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When I'm not reading I'm writing about what I'm reading

Updated: 2018-01-22T04:13:28.402-08:00


'Black Sheep" by Georgette Heyer


ISBN: 1402210787
Format: Paperback, 288pp
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Pub. Date: June 2008
Price: $13.95

I’m slowly but surely working my way through Georgette Heyer’s extensive catalogue of Regency and Historic romances. My latest read, and quite possibly my favorite, is Black Sheep which was first published 1966 but has recently been re-released by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Our heroine, Abigail Wendover, believes that at 28 she is well past her prime. Living in Bath with her older unmarried sister Selina and in charge of her niece Fanny, the last thought on Abigail’s mind is romance. But when her young charge gets swept her off feet by Stacy Calverleigh, a known fortune hunter, Abigail turns to the rouge’s uncle for assistance.

But Miles Calverleigh, the acknowledged black sheep of the family, doesn’t really care what his good-for-nothing nephew Stacy is up to. He’s just returned from India, where he spent several years paying for a youthful mistake, and isn’t concerned with his relatives. And though he is immediately drawn to Abigail he still firmly refuses to help her in her rescue mission.

Stacy meanwhile has charmed the whole of Bath including Aunt Selina and Fanny feels herself very lucky to be the choice of a fashionable man. But Abigail has seen him for what he really is and as the young lovers prepare to elope Abigail does everything she can to stop it, with or without the help of Miles.

Of course one of the things I love so much about a Heyer Regency Romance are the wonderful secondary characters. The fussy relatives, the friends, and the place all play a huge role and add depth to the book. With stand out main characters and sharp, funny dialogue Georgette Heyer is an entertaining read from start to finish.

Over all Black Sheep was a lighter quicker read than Heyer’s An Infamous Army or Friday’s Child. While it’s defiantly shorter in length the feeling of the novel was also very different. The romance between Abigail and Miles Calverleigh, between these two older characters, is less formal than the romances in some of the other books. Abigail, sure that she couldn’t be in love, is just enjoying what she thinks of as a mild flirtation with the hopes of helping Fanny. But it hits her that her feelings are much, much more. Miles on the other hand realizes that Abigail is it from the start and won’t take no for an answer.

And the end? It’s perfect. I don’t think that I’ve enjoyed a Heyer ending more, and that’s saying a lot since they’re all good. Black Sheep is now one of my all time favorites and even though I’ve just finished it I think I might have to read it again. It’s that good.

'Superpowers' by David J. Schwartz


ISBN: 0307394409
Format: Paperback, 384pp
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Pub. Date: June 2008
Price: $14.95

(Note: this cover is the UK one. I just like it better)

The big question with this one is: Do you have to be a comics fan to get it? Easy answer: No you don’t. But it helps. Reading this novel you can tell the author is a huge fan. Big names like The Hulk, Spider Man, and Batman are dropped pretty early on and a conversation with a comic book store clerk confirms the fandom. But even if you aren’t into the graphic side of life there’s a good chance you’ll find something to like about David J. Schwartz's Superpowers.

“It all started with a party, which is damn convenient if you ask me, and if this weren’t a true story I wouldn’t expect you to believe it.” Marcus Hatch, an ex-reporter for his college paper with a bent toward conspiracy theories, writes in his introduction. He’s the one who recounts the tale of five collage students who suddenly find life holds more than they thought it could. In Wisconsin, on a street called Mifflin, a group of average collage kids get together to celebrate the end of term. The five settle into their home brewed beers never expecting that they will wake up the next morning and everything will have changed.

All five wake up with a superpower. Jack, a farm kid going to school full time and working, brewed the beer and wakes up with speed. Charlie, who has a crush on his neighbor Caroline and always seems to be worrying about something, wakes up with the power of telepathy. Caroline, the flirt that has caught Charlie’s attention, can now fly. Harriet, dedicated to the school paper and her love of music, can now turn invisible at will. Last but not least is Mary Beth who wakes up with super strength, a power that fits her best because out the whole group she could use it the most.

What these five discover is that having superpowers isn’t all fun and games. Each character has hardships and obstacles that they must face and overcome before they can grow and truly understand themselves and the gift they’ve been given. They have to decide if they should keep this to themselves or do some good with it by sharing with the world.

Superpowers will definitely hook you if you’re a 15 and up guy. There’s drinking and some sexual situations so this isn’t a book I’d pass off to anyone younger. And the writing is styled to hit the older market for young adults and beyond. It’s bittersweet, a lesson buried in there if you want to look about morality and responsibility, and if not the story is entertaining and unusual.

We’ve all heard the old adage ‘write what you know’ and to an extent Schwartz has done that. Sure he might not have the superpowers (or does he?) but he lived on Mifflin Street (where the characters live) and spent a lot of time in the area he based his novel around. You can feel that while reading, that this is a real place and real time and that maybe, just maybe, this could really happen.

'The Painter from Shanghai' by Jennifer Cody Epstein


ISBN: 0393065286
Format: Hardcover, 416pp
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Pub. Date: March 2008
Price: $24.95

After turning the last page in The Painter from Shanghai, my first thought was one of amazement. This is Jennifer Cody Epstein’s first novel and it flows off the page as if some famous historical author had penned it. Which I’m sure she will be in time.

With a deft talent, not unlike a skilled painter, Jennifer Cody Epstein brings to life Pan Yuliang a “one-time prostitute, postimpressionist, and adopted Parisian” who lived from 1899-1977. Pan Yuliang was infamous as much for her past as her nude self-portraits, and Jennifer Cody Epstein brings this woman to life on the pages. Yuliang is a character so real that once the book is closed, she haunts you.

We are first introduced to Yuliang in 1957, working in a studio in France. She’s painting two nude models, swept up in her work, but the past creeps in. In the first few pages you are swept away by the strength of the woman on the page, her view of the world. Only once we have met her as a semi-successful artist do we go back and get the rest of the story.

At the age of fourteen Yuliang is sold into prostitution in Wuhu by her only living relative, an opium addicted uncle. Soon she has adapted to life in the Flower House, becoming the top-girls protégée and eventually taking over the spot. Here she meets Pan Zanhua, a government official who buys her out of her contract at the Flower House.

Yuliang goes to live with Zanhua which causes a stir in the town of Wuhu. But Zanhua isn’t just interested in her body or the services she could perform for him. He is unexpected in every way to Yulaing, in that he speaks to her as an equal and is interested in thoughts and beliefs. The two fall in love and Yliang becomes his second wife. Zanhua is a rock for Yuliang, supporting her ambitions for education and eventually her dreams to paint.

When the gossip becomes too much in Wuhu and begins to affect Zanhua’s career he moves Yuliang to Shanghai. It is in Shanghai that Yuliang starts to really sketch and expand on her natural born talent. She eventually attends school and goes abroad to study in France and Italy. Yulaing becomes famous for her nude self portraits as well as her blend of Western and Eastern styles. Yulaing’s dedication to her art eventually leads to her becoming a target of the Chinese government.

I have no real complaints with this novel. You are treated to the high points of Yuliang’s life and not bogged down with extra information, which in turn moves the novel forward at a steady pace that never falters. From her life in the false beauty of the Flower House to the streets of Paris, and the city and people in-between, Jennifer Cody Epstein breathes life into Pan Yulaing and when the book ends she only leaves you wanting more.

The Painter from Shanghai is by turns sad and uplifting, brilliant and bright as only an artist’s life can be. But Pan Yuliang isn’t the only artist on the page. Jennifer Cody Epstein paints this painter’s life with words, leaving the mind full of colorful images and half dreams as the pages swirl by.

'Making Money' by Terry Pratchett


ISBN: 0061161640
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $25.95

Moist Von Lipwig is the original con man. He’s so good at it that he’s conned the entire city of Ank-Morpork into believing he’s honest and trustworthy. The thing is that they believe in him even though he keeps telling them they shouldn’t! After all, Ank-Morpork loves a good show. In Going Postal Moist took over the dying Ank-Morpork postal service and turned into a jewel of the city. So when the Royal Bank of Ank-Morpork falls on some hard times the obvious choice is the man in the Golden Suit.

Lord Vetinari, in a very Vetinari move, lets Moist maneuver himself into the job; a job that Moist is convinced he doesn’t necessarily want. But lately the Post Office just hasn’t felt the same and Moist is missing that zing from life that lets him know he’s alive. It doesn’t help that his fiancé, Adore Belle Dearheart or Spike for short, is away hunting Golems. With her gone Moist has resorted to Extreme Sneezing and picking all the locks in the Post Office building in the dark to get that zing.

But once Moist takes over the Royal Bank life is crackling again. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to convince the city that paper money is just as good as gold. Especially when the bank vaults turn out to be empty and oh-so-serious Mr. Bent, manger of the bank, decides that Moist isn’t the right kind of man for the job. With Cosmo Lavish, part owner of the bank, dreaming of being Vetinari and a man from Moist’s dark past creeping up from behind, Moist has a lot on his plate.

There are always a few supporting characters that steal the show. I’ve always been partial to the Igors when they show up, in whatever incarnation, and of course the Golems. In Making Money my hands down favorite was Mrs. Lavish. How fantastic is a gin-swilling, silver-cross-bow-toting old woman? Fantastic I tell you! Of course the Chairman was good too. How can you not love a dog that is partial to the kind of goodies kept in a bedside drawer? My one complaint with this whole wonderful book is that I felt Pratchett could have gone into more detail with the Royal Mint and the men who actually make the money, The Men of the Sheds. Instead these aspects were glossed over, mystery hinted at but never uncovered. I hate to complain (says the complainer) but I wanted more damnit! More!

However when I’m feeling a bit down and need a laugh I pick up my well loved paperback copy of (insert title here). You can’t go wrong with any of the Discworld novels. But, like his characters, Prachett is well rounded. He’ll make you laugh and think, possibly even tear up before a book ends. (Usually with laughter) Pratchett uses his humor to comment on the world today and the relevant issues we face. But he’s never preachy about it and he doesn’t let it get in the way of a good story.

If you are going to read Terry Pratchett for the first time I wouldn’t start with Making Money. You’ll get more out of this title if you’ve read Going Postal (especially since both books contain the same set of characters) and you’d get even more out of it if you’ve read the rest of the Discworld series.

'The Thirty-Nine Steps' by John Buchan


ISBN: 0141033738
Format: Paperback, 148pp
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Price: $10.00

First published in 1915, The Thirty-Nine Steps is John Buchan’s first book in which Richard Hannay has one of his many adventures. This newest edition is part of Penguin’s Great Books for Boys collection, which focuses on celebrating the adventurer within every boy. It’s not just boys who have an inner adventurer. The series, whether you’re young or old, male or female, will appeal to those who enjoy a thrilling edge-of-your-seat read.

Set just four weeks before World War I, The Thirty-Nine Steps is the story of Richard Hannay and his entanglement with international spies and a German plot to steal British military secrets. He is bored with London life and is considering moving on when he meets his seemingly normal upstairs neighbor. The man, who begs to be let into his apartment, soon tells a tale too grand to be a lie.

He is an American spy with knowledge of an assassination to take place on June 15th and that will rock Europe. Upon hearing the truth in the man’s words, Richard decides to help him. When he arrives home one evening to discover the spy’s body with a knife sticking through the heart, Richard realizes how entangled he has become. With one man murdered and the killers after him, Richard decides to run - and stay on the run until the 15th comes around so he can try to prevent the murder of another innocent man.

Through the wilds of Scotland, Richard is chased by a dark, unknown enemy, as well as his own country’s police. Between frantic chase scenes and thrilling escapes, Richard tries to unlock the secrets held in the murdered American spy’s diary. The diary is the key to it all, and Richard could save the day if only he could discover what “the thirty-nine steps” means before it’s too late.

One of the things I loved so much about this book was the feel for the era. It helps that it was written about the time the novel took place. I just don’t think, no matter how meticulously you do your research, that a modern author could have hit the same chords or achieved the same feeling. From the language and settings to the places and people, The Thirty-Nine Steps is perfect entertainment.

The book is short, just 160 pages, and you’ll want to read it all in one go. From the moment you first meet Richard as he becomes embroiled in a plot that covers nations, you just can’t put the book down. Honestly, why would you want to?

'Friday's Child' by Georgette Heyer


ISBN: 1402210795
Format: Paperback, 432pp
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Price: $12.95

If you’re looking for a good laugh with your Regency romance, look no father than Friday’s Child, another of Georgette Heyer’s engrossing and unforgettable novels.

Lord Sherrington - Sherry for short - is exactly the kind of young man any woman would be lucky to have; rich, well bred, and dashing, he has any number of nice qualities to recommend him. Or so he thinks, and when the Incomparable Beauty Miss Milborne, a childhood friend, refuses him in marriage he can’t understand why. On top of that, she accuses him of being a libertine and a gambler who doesn’t love her anyway. But Sherry isn’t going to give up on marriage that easily; it just might not involve Miss Milborne.

Sherry is determined that he should be married before his 25th birthday so that he might come into his inheritance sooner. Of course, it doesn’t help that he has a number of gambling debts hanging over his head, nothing too deep mind you, but just enough to make a gentleman a bit nervous. Sherry swears as he leaves Miss Milborne that he will marry the first woman he meets. Fortunately for him, that woman is Miss Hero Wantage.

Hero, another childhood friend of Sherry’s, has worshiped him from day one, and when he sweeps her off her feet in a run away marriage she feels just like Cinderella. Of course Hero might not be as beautiful as Miss Milborne or as refined and educated, but she has her charms, namely among them her innocence and complete trust in Sherry. So when Sherry says that it will be a marriage of convenience and he won’t interfere with her life if she doesn’t interfere with his, she agrees. However, going from a quiet country life as a poor relation to the bride of one of the more eligible men in London, Hero is sure to get herself into a few tight spots. Between Sherry’s wonderful friends, who take it upon themselves to look after Hero and of course Sherry, they manage to pull her out of each one with only a few minor scrapes and her reputation intact.

The premise for Friday’s Child is one that has been done a million times before and will be done a million times again. Girl and boy fall in love without realizing it or meaning to, and after a few slapstick mistakes, they live happily ever after. However, Georgette Heyer puts a smart spin on it, and with her secondary characters (here for comedic relief), the story comes to life. With each problem that Hero faces, you will both cringe and laugh. When Sherry finally realizes that he loves his wife above all things, you have to smile.

Friday’s Child is a cut above the rest, which is saying quite a lot since this is Georgette Heyer we’re talking about and all her books happen to be fantastic. Friday’s Child is filled with likable characters that stick with you and witty dialogue that will make you laugh out loud. This was one I simply couldn’t put down, and I even took it to the gym with me and turned pages while I cycled away to nowhere. It’s just that great.

'Window on the Square' by Phyllis A. Whitney



Danger, romance, and suspense! All these things can be found in Phyllis A. Whitney’s Window on the Square. Published in 1962, this classic novel of romantic suspense was called a “haunting absorbing suspense” by the Columbus Enquirer and “a superior whodunit” by the New York Morning Telegraph.

The scene is late fall in New York in the 1870’s. The weather is just starting to get colder, leaves falling to skitter across the pavement, and the smell of snow is in the air. The women are wearing long gowns complete with bustles, and Megan Kincaid is all alone in the world. She recently lost her mother and only sibling, a younger brother with a disability, in a runaway coach accident. Megan, armed only with her inferior dressmaking skills, is facing the unknown.

Megan’s salvation comes in the guise of Mrs. Brandon Reid. At one time Leslie Reid had been married to the prominent New York District Attorney, Dwight Reid, the golden child of the city, who was gunned down in an unfortunate accident involving his seven-year-old son, Jeremy. Now Mrs. Reid is married to Dwight’s older brother, Brandon, and the house in which the murder happened is filled with the echoes of a single gun shot.

Asked to the house under the pretense of making Mrs. Reid a new gown, Megan knows her paltry skills would in no way please the coldly elegant beauty that is Leslie Reid. Once at the house on Washington Square, Megan is interviewed not by Mrs. Reid, but Mr. Reid. He apologizes for the false pretense and quickly explains he had heard of her wonderful success with her disabled brother and wonders if she would be willing to work with his nephew Jeremy.

Jeremy, he explains, is troubled and is heading down a path in which he could be lost forever. Megan, seeing the need of the small child, quickly agrees and moves into the house on Washington Square where she is installed on the third floor - but things in this elegant house filled with elegant people are not as they ought to be.

Observing Mr. and Mrs. Reid’s relationship, Megan notices the chill and reserve they both wear at times; the masks they use to hide whatever burning emotions lurk beneath. Mrs. Reid’s old governess, and now the keeper of Jeremy’s younger sister, Selina, Miss Garth instantly dislikes Megan and viscously attacks her character on several occasions. The children’s tutor, Mr. Beach, warns Megan that Jeremy is a lost cause and that she should escape the house as soon as possible, least something horrible befall to her.

What really happened that night so long ago between Jeremy and his father? Why does Miss Garth so viciously dislike Megan? What is it that Mr. Beach is so afraid will happen? Why does Mrs. Reid stay closed away in her room? And why, oh why, is Mr. Brandon Reid going out of his way to please Megan?

You will be kept on the edge of your seat as the story unfolds and Megan comes closer and closer to a truth that will destroy the imagined peace at the house on Washington Square.

'Deep Inside' by Polly Frost


ISBN: 0765315874
Format: Paperback, 272pp
Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Pub. Date: May 2007
Price: $12.95

When I first came across Deep Inside I wasn’t sure what to think. Science Fiction Erotica? That had to mean there was going to be tentacle sex in there somewhere.

Now I’ve seen a lot of Japanese animation involving this idea, not all of it hentai, so it’s not like that idea is completely new. Okay, so maybe it’s strange but only as strange as that guy in the back of the bus wearing nothing but a trench coat and a pair of gym socks. Or your parent’s locked bedside table drawer.

But Deep Inside has more to offer than just tentacles. It also contains virgin sacrifice complete with Catholic School girls in uniform, a couple who experiments with piercing, serial killers and a dominatrix. What collection would be complete without one of those? If you are looking for your standard ‘tie me up, tie me down’ type of erotica this isn’t it. Nothing about Deep Inside is standard or what you have come to expect from the genre.

From “The Threshold” to “Deep Inside”, the title story of the collection, you meet virgins and voyeurs, addicts, masturbation masters, aliens with a hard on for humans, and anything you can think of in between. Frost builds each story, crafting backgrounds and character histories, and then punctuates them with sex. So while it is erotica, these stories actually have plot and Frost’s voice comes across the page strong and clear.

The ideas behind the stories contained within Deep Inside are over the edge. I can promise you will never look at alien abduction or piercing the same way again. This collection of stories pushes the boundaries of what you might find enticing, stimulating, or liberating and Polly Frost will take your unsuspecting mind into an unknown you might even enjoy.

'Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life' by Steve Martin


ISBN: 1416553649
Format: Hardcover, 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pub. Date: November 2007
Price: $25.00

A friend of mine passed along her copy of Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life with glowing praise and I sat down to read it with high expectations.

It’s hard not to be familiar with Steve Martin in some way, shape, or form. From his stand up, which made him famous and opened doors for him, to the books and movies he’s written and starred in, Steve Martin has a face that is instantly recognizable.

Born Standing Up isn’t about Steve Martin’s successful years as a stand up comedian. It’s about the years it took to get to that point, the time invested and material tested before he became the best. The final chapter almost comes as a shock, you go from reading about setbacks and small triumphs, until suddenly it all explodes and there stands Steve Martin, at the top.

In a voice that is precise yet fluid, Martin lays his past before the readers. His is an unemotional voice; these are the facts, beautifully written but not embellished. His life growing up, scenes with his father, his detachment from his family and reconnection in later years; all these things are gone through, but quickly and with no bitterness or regret.

Martin goes over his early years growing up, summers spent working in Disneyland in joke and magic shops. His fleeting crushes on pretty faces and the hopes that a smooth card trick might do the trick. It was wonderful to read and see how his passion and dedication grew as he aged, his desire to perform started so early and just intensified as the years passed.

Through his young adult years, awkward and filled with passing loves, into his adult years the passion for getting up in front of crowd never wavered. From dark and seedy bars, a stint at Knott’s Berry Farm, Playboy clubs, and eventually the big times Steve talks about his routine; how he worked on it, tightened it, and eventually turned it into what would make a crowd laugh hysterically for hours.

Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life is a wonderful look into the life of a stand up comedian, but not just any comedian. Steve Martin has done it all, suffered through the worst of the worst and come out the other side as one of the most famous names in the business. It’s sharp and insightful, early on there are a few pages that tug at the heart, but mostly it’s just an engrossing look at what life is like when you’re born standing up.

'The Somnambulist' by Jonathan Barnes


ISBN: 0061375381
Format: Hardcover, 353pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: February 2008
Price: $23.95

Peopled with the odd and the outstanding, The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes is a macabre tale of crime told by an almost nameless narrator. We are warned from the beginning that this book contains no literary value and that we should not become attached to its characters. Of course the narrator does leave it up to us to decide and in the end you can’t help but be engrossed by the characters and tale that is spun like a web across the page.

Edward Moon is a man who once was the toast of this 19th century London; he is a conjuror, an illusionist of the highest order who also has a reputation for solving the unsolvable crimes that baffle the police. A constant companion to Moon is the Somnambulist, a man with no other name, who is completely silent, communicates via a chalk board and has a passion for milk.

But Moon has seen better times; he is past his prime, hair finally starting to thin and clothes which were once the height of fashion now worn. He belongs to an older time, an older London in which there were great criminal cases to occupy his mind and his theater was full every night as he performed his illusions with the Somnambulist. Those times have passed. A new century has begun and it seems as if Edward Moon will fade into the past, something he is loathe to do.

When there is a mysterious murder Detective Merryweather comes to Moon for help. Moon, desperate and bored, jumps at the chance to prove that he still has his edge and with the Somnambulist in tow he jumps into the investigation. But like any good 19th century sensation novel The Somnambulist is a twisty, curvy tale that leads you in many directions as once. While the answer in the end is constant the question throughout the book changes. The murder is just the tip of the iceberg and soon Moon is trying to uncover a conspiracy that could bring London to her knees.

The characters are unique and wonderful by turns as well as sick and depraved. My favorites are the deadly duo, those cheerful bringers of death and destruction, the Prefects. Yes, from the moment they stabbed someone in the heart with an umbrella and opened it they had my heart. These two men, one large and one small, are always dressed in school boy uniforms and both have permanently cheerful demeanors. You can’t do anything but love, or be slightly sickened by this very imaginative, murderous pair. There are also such standouts like The Fly, Mina a bearded prostitute, a man who lives his life backward, a vagrant that carries a sign which reads “Surely I Am Coming Soon. Revelation 22:20” and an albino civil servant with a penchant for arson.

In the final chapters the narrator is revealed and the story which up until this point was more of a period crime novel with elements of the fantastic becomes complete fantasy. It builds slowly so that once this change finally does happen it makes complete sense and you can’t imagine the story taking any other turn. The Somnambulist is a dark and slightly odd tale that is not to be missed whether you’re a fan of… well anything. This is simply a must read.

'Seduction More Beautiful Than Love...' Vol. 1 by Lee Hyeon-Sook


Price: $9.99
ISBN: 142780608X
Format: Paperback, 192pp
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Pub. Date: March 2008

If you’re looking for a romance with a bit of drama, then look no farther than Seduction More Beautiful Than Love by Lee Hyeon-Sook. SBL was first published in a discontinued manga magazine entitled White, but Hyeon-Sook has made some character changes and minor plot changes for the Tokyopop volumes. So if you’ve read this one before it’s worth taking another look.

Daoun is in her first year of teaching high school when she meets Ryumin, a very handsome senior, who is known as the school’s Prince Charming. Daoun can’t help but be attracted to mysterious Ryumin, who is more man than boy, and when the attraction appears to be mutual she isn’t sure what she’ll do.

Determined to remain coolly professional, Daoun puts her best teacher face forward. Ignoring Ryumin’s staring eyes and trying to forget his haunting words she goes on with her job. It pays off when she gets made a temporary homeroom teacher. Daoun is beyond ecstatic and determined to prove herself worthy.

Then out of the blue an old friend shows up, Hyunwoo was an old classmate and is now a new work colleague. Though Dauon hasn’t noticed he is more than just a little in love with her, he is head over heels. But Hyunwoo is shy and when he makes an effort to share the perfect day with Daoun it all goes wrong.

With tall, dark, and handsome but highly mysterious Ryumin pursuing Daoun and Hyunwoo trying his best to make her notice there is a steamy love triangle in the making. But Ryumin has a jealous girlfriend waiting in the wings and Daoun seems to be blind to both men’s attention as the drama at school escalates.

The artwork on this one is average. There are some scenes where the faces are left blank and I found that a bit jarring at first but as the story moved forward it ceased to bother me. The drama/romance picks up quickly and you just can’t help but turn pages as awkward situations are blown out of proportion or misconstrued. Seduction More Beautiful Than Love or SBL will keep any soap opera fan turning pages.

'Blood Price' by Tanya Huff


Price: $6.99
ISBN: 0756405017
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 272pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

I was in my favorite used bookstore the other day when I ran across a copy of Blood Price by Tanya Huff. I’ve heard a ton of good things about the series and I picked it up because I’m a sucker for anything with a vampire in it. I wasn’t disappointed.

Blood Price is the first in the Blood series which centers around an ex-cop and a vampire. Vicki “Victory” Nelson was the best detective on the force in Toronto and she left at the top of her game. Now a year later she’s working as a private investigator but she’s bitter about the circumstances in which she left.

Coming home late one night on the subway she hears a scream and runs to investigate. Though she knows that it’s a stupid thing to do without back up, and without even a badge, Vicki rushes into an unknown situation just to prove to herself that she still has what it takes. She finds much more than she was counting on.

Across the city people are dying in a horrific way; their throats are being torn out and their bodies drained of all blood. Henry Fitzroy is furious when he sees the headlines in the paper, and knowing that it’s only a matter of time before the public starts screaming ‘Vampire’ - he decides to do something about it.

When Vicki and Henry’s paths finally cross each must make the decision to trust the other. Henry gets someone to confide his secret in, the fact that he is a vampire, and Vicki gets a supernatural edge on a case that just seems to get worse. Throw in detective Mike Celluci, Vicki’s ex-partner as well as lover, a demon terrorizing the city of Toronto and you’ve got a paranormal mystery that’s hard to beat.

Blood Price is a great book. You get such a feel for the characters, especially Vicki, and each one comes across solid and three dimensional. One of the things that makes the difference is the fact that each back story is so well thought out. Henry Fitzroy is made more real for each flashback and Vicki and Mike are perfect because of their tumultuous history. You become lost in the story, and trust me it’s easy to do, as the three try to find a killer that is less than human.

Another cool thing for those fans of Tanya Huff is that this series has been adapted into a television series, Blood Ties, on Lifetime. I might have to break down and get cable just so I can watch this series because if it’s even half as good as Blood Price then I’m already a fan.

'Stardust' by Neil Gaiman


Price: $13.95ISBN: 0061142026Format: Paperback, 250ppPublisher: HarperCollins PublishersI bought a copy of Stardust a few months before the movie came out in 2007. I told myself firmly that I would not see the movie until after I had read the book. But there always seemed to be something else I needed to be reading or wanted to read so Stardust sat on my shelf as the release date for the movie came and went. I listened to my friends gush and rave about the movie; how not since The Princess Bride had they loved a fairy tale so much. But as badly as I wanted to go and see it I resisted the temptation, standing firm by my choice to read the book first. In the end, I saw the movie first. I’m a firm believer that no matter what the book is always better. I don’t care what movie or book it is; I don’t care who wrote it or who is directing it. The book is better, hands down. In the case of Stardust I have to admit that they are both equally wonderful. There are differences between the book and the movie, just enough that I felt as if the two don’t compete against each other for the number one spot in my heart. The movie stays true to the spirit of the book while adding a whole new element to this swashbuckling tale of adventure and true love. In my opinion there just aren’t enough stories like this one, of course if this kind of fairy tale were common place I might not love it as much as I do. In the town of Wall, named for the wall by which it stands, a young man by the name of Tristran Thorn promises a fallen star to the town beauty in the hopes that it will capture her heart. Of course the story really starts much earlier than that, with a fair on the borders of faerie where a man falls in love with a girl who is not quite human. The fair, held every nine years, is the only time in which the local villagers of Wall are allowed to cross the wall. When Tristran wants to cross the wall years later he is permitted, though he does not realize why. Soon he is on his way across the magical lands of Faerie in search of the fallen star. Along the way he meets a strange little man who his father once did a good turn for; the stranger in turn helps Tristran along his way. Once Tristran finally finds the star, who just happens to be a girl, it isn’t long before he loses her. Of course, he isn’t the only one after the star and in the end becomes the Star’s rescuer as he battles ancient witches and blood thirsty princes. There are elements of the fantastic, the wonderful and bizarre, and Neil Gaiman touches on the fairy tales we grew up reading. Red caps are mentioned and a unicorn and lion battle it out for a crown; these are scenes from much earlier tales that trigger the part of your brain that truly believes that magic is real and happy endings do come true. As if we could ever really stop believing. Filled with talking trees, princes and princesses, magic and wonder, witches, and of course a wonderful love story, Stardust should not be missed. There is also the element of humor, which to me smacks of Terry Pratchett who co-wrote Good Omens with Gaiman, but the humor, in the end, is purely Gaiman. An example of this is once the star has fallen to earth and he has spent the better part of a page describing the beautiful star falling, “And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice which said, “Ow,” and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck,” and then it said “Ow,” once more.” I just had to laugh as I read that, I don’t know how you couldn’t. So read the book and see the movie, in which ever order you like. If you haven’t already read the book but loved the movie I hope it inspires you to dip into Gaiman’s unforgettable fairy tale. I’m not going to say it’s be[...]



I'm getting a divorce. For whatever reason I've decided to call it quits. The reason doesn't matter. Okay, that's a giant lie; but let's just pretend that it doesn't matter. Let's say no one was at fault, that my marriage just didn't work out. "That's how the cookie crumbles" and other little annoying sayings will now be repeated to me for the next year. When they (coworkers, family, friends, and strangers in the bar I start to talk to after one drink too many) ask me if I'm okay in a tone of voice that makes me want to open their mouths and shove tennis balls down their throats, I'll just say I'm fine. I'm fine. Dandy. Wonderful. Freaking Fantastic - and yes, I will say it with capital letters. Before I knew it I had written my name next to his for the last time. It was a final sheet of almost blank paper with titles like "The Petitioner" and other legal jargon typed across it. As the ink slowly dried on the page, a stark black that is now forever imprinted on my mind, it hit me that very soon I would be legally divorced. I'm 23-years-old. Aren't I a little young for this sort of thing? My husband and I were married before our 21st birthdays. We weren't even old enough to drink legally at our wedding, not that it mattered. I remember looking at my left hand while I sipped champagne - a ring, a band, a mark that said forever in silent desperate words. I have to admit it scared me even then. I beat most of my friends to the altar. They followed one by one, paired up and matched up like they were ready for the Flood to start and with looks on their lovesick faces like "Where's the damn boat?" If they aren't married they are thinking about getting married; and if they are married they are thinking about kids. And I'm getting divorced. I'm the perpetual third wheel, or fourth - if they already have a cute drooling bundle of soggy joy. That isn't the worst part. The worst part is when it comes to girls' nights out. They turn to me with sad cow eyes after talking about their kids and ask if I want kids. The word "no" rolls out so fast and hard off my tongue I swear you could clock it in at 90 miles an hour. I don't hesitate. I don't sit and think. I spit that word out before the god of mischief and misfortune decides to give me a surprise the next time my cycle comes around. Oops, birth control is only 98% effective and those little blue lines on the home test kits scare the crap out of me. If it isn't the sad cow face over kids, then I get the look for the fact that I just want to be alone right now. I don't want to be someone's wife, mother, or girlfriend. Right now I'm happy being me, relieved not to have to worry about anyone, or do someone else's laundry. I don't want to get married again. Sure I want a long-term relationship with a wonderful dreamboat man, but I don't want to live with anyone again. You can have your house and I'll have mine. We can do sleepovers and have pillow fights. I was lucky in that my divorce has been easy. It shouldn't be this easy. We had no debt, no kids, and no house. We shared a last name, something that very soon will be changed, and that was about it. I'm starting over for the first time. I'm doing things I had never done on my own: my first bank account, my first cell phone bill, and my first apartment. I missed out on a lot of firsts because I went straight from living with my family to living with my husband. I'm a divorced woman. Okay, so I'm not divorced yet since a judge hasn't signed the papers, but it's pending. Even though I wish it didn't, being divorced does come with a certain stigma. A very cute guy told me the other day that he would never date a divorced woman. My family doesn't believe in divorce. You hear the word divorce an[...]



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

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


ISBN: 1427807329Format: Paperback, 880ppPublisher: TOKYOPOPPub. Date: December 18, 2007Price: $19.99“So it was in the fall of my fifteenth year… that my first love died. He was just some broken guy I picked up on a rainy day… some lonely devil … who had beautiful dark gray eyes… and smelled like blood.”Don’t expect it to end happily. Not everything does. Don’t expect it to be perfect. Not everything is. Prepare to fall in love and get your heart broken. Prepare to hold your chin up knowing what will come and how it will turn out. You won’t turn away, not because you wouldn’t like to but because you can’t. When Chiaki meets Ororon he’s sitting in the rain, soaked and hurt, waiting to die. But she takes him home with her, against the advice of her best friend Rika, and treats his wounds. Chiaki is just one of those people with a good heart; a pacifist to her core, she abhors violence, so when she learns that this mysterious man she’s rescued is none other than the King of Hell she isn’t sure what to think. But her heart, which very rarely has anything to do with the head, falls in love with him anyway. Ororon immediately recognizes Chiaki for what she is and understands why she has been followed all her life by monsters and ghosts, and why she can give them a kind of release. Chiaki is the daughter of an angel and a human, but not just any angel — her father was the Archangel Michael. But can a half breed angel and the Lord of Hell not only coexist but love? Because Chiaki has saved Ororon’s life he offers to grant her one wish. That wish? For Ororon to stay with her forever, which he grants without a moment's hesitation. But Ororon and Chiaki aren’t going to have it easy. Ororon left his throne and ran into the mortal world, trying to escape the constant assassination attempts made by his older brothers, each of which want the throne for themselves. They aren’t going to stop just because he’s left hell. With a large cast of characters ranging from the wonderfully cute demon cat brothers Shiro and Kuro, demon house keeper Miss Lucy, Ororon’s brother Othello — not to mention the many evil brothers and demons that come into play — this story moves swiftly and surely toward the inevitable ending. This is Romeo and Juliet between Hell and Heaven. The damned and the good falling in love and struggling to find that middle ground where life can be lived in all gray tones; where the stark bleak realities of a black and white world don’t overshadow a tender passion surrounded by blood and sin.The Demon Ororon should be recommended reading for everyone, a timeless story filled with enough gore to keep the guys turning pages while the heart-wrenching love story will keep most girls involved. Not to mention the elongated stylized bodies, and the tilted faces with side long glances that pop from the page and bring each moment into painful reality. On December 18th Tokyopop is releasing an edition with all four volumes in one. Trust me, you will want to read it this way, because once I finished volume one I couldn’t stop until I had devoured the others. Lose yourself in The Demon Ororon — a story of heartbreak and belonging, of fighting and loving and lessons in how, in the end sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.[...]

'Dancing with Werewolves' by Carole Nelson Douglas


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ISBN: 1427803951Format: Paperback, 192ppPublisher: TOKYOPOPPub. Date: May 2007Price: $9.99Pamela is a Tarot Card reader for the supernatural. Ghosts, werewolves, fairies, immortals, dragons, and other worldly beings all come to her for help. Whether she reveals something about themselves that they had not realized or points them in the right direction, Pamela touches each of their lives and in turn they touch hers. As the story has progressed we’ve learned about Pamela’s dark and miserable past. We have learned that with the death of Ash, a dragon and Pamela’s lover, centuries before Pamela has became immortal. When his blood was spilled it touched her first, marking her and setting her apart from the rest of humanity. Lost without Ash, Pamela has spent her immortality searching for a way to end her life, convinced that there I nothing worth living for with Ash gone. Belus, the mysteriously handsome man who hangs around the café, has offered to help Pamela achieve her goal if she will do one thing for him. Pamela must find all the missing beads of Berial’s legendary necklace. Slowly but surely Pamela has collected bead by bead and soon will have all the beads she needs to fulfill her contract with Belus. But Belus, who when he first met Pamela centuries before, told her that she wasn’t really his type has gone soft on her. Concerned with her well being, bent on protecting her, Belus is struggling with himself torn by hidden agendas and the desire to keep things between him and Pamela as they are. Episode 14 “Leanan Sidhe (Two)” finishes the tale started in volume four. The famous rock singer narrowly escapes the clutches of his beautiful but deadly muse. While the muse, a dangerous woman known as the Leanan Sidhe, wonders if the rocker really cared for her at all or just the talent she offered. In Episode 15 “Perfume” Ash reveals himself to be completely ruthless. Though he is not exactly the dragon that Pamela once loved he does seem to have memories of her. He is also jealous of the relationship that has grown between Pamela and Belus, though he does not seem to want her for himself he doesn’t exactly want Belus to have her.When Ash takes part in the kidnapping of Pamela, Belus rushes to her rescue. A twisted perfume maker is draining blood from Pamela to make a perfume of youth, Pamela’s blood being the main ingredient since it is immortal. But to get Pamela to a point where they could take her blood Ash has used a perfume on her that makes her relive her worst memories. Stuck in a dream that will not end Pamela sees Ash’s death once again. Reliving the cold horrible moments of an attempted rape by a monk, realizing that Ash knew it had happened but done nothing to save her, and finally watching her lover die in her arms. To wake Pamela from her horrible past Belus learns that she must have the blood from someone’s heart. Does he love her enough to give his life for hers? Episode 16 “Tree and Long-Horned Beetle” was one of the more heart wrenching stories of the entire series. A small abused boy makes friends with a tree spirit and when the boy’s father almost kills him the tree spirit makes the ultimate sacrifice for the boy. This volume of The Tarot Café is the best one so far. We’ve learned so much about Pamela along the way and the end of her story is coming. Nebiros, the man that the werewolf Aaron has been looking for, also makes a small appearance letting us know that he plays a much larger role in this game than we could ever realize. How it will end, who knows? I’m looking forward to findi[...]

'Dark Lullaby' by Mayra Calvani


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Arm of Kannon' by Masakazu Yamaguchi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ISBN: 1595328149Format: Paperback, 184ppPublisher: TOKYOPOPPub. Date: December 2005Price: $9.99The Tarot Café just gets better and better as it goes along. Dragons, fairies, werewolves, water spirits, and ghosts all reveal their stories and in doing so show us bits and pieces of Pamela’s past. This tarot reading café owner is the big draw for me. As the series has gone on I’ve just gotten more involved in her story and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. In Episode 11 “A Butterfly in My Dreams” Pamela helps a brother and sister reconcile long after they have wronged each other. I really enjoy that each of the little episodes throw in a twist at the end, sometimes it’s a bit clichéd but it always somehow seems to work. This one is no exception, you have characters that are seemingly straight forward until the end. I guess I should learn to recognize this by now, since none of Pamela’s customers are never what they appear to be. In Episode 12 the “Contract” we find out who Berial was and a bit of history about his legendary necklace. Berial was considered the prince of falsehood and deceit, a devil who held nothing sacred and his necklace was rumored to hold immense power. We once again dip into Pamela’s past, into her history and the recent death of her love Ash. When Pamela is accused of being a witch, just like her mother before her, Belus steps in to save her.Belus, the Prince of Pandemonium, wants Berial’s necklace for himself and sees a way to get it through Pamela. Without Ash Pamela feels that life is not worth living and tries to end it several times only to learn that she cannot die. Belus however offers her a contract, in return for the complete necklace of Berial he will grant her death. Belus also has more of a soft spot for Pamela than she might realize. Although he does claim that she isn’t his type he cares for her deeply despite the contract that has been forged between them. Something that the reincarnated or amnesia suffering, whatever it is, Ash has a problem with. Episode 13, “Leanan Sidhe (One),” introduces us to a rock star and his muse. Sasha is a no name until he comes across a legend about a woman who can make you famous. When he finds her he realizes that there is price for fame and that he might not be willing to pay that price. But Pamela is approached not only by Sasha but also by the muse who is seeking redemption. The story for this one continues into the next volume. Some of the artwork in this one is a little different than the first three volumes. The full page illustration depicting the tarot card at the first page of episode twelve is darker in tone, heavily shadowed instead of the delicate line work that has been showcased before. Just as lovely, only different and in the volume it is the only example of that style. There were also more full page characterizations in this one compared to volume three. I’ve already picked up volumes five and six, I just can’t seem to stop myself and I have ear marked volume seven for purchase once it is released in 2008. The Tarot Café is a great series so far, with a little bit of everything, and I can’t wait to continue reading.[...]

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


ISBN: 1595325573Format: Paperback, 192ppPublisher: TOKYOPOPPub. Date: September 2005Price: $9.99The Tarot Café continues in volume three of this seven part series. Pamela and Aaron, the werewolf with the painful past who now works at the café, are getting along well, even if he is a bit nosey. In the last volume, we were introduced to a character named Ash who wears a face out of Pamela’s past, a long dead love that is somehow tied into the fact that she cannot die herself. In this volume, the relationship between Pamela and Belus, which has been hinted at as being something more, starts to come out into the light. Though they aren’t lovers and not exactly friends, we have yet to see what the exact circumstances are. We learn that Pamela must collect all the pieces of Berial’s necklace, though who or what that person is remains a mystery, as part of a contract between herself and Belus. What this contract entails we haven’t learned yet beyond the fact that Pamela and Belus are tied to each other. Though Pamela cannot die, she can still be hurt and does feel pain. Belus can feel Pamela’s pain and tries to protect her as best he can. He has already come to her rescue several times, the last being from episode seven, “Witch Hunt,” when Ash and Pamela were abducted and almost killed. Episode eight, “The Star of Jealousy,” dips into Pamela’s distant past. In the year 1529, Pamela met a King who fell in love with a young slave but let his jealous emotions destroy the one thing he cared for. This story relates how Pamela came to have one of the major pieces of Beria’s necklace, a beautiful blue stone that holds the reddish ting of jealousy. Episode nine, “Lady of the Lake,” is the light hearted bit of volume three, as well as providing a little comic relief. While so far most of the stories in The Tarot Café have been bittersweet, this one actually has a happy ending. A broke collage student falls in love with a water spirit but becomes so wrapped up in giving her material things that he doesn’t realize all she really wants is his time. In episode ten, “Dragon Heart,” we learn the more about Ash and Pamela’s love affair. Though this new Ash resembles the one from the past, and could very well be, he seems to be suffering from amnesia - though he does seem to know Pamela from somewhere and have plans of his own for her. He also knows Belus, though what their connection is remains to be seen. When another face shows up out of Pamela’s past, she is stunned. Alecto was Ash’s best friend and for hundreds of years was convinced that Pamela had killed Ash. But when Alecto comes to take his revenge on Pamela and sees the current reincarnation of Ash, or whatever he is, Alecto changes his plans. The art, as with the previous volumes, continues to be wonderful. Though this volume lacked a lot of the full-page carefully drawn characterizations that the first two held, it does feature a few. There is more going on with each of the characters than meets the eye, and the story is really starting to pick up. Pamela isn’t the only one with a dark past, and it’s obvious that Belus and Ash both have hidden agendas. How it all relates to Pamela and Aaron, who is still looking for Nebiros, only time will tell.[...]

'Key to Conflict'


ISBN: 0441015034Format: Mass Market Paperback, 336ppPublisher: Penguin Group (USA)Pub. Date: May 2007Price: $7.99There is a reason people read reviews. One of the reasons is that hopefully you will not spend your hard earned cash on a book that will only disappoint you. Of course when you’re an impulse shopper, like me, and you see a cover that catches your eye sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. I really, really wanted to like Key to Conflict. It’s got a great plot idea and a few characters that really grab your attention. Unfortunately the end result is something short of what you might expect. It’s clumsy and awkward in spots, with too much detail and development in which the author shows you a lot of things without letting it just unfold onto the page. There just was not enough conversation to keep the book going; Indeed, Gryphon would tell you that certain characters had talked, and this just got to be a little boring. I don’t want to be told what they said, I just want to read it, damnit.Not to mention the fact that this is labeled fantasy… except that for just fantasy it sure does have a lot of sex going on. Or if not sex, then enough time spent inside Gillian’s head thinking about the hunky beautiful drop-dead-sexy males she finds herself surrounded by. They all want her too, she’s that perfect. I personally would have stuck this in the romance section, except that it wouldn’t really fit there either. Dr. Gillian Key is a Marine Paramortal Psychologist. So she kicks your ass and then she’s going to ask you how you feel about it. It’s an unusual combination, and it almost works. She is assigned to a master vampire by the name of Alesksei and a charming ghost and while she is there for their mental health she is also supposed to unearth some clues about Dracula. Yes, the Dracula, who is the ultimate in bad guys and just so happens to be stirring up trouble again. From there we learn that basically Dracula is trying to take over the world again and our brave and oh-so-sweet doctor has landed on the wrong side. By helping Alesksei, one of Dracula’s sworn enemies, Gillian has been made a target. But since part of her mission is to uncover information she’s in the perfect, if a bit tight, spot. Soon Gillian has formed a relationship with Tanis, Alesksei’s even cuter brother and the dead but very sexy turquoise-eyed ghost she’s treating for shock over his untimely death hundreds of years ago. And Alesksei has a thing for her too, but there is that whole doctor-patient line that Gillian doesn’t want to cross… well… until later, at least. The Dracula stuff never goes anywhere and nothing is resolved. There are hints of a second book with the open ending and I can only pray that if a sequel does show up it is less tell and more show. In the end I just started skipping pages, which I have to admit is not a good idea since there is so much information crammed onto each page to begin with. But I couldn’t bring myself to go back and read it. So I just gave up, and I hate to admit it but — this particular Key to Conflict just might have to remain lost in the couch cushions.[...]

'Suppli' Vol. 1 by Mari Okazaki


ISBN: 1427803145Format: Paperback, 192ppPublisher: TOKYOPOPPub. Date: November 2007Price: $9.99If you think that manga is not for you, you’re wrong. Whatever age range, or whatever genre you enjoy be it fantasy, mystery, or romance there is a series out there for you. And speaking of romance I just found my new favorite series, Suppli by Mari Okazaki. Minami is dedicated to her job working at an advertising agency and as a result her relationship with her boyfriend of seven years has suffered. He’s always there when she gets home and she expects him to be, taking their relationship for granted. But she’s unhappy, wondering why she can’t seem to get the words out to break up with him. But when he beats her to the punch she’s heartbroken.Once the relationship is over and the boyfriend gone, Minami realizes that she has no friends and knows no one except her work colleagues. At 27 she is afraid that she could end up alone, the office spinster, spending her time sitting in front of the TV and talking to herself, something she seems to do a lot of anyway. So when some people from the office talk about going out she makes sure she gets invited too. When Minami takes a break from Karaoke with the group Ishida, a younger co-worker, is waiting for her out in the hall. He is playful and kisses her but she doesn’t handle it well and later in the evening when she sees him reach for someone else’s hand she doesn’t think that he really likes her at all. She puts it behind her, thinking nothing else of it, although it is obvious that Ishida is smitten. Then Minami meets Ogiwara, who was hired at the same time and in the same age. He’s not as playful as Ishida, more down to earth but he’s also got a ghost hanging over him. He has recently broken up with someone as well but he seems to be taking his break up a lot harder than Minami took hers. He likes her though and in the end he asks if she could just be a shoulder for him to lean on. She agrees, wanting to be there for him and hoping that a relationship could blossom.There are some really sweet romantic moments here; the kind of things that just make your heart go pitter-patter. But it has some comedy too, so that over all you have a great balance between the drama and romance, which makes Suppli a lot like real life. Then the little bit of narration by Minami stuck here and there adds so much to the story, which gives it a very cinematic feel. I really like Minami, her thoughts and actions are those of any woman, no matter the age; but since this is rated 18+ it will definitely appeal to the 20-somethings out there. I think that when you read this one you might see a bit more of yourself than you expect as well. We’ve all gone through similar situations and can identify with Minami as she juggles work and the possibility of starting a new relationship. I’m really impressed with Suppli, the art is good and the Volume 2 is being released in July 2008 with volume 3 following up in March. There are six volumes but the release dates for the rest have not been set as of yet. Keep your eye on Tokyopop for the latest information though and keep your fingers crossed for Ishida, I like him best.[...]