Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book 54: Blood Ties

Blood Ties: A Bishop/Special Crimes Unit Novel (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit: Blood Trilogy)
I just read one of the most wonderful easy to read but complex story by Kay Hooper called Blood Ties. It was everything I wanted Must Love Hellhounds to be. A perfect distraction to just unwind with yet engaging all at the same time.

Blood Ties is book that combines several things I just love. It has the criminal aspect and the logical nature of Criminal Minds thanks to the Special Crimes Unit (SCU). Plus it has a supernatural hint to it since every member of the SCU have special capabilities. There are mediums, seers, people who can sense danger, telepaths, and etc. It’s that niche where it’s supernatural but they could still work in real life.

Basically the SCU is brought into a small town called Serenade. They have to explore a serial killer who goes to extremes. But in the process, they learn that old cases aren’t so far in the past. So it creates a tense situation.

The characters are so well developed. The fear, the trust, and the things you keep hidden from your co-workers all makes perfect sense. I love how Diana has baggage but someone like Quentin to rely on not to mention other co-workers (Hollis and DeMarco) but she also holds back too. Unsure how far she can push it.

There was reference pages in the back of the book. Mainly it was only character bios (would have liked a little bit more info- see the next paragraph). It was great to access since at times I really needed to see who was who. Like about 300 pages in, all of sudden Hollis mentions a Reese and I was confused since I thought it was her and DeMarco mainly in the room. But the bio page showed me that it’s Reese DeMarco, so Hollis was using his real name showing how intimate they were.

There is only one major problem with this book-I walked in pretty much blind to previous events. Apparently there are twelve books in the series before this one. Which is amazing since it reads so fresh and it’s like book three or four in a series since the characters have hit their stride. But I wish there were more then footnotes indicating which books to looks at for some of the previous events. I could have used a page in the back that just summed up the past books or something.

But overall I loved Blood Ties. It was a great book. A great book to read and get sidetracked from the massive amount of coughing I’m doing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Product 29: X2

Recently, I upgraded my beloved cellphone. I went from the Samsung Juke to the Motorala X2 powered by Droid. So this is a major upgrade. Up until this week I was loving the switch. The apps and the capabilities to the phone are amazing. Now I wish the latest update to the My Verizon app didn’t bring up an error message every time I unlock my phone and I could actually use the My Verizon app again.

The switch from the Juke to the X2 was a wee bit extreme. My Juke is a tiny phone (so tiny it can fit into the lipstick slot in my clutch purse) that opens up switchblade style. The X2 is huge in comparison. Plus I can’t just flip it open. Instead, it’s just a flat screen which I would have to hit a button and then unlock the phone. The size of the phone has been the biggest adjustment. I can’t just speed dial as easily as before but the contacts interface is easy enough.

The one thing I dislike is how the phone decided to sync up with my Facebook Account. While it’s nice to have everyone’s phone number, it’s not fun to have tons of duplicate contacts now. So I should get rid of the duplicates but I’m lazy. I just scroll to the old listings or go to favorites to dial out.

I love the app store. It’s so much fun. It’s not kidding to say the options are limitless. My phone can act like a tricorder, be a Kindle, be the source of a half dozen crossword puzzles, or just surf the web. It’s nice to have this many options. Most the apps work really well. Note the word most. Right now I’m having a huge glitch with the My Verizon app but from the looks of it, I’m not the only one. The newest upgrade basically just broke stuff for everyone and we just want the new upgrade to fix stuff.

Plus the camera on the phone is a great. I was able to take some nice quality photos from quite a distance at a recent Star Trek Con. But now days the cell phone cameras are so powerful, it’s not surprising.

The battery life to the phone seems to be pretty good. I do have to be religious about charging if I plan to do a lot of things with the phone compared to the Juke. I had an incident where I ran out of juice the day I really needed the phone to be on since I didn’t realized how quickly it would be zapped after it said it had 15% of life left. But at the same time, when I traveled cross country, I could play with the several of the apps a lot. Do a few crossword puzzles and the battery held up. So much so that the girl sitting next me made a comment how the battery life rocked. The more I play with the phone, the better I can judge the battery life. I know to bring the cord with me if I’m going away if I’m going to use the phone for entertainment.

Right now I’m not missing the Juke much. Which is saying a lot since I loved the Juke. Instead I’m happy to have a new phone. The X2 is ton of fun to play with.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book 53: Must Love Hellhounds

Must Love Hellhounds

Must Love Hellhounds was a disappointing read even though I did enjoy it. Part of it was probably the timing of the reading and some of it was the quality of short stories in the collection.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I love to read short story collections. Part of it is because usually the editing down the selections only has the cream of the crop and I can be expose to some new authors. This collection had only 4 stories. They were all more novellas.

Now there was one story that I just loved, “Angel’s Judgement”. This was a good story which had an unusual dynamic of angels, vampires, and vampire trackers. To see that hierarchy was neat. I would have never thought to add the angels to the whole world but to have them be overseers makes perfect sense.

The story by Charlaine Harris was okay. I will have to say I’m intrigued by the whole Britlingens thing and their world. But that environment was almost too big and too complicated to be in a novella. I loved how she randomly had Adonis and Amelia Earhart in hell’s jail but at the same time Amelia seemed to be far too innocent to be in jail for just stumbling upon a dimensional portal. But overall “Britlingens Go to Hell.”

The last two stories “Magic Mourns” and “Blind Spot” both had so much potential but didn’t live up to it. Especially in “Blind Spot” I wanted it to explain more. But they just weren’t a hundred percent on point.

As I said, part of the disliking the book could have been the timing of my reading. I’ve been more in the mood to read Star Trek books. That’s probably because I recently went to a Star Trek con and that always ignites the Trekkie in me. I’m one who believes if you are reading something against what your want to read, you are more prone to hate the book no matter how good it is.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Product 28: Marvis Cinnamon MInt

Marvis Cinnamon Mint Toothpaste

So one of the samples I’ve been sitting on until my vacation was Marvis Cinnamon Mint toothpaste. Marvis is one of those high end toothpastes that I enjoyed using even though I had every mixed thought about it during the trial process.

I’ve been looking forward to my Marvis toothpaste trial. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. I heard from a dentist who comes into Schillers that he thought it cleaned better then most toothpastes but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the $10.00 for a tube of toothpaste. Quite frankly it’s a bit steep for a post-graduation life, so if it wasn’t for the free sample, I’m not sure if I would have tried it this year. Since I held onto this sample, I got to hear the glowing reviews from my co-workers who enjoyed the sample.

The first thing I noticed when I first used it was that it had a similar consistency/texture as a prescription toothpaste I’ve used (and never liked). But I was so glad that unlike my prescription toothpaste, this toothpaste actually foamed up. So when I was brushing it really felt like I was getting a good clean without having to brush my gums raw.

I enjoyed the flavor of the toothpaste too. There was just that hint of cinnamon. It wasn’t overwhelming but it seemed to attack some of the toughest odors with a fairly decent result. I will admit when I went a little heavy on the garlic, I did have to brush my teeth twice to make sure I didn’t have garlic breath. But if I’m brushing with a toothpaste that is making me feel clean and tastes good, I’m totally cool with brushing twice.

So all in all, I like the Marvis toothpaste. I’m debating on trying a different flavor the next time I purchase the toothpaste. I know it will make the inner Suzie Orman scream at me for being wasteful with my money. But I think in the end it’s worth it.

Book 52: Star Trek Titan Over a Torrent Sea

Star Trek: Titan #5: Over a Torrent Sea
Sometimes having low expectations can be a good thing. At least that was the case for Star Trek Titan: Over A Torrent Sea by Christopher L. Bennett. In the end, I enjoyed the book.

As I said, I had low expectations for this Star Trek book. My friend, who gave me this book, reviewed it on her blog. Her review was less then stellar endorsement. Since her and my tastes tend to overlap to such a great degree especially in the trek universe, I take her opinion seriously.

But I ended up liking the book. It wasn’t stellar but it wasn’t bad. I’m glad I waited to read the book. If I read it like my friend immediately after reading the Destiny and Typhon Pact Series, I would have been let down. It just couldn’t live up to those two series even though it was good in it’s own right.

Over a Torrent Sea was something different to me. It’s rare you see the Trek Universe to dive so fully into an ocean world. Mainly that’s because it’s nearly impossible for the main characters to live underwater over extended periods of time even with the EV suit. But the Titan is blessed with a Selkie (an aquatic species). So they can do more on this aquatic world and learn about this species of squid-whales (squales) who can do some amazing things with biotechnology in huge part to Aili. Then the book also had a minor focus on Troi giving birth to her first baby with Riker (as TNG showed, she had an alien baby that had a short life) and how to deal with Vulcan grief.

I liked seeing the book focus on the new stuff. By having so much of the book based on a non-canon character. It did away with a lot of the problems of depicting a character in a wrong way. But I will have to take issue that if Aili and Riker had a fling 22 years ago, why is she only an ensign when Riker is a captain. That didn’t mesh well since you would think she would have moved up in rank at least once (especially with the wars and events that happened in the Trek universe).

Overall the book wasn’t bad. It was an enjoyable book all in all. It showed me new stuff that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about in the Trek Universe. Although it’s not the best trek book that came out in the past few years.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book 51: Chains of Fire: The Chosen Ones

Chains of Fire: The Chosen Ones

The last of my vacation reading is now done in a very enjoyable book by Christina Dodd called Chains of Fire. This is part The Chosen Ones series. The book had a nice complexity to it and I could just gobble up chunks of the book in no time at all.

I picked up the book at Black Bond Books, a really cool chain of independent book stores in the British Columbia area. I love to check out Black Bond Books when I visit my friend. It’s her place of work but it’s neat to see what they feature since they don’t have the same merchandise as the books stores I tend to go to most (Barnes & Noble or Borders). They have a really nice selection of occult/urban vampire books. It just makes narrowing down book selections so much easier.

Sometimes covers don’t always pull in a reader. This book’s cover really doesn’t do the book justice. I almost put the book back since the front cover was just not my alley. Now I enjoy half naked men but that image involved in fire didn’t really make me say, “I want to read this book” since it doesn't tell me much about the book itself. But the back cover interested me since the story line intrigued me. So I figured at worst, I have another embarrassing book to tote around and that didn’t stop me from reading and enjoying the fluff of Gossip Girl and at best there is a new series to get my teeth into.

Fortunately for me this book was delicious. I could just read 50 to a 100 pages in a brief span of time. The book just flowed and it was interesting. I like the aspect of having these abandoned children who had special powers and them trying to balance out good versus evil. Plus underneath all of that, there is a love story between Isabelle and Samuel. The two of them were trapped in Switzerland for a while and had to go into survival mode. No half naked guys in freezing temps and being trapped by an avalanche (other then the one time where they got over their stuff and finally got it together).

There was a believability about all the characters. Even the lesser character tended to have a backstory and bits that just made them rich. There weren’t throw away characters or characters that were just fuzzy in my mind. I had images of how people looked and acted. It was great. I think that’s one of the reasons it read so well.

Only one thing shocked me. That about 200 pages into the book, there was the insertion of several new characters. I wasn’t expecting to have so many new faces just added into the book midway through. But then the character page at the beginning of the book finally made sense. I didn’t think it was quite necessary for the first half of the book since it was predominately Samuel and Isabelle.

Now I want to read the first three books in this series and see where it goes from there. I am curious how the books all interrelate. This book was solid as a stand alone book but at the same time, Dodd set up for at least another book after this book. After reading series like Typhon Pact (where each book is meant as stand alone but tied together by a unified theme) and Destiny (where books are sequential) , I’m curious to see where the Chosen Ones series land since it has traits of both.

Letters 40 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45

A Thank You Card to one of the best hosts a girl could ask for.

A Belated Birthday Card- Love the inside saying
"For your birthday, I wanted to get you a donut to dunk in your coffee, but all they had were beagles!"

Some postcards for my friends sending some love my vacation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book 50: Grave Secret

Grave Secret (A Harper Connelly Mystery)
Charlaine Harris’ Grave Secret was the last book I read in the entirety on my vacation. Although it wasn’t the last book of my vacation (that will be the next book), it was a fair enough distraction. Grave Secret was a good distraction for a plane ride but it wasn’t my favorite book that I’ve read lately.

Grave Secret is about Harper Connelly (a medium who can see ghosts and know exactly how they died). It was about midway through the series although it was my first read at it. Fortunately Miss Harris is excellent at giving details that will fill you in on the past books, so I was never lost in the format of the series.

One the reasons I wasn’t in love with the book is the fact I never fully connected with Harper. I wanted to. But she was just so indifferent to things. I get that she’s had a tough life. But she at times she seemed to be removed from her love with her stepbrother. Which seems crazy that you would be so indifferent to a lover after he got shot and while you are explaining that the complicated nature of the relationship. I wanted to like Harper. Her talent seemed rather neat.

Plus I found myself missing things. I just couldn’t see the correlation between the two cases/interests of Harper. Literally I would read something then realize that I missed something important. So I would flip back and realize it was something minor but led to big changes of opinion. In a way it remind of a Grecian dress, complex but if you pull the wrong the whole thing will be ruined In an instant.

I know this sounds like I hated the book. And I didn’t. It’s just lacked the things that would gave it a bit more beef. Instead it was just a fluff book to read on a plane.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book 49: Vampire Knight Volume 11

Vampire Knight, Vol. 11

Finishing up the last of my stashed manga, I saved the best for last. I read volume 11 of Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino. Now admittedly this is by far my favorite manga and it’s the manga I draw inspiration for cosplay/Halloween. But I loved how the volume just pushed the story along so much.

So it’s been a while since I read any “new” Vampire Knight. I so miss my Shojo Beat magazine that serialized Vampire Knight. It used to give me monthly installments of Vampire Knight. Then after the magazine stopped publishing, I had to wait for Volume 11 to come out for new stuff. But this was well worth the wait.

One of the things I love about vampire knight is the aesthetics to the manga. Everything is so beautifully drawn. It's that balance of beautiful and sad. I just love looking at every page. There is so much drawn in. That it's a feast for the eyes.

So the story picks up with roughly a year later from the destruction of Cross Academy’s moon dormitory and many of the vampires went into hiding. So Yuki and Kaname live in a forest where Yuki is learning what it means to be a vampire. Kaname has been busy trying to realign the vampires. Zero is still balancing out the vampirism, being a vampire hunter and being a day student at Cross Academy.

As I said, the story was pushed forward by a fair amount. The social dynamic is changing again between the vampire hunters and the vampires. But they are attempting to achieve some level of compromise. A lot of things hinge on the vampire soiree that was starting just as the book was ending… Need volume 12 ASAP.

But the biggest thing that pushed forward was Yuki’s feelings. She’s trying to figure out her feelings for Kaname, Zero and her friendship with Sayori. I totally get the guilt she has since her heart has two people in heart and it’s not fully given to one person. It’s hard to forget everything from an old life. Instead you try to balance it out and understand everything.

One of the characters that continue to stand out for me is Zero. I will admit in the anime (I fell in love with Vampire Knight first at Otakon in the cartoon form and then my awesome boyfriend (well ex-boyfriend) got me a bunch of the Vampire Knight manga for Christmas), I was always torn about Zero. He had spots in his character that I didn’t always connect to. But as I delve into the manga more and more, I love his character. His anger and his love are balanced out so well. Plus to have him so on the verge of everything, it’s astonishing how strong he is. It’s the type of strength I want in my own being.

I had to giggle some when I read the different sidebars from Matsuri Hino. She talks about a trip to Germany and how much she enjoyed it even if it was stressful to add into her schedule. I love how she listens to the Shinshoku Dolce album by Wakeshima Kanon in her travels and found the same qualities in it as I do while flying. Plus it's nice to see the cross support of Vampire Knight related projects (Wakeshima Kanon did the end songs to both Vampire Knight and Vampire Knight Guilty anime- which is how I became familiar with the JPop artist).

I’m glad I held onto the Vampire Knight for the last of the stashed manga. So for the next few months, it will be more traditional books that you will see in this blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Product 27: L'Occutaine Brightening Foaming Cleanser

L’Occutaine is one of my new favorite treat stores. It’s got great products and people who work there. We have this great relationship where we will send customers to the other end of the street if our respective stores don’t carry a particular product. So I’m glad in my arsenal of products I’m trying, I have a few L’Occutaine ones to feature. I’m really enjoying this Immortelle Brightening Cleansing Foam.

As many stores do, L’Occutaine has a VIP/membership club. It actually is really nice since it can keep track of your purchases and they have a really nice introduction offer. I know it can seem weird to keep track of purchases but it can help when your family members want to give you something you like but unsure of what scent or product. So I thought that was a really cool feature. But I LOVED The introduction offer. With your first purchase after the club, they give you the “Passport to Provence” gift. This gift is insanely nice. It’s got a bar of the verbena soap, the Foamy Cleanser, a Sweet Almond Bath Oil, and a bottle of shampoo. All of this was free when I got a serum that I fell in love with after it helped my sunburnt skin heal super quick (I will explain more about the serum soon in another blog entry-I’m still testing that and i will be honest, I am hoping for a partial test since I really don’t want that many sunburns). If all stores gave out offers like this, it would be much easier to just sign up for the clubs at the register.

So I figured an easy thing to try out would be the cleanser. I always like to have something fresh to put on my skin after work. Plus I liked the size of the bottle.

First instant was to say the product is really nice. I’m partial to foamy cleansers. It’s just makes for fun when you can push a button and you have the perfect size of cleanser ready to go. Then I put it on my skin and it just felt so nice. It wasn’t to light or too heavy.

After using the cleanser for two weeks now, I can say I really like it. It’s right up in my favorite product list as the Derma E Vitamin A glycolic cleanser and the Swedish facial soap. In face I actually use it a little more then the Derma E one since it’s a foam. I love how I don’t have to create lather-those few seconds can add up and I’m lazy. One of the things I was surprised by it helped my pores a lot. Since I’m so prone to acne, I do have some large pores that I’m not always happy by. So it’s great to see this cleanser has actually helped to minimize the pores. Plus it just feels good on the skin.

I will highly recommend the L’Occutaine Immortelle Brightening Cleansing Foam. It’s just simply a good product.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book 48: Star Trek Seven Deadly Sins

Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins (Star Trek (Unnumbered Paperback))

In addition to my manga binge, I’ve also dipped back into the Star Trek book realm. This time it was for a collection of short stories edited by Margaret Clark called Star Trek Seven Deadly Sins. I really enjoyed the collection although some stories stand out better then others as is the case with most short story collections.

I liked this book a lot. It’s one of those books I’ve had some mixed feelings initially. I was drawn to it but there were times I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it compared to other books in my To Read pile since the first story was a TOS era based story (I’ve just never been a huge The Original Series fan when given the option of a newer series). But I knew it would be more then just The Original Series era since the cover shows images of Sisko, a ferengi and one of the TNG (The Next Generation) species. So there something in me that wanted to read the book. It was a matter of sitting down and reading it.

Today I finally had that chance. Read the entire 484 page collection in one day. But I also had the happy chance to really get a chance to sit and read for several hours.

As with any story collection, some stories will stand out better then others. For me I can’t say enough good stuff about Reverant. Although the Trekkie in me is still going- I can’t believe that actually happen. I truthfully took 10 minutes to process the story afterwards and just thought how absolutely crazy the whole scenario was just crazy. But it was so well written and the plot was good (just different kinds of action).

Plus I really liked “The Unhappy Ones” which was the story about wrath. Klingons being wrathful is well stereotypical. But at the same time, this story was so original. I loved how it took place in the period of Star Trek when Klingons didn’t necessarily have ridges (which was totally explained by an Enterprise story arch which explained while Klingons from TOS and all the newer series look so drastically different). IT makes sense that the Klingons who had the normal ridges would be racist to those who were affected by the deformity. Then how the racism on top of poor work situations can drive a mass of workers to revolt makes sense. Plus it had some of my favorite Klingons that appeared on DS9-Kor, Koloth, and Kang (technically they first were in TOS episodes but I know them from DS9). The dynamic of those three warriors is great. They are friends and they act like it in and out of battle/work situations. So I just smiled and loved the fact it was a Kang, Kor and Koloth were together. It just took the story up a notch even so.

Plus I really liked the “Work is Hard” story which was about sloth. It was just a really well done story that wove together elements from several seasons of TNG and showcased the characters/events in a good way. The title kind of tells it all. But I will say I love how it used a lesser known species from TNG (the Pakled) and showed Geordi being awesome. I’m a Geordi fan. Then again there isn’t an Chief engineer on Star Trek that I’m not a fan of.

I will have to say, this story collection doesn’t really highlight any of the deadly sins in a new radical way. When you think of trek and many of the species, you have the stereotypes: Romulans are prideful, the Ferengi are greedy, Klingons are full of wrath, Mirror Universe is more lustful, and etc. So no story really break the stereotypes. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a Trekkie, I could go that makes total sense based on the broad strokes of cultural norms and especially for the situation I’m reading. You don’t have to break any cultural norms or stereotypes. I’m not sure it would have worked to say have a Pakled who was prideful. But it did work to have a Pakled who was slothful (especially since that is a species with an underdeveloped speech patterns and technology).

Book 47: Alice in the Country of Hearts Vol. 3

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Vol. 3

Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 3 was another fun read. But I will have to say I really enjoyed the continuation.

So far out of the three volumes, I liked this one and the first one the best. The Second one was just slower in action although it had better moments. If that makes sense. If that doesn’t, basically there is more set up on the world and bigger events to come that drive the plot while volume 2 got the character development in better since it was slower in plot driving action.

But I will have to say, I do enjoy seeing the softer side to Vivaldi (the Queen of Hearts) and the Mad Hatter. I love the touch that Vivaldi has a collection of cute teddy bears.

The thing I really liked was how Peter (the White Rabbit) was taken back to the original cute rabbit that Alice followed rather then the human rabbit form that he usually takes. While I don’t like how easily Alice falls for the cuteness of the rabbit form (which is indeed cuter and less creepy then the human form, it’s still the same weird guy but in a cuter form), it’s just nice to see it all link up.

So I’m still interested in seeing what happens next. Alice is adapting fairly well which doesn’t seem like a good thing. I need to know what happens next. But I fear that it will be a while before I actually see what happens next, since I know as of right now if I do get new manga (which is such a treat style book for me to purchase) I would rather get Vampire Knight or Black Bird over the Alice in the Country of Hearts series when given the option.

Book 46: Alice in the Country of Hearts Vol 2

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Vol. 2

So I am continuing to treat myself by reading manga. But that’s the fun of taking a little bit of time for yourself, you can indulge in something you don’t always get to do. The latest manga was volume 2 to the Alice in the Country of Hearts series by Quinrose and art by Soumei Hoshino. It’s a quirky take on the idea from Alice in Wonderland but puts a whole new spin on the classic tale.

Normally, I would have loved the fact that this book didn’t have a summary page in the start of each chapter. But since it’s been roughly a year since I read the first volume, So I forgot all the names and the various actions. Fortunately, I was able to keep up pretty easily since all the characters have an equivalent to the regular Alice in Wonderland story. Although confusing Boris for being one of the tweedle brothers for the Cheshire Cat-really should have taken a closer look, if I had the ears would have given it away.

I enjoy the Alice in the Country of Hearts a lot. It’s quirky. It’s not like the shojo manga that I typically read. While it involves love, it’s not terribly romantic. In fact most of the overtures to love are akin to a drunk guy getting grabby with a girl who is not interested in the least. Some of the asides by Alice is just classic and great since I can relate.

One of my favorite bits was when there was a discussion by Blood Dupree (the Mad Hatter), Elliot (March Hare) and others at the midnight tea party on weather Elliot was a rabbit. Elliot wasn’t having the rabbit label attached to him despite the ears and his love for all things carrots (other then plain carrots which is what rabbits eat). I had to laugh in the whole debate. Then when that debate went the next step farther by having Elliot and Peter (the White Rabbit) discuss whether Elliot is a rabbit in a middle of a fight over Alice.

The one thing that shocks me and Alice throughout the story is the readiness for people to go get into violent situations. You start to learn how easily people are replaced. So you can understand that if you don’t fear death since you can be repaired (even if it’s not as you but as someone else but using the same clock).

But I still enjoyed Alice in the Country of Hearts. I wonder how this Alice will make it back to her world. And if she doesn’t if she will stay at Julius’ or go to one of the other factions (the amusement park, the mad Hatter mafia or the castle). I’m already getting a little bit of inspiration on how to enrich an Alice character that I write.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book 45: Captive Hearts Vol. 2

Captive Hearts, Vol. 2Captive Hearts Volume 2 is a continuation to a manga series I started to read a while ago by Matsuri Hino (author of Vampire Knight and MeruPuri). I’ve been holding on to this and a couple other mangas for special occasions so it was nice to crack into it and just have something fun to read.

Captive Hearts is a manga series that is about a Megumi and Suzuka. Megumi is under a curse where he goes into manservant fits in the presence of Suzuka. She feels guilty that Megumi is under a curse and really doesn’t want him to have manservant fits but at the same time is drawn to him. They start to fall in love but Suzuka especially questions Megumi’s feelings since she wants to make sure he loves her for real and not due to some curse.

This volume had a couple hitches in their already budding relationship. First a wealthy heir HIryu wants to marry Suzuka. He tricks her into thinking that there is a way to break the curse but the only way to get that is by marrying him. But before the engagement can be announced, HIryu realized that tricking Suzuja was wrong and the engagement is called off. He still gives her the way to break the curse- kissing will stop the manservant fits (and it gets weird when they are the same sex). Then just when that’s all sorted out, Megumi’s mom shows up. She’s rather interesting, one minute she’s a tough, butt-kicking Interpol officer and the next moment she’s crying about Megumi falling under the manservant fits. But she shows up due to work since Suzuka could help her case involving some sex traders. So needless to say, there was a lot to cover and things went at a very fast pace.

Now there were some things that I didn’t fully get (mainly the timing and trying a little to hard to be funny), but I enjoy the humor a lot. One of my favorite lines was in a timeline trying to help readers understand the story, “Edo Period: Lots of stuff happened”. Lines like that just make me giggle. Plus the crazy vacillation from motherly to tough as nails Interpol officer was just entertaining.

But one of the things I love about Captive Hearts is the look at love. How you don’t want love to be too blinded by love yet at the same time you want to be drawn to the person. It’s about achieving balance in a relationship and having trust. I think the Chinese shaman was right to say “It’s not an evil curse. Its origin is connected to a deep love.” Plus, I yearn to have a lover tell me “Go Ahead. Cry until you fall apart. Don’t worry. I’ll be here to hold you up,” so I think it’s so perfect that Matsuri Hino included those exact words in scene when Suzuka was trying to keep herself together and Megumi was there for her. I want that so much since I don’t like to cry in front of people. Not only is that sweet thing to do to someone, it also shows how your lover is really there to support you even in times of hardship.

Book 44: The Women of the House

The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty My overall opinion of The Women of the House can be summed up with the word meh. I wanted to like it and it had potential but it failed to live up to that potential since it could be a jumbled mess at times.
Jean Zimmerman did some wonderful research into the period of 1685-1783 in relationship to New Holland/New York colony, the life of Margaret Hardenbroeck and the Philipse fortune, and fashion. It was wonderful to see how life in New Holland was so forward thinking for women’s rights. I never would have thought there was a choice for women to make with marriage: manus or unus. Basically the two different options mean the level of risk/involvement a woman would like to take in a marriage. Manus was where a husband basically provided guardianship and she couldn’t be involved into his debts and everything is pooled into one pool. Unus a woman had all rights she had before marriage and she’s equal to her husband. That’s so incredibly forward. It’s a shame after the British took over of New Holland, all marriages reverted to the manus status.

I really would have preferred if the book only focused on Margaret Hardenbroeck. Cause that was the most focused part of the book and the part most related to the central point of the book, the lives of women who controlled a fortune and dynasty. There were times that part one was a bit unfocused yet it was minor compared to the second half of the book. But that was balanced out by the wonderful research. It was great to see how Margaret really helped to build and create the Philipse fortune even after her unus marriage was converted into a manus marriage. She was an incredible force and I knew almost nothing about her.

The whole second half of the book, I hated. Even the best research couldn’t make up for the fact that women of the house became increasingly uninvolved with the money and way too concern about fashion and British life. It’s not surprising that after a few generations and the alignment with the British crown, the money was lost by the end of the Revolutionary War. Plus it drove me nuts was that the second half of the book talked more about the men and how they worked to maintain the fortune. If the book is called Women of the House, then focus on the women. But if you don’t have the ability to really focus on the women due to the lack of records, call the book the Philipse Dynsasty book. Call a spade a spade. When you can’t even figure out the year of death for one of your women focuses, you have a problem. I understand completely that in 1770s there was almost zero legal and historical records concerning the women since by law, it had to be done in the husband’s name. Plus it’s odd, that after part one focused on one woman’s life, that three women were lumped together into the second part. Plus Mary, wasn’t even the oldest sister- she just lost the most in the Revolutionary war.

In the end, the lack of organization just killed it for me. I wanted to like this book. Even though I learned a ton, it couldn’t make up for the organizational problems.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book 43: Steel

Steel by Carrie Vaughn was a great read. I just adored it. Everything from the premise (a fencer who gets transported into the Golden Age of pirates where she learns more about herself, pirate life and fighting), the atmosphere, and the writing itself. It was just a fun read.

As a way to try out my new toy, the Kindle app on my new phone, I decided to treat myself to Steel. A book that I’ve been wanting to read for a quite a while-I try to avoid paying for the increased price of a hardcover. While I got a bunch of free books from, I knew for my first book I wanted it to be special so why not start on a good page by reading your favorite author. Let me say, that while I missed the feel of flicking the pages, it was easy to read the book using the Kindle app. It actually made things pretty easy to carry a book with me to various places without worrying about how to hide the book.

Steel surprised me. It was so richly written in both the fields of fencing and the historical side to it. I wouldn’t call Steel a true historical fiction but it has so much research to it. It’s not the research that smacks you in the face, but the kind that is just interwoven into the tale with just a subtle detail after subtle detail. It was neat to see her integrate real pirates with her fictional ones. It even made me dive into the history pages to see which names were true and which ones came from Carrie.

Steel made me want to get back into fencing. I studied it at one point at school after years of being intrigued by the sport. So it was fantastic to see the same terms and mantras from my teachers and even me inside of Jill (the main character). Plus I love how each chapter title used a fencing term that indicated the flow to the story. It was a great little touch. Now if only she would have used my favorite counterattack, the unicorn headbutt, although you don’t tend to use it too often since you don’t really want to let your opponent to get that close to your upper torso.

Now I only have one slight misgiving about this book. Now the ending I wanted with Henry and Jill just won’t work out with any great logic but it would have been romantic. Instead the story ending as it should, if she had an eighteen century pirate come into today’s time with Jill would have been a little too unbelievable. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. I really liked how those two went from enemies to more then just friends.

It was great to have this book that would suck me in. So get sucked into Steel liked I was.

Letters 38 and 39

Birthday Wishes


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book 42: German Boy

German Boy: A Child in War

In my latest book, I decided to explore World War II yet again. This time I read the book German Boy: A Child in War by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel. It was an interesting book that I was glad to read.

One of things that drew me to this book was the fact it was about life as a German refugee. It showed a different aspect to the war and life after the war. It also didn't highlight the Jewish problem during World War II.

I really liked this book. I loved the perspective. Sometimes you need to break away from the holocaust stories focusing on the Jewish problems in the war. This showed how difficult it was to leave the home you knew and were a refugee. Wolfgang and his family, they became refugees by fleeing Sagan once they realized the Russians were coming and that would too dangerous. So they fled to Berlin. But Berlin was under attack too. So soon the family moved to Strasbourg and then fled to Tauren. He lived under both the Russian and American rule. It was great to see the differences between the two different rules.

It still amazes me how brutal the Russians were and how quickly Germans would switch political ideals. Strasbourg was a great example. Late into 1945, it still had a huge NAZI strong hold and forced Wolfgang into joining the Hitler Youth. But by the time he returned to Strasbourg, they changed their tune. Now it was a city which had a secret police and communism running amok. Wolfgang and his mother would struggle since they weren't political and they were always outsiders to the city.

I really got drawn to Wolfgang and his love for America. He was really inspired by the Americans. To see how much he appreciated the Berlin airdrops and how that even helped his refugee camp, it was inspiring. It was great to see how the air drops were able to help not just the city of Berlin but other sectors.

One of the things that get lost in the book is Ingrid (his sister). She was there but if almost felt like she was an afterthought. But he did say really late into the book, Ingrid was quiet and they weren't that close. Plus for the first part of the book (the part that talked about 1945), Ingrid was really young. So she wouldn't have a huge part to play other then to follow her mom and brother.

But all in all, I liked this book. I learned alot about a part of the war that gets forgotten- there were many Germans that had their lives destroyed by the war and became refugees, it wasn't just the Jewish, gays, communists, and other social undesirables. Plus you get to learn a lot about the differences between the Russian and American sectors that developed after the war.