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ChibiNeko "Sooo many books, so little time!" RSS Feed (Whereever I go, here I am.)
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The Ouija Trials
The Ouija Trials
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "Use a Ouija Board" they said, "it'll be fun", they said, June 19, 2016
This review is from: The Ouija Trials (Kindle Edition)
I'm pleased to have the chance to read and review another work by Fiona Dodwell. For full disclosure's sake, I am friends with Dodwell and I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

There's just something very interesting about Ouija boards. They're firmly entrenched in pop culture, which is pretty intriguing considering that they're a fairly recent invention. Spirit writing has been around in various formats for hundreds of years, however Ouija boards in specific are credited as being invented around the 1890s. That the paranormal and the need to discover what lies beyond the veil have long enjoyed their own individual popularity goes without saying.

The story's opening, a series of e-mails about a university project, is reminiscent of one of Dodwell's earlier works, the 2015 short story "The Redwood Lodge Investigation". It's worth mentioning in general, but especially as both stories deal with people exploring the supernatural, albeit in very different ways.

What's fun about this story and Dodwell's work in general is this sense of creeping dread that worms its way in, slowly but surely. This story is no exception, although I will note that it's surprisingly lighter fare than some of her other tales. It's still dark, but it's likely going to be an easier read for some than say, The Banishing. That one dealt with domestic abuse and demonic possession and its resolution still haunts me, just so you know what I'm comparing it against.

This is a fairly quick read and while it's not my favorite Dodwell short story, it's still something that I'd recommend overall. It admittedly lacks a bit of the punch delivered by "The Redwood Lodge Investigation" and "Juniper's Shadow", both of which tie as my favorite short stories of hers, but I still found myself eagerly reading as quickly as I could in order to find out exactly how things would end.

It's well worth checking out, in my opinion.

(4/5 stars)

(Reader copy provided by author)


Funko Batman: Arkham Knight - Harley Quinn POP! Action Figure
Funko Batman: Arkham Knight - Harley Quinn POP! Action Figure
Price: $9.20
61 used & new from $6.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely cute!, June 4, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I got this as a birthday gift and as you'd expect from Funko Pop items, it was absolutely great. There's not a whole lot that can really be said about these since what you see here is pretty much what you get. Funko Pops are known for being relatively simplistic in their design for the most part, other than some occasional detailing here and there.

The Pop is of average size and the detailing to it is well done. It's also Harley Quinn, so awesomeness is sort of guaranteed, as is cuteness.


The Sunlight Pilgrims: A Novel
The Sunlight Pilgrims: A Novel
by Jenni Fagan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not entirely my thing, June 4, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Forgive the comparison, but Sunlight Pilgrims is like a snowman melting in cold weather. It's progression is inevitable, but it takes a very, very long time to come to completion. During that time the book has some great moments, but it's also occasionally a little bit of a drag.

Fagan does an excellent job setting up the book's world, atmosphere, and characters. It's an incredibly bleak novel at times and not always an easy read, given that the book not only deals with the potential extinction of the human race but also with a young transgender child. I absolutely adored the character of Stella, the aforementioned transgendered child, although I will admit that at times she was a little overly precocious. This is one of the aspects of the book that will likely deter some readers: the work is a little too self aware at times, a little too pretentious. One review theorized that Fagan came up with the themes first and the book's plot second and at times I could see where they were coming from with this - sometimes there is a bit more emphasis on style than substance.

However none of that actually makes for a bad read and although I was admittedly expecting a read along the lines of the Twilight Zone episode "The Midnight Sun", I did keep reading even after it became apparent that the two have only a slight passing similarity. (I was unfamiliar with the author, so I had nothing to compare the book to.) This is the type of thing that's going to be extremely subjective. You're either going to like this book or not, for the most part.

I've waffled between giving this three and four stars. On one hand, I just didn't enjoy this enough to make it four stars and at times I admittedly lost a little interest since it's not what I was expecting. However at the same time the book is well written and it's certain to do extremely well with its actual target audience. Fagan is an excellent author, as she did keep me reading even after I'd realized that this wasn't my bag, so this one will be heavily dependent on whether or not the reader likes apocalyptic works that are predominantly focused on art and themes.


Paper Girls Volume 1
Paper Girls Volume 1
by Brian K. Vaughan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
64 used & new from $5.26

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, May 3, 2016
This review is from: Paper Girls Volume 1 (Paperback)
I hadn't heard about Paper Girls until fairly recently and I have to say that it's one of those comics that isn't getting the attention it should, despite it being written by Brian K. Vaughan of Saga fame. It's one of those comics that has a great plot, interesting characters, and a central mystery that kept me reading throughout the entire first volume.

The series's premise is set in 1980s America and centers around a group of 12-year-old girls, all of whom work as newspaper deliverers. We're introduced to the girls by Erin, who has just started her route and is invited to join the other three girls after they rescue her from being harassed by a group of older boys intent on causing mischief. From there they end up getting involved with some strange looking aliens and end up finding that their entire town has disappeared.

We're given a little bit of explanation here and there as to what's going on and the nature of the aliens is explained by the end of the first volume, however we're left with far more questions than answers. Just enough information is imparted to keep it from getting too frustrating, which only makes things far more interesting. I have to say that even after zipping through the first volume I'm still not sure what's going on, although I keep wondering if it's a similar situation to Stephen King's Langoliers.

Art-wise, this is great and throughout it I kept thinking that the character design reminded me very slightly of Frank Miller's art style in The Dark Knight Returns. In particular, the character design for Mac reminds me heavily of the character Carrie Kelly, Miller's Robin. It's not super strong, but it's enough to where I wonder if Miller's Carrie was a bit of an influence on Mac's character or design.

Character-wise, Vaughan and all did a good job. There are a few moments where the characters are a bit jumpy in how they're established, where their emotions don't really come across as strong as they should. A key example of this would be a scene in Mac's home between herself and a family member, where an emotional moment just doesn't feel as solid as it should, given that they were somewhat antagonistic towards each other only a page or so earlier. It's not so bad that it stands in the way of the story, but we know that Vaughan is capable of so much more.

Overall this was a fun read and Paper Girls is something I can easily see myself purchasing and re-reading in the future. It's just a little surprising that I hadn't heard of this until I saw it on Netgalley, especially given that it's being written by someone involved with one of the most popular indie series currently running. Hopefully this will be rectified at some point in the future.

4/5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)


I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After
I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After
by Skottie Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.66
55 used & new from $5.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violent, brutish, and absolutely fantastic!, April 28, 2016
Oh my glob, I can't recommend this title enough. The series's premise is fantastic and the artwork is top notch, as it fits the IHF's satirical tones pretty well. It's a fast and easy read, as I was able to devour this in only one sitting.

What makes this comic work so well is that Gert's descent into sheer bloody madness happens almost immediately in the book. Her initial impressions of Fairyland are far from pleasant, as the child is initially terrified by being swallowed up by a magical portal that plops her into the skies of Fairyland... where she immediately plummets thousands of feet to the ground. With an introduction like that it's no wonder that she's turned into a hardened killing machine intent on only one thing: escape. To make matters worse she's physically a child while her mind has aged to that of a thirty-something year old woman.

Gert's tasked with finding a key that would allow her to leave Fairyland, but her travels have been so long and bloody that the Queen of Fairyland has lost patience with her. The land's rules don't allow her to harm Gert, something that I found a nice touch, so she tries a variety of different indirect ways to accomplish just that, including finding a rival child for the key.

This was a highly enjoyable read and one that I can easily see myself buying on my own. While this is the first volume the story is wrapped up with enough of a conclusion to where Young could have walked away from this instead of making it an ongoing series. I'm kind of glad that he didn't, as there are still plots to be unraveled and fantasy tropes to poke fun at. In lesser hands IHF would have been a one trick pony that wore off its welcome early on in the series, but Young has done an excellent job of creating a series that's incredibly fun to read. The series might not have much of a focus beyond showing Gert slicing and dicing her way past anyone who makes her mad (and almost everyone makes her mad), but Young fully embraces this aspect and pulls it off spectacularly.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)


Street Magicks
Street Magicks
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth checking out, April 27, 2016
This review is from: Street Magicks (Kindle Edition)
Without even looking at the content, readers will be able to tell that they're in for an excellent ride just by virtue of the authors that contributed to this anthology. There's something here for everyone when you have fan favorite authors like Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Caitlin Kiernan, after all.

As you'd expect with any anthology, there are going to be pieces that you like less than others but overall I enjoyed everything that I read in Street Magicks. The authors were all well chosen and edited, so I really can't find much to criticize here. If I had to pick something I suppose that it'd be that I've seen better anthologies out there, but that's more based on my current reading mood, which is slowly starting to turn back more and more towards horror novels.

Overall I have to say that I would recommend this anthology to readers, even if only as a library read. With summer looming around the corner you'll need prime beach read material and this would be an excellent pick, a lovely fantasy/urban fantasy themed anthology swimming against the sea of bodice rippers and thriller novels that tend to surface as most summer reads.

4/5

(Arc provided by Netgalley)


Maestra
Maestra
by L.S. Hilton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.22
133 used & new from $2.74

3.0 out of 5 stars A decent enough beach read, April 27, 2016
This review is from: Maestra (Hardcover)
This is a fairly interesting book, given the hoopla surrounding it. People have been comparing this to various books, especially Fifty Shades of Grey, due to the book containing a moderate amount of sex scenes. I need to say straight off that I'm not a Fifty Shades fan, so when I picked this up I was more expecting to find something new to poke fun at.

People picking this up hoping that it will contain as many sex scenes as FSoG will be disappointed. Yes, there is sex in the work, but it's nowhere near as prevalent as some of the professional reviews would have you believe. The book *is* liberally sprinkled with sex or references to it, but it's more of an afterthought than anything else and Hilton could have probably removed or reduced many of these scenes without harming the novel. Doing this probably would have worked out well for Hilton, as the critics were right about one thing. The sex scenes are easily the weakest part of the book. They're not awful, but they just feel a bit superfluous at times. It's not Laurell K Hamilton level, where her characters go "OK! STOP - SEXY TIME" (my apologies to MC Hammer) at ridiculous moments, so the book does have that going for it.

The characters are OK enough for the most part, although the majority of them just sort of faded in and out of the book. I don't know that I could really name many of the characters outside of Judith and Rupert, as I forgot about many of them once they'd served their purpose in the book. Judith is relatively interesting, as she's far from a likable person but still has some occasional twinges of regret now and again.

Maestra really takes off whenever Hilton starts writing about art and the forged paintings, as this is easily the most entertaining stuff in the book and I can't help but wish that there was more of this as opposed to the sex and murder. I like books that have unlikeable, yet compelling lead characters, but this just wasn't quite a four star read for me. It's certainly entertaining and would make for a good beach read, but I can't help but hope that Hilton manages to work out the kinks in part two of the series otherwise I'm not sure that the Maestra series has enough gusto to make a satisfying trilogy.


Booked
Booked
by Kwame Alexander
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.36
62 used & new from $7.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander does it again!, April 26, 2016
This review is from: Booked (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you've read The Crossover then you know what to expect and you're just looking for confirmation that Alexander remains one of the most brilliant children's authors of his generation. Rest assured, this book is excellent and if you haven't already purchased this or reserved your copy at your local library, do it. You won't regret it. I'd also recommend checking this out on audiobook if you can. I haven't heard anything beyond the samples, but the audiobook seems to do well as spoken word poetry.

If you haven't, then you need to be aware that this is written in free verse rather than in the traditional novel format you see in other works. Alexander doesn't do this as a shallow gimmick, which is part of why it works as well as it does. By using free verse and playing with the way that the poetry is displayed, Alexander challenges the reader to become more involved with the work as a whole and transforms it into something more. The basic story is fairly common to anyone who has read a children's or young adult book - our main character is a teen boy who has to deal with typical issues like divorce, bullying, and friendship troubles. Typical fare, but topics that keep coming up because they're still so very relevant.

What I love most about this, and Alexander's last book, is that it can be read by anyone but it provides a much needed entry in an underserved market: young boys. If you look at the young adult shelf of any given bookstore or library you'll see that there are scores of books aimed at young girls, but comparatively little for their male counterparts. It's moderately better in the children's section since much of that fiction is written for both groups, but after that point it's almost kind of assumed that boys will just drift to the adult sections if they continue to read. There needs to be more work aimed at them, which is why stuff like this becomes even more important. That the African-American market is underrepresented in children and young adult fiction goes without saying.

Overall I can't recommend this enough and it's something that I'll likely give to my nephews for Christmas this year since it can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages.


Project 7 Gourmet Gum - Build A Flavor S'mores 24 Gum Pieces 30g
Project 7 Gourmet Gum - Build A Flavor S'mores 24 Gum Pieces 30g
Offered by DJ's Goods
Price: $7.50
2 used & new from $7.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but the taste is a bit chemical and doesn't last long, April 26, 2016
I'm waffling between three and four stars for this one, so I'm going to go for three. This is some tasty gum, but there are a few things that sort of peeve me.

First, I'll describe the flavor. This tastes pretty decent and you can tell what it is supposed to be for the most part, but it's not really as close to the real thing as I'd have liked. I'm aware that part of what makes a s'more is the texture, so I'm going to give them a bit of a pass on this one. The only true quibbles I have would be that it has that chemical taste that comes with artificial flavors and that the flavor doesn't last all that long, but this last part is kind of a common issue with Project 7 gum for the most part. The flavors never last long and they always tend to fall just a teensy bit short of what you want them to be, which is why I usually choose to purchase Orbits or Wrigley rather than Project 7. They're flashy and their packaging says that they support various causes, but their products can sometimes be fairly mediocre overall.

What really irritated me was the packaging. You open it from the side, which isn't a biggie, but it's surprisingly difficult to reclose since the ziplock on one side kept popping back open when I tried to close the other. I think that this is likely because the bag is fairly large and the way it's set up. I don't think that there's any true way to fix this unless they made the packaging in ways that might make it more expensive than it otherwise already is.

Is this worth trying out? Sure, as a lark. It's fun enough, but I wouldn't pay a huge amount of money for this. I'm not sure if these are shipped out by the pack or something on Amazon but if the seller is trying to get you to pay more than three dollars for this, you're overspending. It's good, but it's not that good and I think I paid two dollars for a pack at my local store. To be very honest, I don't think that I'd get this particular flavor again in the future. I have another one that I bought at the same time that essentially makes an Arnold Palmer, so I'll give that one a go next and see if it's any better.


Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World
DVD
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not as fun as others in the MCU, April 18, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I went into this with relatively high expectations since I greatly enjoyed the first Thor films and to date, have enjoyed the other Marvel film properties - especially ones like Guardians of the Galaxy. Thor 2, however, fell short of expectations and while it's not a bad way to while away a few hours I couldn't help but feel that it really could have been better served.

One of the first things that stands out is the chemistry between Portman and Hemsworth, or rather the lack thereof. Both of them are exceptionally talented actors, but they just don't really feel believable as a couple in this film. Portman was also somewhat dull in her role as Jane. She looked great in every scene, but she just feels like she's more phoning it in than anything else. Since watching the movie I've read that Portman *really* wanted out of the film franchise, so this could be a result of her being in a movie she overall didn't want to do. Again, I love Portman but I'd be happier with her character being either gone or recast with another actress with better on-screen chemistry than what we have here.

Now what does work is the interactions between Hemsworth and Hiddleton, as Thor and Loki. Hiddleston approaches his character with sadistic glee and it's easy to see why he's become a fan favorite. Also excellent was Renee Ruso, who shone as Frigga, and Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif. I could definitely see a Sif/Thor pairing, since the two worked well off of one another. The action and special effects scenes were also well done, which helped make the film move a little faster, although at times I felt that the movie length could've been tightened to make it flow a little better. I couldn't help but find my attention drifting occasionally during the slower scenes.

In the end the film is good, but not exactly the greatest in the series. So far the Marvel films have been overall good, so this is kind of one of those movies where I'd recommend a rental (like I did) rather than a purchase unless you're a completionist or a huge fan of one of the actors in the film.


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