Book Reivew – Are you Alice? by Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Nnomiya

Title:  Are you Alice?

Author/Illustrator: Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Nnomiya

Format: Paperback

Published: 2010

 

Yes, I admit I have a thing and interest in the concept of Alice in Wonderland.  I am not the most fond of the original text finding Alice to be rather stupid and dull but the world and the ideas surrounding the world are absolutely fascinating.  It is a interesting world with interesting characters to play with to say the least.

 

Thus I picked up “Are you Alice? “which is a unique take on Alice in Wonderland with a guy who happened into wonderland and has been dubbed Alice and is forced into a game of “Kill the White Rabbit”.  I was curious simply because of it being a male Alice but I am uncertain as to the story.  A lot of this was set up and “Alice” learning who he is, and that he is Alice and what he is supposed to do as Alice.  It has had some interesting concepts that make me curious as to the way it is going.

 

Over all the story is different and somewhat confusing at times, and honestly a little boring.  It just did not capture my interest as other Wonderland stories have but I shall read the next book and see what comes of it, particularly as I have the second book from the library already.

 

Over all, with this short review, I would give the book a 2 out of 5 pages and say don’t waste your time at this point, but be on the look out for the review of the second volume as my opinion my change because sometime it is worth suffering through the boring and dull books or chapters go get to the really interesting bits of story.

Writer Wednesday – James D. Sanders

1. Who are you? James D Sanders
2. What type of stuff do you write? I am an author of Urban/Street Lit, Suspense/Thriller Fiction, as well as poetry.
3. What do you want to pimp right now? My debut Urban/Street Lit novel “Situations” was released on 01/01/15, and is available in paperback and E-book format on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
4. What is your favorite book? My favorites cross a few genres. Inferno – Dan Brown, Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill, Do or Die – Darren Coleman
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I am also a husband and a personal fitness trainer.
6. What link can we find you at? Sandersjames.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/authorjamessanders

Overcoming Writers Block

I would have to say that one of the most interesting things, or at least unorthodox things about my writing process occurs when I’m writing some form of a story. It’s common for me to hit a point of writer’s block that sometimes shuts me down for days or even weeks. The way that I seem to always overcome it is one that is almost completely out of my control. I will usually find myself rereading a chapter or two of the book I’m working on at random. While I’m sleeping, I will actually dream the next phase of the story. When I awake, I am usually able to put a few thousand words down without a problem, as if I never stopped writing.

Book Review – Celtic Cross Stitch

TITLE: Celtic Cross Stitch: Over 40 small, exciting and innovative projects

BY: Anne Orr & Leslie Clarke

FORMAT: Hard Cover

PUBLISHED: 2001

Celtic Cross Stitch is, obviously, a pattern book of celtic designs for cross stitching.

I chose to review it because I actually really liked this one.  It’s rare that I find a cross-stitch book that I want to make any of the stuff in, and I would be okay making several of these patterns.

Of course, there are a few clunkers (at one point, the pattern is literally swirls like you would draw when doodling, and a few don’t feel celtic-ey at all), but most of these are pretty decent.  I was a little concerned with the mustard yellow Aida cloth that they used for several of the designs, but for the most part, the patterns were nice, and the stitching was all done well, which is sadly, something I have to look for now.  I hate, HATE books where the stitcher screwed up or cut corners to make the examples and they look like a ten year old did them.  This actually looks like they’re done by somebody who knows what they’re doing, so yay!

With that said, if these are your type of thing, borrow the book from the library.  I don’t think any of these patterns are the type of thing that will make you want to buy yourself a copy.  4/5.

Book Review – Octopus! By Katherine Harmon Courage

Title: Octopus!  (The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea)
Author: Katherine Harmon Courage
Format: 
Paperback
Published: 
2013

Octopus! is not surprisingly a nonfiction book about octopuses.  (I picked up a free ARC copy.)  Subcategorizing it beyond nonfiction is a little tricky.  It’s sort of a snapshot of our historical, culinary, cultural, fictional, and scientific relationship with the octopus.  Katherine Harmon Courage is a journalist and an associate editor at Scientific American.  So there’s a good portion of the book which focuses on the biology and science of the octopus, but there’s almost as much time spent on what we don’t know about them as what we do.

As a personal preference, I like my nonfiction a bit drier than this book.  I felt there was way too much time spent on Katherine’s traveling misadventures to meet various fishermen and researchers, and I got a little bored with the constant variations on “Isn’t that cool/icky/strange/interesting!?!”

However, for other people this might be a nice break from a textbook rattling off a dry list of facts.  There is something interesting about stepping back from a stack of figures and looking at the messy, imprecise side of trying to gather more precise data.

If you’d like to know more about the octopus (or are just looking for idea fodder for a hard science fiction tale) this may be a good gateway book.  At 220 pages, it’s not a super long or intense read, but it does offer up a lot of stimulating food for thought on everything from our perspective on other species to the weird economics of food exportation to robotics.  And there’s an extensive list of source material in the back if you want some drier reading. Courage certainly did her research.

If you’re a hardcore animal rights advocate, you may feel a bit of outrage at sampling a live octopus meal at a Korean restaurant, and if you’re not, you may still feel a bit squeamish during a few passages.  It’s not a book designed to shock, but neither does it hold back on raw realities of octopus life or octopuses in our lives.  (Yes, she briefly covers hentai.)

I’ll give it a solid 4 out of  5, since I think the book accomplishes what it sets out to do.  I can’t say it’s a must read.  Just kind of nice, kind of interesting, and while there’s a certain deliberate messiness to the presentation, it does cover a lot of fascinating ideas.

Book Review – Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief

Author: Rick Riordan

Format: Paperback

Published: 2005

 

I had heard things about the Percy Jackson series in the past and I admit I’d been curious for some time particularly when the whole bug-a-boo came down about Christopher Columbus directing the first film just like he did for Harry Potter films.  Why people were upset by this I don’t know but then again the internet is a weird place to be honest.  Anyway it wasn’t too long ago that I took the time to read the book, but failed to review it.  I admit the first time I read the book and I enjoyed it fairly well.

 

Having read the book I stumble upon the movie and decided why not?  Now I will be first to say that I do not ever expect the movie to be the living book I expect changes and tweaks along the road but when I saw the movie I cannot express how many times I was ready to throw my remote across the room, and how many times I stopped the DVD, because I was that frustrated I skipped parts just to see how much they mucked other things and if they could accomplish a few basic facts of the book and by basic facts I’m not meaning Annabeth’s hair is supposed to be blond but was rather brown (I can live with that.)  No I’m talking the actual quest they went on, how the flying shoes were used (which is a major plot point) and what actually happens in the underworld which is where the characters go on their quest.  I will start off with saying that the movie got it wrong to the point that they eliminated the major villain of the entire series in this movie; because of this I don’t know how they managed a second movie.

 

Anyway instead of ranting on the movie I’ll focus on the book which is about a middle school boy in 6th grade who is dyslexic, and has ADHD and is in a school for troubled students because of this and because every school he goes to he gets kicked out.  He is proud of the fact that he was almost to the end of the year and hadn’t been kicked out when he goes on a field trip that is always trouble to a museum with Greek artwork and statues.  From there he gets in trouble with a nasty piece of work teacher Mrs. Dodds who turns into a Fury and attacks him.

 

From there Percy gradually learns that he is in mortal danger and is a half-blood, a demi-god, a hero and he is being blamed for stealing Zues’ master bolt.  He discovered to which god sired him and he is then thrown into a rather dangerous quest to go the underworld where it is believed that the master bolt is being held.

 

I don’t want to give spoilers but the story has a lot of adventure and some rather good twists through out it and it just keeps with a nice even pace.  Over all I thoroughly enjoyed the book even with it being my second read through and I am sure I’ll enjoy re-reading the second in the series and then finishing out the series I find Rick Riordan’s writing to be easy to read and enjoyable and very age appropriate for a middle grade student to read.

 

Over all I would give the book a 4 out of 5 stars simply for the ease of getting lost in the writing style and story that is being presented.  I find the tale to be very well told and I advise to never touch the movie, particularly if you like Greek Mythology.  The story takes place during the summer and the characters go to the underworld, in the movie Persephone is present in the underworld.  If  you know any of your Greek Mythology then you know how wrong and problematic that is!  (Particularly when the book notates her lack of presence and why.)  Long story short, read the book don’t watch the movie.

Book Review- Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fantastic Rabbit

Title: Alice in the Country of Hearts My Fantastic Rabbit

Author: Quin Rose (scenario by Owl Shinotsuki)

Illustrator: Delico Psyche

Format: Paperback

Published: 2010

 

Okay so I have said in the past the Boris is my favorite person to pair Alice with when it comes to the Alice in the Country of series but I feel that that is quickly changing.  I know from the first books where Alice was not picking a person and just getting to know everyone I loved the interaction with Boris and I still enjoy the interaction with him in the Country of Clover books but the story with Eliot on the Country of Clover was adorable and this one is even cuter.  I absolutely loved this story it was so cute and sweet and innocent in a lot of ways.

 

This story takes place early when Alice is in the Country of Hearts and she meets the Hatter Mafia right off and spends her time there choosing to live with them.  As she gets to know Eliot the time they spend together is cute.  They are both a bit awkward and unsure and just so excited when they get to spend time together.  I also like how when Alice gets lost and cannot get back to Hatter Mansion she keeps wondering and thinking of Eliot and then wondering why she keeps thinking of his first while he takes the time to search for her and try to find where Alice has gone.

 

The story also hold interest as Alice kidnapped and is in a precarious position at the end of this first book in the My Fantastic Rabbit Series.  Seriously Eliot is freaking adorable and though he can be trigger happy and had a dark and shady job in the Hatter Mafia working for Blood Dupree, he is absolutely cute and sweet.  Over all I think this would be a Manga that I would give a 4 out of 5 starts as this is one that I very much want to add to my personal  collection to read again later, which is rare for me with these books I like to read them but I don’t feel like buying them but this one I want to own.

Book Review – Wickedly Dangerous

Title: Wickedly Dangerous

Author: Deborah Blake

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 2014

I found out about this book series at DragonCon when the author was on a panel. The series sounded interesting (dragon-in-the-form-of-a-dog! Multiple Babas! Stolen children!) so I got a copy of the first book.

I really enjoyed it. The story follows Barbara Yager (one of the Baba Yagas, a witch from Russian fairy tales), who has been summoned to a town following the disappearance of several children.

Baba’s investigation puts her into contact with the local Sheriff, whose tragic past means the missing children weigh heavy on his heart. Liam is never portrayed as bumbling or bad at his job (although he may not be the most savvy with the political side of it), and his desire to see the children home safely allows him to overcome his disbelief when Baba finally tells him about herself and what she can do.

I liked both Baba and Liam, and enjoyed watching them fall in love (not necessarily an easy get-together, due to their pasts, but not a romance where you wonder why they’re even trying in the first place either). The side characters were not necessarily fully fleshed out (the three Riders, for example, who appear, but get so very little screen-time they feel more like stock characters), but none of them seem so underdeveloped that I felt that they had been plucked from a catalog.

Resolving the mystery and getting the children back seemed too easy, at the end, as the villain is identified early on and much of the obstacles thrown in their way are overcome without too much effort on the parts of our heroes.

The ending did seem a little predictable, as Baba finds a potential replacement to train, which means she’ll be settling down more in one area (which in turns leads to an easier romance with Liam), and I wish we’d gotten to see more of her successor, but as I do prefer happy endings (when they don’t seem out of left field), I was not upset at the idea.

I’d give this 4/5 pages – the characters are interesting, the storyline is slightly predicable at times, but still keeps you turning pages, and I’m looking very much forward to reading the second book.

Writer Wednesday – Lola Grace Stevens

1. Who are you? Lola Grace Stevens 
2. What type of stuff do you write? Historical Western Romance
3. What do you want to pimp right now? ‘The Redemption-Bren’s Story’, released on December 23, but I’d love to have my upcoming book mentioned ‘The Debt-Gavin’s Story
4. What is your favorite book? Harry Potter series, Anne of Green Gables series, Bridgerton Series- I’m a series junkie LOL
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? Wife and mother, also homeschool teacher for now.
6. What link can we find you at? Website- Home lolagracestevens.com & FB- Author Lola Grace Stevens
Salvation
I learned how to read before I was even three years old. It was my way to escape from the world I was living in, which was filled with abuse and terror. Books were what saved me. I read a lot of books through the years, but one day I found a book that the library was throwing out. The cover was half-torn and the pages were yellow. It was crazy, because the book didn’t seem like it was that old. I decided to take it home.
My foster mother was furious, see as a foster child I wasn’t supposed to own my own books. At least the home I was in at the time. I was about eight years old. Anyway, this book was called ‘The Lottery Rose’ by Irene Hunt. It was the first book where I felt like I was reading about me in the beginning and then… I just saw this kids life change. It made me wonder if I could change my life too.
Could I overcome growing up in foster care? Could I overcome the abuse I had suffered, and find my own happy ending? Was it possible anyone could love someone who was as damaged as I was?
Those were questions I asked myself constantly as I grew older. My favorite brother died when I was 10 and I read this book again. I cried as I read about Georgie leaving his beloved rosebush at Robin’s grave, and I knew I was going to be all right. Maybe not that day, but eventually.
I made it through hell, and I came out on the other side stronger than I could have imagined. I have a wonderful husband, and three beautiful children. Books saved me life, but this book was different. In some ways I feel like it healed my soul.

Book Review – Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things

TITLE: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Ted Naifeh
FORMAT: Paperback/Graphic Novel
PUBLISHED: 2003

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is volume 1 of I don’t know how many.  It collects issues 1-4 of the comic of the same name.

In this, Courtney and her parents move in with a creepy old Great-Uncle that nobody really knows because they want to be part of society’s elite and this is the only way they can afford to do it.  But the house is also occupied by the night things, and there are creepy crawlies in the woods and everywhere else.

Poor Courtney is faced with having to be the odd kid out in a preppy school, and her only friend doesn’t stay her friend for long.

Also, I want to put this here… It’s from the introduction:

Now that I’m an adult, … I see that I am part of the diaspora of kids that was driven from the village, for various reasons, and spent all of adolescense observing it from the outside.  We’ve formed our own tribes and, as far as I can see, we, the geeks, won.  We’re smarter, we’re independant, we’re more courageous, and we value each other more than the kids who fit in without effort, blending in and never really getting to know themselves.

If that’s the basis for the book, that book is the story of my people.  I may as well be Courtney.  Well, with a bunch of magic and weird stuff thrown in.  But hey, why not.

Now then.  Some cons.  The illustrations were in black and white.  And I don’t know if they were better in the original comics or not, but they were too small to look good in this format.  If this had been comic sized, I think they would have looked better.  The lettering was a little hard to read in some places, too.

So my rating.  I loved the story but had issues with the visual, and let’s face it, this is a visual medium.  I’m going to get the next volume if I can, though, so I guess they did good.  I will give it a 4/5.

Book Review – Myst: The Book of D’ni By Rand Miller with David Wingrove

Title: Myst: The Book of D’ni
Author: Rand Miller with David Wingrove
Illustrations: Tow Bowman
Format: Hardback
Published: 1997

So we come to the third and final book in the set of three Myst tie-in novels.  The Book of D’ni reunites us with Atrus, several years older.  There’s a brief allusion to Atrus’s sons, which makes me think they were the center of one or more of the Myst computer game plots.  (I’m hoping I can find a used copy of the computer games to play.  If anyone has one collecting dust…)  Atrus and his wife Catherine have decided to take on the task of rebuilding the ruined D’ni civilization.  With the help of some young recruits from a modest Age, they start by searching for survivors and information to help them rebuild.  In the course of their exploration, they uncover a sealed tomb with an ancient book which leads them to an impressive civilization that dazzles them with its apparent perfection.  But of course there’s a secret hidden in the palatial walls of these grand marble houses.

Reading this book was a bit like listening to a fantastic piece of classical music on a record that keeps skipping.  The sentences and characters were solid.  The images and ideas are grand.  There was easily enough plot in the last book to fill a trilogy by itself.  However, the breaks are awkward, and there are pieces of information that seems to be missing, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.  To a degree every book should leave a little space for the reader to connect the dots, but there are several places where a little clarity would be welcome.  Moments that easily could have been the most dramatic and exciting are skipped over entirely, while the calm moments are detailed.

It was delightful to get back to Atrus and the smaller scale of the early chapters.  The later chapters slide more into grand world sweeping drama.  The intimate moments were strongest.  There was a good variety in the characters, which made them feel better developed.  The large scale events were for me the weakest parts of story, where they fell into the trap of massive fantasy armies which amass at unrealistic speed and unity of purpose than does not make sense for a technology still reliant on foot messengers and rower driven boats, and are dumb enough to constantly be burning crops without thought as to how they themselves are going to eat.  (Tactics and logistic lovers are likely to cringe repeatedly.)

Myst is supposed to contain elements of surrealism, so I think the gaps are intended to give it a dream like quality.  It blends a mix of modern, if not futuristic, science and technology from the Roman Empire.  They have deep understanding of microbes for instance but don’t seem so keen on this wheel thing or anything akin to a telegraph.

There is a massive logic hole or two, which in some ways reflects history (foreign microbes wiping out entire cultures), but don’t quite mesh with their level of scientific and technological understanding.  Nor does the rapid spread make sense when travel between houses and cities takes so long.

Still, there’s a charm and unique character to these novels, and I think this quote from the epilogue captures it.  “ultimately, it is that not knowing, that determination in him to do what he thought was right and not what was expedient, that has made his actions more than something fated”.

Overall, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.  As an endnote to the chronicle of Myst, it does a decent job tying the threads together and balancing the intimate scale of the first book with the grand scale of the second, but it could have been much better with a few small additions here and there.

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