Book Review – Codename Sailor V vol. 2 by Naoko Takeuchi

Title: Codename Sailor V vol. 2
Author/Illustrator: Naoko Takeuchi
Format: Paperback Manga
Written: 1991
Published: 2004
Translated: 2011

After reading the first volume of the Sailor V adventures I was eager to read the second one. In approaching the second book I was not exactly surprised but it was not entirely what I expected. Starting the book, the first thing I noticed was an image in the front area that featured a male character that was reminiscent of Tuxedo Mask. As a Tuxedo Mask fan girl I was instantly intrigued and eager to start reading the book to learn about who he was. This new character goes by the name of Ace. I was not disappointed by him as he was mysteriously debonair and had my interest from the start.

Yet, the book did not focus on him much the first story arch dealt with Ace and then the following story arch digressed into more of a monster of the week type story line where there were these three animal based characters that Sailor V had to fight. It wasn’t as cleverly done the monsters of the week in the first volume and there were a lot of side notes throughout the story arcs that seemed to detract from the story for me.

I admit as I was reading the book it seemed to drag on and I feared I was going to have to give the story a lower rating due to the dropped story line of Ace and the rather boring animal based villains that were fought. What brought the book back into my good graces and made me decide I like it a fair bit was the last two story arcs “Setting out on a New Journey” parts one and two. These final two story arcs have a lot of what makes me love Sailor Moon which is a matter of facing once destiny determining the meaning of love, dealing with questions about who you can call friend and who you can call enemy and a wee bit of romance. It was perfect and the truth about Ace was revealed which was a wonderful surprise and not something I entirely expected. These last two story arcs also set things up for the subsequent Sailor Moon series, which I will be attempting to review a few of those as well starting with the seventh volume next week.

Over all I think I would give the book a four page rating as well despite my complaints because four out of the eight story arcs were amazing and of the other four only three were annoying simply due to some repetition. So if you are looking for a bit of back story and how Sailor V became a popular icon before Sailor Moon awakens then this book and the one before it is a worthy read, particularly for some of the new characters that are added to the universe of Sailor Moon.

Alice in the Country of Hearts vol.2: Wonderful Wonder World

Book: Alice in the Country of Hearts: Wonderful Wonder World

Author: QuinRose

Illustrator: Soumei Hoshino

Translator: Beni Axia Conrad

Publisher: Tokyopop

Written: 2009

Published: 2010

Edition: First edition, book 2

In the sequel to the first Alice, we find our main character getting to better know the inhabitants of Wonderland. Identities, personalities, and motives are beginning to show for who and what they really are, giving Alice a better idea of what she has gotten into, or so she thinks.

I honestly do not have much to say about this one. It is good, but not as good as the first. Having read ahead, I can say that this book is more of continuing the set-up for things later in the series. It is still an enjoyable read, with enough action, character development, and intrigue to hold the reader’s interest. The plot holes that bugged me so much in the first book are absent in the second, leaving this reviewer’s questionable sanity intact for another week.

Overall, I give this book 4 pages, again only if you like or are interested in this genre. I would also give the warning that due to violent content and some innuendo, this is not for young children. Other than that, happy reading!

Book Review – The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Title: The 4-Hour Work Week
Author: Timothy Ferriss
Format: Paperback
Written: 2007
Published: 2011. Expanded & Updated Edition

The 4-Hour Work Week is a self help guide that can be described as lifehacking, and the goal is to redesign your lifestyle so that your income producing activities only take four hours per week, freeing you up to spend time on the important things in life such as family, friends, and fulfilment.  There are ideas in here that will intimidate a lot of people, but it is important to note that this book has been written by a man who has achieved the goal, not someone writing about an abstract philosophical concept.

The book is divided into step-by-step sections, and Ferriss targets both business owners and employees. Most of the fundamental concepts that he introduces are neither new nor revolutionary, but the spin he puts on them is. He combines ideas from different disciplines to produce something exciting and inspirational. The logic he uses is sound; if you can double your efficiency then you can halve the hours you work to achieve the same result. This book shows you how to do that repeatedly.

Becoming financially liberated is the obvious goal, but there is a lot in this book for people who just want to feel less pressure in their work life. He has tips for eliminating boring tasks, negotiating for what you want, and living in the moment. The focus is on being happy today and not wasting the best years of your life. 20-somethings might find this book less emotionally challenging than 50-somethings, but all concepts can be applied by anyone who is willing to make a change.

One potential issue with the book is that Ferriss provides plenty of guidelines, tips and tricks, but does not tell you exactly how find a business idea. This will be a problem for some, and it is a problem the book is incapable of solving; the whole point is to find something meaningful for the reader, not for the author. It means that many readers will probably enjoy the concepts and then do nothing with them for lack of starting inspiration.

If you apply even a small percentage of the ideas in this book, you can create a significant improvement in the quality of your life. Simply working through the mental exercises in the book can help you to change how you prioritise and what you believe is possible. There is a lot of substance in this book, and for that reason I am giving it 5 out of 5 pages.

Book Review – James May’s Lego House

Title: James May’s Lego House
Format: Hardcover
Written & Published: 2010

Okay, this book is a small little volume based on one of the coolest projects I have ever heard of.  James May’s Lego house.  Seriously.

So, if you’ve ever watched the BBC whatsoever, you’ve probably heard of James May.  He is one of the hosts on Top Gear and also does his own show.  I watch BBC all the time – daily, usually.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this book in my library and realized that the coolest project ever had something to do with one of my favorite TV people.

When May was six, he wanted to live in a house made of Lego bricks.  Fast forward a lot of years (he’s not exactly a spring chicken) and he decided to live out his dream as a special for part of BBC2’s Toy Story series.  Three point two million – MILLION – Lego bricks later (the company couldn’t make them as fast as he was trying to order them), he was building a functional two story house.  Bathroom (with working Lego toilet), Bedroom (with Lego bed and pillows), living room, kitchen, staircase… even the cat was made out of Lego bricks.

In other words, I didn’t want a house made of Lego, I wanted a Lego house, which is subtly different. ~James May

And after the volunteers came out (so many they had to turn some away for lack of space to work), they built and built and built.  And James May moved in for one night.

Six years old again.

With that said, I have a few issues with this book.  It’s not big enough (the volume is an odd size, roughly the size of a mass market but wider), the pictures are small, and James only stayed there one night.  What I would have liked to have seen is this book made larger, perhaps a coffee table book, because the story here is to always remember your childhood dreams… and, you know, I wanted larger pictures and more of them.  Not only do some of those dreams push us into the adults we become, but they can sometimes come true.

As for the book the way it is now, perfect stocking stuffer.  Five out of Five pages.

Book Review – Code Name Sailor V vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi

Title: Codename Sailor V vol. 1
Author/Illustrator: Naoko Takeuchi
Format: Paperback Manga
Written: 1991
Published: 2004
Translated: 2011

I will admit that I was not one of those people who grew up watching Sailor Moon in the 90’s. I saw maybe a grand total of two episodes growing up and it wasn’t exactly my thing at the time. It was about a year ago, a friend was talking to me about the series and how she thought I would like it, so I got curious and watched the entire series. Additionally with the recent re-release of the manga I have taken to reading the series as well as have fallen in love with the characters and story line. From the start of picking up the first Sailor Moon, I discovered that there was a series about Sailor Venus’ time, before the rest of the Sailor Scouts were woken up. I was for a while curious, but not curious enough to go out and buy them.

I didn’t anticipate ever reading the Codename Sailor V manga series, but when I saw them on the shelf at the library I figured why not, it would be worth a shot, and I’m glad I picked them up. I think I’ve spent every spare moment reading the first volume, and enjoying it quite a bit! I will say that the first book doesn’t have much to do with the main plot, and it leaves you wondering till near the end some of the connections, but the humor involved in this book is by far quite good as there were several times I found myself laughing out loud.

Over all, the story was good, it had a classic feel of a Sailor Moon manga but focused on Venus instead of Moon. My only real complaint about the entire book was that some of the drawings of characters reminded me of other characters in the main Sailor Moon manga without being the same, or related. If you can easily look such a minor fault, the book was quite good and I look forward to reading the second one when I get the chance!

In the end, I would say though this book is a prequel to the Sailor Moon series you don’t want to read Codename Sailor V unless you are familiar with the series. I feel you are able to garner a greater appreciation for the events of Codename Sailor V if you know a bit about Sailor Moon. So, for a Sailor Moon or Manga fan I would say the book is a four out of five pages, as it is a joy to read and the translations with the translation notes in the back are fantastic! For those of you who aren’t that into Sailor Moon or Manga, I would say that it is a three out of five pages. It is something nice and light to pick up and enjoy if you have the spare time.

Alice in the Country of Hearts

Book: Alice in the Country of Hearts vol. 1

Author: QuinRose

Illustrator: Soumei Hoshino

Publisher: Tokyopop

Published: 2010

Edition: 2010 English translation, volume 1

Because I am moving this week, I will give you the short and sweet version.  Alice has fallen through the rabbit hole once again. Actually it was more like being picked up, kidnapped and thrown down the hole by a strange man with rabbit ears declaring his love for her. Thus begins the manga version of Alice in Wonderland… complete with guns, the mafia, and a turf war between three territories.

Having read what has been written of this series before, I can honestly say that I like it, though this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is not real in-depth, serious literature, but it is a fun and entertaining quick read. The author did a good job of introducing the characters and storyline while still maintaining the reader’s interest. In fact, there were only two things that bugged me while reading this book. First was Ace, a Knight of Hearts. Ace is a good example of obfuscating stupidity, and in this book, he really plays that up- to the point where it was kind of making my brain hurt. The other thing that really, really, REALLY bugged me was when Alice, who has been decently logical (avoiding all symptoms of damsel in distress syndrome) suddenly overlooks an obvious connection between two events, simply for what I assume is the sake of furthering the plot. Whatever the reason, I wanted to bang my head against the wall.

Overall, I give this book 4 pages. If you like manga or simply the retelling of classic tales, this one is definitely worth a read. Just to give you a heads up, if you have never read manga (Japanese comics) before, it may be a little difficult at first, as it is read from right to left, but it is easy enough to pick up on. Happy readings!

Writer Wednesday – Herika R Raymer

Based out of Memphis-ish, Herika R. Raymer is a familliar face around the southeast con circuit.  If she’s not at the Imagicopter table, she’s either at a panel or hanging around somewhere.  Outside of cons, she’s a busy woman; the married mother of two is a writer and editor and runs Imagyro Magazine for Imagicopter.  This is her story…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I am an overgrown big kid who finally realized her dream of sharing her stories with people who (hopefully) like them. I am married with two children and one dog, but have never quite left the imaginary world for the real one. I visit quite often, and share what I see there when I can.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
At present I have only published short stories which can be found from a variety of small to independent presses. A list can be found at my website – herikarraymer.webs.com – and my author page on Facebook. The stories are mostly horror and fantasy, though I am hoping to try science-fiction and urban fantasy soon.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Right now, literally, I am wrapping up the final stories on a collection. It is based on some creatures I dreamed up for an anthology a few years back. I never thought they would be so popular. However, due to demand, I am putting together some stories and hope the readers will be pleased. Look for it soon!

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Being read to as a child. I always adored hearing either my mother or my father read to me. My mind wandered into fantasy world, and has never quite left.

What are your three favorite books?
I only get to choose three?! Oh man…
Traveler In Black by John Brunner because it taught me to be careful what I wish for.
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey because it was a delightfully painful story about a girl who refused to give up her love of music.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A McKillip, because it taught me the power of names.

How many books to do you read at any given time?
Two to three, depending on my mood and how well some read.

What are you reading now?
Touch of Madness by B C Brown
Callahan series by Spider Robinson

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
am happiest.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely if I can find it, it is finding the time in the stack that has already been recommended.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Highly likely, not to mention that particular tendency comes in handy now that I am part of Imagicopter.

What do you look for in a good book?
Storyline and characters I can envision! If I cannot relate to them, well I can expect that – but at least let me see them in my mind and follow where they are. And let the story make sense.

Why do you write?
Too many stories in my mind, it cannot hold them all.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Artist, I would like to refine my drawing abilities.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Not sure, everywhere. Mundane chores, something that startles me, an adventure I overhear my children playing, questions that a book / movie / show prompts or does not answer. Just so many places, it is hard to choose just one.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I procrastinate too much and need more discipline.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
For the most part the response has been positive. Apparently I have always told good stories or was always found reading, so they naturally surmised this was the next step.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Well, we don’t all drink and not all of us are completely crazy. There are parts of us missing after all, I think that is the window where the stories come in.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Allowing their work to be viewed by strangers. There is too much of ourselves in our early work, and letting people we do not know see it is frightening. After all, it is only a fraction – and people are quick to judge. If we write it out, we want to tell a tale – not be dissected.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Absolutely! The voice you write in indicates what kind of audience you are writing for. I wrote very child-like, and had to mature it quite a bit to reach the audience I want to now – which is Young Adult to Adult. It is embarrassing now to read some of the stuff I originally wrote – no wonder my Beta Readers winced while looking at it (poor dears).

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Not sure. If I get to that point I will let you know. Although, I think it would be awesome to write for a series… televised that is.

How do you deal with your fan base?
When I get one I will tell you.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
“My fears”

You’re one of the brains behind Imagicopter. Tell us about it.
I am? Here I thought I was the voice broadcasting it.
Imagicopter is a voluntary cooperative of authors, artists, and hopefully musicians. The idea is that there is local talent in any town, all one has to do is be aware of them. Imagicopter uses networking and free venues to help raise that awareness and, hopefully, help local Talent sell their wares.

Anything else we should know?
Imagicopter is not a promotional agency, nor a publishing house, and this being the case it does not guarantee sales. All we can do is try to entice people to buy your product, but we do not guarantee anything. Also, as we are a voluntary outfit, our participants do not pay us and we cannot pay them. Any sales made must be by them. We do try and direct people to their sites or to Amazon or Goodreads or wherever their books and art can be found.

When we are on the convention circuit we do direct people to their publisher’s booths or to their tables (if they have one) to get the books. This may not be what is expected, but we do try and be direct with possible participants with what we do as we do not want to raise any false hopes.

Thank you so much for your time Ms Lynch! See you on the convention circuit!

Book Review – The Last Starship From Earth by John Boyd

Title: The Last Starship From Earth
Author: John Boyd
Format: Paperback
Written: 1968
Published: 1975

The Last Starship From Earth is a thin science fiction novel that is densely packed with ideas. It is set in a world so highly structured and controlled that even the Pope has been computerised. The government is run by three groups – Church, Sociology and Psychology – and their control is absolute. Individuality has been suppressed to the point that the only form of self expression is suicide and, as a psychologist laments at one point, even the suicides are all the same.

The story begins when Haldane IV, a theoretical mathematics student, meets Helix, a student poet. He immediately falls for her, but the difference in their professional categories means that the department of genetics would never let them marry. If they are caught having any sort of romantic relationship it would mean sterilisation by the state and being kicked out of the professional class. Helix has the type of body and personality that make this a reasonable risk as far as Haldane is concerned.

Haldane is the narrative character, and the narration is consistent with his characterisation. Normally I would praise this but, in this instance, it makes the book difficult to read. Haldane’s world is so heavily mathematical that other characters struggle to understand him, and I had the same problem in sections. The language is stilted and formal, or over the top poetical, and I wished there was a middle ground.

Initially the world appears to be set in the future. As the story progresses, there are clues that something is not right. References to a common history are made, but the historical observations are not correct. The reason for this is revealed at the end of the novel, so I won’t spoil it, and a second reading transforms the discrepancies from irritating to brilliant.

Aspects of the technology in this story seem laughable with the innovations of the last 40 years. Small details that are used throughout the story can jolt a modern reader from the scene. So many details feel plausible, and suddenly someone is using a punch card in a computer. It fits perfectly with the technology that was available when the book was written, and it raises retrospective questions about what technology might have been like if we followed the technological path that the novel describes.

I enjoy reading this book, and can easily finish it in a day. The narrative flows, but I do tend to ignore sections that I don’t understand. It is hard science fiction, and in some respects the emphasis is too much on hard. Unless you are a mathematics, history and poetry buff, you probably won’t understand all the references, which is a pity. The story stands the test of time, but the narrative style has not. For these reasons, I am giving this book 3 out of 5 pages.

Book Review – Legends of Darkness by Georgia L Jones

Title: Remnants of Life
Author: Georgia L. Jones
Written & Published: 2012

In Remnants of Life, Samantha Garrett, a working wife and mother, drops the kid off at school, and gets into a car accident.  How serious?  Human before the accident, she transforms into a vampire-esque warrior called a Samoda.  This is not your mother’s car wreck, people, this is a whole new kettle of fish.  (Or something like that.)

So here’s the deal.  I was really excited to get this book.  And then I started reading.

I’m not a huge fan of first person, because it’s usually done wrong.  And in this case, it was done wrong.  There are a bajillion different ways to write a sentence, but one of the traps I see first person authors doing is falling into the “I verb something” sentence formatting pattern.  Mix it up.  Give us some “Verbing, I something” or “something was verbed” or whatever.   Instead of “I hollered as I shut the bathroom door,” make it “Hollering as I shut the bathroom door,” and it reads a lot better.

Another issue I had was that the dialogue fell a little flat.  For instance, the kid is six and if his dialog had stood alone, there’s no way I would have guessed that.  (I was sort of thinking younger teen, actually, until the MC said he was six, just because he still needed a ride to school…)

With that said, this is a first novel effort from a new author (that’s not redundant; she doesn’t even have a list of short fiction credits) and a fairly new publisher.  She’s only going to get better, and the product is already beautiful.

The storyline pulled me in, and I wanted to keep going and turn the next page.  The character development was good and the creature building was good.

In the end, if you can forgive the first-person I-verb writing style, the payout is worth it.  I’m giving it three out of five pages.

I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review – Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Format: Hardback
Written: 2006
Published: 2006

I have just finished reading Water for Elephants and instead of waiting a bit of time between reading the book and writing the review I’m not. I wanted to sit down and capture my feelings for this book immediately. Water for Elephants as described by another reviewer is a world that just pulls you in and makes you not want to set the book down, and this is very true. I will admit that the book is not what I expected based upon the title and the posters for the movie that has been made based on this book but it doesn’t make it any less fantastic, and I am so glad I picked it up from the library to read it in celebration of National Novel Writing Month.

The story starts off focused on the main character of Jacob who is also the narrator of the story. He is ninety, or ninety three and living in a nursing home. Throughout the book you go back and forth between his time and struggles in the nursing home as he faces the issues that come with old age and his life when he was twenty three. You start off with him in school learning to become a vet to his life falling apart around him and him joining the circus. The world of the circus is so wonderfully and perfectly crafted you really feel you are there for the glory and terror that it is. Each character is strong and vibrant and you find yourself desperate to know what will become of Jacob both when he is twenty three and when he is ninety three.

Based on the title of the book one would think that the story is all about elephants and then combined with the movie posters one would think it is also nothing but a torrid love affair, but the story is so much more than that. The elephant Rosie doesn’t make an appearance until about half way through the book and the love affair doesn’t come to truly be until the last forth of the book the sexual tension and desire is there from early on but the book doesn’t focus on it, it is more a driving plot point as the story to me speaks more of Jacob working to survive in this circus during the Great Depression, and keep those he cares about safe as well, which includes the animals.

As I type up this review I honestly feel that my words are not adequate to truly express the wonders of this fantastic story that I have had trouble putting down when real life such as work called me away. Because of this I truly feel that I can recommend this book and give it a four page review. I keep it at for pages solely because there are those who would not appreciate the sexual intonations that do happen to appear in the book, though they are handled rather well rather than being a matter of crass imagery, and for the darkness that one finds in the book, it adds a whole level to the story and it would be lost without that dark gritty realism that is infused into the story, making it such a wonderful read.

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