Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bride of the Water God

Author: Mi-Kyung Yoon

Summary: When Soah's impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God - instead of killed - she never imagined she'd be a welcomed guest in Habaek's magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her! Most surprising, however, is the Water God himself... and how very different he is from the monster Soah imagined.
My Review: I picked up the first volume a few months ago as a manga book of the month. I ended up reading the available 10 volumes. I really did enjoy this series. It was a nice break from the constant kick-a**, blood and guts manga or some of the more deviant plot forms I’m stumbled across recently. It’s an over all gentle romance, with beautiful artwork throughout. My only issue was sometimes the art was alittle rough and sometimes the plot itself drifted...
The story centers around Soah, the girl her village decides to sacrifice to the Water God, Habaek, to appease him for rain. Once there in the Water God’s realm, she stumbles upon a world of mysterious characters and royal intrigue. She soon becomes torn between the child-like appearance of the “fierce” Habaek, his loyal vassal, Hoo-ye, and the strange Mui...
Art: The art was one of the reasons I gave it such a high rating. Though there were times where it was just alittle bit rougher than I'd prefer, the general look of Bride of the Water God is pleasing to the eye. Mi-Kyung pays special attention to detail, bringing the characters to life with such beautiful clothing and style. The backgrounds are also carefully done. Even the characters themselves have a certain beauty to them. I will admit though that sometimes, they do appear a bit stretched, with too long limbs and too tiny heads, too much focus on hands and feet (something I really hate). Also some of the character’s hair styles can look a bit hastened, expescially when it comes to braids. It just looses that sharpness feel that the rest of the manga expresses.
Characters: I’ll admit, the characters themselves though all possessing unique personalities, there doesn’t ever feel like there’s enough plot to express themselves with. Loyalties seem to shift almost too rapidly, and all their minor pains never seem to matter much. The story centers around feelings and emotions and testy god’s and their funky attitudes rather than something more complex and engaging. I’m not looking for an epic battle, either of the mind nor the physical, just something deeper...
Plot: I have to say that while I did find this series occasionally amusing and beautifully drawn, sometimes the plot felt like it was going around in circles. I like it when there are several arcs, each plot progressing steadily onto the next. This one just kept taking two steps backwards, divulging into the past again and again. I would have liked to have had a bit more uniformity to the story line.
Disclaimers: While there was occasionally language and bit of blood here and there, it never really was peppered with profanity or violence. Not really. Maybe alittle bit of name calling, nothing drastic. There was a rare occasion or two when someone got stabbed through or shot, but it’s never ever gory. Sensually, though... Mui is a bit, to put it bluntly, a bit aggressive. There are instances where characters overpower others, either playfully or not so. Sometimes the intentions are not clear. In one of the later volumes you can see two naked characters (of the opposite sex) pressed against each other, but it’s so brief and doesn’t show anything (plus their technically married) it would be easy to miss or overlook.
Favorite Character: Hoo-ye
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty
***Next week: Mushishi***

Chemical Garden Trilogy: Book 1 ~ Wither

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Summary: Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking time bomb- males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape--to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bend on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.
My Review: I think this is one of those books that I can’t really decide whether I like or not. I think three stars is too low but four is too high. I liked the writing style, for the most part, though it did take me awhile to get into it. The plot’s a bit more intense than that of books I’d normally pick up, but it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting it to be, so I was generally okay with it. There was that strange... essence of the story though, the feeling you get of reading a somewhat popular young adult book, and wondering why it is so? I don’t like saying I liked a book when so many people seem to enjoy it. I like books that are appealing to me and me alone. I must make the decision, not based upon anyone else’s opinion. True, I’ll take recommendations. But I can’t stand to select a book, just because everyone else loves it. And with this book, I honestly still just don’t know...

Set in a world where the human race is dying off, one by one, all at a very young age, we follow along after Rhine who is selected to become a Bride by the Gatherers. The story takes place mainly in the prison-like mansion, where things are not all as they seem...

Characters: While the characters weren't necessarily dull, I did feel as though we didn't spend enough time on their personalities. Rather we floated around with alot of description and what they were doing when, but never really about who they were. You don't really connect with them so much. That I found disappointing, but expected.
Plot: I mostly don't enjoy books where society is collapsing, the human race is dying off, and the government... sucks... I did find this book interesting, but after setting it aside and giving it some thought, the plot could have been a bit more in depth. Just a bit. The story could have been longer.....
Disclaimers: At the very beginning of the novel, it is portrayed that a van full of girls is shot. There’s also a rather intense birthing scene later on. The violence is usually much more subtle and hinted rather than shown. The sexuality isn’t ever explicit either. We’ve still got the whole two-teens-sleeping-in-the-same-bed-but-not-having-sex problem I keep stumbling across in my reading. Technically the characters are married, but technically Rhine’s husband has two other wives who don’t seem to have a problem with pleasing him.
Favorite Character: Gabriel
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★
~ Darkitty
***Next week: The Vanishing Game***

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Cain Saga

Author: Kaori Yuki
Summary: Born under an evil moon harboring dark secrets, Earl Cain C. Hargreaves, the youthful heir of the aristocratic Hargreaves family, is a man on a quest to find the truth about his family's past. Written in dark, harrowing episodes, The CAIN Saga chronicles how Cain solves the strange crimes that seem to plague his cursed existence, yet somehow bring him closer to deciphering the puzzling circumstances surrounding his father's tragic death.
Five gripping stories of love, friendship and betrayal--"Forgotten Juliet," "Branded Bibi," "The Youths Who Stopped Time," "Double," and "The Death of Cleo"--comprise this poignant first installment of Kaori Yuki's hit gothic manga series. Gothic fans will be left in awe long after this series has ended!
My Review: Or not... While one might expect so much from such a build up, I have to say that the Cain Saga was one big fat disappoint, not to mention a waste of time. While it did bring to light some confusion from Godchild, it was twice as disturbing and inappropriate, all the while brought together with a rough story telling and rough looking art.
I hate to say this, but it’s true. I was prepared to give it as much of a good rating, (or generally good) as Godchild, but it’s like taking a step backwards. Since technically it is if your read it second. Word of advice, if you plan to read this collection of stories, skip right to Godchild. It makes perfect sense on it’s own and isn’t as gruesome or risqué.

Art: The art was truly so-so. It just felt really rough to me, really rushed. There really is never any attention to detail, and the characters sometimes end up looking ugly. Not one of my favorites, no way.
Characters: The characters in and of themselves are nothing special. Even the more lighthearted personalities are dampened, just by the dark and dreary plot line. Cain is just as thickheaded, Riff is still just as butlerish, Mary Weather is twice as annoying, Jizabel is still just as bloodthirsty, and on and on it goes...
Plot: We start off jumping into the plot, unsure where things are going with this arc bunny hopping that makes you wonder if there really is any method to the madness. We start off with the wrong set of main characters and finally find our way to Cain. Then we do some  backwards history, jumping into the past, where we really could have started from the beginning, and then wind our way back. Come Volume 3, I think it finally knows where it’s going and gets back to the main plot, so to speak...
And do we ever find out where we’re going after that? Apparently not...
Disclaimers: I’m remembering a whole lot more I could have disclaimed about in Godchild, but I guess it’s alittle too late for that. But since this is fresh in my mind, there’s a whole lot more to worry about in the Cain Saga.  It’s pretty violent, though all things considered, not as violent as some others. Then we throw in vampires just for fun. And Jack the Ripper. It’s a bit more loose than I’m used to, but nothing too blatant right out there that makes your eyes bulge out of their sockets in shock. There’s quite a few abusive situations, mention of prostitutes, and sexual (some of them underage) situations, (not that it ever really shows anything). Glimpses. I’m not recommending this though, I, in no way, truly enjoyed this series, so I’m just stating the facts, and moving on...
Favorite Character: N/A
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★☆☆
~ Darkitty

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Burton & Swinburne: Book 1 ~ The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Author: Mark Hodder
Summary: Sir Richard Francis Burton--explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead. Algernon Charles Swinburne--unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin! They stand at a crossroads in their lives and are caught in the epicenter of an empire torn by conflicting forces: Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier, and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labor; Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behavior to the limits with magic, drugs, and anarchy. The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London's East End. Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age, and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn’t exist at all!
My Review: I’m normally not one for this type of steam-punk plot line, but the cover had been standing out on the shelf for me for awhile now. So I decided to give it a whirl. Turns out, strangeness aside, I really did enjoy this book. I loved the writing style immensely, and the mystery feel to the plot. I love the Victorian era, and throwing in all these more science fiction qualities just made the ride that much more enjoyable.
Our story follows along as Burton, commissioned to become an investigator of the crimes of London. His main focus is the investigation of the strange appearances of werewolf like creatures kidnapping young chimney sweeps and the strange pattern of attacks of young women by a strange apparition, known as Spring Heeled Jack.
Characters: Hodder spent a perfect amount of time describing each of the many characters, unfolding their vivid personalities one right after the other. The good are good, and the bad are bad, and the evil are just that much worse. I love how he threw in well known historical figures (and some not so) and changed their qualities around so drastically.
Plot: I found this story very original. I loved how fact and fiction intermingled in this alternate Victorian era, where time travel has made history unravel quite a bit differently than it should have. There's a few bumps in the ride however, but as long as one is aware that this is in fact an adult book, there is in fact adult content...
Disclaimers: This book definitely has adult content involved, but I’d have to say that it is on the tamer side of this level of fiction. Nothing is ever down outright, with too much jaw slacking description. We skip along pleasantly, not being divulged in too much detail. Nevertheless, there is plenty of language throughout, some of which may have not been used quite in the right context. It is also quite violent, but according to my sensitivity, it’s never too violent unless there’s severed limps, so it wasn’t that awful. Over all. There is quite alot of mentioning of brothels and quite a bit of excessive drinking. There's a few minor "sexual" situations scattered throughout, between mentioning and happenings. We’ve also got a character suffering from algolagnia (desire for sexual gratification through inflicting pain on oneself or others; sadomasochism), but it’s more humorous than anything else... Well, it is!..... Lastly, there are a few cases of assault, but you can see it coming, and if you’d rather bypass it, you can. Nothing too explicit becomes of it.
Favorite Character: Swinburne/Oliphant(villain)
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Adult
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Author: Kaori Yuki
Summary: Deep in the heart of 19th century London, a young nobleman named Cain walks the shadowy cobblestone streets of the aristocratic society into which he was born. Forced to become an earl upon the untimely death of his father, Cain assumes the role of head of the Hargreaves, a noble family with a dark past. With Riff, his faithful manservant, and Mary Weather, his 10-year-old half sister, Cain investigates the mysterious crimes that seem to follow him wherever he goes.
My Review: I’ve never done this before, read a series backwards. So with Godchild, I read it’s 8 volumes before The Cain Saga’s 5, which was supposed to come first. So with this backwardness, I think Godchild made sense on it’s own, and don’t bother picking up the other. It’s not worth it. Funny thing is, I’m not certain if Godchild is really worth it, either. It’s just... Weird.
This is one of those series I found while searching for manga similar to others I’d enjoyed. I’ve heard it said this is the copy off that Black Butler followed after. In character similarities, kinda, in plot, no, not really. They are two completely different series and while I’ll admit you may feel deja vu in some cases, the artwork style, characters, and various plot twists are all their own.
Cain, Earl of the Hargreaves family, is constantly thrust from volume to volume in mini excursions, somehow becoming involved in plot after plot of murder and intrigue, with various nursery rhyme themes that drove me crazy with unoriginality. Tagging along constantly his his butler, Riff, and occasionally his half sister, Mary Weather.
Art: The art really was nothing to right home about. There were occasionally panels where you could tell alot of work went into it. And then there were others where, well... Not so. I like sharpness in my manga reading, and that was something that really wasn't very consistent in this series. Though with those rare instances where it was nice looking, those were some of the few reasons why I gave it such a high rating.

Characters: While the main cast of characters was easy to follow along after, I never felt like we ever connected with them. Plus there's so many others thrown in randomly and it's such a short series that I feel it should have been longer to better develop character qualities and relationships. I must say that I found Mary Weather a bit annoying, and found the master-butler relationship a bit overdone.
Plot: I can't decide if this plot was original or not since it technically skips all over the place. I hate to sound like I'm trashing this series, because I really don't mean to, but I have read better. I've also read worse, so while I did over all give it 4 four stars, I probably could go back and give some volumes only three, since it truly wasn't all that great. I probably could better review this, but I don't feel like devoting the time. Over all, it was so-so...
Disclaimers: It’s rather violent, with a few instances of sensuality, and is therefore labeled as an adult manga. Only volume 4 has the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” label, though I’m not sure why, exactly... It’s prequel series, The Cain Saga, (which I ended up reading second) definitely deserved this warning, but I wouldn’t say there was anything that terribly wrong with Godchild. The Cain Saga was disturbing. Godchild was just weird... Enough said. I don’t remember too much language but it was present, that I’m certain. There’s some disturbing qualities about a select few of the characters, what with multiple personalities and abusive childhoods. We’ve also got an “insane” doctor wielding a scalpel every time he encounters something that he wants to dissect, expescially Cain’s eyes. Which, sadly, I found more amusing rather than disturbing... =P
Favorite Character: I don't know, really...
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆

~ Darkitty

***Next week: The Bride of the Water God & The Cain Saga***

The Woman in Black

Author: Susan Hill
Summary:What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller - one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen. Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable "Woman In Black" comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero one Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black. The "Woman In Black" is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler - proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.
My Review: I really did enjoy this story, though it’s not in my normal genre of reading. But as tastes vary, I would say this would definitely be a good read for fans of less modern styles of writing, with a spine tingling plot to boot. While I do feel it’s an injustice to review this book so long after reading it, seeing the film did encourage me to go back through my recollection of the book and critique it thus. Though perhaps not the most terrifying story out there, this book did give me slight chills and hesitate before turning out the light.

Hill's writing style is compelling and keeps you turning the page. I will admit to reading this late into the night and reluctantly placing it aside so I could get some much needed sleep. Definitely a very fine written ghost story, that made me glance around corners and keeps lights on... (I do not believe in ghosts, mind you) ;)
We start off in the present life of Arthur Kipps, who in turn goes back and tells us the story of his encounter with the Woman in Black, a ghost who haunts the Eel Marsh House. Throughout the story, we encounter his experience with a specter set on revenge.
Characters: The characters themselves were few, but their personalities truly did stand out. I like the way Arthur realized he was encountering something of the supernatural sort rather than try and come up with some nonlogical explanation for what was happening around him. I also liked the relationship between him and the wealthy landowner, Mr. Daily, which added a bit more calm to the otherwise creepy tale...
Plot: The writing style of this story is clearly written with sophistication and  poise. The story is told with vivid description and suspense. While not a fan personally of this normal type of story telling and the depth in which the author tells her tale, I did appreciate the good writing qualities and the imaginative plot line.
Disclaimers: There are some thematic elements that may be either frightening or upsetting to younger (or more sensitive) readers. This book is clean through and through, though a minor bit of language I do recall. It is also slightly creepy. *SPOILERS* It is known that after seeing the ghost, a child will die. The ending is rather blunt, with a very young child dying in a carriage accident.
Favorite Character: N/A
Favorite Quote: 
Whatever was about, whoever I had seen, and heard rocking, and who had passed me by just now, whoever had opened the locked door was not 'real'. No. But what was 'real'? At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.
A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing away from all manner of physical dangers but when things supernatural, insubstantial and inexplicable threaten not only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most prudent course.
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆

~ Darkitty

***Next week: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack & Wither***

If you liked the book, see the movie. Coming soon to dvd!

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