Tag Archives: Book review

Book Review: Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1) by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation ( Dread Nation #1)   

Authors: Justina Ireland

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Young Adult Zombie Fiction/464 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Jane McKeene is her mama’s dirty little secret. Born to a white plantation owner, Jane is undoubtedly of African-American descent. Even so, she knows her mother loves her, and does the best that she can to raise her right. The course of Jane’s life is changed forever when the dead begin to rise on the battlefields of Gettysburg. Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy capitulates to the North due to the necessity of having to fight the growing numbers of undead, which they cannot do on their own. Even so, the battle is an arduous one, and some Southern States have been given up as long causes, simply referred to as the Lost States.

Under the auspices of the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, certain children are sent to schools to learn to combat the dead. Jane is one of these, having been sent to Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. Jane is really good at what she does, and she can surely swing a mean scythe, but she misses her mama, and writes her often. But she hasn’t heard from her in a while, and Jane is concerned.

Jane is a very independent soul, and very strong-minded. Despite the fact that slavery is now illegal, blacks are still treated with a great degree of condescension. Definitely second-class citizens. The best Jane can hope for is to become an Attendant to some fine white lady (read paid but still a slave in all but name). She dreams of the time when she can leave the school and return to her home in Rose Hill, in Kentucky. Jane has friends at the school, but Katherine is not one of them. Katherine is so fair, she could easily pass, and she is beautiful, and she knows it. She and Jane are like oil and water.

Jane has a past relationship with a young man named Jackson. Their relationship didn’t exactly end well, and yet they maintain a tenuous sort of friendship, somewhat out of necessity. Jackson is easy on the eyes, and he operates outside of the law, and you know how women like their bad boys.  Jackson gets Jane and Katherine embroiled in a scenario which ends up with all of them being sent West to a place called Summerland. Supposedly this is a haven for people to be safe against the growing hordes of dead.

But Jane quickly discovers she has just been sent to a place that is more Hell than Heaven.

I found this book riveting from beginning to end. Jane McKeene is an amazingly awesome heroine, strong and gutsy and just plain likeable. The story is told in a compelling First Person present tense narrative that will pull you in. This alternate Civil Way history with zombies is imaginative and fascinating. I thought it very sad that although slavery was illegal, the entitled white people still found a way to keep the blacks down. I found it hard not to draw parallels between then and present day America, and maybe that was the point.

The relationship between Jane and Katherine is priceless, going from enemies to friends. And in Summerland, I think Jane may have found a potential lover. Only time will tell. There are some great characters, some you’ll love, and some you will equally loathe.

The really good news is there is a sequel, and I can’t wait to read it.  Although marked as High School, I think this is an enjoyable series for all ages.. Can’t wait to read the next book.

 

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: Feb 16, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Otcho and Kakuta struggle to escape from the island prison of Umihotaru. Kakuta is determined to become a famous manga artist, while Otcho’s desire is to get revenge for a friend. Once they reach the water, Kakuta is sure he can’t possibly swim the distance required to get to freedom, but Otcho tells him the story of his friend who beat him in a swimming competition, and the friend couldn’t even swim! Meanwhile, the warden has learned of the escapes and while he is not concerned with the manga artist, he is upset about Prisoner #3, and wants him back as soon as possible, or else…

Back in 1970, Kenji and his friends are planning to see the Exposition in Osaka. Since time will be at a premium, and lines long, they have to carefully arrange their time to see as much as they can. Donkey confesses to Kenji that his parents can’t afford for him to take the bullet train to Osaka, and asks to borrow Kenji’s bike, to which he agrees. When Otcho and Kakuta reach the mainland,  years later, they find, to Otcho’s amazement, a recreation of that very Expo, with one important exception.

In 2014, a class in a Tokyo high school is given an assignment to write an essay on the Japanese history topic of their choice. Koizumi, caught trying to sneak out of class, chooses to write about Hitler, but her teacher won’t allow that, so she picks up a book at random and points to her “choice” for her subject, which turns out to be Endo Kenji, leader of the Kenji terrorist group that unleashed Bloody New Years Eve in 2000. The teacher objects, but Koizumi insists, claims she always found the official story of that night suspicious, including the iconic photograph of the group who was supposedly controlling the giant monster threatening to destroy Japan. Koizumi isn’t doing well in class because she constantly skips school in order to follow bands that she loves. A classmate of Koizumi’s tells her about another student who went berserk during a discussion of Bloody New Year’s Eve. Her name was Endo Kanna! Koizumi has some research to do!

When Koizumi runs into Kamisama and learns he knew Kenji, she has to learn more!  Back in 2000, Kenji and his friends prepare to save the world from the Friends. They need to find the remote that controls the monster that is destroying Japan!

On top of worrying about Kenji and what has happened to him and the others, we have to deal with Otcho and Kakuta and their ordeal in the current situation, still not knowing exactly what happened in the past. Plus we have a new character, Koizumi, who I feel is going to play a part in revealing the truth about the so-called Kenji terrorist group. I have to hope and believe that Kenji and the others survived whatever put Otcho in prison, and that they will yet emerge to save the day and defeat the evil Friends. Also, Kenji and Yukiji will finally get together!

Another great volume, can’t wait to read the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Business is way down at the tiny restaurant where Kanna works, thanks to the tight security surrounding the Papal visit to Japan. A young detective named Chono stops by and Kanna, who hates the cops, bites his head off. But he is there on official business, looking for a drag queen named Britney.  Once the detective leaves, Kanna’s boss sends her to look for Britney, as she owes him money. It turns out that Britney saw something she shouldn’t, ie a murder, and that is why she is being sought, as a witness. Kanna and Mariah persuade Britney to go to the police station to turn herself in, but while waiting in line, she recognizes the killer… and he’s a cop!

Detective Chono Shohei is the grandson of a legendary detective, and he wants to be the policeman his grandfather was, to be called Cho-san too. But so far, that isn’t happening. Cho is also rather gullible. When he goes to Britney’s home, he catches Kanna coming out and confronts her. Kanna tells him that she knows Britney witnessed a cop killing someone, and she describes the cop before fleeing the scene. Cho can’t believe his ears. That can’t be true, can it?

Meanwhile, new prisoners are being taken to the island prison of Umihotaru. The bridge to the island was destroyed fourteen years before, as was the tunnel, so there is no way off this hellish place. Kakuta has been sent there, his only crime being he’s a manga artist. His new roommate scares him with stories of this place, and the last roommate who died in the bed that now belongs to Kakuta. Also, there is talk of the Monster, a man who has been in this place for fourteen years, and is housed in the Punishment Block. Supposedly he is more monster than human, and is kept chained at all times. Unfortunately for Kakuta, he is caught with the pencil his roommate loaned him to draw with and he is sent to the Punishment Block!

Kakuta is in a terrible pickle with the guards in the Punishment Block and they are about to hurt him when the Monster intervenes and saves him from a terrible fate. He begins to talk to the man and learns he is not what they make him out to be at all. And he plans to escape this place. Meanwhile, Kanna is frustrated, hiding out with Britney and Mariah to keep them safe. She pens a letter to her uncle, who is in Umihotaru Prison, knowing it will never reach him. But she badly wants his advice.

In this volume, we learn the awful truth of what is referred to as Bloody New Year’s Eve. Up until now, we assumed that Kenji and his friends were victorious, saved the world and rid it of the evil Friend. Quite the contrary. Something else happened, the Friends emerged on top and Kenji and the others are nowhere to be seen. The only one I know the whereabouts of is the one in the prison. I have to admit I am very anxious about Kenji and will be very upset if something bad has happened to him.

Kanna is every bit her uncle’s niece, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Completely suspicious of the young detective, I think with time she will come to trust him, and perhaps more. He needs to lose some of his naivete, and I think that will happen. Unfortunately, not in time to save someone he inadvertently puts in danger.

A lot going on in this volume, what with Kanna trying to save her friends, and with the escape from the prison in order to continue the fight begun so many years ago. Mixed in with all that is the visit of the Pope, and a plot to assassinate him. So many questions, so much I want to know. And there is also an appearance by an old friend of Kenji, who has become unexpectedly successful thanks to a particular gift he has, the same gift which told him of the importance of Kenji to the world.

Great volume, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (You #2)   

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

American release date:  November 1, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Serial Killer Thriller/448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

How sad that Guinevere Beck, the long-time object of Joe Goldberg’s devotion (read: obsession) turned out not to be THE ONE. How sad that Joe was forced to deal with her as he had dealt with idiotic Benji and the bitchy Peach before her. But now he has Amy and life is going to be good again, right?

Right up until the time it isn’t. Joe, too caught up in Amy, his emotions overriding his common sense, ignores the red flags and goes against his own rules, and then suffers the consequences when she steals about $23k in valuable books from the bookstore (which he foolishly gave her a key to the basement), including almost all the copies of Portnoy’s Complaint Joe had amassed (at her behest), and then nopes the heck out of Dodge. Berating himself for his blind stupidity, Joe comes across clues that Amy inadvertently left behind regarding her intentions, her aspirations and her dreams. So, it’s off to Hollywood for Joe! To locate and kill one Amy Adam.

Before he goes, Joe visits Mr. Mooney and tells him what has occurred and how he is going to Hollywood. Mr. Mooney has valuable words of wisdom for Joe, which includes being fellated, not sleeping with actresses, not watching too many movies. Don’t call vegetables veggies and don’t go in the ocean.

Before arriving in LA, Joe applies for a job at a used bookstore next to the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) with a guy named Calvin and puts out feelers for girls trying to sell copies of Portnoy. He constructs a social media presence for himself, including Facebook, and starts to receive Friend Requests.  He applies for an apartment at a building called Hollywood Lawns.  The manager, Harvey Swallows, is an older aspiring stand-up comic who responds to Joe’s email with a Facebook friend request and an invitation to be his fan. Then Joe plasters a fake casting call on Craigslist, “specifically designed to appeal to Amy’s overweening ego”.

Joe is assigned an apartment on the first floor, near the office, and Harvey introduces him to another guy in the building, named Dez, who is a drug dealer. Dez emphatically warns Joe not to f*** Delilah.  He meets Delilah, who turns out to be a gossip reporter who is easy on the eyes and a tendency to be clingy.

Joe establishes a routine. Well, as much of a routine as he can in a place like LA. He shops at the Pantry, where all the cashiers end their checking out process with “Ray and Dottie send their love.” Apparently, they are the owners and lovely people. He goes to the bars where he thinks Amy might show up, but she is never there, to his frustration. He hadn’t planned to spend any real time here, but this isn’t going the way he hoped. At least not yet.

An accidental viewing of a video of the comic Henderson puts Joe on Amy’s scent (Calvin actually made him watch it). Joe is convinced that Henderson and Amy are an item. Calvin is hoping to get Henderson interested in his spec screenplay Ghost Food Truck, and apparently there is a party at Hendy’s house tonight. What fortuitous timing! Now how to get in?

The next day, Joe learns about an audition that is being held for women that fit Amy’s type, and he’s convinced that she’ll be there. She isn’t, but Fate must be on his side because that is where he meets Love Quinn.

The second book in the You series moves us from New York City to Hollywood, which has a vibe all its own. Joe, being the survivor that he is, learns how to fit in without becoming one of them. Determined to find Amy and end her, he unexpectedly meets the love of his love, Love Quinn, and her twin brother Forty (tennis, anyone?). This book is no less of a roller-coaster ride than the first one, with Joe on the verge of being found out and called to order for what he’s done a number of times.

And he keeps on doing what he does best.

Joe is a great character, although honestly I wouldn’t want to meet him. He has no real conscience and kills without a second thought, although he is able to self-justify every killing. If you are interested in watching the series, which I am doing, be aware that the series does diverge in some areas. In the first season, they introduced a young boy, a neighbor of Joe’s, who lives with his mother and her abusive boyfriend. In the second season, Joe has a neighbor with a teenage sister who Joe befriends. They don’t exist in the books.

Joe’s adventures are hilarious as he learns to deal with the people who call Hollywood home. But he can’t help but remember that dang jar of urine he left behind in Peach’s mansion, wondering if it will ever come back to bite him in the a**. However, with Love on his side, he feels he can get through anything. Including Love’s obnoxious, waste-of-space twin. Unless, of course, Love figures out what Joe really is.

I enjoyed the sequel as much as the first book, and I hear the author is working on volumes 3 and 4. Can’t wait.

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 4 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol 4     

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

As a reward for earning her first Stella star, Anya requests the Forger family get a dog. Loid, wishing to keep her motivated to earn more stars and become an Imperial Scholar, acquiesces. He takes Anya and Yor to a pet shop which is associated with his agency and deals with military dogs, but none of them is to Anya’s liking. Loid receives an emergency summons and has to leave them to their own devices due to a threat against the Foreign Minister. He excuses himself by saying he needs to use the bathroom.

Yor and Anya wind up at the Adoption Fair being held at the Animal Shelter. It’s a huge place, filled with many kinds of pets, and Anya can’t make up her mind. But then a huge dog attracts her attention, even though he is standing on the street, looking in. Can she really be reading his mind? And what does she see there? An image of her family? She slips away from Yor so she can find the big doggy and see what’s going on, but ends up in a place filled with bad guys! The leader of this gang, Keith, wants to hurt Anya, even though the others protest she’s just a little kid, but it’s doggy to the rescue! In the meantime, Yor is going crazy, trying to find Anya and wishing Loid would hurry back from the pet shop’s bathroom!

Now it’s up to Loid… and Yor… and Anya to save the day!

Now that Anya has scored a dog, she thinks the path to friendship with Damian Desmond will be an easy one, but when she tells him about her new dog, he is less than impressed. However, when he seems a little interested and asks the dog’s name, she makes what he considers terrible suggestions. Oh dear, she can’t even name a dog properly? What use is she? When the Forgers take an outing in the park, something happens that reveals the perfect name for the new member of the family!

Most of this volume is certainly a comedy of errors, from start to finish, but every blunder works out right for this family. Each one shines in their own way, according to their secret ability, not knowing that the others are working on the same problem. The ongoing joke that Loid is spending an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom is hilarious (how else can he explain being absent without revealing himself as a spy?), with Yor going full-on protective mother mode in defense of Anya. Anya is determined to help Loid’s mission succeed so she won’t be sent back to the orphanage. And now we have the newest member of the team, Bond, who has his own secret ability. (Not a spoiler if you’ve seen the cover). Bond is so adorable, and his name is perfect.

There is a short mission at the end which involves Anya using her stuffed animals to play secret agency. But when she attempts to go into the one place in their apartment where she isn’t allowed, an explosion is imminent which could jeopardize Operation Strix! Oh no, how to placate the upset child?

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 3 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol 3           

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Since the cat is out of the bag, and Yor’s brother knows of his sister’s marriage, what else can they do but invite Yuri to dinner? He brings flowers for his sister but lets Loid know this doesn’t mean he approves of their marriage. Prior to Yuri’s arrival, Loid and Yor discuss what reason they are going to give for not mentioning their marriage for an entire year. Loid thinks honesty (or a close facsimile thereof) is the best policy, but Yor says she knows how to handle this and she tells Yuri that she forgot. Really?

Yuri seems to accept Yor’s explanation, but he continues to grill the couple regarding their relationship, and he’s also drinking waaaay too much.  When he and Loid compare notes on a restaurant they’ve both been to, his loose tongue alerts Loid that his new brother-in-law is a member of the State Security Service! This could be awkward, especially at family gatherings!

Not totally convinced they are a legit couple, Yuri demands the ultimate test and insists that they kiss right in front of him! Can they even do this?

The next morning, Loid is conflicted, wondering if Yor really has no idea what her brother does for a living. Anya wants to reassure him but can’t without revealing that she is a telepath. She’s convinced that once he knows that, he will send her back to the orphanage, and she doesn’t want to leave her new family. Loid finally decides to plant a bug on Yor, so he can be sure of her loyalty. When he learns nothing, he decides to set up a scenario, in which he involves Scruffy, as they pose (disguised of course) as members of the Secret Police! If she is in cahoots with her brother, surely she’ll invoke his name as protection!

Anya’s friend Becky tells her that they have a chance to earn a Stella star in PE, so Anya is determined to do so at any cost. But she’s not sure volleyball is her game, and things don’t look good since Damian Desmond has brought in a ringer for his team. Studying isn’t going well for Anya, and neither is test taking (she read the minds of the wrong students and got the wrong answers).  Maybe she’ll do better with community service! Loid takes her to a local hospital, but that doesn’t seem to be her forte either.

Meanwhile a group of wannabe revolutionaries have been training what they refer to as bomb dogs…

This volume of Spy X Family is so good, and Yor’s brother Yuri is sooo…  Well, words fail me about him. He is something else, least of which is a major control freak where his sister is concerned.  He’s got secrets, the same as they do, but Loid has figured Yuri’s out. However, what he doesn’t realize is that Yuri, in his capacity as a member of the Secret Service, wants to capture the spy named Twilight!

Damn, I thought for sure Loid and Yor were going to kiss, and I was ready for it! Damn her brother anyway lol  I think it’s just a matter of time until they do find they have actual feelings for one another, and become an actual family. Insta family does not equate to insta love, and watching their feelings develop is such sweet agony! Crossing my fingers for them!

There is a bonus mission in this volume in which Yor is accidentally injured while on an assassin mission. She can’t very well tell Loid that, though, and so she can’t explain why it’s suddenly too painful for her to sit down, even as he tries to show her a good time on their “date” night.

Love this volume, can’t wait for the next one!

                                                                                                                                                                       

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 2 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol 2     

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

 

Operation Strix is master spy Twilight’s covert operation to keep the peace between Westalis and Ostania by spying on the warmongering chairman of Ostania’s  National Unity Party, Donovan Desmond. In order to do this, Twilight has been ordered to have a wife and family, so his “child” can attend the same prestigious school as Desmond’s. Twilight—now going by the name Loid Forger—has actually acquired a wife and child and the three of them have had their interview at the school. Now they are waiting the results of the interview…

… only to find their daughter’s name missing from the list of those who have been accepted! Is the mission doomed already? But one of the housemasters takes the family aside and shows them a second list, a waiting list which has Anya’s name at the top. But Loid knows the chances of someone dropping out is slim to none, so he decides to help things along.

Anya finds herself accepted, time for celebration! Loid’s co-worker, Scruffy, gives Anya the idea that her dad will probably get her anything she wants as a reward for getting in. But what she wants is something she’s seen on her favorite cartoon, Bondman. She wants to be rescued from a castle! Is that even possible?

Anya is fitted for her school uniform, and Loid is covertly given the time of his next briefing, during which phase two is explained. Apparently the school has a program for outstanding students, who are known as Imperial Scholars. Donovan’s son Desmond is among this group. To become an Imperial Scholar, one must earn eight merits, or Stella Stars, through academic excellence or contributions to society. Eight Stella are required to do this. On the other hand, eight demerits, known as Tonitrus, will earn expulsion. Loid wonders if Anya can possibly become an Imperial Scholar.

Anya’s first meeting with Desmond doesn’t go particularly well, even though she tries to become his friend. But he looks down on her because he considers her beneath him. On the plus side, she makes a friend of a little girl named Becky. But when Desmond is mean to Becky, Anya automatically responds. Is the mission doomed from the start? Can Loid improve her academic skills enough for her to earn the required Stella?

Yor’s brother, Yuri, accidentally learns that his sister has gotten married, a fact she forgot to mention to him. But unbeknownst to her, York has his own secrets.

Thanks to a shortage of personnel, Loid is given side jobs to do, which is why the family ends up at the aquarium.

I have to admit I fell in love with this series from the beginning, from the moment I saw the cover of the first volume. Reading that and then the second book has only reinforced my love of Spy x Family. The situations are hilarious, with each member of the family unaware of the secrets of the others (except for Anya, who reads minds). Scruffy is a great comedic foil. Watching the Forger family interact, I just know they will end up as a real family by the end of the series. They are a perfect fit for one another. Anya knows she can read minds and get the answers to anything, but the trick is to read the right mind, and sometimes she doesn’t succeed in that. Yor is a very protective mama, and she is hard-core tough. No damsel in distress here. Loid may appear cold on the outside, and he is very methodical in everything he does, but inside lies a heart of pure gold, as well as a true master of disguise.

I can’t say enough good things about this series. The artwork is awesome, Loid is handsome, it’s filled with fun, action, and humor. What more could you ask for? Looking forward to the next book.

 

Book Review: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin     

Author: Roseanne A. Brown

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

American release date: June 2, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Teen & YA Epic Fantasy/480 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The line of people waiting to enter the city-state of Ziran is long, and there is no guarantee that all who wish to enter will be allowed to do so. Malik is there with his two sisters, Leila and Nadia. They hope to be admitted so they can join the celebration known as Solstasia. Bahia’s Comet is due to make an appearance, and they don’t want to miss a thing. The problem is that they have to pretend to be people they aren’t, for if they are recognized as being Eshran, they will never get in. Ziran is harsh on those it considers inferiors, such as those from Eshran. Life is hard, and the three siblings are all they have.

Malik is not like other boys. Since he was little, he’s seen things other people cannot see. Grim folk, he calls them. Dark spirits. He’s learned not to tell anyone about them, lest they think him crazy.  He is furious when little sister Nadia runs off. When he locates her, she excitedly tells him about the griot, who has promised a wish to the person who solves her riddle. Of course Malik and Leila don’t believe in wishes, and it’s hard for them to dash the little girl’s hopes. But they agree to listen to the griot’s story…

Karina and Aminata are hanging out at The Dancing Seal, a questionable establishment at best. Karina has her beloved oud with her. They want to enjoy Solstasia while they can, for life is not all fun and games, as Karina well knows. When the bard who has been playing mistakes her for a woman of easy virtue, Karina sets him straight and challenges him to a musical contest. If she wins, she gets all the money he has made that day. If he wins… well, you can imagine what he wants. She wins handily and takes his money, but he isn’t finished with the princess yet. And yes, she is a princess, albeit in disguise. One who runs away from the palace every chance she gets.

Malik finds himself in a bind when his sister Nadia is kidnapped by an dark spirit calling himself Idir. The only way he can get his sister back is to do as the spirit wishes. He must kill Princess Karina. And the only way he can think to do that, since most people have little or no chance of getting close enough to the princess to talk to her much less kill her, is to become one of the seven Champions of the tournament that is being held for Solstasia. But each champion is picked by the group he or she is meant to represent, according to their affiliation. How is Malik going to maneuver that into happening?

Karina’s life is turned upside down by an unthinkable event, when her mother, the sultana, is murdered before her eyes. Worse, it came on the heels of an argument with harsh words exchanged. Karina just wants her back. She learns of a magic that will resurrect her mother, but the ingredients she needs seem impossible to get. Especially the heart of a king. Ziran has no king, not since the death of her father, along with her older sister, in a fire some years before. But Karina has a plan… and if it works, she’ll have to kill the winner of the Tournament of Champions in order to have her mother back again.

Roseanne A. Brown creates a rich fantasy world in Ziran and the people who inhabit it, drawing on Arabic and Egyptian inspirations. Magic is in the air and in the people. I could see the whole story unfold in my mind as I read, as if I were really there, which is the mark of a great storyteller. Her characters are not all good or all bad, and even good people face difficult situations and make questionable choices. I was kept constantly guessing how everything would turn out, hoping that love would conquer all and Malik would save his sister, and that he and Karina would be together. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but a very wonderful journey. And the good news is that the journey is not over. There will be another book.

It’s hard to believe this is her first book. I just love the way she writes. I believe there is a movie deal in the works. I will definitely look for that to happen. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I highly recommend A Song of Wraiths and Ruin if you like epic fantasies and fantasy romances and good adventures. Can’t wait for the next book!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 33 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 33                   

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 7, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

 

Ichigo has defeated Grimmjow, but another Espada is waiting to take him on, Nnitoira.  Contemptuous of Grimmjow, and baffled as to why Ichigo would defend his fallen foe, Nnitoira orders his second-in-command Tesla to keep Orihime close to him. (Will these people never learn? Nothing makes Ichigo fight hard than when one of his friends is in trouble, particularly Orihime).

Meanwhile, Uryu and Renji, having thought they’d escaped the cluthes of Szayelaporro, find themselves back where they started, to their frustration. Besides his disturbing habit of eating his minions in order to regain health, apparently he has the ability to manipulate the inside of his palace to his satisfaction, thus sending the boys on a loop right back to him. “Shall we begin the Second Act?” he queries.

And oh, he has other tricks up his sleeves. Even nastier ones.

Orihime is powerless to do anything to help Ichigo. Although Aizen has made it clear she is not to be harmed, all bets are off if she has her Rikka attack.  Tesla wonders where the small Arrancar has gone. When she is found cowering on the ground, Nnitoira recognizes her, to his surprise. Ichigo wonders how an Espada knows a simple Arrancar, and a child at that.  Nel recognizes Nnitoira… and still doesn’t like him. But what is Nel’s secret?  And for how much longer can she hide it?

Renji, Uryu, Pesche, and Dondochakka have their own problems. With multiple versions of each of them running around, it’s difficult to know who is real and who is an imposter. But again, things can get worse… and they do.

This volume of Bleach is divided between two battles—that of Ichigo and Nnitoira and that of Uryu and Renji vs Szayelaporro. Not sure where Rukia is at this point, but Orihime is being held hostage, a witness to Ichigo’s battle. The surprise here is not Ichigo, but Nel, as we learn her back story, and as she transforms into what she once was. Who saw this coming? Certainly not Ichigo, who never expected to encounter a fully grown former Espada once named Nelliel. Her story is very touching, as is the story of her friends, Pesche and Dondochakka, who prove themselves to be much more than comic relief. They are true subordinates and faithful friends. As for Uryu and Renji, they are being tortured by the devious Szayaleporro. Getting out of this sticky wicket will be a problem. If I had to guess, it will be Uryu’s quick thinking and calm demeanor that will get them through this but we won’t know until the next volume. Likewise, how will the encounter with Nel and Nnitoira end? Gotta wait and see.

Another good volume of Bleach, looking forward to the next one!

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 32 by Tite Kubo

 

Bleach, Vol 32       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 7, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Nel and Orihime are stricken at the idea of Ichigo having to face down Grimmjow yet again, but he assures them everything will be all right. Heartened by his words, Orihime reassures the still upset Nel that Ichigo is a man of his word, and if he says he will do something, he will. Grimmjow continues to taunt Ichigo until he releases his inner Hollow, which frightens Orihime. Is this the same Ichigo she has always known? Now it is Nel’s turn to tell Orihime to have faith and to cheer on Ichigo, for if they don’t, who will?

Gillians are the lowest class of Menos. They consume souls to the point where they lose all individuality. But occasionally, one of the consumed Hollows takes control of the others and dominates, continuing to consume until it becomes an Adjucha. If this Adjucha doesn’t continue to eat Hollows, it will regress into a Gillian and then there is no coming back from that. This is the perpetual fear that keeps them going. Grimmjow was once such an Adjucha, who continued to climb in the ranks until he became an Espada. He never wishes to go back again, so he must defeat Ichigo.

Although, if he fails, there is always another Espada waiting in the wings…

This volume of Bleach is concerned with the ongoing epic battle between Ichigo and Grimmjow, both of whom are determined to win. This fight was inevitable, considering their history together.  Orihime and Nel are helpless to do other than cheer Ichigo on, but never underestimate the value of a good rooting section! Reading about how Grimmjow became what he is was interesting, and gives us more insight into the hierarchy of the Hollows, as well as their development.

There is also a bonus story concerning Hitsugaya which I enjoyed.

Looking forward to the next volume!