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The Stolen Throne: A Novellette of the Hidden World
The Stolen Throne: A Novellette of the Hidden World
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Start to a New Fantasy Series, January 3, 2014
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Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it's worth mentioning that the author and I are friends. I was even one of the people he thanked in the acknowledgements. This is something I did my best to forget while reading The Stolen Throne, but I still feel the need for transparency in my review.

The Stolen Throne is the first novelette in The Hidden World series, which focuses on a fantasy kingdom under the tyrannical rule of a wicked king. The novelette reads satisfyingly quick, especially in the scenes involving dialogue. The Stolen Throne also does a great job of finding a balance between being stand alone, yet clearly part of a larger series. This left this reader content with the resolution present, yet intrigued by the knowledge that there are clearly more stories left to tell in this world. Their are quite a few characters in The Stolen Throne, yet the one who stands out the most is the main character, Queen Titania. Without getting too much into spoilers, she is a woman constantly forced into difficult situations against her will. How she reacts to them makes her a fascinating, and sympathetic lead. The one thing I did find that distracted me from the ebook were the numerous typographical errors, mainly related to punctuation, and capitalization, which did pull me out of my enjoyment of the novelette quite a few times.

I would recommend The Stolen Throne for someone looking for a quick and fun fantasy read set in a secondary world (conveniently, the novelette was the perfect length for my 30 minute exercise session this morning). A second volume in the series is planned, and a sample can be found at the end of the book. Clearly, there are exciting things planned for The Hidden World
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 3, 2014 9:33 AM PST

Price: $13.34
58 used & new from $0.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, delicate, enchanting- I want more!, November 23, 2006
This review is from: Murmurs (Audio CD)
There is a lot of talent to be found in the Lufkin family. Sister Olivia is currently writing and singing music for the Nana anime in Japan. Brother Jeff is a musician who occasionally writes arrangements for his sisters' music. Caroline is a singer-songwriter for the Indies label Temporary Residance. Caroline's music differs from most of her sister's music in the fact that it is simplistic and at times, almost minimalist. Her music consists of heavenly, delicate vocals, sweet lyrics, and live acoustic instruments including bells, harps, and hand drums. Although "murmurs" is not a perfect CD, is an impressive debut never the less.

Many of the songs are slow, peaceful mixtures of electronic and real instruments. Stand out tracks are the opener "Bicycle," which opens with a trumpet playing softly and peacefully; first single "Where's my Love," which has a heavenly uplifting feeling; second single "Sunrise," which is filled with warmth; "All I Need," a solid pop song with wonderful lyrics and arrangements; "I'll Leave my Heart Behind," which really resonates with me on an emotional level; and "Winter," which is a lovely album closer. "Drove me to the wall," although it isn't as wonderful as the previously listed tracks, is also a great song. "Pink and Black" and "everylittlething" have a little more oomph to them by adding in a livelier beat. This method works well on "Pink and Black" but proves to be a little out of place on "everylittlething." As much as an enjoy Jeff Lufkin's arrangements, they have a strange dated feeling here that makes the track almost a little cheesy sounding. Still, next to eight simply wonderful tracks, "everylittlething" probably comes out sounding a lot worse than it really is.

In conclusion, "Murmurs" is a wonderful debut album. So wonderful that after listening to it, I decided that I needed all of Caroline's music. Unfortunately, beyond this, she only has two singles and a track on a compilation CD for Temporary Residence. Caroline is truly a talented artist, just starting out. I hope that she continues to put out lovely music. I will be looking foreword to future releases.

Freedom's Gate (Dead Rivers Trilogy)
Freedom's Gate (Dead Rivers Trilogy)
by Naomi Kritzer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.81
50 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Almost impossible to put down!, November 5, 2006
Twenty-year-old Lauria works for the Greek warlord Kyros. Her job is catching his runaway Danibeki slaves, despite that fact that she is half Danibeki herself. Now, he is asking her to volunteer for a much more difficult task. She is to pose as a Danibeki slave, a virgin concubine, and infiltrate the Alashi, a tribe of Danibeki ex-slaves who fight against Greek control. Her task is to spy on them by feed Kyros information about their upcoming attacks. At least, that is the plan. Soon after Lauria goes under cover as a slave, something goes traumatically wrong. Now Lauria is questioning everything, her role as a slave catcher, her opinions on the Alashi, and ever her loyalty to Kyros. Eventually Lauria is going to have to make a decision about who she really is, but what will she choose?

"Freedom's Gate" has everything you could possibly want in the first book of a fantasy trilogy. I could barely put it down! The characters are wonderfully made. Lauria is a strong protagonist as she is a brave, resourceful woman, but is also confused about her life. During the book she is placed between two opposing forces and struggles to choose where her loyalties lie. The reader has no choice to feel her pain as we also experience her pull to each side of the debate. Will she side with Kyros, who has always showed her kindness, or the Alashi who have given her a new home? The plot is also quite interesting. Although the idea of someone being torn between two words is far from new, the fact that it is set in a fantasized ancient Greece makes it something special. The fantastical, magical elements are interesting as well. Magic is not huge and dramatic in this world, but subtle and effective. As Lauria learns more about it, I found myself fascinated by the djinnis. I hope that we get to learn more about them in the next installment, "Freedom's Apprentice." I also enjoyed how the book really got into the psychology of what being a slave meant. Many books that deal with fantasy slavery often forget the mental burden a slave will carry, but this book does not.

The book ends on quite a cliffhanger. Lauria has made her decision but she is going to have a lot of difficult ones in front of her. I have the second book on my shelf, waiting to be read. I can't wait to see where the story goes!

Golden Tears
Golden Tears
Price: $18.37
92 used & new from $4.53

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new direction- a new world of potential, October 29, 2006
This review is from: Golden Tears (Audio CD)
Since her album "Present" was released, Bonnie Pink's music has been headed in a new direction that is both much more extroverted and much more mainstream. Although some of Bonnie's longtime fans have looked down on her for taking this route, Bonnie still has some aspects that most mainstream signers just don't have. All of her songs are tightly written, and her voice is always pitch-perfect. Whether she's written a blues-tingled pop number or a moving ballad, each song has a special Bonnie touch that can't be imitated. "Golden Tears" shows Bonnie completely emerging herself in this new, fun, pop style, and you can tell she enjoys every note. Here's my quick and dirty breakdown of the tracks.

The album begins with the high energy, catchy "So Wonderful," where Bonnie shows us that she's a good singer as well as being a good song writer. Although her acoustic guitar is no longer the centerpiece, the arrangement here gives us a sense of fullness and energy that really grabs your attention. "Pradiddle-free" and "Coast to Coast" both bring back in the strong guitar parts, the first song being a laid back mid-tempo track, and the second being more fun and energetic. "Paradiddle-free" is written completely in English, and unlike with many Japanese singers, these English lyrics make sense. The fourth album track, "Addiction," quiets things down to almost a ballad feeling. The alternating English and Japanese lyrics give us insight into to Bonnie's thoughts and emotions. The next track "Mirror," is also a ballad and also written in English. I find the lyrics very easy to relate to and applaud Bonnie for her strong songwriting.

The next tracks are much more fun. The synthesized instruments mixed with a real traditional Japanese instrument (or a REALLY good fake one) in the mid tempo "nichinichi-sou" will make you smile. The bluesy "Robotomy" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It's a throw back to songs like "Scarecrow," but written in Bonnie's new, catchier style. "Monster," is like something out of a horror movie, with ghost like instruments and vocal affects, and is another favorite of mine. "Rise and Shine" and "Cotton Candy" are both more laid back tracks that are sure to become new Bonnie favorites. "Nocturne" takes things down another step to an almost ballad level, with the use of a harp being a really nice and unique touch. "You got me good" is the last up-tempo track of the album. Here, Bonnie adds handclaps to give the track more rhythm and punch. The last track, "Believe" is a ballad, the synthesized instruments harkening back to the album's opener, "So Wonderful."

"Golden Tears" above everything else, shows us something very important about Bonnie. She is not afraid to change. She is not the type to stay stagnant and only write one type of music. Although this may alienate some of her fans, it proves that she is willing to grow and change as an artist, trying out new things, straying from her comfort zone. Her most recent single "A Perfect Sky," shows her continuing with this style and for the first time since albums like "Heaven's Kitchen" and "evil and flowers," Japan has stood up and recognized her. Her career is stronger than ever, showing the world that Bonnie Pink is not done with it yet.

Dhampir (Noble Dead)
Dhampir (Noble Dead)
by Barb Hendee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.02
146 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong start to an interesting looking series!, October 29, 2006
Dhampir is a book that I ended up looking at several times before actually buying it. Although the cover caused me to raise a skeptical eyebrow, the blurb on the front really caught my attention. It called the novel a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Lord of the Rings. Although Buffy and LotR are two of my favorite things, the two are so different that I couldn't picture any book as being a crossover between the two. Dhampir is quite different from Buffy and LotR, but it does possess some of their strengths. Those are: a convincing fantasy world, and interesting supernatural characters.

Magiere and Leesil run a profitable vampire exterminating business. Magiere will arrive in a town where the undead is rumored to be lingering and, for a large fee, will take care of their pesky vampire issues. Unfortunately for these suddenly poorer town folk, Magiere and Leesil's act is nothing more than a con. The "vampire" Magiere fights is nothing more than Leesil, a half-elf, in costume. Money is good, but the two have finally decided to settle down by buying a tavern located in a town called Miiska. Unfortunately, Magiere's reputation has followed her. When three vampires learn that a hunter has invaded their territory, they quickly look towards exterminating her before she can kill them. Magiere is about to face a terrible and deadly challenge that will eventually lead her to learning her own hidden identity; she is a Dhampir, a half-human, half-vampire, and she is destined to destroy the undead.

The fantasy world that Dhampir takes place in is very unique. Besides elves, it doesn't seem to possess many of the stereotypical fantasy races. Instead, we get creatures more commonly found in horror novels, such as vampires and ghosts. I was particularly impressed with the characterization or some of the characters, especially the three vampires. Although they are supposed to be the "bad" guys, they are just as complex as out heroes and just as easy to sympathize with. The reader is likely to find themselves confused as to who they should be cheering for. Leesil and Magiere are interesting as well, although the latter comes off as a little personality-less at times. Unfortunately, some of the other characters, such as the blacksmith Brendan, come off looking rather flat and uninteresting in comparison. Also, some of the plot points in the story prove to be a little illogical. If Magiere is so famous, why hasn't she run into any angry vampires before? How come none of the townspeople, upon realizing that their problems have not been solves, have spoken poorly about Magiere? Why has no one come looking for her in revenge? Beyond these two bumps in the road, the book is a very fun read. I plowed through it in a weekend and I am eager to pick up the next installment. I can only guess where things will go next!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2007 9:31 AM PST

Snow Drop, Book 1
Snow Drop, Book 1
by Sarah Dyer
Edition: Paperback
57 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Flowers, October 28, 2006
This review is from: Snow Drop, Book 1 (Paperback)
I am not too familiar with manhwa, but when I found a few volumes of Snow Drop on a book trading site, I was too curious not to check it out. Snow Drop tells the story of So-Na, a teenage girl with an obsession for flowers who is going back to school after dropping out years before. She won't be alone though, as her outspoken friend Ha-Da will be coming with her. Still, it looks like going back to school will not be a simple affair when she gets tied up in the life of Hae-Gi, an attractive student who spends his days after school working part-time and molding. So-Na quickly finds out that there's more to Hae-Gi than at first meets the eye, and that the two may find more in common than they suspect.

The story behind Snow Drop seems to be that of a fun high school romance that touches on slightly more mature themes, but there are hints that the series will go in a more serious direction. Although there was some parts of the storyline that made me go "whaaa?," for the most part, I found it enjoyable. The characters are interesting because the author reveals enough about them so that we have an idea about who they are, but there is still plenty of mystery left. I found most of the characters to be enjoyable, save Ha-Da, whose boisterous attitude never failed to get on my nerves. The artwork, drawn in a slightly different style then you'd find in manga, was good, but not great. The Flowers were beautiful, as was the main characters hair, and for the most part everything worked well. My only complaint about it is there were frames where some of the main characters looked just wrong, as if their body parts weren't fitting together just right, and I'm not talking about when they were Super Deformed. I found this to be an interesting volume and I'm eager to read on to the next.

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows, Book 2)
The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows, Book 2)
by Kim Harrison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
251 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun tale of magic and mayhem, October 25, 2006
In "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead," Kim Harrison returns us to the world of The Hollows, where, due to an incident involving a desire spread by a genetically engineered tomato, Vampires, werewolves, witches warlocks, and other creates live side by side with humans in peace. Well... almost. At the beginning of the book, Rachel Morgan, our witchy heroine, is called to help the FIB (Federal Interlander Bureau) with a string a murderers, where all of the victims have been lay line witches. Rachel Morgan, an earth witch, must help the FIB by enrolling in a class at a university that is taught by on of the cases leading suspects. Unfortunately, the professor hates Rachel. Rachel knows deep down that this case involves Trent Kamlack, but her insistence that he is the killer only proves to cause problems at the FIB. As this is going on, Rachel continues to have problems with the scar on her neck, given to her by a demon in vampire form. Soon she finds herself stuck in a frustrating situation, involving her roommate Ivy, that could get her killed. How can Rachel live through this?

There are a lot of strengths to "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead." One is it has an interesting setting. Rachel, although she can get on your nerves at time, is a likable heroine whose sense of humor adds spice to the writing. In fact, all of the characters are interesting and fun to read about, regardless if they are villains or heroes. The plot is fast paced and exciting. I won't spoil anything but a lot of things are revealed in this book, and a lot of unexpected things happen. Make sure you have a lot of time on your hands when you read this because you won't want to put it down. I loved how everything tied together in the end and I also like how the author left things open for the next book. By the end of the novel, you'll find yourself eager to pick up the next volume in the series to see what happens next. My only complaints are that the character Nick played a much smaller role than I would have liked him too. He, as a human who can do magic, seems like such an interesting person, and I would have liked to see more of him! Beyond that, everything was great. I hope the next book is just as good.

Origins (Vampire Princess Miyu, Vol. 1)
Origins (Vampire Princess Miyu, Vol. 1)
by Toshihiro Hirano
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A murky manga, October 25, 2006
Studio Ironcast has done a great job with this Volume of Vampire Princess Miyu. Not only is it printed in Japanese format (right-to-left), but they've even kept some of the Japanese words that can't be accurately translated into English. Where other mangas would sloppily translate these words, this volume keeps the original Japanese and explains the meaning behind it in a footnote. On top of that, honorifics are kept, giving the volume a sense of authenticity. The book itself, although frightfully expensive, is of great quality. There's something about the weight and size of it that feels good in your hands. Unfortunately, the manga itself suffers from so many problems that you almost feel if all of their hard work went to waste.

Miyu is a vampire, and Origins attempts to not only explain how and why but what Miyu's world is like. Unfortunately, the plot moves at such a breakneck speed that the readers never feel as if they get a chance to know the characters. Instead, even main characters like Miyu remain murky and indefinable. We know she's a vampire, we know she hunts Shinma with her faithful servant Larva. We know how she became a vampire. What we don't know is who she is. Her personality is not well defined, and neither are any of the other characters in this volume. The artwork has a charming delicacy and simplicity to it that makes it very pleasant to look at. The artist has a skill for portraying a world of emotion with the barest of brushstrokes, which I love. The problem is the art is also murky. It implies a lot of what actually happens without saying it. Now this can be an extremely affective storytelling tool, but here it is not. The art doesn't cause deep thought, it only causes confusion, and the abrupt switching from scene to scene can be a bit disorienting at times.

I feel bad about giving this manga such a bad review because I felt as it had a lot of potential. The story and the relationship between the two main characters seem interesting, but they never really take off. This is due to the pacing problems of the manga. Unfortunately, this is a series that I will not be continuing. I will be giving away my volume in hope that someone finds it more interesting than I have.

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2)
Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2)
by Kelley Armstrong
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
104 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thrilling addition to the Women of the Underworld Series, October 18, 2006
"Bitten" was unique in the fact that it was a paranormal novel that didn't focus on vampires or witches. Although many people have written about werewolves, it was Kelley Armstrong who made werewolf books more acceptable to the reading world. With "Bitten," she told the story of a small werewolf pack and Elena, the only female werewolf in the world. In "Stolen," she expands this already interesting world, letting the readers know that werewolves are not the only supernatural creatures out there.

Elena has begun to come to peace with her werewolf half, but she has bigger problems to face. One day she is contacted by a young witch named Paige and her aunt Ruth with horrible news. Witches, shamans, half-demons and other supernatural creatures are being kidnapped by a wealthy businessman and being held captive in an unknown place. They want to rescue their fellow spell casters and they want The Pack's help. Elena is hesitant at first. After all, she doesn't even know if vampires, witches, or any of these supernatural creatures exist, despite being a werewolf herself. Things become far too real for her when she herself is imprisoned. She soon finds out that what appears to be a place for studying supernatural creatures like lab rats is actually just a front for a violent game where witches and shamans and the like are hunted and killed like animals. Elena needs to find a way to escape, and fast.

"Stolen" has all of the strengths of its predecessor. We have a likable heroine and a great cast of characters. Many of the new additions are quite interesting, and I hope that they'll appear in future books. I really enjoyed the villains as well. One of "Bitten's" weak points was that I felt that I never got to know the baddies. In "Stolen" you do. You get to sit down with them, talk with them and find out who they are. Often, you'll discover that they are not that different from our heroes, they just have goals that run counter to our heroes. "Stolen" is a strong, exciting paranormal book that you will not want to put down. The end is left more open-ended than in "Bitten," letting us know that there are more books on the way. I can't wait to pick up the next volume!

Girl's Guide To Witchcraft (Red Dress Ink Novels)
Girl's Guide To Witchcraft (Red Dress Ink Novels)
by Mindy Klasky
Edition: Paperback
116 used & new from $0.01

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Fun, October 16, 2006
I was first introduced to Klasky through her Glasswright novels, a complex fantasy series that got really stunning in the last few volumes. After the publication of "The Glasswrights Master," Mindy was quiet for a while. I was beginning to worry if she wasn't going to write anything else. When I learned that she was going to write a new book, I was ecstatic. When I learned that it was a chick lit novel, I was confused and worried. After all, The Glasswright series had been rather dark and I'm quite picky with Chick lit titles. Still, I decided to pick up the book when it came out and found myself very pleasantly surprised. Although Mindy has given us a much different offering, it's still a very enjoyable read.

Jane Madison is a young librarian who's life is about to get a lot more complicated. When her boss tells her that she is going to face a significant pay cut, she tries to compensate for it by giving Jane a small cottage to live in by the library. Jane soon discovers a large collection of spell books in the basement. After reading aloud spell, she accidentally turns a cat statue into a familiar and discovers that she's a witch. Confused and intrigued by these new abilities, she tries to manage learning witchcraft while dealing with the other challenges in her life. Recently dumped by her long term boyfriend, Jane lives out her romantic fantasies through a young college professor who she calls her "Imaginary boyfriend." On top of that, Jane is forced to reconnect with her bizarre estranged mother who wants to attempt to forge a relationship with her. What's easier to control? Magic or the trails of everyday life?

I don't typically go for chick lit books, but something about A Girls Guide to Witchcraft connected with me. Perhaps it's the supernatural element. Perhaps is the fact that Jane is a very likable and believable narrator. Save the witch part, she is very easy to relate to. Although she doesn't always react the best in situations (especially where alcohol and magic is involved) you can understand and sympathize with her at all times. The rest of the characters are quite interesting as well, and you'll find yourself instantly connecting with Jane's fun and quirky friends and family. Although this novel is not as complex as say, The Glasswright's Master, it doesn't need to be. Instead it's a fun, light read that will make you smile and laugh. As it says at the end of the novel, Mindy has another book planned for the series, "Sorcery and the Single Girl." Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait a while for it (October 2007) but I already know that I'll be buying myself a copy.

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