Category Archives: The Book Den

Book Review: Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale

Reviewed: By Clifford Kiyabu
Written by: Benjamin Read
Artwork: Chris Wildgoose
Colors: Andre May
Publisher: Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale
Released: July 2013

Plot: Set within a world that’s a darkly magical echo of our own, “Porcelain” follows the story of a street urchin, known as Child, who leaves the cold streets of a snowy city behind when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s secret garden in a bid to steal whatever she can. The Porcelain Maker discovers Child trespassing but, amused by her audacity, he offers her the chance to stay. He’s a lonely man, kept company only by his alchemically-powered automata, and he and Child form an unlikely friendship.

Review: A+

My Thoughts: I’ve been a dedicated comic book reader most of my life, I enjoy both independent and mainstream titles alike spanning through all brands. However, after nearly 18 years of reading various comic titles on a weekly bases I have found it incredibly difficult to encounter something original or hasn’t been told a million and one times already. Some plotlines can be seen coming a mile away. Even my most beloved titled have become somewhat predictable. However, this is not the case with Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale. Written by Benjamin Read and Artwork by Chris Wildgoose.

Porcelain is a hauntingly beautiful story about two lonely souls unexpectedly find companionship and unconditional love in each other. The story follows a young street urchin known as Child, a young girl who braves to climbs a high wall of a gated mansion to loot the home of a porcelain maker who happens to be a skilled alchemist capable of bringing his creations to life. When Child is discovered in his secret garden she quickly charms her way out of trouble. Without either one of them knowing it, they both are taking the first step in finding the one thing they’ve been missing in their life. For Child; the father she never had. And for the Porcelain maker; the unconditional love only a child can give. Much in the same vein as the classic musical Annie, the two take a great liking to each other and become inseparable. The Porcelain maker makes Child his ward and teaches her how to read, learn proper manners, and teach her everything there is about alchemy. While Child brings warmth and happiness to the old man’s heart, something which has been absent for a very long time. However, the old Porcelain maker has only one rule, and a strict rule it is: Never go into his sealed workshop.

One of my favorite scenes in the story takes place a little ways in, after Child brings joy and happiness into the Porcelain maker’s life, he rewards her kindness by reviving the lush beauty of his secret garden. He then tells her that she has “brought summer back to my life, and this is my thank you”, tears begin to run down her eyes, because this is the most beautiful thing the likes of her has ever seen, and now it was all hers to enjoy… as the story progresses it takes a shocking, and somewhat disturbing twist towards the middle that was completely unexpected but without a doubt captivating and page turning.

Benjamin Read’s story is undoubtedly enchanting, within the first couple pages I found myself deeply taken by the story. There is a certain allure to it that eerily echoes the works of Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola with an inspirational touch of the Grimm fairy tales. Read knows his audience and knows how to captivate them in his writing, giving Porcelain the perfect combination of sweet innocence and dark Goth. And his writing is further complimented by Chris Wildgoose’s frightfully beautiful artwork that captures Read’s story so flawlessly. It’s as clear as daylight that Read and Wildgoose’s writing and artwork go hand in hand. The chemistry in their joint work is fluent and brings a certain level of finesse and quality. I look forward to seeing what this duo will hash out next.

Final Say: Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale is the first graphic novel by Improper Books, and what a choice to go with their debut. They say that their first action is the stepping stone for what is to come, well if that is the case then it is apparently clear that Improper Books has a bright and shining future in store for them as Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale is a wonder to behold. I highly recommend!

Dead Ever After [Book Review]

Dead Ever After (The Final Sookie Stackhouse novel) by Charlaine Harris
Published: May 7, 2013 by Ace
Genre: Mystery/Fantasy/Vampires
Reviewed by: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer:  The following will contain major spoilers on Sookie’s love life and the fate of certain characters.

Okay, so full disclosure – I accidentally read the spoilers surrounding Dead Ever After  before it was officially released. I can’t say I was happy about the ending, but giving certain events of the previous book, I wasn’t really shocked either. I know a lot of people are angry over the outcome – a lot of people even canceled their pre-orders, but I decided to see the series through to the finish line. I had a month to brood over Charlaine Harris’s decision before actually reading it for myself. By the time I picked up the book, I had already made peace with knowing how it would end. I decided that I would enjoy Sookie’s final story and that’s exactly what I did. If I had come into this book spoiler-free, I might be a bit more outraged, but honestly, in terms of the storyline, I felt it’s probably one of the better Sookie Stackhouse books in a very long time.

The storyline is essentially that Sookie is being set up for the murder of Arlene Fowler and several of Sookie’s friends come together to help solve the murder-mystery and clear Sookie’s name. It was honestly nice to get back to Sookie’s roots and have it involve a murder “mystery” that wasn’t entirely wrapped up in vampire/were/fairy politics. While some of those elements were still there, this time we have demons and a couple of humans from Sookie’s past out for vengeance – with a final twist thrown in of course. I enjoyed this storyline and found it interesting that Harris chose to go in a different direction with this book by not always staying in Sookie’s point of view…maybe this choice was a way to prepare Harris for her next book. Anyway, the only thing I will complain about regarding the storyline for Dead Ever After  is that it seemed to have a rushed ending and I felt it was just a bit anticlimactic. I guess I was expecting more danger and suspense. Before I get into what I hated about the book, I have to say that I was also happy to see the return of several characters, including Amelia and Quinn.

Now, what I was NOT happy with at all is how little of Eric we actually got. I contented myself with the knowledge that they would not end up together, but I was hoping that we would have at least one more moment of happiness with them. A final love scene that broke our hearts perhaps. I would have even opted for a big blow up fight between them instead of the way he left, which was him just quietly leaving without a REAL good-bye.  I’m also still not happy with how Eric seemed like a bastardization of his former self in the previous book, so I was hoping the final story would show him more of the badass Viking that he was, rather than the version of him we ended up with. Maybe my True Blood- Eric is getting mixed in with my book- Eric, but I’m certain earlier book-Eric would have found a way to be with Sookie, other than brooding over how Sookie chose to use her magical object. I’m also not happy with how Eric is essentially forced into a marriage. I would have felt better if Eric had a definite choice in the way things ended. He did help Sookie before he left – from a distance- but all I can imagine is him spending two hundred years with a vampire he didn’t choose to be with, while still in-love with Sookie.

As for Sookie’s decision to be with Sam:  I don’t totally hate the idea. I can see how it makes sense for her, even if it’s not what I wanted. They have always been good friends and he’s “safe” and relatively human.  I think Sam deserves happiness…but I don’t know why Sam’s happiness had to come at the expense of Eric’s. I’m going to seriously start ranting if I put much more thought into her decision. One final thought about them though: Their sex scene …What was that about?!? I found myself amused in a “Did Harris seriously just write that?” kind of way. I mean “two seals sliding together?!” LMAO – Just no.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the final book for what it offered in terms of storyline. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I can’t bring myself to be completely outraged with Charlaine Harris. We would  have never had these characters without her in the first place. Without her there would have never been a Eric Northman to love.  So what I’m going to do  instead is hope that True Blood will one day give us Sookie & Eric fans a more satisfying ending.

Fifty Shades: Unbearable

Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James
Reviewed by: Nicole Raines

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers taken from all three books: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed .  It also contains the use of strong language.

First off, this isn’t a normal book review and I apologize in advance if it seems like I’m just rambling. This is me trying to understand the love for “50 Shades of Grey” and just not getting what everybody else is getting out of it. I seriously just don’t understand how people think the “50 Shades” trilogy is great. I know a lot of people who love it and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I found myself so freaking infuriated with the storyline and failed to see anything erotic about it, much less how any girl would want to be in a relationship with anybody remotely like Christian Grey. Every time I come across a person praising the series, I want to claw my eyes out in frustration and scream “Are you fucking kidding me?!” And it’s not about the sex or the crappy writing…well, actually the crap writing has a lot to do with it, but it’s mostly about the unhealthy relationship between the two main characters.

I’ve been an avid reader since elementary school , so I have read a lot of books in my life time and never once have I ever felt the urge to criticize any author’s writing style before reading “50 Shades of Grey.” Lets face it, I’m not a great writer myself, so I don’t feel comfortable critiquing another person’s writing, but I was only a few pages into the book when I just looked up from my iPad and said, “This is terrible!” I quickly discovered the absolute worst thing about the series was the repetitiveness. EL James used the same phrases or variations of the same phrase repeatedly.

I think the word “Crap” was used a total of 93 times in the first book alone. It’s the only way Ana knew how to describe a situation: “Crap – oh crap -holy crap- double crap” and I think she even got a “triple crap” in there once. “50 Shades Darker” wasnt so bad: James managed to limit the word to twenty-nine times and then sixty-three times in “50 Shades Freed.” The most annoying phrase in the second and third novels were variations of “You are mine.” Christian felt the need to constantly remind Ana that she was his, like she belonged to him like a piece of merchandise. The use of the phrase “You are mine” is a major plot point in True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but hasnt been uttered nearly as many times in both those mediums combined compared to the amount of times it was used in “50 Shades Freed.” It was ridiculous, not to mention it only made me dislike Christian even more every time he used those words.

The most irritating thing about reading from Ana’s point of view was also having to listen to her constantly describe her inner goddess and her subconscious. I think she had an inner bitch as well, but we didnt meet her nearly as many times as we should have. But seriously, she talked about her inner personalities like they were real people, and one was always wearing red lipstick and ready to fuck, while the other was always scowling over “The Complete Works of Charles Dickens.” I was treated to 117 appearances by this inner goddess and 176 appearances by her subconscious, as well as their various facial expressions, throughout the three books. There’s just no logical reason to use a plot device that many times, other than the author is just a terrible writer and couldnt think of anything else better to say, so she found multiple ways to say the exact same thing over again. Just ugh.

I could sit here and complain all day just on the writing alone, but lets move on to what REALLY infuriated me and that’s the relationship between Ana and Christian. I’ll be the first to admit that I found Christian rather mysterious the first few times Ana meets him. Ana really did make him sound totally hot, but then I got to know Christian and quickly realized that he’s a overbearing control freak. When he wasnt stalking Ana’s every move, he was constantly treating her like a child. It was always “Eat Ana. You need to eat. Eat something. Eat or I will beat the shit out of you right now.” First off, Ana didnt have any kind of eating disorder, Christian just had a hang up about food. These constant demands that she eat something just annoyed the hell out of me and to make matters worse, it got to the point where Ana was in fear of missing a meal because she was afraid that Christian would indeed beat her. It wasnt just her eating habits that would cause him to go into a foul mood…. her wearing certain clothing, the fact that she wanted to work, “disobeying him” by spending time with friends and not letting him know where she was every single hour of the day, etc … Ana spent the majority of each book constantly worrying that she would do something that would make Christian angry. She was literally afraid of him in the first two books. Nobody should be in a relationship with a person that scares them to the point where they are constantly walking on egg shells for fear of what the other person will do to them. Listening to her struggle with Christian’s mood swings go to the point where it was pathetic, especially when she would later rationalize his mood swings. No Anna, his terrible childhood doesnt give him the excuse to control your life.

The only time Christian wasnt treating Ana like a child is when he they were having sex. I started reading the series thinking it was going to involve an erotic BDSM relationship, but I just can’t see anything erotic about an emotionally abusive relationship. It was beyond disgusting in my opinion. The BDSM style sex wasnt what bothered me – it was all actually pretty basic and got to the point that it became boring –  it was how they both used sex as a weapon against each other. Especially in “50 Shades Freed.”  Almost every time an issue would arise (which was a lot), instead of actually discussing it, they would try to distract each other with sex or use sex as a weapon.

One chapter dealt with Ana removing her bikini top at a topless beach. Of course controlling Christian was furious and instead of acting like an adult about it, he decides to take out his anger on her through sex: He leaves huge hickeys all over her chest during a sexcapade. Ana goes to Christian, letting him know how upset she is about them and what does controlling Christian have to say about??? “Well, you won’t take your top off again.” Christian used sex as a weapon so she wouldnt take her top off again. At a topless beach. That he took her to in the first place. I wanted to cut his dick off right then and there. Of course he was emotionally damaged in his childhood, so this behavior is totally okay…  which is a main theme in the series: Christian acts like a lunatic, Ana gets mad but then remembers Christian had a rough childhood, forgives him and a few chapters later the same scene repeats itself. Let me repeat: Nothing that happened to him as a child can justify him treating you like a piece of property, Ana!

Then there’s him stalking her every single move. In the first book he “coincidentally” ends up at every place she goes to until he finally asks her out. I cant even remember all the stalking he did, but I know his stalking knows no bounds, because he ends up buying the company she works for just so he can keep an eye on her. Then for multiple reasons he puts security detail on her. They must drive her to and from work and every where else she needs to go. Ana doesnt like it, but she concedes to make Christian happy. Of course she now cant go get a bite to eat without the guards reporting back to Christian that she left work when she wasnt supposed to. Fuck that. She’s a grown ass woman and doesnt need permission to go get lunch on her lunch break!

I found it maddening that the author found  ways to try to justify Christian’s psycho behavior: Christian doesnt want Ana near guy, said guy ends up being a bigger psycho than Christian. ..This sort of thing happened a lot throughout the series, so instead of Christian looking like the possessive control freak that he really is, he end ups looking heroic. There’s just so many things wrong about their relationship, that I’ve lost count. I could go on for several more paragraphs about Christian’s fucked up behavior, but frankly I dont find any point to it. Girls will still read it and think Christian is the hottest guy on the planet, not caring that he stalks Ana’s every single move and treats her like an invalid, because all is forgiven when you’re a rich as hell sex god between the sheets.

I just find it scary as hell that a lot young girls and grown woman are reading this, longing for their own Christian Grey’s. They are basically asking for an abusive relationship, because once you strip away the money, sex, and his looks that’s all you’re left with. Yes, I know this is a fantasy story and every girl can dream, but there’s not enough money and great sex in the world that would make me willingly commit to a relationship where I have pretty much no freedom. If you read the series and got a deep and meaningful relationship out of this garbage then kudos to you, because I failed to see this as anything other than an emotionally abusive sex story – certainly not erotic.

Book Review: The Golden Lily

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) by Richelle Mead
Published: June 12, 2012 by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult/Urban Fantasy/Vampires
Reviewed by: Nicole Raines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: While I tried to keep the The Golden Lily spoilers to a minimum, my review contains major spoilers for those who have never read any of the Vampire Academy books or who have yet to read Bloodlines.

Plot: The Golden Lily is the second Bloodlines book in the spin-off series of the successful young adult series, Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead.

The Golden Lily returns us to Palm Springs, California and Amberwood, where Jill Dragomir is still being kept hidden away from the safety of Moroi assassins. Alchemist Sydney Sage is still appointed to watch over Jill and the dhampirs as they have to coexist among humans. Although Sydney has always lived strictly by her Alchemist beliefs, that ALL vampires are unnatural and wrong, Sydney’s growing friendships with the Moroi and dhampirs lead her to start questioning her beliefs, while a new evil begins to threaten the lives of her friends: Humans. Sydney also discovers that her blood might hold the key to prevent from becoming Strigoi. Terrified of being “different,” Sydney must choose between her beliefs – and what her heart is telling her to do.

My Thoughts: Even though I loved the first book, Bloodlines, I still felt it wasn’t anywhere as good as Vampire Academy due to Sydney Sage just not being anywhere near as awesome a protagonist as Rose Hathaway, which is why I’m still in shock over how much I LOVED The Golden Lily. It’s usually hard for a sequel to live up to the standards of the first book, but The Golden Lily didn’t just live up to Bloodlines, it surpassed it in terms of storyline and character development, even rivaling the original Vampire Academy novels. Don’t get me wrong, Sydney is still a lot to take in. She’s way too uptight, stubborn in her beliefs, and her idea of fun sounds just about appealing as being captured by Strigoi, but for all her aggravating qualities, there’s something in her naivete that makes her very endearing. She’s also more brave than given credit for in the way shes willing to stand up for her friends, even if her bravery isn’t in fighting, but talking.

The first few chapters of the book made me feel a little bit worried in how good The Golden Lily would be. Sydney starts out dealing with some Alchemist business, which was interesting, but I was anxious to get back to Amberwood, Palm Springs, and Adrian. That’s why I was sort of dismayed when, instead of getting back to all the new characters in the forefront, we are greeted by Dimitri. If you’ve read Bloodlines, you know he and Rose showed up in the final chapter on business. Dimitri stayed in Palm Springs, along with Sonya Karp, in order to run experiments to help find a cure from becoming Strigoi. Admittedly, being greeted by Dimitri, instead of Adrian, left me feeling a little mad due to the fact that he was already prominent in Vampire Academy and I didn’t want to listen to another lead female character build him up anymore. Rose told me enough, that I get it: He’s clearly perfect in every which way! Sorry, I’m getting off on a rant. I like Dimitri, I really do, but within the first few chapters, I felt he already overshadowed Adrian in terms of prominence within the story….I had little to worry about though…Adrian’s time came soon and each time was pure perfection.

It’s hard not to feel bad for Adrian in the first few chapters, having to work with the guy that the girl you used to love, loves. I could actually feel the intense atmosphere coming off the pages as Dimitri and Adrian work together – again, I was kind of put off by the Dimitri/Adrian storyline, but as the storyline progressed, it’s something that became less and less noticeable. At least we don’t have to worry about another romance triangle involving Dimitri. Speaking of romance, a new character is introduced into the fold by the name of Brayden. He’s human and exactly the same as Sydney in almost every way possible. Suffice to say, as nice as he was, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more boring person in a book. Their dates were so boring, that they were actually comical to me, which is a good thing. It’s the only way I found joy in their intellectual conversations, which would have otherwise bored me to tears, but I was able to just shake my head at the absurdity of it all.

As Sydney is discovering romance for the first time, Jill, Eddie, and Angeline are dealing with their own internal feelings back at Amberwood. Jill is still with Micah, but knows it can’t last due to the secret she’s hiding and the taboo of their relationship in the first place. Eddie still has feelings for Jill, but tries to keep them hidden, while also dealing with advances from Angeline, who still hasn’t learned proper etiquette in the human world, which leads to one of the funniest situations in the entire book when she takes out three (human) authority figures with her fist! Whew! The one that seems to be struggling with their feelings the most though is Adrian, which is totally obvious, but Sydney is just too naive to realize he totally has it bad for her.

Ah, Adrian. I’ve always been a huge fan of him, but I just simply fell in love with him in this one. I kind of imagine if a souled Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) had a little brother, it would be Adrian. His personality is so much like Spike’s: The way he uses nicknames, his snark, and the way he loves fiercely and stands beside those he cares for. Which is why I probably blushed and practically swooned over his every line and the fact that Sydney couldn’t see what was going on with him was frustrating! As smart as she is, she’s so dang naïve, that it makes you want to pull your hair out. There’s so much Adrian goodness in The Golden Lily though, but with it also comes anger and heartache. I do not like to see Adrian suffer, I read it enough in the VA series, so that’s why I literally wanted to rip his father to shreds in this book. He yearns so much for acceptance from a parent that clearly doesn’t deserve to have somebody like Adrian as a son. Adrian has so much goodness in him, yet he doesn’t seem to see it in himself as he does in others and it’s a shame.

In between all the relationship issues, Sonya and Dimitri are still trying to figure out the secret as to why those who have been cured of being Strigoi, can’t become Strigoi again. Hoping that if they can find a link, that they can cure people from becoming Strigoi to begin with. Their experiments eventually lead to remembering that Sydney’s blood appalled the Strigoi that attacked her and Adrian in Bloodlines and they want to test Sydney’s blood. Not only would giving her blood go against everything she’s ever believed in, she’s terrified of the idea that something in her might make her “different.” Sydney refuses to help Sonya until a fanatical group of human vampire hunters, who seem to have ties to the Alchemists, attack her and her friends, which makes her question who the real monsters are. Everything she’s ever believed in starts to be questioned, which leads to some unexpected choices by her and some wonderful character development on her part.

Sydney’s flexibility only goes so far in The Golden Lily. Even though she took actions she would have never even considered before and has developed close friendships with the Moroi and dhampirs, she still feels that they are unnatural and wrong. Page 413 leaves me absolutely breathless. I literally got goosebumps reading it and I don’t think that I’ve ever had that happen to me before while reading a book, but Sydney’s immediate reaction on the next pages leaves me absolutely furious with her. I honestly didnt know whether to be angry or cry by the last page. One thing I do know for certain is that it left me craving more!

While the storyline of The Golden Lily was a bit predictable, as was Bloodlines, I highly enjoyed it. It had a really good plot and fantastic character development. I didn’t cover everything in my review, but there’s certain plot points that I’m sure is going to play into the future of the series: The mystery of a certain character. What’s really going on back at the Alchemists headquarters? Will this be the last time we deal with vampire hunters? I’m sure it’s not. Though I focused more on the romance here, The Golden Lily has something for everybody to enjoy. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy urban fantasy and vampire worlds in general.

Richelle Mead posted on her blog that the third book of the series will be titled The Indigo Spell and is scheduled to be released February 12, 2013.

Book Review: Dragons and Science

Dragons and Science (Dragon Tales & Stories #3) by Drew Henriksen
Published:
June 15, 2011 by ArcheBooks Publishing
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plot: Dr. Ann Vroom is enjoying her life as a professor and scientific researcher at Palindrome, until government officials begin following her to and from work. Could it have to do with the top secret project that her best friend and fellow scientist, Dee Burns, has her working on? And why are her students acting so odd? Vroom begins to wonder whats really going on in the lab at Palindrome and will soon discover that everybody in her life arent quite what they seem, as sinister plots are revealed and surprising revelations are made.

My ThoughtsDragons and Science is the third and final book in the Dragon Tales and Stories trilogy by Drew Henriksen. The book serves as both a prequel and conclusion to the fascinating world of dragons and wolves. So much happened within the pages that’s it’s hard to review it without giving too much away. Too many spoilers will ruin the experience of reading it for yourself, so I’ll try my best to avoid anything major.

As the story opens, we are introduced to the main protagonist Dr. Vee Vroom, a professor and scientific researcher at Palindrome. It was easy for me to take an immediate liking to her character, as she was written as both intelligent and witty and I always appreciate a strong female character in a series. We are also introduced to a few of her students and her best friend, Dr. Ann Burns, who is working on a top secret project that involves animal testing on monkeys. Although Vee is part of the ongoing project, she never suspects the true intentions that her best friend has in store or what the project is really about, that is until she and her students start being followed by government agents everywhere they go.

As a huge animal lover, I was a bit mortified by all the animal testing going on. I was especially worried about the fate of the main monkey, Melissa, throughout the book! During the beginning of the story, I found it to be the most distressing part to read about, but as things began to turn sinister in the lab, my worry turned to intrigue as one of the monkeys infects, Elias, a worker at Palindrome. He seems to develop a taste for human flesh towards those he encounters, except for Dr. Ann Burns, who he seems to revere, in a somewhat creepy fashion. The government seems to know what’s going on in Dr. Burns lab, but it soon becomes clear that they’re not there to stop her. Vee realizes its going to be up to her to get to the bottom of the truth and with the help of unexpected family members, and a rogue agent at her side, she sets out to stop her best friend before she destroys all humanity and the world as they know it. How Vee and Ann were ever friends is beyond my comprehension, because I found Ann to be an uppity person, with a inflated ego. It’s hard to believe that she was ever nice.

Vee isn’t the only one who is shocked to discover lost family members and the true identities of her friends. As Vee’s true identity becomes clear to me, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected revelation of who she really was! Without giving too much away, her character is one I was fond of in a previous book and I was happy to see that her career choice is linked to her earlier curiosity of animal anatomy, so to speak. Also, Vee isn’t the only character linked to a previous book! As I stated earlier, Dragons and Science serves as both a prequel and sequel to the previous two. A whole slew of other character identities are revealed as the story progresses. All unexpected and brilliantly crafted as all three books come together perfectly, with no question being left unanswered. I even got answers to questions I never even thought of! Elias and his devotion to Dr. Burns is one example. I never imagined that either character could be linked back to the first book, but both are in a very clever way. One of the biggest questions that I was left with in Dragons and Wolves was the identity of the Professor. His true identity is finally revealed towards the end of Dragons and Science. The simple fact that Henriksen was able to tie in his character to all the books without me being none the wiser was very clever on his part. There’s several other characters and tie ins that the readers will just have to discover for themselves, so expect a lot of twists!

I will say that the story ends  in a totally different setting than it begins. I was really happy by how the book concluded, which includes an epic battle between two dragons. Getting to revisit certain characters and settings was a real unexpected treat. Also, there’s so much that goes on within the plot, that I forget to mention the introduction of new magical creatures. While the first two books introduced us to dragons, wolves, and witches, the third introduces us to Gargoyles! Powerful creatures that are the offspring of dragons and warlocks. I’ve never read much about gargoyles, other than that they are stone statues, but I really enjoyed the mythology that Henriksen created for them.

Overall, I really enjoyed the third book and the trilogy as a whole. I have no complaints with Dragons and Science whatsoever. It concluded nicely and answered all my questions that the previous two books left me with. I also once again enjoyed the illustrations that were included. They were done by Rob Granito and I particularly liked the illustration of the two dragons battling. There’s a lot that I didnt get to touch upon for fear of spoiling too much, but if you read the first two books, this one will be a must read. Drew Henriksen did a wonderful job at creating a world of fantasy and mystery that’s totally different than anything I’ve ever read before and I found it highly enjoyable.

 

Sidenote: This has nothing to do with the review in particular, but I just have to give kudos to the author for the Dukes of Hazzard reference within the book. I’m a huge fan of the series and found that really cool.

Book Review: The Dragon and The Detective

The Dragon and The Detective (Dragon Tales & Stories #2) by Drew Henriksen
Published:
April 7, 2006 by ArcheBooks Publishing
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plot: Detective Craig Scalici is working a case of mysterious murders, where the remains look like they have been eaten and regurgitated. Of course, this cant be possible.. What kind of creature could eat and regurgitate an entire body? Craig and his daughter have also been having strange dreams of flying and being stalked by something evil. What could this mean? With a reporter out to destroy his career and an ex-wife suing for custody, he must try to keep his cool and put a stop to the evil that is killing everybody in it’s path, before it gets to him and his daughter.

My Thoughts:  The Dragon and The Detective is the second book in the Dragon Tales & Stories trilogy by author Drew Henriksen. After really enjoying the first book, I was looking forward to diving back into the world Henriksen had created. However, I wasnt expecting to dive into the 1970s after spending 400 years in the future in book one. Initially I was a little bit disappointed in the change of settings, but then my initial disappointment was put aside as the storyline started to take shape and the characters pulled me in.

The book opens with the unexplainable disappearance of big time mob boss Frank Gercio. Gercio and his limo completely vanishes without a trace. Craig and Aisha are called to the crime scene when Gercio and his limo are discovered several miles away from the vanishing point. What’s worse, the limo and Gercio’s body looks like it has been completely eaten and regurgitated. Talk about a crazy crime scene!  Craig knows there’s no logical explanation for what could have happened to Gercio and he soon starts to realize there might be some supernatural force at work. When he starts having dreams about dragons and flying at night, he begins to wonder if dragons are real and if one could have eaten Frank Gercio. Of course that explanation is crazy. Or is it? Keeping his concerns to himself, he looks to another plausible explanation: Frank Gercio’s daughter, Marcella, who is even more dangerous than her father ever was.

At first I wasnt sure about the main character, Craig Scalici. His aloofness with people at work somewhat put me off, but once I discovered his devotion to his daughter, Meredith, I quickly grew to like him. He also has a witty personality, but with somewhat of inappropriate humor for the work place. He was an interesting character to say the least. I also liked his partner at work, Aisha Barlow. She has a no-nonsense attitude. I loved how straightforward she was with Craig when he sometimes needed to be put in his place. Two of my favorite characters were Craig’s daughter Meredith and her babysitter Jeannine. Meredith has a keen sense to the supernatural around her, even though she’s very young. For some reason I was drawn to her the most and loved Jeannine relationship with her.

Marcella is the main antagonist of The Dragon and the Detective and let me just say that she is loathsome! There’s really not a single redeemable quality about her. Maybe her love for her son, but not even that could endure her to me. Not only is she deadly as the mob bosses daughter, she truly is evil in every sense of the word. I actually felt bad for her husband. She’s also a very powerful witch. Using both her positions of power, mob & magic, she’s out to destroy anybody she views as a threat and that includes Craig. With the help of a mysterious book and blood magic, she begins to target Craig and everybody in his life.

I dont want to spoil too much of the storyline, so I better not say too much more about the plot, but when I first started reading, I wasnt sure how The Dragon and the Detective would tie in with the first book, Dragon and Wolves. The first book left me wondering about the history of a certain object and I’m almost certain that the object’s history is revealed in The Dragon and the Detective. I’m curious to know if both stories take place in the same area, but 400 years apart. I’m not certain at all, but I cant help but to wonder if Marcella’s mansion is the same mansion that burned down in Dragons and Wolves. It’s a question I would like to ask the author.

Like Dragons and Wolves, The Dragon and The Detective included a few illustrations throughout the story. They were done by Rob Granito. I wish more books included illustrations because they really do make a nice touch to the story.

Henriksen once again set a great pace to the story that kept the reader guessing. Even though Craig and his daughter both had dreams about flying with dragons, I could never figure out exactly who the dragon was and it wasn’t revealed until the very last chapter! It was a hell of a twist! One I never would have guessed and certainly didnt see coming. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the revelations. All I will say is that some of the characters ended up not being who I thought they were and it made me feel a little disappointed and a couple of deaths made me feel a little sad, but the overall storyline was really good read. There’s also a few side plots involving a snaky reporter trying to ruin Craig’s career and Craig’s relationship with a mysterious author, which all come together very nicely within the story.

Aside from a few grammar mistakes, I found the writing to be solid – being a really good blend of both mystery and fantasy. All the characters in the book are wrote with personality. Even the bad guys had a few characteristics about them you could appreciate, so I was never bored when the story went back and forth between characters. Henriksen once again proved that he has a great imagination and a knack for storytelling.  If you enjoyed Dragons and Wolves, you should have no trouble enjoying The Dragon and The Detective.

Book Review: Dragons and Wolves

Dragons and Wolves (Dragon Tales & Stories #1) by Drew Henriksen
Published:
August 1, 2004 by ArcheBooks Publishing
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Plot: Humans are facing extinction 400 years into the future. Forced to live nomadic lifestyles, humans have formed two groups: The Raiders, who pillage on their fellow humans in order to survive and the peaceful Tribes, who live their life in fear and on the run. Legends say that something even more deadly than Raiders exist in the world: Werewolves and dragons, both hunting and preying on humans. Not knowing if these legends are true, a deadly chain of events take place on one fateful night and in a struggle to save humanity, unexpected alliances will be made.

My Thoughts: Dragons and Wolves is the first book in the Dragon Tales & Stories trilogy by author Drew Henriksen. I really didnt know what to expect when I started reading it. I had never heard of the trilogy or the author, so I was a bit apprehensive, not knowing if I would like it. So I’m very pleased to say that I found it to be an exciting and adventures read!

Dragons and Wolves first introduces us the the Tribe members, gathered around a campfire as the Captain tells a story about the dangerous dragons. After the campfire story is over, the Tribes settle in for the night. Randy, the newest member of the Tribe, is supposed to be standing watch for Raiders and wolves, but instead  he ends up having a night of passion with his soon to be wife, while two young boys, Kyle and Yukie, decide to sneak off and explore a deserted mansion on a dare. The Captain sees the young boys sneaking off and decides to follow. These decisions lead to some consequential events as a werewolf lurks in the shadows, watching and waiting to make his move.

Dragons and Wolves is divided into two parts and Part Two of the story takes places in a much different setting than what we are first introduced to in Part One. Part Two introduces us to the newest Tribe members that have settled in a town. We also get to know the Raiders for the first time. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I was thrown for a loop regarding the setting of The Town. I thought I had missed something so I backtracked a bit and the obvious clues were there and I just missed them. It made for a major mind blowing moment at 3am in the morning when I was reading though! We get to know the town members and their link to the past a bit before the final showdown between the Wolves, Dragon and Town members. The showdown proved to be a bittersweet moment and I still dont know if I should feel happy or sad over the ending.

Henriksen did a great job at keeping the pace of the story going! As the story unfolds, you get a bird eye’s view from all angles of the characters involved. I was actually pretty surprised by how fast I was drawn in to the story and the characters alike. Henriksen set a fast paced tone to his story that kept the pages turning and the mystery flowing. Just when you thought you had the story figured out, Henriksen would throw a surprise your way.

Henriksen didnt pull any punches when it came to killing off some of my favorite characters. Just when I thought someone were safe, their death would come out of nowhere and it was never pretty. I actually got a little upset over at least three deaths within the story. While Dragons and Wolves definitely isnt the most gore filled book I’ve ever read, it’s still visceral – but with just the right amount of raw detail that any adult fan of the fantasy/horror genre can appreciate it without getting offended.

One of the things I found the most interesting was the lore of the dragons. Admittedly, I have never read any books that involved dragon mythology, so I have no idea how much Henriksen might have deviated from actual myth, but I really love the concept of them being immortal and able to live in human form without other humans being able to tell the difference. This detail plays a key part in the story. As for the werewolves, Henriksen kept them pretty much old school, aside from the fact they are also immortal. Werewolves can only be killed by silver bullets and a bite from one will make you into one of them. The description of their appearance reminded me of the 1996 movie “Bad Moon.” I really liked that he stuck with the old werewolf look I grew up appreciating in movies instead of trying to modernize them into full fledged wolves like I see in movies today.

Another thing I really liked about the book was the illustrations included. Even though there was only about four or five illustrations throughout, they managed to bring the story more to life. The illustrations were done by Jon Naughtin and I think he deserves kudos for his interpretation of what was happening within the story.

I only have one complaint with Dragons and Wolves and that’s the few grammar mistakes and typographical errors I found throughout. Although, it doesnt take away from the heart of the story, I just find it a shame that so many existed in such a good book. To be fair though, I dont have the best grammar skills myself.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, but I am left with a few questions regarding how the humans got to the the point of near extinction. I also wish that the history of a particular book that played a key role in the showdown would have been revealed. And even though I have my suspicions, I’m still left wondering about the Professor’s identity. I would recommend it as a great late night read though and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy and hoping that some of my questions will be answered.

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Published: October 18th 2007 by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, the topic is still somewhat of a taboo in open discussions.  Differences of opinion can lead to heated debates and people who are considering suicide often keep it to themselves for fear of being judged. However, ignoring the issue doesnt make it go away. Several young people continue to take their own lives each year, while loved ones are left behind, trying to make sense of the tragedy, questioning “Why?”

Plot: High School student Clay Jensen comes home to find a package left on his doorstep. Inside are seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a fellow student and crush of Clay’s that has recently committed suicide. Within the audio tapes, Hannah lists 13 people who she felt has played a role in her suicide. She also reveals that, if the audio tapes arent passed to each person named next on the tape, a second set of tapes will be leaked to the entire school, which could have serious consequences for some of the people she has named.

My thoughts: Thirteen Reasons Why takes us inside the mind of fictional character Hannah Baker, as she recalls events that led her to the decision to take her own life. The book offers a unique look on the subject with it’s dual narrative: Even though we are hearing Hannah’s story through her own words, we are also experiencing it through Clay Jensen thoughts, the main narrator of the story. I think the narration style of the book was bold to say the least. Jay Asher did a fine job keeping the flow of the story going in his debut novel.

As I listened along with Clay, I often found myself having the same reaction’s to Hannah’s story as he did. Some of her “reason’s why” were easier for me to understand than others. All of Hannah’s choices seemed to stem from the first reason on the list, which was a rumor started by the first boy she kissed. She made it very clear that every bad thing that happened to her could be linked back to his lie that -she felt – destroyed her reputation. Things seemed to keep happening after the rumor and Hannah soon spiraled down into depression.

I’ve read a lot of different thoughts on this book and some people dont consider Hannah’s reasons to be realistic enough to drive a person to commit suicide. I’ll agree that, for me personally, none of the things she listed would be enough of a reason to make me take my own life, but I dont think that’s the point of this book. Hearing Hannah tell her story, I could believe that she felt that they were enough of a reason. I think that once she fell into a depression, that every bad thing that happened to her, no matter how big or small, was magnified by her bleak outlook on life. Once somebody is depressed, any small thing that goes wrong in their life can feel ten times worse than it actually is. I feel that was Hannah’s case. Even when people were trying to be nice to her, she pushed them away because she expected – maybe even wanted – more bad things to happen. She built a wall and she made it impossible for anybody to come in.

I also think it’s unfair to judge Hannah’s reasons by ones own. Everybody is different and some people can deal with emotional scarring better than others. While some people have thick skin and can shrug rumors off as nothing more than that, others can be left emotionally damaged for life because they don’t know how to cope with the stress of them properly. I’m not sure if there’s ever a good enough reason to commit suicide, but Hannah’s reasons were good enough for her.

The best thing about the book is that the author never made Hannah out to be blameless even though she played the victim in her recordings. Even though I could feel bad for Hannah at times, I also felt that her last act in recording the audio tapes were a bit spiteful towards some of the people on the list, especially person number 13. Sometimes I was left questioning why Hannah would allow herself to be put in certain situations and I was even left feeling distaste for some of the things she stood by and “allowed” to happen. There’s a few on the list that I could see why she would want to make them realize their mistakes, but even the author strayed away from actually holding them accountable for her death. A person is accountable for their own actions in the end. Hannah knew that and I think Clay saw that too by the time he got to the end of the recordings. Clay also realized that every nice act can go a long way. I think Hannah taught him that a person in need of help must be willing to accept help. A person has to want to be saved and I feel like Hannah did not, but every small gesture of kindness can make a difference to someone, even if it doesnt save them.

I think the main point of the book is to make a person THINK about the consequences of their actions when it comes to things like spreading rumors or taking advantage of someone. It’s not about Hannah being right or the people on her list being wrong. Hannah’s story is meant to show us the importance of being aware of how we treat others in our daily lives, because we never know what another person might be dealing with on the inside.

Thirteen Reasons Why was one of best books I’ve read in a long time. It was hard for me to put down because I needed to know all the events that lead to Heather’s end. Not only would I highly recommend this book to be a part of everyone’s reading list, I think it should be “Required Reading” for junior/high school. It’s a book that could open up a discussion that could possibly lead to saving a life or at least open a persons eyes to the fact that every action -no matter how small – has an impact on someone.

Book Review: Succubus Revealed

Succubus Revealed (Georgina Kincaid #6)  by Richelle Mead
Published: August 30, 2011 by Kensington
Genre: Adult/Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plot: In the final installment of the “Georgiana Kincaid” series, everything seems to be going right for our favorite succubus. Then the unexpected happens: Georgiana’s demon bosses are transferring her to Las Vegas, where they expect her to carry out her succubus duties, away from Seattle and the love of her life, Seth Mortenson. But once she gets there, she realizes the move might not be so bad. In fact, things seem too good to be true in Sin City. Georgiana’s friends are convinced that Hell, who holds a contract on her soul, wants her away from her life in Seattle and have created the perfect scheme to keep her in Vagas …but why would Hell go to so much trouble to keep Georgiana away from Seattle and more importantly, Seth? Georgiana and her friends set out to uncover the life changing truth that Hell doesnt want her to know

My Thoughts: There’s really not a whole lot to be said about the final installment in Georgiana’s tale. The book opens with Georgiana working at the mall as one of Santa’s elves. I really miss her old day job at the book store. That was one of my favorite parts of the previous books, so I guess I was hoping that we might find her back at Emerald City one last time. Since she’s having no luck at finding a decent day job in Seattle, the surprise transfer to Vegas proves to even more enticing. Especially since, when she gets there, she discovers a dream job awaiting. Of course, this is all part of Hells plan to make leaving Seattle (and Seth) that much more easy. If you have read any of the previous books, you can pretty much guess why Hell wants Georgiana far away from Seth, which is why the plot of Succubus Revealed wasn’t that exciting.

My favorite part of the entire series has been the secondary characters and this time we were introduced to Seth’s, anti-establishment, younger brother Ian. He was one of the most amusing characters and it’s a pity he wasnt introduced earlier in the series. Saying good-bye to Carter (an Angel) and Roman (a nephilim) was bittersweet. Both of them proved to be the most intriguing characters throughout the entire series. Without spoiling too much, lets just say that Roman’s role in Georgiana’s happiness was almost too heartbreaking to read. His character came such a long way since the beginning of the series. There’s a part of me that will always be Team Roman.

The ending was satisfactory, but  as much as I have loved spending time with Georgina, Seth, Carter and the rest of the characters, I feel like saying goodbye was way past due. I’m not sure if Richelle Mead always planned to go to six books in the series or if it was part of her contract, but the last few books have felt very stretched out. There wasnt any revelations that I didnt already see coming, so basically it was just waiting and “watching” for her and the others to finally figure out what I had already guessed about the contract on Georgiana’s soul and its link to Seth. I really love Mead as a writer, but I think it was a mistake on her part to throw in so many clues in previous books to where the conclusion was going. Books are always best when there’s mystery and this one lacked it big time.

Even though Succubus Revealed proved to be a little underwhelming, the ending still leaves me satisfied as a fan of Georgina and her friends. 3 stars might be a little generous for this plot alone, but the characters werent any less awesome than they have always been, so that kept me liking the overall story. I thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole and there’s a part of me that will miss reading about my favorite succubus. I would recommend this book only after reading the previous books in the series, because it cant be appreciated without.

 

Book Review: Bloodlines

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Published: August 23, 2011 by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult/Urban Fantasy/Vampires
Reviewed by: Nicole Raines
My rating
5 of 5 stars

Plot: Bloodlines is the first book in the spin-off series of the successful young adult “Vampire Academy” collection by Richelle Mead. The story follows the alchemist Sydney Sage, who helped the lead character Rose Hathaway in three of the VA novels.

Bloodlines picks up soon after the events of Last Sacrifice (VA ,#6). The Moroi Court is facing consequences of Lissa being made queen. Not everybody is happy with the change. Certain Moroi are tying to kill Lissa’s only living relative, her half-sister Jill, because politics require members of the Royal bloodline to have at least one living relative in order to hold the throne. That’s where Sydney comes in. She is recruited to help keep Jill safely hidden from danger until the law is changed, by posing undercover as Jill’s sister at the prep school Amberwood in Palm Springs, CA.

My Thoughts: After reading the “Vampire Academy” series, I anxiously awaited for Bloodlines release and now after reading it, my only disappointment is that it ended too soon! That’s because I read too fast for my own good!

Even though no character could ever replace dhampir Rose, I loved reading about the Moroi world through the eyes of a human Alchemist. Sydney couldnt be more different than Rose, but the contrasts between the two characters is what makes Bloodlines work for me. While Rose is a fighter and full of attitude, Sydney is more reserved and cautious. I’ve read a lot of reviews that complained about the lack of action in the book, especially since VA featured some great action scenes with Rose, but truthfully that didnt bother me at all. Rose relied on physical strength, but Sydney has her on strength and that is her intelligence and although the book lacked action, it had several mysteries to unravel. And even though it was easy to figure out a few of the mysteries before the actual revealing, it didnt make the book any less interesting.

The only thing that annoyed me about Sydney is her prejudice towards Moroi, especially their ability to use magic. I think her prejudice is going to make her character development even more interesting as the series continues and cant wait to see how her mind changes in the future. The number one taboo in the VA world is Moroi/Human relationships and even that annoyed me about Rose, so I cant wait to see whats going to happen once Sydney realizes she has feelings for Adrian, assuming she does in the future!

Speaking of Adrian, he was my favorite part of Bloodlines. The part where Sydney was helping in the job interviews was probably the single greatest thing in the entire book! I couldnt stop laughing because everything he did was so typical of him! Loved it!! Aside from Rose, Adrian was my favorite character in the VA world and I cant wait to see what all changes his character goes through in the future. Even though I wasnt rooting for him and Rose in VA, my heart broke for him and I’m already rooting for him to get a happy ending this time around.

Romance wasnt the main focus of Bloodlines, at least not for the main character. Sydney was too focused on making sure Jill was kept safe and Jill was giving the role of the object of all the guys affections, which didnt bother me. Even though I wasnt that fond of Jill in VA, I warmed up to her in Bloodlines. It was nice to see Rose again, even if her role very short and limited. However, I wish there had been a small update on Christian, since he was another character I loved. I’m hoping that maybe he’ll be mentioned somewhere in the future.

Overall, I have absolutely no complaints about Bloodlines. I think Richelle Mead did a fantastic job. I’m glad she chose to write through the eyes of Sydney and I cant wait to learn more about the Alchemists. I also cant wait to see how Adrian is going to deal with a certain unexpected guest!

I not only recommend Bloodlines to young adults, but to all who enjoy the young adult vampire/supernatural genre. However, I would suggest reading the “Vampire Academy” series first. The Golden Lily, the second book in the “Bloodlines” series, is set for a June 19th, 2012 release.