Friday, October 31, 2014

Would You Rather TAG VIDEO

Here are the tag questions:

Would you rather...
1. Read only trilogies or stand alones?
2. Read only female or male authors?
3. Shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?
4. All books become movies or t.v. shows?
5. Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?
6. Be a professional reviewer or author?
7. Only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven't read before?
8. Be a librarian or book seller?
9. Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favorite?
10. Only read physical books or eBooks?

BGM is by Lee Seung Bock "My Story"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sailor Moon English Book Collections

I should share a little bit more concerning my love of Japanese manga artist Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon empire.  It would take all day and then some to write it all down, though.  Nonetheless, at its base, this manga/anime series gave me all of my dreams since I first discovered it when I was 12.  So in keeping with that, I've filmed and re-filmed some of the English-language books I collected during my teen years.  And, well, here they are... 

From the Spring of 1999 to the Fall of 2000 came the English novelizations of the first quarter episodes of the Sailor Moon anime. This included episodes that were previously not dubbed for the English adaptation released by DiC Entertainment. The books were written by Tokyopop founder, Stu Levy (he only wrote the first book), and once famed Sailor Moon fanfiction author, Lianne Sentar. I read these books repeatedly as a teen.  Furthermore, I appreciated how the missing episodes were novelized during a time when many of us had absolutely no access to them. (This was a time when everyone was on dial-up and there was no Youtube.) Nonetheless, I was never totally won over by the actual writing. I remember cringing at the inclusion of Western references (one being an American boy band), and the lack of detailed writing surrounding the girls’ transformations and other events that the stories were based upon. I was writing Sailor Moon fanfiction at the time and, honestly, I felt like I could do better; granted the fact that these books were written for younger readers.

Here we have the English adaptations of the Sailor Moon character books–or character guides. During the time they were starting to release, Sailor Moon S was preparing (unknown to me) to air in June of 2000. I think we were about two books in (Mars and Venus were the first releases if I'm correct) before Sailor Moon S aired on Cartoon Network for the first time. Therefore, material from these guides included pictures and references from that season. That would include shots of the Inner Senshi with the Outer Senshi as well as other story points regarding that season.  Unbeknownst to me, I would get the chance to see all of that material from Sailor Moon S come to life months down the road. However, these guides followed mostly the dubbed adaptation of Sailor Moon. That would include the characters' names (at least in regards to the Inner Senshi) and a few other references.

Last is the complete collection of Tokyopop’s (formerly known as Mixxine) English adaptations of Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon manga.  At the same time, the series was running in comic book form and via Tokyopop's Smile magazine between their volumized releases.  Nevertheless, they had their translation issues (like anything translated wouldn’t).  They used the character names from the DiC dubbed.  They also looked like they were printed and reprinted through a Xerox machine.  However, despite all of that, you have to give credit where credit is due and celebrated the fact that we even got these things. Seriously, I could only imagine how difficult it was for Tokyopop to get the rights to the English version of Naoko Takeuchi’s beloved manga series. Heck, I remember as a teen I wrote (yes, as in snail mail) Tokyopop asking if there were any plans on a Sailor V translation. Their answer was quite simple: “Not at the moment.” That turned into never

Nonetheless, I cherished–and I mean cherished–my copy of the first volume the second I bought it out of a local comic book shop. I mean, that thing meant the world to me.  Before, I would constantly look through my Mixxine magazines at the order form, begging for my mom to order them for me.  Eventually they landed in the local bookstores as well, so I just bought them there.  I remember the Summer of 1999 where I read my copy of the first volume repeatedly.  My fingers actually stained the edges of the paper.  Until that point, the only ever time I read Sailor Moon was through the Chinese version. An exchange student used to lend me her copies in exchange for allowing her to read my short stories. 

 Naturally, these books inspired me beyond measure.  And that's putting it lightly.  No, seriously, you don't want to get me started.  I am literally tempted to do a character sketch and manga and anime review of the series.  Including the newly released Sailor Moon Crystal.  

Have you been inspired by Sailor Moon or any other manga or anime?  Share your story.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Long Book Series? Where Do You Start?

What do you feel about book series?  Do you prefer standalone books?  Or do you enjoy attaching yourself to characters that feature in more than one book?  Are you intimidated by the length of a series?  Or does length not bother you at all?  

In this Tuesday Talks (which was uploaded on Wednesday) I share my take on series and length.  I also talk about why I enjoy long series, must read from the start, and how I will not progress forward until I read them in order.  OCD at its finest.  Comment and share your thoughts below!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unflappable Emma Graham

"A waitress at her mother's decaying resort hotel, twelve-year-old Emma now has a second job as the youngest cub reporter in the history of La Porte's Conservative newspaper.  But when she discovers the crumbling shell of a fabulous hotel–the once-sumptuous Belle Rouen–in the woods near her small town of Spirit Lake, Emma never imagines that the mysteries it holds will bring her one step closer to solving a forty-year-old crime–and force a new transgression to light..."
~ Belle Ruin blurb

Just when we've thought we've heard the last of Emma Graham, here comes the third book in her series, Belle Ruin. I told myself I would wait a month between books, but hell, there are only four and I was ready to drive back to her world after reading Cold Flat Junction earlier this month. However, not much has changed between Cold Flat Junction and Belle Ruin. Actually, I would say that nothing at all has changed. This kind of makes it difficult to write about. Everything I said in my thoughts on Cold Flat Junction, and the first book in the series, Hotel Paradise, are all relevant and the same. The books take place in a single summer; Emma Graham is working as a waitress in her family’s summer resort, while fulfilling her side interest investigating a forty-year-old drowning that took place on the nearby lake. The difference is that Emma managed to resolve, or come a crumbling step, to the conclusion of that murder by the end of Cold Flat Junction. And while there were many questions still left in the air, Belle Ruin threw in many more to enlarge Emma's investigation.

Unfortunately, by the very end of Belle Ruin, not a damned thing gets resolved. Nope. Nothing at all. You are purely in the ride for the precious fun of watching Emma Graham wheedle information out of adults, facetiously manipulate a few, and well, purport to be a twelve-year-old girl. And while that was all super-duper fun, I have to be honest when I say that I slowly found myself leaning toward listlessness in some areas of Belle Ruin.  (This came many times during moments where Emma was wrestling with her brother about a stage play he was producing in the hotel's garage.) And really, that listlessness came from Grime’s repetitious need to have Emma repeat her likes and dislikes of the world around her (some covering the previous two books). Now, now, now. Everybody knows by now that I go hard for Emma Graham. She’s the kid I would want, which turns me into a defensive machine. But even here, three books in, I kind of got tired of her mini spiels.  As an example, one repeated spiel revolves around why she prefers white chicken meat and why it's a hassle for her to obtain some.  That was connected with me two books ago.  I got it, young lady. 

Even so, I had to remind myself that this series encapsulates a single summer in this girl’s life.  Therefore, I smiled with affection.


1. After her near-death/attempted murder experience in Cold Flat Junction, Emma is now a reporter for the Conservative newspaper (as stated in the aforementioned blurb). Having her brush with death reported in the paper, and a new job at hand, Emma has a certain level of credibility and access to the individuals around her. Sure, she still lies her ass off to gather information, but now she has a good excuse to back herself up with. “I'm interviewing,” she'd often claim.

2. As mentioned, Emma discovers a partially burnt hotel called Belle Rouen–dubbed “Belle Ruin." Twenty years ago, and before the fire that destroyed the hotel, a baby girl named Fay was reportedly kidnapped from her room while a gala event went on in the hotel’s ballroom. No one knows what happened to baby Fay, including those connected to the hotel (many of which Emma hunts down like a fox for information). 

Nonetheless, this becomes Emma’s “big squeeze" as well as the crux of the book.  The kidnapping is in fact tied into the previous two books, and a small revelation does come to light.  However, there just isn't any resolution.  Really, the ending of Belle Ruin was more than a touch disappointing either way I try to cut it.  I can't make excuses for it.  Just know that it was really dissatisfying.

3. After reading Hotel Paradise, I mentioned how Grime’s writing painted Emma in a world that seemed timeless and uncertain to the reader of its location. Well, in Cold Flat Junction we learn that the series takes place in America, somewhere near Maryland if I recall correctly. In Belle Ruin, my suspicions are confirmed that the series takes place in the late 50s early 60s. How did this come about? Well, Emma mentions watching The Loretta Young Show, which aired between 1953-1961.  Go figure, right.

4.  Grimes seemed to inject herself a little more into Emma's narrative this time.  Call me wacko, but I found tiny moments where she may have used Emma and Emma's story to address some criticism she may have received from the series.  Take one of Emma's quotes for instance:  "That was what they called being childish.  It was what I called being twelve."  I put heavy, heavy emphasis on they.

With that being said I'm ready for book four, Fadeaway Girl. Am I excited? You better believe it. However, I'm going to give myself some space before I drive into that one. Not too soon, Emma.  Not to soon.

Lastly, I didn't laugh out loud as much in Belle Ruin like the howling I did during Cold Flat Junction.  Nonetheless, I must share some of my favorite Emma moments.

Emma Moments
"I was in the kitchen arranging salads.  My mother told me to please remember the black olives should be sliced before adding them and for heaven's sake to remember not to put the Roquefort dressing on Miss Bertha's salad for she hated it.  I thanked her for reminding me and scooped off the top layer of one salad and added a spoonful of Roquefort dressing.  Then I put back the layer of lettuce, the pepper and onion ring, arranging them so that the dressing was invisible."
"...I did not take the word lightly when I said to Ree-Jane.  'You're so full of shit.'  I then went into the cool darkness of the lobby.

She sprang to her feet and yelled, 'You just wait until I tell Miss Jen!'

I nearly skipped my way to the kitchen, happy I had once again got the best of Ree-Jean.  I even looked forward to her telling on me."
"But I think I've learned a lesson and that is that you have to find your own answers to things.  Even if they're the wrong answers.  The point is the finding."
"'Back to the ho-tel, right?' said Delbert, gunning the gas.

'No.  Stop by the graveyard to see if Dracula made it back before dawn.'  I sat directly behind the driver's seat so he couldn't see me.

'You've always got some smart-ass answer, you know that?'

'I'm telling Axel you called me a smart-ass.'  How could I?  I could never find him."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Creative Print House Experience

What‘s up, Comic Towel readers?  I’m here to spread the word about another custom print-on-demand site you can visit online to have your drawings, photos and images printed on items such as phone cases, coffee mugs and tablet cases.  I was given the opportunity to review Creative Print House a couple of weeks ago when a representative from the company reached out after seeing–what I presume–my video reviewing products I received from other custom printing companies.  Considering I featured phone cases in the video, it was decided that I would receive three to review.  First, let me walk you a little through the creating process I took.

Phone Case & Options

I decided to choose three styles of phone cases; iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inch) White Rubber Case, IPhone 6 (4.7 inch) Clear Rubber Case and Samsung Note 3 (5.7 inch) Black Rubber Case. Rubber cases are more durable than the options of plastic cases and wrap-around cases.  They're also kind of a blend of the two at the same time. Nevertheless, it should be said that not all case options are given to whichever type of phone you own. Therefore, some selections don't have the option of a rubber case. Luckily, each of the three that I chose had the rubber case option.  

You can also choose the color of your case, between black, clear and white options. These three colors aren't as extensive as a past mentioned custom print shop.  Nonetheless, the cases not only protect the phone (which I found CPH's protection better), but also provides the personalization you're looking for.  That's all the combination you need.

Also, I chose this image [above] to show both the prices (most cases range from $25 to $34) and the option to view a short video that showcases the actual cases. There's also an option to read and write your own review of the product.  

I found progressing through Creative Print House to be simple, intuitive and easy.  Not once did I feel overwhelmed with the selection process nor the designing.

Creating & Customizations

The design system is the fun part! You're taking your images and placing them on products; both personalizing and expressing who you are!  I wanted to share the above screenshot to show you how simple the process of customizing your phone case can be, as well as the available options to further the customization experience. 

Besides simply stamping your images on products, you also have the customization tools necessary to rotate an image to your preference, zoom your image, and control the space your image should contain on the item. As always, I filled the phone case with the image, removing all negative space. 

Additionally, available is the TEXT tool. Of course, I applied “Comic Towel” to the image, guiding its size by the scale tool before I changed the font and alignment of the text. Furthermore, there is the option of changing the text’s color and even its outline.  Really easy, really quick.  And another thing I noticed, I didn't have any difficulty with loading the image.  There was no need to create a file for collecting your images, it was all very streamline from your computer to the site.


As it’s mentioned on Creative Print House, the images are printed in HD on an aluminum plate that’s attached to the actual rubber case. Unfortunately, that aluminum plate covers the speaker grill, and I have yet to test whether this is ineffectual or not. Nonetheless, concerning the image itself, I will say that I immediately noticed that it has lost some definition. Fine lines, tones, and darkened areas seem slightly blurred and faded.  It almost appeared as if the ink ran close to dry.  You probably can't tell from the snapshot, but in person, it's evident. Whether it's an issue with scaling the image too large (pixel count), the transference to the aluminum plating, or my own digital image, I can't be sure. I still think it came out beautifully, just not as sharp as I anticipated as it relates to the actual drawing [SEE HERE]. This, by the way, is featured on the Samsung Note 3 black rubber case.

This image is featured on the iPhone 6 clear case.  In this instance, the fine lines and definition came out sharper than the previous.  It still has a touch of fadedness, but the difference is that it didn't come across as a slight blur.  The image is a lot sharper.  To see the image click HERE.

I think that out of the three, this one came out the best.  Maybe it’s the available size, considering it's for the iPhone 6 Plus.  Maybe it’s the white case.  Whatever the cause, the end result was a lot more vivid and defined than the previous two.  To see the image click HERE  

I want to say that Creative Print House is best for those who are looking to create fun, personal photos and such printed on the available merchandise to share with friends and family.  As it continues to grow, that will change.  But as of now, if you want a deal on designing and personalizing your new tablet or cell phone case, this is the place where you need to be.  The process really was easy, and I got my items less than a week after I ordered them. 

You Decide

  • There isn't an option to create your own store featuring your designs on merchandise

  • There is an affiliate program which requires approval as well as your account email and password

  • Only 4 merchandising options: phone cases, tablet cases, mugs, and coasters (various styles in each)

  • A little less expensive than Zazzle and Cafepress, and shipping is free for orders over $25

  • Offers discounts and percentages off orders

  • Easier design options; simple and never too complicated to use

  • 30-day return policy and customer service available via phone and email

A super special thanks to Creative Print House for the opportunity.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jake Don't Play

I'm just going to jump into this one. I want to take a moment to rejoice on how this omnibus collection of Elizabeth Peters’s Jacqueline Kirby mystery series saved me from the awfulness of Nightshifted, but I figured I would sweat this topic out if I tried. Therefore, moving right along…

Kirby had some nice covers
While this Jacqueline Kirby omnibus contains the first three books in her series (there are four total), I only read the first book, The Seventh Sinner. I’m in the process of digesting this series in extensive bites, much like Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series. Speaking of which, the interesting thing that I felt after reading The Seventh Sinner was that I actually–no shade intended–liked Peters's Jacqueline Kirby slightly more.  Sure she's less popular than her counterpart Amelia, but man did I brightened throughout each of her appearances.  Maybe it's because Jacqueline didn't complain (or rather bitch and moan) as much as Amelia.  Instead of doing so, she just... well... marched into her own assertiveness without making demands or controlling others.  Her attitude was a humorous, quirky blend of sharp intelligence and assumed inculpability.  Simply put, Jacqueline marched to the beat of her own drum and did it well.

So what is The Seventh Sinner about? An American student named Jean Suttman has taken her fellowship studies in Rome.  Over time she has gathered six other friends/students with six different backgrounds, educational aspirations and life philosophies. Their group is known as the Seven Sinners.  They are made up of renaissance, historian, anthropology and religion-oriented individuals. Some within this group of seven get along better with others, and nothing appears more evident of their group dynamics than the slain body of one member, and fellow student, Albert. Nobody within the Seven Sinners likes Albert. Besides their disgust at his appearance, he’s somewhat of a know-it-all who is constantly tagging alongside the group to push his unsolicited input on their conversations.  While the group explores an underground Roman temple, a lone Jean runs across the dying body of Albert.  It appears that someone cut his throat, effectively silencing him.  However, he manages to scratch his final message on the dirt floor in an attempt to led Jean to his killer.  So the question becomes which student risked his or her future to silence Albert? As well as why?  Librarian and thrill-seeker, Jacqueline Kirby, steps forward to apply her practical assessment of the crime, while keeping Jean safe from a stream of “accidents” designed to snuff her out of the equation.

The Seventh Sinner was written and set in the 1970s, and really, it had a small taste of gothic horror from that period that I love.  Maybe that's another notable difference that I liked about Jacqueline, contrasting to Amelia Peabody’s series taking place in late 19th and early 20th century Egypt.  (Which, to be fair, is perfectly perfect.)  Or maybe my burst of fondness lie in Jacqueline's third-person narrative, as opposed to Amelia's first.  The narrative wasn't spent locked in Jacqueline's head, leaving me excited and unsure of her ideas and motives. Nonetheless, both protagonists are eccentric, funny, impulsive, and intuitive in their detection. And where Amelia Peabody is famed for solving murder mysteries in Egypt with her parasol at hand, Jacqueline Kirby totes around a bottom-less white purse filled with knick-knacks necessary in helping her solve murders in Rome.  Even a knitting kit.  Speaking of which, Jacqueline wasn't even the main character in the book.  Jean was.  But naturally, Jacqueline stole the show.

Thankfully, the mystery itself wasn't arduous and difficult to follow.  It drew me along nicely, and gave me plenty to guess with.  Structuring a pleasurable mystery is all about appealing characters with even more absorbing secrets to keep. The Seventh Sinner provided plenty of the two. Toward the end, I was never quite sure which student committed the murder, and even when it’s revealed, the twist relaying how and why was satisfying.

I will have to say that my biggest complaint with the book came from the heavy dose of historical and religious references scattered throughout the text. Unfortunately, I don't know a thing about the Seven Churches of Asia or San Andrea al Quirinale. I've never been to the Roman road called Via Aurelia, and have certainly never stepped foot in the Callixtus catacombs of Rome. Therefore, needless to say, I had to roll with the punches in many areas of the book. Sure, some character dialogue-filled in some informational gaps but, as it pertains to the exposition, some of the settings never really fleshed themselves out in my imagination. And because I was so wrapped up in the story, I hardly gave myself a moment to reach for my smartphone to do a quick image search on some of the areas populated by the cast.

All in all, I have to say that I enjoyed this book immensely. Jacqueline Kirby with her bottomless purse, cigarettes, love of thriller books, and horn-rimmed glasses was so irresistible that I will gladly come back for more.

I give The Seventh Sinner:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Universe... Again...

Yeah, yeah and yeah!  I took this from Mike Dooley and have to agree.  I see and talk to a lot of people who seem to be in limbo, waiting on something or some reason to do something.  And you can only talk to them so many times about gathering the resources they have available, and to at least try to make an effort no matter how small.  But one thing that happens when you continue to do that, you start to wait alongside them.  You start to take them on as a frustration within yourself.  You start to soak in those vibes.  It starts to infect your progress–your thinking.  It begins to make you angry.  Then you realize it's not worth it.  None of it.  Especially if you can see that you've come too far in your own progress.  Especially when you've been showing up to your own Life.  Give yourself a pat on the back and realize that you're outside of the 95% margin of people who wait.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Running Man

Ohhhhh, what can I say about Stephen King's The Running Man? Does anything that hasn't been said come to mind, seeing that it was released in 1982 and underneath Stephen King’s other pen name, Richard Bachman. Hmmm. Well, for starters, the book takes place in the year 2025. The world is heavily dystopian and littered with financial and social status classification problems. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Or something to that economic philosophic twist. As a form of entertainment, the wealthy and high-status individuals/companies offer the poorer individuals the chance to earn massive amounts of money by participating in a variety of supposedly entertaining reality game shows.  

A concept that's more or less different than today. 

Nonetheless, the deadliest of these shows is The Running Man; and with an eighteen-month-old daughter ill and slowly dying, and a wife who has resorted to prostitution to gather money for medicine, twenty-eight-year-old Ben Richards decides that he’s had enough of watching his family suffer.  Therefore, he steps forward as a contestant in one of the games, run by one of the aforementioned super companies with economic sway and power. Unfortunate for him, he’s saddled as an enemy of the state in The Running Man reality show. The whole nation is after you in this game. Police, Hunters, average citizens; everyone stands a chance of collecting money off your bounty–whether through your death or capture. However, if you survive 30 days, you are rewarded one billion dollars. Will Ben Richards make it that far?  From chapter 100 counting down to 0, that's the question that keeps you locked to the thrill involved in The Running Man.

I'll keep this quick. I hope…

There’s plenty to take from this angry book; the suspenseful speeding plot/storytelling, the dark themes, the ugliness of a capitalistic society, and the general thrill of it all. It made for a fun, quick read. Something not too involved or complicated for a leisure afternoon reading.  In other words, while it was obviously themed, it was all mostly surface and arguable because of the speeding plot leading the way. 

All the same, I had a lot of grievances with Ben Richards himself.  Those grievances were tied to this pull I had for totally hating him as a character, but admiring his resourcefulness and ability to survive. I mean, I did perk up when Ben was crawling his way through a maze of sewer drains to escape both the police and his self-created arson attack. And some of his confrontational stand-offs with empowered characters were fun.  He expressed his attitude regarding his circumstances as well as his balls to challenge authority without hesitation. And moments where the fast-pace crawled, they were saved by the discussions of dystopian conspiracies.  So that part was cool.

But perhaps it’s the tone of the book–or maybe it’s the voice of Ben Richards’s narrative–that caused me to mostly wince.  I found some heightened hypocritical things going on in The Running Man. See, one minute Ben was sloshing around the n-word to press his disgust of a particularly character in a certain position within the game (a controlling and higher position at that), the next he was deploying the assistance of two black kids to help him out of his situation. One minute he was sloshing around the f-word to press his disgust of a particular character, the next (well, a lot later in the book) he pulled a total reverse in the form of exposition regarding how important it was to put an end to cold bigotry, or what he calls, “queer-stomping“. Then there’s the burly somewhat sideman who presses racially derogatory terms aimed at Irish and Hispanic people. And you know what? Even the black kid takes a returned racial jab at a white character within the book. Really, with all the anger between the rich and poor worth focusing on in a dystopian world charged with economic depravity, I just wished everyone would shut the hell up.

Maybe it’s the stress of the economy. Maybe it’s something else altogether inside of my own hopes and beliefs for mankind.  At the end of The Running Man, I prayed that our real, actual 2025 would have progressed a lot further than some unspecified time within our 1930s. I did enjoy the book; I just didn’t really care for but a small number of characters that helped guide the thrill along. The trap was that I was stuck in Ben Richards’s head, one in which I grew so tired of that I had little sympathy for him toward the end.  Despite appreciating his ingenuity to survive.  My lasting view of him was that he was a part of the problem.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fix It, Jesus. Urban Fantasy Gone SUPER BAD

I am about to depressurize a little frustration here concerning why I decided to abandon Cassie Alexander’s Nightshifted, after managing to plow through a mere 43 pages.  You're probably thinking that it was just too dreadful to continue; and while I try to refrain from using such an adjective to describe a book, the fact is that it was. Dreadful and awkward. Aimless and just plain ridiculous.

I bought the book last May thinking it was time for some new urban fantasy authors to try. But as always, my reservations were for the level of sex that this genre is known for. Even so, the difference, concerning Nightshifted, lie in its premise. It sounded new and potentially polarizing to other urban fantasy books. I figured it would make an exciting read, though it took me a year and a half to get over my trepidation of the possibilities of "sexi timez with monsters" overtaking the plot (I should have listened to that trepidation). 

See, Nightshifted is about a nurse with a cool name (oh yes, Edie Spence is she) who treats supernatural patients in a secret hospital ward deep underneath the traditional. Supposedly, she’s new to this specialized practice, having yet to understand the blend of her nursing abilities and its role within the supernatural community's healthcare. Now, the book opens with Edie treating a vampire servant who was found lying in some unspecified street during some unspecified time. I honestly don't recall what happened to him, and nor did I get far enough to find out.  Nonetheless, the point is that as he’s dying, he utters the words “Save Anna” to Edie. Before long, he turns to dust. (Don't only actual vampires tend to do this and not their human servants?) So somehow it’s Edie’s fault that she lost her patient, and I’m still unclear how/why besides her jumping on his chest to try to shock his heart into a cardiac beat.  Or some mess like that. So, conversely, the actual details were lacking.  Medically as well as supernaturally.  It just is what it is, I guess.  Anyhow, Edie goes through the vampire servant’s belongings. She discovers three cologne bottles filled with holy water, and a pocket watch with a photo insert of a family (how tiny did the photo have to be?). Later, at home, Edie takes the photo out, and discovers an address on the back. That’s when things got stupider and stupider.  

Because I didn't read the entire book, I'm going to sort of bullet point my issues leading up to my abandoning the book.  Within 43 pages, I had to stop at each scenario before it all got to be too much. THIS AREA IS SPOILER HEAVY!  Though I don't think you'd care if you got this far into the post. 

Issue #1: What’s the point of throwing out the names of medical drugs and further medical terminology if you don’t filter their purpose and definition to the average reader? I don't know what fentanyl (pain reliever, apparently) and Versed (sedative, double apparently) are.  Let alone do I understand how they would affect the treatment of an aged vampire servant, who evidently can disintegrate after death as well as sport fangs just as your standard variety definition of a vampire.  Yet he's a human servant... in pain. In any regard, have your American Medical Associates and Coder book handy! 

Issue #2: Speaking of vampire servants, how did I get to page 43, meet about three other vampires, and still never quite understood what kind of world Edie operated in where she felt the need to confront each one of them while armed with three bottles of holy water and a photograph?  Now, I remind you, she is a nurse.  Not a slayer or demon hunter–at least this early in the book.  Therefore, did she stand to reason with them? Were there any stakes (both the pointy kind and the claims kind) involved with her amateurish investigation? Evidently not on either front, considering she flipped out and began to spray one in the face because he wouldn't let her through a door. There’s a slight disconnect with the world-building as well as the medical theme. And I got this odd, peculiar realization that Alexander was more concerned with writing this sexy, brave heroine instead of a smart one. And one who obviously lived in a world with little rules.

Ain't nobody got time for that

Issue #3: If within twenty-four hours two different vampires (one being a vampire servant–which seemed no different if you ask me) have managed to sink his or her teeth into your hand all the way down to the bone, you do not, I repeat, you do not flash a photograph in the face of the second vampire's attack in an attempt to be released.  Your hand is already injured, which whom he/she is furthering into a state of total mangled-ness. Despite the circumstances, a photograph the size of a silver dollar is not a weapon. Like, come on! What're you doing and why are you doing it this way?  I just wasn't connecting with the functions involved in all of this.  My first instinct would be to fight the vampire off me with force, not attempt to reason with it with a photograph while the SOB is chewing on my metacarpals.  What's even more stunning is that the author tried to play off this scenario by claiming "narcotic vampire saliva" kept Edie somewhat in her right mind to have done otherwise.  STOP THIS!

Is this bish high?
Issue #4: You don't call your junkie big brother to meet you at the hospital so that you can hand over the keys to your apartment.  Why did Edie do this?  So that he can "watch" over her apartment and cat while she slides into the hospital to get her bloody hand treated (stitches?). Now, you especially don't do this if he has already tried to hit you up for cash earlier that day via a nasty, distant phone call! HELLO! 

She dumb

Issue #5: Additionally, you don’t steal a camera from a potential crime scene and, afterwards, give it to your junkie big brother with the distinct demands that he pawn the item. But first, (no listen, FIRST) what sense does it make to remove the film from the camera at the crime scene, burn the evidence, and then take the camera itself only to give it to a drug addict? With no instructions regarding the money he receives after pawning the camera, what the hell were Edie’s expectations of him again? BLEACH MY BRAIN!


Issue #6: Why did Edie call her brother before she went to get her hand treated, anyway? It wasn't an overnight-at-the-hospital situation and, as a nurse, you would assume that she knew this.  However, what’s even more stupid is how she gave her brother the keys to her apartment, and less than a page later, she comes home to find some of her furniture missing. Her cheesing junkie brother peeks around the corner proclaiming, "I was performing an experiment" and "I needed to sell them to afford my final test". Somebody bleach my brain now! 

Fix it, Jesus

Issue #7: When Edie called her brother to watch over her apartment while she got her hand treated, it came with the promise that she would allow him to stay at her place for a few days to keep him from having to stay in a shelter.  I suppose this is her way of considering her inconveniencing him.  Even so, she booted him out once she found out her furniture was pawned. Dear Lord, read her thoughts: 
"It was cold out this morning, tonight'd be freezing for sure. I hoped he made it to the shelter in time. I watched him till he turned at the end of my apartment complex's parking lot, my healing hand throbbing in the cold." 
Besides the fact that it's so obviously freezing outside, and she's safely at home, does she not realize that in order for someone without a home to secure a bed in a shelter, he has to be there at some pre-determined time before 7pm? Really, bish? Really?

I detest you so hard right now

I was creeping along with the squinty face at this point. Knowing good and well that I was about to throw this book. Nevertheless, I went ahead anyway. Just a little. Then this happened… 

Issue #8: Within a day Edie has accidentally “killed” a human servant under her care. With an injured and possibly infected hand, she proceeded to visit the address printed on the back of the photo in his pocket watch. It leads to his apartment. It leads to disturbing photos of young girls in compromising positions. Great. Now let Edie solve this mystery, right? Well, I'm not sure how she ended up at a vampire den, but she did (I zoned out somewhere in there). So what happens there?  She finds the aforementioned Anna chained and being filmed by two vampires. Edie kills one vampire; the other flees. Anna bites Edie.  Anna flees. Edie goes to the hospital to get her hand treated, and in steps in all that fuss I just mentioned regarding her junkie brother.  Once she kicks the brother out, here’s what happens next after a moment of her reasoning with the fact that she's not on-call for the night:
"The ten pounds of weight night shift had put on me hadn't sized me out of my favorite skirt just yet.  I pulled it on, then found a matching shirt that clung in all the right places.  My hair was wavy, shoulder length, generically brown.  My eyes were complimentable blue, and I had a good smile.  I knew when I went out that I wasn't the prettiest girl in the club–but I also knew I could hold my own in someplace with a few shadows where the cocktails were reasonably priced." 

That's right. She went to a nightclub.

This bish has lost it.  I'm done.

Quite possibly one of the dumbest books I've ever read. I now understand why it took me a year and half to pick it up, and why I'm slowly giving up on the urban fantasy genre. The sad thing is that, concerning the genre, I would rather read another Laurell K Hamilton book than finish this. And according to a few reviews, it gets worst, as Edie decides to have sex with a zombie. 

So yeah. I totally can't wait to donate this book to my public library’s bookstore. Thank God I jumped this ship ahead of time and can move on.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer gifs are not mine.  I don't know the owner, I just know the site in which I'll thankfully credit them.  HERE.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hex On The A Story

It’s been a couple of years since I picked up the second book in Madelyn Alt‘s “A Bewitching Mystery“ cozy series, A Charmed Death; and even longer since I was introduced to Alt's protagonist Maggie O’Neill in the first book, The Trouble With Magic. I… moderately… enjoyed each book; not quite won over, but not quite unfulfilled.  Nevertheless, I found myself interested not only in the cozy mystery sub-genre the series is written for, but also by the premise of a young witch (though I find that debatable) as the main protagonist doing the sleuthing. While that is nothing new, it was a first for me. (At least outside of Diana Teagarden.) So I enjoyed the first two books just fine, certain that I would proceed forward and stick with the series. 

Unfortunately, it’s been a hot minute since I've picked up book three. Having bought Hex Marks the Spot last June, I've just now decided to give it a go. Why not? It’s been hanging around long enough. And thankfully, I actually enjoyed myself pushing and swallowing down the sweetness of its borderline chick-lit flavor.

Hex Marks the Spot was fun! I even laughed a little.  There were moment of suspenseful reading, and sometimes I found myself touched by the romance elements.  (I have to stress touched and not body slammed by it.)  However… a couple of things did bother me. One was the entanglement of Alt’s A Story, B Story and C Story. The other was a lot more technical, as it relates to the construction of her mystery.

But first, what is Hex Marks the Spot about?  Small town pseudo-witch and magic shop employee, Maggie O’Neill, arranges to tag alongside her boss and local witch, Felicity “Liss” Dow, on a trip to a crafts bazaar. Here they meet residents of the nearby Amish community–one being their close friend and fellow paranormal investigator, Eli Yoder. Bent over a sawhorse in an open horse barn, Eli greets his friends as he goes about crafting bookshelves and end tables for bazaar shoppers. Liss, of course, buys a couple for her shop before spotting an armoire ablaze with a Celtic hex symbol. Interested, Eli has to pass on Liss’s offer as the armoire is wheeled aside to take part in an auction.

Disappointed and unable to pull her eyes away from the hex symbol, both Liss and Maggie curiously wonder when did Eli gather the talent to do such a detailed carving–particularly that of a hex. Apparently, while Eli did his job to build the actual armoire, the hex feature was constructed by another Amish carpenter named Luc Metzger. Besides his talents, Luc Metzger is somewhat of a heartthrob in the Amish community; and my how this nettles Luc's wife. Nonetheless, making a long story short, he’s found dead on the roadside with a busted head and an interesting hex symbol hanging near his body.

Was Luc’s murder religiously motivated? Or maybe Luc’s murder was a result of a fatal attraction? Or, learning that he had a history of romantic side affairs, perhaps his wife finally took him out?
Whatever the answer, his murder pops up on Maggie’s witch radar.

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