Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Story of Hong Gildong a Korean Folktale

You've probably seen the cover for this new translation all over the internet by now and I'm pleased to say that we got our hands on a copy from the author himself Minsoo Kang.

The Kirkus Reviews says "If you read only one book about courageous Korean Outlaws this should be the one".

Now in case you missed the big circular icon on the front cover this is a new translation of a very old, very epic, Korean Folktale. Hong Gildong is to the Koreans what Jesse James is to Americans. He's the Robin Hood of their culture and in true Korean style the story is epic and the language is dramatic. Take for example the scene of Gildong's birth.

        'And so time passed, through ten lunar months, until a day came when a tempest blew, fierce rain poured down, and a fragrant air filled the house. Chunseom gave birth to a precious boy whose face was the color of snow and whose presence was as grand as the autumn moon. He was born with the appearance of a great hero.'

It's no secret that I enjoy Korean horror films and I enjoy different types of mixed media from many different Asian cultures but nothing compares to Korea when it comes to story telling. This is especially true with this book. I was promised a tale of outlaw proportions and once again they delivered. The battle scenes alone are enough to drive you to read this book over and over again. Throw in the social drama of him being a lowborn illegitimate son of a high minister and his dissatisfaction with his place in that society and you have all the making of a story that surpasses anything the western culture has managed to drum up. That's right I said it, Hong Gildong may be touted in western culture as the Korean Robin Hood but I'm telling you his story is BETTER than that one. You don't have to be a scholar of Korean history or culture to understand all the layers of this story thanks to the new introduction and the translation notes provided by Minsoo Kang in the back of the book. I will say this I read this story first without reading the introduction or the notes to see if I could follow and understand the story without any help. My reasoning behind this was simple if I could read the story without the help of the introduction or the notes then the story was good on it's own. It was I enjoyed it immensely without the added help from the introduction or the notes. I read it a second time with the introduction and the translation notes and what I got in that second read was worlds better than just reading the story. Minsoo does a wonderful job of educating us on the state of the society and the historical references that existed in Joseon Korea at this time. Having a working understanding of these elements enhances, rather than detracts, from the overall story. Unlike the stories of King Arthur or even Robin Hood there is no misinformation about whether this story is rooted in fact. The author Minsoo Kang lets us know up front that this is a clear work of fiction and as such it's considered one of the very finest examples of popular fiction from the 18th century.

I've read some of the other reviews that mention that the language is clunky and a bit awkward to read but I didn't find that to be the case. I found the language easy to follow and while it's true some of the language is different from how we speak in America I didn't find that to be a problem. If you've watched any type of foreign film or read any literature from the Asian cultures you'll do just fine with this translation and in fact I found it easier to follow than most current Manga or Anime that I've read and seen before.

I would encourage anyone who loves a good underdog triumph story to give this one a read. Minsoo gives us a beautiful piece of fiction that transcends the fantastical and teaches us something real. The only thing that could make this better is if they had a sequel.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: I Hate H3roes:

I Hate H3roes: I Hate H3roes: by L. Bryant IV
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I put this graphic book in my rotation on the request of one of my co-workers who complained that my book review blog never had any type of comics, graphic novels, or manga on it. This review is for you Jaz and any of my other fellow anime, comic book, graphic novel geeks (yes I'm one too it's my dirty little secret).

Let me first start off by saying that though I do have a vast appreciation for the amount of work that goes into creating one of these pieces of literature I have never reviewed one. I have read them and I have enjoyed them immensely but I've never put pen to paper and written a review. I find that there are two parts to reviewing a piece of work such as this. You have to review the story and also review the artwork. I felt the story in this piece was somewhat lacking. The author simply gave too much away in the beginning and the story line didn't flow with any sense of cohesiveness. I loved the artwork the visual aspect of the piece was dead on. It was raw and visceral like a visual punch to the face. I have to say that the artist really carried this work and more often than not I found myself just focusing on the art in each panel and less and less on the actual words.

I have read my fair share of Manga, Comic Books, and Graphic Novels so though I've never actually reviewed one before I do know what to expect as a reader of this particular genre and sadly this one fell short.

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This weeks book swag winner

Our winner of The Veil book swag raffle is Sharyonda Yarbrough!! Sharyonda you have been emailed with directions on how to receive your book swag. We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

We'll return next week with more reviews for you to poor over. We'll be taking this weekend off from reading and reviewing to spend to the holidays with your families.

Thank you all for sharing our little corner of the internet with us and from us to you HAPPY EASTER!!!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hello Darkness my old friend...

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this arc in exchange for a fair review.

So Aubrey's husband Josh has just been declared dead after disappearing five years ago. Aubrey is just getting her life on track when she meet's a new man that reminds her of Josh. What comes next is a total twisty ride trying to find out what happened to Josh, or what really happened in general.

This book is like an onion, I mean serious layers to what was going on. In face without any spoilers I will get my biggest complaint out of the way, the ending felt a little disjointed and kind of confusing. That is the only reason this isn't a five star read for me.  There are parts in general that felt very confusing especially once you get to the end and it is all unveiled, but while those bother me a tiny bit, I feel the author did that on purpose to keep you off track until everything was let out of the closet.

This is my first book by J.T. Ellison and I would definitely be willing to read more. I like dark edgy thrillers, and No One Knows was certainly all that and more. Honestly I probably guessed everything from what actually happened too about another five theories during the course of reading this. So much was hidden, and everything was played close to the vest it was hard to really figure it out.

I know it was compared to The girl on the train, but this felt like a lighter Gone Girl, because there was some serious crazy going on. In fact the more I ponder on the ending, the more I realize that I just can't finish this sentence without a major spoiler so I should stop now. I will end with this, this book is deliberately confusing, because someone and you will know who I am talking about when you read played us all.... In fact I think I have to move this back up to 5 stars now that I realized that!  What are you waiting for go read this book now, wow....

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Veil by Chloe Neill

It's no secret we love Chloe Neill's Chicago Land Vampire Series so we were exceptionally excited to hear she was writing a new series centered around my own hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. For those of you not familiar with the reputation of New Orleans let me break it down for you in very generalized words. New Orleans is a place like no other on the planet. The closest thing to the atmosphere of New Orleans would probably be Romania. It's a city steeped in superstition, voodoo, vampire myths, and magic of all kinds. This makes it the perfect setting for a post apocalyptic magic war. 

The aptly named The Veil is the beginning of what isto be a new trilogy from Chloe Neill. Some really bad fae dudes and dudettes ripped a hole from their dimension to our and invaded the Earth. This hole would later become known as The Veil. Neill does a great job of mixing gritty, raw, urban decay with the fantastical and magical. Many of her descriptions of Post Apocalyptic New Orleans were reminiscent of the actual destruction that was found in the after math of Hurricane Katrina it leaves one wondering if this was the inspiration for the location and setting of this story. One of the major themes throughout the entire book is the main characters belief along with the belief from the local inhabitants that New Orleans will rise again. More than once Clair Connelly remarks that the locals have worked hard in the six years since the war to bring New Orleans back to life. In place of Mardi Gras we see the inhabitants celebrating what is known as War Night, a celebration of a return to peace after the Magical War that ripped New Orleans and much of the South apart. This is a pervading ideology of the locals currently inhabiting the real New Orleans. Many people have asked us why we return year after year and repair and rebuild. The feel and descriptions of not only the actual physical New Orleans in this book but the accuracy in which she brings culture and the mindset of the actual locals through her story is refreshing. If I didn't know better I'd suspect Chloe Neill was a native to the city. 

Claire Connelly is the local girl whose father died in the magical war and whose mother is an unknown. Claire has a secret, a dangerous secret, she's what the Containment people refer to as a Sensitive. Sensitives are humans whose bodies absorb magic. They are dangerous in that the human body acts like a sponge soaking up the residual magic and slowly over time driving the Sensitive insane until they become what is known as a Wraith. Enter Liam Quinn bounty hunter and mysterious bad boy all the way around. Liam finds out about Claire's secret and instead of turning her in for the bounty money he decides to help her. He teaches her there's a way to control the magic and lower the levels effectively keeping her from becoming a Wraith. This is a very dangerous prospect for both of them to be engaging in as Containment (a military branch of the government) sees all magic users as evil. If Claire and Liam are ever caught it could mean Claire being contained to Devil's Isle, the Prison for all paranormals where magic practice is forbidden thereby ensuring that Claire becomes a wraith and Liam could be looking at even more dire consequences. 

There is government corruption, blind prejudice, and plenty of magical shenanigans to go around in this new trilogy. It's darkly humor and urban grittiness gives the story that sense of realism that is often missing in this genre. Fans of Urban Fantasy and Dark Urban Fantasy will like this new offering from Chloe Neill.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review: Midnight Marked

Midnight Marked Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could not put this book down. Book 12 of the Chicago Land Vampires sees a return to all things we love about this series. You will be left slack jawed at the twists and turns this book takes I did not see a few of those plot twists coming!! That ending..all I have to say is AWWWWW that ending is why we love Ethan and Merit so much.
In case you don't recall book 11 left us with some unanswered questions namely "who is the circle?" "What do they want with paranormals?" and "Why Chicago?" This book will answer all of those questions and when you find out the answers you'll be left reeling in shock, not to mention the epic fight scenes including that one at the end! Of course Merit's family, namely her brother, throw up emotional roadblocks and the Cadogen Vampires are once again left to solve Chicago's paranormal problems. I was equal parts frustrated by the mentality of the other paranormals and the Red Guard's perception of Merit and vindicated by the end of the story as well. I don't want to give away any spoilers so I'll just say if you've been a fan of Ethan and Merit and all the Cadogen House vampires you will NOT be disappointed by book 12.

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Re-Reads and the joy of visiting old friends

We love to read new stories, make new fictional friends and visit new worlds created from the imagination of talented writers yet there are some so pervasive that we find ourselves drawn to them time and again.

This week and for the next month I'll be working some old favorites into my new reading schedule. I'm excited to be re-reading the Night Huntress series by Jeanine Frost. Cat and Bones's story is always a fun ride and Frost's world is rich in detail with three dimensional characters. You'll love Cat's sense of humor and Bones's sense of loyalty their friends Rodney, Denise, Vlad (yes THAT Vlad), Mencheres, Kira, Don and Tate and the rest of Cat's team will leave you with all the warm fuzzy feels expected from a great story. There's a reason these characters have such a huge fandom so if you haven't checked out Frosts' Night Huntress series I strongly recommend that you give them a chance you won't be disappointed.

My next series of re-reads is about as far from paranormal as you can get and it's the Ghost Bird series by author C.L. Stone. This series follows a young abused girl by the name of Sang. She's been isolated and abused by her mother since she was a young girl. She finally gets the nerve to escape one rainy night when she's run down by the neighbors dog. That neighbor is Dakota Lee and he's just one of the 9 students she goes on to meet. Not everything is as it seems with these 9 boys and Sang soon discovers they are all members of this mysterious entity known only as The Academy. There are no paranormal elements in these stories. The Academy exists to better the community in which it resides and it's mysterious members hold regular job all throughout the world.  If you're looking for a fast paced cloak and dagger story this is the one for you. There are some very real and rather disturbing scenes in these stories and there's no clear cut good vs. evil instead the writer attempts to show us through the eyes of Sang that good and evil are social constructs that don't always apply to every situation. You can try out this series for free through Amazon Kindle as the first book INTRODUCTIONS is currently free. I warn you though once you read that first one you'll be hooked.

Sometimes a new book in another world can lead us to wanting to re-read a series of similar bent. That has happened to me more times than I count and for my last re-read of the month I'll be revisiting the world of Ilona Andrews and her Kate Daniels series. In Kate Daniel's post apocalyptic world Magic has returned and technology has receded in it's wake. Shifters are real thing and Vampires exists (though not in the form any of us has ever read about) ancient beings once worshiped as gods have reawakened and for some unfathomable reason they all want a piece of Atlanta Georgia. It's up to Kate Daniels and her friends to protect the pack and preserve their post apocalyptic city from the powerful forces rising against them. Kate Daniels is a strong female lead character with a tragic backstory who rises above with witty comebacks and her fierce sword arm to protect those that can't protect themselves. If you love a good story with underdogs that triumph in the face of evil you'll love this series.

That's all for my re-reads for the month of March I hope you'll leave a comment and let us know what world's and stories you'd like to revisit who knows maybe I'll find a new literary addiction.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday's Wrap Up

We're at the end of the second week of March and we have two winners to announce for our March Madness Giveaway!!

Congratulations to Laura Bryan she is the winner of the ebook copy of Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill. Laura you've been emailed with your copy of the book happy reading!!!

Congratulations to Debbie Koenig she's won the ChicagoLand Vampires Book Swag!

If you didn't win this time don't despair we have a new giveaway coming next week starting on Monday you can enter for your chance to win some more book swag! We'll be giving away The Veil book swag in honor of our review of the new series by Chloe Neill.

Next we'll also be bringing you new reviews of the following books: The Veil by Chloe Neill, The Story of Hong Gildong newly translated by Minsoo Kang, and finally our first ever graphic novel review of I Hate Heros by L. Bryant and Gerald Cole.

That's it for this week folks check back with us on Monday for all the newest and latest in upcoming fiction. As always if you have a suggestion of a book you'd like us to read and review post it for us in the comments.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gateways and Ghost Hunters

This book is not what you think it is when you see this cover. I was pleasantly and slightly horrifically surprised to find this book is all about the dearly departed..or the dearly not so departed. Jessica Ballard is the main character of this trilogy and in this first book the author E.E. Holmes grabs you from page one and literally drags you through to the last sentence on the last page hoping that what you're reading isn't actually about to happen! 

Jessica or Jess as she likes to be called wakes from a disorienting nightmare into a terrible tragedy. Jess's life hasn't exactly been easy as she's spent her childhood on the road with her alcoholic mother cleaning up her mom's messes. Jess both loves and resents her mother and yet when her mom turns up dead under mysterious circumstances Jess realizes just how much she loved her mother. Jess goes to live with estranged relatives she's never met while waiting to attend St. Matthews University. It's at St. Matt's that Jess realizes there's something strange about some of the classmates she's been meeting..namely the fact that their dead. Yeah I wasn't exactly happy to find that out myself as some of those characters were really awesome. Jess knows somethings up and while she's flailing around trying to figure out how she can see and interact with dead people she's aided by her neurotic college roomate Tia, and Dr. David Pierce a ghost hunting professor. Yes there's a paranormal class being taught at St. Matt's!!! 

What makes these books so engaging is the attention to detail. The scenes are so vibrant and creepy you almost feel more like you're watching a thriller movie than reading a book. I had that thought a lot while reading this trilogy. These would make awesome horror movies. If ghost's aren't your thing that's ok there's still the mystery of who Jess is and how she's able to see and interact with these ghosts. The mystery coupled with the vivid details of the ghosts she encounters makes this a 4 star trilogy for me. The only reason it didn't get the 5 star treatment was because the last book in the trilogy pulled an Alfred Hitchcock on me. You know where it ends without really ending. I know some of you readers love that but I am not a fan. I want closure at the end of the story not an open ended interpretation. If you happen to love those kinds of ending this will be a 5 star trilogy for you.

I love how each book feeds into the next building on the story line until the epic conclusion in book three. The good news is all three books are out and you can get them in print or digitally through online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

All in all this was an overall win for me and I'm the first to admit that most ghost stories just don't do it for me. When it comes to fiction I would say I'm a hard sell on this particular story trope so if you already lean toward liking these types of books then you are going to LOVE this trilogy.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review: Potential

Potential Potential by M.L. Ridener
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Potential definitely has potential as an overall shifter story. This is the first book in a series with the second book due out later this year. This is book is less than 200 pages long so it's a quick read with lots of familiar story tropes. There's the familiar high school sterotypes complete with mean girl Stacey who of course goes after all the hot shifter boys. Stacey finds out, that well, she's no match for the main character Ari whose the first potential to come of age. The potentials haven't been seen for over 300 hundreds years and the ability to be one is passed down through the family line. All of the potentials are females and it appears there's going to be five of them which works out well for the remainder of the wolf shifter pack since they only have five members left as well. The antagonist of the story is the Panther Shifters who are viscous, slightly insane, and borderline obsessive in securing a potential for themselves as a mate.
I would like to take a small moment and thank the author for steering clear of making the Alpha of the wolf pack an Alphahole. It was a nice change of pace to read about an Alpha that's not over bearing, over protective, or controlling in a negative way.
Overall the story gets two stars not because the story is bad but because it's too short and too predictable.

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Midnight Marked Giveaway!!

As promised everyone our very first March Give away!! Just in time to for the new release of the 12th book in the ChicagoLand Vampire series. Good Luck everyone!

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Leaves of Revolution

Leaves of Revolution Leaves of Revolution by Breeana Puttroff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked book six of this series but it only got three stars because the ending was pretty anti-climatic. I really wanted to see Quinn wield the dagger but I gotta give props to Thomas he brought the pain TWICE!!

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A little too cute for me.

Holding Court by k.c. Held

Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this arc in each for a fair review.

I thought the premise was cute, and the book was cute. Probably just a tad too cute for me. Jules was interesting main character especially her blurting out psychic predictions with zero control. But for a psychic sometimes she seemed to have no idea what was going on.

The love interest is in a weird quasi relationship with another friend who is.... well I won't spoil that.  This particular story wasn't for me, but that being said I loved the King Arthur theme going on, and the costumes. There were a lot of cool things going on in the book, but the author blended just a few too many ideas.  At it's core this book was light-hearted and fun, but it tries to throw in some dark elements and it was just not needed. It wasn't believable and this is probably why I had such a hard time really getting into this book.