquat, tantamount to becoming a hostage. While Caesar is pleasing to the eye, he is also selfish and possessive, telling Nakaba outright: “You are my property.” With only her attendant Loki at her side, Nakaba must find a way to cope with her hostile surroundings, her fake marriage...and a mysterious power!

Princess Nakaba of Senan and Prince Caesar of Belquat only married each other for the sake of peace between their two warring countries, so no one expected there to be love between the unlikely couple. But just as feelings start growing between them, Nakaba's power, the Arcana of Time, shows her a vision of a young woman's murder. Has the time come for Nakaba to harness her power to change fate?

My Review:
Here is yet another title with a political theme. This series is about warring nations and the political marriage to breach the gap between the two countries. It is also about prejudice. The two countries, Belquat and Senan. Belquat sees the people of Senan as country bumpkins and even though Senan has their own royalty, they are thought to be beneath the Royal family of Belquat.

Princess Nakaba has flaming red hair which is also traditionally thought to be common. Royalty should have black hair. She is given in marriage to the prince of Belquat, Caesar, who is at first pretty much one of the biggest jerks I've encountered so far. At first he's arrogant and cruel and doesn't want anything to do with the wife forced on him.

There is also a race of people called the Ajin. They are demi-humans with the tails and ears of animals and possess super-human abilities. They are slaves, soldiers and are looked down upon by the humans who would rule them.

The series is full of intrigue and conspiracies. The Ajin and planning an uprising. The King of Belquat is conspiring in secret to destroy Senan once and for all. And as Nakaba and Caeser grow closer, they vow to stop the warring, murder and suffering brought about by the conflict between these warring nations.

As much as I hated political science in college, I do have to ask myself why it is that I continue to find these series of books that have a political theme. Well, I like the characters in this series.

Loki is Nakaba's attendant. I don't entirely trust him. He seems like he would sacrifice everything for the cause. Things seem to be black and white with him. You're either with us or against us. He will turn Nakaba against Caesar all for the cause. And while he is loyal to Nakaba, he is more loyal to the cause, freedom for all Ajin, and he will commit murder if he has to achieve victory.

Nakaba is strong-willed and a free spirit, but she hides a vulnerability. She is in a foreign land amongst enemies and though she is princess of Belquat in name only, she is really just a hostage to keep the peace. Despite her isolation, she refuses to bend to the will of the royal family of Belquat. As an example, she refuses to wear the traditional clothing of Belquat and instead wears her Senan garb which makes her appear more barbaric. Even though Caesar's family looks down on her, she stands up to them. She has no illusions about her life, marriage or even her death. And she bears a mystery of her own.

Caesar was at first quite a jerk. He saw Nakaba as only his property to do with as he saw fit, but he slowly gets to know her and his feelings toward her change. For the first time in his life, he wants to care and protect someone. He falls for her and will do anything to make her happy. It is funny, though, because he keeps trying to do things to make her happy, but it is based on Belquat custom and not anything Nakaba would want, like fancy clothes and such. I truly learned to like him because he seems so genuine in his affection for Nakaba. He may be a fool, though. Loki, as I said, does not seem trust worthy and yet Caesar made him one of the princes guard and I can't help but feel nothing good will come of that.

This series makes me anxious. I do like to believe that people are essentially good and I like to have a happy ending ultimately, I get the feeling that there will be tragedy ahead and just hope everyone will get the happy ending they deserve. I'll have to keep reading to find out.

Volume 5 is due out 08/07/12. I can't believe two months have gone by since I got this volume. Wow.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This was a slow week for me, which is just as well. I have been trying to catch up on things like clearing off my computer desk. I have just been throwing receipts and papers and stuff on it for weeks and it was finally starting to topple over.

I have also been trying to empty out the storage facility that I have been renting for the past 7 years, from two moves ago. My goal is the end of the summer.

Remember how I said I had 7 book cases downstairs, 3 in my nieces room and a night stand crammed full of books not to mention the walk in attic. I have no count for those books. Well, last Saturday I was organizing the storage facility better since we are going to be selling some of the stuff. Let me tell you, I found probably about another 25 boxes of books. It's amazing how you collect them when working for a book store. Lots of advance reading copies and although the books are older, I need to try to give them away. The majority of books from the storage facility I will probably be looking to unload. Some of them I will keep, though.

I had a lot of fun going through my 45s, a lot of classic bands like Madness, Squeeze, The Smiths, Bruce Springsteen, The Police and a bunch of others, the majority were all in mint condition. Found a couple of old Monkees 45s that are beat to hell since I used to play them all the time.

I've also started going through some of the stuffed animal boxes. I have a ton of beanie babies, some actual Ty BB. However, I also have a lot of Disney BB.

If I find any real gems among the boxes, I'll share my finds.

In the meantime, this is what I either picked up or received in the mail. Mr. Postman has not been kind to me...again.

Free ebook anthology:
Purchased in the store:

A little tidbit of information.  I was going to read in the tub as I always do and accidentally knocked my half full large DD ice tea on the floor and then proceeded to know my book on the floor as well.  So now my nice copy of Die For Me is damp and tea stained.  So now I'm cranky.

Received from Amazon:

I decided to pick up the Amy Plum book after reading the review from one of the blogs I follow.  I downloaded the eReader sample and that was enough to get me to buy the book.  So far, it is really good.

Can't get to Endlessly yet as I am behind on the Paranormalcy series.

I've been picking up the Hellboy anthologies in the attempt to reduce the shelf space, or comic box space, needed to house my Hellboy collection.  I've been reading Hellboy for much longer than the movies have been out. 

In His Eyes?  Free.  Need I say more?

What's in your mailbox?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comic-Con: Neil Gaiman to write new 'Sandman' series for DC Comics' Vertigo imprint

Posted from on 07/12/12.

Comic-Con: Neil Gaiman to write new 'Sandman' series for DC Comics' Vertigo imprint
by Jeff Jensen

Call it a dream come true. Acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline) is returning to comics and the character that made him a superstar scribe: Dream, a.k.a. Morpheus, member of the Endless, a deeply dysfunctional family of eternal though not immutable entities with names that begin with the letter ‘D’ who preside over various aspects of human existence (except Destruction did abandon his mantle and dominion and ran away… but never mind). Gaiman — who wrote 75 issues of The Sandman from 1988 to 1996 (all collected in “graphic novel” form), producing one of the most celebrated and most erudite comic book series ever — will team with artist J. H. Williams III (Promethea, Batwoman) for a mini-series that’s set prior to the events in Sandman #1. In that story, an English occult leader inadvertently summoned Dream using a black magic ritual involving rat claws and angel wings on June 10, 1916 and held him captive for 72 years. (The foolish mortal was actually trying to trap Morpheus’ sister, Death, but something went awry. Magic: So darn unpredictable!)

“When I finished writing The Sandman, there was one tale still untold: The story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war,” Gaiman said in a statement provided by DC Entertainment. “It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman‘s 20th anniversary… but the time got away from us. And now, with Sandman‘s 25th anniversary year coming up, I’m delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told.”

The mini-series will hit in 2013. The publisher made the announcement at Comic-Con during Vertigo’s afternoon panel.

If you have never read Sandman before by Neil Gaiman, do yourself a favor and pick up the first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes. You won't be sorry you did.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Rin-Ne by Rumiko Takahashi

The wacky hijinks continue in the newest installment of Rin-Ne by Rumiko Takahashi. In this volume, a student is cursed to fall asleep whenever studying for exams, the ghost of a little girl haunts an ice skating rink, Tsubasa Jumonji is being haunted by the spirit of a girl who wants to feel truly loved, Rin-Ne gets a call to exorcise a spirit at a local ramen shop, a wig is haunting the high school theatrical production, and Ageha's black cat by contract, Oboro, is trying to break the contract and spring himself free.

Rin-Ne has his hands full trying to assist all the spirits running rampant to pass on peacefully to the Wheel of Incarnation.

My favorite chapters were about the ramen shop. As it turns out, Rin-Ne's father is the owner of the ramen shop and he is being possessed. This particular possession actually has Rin-Ne's dad actually working for the first time in his afterlife. How will he get out of this one? And will Rin-Ne take pity on him and help out his father for the sake of the family relationship?

Volume 10 is due out November 13th

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Ouran High School Host Club 18 by Bisco Hatori

I'm sad to say it is finally time to say good bye to our favorite cross-dressing heroine, Haruhi Fujioka. After 18 volumes, Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori is finally coming to an end. Since I have already reviewed the series, I am not going to go into any series detail, but I will say that this series got the ending it deserved and, more importantly, it made sense.

I find that often with manga and anime, I get through the whole series and get to the last installment only to wonder what happened. Sometimes it seems like an ending is just slapped together and it doesn't really resolve anything. In this case, everything was wrapped up nicely.

It was a very sweet ending. Throw in some madcap hijinks and it was a prefect conclusion to the series. Bisco also gave us a peek into the possible futures of all the characters which was fun.

If you haven't read Ouran High School Host Club yet and you like a series that is a bit on the crazy side, this might be the series for you. I highly recommend it.

Now to catch up on some of the other series.....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - There be gold in them thar hills

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This week I hit the mother lode!!! Not only did my books come in I was expecting, a couple came earlier than expected and I got some cool non-book stuff as well.

Books purchased:
Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot
Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
The Thing ABout the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt
Just for Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
Pride and Pyramids by Amanda Grange and Jaqueline Webb

EBooks purchased:
Easy by Tamarra Webber
The Fake Boyfriend Experiment by Stephanie Rowe

CDs purchased:
You're Through Thinking, Say Yes (Acoustic Version) by Yellowcard
In Metro by Smoking Popes
It's Been a Long Day by Smoking Popes
Non-book purchased:
Dr Who Sticky Note set from local comic book store
Dr Who 'Keep Calm I'm the Doctor' mug from local comic book store
Dr Who 'To Victory' mug from local comic book store
Domo with cassette playerfrom local comic book store
Domo with green glitter from local comic book store
Dr Who T shirt 'The Physician Unknown' from (Design detail also shown)
Stacked chickens from Home Goods

What did you get this week?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

I have always been a sucker for stories where one travels abroad, falls in love and lives happily ever after. I loved watching movies like If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium, A Room with a View, French Kiss, Under a Tuscan Sun, Notting Hill, Deja Vu and Shirley Valentine  Still do.  And books like Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Lucky T by Kate Brian and the Emily books by Katie Maxwell. It’s romantic and adventurous. My own story turned out quite differently.

I met someone in Wales, travelled together for a time, but it ended when I had to head back home. Now, I’m not going to say I fell in love, but it could have ended very differently. We kept in touch for a couple of years after I came back home. Always tried to make arrangements to meet somewhere, but he ended up moving to Thailand and I’m on the East Coast. It was a pretty impossible idea. If he did travel to the states, he usually only made it as far as the West Coast. I wanted to travel to Asia, but really could never afford it on my salary. We were friends, nothing more, but when a relationship I was in here in the US ended and I mentioned it in a letter, I never heard from him again.

It is possible that he thought there was more to our relationship and I dare say there could have been under different circumstances, like oceans not separating us, but it will always be one of those ‘What if’ moments that I can’t help but wonder about sometimes and it’s one of the few regrets I have about my life. Perhaps that is why I am so enamored of these travelling romance stories. So when I found Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson listed on Amazon as an upcoming release I was all over it. I pre-ordered it without even needing to read the synopsis. I was that confident it would be a good book. I waited and waited with ants in my pants, but it finally arrived. And I wasn’t wrong. It is indeed an awesome book.

Book Description:
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

My Review:
Three words. Hot…Italian…Guys… What more would you need in a book? Need a plot? Got it. And let me tell you, this book had far more depth than I was expecting. I was anticipating a light, escapist read about love in Italy, but I got so much more.

It starts with a painting in a museum. The subject of the painting is sitting in a tower room overlooking a valley and also happens to look exactly like Violet Routledge. The trouble is the painting was created hundreds of years ago in Italy and she is the daughter of a Scandinavian former model and her father is Scottish. She, on the other hand, is olive- toned with brown hair. She doesn’t look like either one of her parents nor does she look like any of her relatives on either side which has led her often to think she may be adopted, but is afraid to ever come out and ask.

She immediately identifies with the painting and obsesses over it until she hatches a scheme that sets a chain of events in motion that will change her life for good or ill. She decides she must travel to Italy to investigate the origins of the painting thinking she just might be related to the family somehow. She finds out where the painting came and vows to go at any cost. She finds an immersion program run out of a villa in the area surrounding the Castello, so she tells her mother she wants to go abroad to study Italian.

It’s not a lie per se. She is trying to get into Cambridge and needs to “broaden her range of knowledge” as she puts it. Being multi-lingual, artistic, cultured are all beneficial when applying to university. She wants to study art history, so it is the perfect alibi. Not exactly the truth regarding why she wants to go, but not exactly a lie either.

Her parents are divorced and her mother seems a bit suffocating. When Violet presents her plan to her mother, her mother immediately assumes she wants to go on holiday together. But Violet can’t go to Italy with the freedom to investigate her origins with her mother tagging along. Her mother is at first crestfallen, but soon rallies and agrees to allow Violet to go to Italy for the summer.

The course is a small group of girls. There are only four. Violet and Kelly are from the UK and Paige and Kendra are from the US. At first it seems as if they will not get on, but they become united against the catty daughter, Elisa, of the school mistress and her equally catty friend who seem to believe themselves far superior to the foreigners invading her home.

Enter hot Italian boys, page 61. Catia, the school mistress also has a son named Leonardo. When the girls first encounter him, he also brings home a friend and it is a somewhat awkward meal with the four foreign girls, Catia who seems like a cranky pants, her son and daughter and their two friends. So much so, that Kelly ends up running from the room crying and vowing to return home the next day. She refuses to come out f the room she shares with Violet, so the other three girls are taken for a night out on the town by Leonardo and his friend Andrea.

Enter Luca. He is a school chum of Leonardo’s and Andrea’s. Violet is immediately smitten by his handsome appearance, but he seems cool and aloof. Once they meet up with Luca, they all take off to Florence to go dancing at a club. Violet wanting to distance herself from Luca, heads to the dance floor. He watches her and when she finally leaves the dance floor, he approaches her. They converse and eventually end up lip locked, which is unexpected and is so out of character for Violet.

Paige and Kendra have tons of guys falling over themselves to try to attract the attention of the girls, but no one is approaching Violet save Luca. He tells her that the boys will not approach her because she looks like she is Italian whereas Kendra and Paige are exotic. This angers her immediately and she walks away from him determined to ignore him for the rest of the evening.

Violet finds him to be a bit of a jerk. He says what is on his mind and doesn’t candy coat things. He also seems somewhat moody. Unfortunately, Violet is not able to ignore Luca for long. As it turns out he lives in the Castello Violet has flown to Italy to find out about. And he’s a prince. To complicate things, Elisa seems to also have her sights set on Luca and is determined to make herself a princess.

The plot really starts to thicken when the girls all go on tour as part of their immersion program to the Castello. Luca’s mother sees the family resemblance immediately in Violet. She tells Violet that she reminds her of her husband’s sister. Luca’s parents are separated, but not divorced and as it turns out was his father was never a faithful husband. Could Violet be evidence of his infidelity?

While on tour in the Castello, Violet becomes separated from the group and ends up walking down a darkened stairway when she hears the door lock behind her. She is alone in the dark in a stairwell that ends at a locked door and the walls are too thick for anyone to hear her screaming. She is eventually rescued by Luca and they have another interlude. Was this an accident? Or is someone purposely harassing her?

I am intrigued by Luca. He’s morose, brooding. I have always been drawn to the dark, brooding type. (Batman over Superman? Heck yeah.) I am trying to get a handle on him, but can’t quite. He seems to be interested in Violet, but he runs hot and cold. When the girls all attend a party with Leonardo and Andrea, Violet finds Luca there in Elisa’s company. He then ignores her all night until she leaves the party and offers to take her home since Paige is passed out in the back of the vehicle she came in and there is no room for Violet. He seems attracted to her, but also seems to be fighting it and I’m not sure why yet. He is complex, a puzzle to solve and I like the duality of his personality.

Violet is a good character as well. She doesn’t seem to take any rubbish and she seems to have a really level head in all things except matters pertaining to Luca. She feels there is something in Italy she can uncover about her heritage and is determined to find it no matter what. She knows she should stay away from Luca. Not only because of his inconsistent behavior, but also because she has made an enemy in Elisa. She is the glue that holds the group of four girls together, the voice of reason.

Like I said, I was expecting a light hearted romance, but what I got instead was a mystery to puzzle out. There is romance, but there is also danger. There are new friends to be made, but also foes. Who is the girl in the painting? And what is connection to Violet and Luca and his family?

I am sad to say that if you think you will find these answers and more by the end of the book, you would be sadly mistaken. Flirting in Italian is only the first installment to the story of Violet and Luca. Look for the further adventures in Kissing in Italian (street date unknown).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Desperately Wanting Wednesday

Desperately Wanting Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee to highlight not only books we are waiting for, but also books that have already been released that we might not have acquired yet. It could also include books on the shelf to read.

Now, where to start? Well, let me tell you, there are far too many books on my shelf and on my eReader to even begin to contemplate listing my TBRs. My short list of must reads is still frightening large. So, I'll just list some books I haven't gotten yet.

Books not released yet:
Wicked Jealous: A Love Story [Paperback] by Robin Palmer
Book Description
Publication Date: July 19, 2012
A fresh and funny twist on Snow White from the author of Cindy Ella and Geek Charming!

Simone never saw herself as the "cute girl"--she was always the chunky smartmouth. But after a year of avoiding her wicked almost-stepmonster through Zumba class, Simone's now sporting a whole new retro style. And people keep acting oddly. One thing: her stepmonster seems to be trying to accidentally kill her, or at least fatten her back up. And so when Simone's brother offers to let her move in with him and his six roommates for the summer, Simone jumps at the chance for some normalcy. Only living with seven very different college boys isn't exactly going to help her land her very own happily ever after . . .

All her stories are fairy tale themed.  I've enjoyed them all, so this is at the top of my wait list.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel [Paperback] by Michael Boccacino
Book Description
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found murdered on the outskirts of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the Things That Cannot Die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling, one whose outcome will determine not just the fate of the Darrows, but of the world itself.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a Victorian gothic tale about family ties, the realm beyond the living, and the price you pay to save those you love.

Actually, Terri (over at Alexia's Books and Such) met him at the HaperCollins party during BEA. He talked about this book and it really sounded intriguing. Besides, he's a huge Neil Gaiman and Dr. Who fan, so he's got that going for him.

As for past books I've missed:

When You Were Mine [Hardcover] by Rebecca Serle
Book Description
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale.
What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.

Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.

Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….

Love Shakespeare. Nuff said.

Snow in Summer: Fairest of Them All [Hardcover] by Jane Yolen
Book Description
Publication Date: November 10, 2011 | Age Level: 10 and up | Grade Level: 5 and up
With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.

This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

How can I pass up a fairy tale retelling? I'm such a sucker for them.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Brody's Ghost by Mark Crilley

I just love ghost stories, but not every ghost story. I am actually rather selective as I used to get nightmares as a child watching scary movies and the anxiety has always stuck with me. I have been reading the Ghost and the Goth series, though by Stacey Kade. They are an enjoyable foray into the paranormal. Light reading and fun. Well, I have for review today a series by Mark Crilley called Brody's Ghost.

Book Description:
Publication Date: January 18, 2011
Brody knew that being mixed up with Talia, a dead girl turned ghost, was going to change his life forever. He just didn’t realize it was going to involve going head-to-head with one of the most vicious gangs in the whole city. But here he was, giving himself over to the bizarre training methods of Kagemura, an ancient samurai ghost, to transform himself from a flabby slacker to a peak-condition fighter capable of bringing the city’s most dangerous criminals to their knees!

My Review:
While this is technically not a manga, it's style is very like a manga book. Mark Crilley is an award winning author / artist who has also created the Akiko series and Miki Falls. I must admit I never read Akiko, but I did read the Miki Falls series. There were four volumes in the series, one after each season. It was quite a good series.

But that is not what I am reviewing today. Brody's Ghost is an entertaining series.  I read Book 2, but Book 3 just came out on May 1, 2012. I do believe I mentioned I am very behind on my manga reading. I will read book 3 soon.

Anyway, Brody is pretty much a loser. He's a down and out musician and his girlfriend dumped him. Enter Talia, aka The Ghost, to shake up his world. He can see her. She wants to get into heaven. She can't until she completes a task, which is bringing a murderer to justice and she needs Brody's help.  What's more, he doesn't seem to have any say in the matter.  She's very persistent.

He is weak as well as a loser and assisting Talia with her task is going to be dangerous, could possibly even get him killed. So, he is off to train in martial arts under the tutelage of a very cranky ghost named Kagemura. He gets stronger through his training and becomes a formidable opponent, but he also got more than he bargained for.

Will Brody be able to accomplish what he set out to do? Will Talia make it into heaven? Will Kagemura ever crack a smile?

The books have just under 100 pages. There are a planned 6 volumes to the series. SO far one volume has come out per year. If I have anything to criticize, it's that it seems like the books could be released a little more frequently. Otherwise, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a ghost story that is also an action / adventure story. You've got ghosts, martial arts, butt kicking, death on the line to spice it up. What's not to like?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - You get nothing. You lose. Good day, sir.

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I feel cheated. The last week in June was an awesome week! Everything I was waiting for came in and I was in heaven. My hubby was a little green and feeling a little package envy. But what can I do? My niece and her family came up to visit with us and my niece, Brianna, who keeps asking how many views her blog post has gotten and if anyone else commented on it.

Back to the topic at hand, I had to finish cleaning the house which took me up to about the time they all arrived and they were here until about 9pm. I was wiped. On Sunday I had to pack for Vermont and take care of all the last minute details before vacation. I never got to do my Stacking the Shelves and as I said, I had quite a haul. I could have pretended I just got all the loot this week, but I felt that would be cheating. So here is what I got this week.

I got a big fat nothing. I get nothing. I lose. Good day.

I mean it's not like I stole fizzy lifting drink and bumped into the ceiling.

Don't you think Gene Wider makes the best Willy Wonka? I just found out this week that Roald Dahl was not happy with Gene Wilder's portrayal. What's not to love?

Actually, I lie. I did get one thing. I purchased City of Bones by Cassandra Clare because Amazon has it for $.99 as an eBook. I have the trade, but for $.99, I'll put it on my eReader.

That's it. Last week, I got 2 ska CDs from a ska show I went to, 3 CDs I ordered, one DVD, 3 hard covers and 16 manga books. I also accidentally purchased and eBook and couldn't figure out how to cancel the purchase. I did the same thing yesterday, so now I have it figured out in case I do it again. Although, if I keep the 3G off, that shouldn't happen.

Anyway, that's it for this installment. If anyone out there is reading this, let me know what you got this week. It can only top mine.

May the road rise up to meet you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal

I have loved swimming since I was a kid, but with my mother afraid of the water, I didn’t get to swim a lot as a child. When I was 7 or 8, she enrolled me in swimming lessons when we lived in Okinawa and nearly had a heart attack every time she watched me swim. Once we got back to the states, she enrolled me and my brother in the YMCA determined that we would not grow up afraid of the water. It was some years later when I went for a group swim that I met him, the lifeguard. And I fell for him, hard. He was an all-American boy, blond hair with blue eyes, captain of his school swim team and perfect, at least to me. It was perhaps because of him that I, myself, enrolled in a lifesaving course and got my certification. As a teen, I would fill in at times, for my friend who was also certified at the same time I was. Later, in college, I worked as a lifeguard at the campus pool as part of my financial aid. I grew up at the Jersey shore and spent my summers on the beach. Perhaps that’s why I felt I could identify with the characters in The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal. It’s a perfect summer read, but not at all what you might think.

Book Description:
Sirena struggles with her parents divorce while she's stuck at her Aunt Ellie's house in Rhode Island. There she is saved by a lifeguard who she becomes focused on. She tries to get his attention but he keeps turning away. The mystery surrounding this lifeguard only pushes Sirena to dig further.

My Review:
As I was headed to Burlington, Vermont for vacation, I thought bringing The Lifeguard would be the perfect light hearted summer read. It is a perfect summer read, but it is anything but light hearted.

Sirena is being shipped off to her Aunt Ellie’s house for the summer because her parents back in Texas are going through a divorce and they figured she would be better off away from all the troubles. She spends a lot of time wallowing in self-pity and feeling sorry for herself. Like no one has ever gone through this before. I went through it, but I was younger, so maybe that was the difference. While I was just accepting of the situation, Sirena is anything but accepting. She seems to spend a lot of time in her head moping about things she can’t change and only seeing the situation as it affects her life and doesn’t seem to think about what her parents must be going through.

She does meet a cast of characters which do not seem very well developed for the most part, but as I said, the book seems to take place a lot in her head. Her Aunt Ellie is flushed out a bit. She is quirky and marches to the beat of her own drum. She is well-travelled and seems to be very much a free spirit. I liked her immediately.

She fixes up the attic room which looks out towards the beach with a big bay window.  It is a beautiful little room with one major set back.  On stormy days / nights, there is a ghost that visits Sirena and moans pitiably.

The plot really gets underway when Sirena goes for a jog on the beach barefooted and collides with the lifeguard who was getting her out of the way of a sea urchin. She doesn’t realize he was saving her from it, until he jogs away from her and she sees Lifeguard on the back of his shirt. It takes about half the book for her to even find out his name, but she becomes obsessed with him immediately. He is godlike in his perfection. Embarrassed by her encounter with him, she refuses to go to the beach and just mopes around the house. 

Aunt Ellie finally has enough of her self-pity and sends her to volunteer at the local hospital where Siren encounters the lifeguard again. He moonlights as an EMT.  She stalks him through the hospital and out of the building where he gets on his motor cycle, but he is stopped by a beautiful blond girl calling out his name, Pilot, before he can drive away. She hops on his bike and they drive away. Sirena has a name to go with the face, but assumes the blond is his girlfriend and feels her heart breaking.

Because Sirena likes to paint, Aunt Ellie gives her an old used easel when she moves in that she can use over the summer. She also tells Sirena about a friend of hers named Antonio who is a retired fisherman. He spends most of his time painting on the beach. She meets him on one of her beach walks and and they strike up a friendship.

She finds his gallery in town and she goes in to take a look around. On the wall, she finds a painting of Pilot and before she can rationalize or talk herself out of it, she steals the painting from the gallery as there is no one watching the gallery.

Riddled with guilt over the theft of the painting, Sirena spends more time in her head agonizing over her actions. She finally tells Antonio that she stole his painting. He seems angry at first, but then laughs thanking her. If she loves his painting enough to steal it, that is the ultimate compliment. So, he gives her the painting.

Sirena is determined to make Pilot hers, so she strategizes on how best to accomplish it. She buys a new bikini and heads to the beach. She sees him, but she also sees the blond girl on the blanket next to his lifeguard chair and he is talking to her. Sirena, in an effort to stake her claim, walks right up to him, but he gives her the cold shoulder. She’s humiliated.

He seems to run hot and cold with Sirena, so she makes a move on Pilot which he seems to reciprocate, but then he pushes her away informing her that it would never work between them.
When swimming is banned due to strong riptides, Sirena decides she is going to cool off by just splashing in the water. She waits until Pilot leaves his chair and walks the other way. She goes down by the peer, but loses her footing and is dragged under. She tries to drag herself out of the water, but just as she thinks she’s made it, she steps on something that rears up and she feels an intense pain in her leg and sees blood then remembers nothing.

When she comes to, she realizes she may lose more than her happy home back in Texas.

Pilot is enigmatic and gives very little of himself.  He keeps himself apart from everyone and in turn has become the guardian of everyone.  He shows little emotion or weakness and is on site whenever anyone needs help.  Strange things seem to happen when he is around which only adds further to the mystery that he is.

Antonio also becomes an important character.  He becomes Sirena's mentor, confidant and friend.  He does open up to her somewhat about where he came from and his background.  His father was a shaman in Brazil as his father before him and so on.  While Antonio does admit to learning from his father, he never comes out and admits he is also a shaman.  He does seem to have some sort of power, though. 

As the story enfolds, we learn more about Pilot and Antonio and their relationship to each other and the house Aunt Ellie bought.  And who is the blond that seems to be intimate with Pilot?  His girlfriend?  We also learn more about the connection between Pilot, Antonio and Sirena.

I was expecting a light hearted romp about hanging out on the beach and crushing on the lifeguard, but what I got instead was a book with a mystery, life and death, love and loss and a little bit of the paranormal.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in a good beach read that is not just fluff.

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Stepping on Roses by Rinko Ueda

Sure, every girl wants to marry a prince or a wealthy man, but I would think it would also be for love. Two people who are complete strangers can fall in love when thrown together or can they?

Series Description:
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences T+.
Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi's financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he'll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she's a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

Publication Date: March 6, 2012 | Series: Stepping on Roses (Book 7)
Soichiro’s reputation becomes tainted when Sumi’s true background is exposed, and even his position as president of his company is threatened! Sumi feels terrible for the trouble she’s caused Soichiro, so she decides to leave him. Will Soichiro choose to let her go, or will he forsake everything for her instead?

My Review:
Sumi is an impoverished girl who is taking care of a few orphen children her older brother, Eisuke, keeps brining home. He goes out chasing after one get rich quick scheme after another, or con, or bet, leaving her to take care of their ramshackle home and the children. They are both orphens as well.

Soichiro is a hard nose business man. Everything is calculated. He needs a wife in order to inherit the family fortune. He sees Sumi struggling and offers to pay her to marry him. The catch? No one can know where she comes from and she can never see her family again.

He makes it very clear from the beginning that this is a business proposition and she is never to fall in love with him. Matters are compolicated further when an associate of Soichiro's, Nozomu, falls in love with her. At first, Sumi seems to return his feelings. He is a kind hearted man who seems to care for her and Soichiro is so cold, but little by little, she starts to see the vulnerable man behind the hard exterior and slowly begins to develop feelings for him. Her feelings for Nozomu nothing more than a fleeting crush.

Nozomu cannot accept that Sumi does not care for him and obssesses over her, destroying his own marraige in the process. When every other tactic fails, he manipulates events that cause Soichiro to step down as president of the the Ashida Corporation taking control of the company.

Soichiro vows to keep Sumi, who he realizes he has fallen in love with, and to take back his company from Nozomu. If he succeeds, he'll have everything, but if he fails, he will be destitute. Will Sumi's love be strong enough to support him and see him through? Will he win in the end?

Volume 8 is due out October 2.