[Manga Monday] Full Metal Alchemist

Carol's Reviews, Reviews 2 Comments 19th May, 2014

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
[Manga Monday] Full Metal AlchemistFull Metal Alchemist Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Manga, Science Fiction
five-stars
Edward and Alphonse Elric  are prodigies in the study of alchemy-- the transmutation of items and elements. When their mother becomes ill and dies, they attempt the forbidden practice of 'human transmutation' in order to bring her back to life. But everything goes wrong, and Edward loses his arm and leg, while Alphonse's body vanishes and his soul is fixed in to a suit or armor. Together, the brothers seek the Philosopher's Stone in order to restore their bodies. But along they way they will face greater trials than the boys have seen already. They must face each obstacle with a will of iron, and a spirit that's full metal.

Welcome to this week’s Manga Monday! Today we’re covering the much raved Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.

You know the drill: The cover first! This cover depicts a young man with a strong jaw, blond hair, and bright yellow eyes, putting on a glove, while an imposing looking armored person stands behind him. When you peak in to the young man’s sleeve, you see his arm is made of metal, just like the armor behind him. These are the Elric Brothers. Alphonse (the armor) and Edward (the young man). And Edward is the titular Full Metal Alchemist.

You might be thinking, wait, what?! You got that right, Carol? Shouldn’t Alphonse be the Full Metal Alchemist? Well… No I’m not wrong, and no, he’s not. Also, Alphonse is the younger brother. He’s 10 years old, and Edward is 13 (at the start of the manga).

Don’t worry, I’ll explain soon. Anyway, some history on the manga. Full Metal Alchemist was first published in Square Enix’s (yep, the video game company) monthly magazine, Shonen Gangan, from August 2001 until June 2010. It took this comic nearly 10 years to run its course (though I’ve reviewed manga that has run longer and STILL isn’t done). The story takes Edward and Alphonse over 3 or 4 years of their lives, and tells the story of their incredibly epic journey, and how they touch the lives of countless people in their country and beyond.

The main narrative is about the Elric Brothers. Edward, eldest by a year originally, and Alphonse, who are prodigies in the scientific practice of ‘alchemy’. Alchemy in this universe is the transmutation of items through manipulating their base elements, and conserving the matter that makes up those items, in order to create something new. The laws of Alchemy resemble the first law of Matter: Nothing is destroyed or lost, only manipulated and reshaped. Alchemists create many things, and even fight and innovate their world, by using transmutation circles and the Three Laws of Alchemy: Comprehension (understand the composition of the items, their elements and compounds), Deconstruction (break it down in to the base form) and Reconstruction (put it back together in a new, stable form). The key to it all though is the conservation of matter, or ‘equivalent exchange’. You need the same amount and required materials in order to create anything.

Edward and Alphonse aspire to become great alchemists. But one day, their mother becomes sick, and she shortly dies. Their father abandoned them long ago, so the brothers have no one, except their neighbors, the Rockbells. But the boys want their mother back, so they do the forbidden practice of ‘human transmutation’: using Alchemy to bring back the dead, or reshape the human body. They save and purchase items that are found in the human body, and attempt to rebuild their mother’s body, using drops of their own blood to be the ‘equivalence’ of her soul. It doesn’t work, however, and the boys open up a gateway, known as ‘The Gate of Truth’. Alphonse’s body and soul are lost to the Gate, but Edward manages to escape, losing only his leg. However, unwilling to lose his only remaining family, the 11 year-old uses his blood and an empty suit of armor, to get back his little brother’s soul. Edward loses his arm, but he gets Alphonse’s soul back… It’s just now stuck in the armor, via a seal made in Ed’s blood.

The brothers eventually get help from their neighbors, who are crafters of prosthetic, mechanized limbs called ‘auto-mail’. Edward recuperates from the ordeal, while Alphonse must tell their childhood friend, Winry, what happened. Eventually, word of the brothers’ father’s reputation is heard and the military sends Col. Roy Mustang to come and find him. Mustang finds the brothers instead, and he learns their secret. He doesn’t take it to their leader, however, or the police. Instead he suggests that Edward apply to the military and join them. Edward wants nothing to do with the military, due to the country’s most recent wars with Alchemy-fearing race of Ishbalans. The army once called upon the Rockbells to ask Winry’s parents, both doctors, to come serve and help wounded, only for the two to die in the fighting. Mustang leaves, but entices Edward with a challenge. Eventually, Edward decides he’ll go join the military and use their wealth of Alchemic knowledge to find a way to restore his and Alphonse’s bodies. Ed uses the rest of his family’s savings to have the Rockbells create automail limbs for him, and he goes through rehabilitation and training with Alphonse, until the two are ready. When Edward is 13, and Alphonse is 12 (though still 10 in his soul), the brothers burn down their home, and set out for the capital of their country to seek answers and a way to become whole again.

This manga is AWESOME. The story itself is a mixture of epic-high-fantasy, with touches of steampunk, parallels to European history and allegories (I mean, their ‘leader’ is called a Furher!) and major minglings of magic and science. The characters are marvelous, with Edward being a hard-headed, stubborn little squirt (somewhere he’s screaming at me for calling him short), and Alphonse is wise beyond his years, and so adorable in his innocence. This series boasts a massive cast of people, not limited to who the Elrics are most social with. We get to see stories and the events surrounding Roy Mustang and his rise through the ranks in his own ambitions of becoming Fuhrer, and the members of the military who follow him, including over the top Gen. Alex Louis Armstrong III(*sparkle sparkle FLEX*) and the evil, mysterious, and sinister creatures known as the Humunculi. What are the Humunculi? Creatures who look human but are actually monsters made by Alchemy. They are all named after the 7 deadly sins; Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth, Pride, Wrath, and Greed. Greed is something of a frienemy to Ed and Al, especially later in the series, while Envy pits himself against Edward the most as an arch enemy. But all seven must answer to the man known only as ‘Father’. And we can’t forget the memorable Prince Lin Yao of Xing- a country that uses Alchemy for healing rather than simply creation and weapon advancement.

No wonder it took 10 years to write it! And 2 animes!

Wait, you say, two? Why two? Well, the first anime, released in 2005, followed the manga only to the point it had reached at the time of the anime’s creation. Since the manga was still going, the anime needed things to make for the rest of the series. Though they had the blessing of the mangaka, what we got was an entirely DIFFERENT story in terms of the anime and manga, and by the time the manga had finished, well… they had no way of reconciling the two, so they became two different stories. But then a second anime adaptation, named ‘Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’, was released, which follows the manga entirely. I love the original series, but the second one isn’t bad, either. I’d just seen it already through the manga.

The artwork of the manga  is a bit of a mix, but I think it finds an equivalence (ha!) in the balance between the simple designs of the human characters, and the complex and gorgeous details of Alphonse’s armor, the weapons and the buildings, the scenery, and the intricate Alchemy circles. The story, as said, top-notch! So, I can’t find many cons here. So, I give this manga 5 stars!! Read it today, and I promise, you will NOT regret it!

[Arc Review] (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

ARC Reviews, Fry's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 10th May, 2014

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[Arc Review] (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published by HarperTeen on June 10th, 2014
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Amazon
Welcome to Gardnerville.

A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.

Except...
There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

I really should have attempted to review this immediately. Unfortunately, I couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to throw down a functional review at that point in time. It would have been a lot of, ‘Buh?,’ and gushing. I’m still somewhat in that boat, but now all the details are fuzzy and romanticized. Hah, it’s only been like two days. Clearly, I’m suffering the same bouts of selective memory as the main character.

If you’ve not read Kate Karyus Quinn’s other book, Another Little Piece, I urge you to do so as soon as you can. It was one of my favorite books from the last year, despite having many flaws and loose ends. I feel the same way about this book, but was prepared for the eventuality that somethings would be left unsaid.

As and author, Quinn is able to weave horror into poetic sentences that create less of a gut reaction and more of a fascination. This book doesn’t lack for horror. People are boiled alive, grafted together, and fall to their deaths. But, through it all, I was enthralled by the town of Gardnerville and the secrets it kept.

There is plenty of mystery to unravel. Some of it ends up being very strange and convoluted. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about demon rats. Nor am I positive I can accept the entire back story of both Skylar and Piper.

Still, this book was positively riveting. It was a second novel worth picking up and I can’t wait to see what else the author has in store.

[Manga Mondays] Junjo Romantica

Carol's Reviews, Reviews 1 Comment 4th May, 2014

[Manga Mondays] Junjo RomanticaJunjo Romantica Vol. 1 on 2002
Genres: Manga, Romance
three-half-stars
Misaki Takahashi is in big trouble! His grades are slipping and he needs to attend Mitsuhashi University. He turns to his brother, Takahiro, only to be led to Akihiko Usami- Author and secret 'Boys Love' writer! At first Misaki doesn't trust the older man, but eventually, their relationship turns from reluctant student and strange, spoiled tutor, to one of pure romance.

Hello folks! Here’s another edition of Manga Mondays! Today we’re looking at Junjo Romantica (or Pure Romance) by Shungiku Nakamura.

Naturally before we get into the logistics, we look at the cover. This first volume issue depicts a very irritated young highschool-boy in the embrace of a more playful older man. The older man holds a manga in one hand, and a set of words in another. These are the main lead couple in the series, and their story is one of, as the title suggests, ‘pure romance’.

Before we go further, I must warn, this series is very adult, and doesn’t skimp on the ‘adult’ imagery. It’s a bit smutty, so if you’re not looking for that, then turn elsewhere.

First published by Kadokawa Shoten, and brought to the U.S. by Blu Manga, Junjo Romantica is a ‘yaoi’ series- it features two male leads who fall in love with one another. And this series is a staple due to its three– yes THREE– romantic pairings.

The first couple we read about, and the two who predominate the series, is Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami. Misaki is a high-school senior (18 years old) in the beginning, and in trouble. How? His grades are dropping, and he needs to be at the top of his game to get in to the college he wants to attend. He seeks, first, help from his older brother, but instead is directed to his brother’s friend, Usami. Usami is a 28-year-old writer, who writes erotic ‘Boy’s Love’ (another term for yaoi, set among highschool students) novels on the side of his more ‘serious’ works. Usami tutors Misaki, but the two have a hot-cold relationship as far as their interactions. When Usami learns that Misaki’s older brother has gotten engaged, it comes to light that the older man had a crush on Misaki’s brother. Misaki becomes enraged and tearful on Usami’s behalf, which makes the writer fall in love with the younger man. Misaki manages to get in to his desired college, and he and Usami become lovers.

The second couple in the series is Hiroki Kamijo and Nowaki Kusama. These two, known as the ‘Junjo Egoist’ chapters, are a very mis-matched couple. Hiroki is a professor at a college (Misaki’s college it turns out), and Nowaki is studying to be a pediatritian. Six years prior to the main telling, when Hiroki was still a teacher’s assistance, he went through a deep heartbreak, and was discovered by Nowaki, crying in a park. Nowaki, four years younger than Hiroki, hounds the older man in to being his tutor. Hiroki gives in, and eventually the two become lovers. Nowaki, whose name is ‘typhoon’, goes in head-first and with unrelenting determination in everything he does, and that includes both romancing the older and more stubborn Hiroki, as well as pursueing his dream to be a doctor.  Due to their age difference, Hiroki often worries that he’s too old for Nowaki, while Nowaki wants to be Hiroki’s equal.

The third couple, called ‘Junjo Terrorist’, is about Yo Miyagi, another professor at Misaki’s college (and head of Hiroki’s department).  One day, Miyaki’s confronted by his ex-wife’s younger brother, Shinobu Takatsuki. Shinobu declares that he’s loved Miyagi since he met the day that the teacher was set-up for engagement with Shinobu’s older sister, and demands that Miyagi ‘take responsibility’ for it. Miyagi at first resists the young man’s ‘terroristic’ advances. His reason for the resistance is the same reason why his marriage failed: he carried a lingering heartbreak and devoted love for his deceased first lover, who had been his teacher. When Shinobu appears to be giving up and moving on, Miyagi realizes he adores Shinobu as well, and they become full-fledged lovers.

Honestly, the older volumes of this series have the WORST artwork. The hands are too large, their bodies seem hyper-stylized, and for the most part, the main couple and the ‘Terrorist’ couple have moments of severe ‘dubious consent’. It feels a bit wrong, and uncomfortable. But as the manga goes on, the style, body proportions, and relationships grow in to ones that are more enjoyable and worth staying invested in. My personal favorite story-line involves Hiroki and Nowaki, because of Nowaki’s desire to catch up to his boyfriend, and that Hiroki is slowly becoming more open about his relationship. In fact, this is the only pair that doesn’t feel like a ‘forbidden love’ scenario and reads the most like a real couple.

I give this series 3.5 stars. The characters have moments where I’m loving them and their romances, but they also have moments when they come across as total jerks. While the artwork in the beginning is very terrible looking, it, like the stories, gets better. If you’re interested but don’t want to wade through the original art, try the anime adaptation. It’s also a bit more ‘censored’ in the sex department, and has a very pretty animation and style in comparison.

[Giveaway] May I Suggest Hop Giveaway (US Shipping Only)

Giveaways 38 Comments 3rd May, 2014

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Welcome to another great giveaway at Romancing the Laser Pistol. We are proud to be giving away an amazing prizepack including a $10 Amazon Giftcard as well as copies of The Red Lily Crown, Perdition, Jellicoe Road, Clean Sweep, and Steelheart. These books are from many different fictional genres and are books or authors that each of us have found amazing. This giveaway is part of the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck In Books. Good luck to everyone and happy reading.

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[Review] Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Amy's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 20th April, 2014

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[Review] Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongSea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 8, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
three-stars
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Let me start this review off by saying that I am a huge Kelley Armstrong fangirl.  I have been a fan since I first read Bitten many moons ago.  That being said, I don’t think Sea of Shadows will go up there as my favorite Kelley Armstrong book of all time.  I liked Sea Shadows well enough, but I didn’t love it.  This book had action, good world building, and of course a little kissing.  All the things that should make me love it, but it in the end it was just a decent read.

Sea of Shadows is Kelley Armstrong’s first foray into the world of YA high fantasy.  I liked her spin on high fantasy with an Asian theme.  Much like the way The Grisha trilogy is inspired by Russia. Sea of Shadows is about two young women, twins, which are the Keeper and the Seeker of ancestral spirits in their village.  They put the vengeful spirits to rest in the Dead Forest and keep the ancestral spirits in the village appeased.  On a night that should have been routine while laying spirits to rest in the Dead Forest, everything goes horribly wrong and the sisters find their whole village gone; and running for their lives through the Dead Forest.

I liked this fantasy world inspired by ancient Asian culture.  For me, it was like high fantasy with a Mulan twist.  One sister, the Keeper, is blessed with the task of keeping the seeker safe. The other sister, the Seeker, is blessed to communicate with the spirits and lay them to rest.  I liked the world of the Dead Forest, full of creatures from nightmares.  That is one thing I love about Kelley Armstrong’s writing is that she knows how to make the hairs on my arms rise up.   I like the sisters themselves as well.  I like that Moria, the keeper, is strong, hot headed, but also vulnerable.  I liked that Ashyn, the seeker, is kind, a little naïve, and a romantic.  I like that they each have bond beasts which protect them.  I like how the beasts are not just pets, but an extension of each girl.  Like I said the characters and the world were fascinating.

I guess the part I didn’t like was the third person narration.  I think that Kelley Armstrong’s writing, for me, is stronger in first person POV.  I don’t know why, but I always feel like when she is writing in third person POV the story becomes more of telling than showing.  This story was told from what Ashyn would see and then what Moria would see.  It was third person but not omnipresent.  It was still like the concept of first person narration in the sense the reader only saw what the two girls saw.  So, parts of this book moved a little slow for me and sometimes I had to force myself to go back and pick the book up.

In the end, I am glad I did read and finish Sea of Shadows because I think it has potential.  I think that this first book was a lot of buildup and I have hopes that more action and intrigue will follow in the second book.  The ending left this book wide open for more kissing, machinations, and of course scary monsters.  I give Sea of Shadows three stars because while I don’t want to shout from rooftops I like this book enough to be friends and read more in this world.

 

[Manga Mondays] Sensual Phrase

Carol's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 20th April, 2014

[Manga Mondays] Sensual PhraseSensual Phrase Vol. 1 on 1997
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Manga, Romance
three-stars
Highschooler Aine Yukimura writes sensual lyrics that come right from the heart, and dreams of becoming a song writer. When she has an encounter with Sakuya, the play-boy baddie lead-singer of the hit band Λucifer, she gets pulled in to the music industry quickly. It's not all glamorous, of course, since she has to keep her identity a secret, lest she be attacked by the band's rabid fans, but she also finds herself pursued by rival companies, hit bands wanting her magnificent lyrics, and the womanizing Sakuya.

Welcome to another edition of Manga Mondays! I hope you all had a lovely Easter Weekend. On with this week’s review!

This time I’m looking at Sensual Phrase, or Kaikan Phrase. This title is a shoujo manga, written by mangka Mayu Shinjo. Shinjo has a style that is partial to exceptionally ‘pretty’ men, and wide-eyed, very large breasted young girls, with a few androgynous folks thrown in to take you off your guard. She also has a lot of love for characters with extensive clothes and cars. Seriously, the outfits that both men and women wear in her mangas are gorgeously detailed, and this manga is no exception.

Sensual Phrase first appeared in Shogakukan’s releases of Shoujo Comic between 1997 and 2000. There are 18 volumes total, and they span the long running story of Aine Yukimura, a highschooler with dreams of becoming a song-writer for the music industry.

The Plot: Aine writes beautiful, sensual lyrics with meaning and heart, and while she’s never experienced romance or love, she hopes to find a true love someday that not only is full of the passion she writes about, but that will stand the test of time. After hanging out with friends one afternoon, she loses her song lyrics to the wind, and as she chases them, she is almost run over by a very fast, expensive car! Who is the driver? None other than Sakuya Ookochi, lead singer of the hot music group Λucifer (Pronounced ‘Lucifer’). Sakuya has a reputation for being a play-boy, a bad boy, and is a total mystery to everyone. At first he’s angry at Aine for running out in front of him, but when he picks up her song lyrics- and takes off with them- he is quick to turn them in to a song for his band. Aine goes to the concert to get her lyrics back, and is soon asked by the band and their manager to become their exclusive lyricist. Aine has to be protected, though, as the fans of the band have a history of being so jealous and protective that they usually resort to violence when girls get too close to the boys. So, she goes under the pseudonym of Yukihiko Aine, and is hired by the record label.

All the while, Aine becomes close to the band members, becoming friends with Yukifumi (“Yuki”) Todo, the band’s leader and oldest member; Yoshihiko Nagai ( called “Santa” because his birthday is on Christmas Day); Kazuto (“Towa”) Sakuma, who is the most androgynous and makes both women and men swoon; and Atsuro Kiryuu, who is the youngest and most cheerful member of the band. Sakyua, on the other hand, isn’t interested in just friendship. He tries to seduce Aine, but she considers it his womanizing. Still, she finds herself falling in love with him from the side-lines, and thinks that her feelings are unrequited, until Sakuya writes a song called ‘Love Song’, which translates in to Japanese as ‘Aine’ (ai- Love, ne- Song). Once the two realize that they are surely in love, Sakuya makes it his mission to be as devoted and protective of Aine as possible, while Aine resolves to ensure that her beloved and his bandmates make it to the top of the charts, and rein at the #1 spot for as long as possible.

Yes, this is a romance, but it is a staple among shoujo mangas. Everyone who reads this genre has read it, or heard of it, and the reason is because of the long-running evolution of Aine and Sakuya’s relationship. It does become passionate and heated (which shocks me that they let HIGHSCHOOL girls read it! This should be rated 18+ for nudity and sex!), but they also learn to be forgiving, tender, caring, and sacrificing of one another in order for each to gain happiness. The other characters, primarily the other members of the band, also have long-running stories and great moments. Santa seeks his own ‘Miss Right’, but usually gets distracted, Towa develops feelings for his best friend/makeup and hair stylist who is a ‘plain’ girl, Yuki keeps his wife and son safe by not revealing their identities but manages to be a good father to his son, and Atsuro must deal with being in love with his step-sister. But unfortunately the series focus is primarily on Aine and Sakuya.

On that note, I hate to give away spoilers, but I feel I MUST give a warning. Mayu Shinjo often uses the ‘dubious consent’ card in her mangas, beatings from mobs, and the trope of ‘rape as drama’. There are quite a few ‘dubious’ moments in this series, Aine is beaten up by rabid fans, and worse, there is a sequence where Aine is raped by the head of a rival music company. It’s not sensual or good at all- it is horrible.  There are other dark moments, such as attempted suicides, brutal car accidents, and even the death of someone close to the whole band. While the manga does deal with the repercussions of it all, and the aftermath, still,  for those of you who get triggered by these things, then be warned: Please skip those sections.

On the whole, the series starts out like a most ‘cinderella’ shoujos, where the protagonist girl is swept up in to glitz and glam, is pampered, and falls for the stunningly handsome male lead, and it ends with the ‘happily ever after’ joy and glory, but it has some very dark moments sprinkled through out the usual ‘will the band make it’ and ‘will she stay loyal to the boy/the band’ plots. It’s an enjoyable read if you’re in to that sort of thing, and the side-characters are cute enough to keep you going.

I give this manga 3 Stars. Good read, some interesting characters, and a lot of pretty costumes and loads of pretty men to look at, but too much grim-dark and sex to be fully awesome (and that’s saying something as a fan of Game of Thrones and The Tudors.)

[Audiobook Review] The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan

Amy's Reviews, Reviews 0 Comments 17th April, 2014

[Audiobook Review] The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page MorganThe Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan
Series: The Dispossessed #1
Published by Delacorte Books on January 1, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 341
Source: Audible, Purchase
Goodreads
three-stars
After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

What do you get when you mix Gargoyles and 1899 France?  A pretty decent gothic horror novel called The Beautiful and the Cursed.  Sorry, but this review will be short and sweet.  The Beautiful and the Cursed is about two sisters who live in 1899 and their mother has always dreamed of running a gallery in France.  With the permission of her husband, of course, their mother moves herself and her daughters to France for the summer.  Their brother has already gone to France ahead of them to scout out locations, secure the place, and hire servants.  He finds them an old run down Abby complete with stone gargoyle.  When the ladies arrive at the Abby they find that their brother, Grayson, is missing.  Ingrid and Gabby launch an investigation to find their brother that takes them into a world where: angels, demons, and gargoyles are very real.

The beginning is a lot of buildup and is kind of slow.  There was a point when I was listening to the audiobook and I thought might nod off.  I have to say stick with this book because it does get better.  Does it get better to the point that I want to buy this book for all my friends? No.  It is a decent listen and I don’t feel like it was time spent that I will never get back.  I like historical books filled with gothic horror, mythical creatures and what else, kissing.  In this book, the gargoyles are placed on a building by angels and they must watch out for all the humans inhabiting the building or they are punished.  Luc is the gargoyle in charge of the Abby.  Gabby and Ingrid don’t make his job easy as they race around France searching for Grayson. Along the way Ingrid and Gabby meet Vander and Nolan, they are part of an order of humans trained to fight with gargoyles.  All this mystery and running around with cute boys makes for a very interesting story.  One that in the end I found myself quite drawn into.

The Beautiful and the Cursed audio book is narrated by Katherine McEwan.  She is an ok narrator.  A little bland in some parts but she tries.  I like that she does change her voice to match the characters accents.  Her Scottish accent for Nolan is spot on for what I imagine he would sound like.  In the end, I ended kind of liking The Beautiful and the Cursed and I am looking forward to reading or listening to the next book, The Lovely and the Lost.  I won’t say if anything declarations are made but I ship Gabby and Nolan.  I love their chemistry and I can’t wait to dive into the next book to find out if there is anything to my ship. As far as Ingrid goes, she has two boys chasing her.  Love triangles annoy me so I don’t really have anything invested in her ship.  I give The Beautiful and the Cursed three stars and look forward to visiting this world again.

[Author Contribution] Real Talk Real Women!

Bry's Reviews, Uncategorized 0 Comments 15th April, 2014

[Author Contribution] Real Talk Real Women!Real Talk Real Women by Bry Jensen, Miriam Khalladi, various authors
Published by Life Change Press on November 2013
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 440
Goodreads
five-stars
Amazon
With a foreword by New York Times Best Selling Author Tosca Reno!

In Real Talk Real Women, 105 of the leading women in the health and fitness industry each share their most valuable life lessons around loving yourself, never giving up, achieving success, finding balance and making a difference in the world.

*“What Miriam is doing is more than just creating a book. She is starting a movement. Women today struggle with so many issues when it comes to self-esteem, success, motivation, balance, etc. If more women teamed up like this to inspire and support one another, it could yield some truly powerful changes in society.” - Bianca Lupo

“What an innovative thought, to look at female athletes as whole people - and go beyond the sound bytes and feel good personal interest features to look into their lives and lessons learned.” - Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

“Miriam is in the process of helping spread the word of love, health and fitness with the help of top athletes and speakers in the industry!! What a woman to make this all happen!! Never let your fears deter you from achieving success!” - Rita Catolino

Early 2013, Miriam Khalladi set out to learn from and share the stories and life changing lessons of some of the most renowned experts and thought leaders in the field of health and fitness. She felt it was time for some real talk that went beyond nutrition or training advice, time to look beyond their beauty and reveal the true stories behind these women.

After getting up, close and personal with well over 100 women and learning their most valuable lessons around self-love, never giving up, achieving success, finding balance and making a difference in the world - it became evidently clear that the glamorous magazine cover shots are just a fraction of their stories.

As you read through the 100 chapters in Real Talk Real Women, you'll get to know some of the most amazing women that walk the face of the earth. They open up their hearts and share their personal stories, revealing what they've learned from overcoming the sudden loss of loved ones, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, epilepsy, cancer and many other tremendous obstacles in life.

Through it all, they learned to love themselves, never give up and achieve success in their own way. They found balance in their lives and are now dedicating themselves to making a difference in the world.

The lessons they share in this book have changed their lives, and they can change yours.

--

Miriam Khalladi is the founder of Real Talk Real Women, a global platform dedicated to inspiring women to live healthier, happier lives. Visit www.realtalkrealwomen.net to learn more.(less)

And now for something entirely new, I’d like to share with you a book I actually helped write!

I am a contributing author for Real Talk Real Women, and I was honoured to be among so many brilliant, incredible and inspirational women for this project. Over 100 beautiful life lessons and shared stories of passion, motivation, failures and successes that have made each woman who they are today. If you are looking for an amazing read, and some insight into the minds of very special women, this should be a must on your list!

My chapter, chapter 5, is called “Cultivating Healthy Self Esteem”, in which I talk about the different approaches and skills that have helped me live a confident and fulfilled life. My one greatest passion on this earth is to reach out to others and find ways to help them feel wonderful about who they are, and this chapter is one opportunity I am blessed to have to do just that.

Hope you enjoy!

[Manga Mondays] Sherlock

Carol's Reviews, Reviews 2 Comments 13th April, 2014

[Manga Mondays] SherlockSherlock: A Study in Pink on Oct. 4 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Manga, Mystery
four-stars
Dr. John H. Watson returns from war wounded, broken, and seeking something to replace the chaos of the battlefield, as well as better living accommodations. One day he runs in his old friend, Mike Stamford, and is told that there is someone else looking to start a flatshare. Meanwhile, people are dying in a series of mysterious suicides. Who could solve this baffling mystery? Sherlock Holmes!
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Before we begin, I want to apologize for the LONG absence I made. Due to real  life (studies, life events, etc.) occurring, I was unable to devote time to this manga  review. But I am back! And I’m here with a fairly recent favorite that’s also a tie-  in to one of my favorite TV shows. This is the review of ‘Sherlock: A Study in  Pink’.

First, let’s have a look at the cover. Naturally you’ll see that all but the title and the name of the artist…is in Japanese. SORRY! This is the one title that I have ONLY in Japanese, and that’s how it’ll stay until they release it here in the States or England in translation. So, unless you’ve seen the show or know Japanese (which I have, and do), then it’s going to be hard to find this one in anything but a scanlation- which isn’t very nice for the distributors. ANYWAY, the cover! The artist, known as Jay, did a spectacular job in translating the now iconic images of Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock on the left) and Martin Freeman (as John Watson on the right) in to a manga form. This is but a sample of what is to come in the actual pages, as the images from the episode are brought to life via his artwork, capturing the essence of each player, from Rupert Graves’ Inpector Lestrade to Mark Gatiss’s Mycroft Holmes.

The manga, now officially a series, was first released in Kadokawa’s Young Ace magazine, and is marketed towards teens and young adults, but trust me, lots of adults buy it! And especially us older ladies. Though, I admit, my copy came from winning a raffle (so lucky!). Though I do intend to purchase any releases that come in the future for upcoming adaptations.

Now for the actual story. Major spoilers for the TV episode, so, if you haven’t seen it, STOP READING NOW! Go watch! If you’re ready, onward!

We begin with Dr. John Hamish Watson, retired Captain of the Royal Army Medical Corps, having nightmares about his experience in battle. After being shot in the shoulder in Afghanistan, he was sent home to England, and now has a psychosomatic limp, and a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. He lives in a tiny one-room apartment (or bed-sit), and sees a therapist often. She advises him to start a blog to help him begin his mental recovery. But John replies to her, ‘Nothing happens to me’, to explain why he feels the need for a blog to be absolutely useless.

Meanwhile, London begins to see a strange pattern happening. Three people die, apparently from suicide. None of them had horrible lives, none were depressed or suicidal. They just seemed to ingest a poisonous pill and died. New Scotland Yard is on the case, but not even Detective Inspector Lestrade, or young Detective Inspector Sally Donovan, can seem to pinpoint who or what is behind it. But someone seems to, and while the D.I.’s are in a press conference covering the incidents, that someone texts every journalist to tell them that the police are WRONG in every theory.

We return to John, who meets his old friend, Mike Stamford, in the park. John mentions that he has little choices in his current living situation, due to the small pension he receives from the army, and doesn’t think anyone would want someone like him for a roommate (or flatmate). When Mike mentions someone else said that very same thing very recently, it begins a spiraling series of events that brings together the most infamous duo in all of history: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Really, the story itself, penned by Moffat and Gatiss, takes elements of the original stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and re-imagines them beautifully in a modern setting. We watch a Sherlock, with a very Ashpergers-like mental state, solve crimes with Watson right behind, an adrenaline junkie who also sees in Sherlock a lot of good things… If Sherlock would learn to act a little more human. We have memorable side characters in the form of Sally Donovan, who resents that an amateur walks in to her crimescenes and spouts her private life to everyone near and far, and Molly Hooper, who admires our Detective but isn’t noticed. We even have in this volume the first hint of our great villain, the evil genius Moriarty. The whole thing is great, calls to Holmesian canon and takes liberties to add its own twist to the tale.

If you can’t tell, I LOVE this series. The television series, and now the manga series. If I could rate the show, I’d give it 5 stars. But since this is a manga review, I’m giving it a 4. While I adore the material and the sources (I have cosplays for both John and Sherlock, and am working on a Mycroft), because we don’t have official English versions, this makes this manga hard to find and harder to read unless you’ve got an episode transcript. Therefore, the scoring has to go down a star. BUT if you can find a way to pick it up, I suggest you DO. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the game is on!

[Review] Burn For Me by Cynthia Eden

Amy's Reviews, Reviews 1 Comment 12th April, 2014

[Review] Burn For Me by Cynthia EdenBurn for Me by Cynthia Eden
Series: Phoenix Fire #1
Published by Kensington Books on 2014-01-28
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Purchase
Goodreads
three-stars
Amazon
Eve Bradley was undercover looking for a story, not a cause. But something about the man they called Subject Thirteen got her involved. The scientists said he was a devil, and they had a decent case: Terrifying power. A bad attitude. And looks that could lead anyone to sin. Cain O'Connor knows the minute he catches her candy scent that Eve could drive him wild. But she's a threat - in a way no one has been for him in years.

Burn For Me is a fast paced high octane thrill ride. It is so corny and full of sexy happy fun times I couldn’t put it down. The best way I can describe Burn For Me is think of one of those silly SYFY channel movies, Ice Road Nightmare or Ghost Shark, meets late night Cinemax Channel.

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Burn For Me is about a reporter who goes under cover at a government run testing facility. She discovers that not every subject is there voluntarily. Eve sets out to bring down the men running this facility. On her first day she witnesses the torture of Subject 13. Eve can’t stand back and just watch, so she sneaks back in to free him. Only she is discovered by the evil doctor and he locks up Eve as well. Soon Eve and Subject 13 are able to escape and the book is about them running from and eventually taking down the evil doctor to put an end to his mad scientist ways.

I liked this book. I can honestly say I am not in love with it. Burn For Me was a kind of a hokey read. While unrealistic in some aspects it was fast paced and entertaining. I felt like the chemistry sizzled for Eve and Subject 13 (Cain). From the moment their eyes meet they are drawn to each other. Cain is a Phoenix, an immortal being that is born again and again out of the flames of hell. Eve is the one paranormal woman able to withstand his flames. Each time Cain is reborn his beast gets stronger and his sanity slips a little more. Eve is also the one being that can help him stay sane. There was one part in the story where they are fighting savage vampires in a cave and Cain dies and rises out of the ashes. This beast is chasing Eve and killing vampires. Of course to sooth the wild beast Eve does the deed with Cain up against a cave wall. I was like, come on really, is right now a good time to have happy sexy fun time? I guess when a sexy naked immortal male wants to get on his knees for you then I guess anytime is the right time. Even if there are savage vampires and mad scientists only minutes from discovering their hiding spot in the cave.

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In the end, even with the corny sex scenes and a plot right off the SYFY Channel, I did find Burn For Me to be entertaining. Of course, Eve and Cain may have a happy ending, kill the bad guys and all that, but there is always someone higher up the food chain. I am curious enough for the next book in the series which is about a vampire and a female Phoenix that escaped from the same program. If you are looking for a read that ends up being enjoyable if somewhat unbelievable then read Burn For Me because this book ended up being a decent read.