Novella Review: One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

One Thousand and One Nights (Entangled Ever After)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead.When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

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Review: Bleach Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol. 2

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Y?ichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved. By far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date, Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood

Review:

I loved this volume of Bleach!  Picking up right where the first volume left off, Chad  is in oodles of trouble because of a possessed parakeet.  Housing the soul of the a young boy, Chad has promised to keep him safe, unaware that a Hallow is hot on their heels.  It’s a good thing that Chad is a strong, sturdy fellow, because the evil spirit does its level best to thoroughly annihilate him.  Rukia tries to race to the rescue, but without her Soul Reaper powers, she’s even more helpless than Chad and the parakeet!  Ichigo is temporarily out of the picture.  His sister Karin is very ill, and he’s been tasked with seeing her home safely.  Will he get to Rukia and Chad in time to save the day?

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Review: Bleach Vol 1 by Tite Kubo

 

Title: Bleach Vol 1

Author:  Tite Kubo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach, has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.


Review:

Bleach is one of my favorite series, and I realized with a great deal of dismay that I am far, far behind in my reading of this title.  I don’t think I’ve reviewed many of the volumes, so I opted to take advantage of a comp copy through Vizmanga.com to reacquaint myself with Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of the gang.  This is a very fun series that features a ton of action, surprisingly touching emotions, and fan favorite protagonists in both Ichigo and Ruikia.  If you enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth or The Curse Workers by Holly Black, I think you should give Bleach a try.  Admittedly, the length of the series is daunting, and it’s still being published, but there are enough volumes released in English that you can read it in manageable chunks by utilizing online sales and trips to the library. 

Ichigo Kurosaki is 15 years old and he can see ghosts.  His sisters can too, though all they can see are faint outlines.  Ichigo can see, touch, talk to, and channel these pesky spirits that he thinks are a pain in the butt.  He just wants to be left alone to mind his own business but NOPE!  That’s not happening.  Ichigo also has a high moral obligation to help anyone in trouble, even those troublesome ghosts.  When an evil spirit threatens to hurt his family, he’s forced to borrow Soul Reaper powers from Rukia, a Soul Reaper who was badly injured saving his bacon.  Too hurt to fight, she offers to lend Ichigo half of her dark powers so he can save his family.  She’s dismayed to discover that he’s so spiritually powerful that he steals all of them, and now she can’t get them back!

I love the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia.  Their back and forth banter is humorous and full of snark.  While Ichigo isn’t exactly disrespectful, he doesn’t understand the need to put himself in danger, fighting the Hollows, regardless of the obligation he acquired when he snatched away all of Rukia’s power.  When the chips are down, though, her forceful prodding  makes him realize how important a Soul Reaper’s duties are.  If he doesn’t take care of the restless spirits, they will eventually turn into Hollows, and once they become these evil monsters, they lose their last shred of humanity.  There is no going back, and the Hollows have an insatiable need to feed on souls.   Rukia put her life at risk to save Ichigo and his family, so he acknowledges that he has a duty to help Rukia until she can figure out a way to get her powers back.

Ichigo is one of my favorite characters because he can’t stand to see an injustice and not want to correct it.  He and One Piece’s Luffy have a lot in common. Both of them will give their heart and soul, not to mention their life, to defend those needing help.  They are white knights in attitude.  Ichigo can’t turn his back on bullying, or just stand by when someone is about to get hurt.  He’s not perfect, and there are many times when he should learn to keep his mouth shut, but he can’t do it.  He is fiercely devoted to his friends and family, and he won’t let anyone hurt them.  Now that he’s a Soul Reaper by default, he can’t ignore when a soul is in danger, either.

The first volume of Bleach is fast-paced, brimming with frantic action, yet it doesn’t let the characters and their interactions take a back seat to all of the fighting.  That is what I enjoy most about Bleach.  The character come to life for me, and I so badly want Ichigo to master his new powers so he doesn’t come to harm.  It’s hard watching such a likeable guy getting the crap beat out of him, even though I have few doubts that he’ll always persevere.  That assurance is the main appeal of manga for me.  I know that even as the protagonists are facing certain doom, they will eventually find a solution to all of their problems.  Reading along as they figure that out is what makes reading them so rewarding.

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo

 

 

Title: Under a Graveyard Sky

Author:  John Ringo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Zombies are real. And we made them. Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? The Smith family is, with the help of a few marines.

When an airborne “zombie” plague is released, bringing civilization to a grinding halt, the Smith family, Steven, Stacey, Sophia and Faith, take to the Atlantic to avoid the chaos. The plan is to find a safe haven from the anarchy of infected humanity. What they discover, instead, is a sea composed of the tears of survivors and a passion for bringing hope.

For it is up to the Smiths and a small band of Marines to somehow create the refuge that survivors seek in a world of darkness and terror. Now with every continent a holocaust and every ship an abattoir, life is lived under a graveyard sky.


Review:

When I saw Under a Graveyard Sky on Netgalley, I immediately clicked the request button.  I just can’t get enough of zombie books (you won’t catch me watching zombies shows, though – too gross!), and this sounded intriguing.  It takes place right as a plague is decimating the human population, causing chaos and countless, bloody loss of life.  The first 15% of the book felt a little draggy, as the author expounded on the science behind the man-made illness that was causing the infected to attack and eat their fellow humans.  The biology of it exhausted me, but not to worry!  Once things got underway with the out of control sickness, I was hooked, hooked, hooked!  I was reading this everywhere – when I was filling the gas tank, standing in line at the store, even making extended visits to the bathroom so I could have a little peace and quiet time away from the puppers so I could find out what happened next!

This is a blast to read.  The Smith family has fled to the sea in an attempt to escape the certain death that comes after contracting the virus, which is a modified form of  rabies.  The Smiths have been training for the end of the world for years, and they are more than prepared for the challenges ahead.  What they didn’t really count on was their daughters getting caught up right in the thick of things back on shore.  Steve’s brother has promised to keep the girls safe – and occupied – if they are allowed to help back in New York.  While this section of the tale didn’t make much sense to me, it did  get the action firmly moving forward.  Faith, the youngest daughter, seems to have a zombie beacon strapped to her back, because everywhere she turns, there’s another one, ready to bite her face off.  The fact that Steve and Stacey allowed their girls to go ashore once they were relatively safe on their boat didn’t seem like a smart idea to me, especially when they decide to go to a concert in the park. In the dark.  In the middle of a zombie apocalypse.   But no matter, it got my heart racing at the mere thought of being in that much danger, self-inflected or not, and made for very entertaining reading.

Once the family gets back on the water and sets sail for parts unknown, things really get nuts.  After rescuing a young girl, the only survivor after her family turns and tries to eat her, from their yacht, Steve has a new mission in life.  He isn’t going to take this zombie thing sitting down.  No way!  Steve is going to save as many people as he can, and take out as many zombies as he can, because there are people out there trapped and starving on boats just like Tina’s.  Now, I never stopped to think about what it would be like to be trapped in a cabin with no food or water while my family was locked outside, noisily eating each other.  Now that I have, well, I don’t know that being on a ship in the middle of the ocean would be such a good idea after all.  Especially if someone was infected, but we didn’t find out until it was too late.  What do you do?  Try to throw them overboard before they bite your brains out?  Not a pleasant thought, any way you contemplate it.

The sea rescues did get a little repetitive, at least until they got to the cruise ship.  Then it was Holy Crap, you have GOT to be kidding me!  How are a handful of people going to wade through that many zombies?  Despite some lags in pacing, I found this a fun, fun read.  The challenges faced by the small band of survivors made for compelling reading.  I couldn’t put my reader down, and I blew through this book in no time flat.  My one, major complaint?  Those three dreaded words on the last page – To Be Continued.  NO!! Really???  Why couldn’t there be just a teeny tiny bit of closure?!  The wait for To Sail a Darkling Sea isn’t THAT bad, but come on!  It won’t be out until February of next year!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Waiting on Wednesday–To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I enjoyed the heck out of Under a Graveyard Sky, so I am quite eager to get my hands on To Sail A Darkling Sea by John Ringo.  Check back tomorrow for my review of the first book in his zombie apocalypse series!

 

BOOK II IN THE BLACK TIDE RISING SERIES FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR. Sequel to Under a Graveyard Sky. A family of survivors fights back against a zombie plague that has brought down civilization.
A World Cloaked in Darkness
With human civilization annihilated by a biological zombie plague, a rag-tag fleet of yachts and freighters known as Wolf Squadron scours the Atlantic, searching for survivors. Within every abandoned liner and carrier lurks a potential horde, safety can never be taken for granted, and death and turning into one of the enemy is only a moment away.
The Candle Flickers
Yet every ship and town holds the flickering hope of survivors. One and two from lifeboats, a dozen from a fishing village, a few hundred wrenched by fury and fire from a ship that once housed thousands…
Light a Flame
Now Wolf Squadron must take on another massive challenge: clear the assault carrier USS Iwo Jima of infected before the trapped Marines and sailors succumb to starvation. If Wolf Squadron can accomplish that task, an even tougher trial waits: an apocalyptic battle to win a new dawn for humanity. The war for civilization begins as the boats of the Wolf Squadron become a beacon of hope on a Darkling Sea.

What are you waiting on?

Review: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

 

Title:  Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Author: Tony Cliff

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Lovable ne’er-do-well Delilah Dirk has travelled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she’s picked up on the way, Delilah’s adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan’s guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.

A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Delilah Dirk is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine…and globetrotting adventures.


Review:

What a fun read!  Selim is a lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps, and he’s content to be a soldier.  Sure, the sultan is a blood-thirsty jerk, but Selim’s life isn’t so bad.  He enjoys living a quiet life, brewing his delicious tea and keeping his head firmly attached to his neck.  All of that changes when he’s given the task of acting as the translator for a new prisoner.  Delilah Dirk is everything that Selim is not.  She’s bold and confident, and she thrives on danger.  She’s a master swordswoman, she’s traveled the world, and nothing intimidates her.  When Selim relates Delilah’s boastful stories to the sultan, his peaceful life comes to a screeching halt.  Delilah has arrived at the palace with one goal in mind, and that’s robbing the sultan.  When she escapes, Selim is accused of being her accomplice, and suddenly he’s living a life on the run.

I enjoyed the interaction between Delilah and Selim.  Delilah is like a forest fire; she is a force of nature, and if you find yourself standing against her, good luck!  She is clever and resourceful, and nothing phases her.  Like a cyclone heading for landfall, it’s best to just get out of her way.  Selim, on the other hand, is quiet spoken, and he wants to live a long, happy, healthy  life.  He immediately realizes that he’s live a short, painful life if he continues hanging around with Delilah, but honor requires that he pay back the debt that he owes her.  She rescued him when he was about to be executed, and while he’s rather go hide somewhere safe, his pride won’t allow him to shirk his obligations.  Never mind that Delilah drags him from one deadly adventure to the next.  A debt is a debt, darn it!!

I loved Selim.  He thinks he knows what he wants out of life, but he really hasn’t a clue.  Racing about after Delilah is one heart pounding thrill after another, and while Selim professes to dislike his new circumstances, he has to admit that there are some advantages.  Fresh air, nights under the stars, the satisfaction of a good meal cooked from scratch.  Delilah’s an entertaining companion, full of death-defying tales of her previous endeavors.  When he’s given the opportunity to settle down and have that peaceful existence he’s longed for, he realizes that there’s something to be said for the company of a good friend.

At it’s core, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is the story of friendship.  Sure, it’s got all of that fun sword fighting, mass destruction, and running for your life, but this is the story of two polar opposites who discover that together they make a team to be reckoned with, and that together, they make a more cohesive whole.  The full-color, expressive art is just as engaging as the storyline, and the dialog is snappy and keeps the plot racing along.  This is a fun read, one that’s hard to put down.  I read it in one sitting, and was entertained from the first page to the last. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Paradox by A J Paquette

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

   Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

   Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth.   They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?


Review:

I was excited to dive into Paradox by AJ Paquette for a number of reasons.  First, Paquette wrote one of my favorite reads from last year, the moving Nowhere Girl.  Second, it’s a science fiction novel, and there just aren’t enough of those to go around.  And third, the premise sounded fascinating.  Was it?  Yes and no.

Ana wakes up strapped to a chair in a rocket ship.  She has no memories or recollection of her past.  She doesn’t even know what she looks like.  She only knows her name because she has a name tag pinned to her jumpsuit.  She finds a note instructing her to Experience.  Discover. Survive.  Talk about a bare-bones mission statement!  At least she’s well supplied, with a massive backpack that seems to contain her every need.  Whoever packed it must have been a boy scout.

In rapid succession, she is attacked by a monstrous, dagger-toothed worm, discovers that she wasn’t the only one on the rocket, and learns she has a limited amount of time to accomplish her goal, whatever that is.  Ana’s lack of memories and knowledge of her past made for a tense, gripping read.  It also led to a great deal of frustration on my part when it’s revealed that her companions have retained all of their memories, and that they know exactly what’s going on.  While that was crucial for her mission parameters, it’s one of my least favorite tropes in YA fiction.  It’s almost as though the other characters think the protagonist is too stupid to be trusted with the knowledge needed to know what’s going on.  Instead, our intrepid little heroine stays alive through a mixture of luck and  sheer determination, marching towards the end of the book.  I felt the same way here, and maybe it’s because the other characters make no secret that they know what’s going on, and keep insisting that they’ll fess up the details at the end of their journey.  Should they ever arrive at that destination.

Along the way, they are attacked repeatedly by that scary worm thing.  It was stalking them.  I was hoping for a guest appearance by Tremors’ star, Kevin Bacon, which would have proven beyond a doubt that all steps truly do lead to Kevin.  Ana and company are also in a race against time.  Ana awakens wearing a timer that is counting down the hours until the end of their mission.  What happens when the timer reaches 00?  Nope, we don’t know that, either, but it must be pretty awful.

I found Paradox hard to put down.  It is a runaway freight train of adventure.  Danger! Danger! Will Robinson! It’s everywhere!  The writing is tense and in the moment.  At first the third person present tense narrative turned me off, but I quickly grew accustomed to it.  It kept me engaged in the story, running frantically with Ana and Todd as they navigated the strange, deadly world they found themselves on.  I wanted to know what the heck was going on, and how Ana was going to survive, given her massive deficiencies.  And the counter was always there, steadily ticking toward…what? Doom?  Rescue?  Dinner??

There is one caution I will give, and that is that Paradox reads more like a middle grade novel than YA.  Since I enjoy reading both, I wasn’t put off by the fact that I thought this book skewed to younger readers than I had expected.

Looking for a frenzied summer read?  Paradox flies along like a summer action flick, offering tons of adventure and excitement.  There’s running!  There’s mountain climbing!  There’s a scary jaunt through a dead forest!  And did I mention – killer worms?  Yeah, it’s got those, too.  So, my verdict for Paradox by AJ Paquette is just one word – FUN.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Rockstar Blog Tours

Interview with Cole Gibsen, Author of Senshi

Cole Gibsen is visiting the virtual offices today.  I loved Katana, so I’m delighted that she could drop by to answer a few questions about Senshi, the next book in the series.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Cole Gibsen] I’m a wannabe superhero who loves sewing, comic books, and Chinese food. My nail polish is always chipped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Senshi?

[Cole Gibsen] Senshi is the sequel to my debut novel and ohmigosh, did I have fun writing it. Not only does Rileigh accept the role as a warrior, but Quentin gets a chance to prove his worth, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Cole Gibsen] It was my love of martial arts and Bruce Lee movies that inspired me to write the first KATANA.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Rileigh?

[Cole Gibsen] Fearless, snarky, and stubborn. So I guess that would be fenarkorn. You know, I think we’re on to something here. I’m calling the people at Webster to get this recognized as a word!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Rileigh had a theme song, what would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I wrote the first book I had Rebirth by Skillet playing on loop. There couldn’t be a more perfect song for Rileigh.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Quentin won’t leave the house without.

[Cole Gibsen] His sunglasses. I always imagined him to be very much like me in that respect. My eyes are super sensitive to light so I have to wear my sunglasses at all times or else I have to do the squinty eye thing while I drive which is really no fun.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Kim’s pockets?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A pocketknife—really, why bother with anything less than a sword?

2. Gum—Rileigh makes him clench his jaw enough, no need to add to the strain.

3. Fast food receipt—As focused as Kim is with training, I don’t think he’d eat anything that wouldn’t keep him in optimum condition. Rileigh on the other hand…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Cole Gibsen] Stan Lee. Comic books were my life growing up. And I’m not ashamed to admit I still read them.  My goal when writing KATANA was to see if I could take a comic book concept and put it into book form.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A mug of hot tea.

2. My kitty thinks I need her on my lap.

3. NO INTERNET

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Cole Gibsen] Does comic book count? I just read Amazing Spiderman #700 and the ending, I won’t go into it because it’s a major spoiler alert, made me cry. When you invest so much time into a character, they become almost like family. So when they die, it makes an impact.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I was seventeen I found myself homeless and living out of my car. Back in those days there were no cell phones so my only source of entertainment were the books I checked out from the library that I read in my car with a flashlight. I remember the first book I ever read that really transported me to another world so viscerally was Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I’d loved how this poor girl who suffered and was abused terribly by her father, was able to rise above her past and become so much more than she’d ever dreamed. To this day, that book still haunts and inspires me. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Cole Gibsen] So many things! I like to sew and craft things out of felt. I also play the harmonica and sing in an eighties –themed rock band.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Cole Gibsen] My website: www.colegibsen.com

My twitter: www.twitter.com/colegibsen

My facebook: www.facebook.com/colegibsen

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Senshi from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below.

About the book:

Is Rileigh’s only hope for salvation to team up with her sworn enemy?

Rileigh Martin just wants to do normal teenage things, like go on romantic dates with Kim, her boyfriend and past life soul mate. Although that seems impossible when she’s the reincarnation of Senshi, a fifteenth century samurai warrior. After a ninja ambush leaves her unable to control her ki powers, Rileigh vows to get them under control before her friends lose more than their eyebrows. But when Kim leaves her for his past life betrothed and the other samurai stop talking to her, Rileigh realizes she doesn’t have any friends left to worry about.

As the ninja attacks increase, Rileigh learns that the reincarnated kunoichi, a powerful female ninja, wants to kill her in order to reclaim her destructive powers. Alone and with increasingly unstable powers, Rileigh’s only offer of help comes from Whitley, her sworn past life enemy. Rileigh knows she doesn’t stand a chance against the kunoichi by herself, but Whitley’s sudden allegiance might be hiding a much deadlier agenda.