Sunday, March 29, 2015

Karneval Volume 1

This is a review for Karneval volume 1 by Touya Mikanagi.
I gave this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 stars, I loved it.

Nai is an incredibly innocent, naive, childlike teen.  He has very little understanding of the world around him.  Basic things that we are know are lost on him, like what blood is, how money works, that not everyone he meets is going to be nice.

Gareki is a very angry teenager.  The world has treated him badly and in response he has grown bitter, sarcastic and rude.  He has a talent for shooting guns and making bombs.

Gareki meets Nai when he breaks into a mansion where Nai is being held captive.   Garkei agrees to take Nai with him in exchange for the bracelet he has.  Nai's naivety gets the duo into a few scrapes on their way out of town and Gareki can barely keep them a step ahead of the Peacekeepers.  They board a train out of town and land in a hostage situation where they catch the interest of the hostages and the government agents, Circus, that step on and save them. 

I knew that I would love this manga before I bought it.  I watched the anime as it came out each week last year.  I bought the anime as soon as it was released in the US.  I had to visit 3 stores before I was able to track down the manga but it was worth it!  This volume contains the first two Japanese volumes.

This manga has a wide cast of characters.  Nai and Gareki are just the tip of the iceburg.  From the bright, beautiful whimsical Circus people to the dark and deadly Varuga there is a lot of variety and definitely something for everyone to love!  The world is rich in detail, the plot is intriguing and you never know exactly what to expect.

Now that I have the manga and the anime all I need is a sheep plushie to cuddle while I read.  I would also love a sheep robot, or a dozen of them, if anyone wants to make one for me!

Servamp vol 1

This is a review for Servamp volume 1 by Strike Tanaka.
I gave this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 stars, I loved it.

A vampire cat serves only one master.
The tagline caught my interest immediately, vampire cats?  Yes, please!  So I bought it, brought it home and opened it up to read it.  The doodle under the front cover made me giggle, always a good sign!

Shirota Mahiru is a fifteen year old boy who likes simple things.  He is serious and helpful.  His class always knows that he can and will help them.  He mostly lives alone so he knows how to cook, clean and sew.  One day he sees a stray cat laying on the sidewalk whimpering pitifully.  Mahiru picks the kitty up and takes it home.  And that little action changes his life forever.  That little cat is actually a servamp, a servant vampire.  Picking that cat up started Mahiru down a path to the supernatural and he'll be lucky to survive. 

Mahiru's helpful nature draws him into several battles.  He can't just walk away when he sees other vampires attacking humans.  Mahiru learns that there are seven other servamps out there.  Each one represents one of the seven deadly sins plus one extra that the others must stop before he destroys the world.  Being the seven deadly sins though, they aren't really that great at working as a team or even being in the same room together.

This manga is a great mix of humor and seriousness.  The seven deadly sins as vampires is a pretty funny thought to me.  'Vampire cat' is also a humorous idea.  Mahiru is a very serious and studious boy and he is a great balance for the humor elements.  The final couple of pages had quite the plot twist and definitely left me wanting more!

If you are a fan of Blue Exorcist, Blood Lad or Soul Eater you will probably enjoy this one!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Perfect Egg

This is a review for The Perfect Egg by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park.
I gave this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 stars, I loved it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books free in exchange for an honest review.  When I saw this book I knew I had to get it.  I looked at it and I said "How many ways are there to make eggs, scrambled, fried, hard boiled, deviled, eggs did they make a whole book out of 5 ways to make eggs?"  Apparently there are more than 5 ways to make eggs.

The first section of this book is basic information including types of eggs, grades of eggs, varieties of eggs, how to tell if an egg is fresh and the basic anatomy of an egg.  The second section is basic cooking techniques, handling and storage, sauces and condiments made from eggs, basic pasta dough with eggs and basic breads with eggs.  All very useful information and it is conveyed without condescension or causing the reader to feel bored.

Now we get into the real 'yolk' of the book; recipes! The recipes are broken into categories; morning, snacks, afternoon, night & sweets.  Morning has a lot of delicious looking breakfast eggs.  Snacks has a lot of yummy looking quick things.  Afternoon has a lot of soups, salads and sandwiches.  Night includes a lot of richer, heartier looking meals.  Sweets includes everything from fresh berries with creme anglaise sauce to creme brulee & chocolate souffle. There are recipes from all over the world.  The first recipe is Mediterranean-Style Baked Egg Boats which made me drool just looking at the picture.  The next recipe hops over to Venezuela, there are recipes from America, Japan, Korea and I think you get it, this book covers ways to cook and eat eggs from the whole world.  Each recipe is accompanied by a stunning color photograph.  Most recipes include anecdotes from the authors about their first experience trying the dish.  Recipes with difficult instructions include pictures to help you walk through the steps.  Many recipes end with encouragement to substitute or swap out ingredients to customize the dish specifically to your taste. 

I have not had a chance to try ever recipe in this cookbook.  I ran out of eggs.  There are so many recipes in this book that I am just dying to try.  I suggest you pick this book up and see for yourself all the amazing things you can do with eggs!  Now if you will excuse me I need to go buy out the egg section of my grocery store so I can get started!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Fourteenth Goldfish

This is a review for The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm.
I gave this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 stars, I loved it.

Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
This is the story of a young girl struggling to find her passion in life while adjusting to all of the changes of middle school. 

Ellie is new to science and she finds everything fascinating.  Galileo, Newton, Curie, Oppenheimer, Salk, each of them observed something around them and it changed the world.  Oppenheimer said "We knew the world would not be the same" after observing the results of his scientific achievement. Even now, 70 years after the atomic bomb we debate the morality of it.  As Ellie learns more about science and about life she isn't entirely sure if her grandfather's experiment is going to save the world or destroy it.

This story is really great.  I wish it had been written when I was struggling with middle school.  Embracing who we are is hard, especially when we don't really know who we are yet.  Learning to form your own ideas can be difficult and expressing those ideas can be even more difficult.  Telling someone you love that you think they are wrong is hard.  Ellie struggles with all of these things.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly.  It never hurts to remember that children struggle with the same things adults do.  It never hurts to be reminded that our opinions matter even if our loved ones disagree.  If you are the parent of a child about to start middle school I recommend both you and your child read this book.

I received this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mermaid's Sister

This is a review for The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble.
I give this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 4 stars, I liked it a lot.

Carrie Anne Noble has had a variety of jobs in her life including theatre student, restaurant hostess, nurses aide and newspaper writer.  This is her first published novel.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, children and pets.

There is no cure for being who you truly are...

The Mermaid's Sister is a charming tale of two sisters raised together by their adoptive mother "Auntie."  Clara is sixteen years old and contented with her life, she wishes to remain in her happy family forever but "wishing gets you nothing."  Clara's sister Maren is a mermaid and every passing day changes her more and makes her increasingly unsuited to life on land.  Clara wants to change her back into a human but there is no cure for being who you truly are.  Auntie found Maren in a conch shell on her doorstep one night.  Clara was delivered by a stork a few days later.  Clara realizes that her sister can't stay in their mountain home forever and she must be taken to the ocean if she is going to live.  Auntie can't leave the mountain so Clara must do it.  Clara has help from O'Neill who is the adopted son of a traveling merchant.  They load Maren up in the gypsy wagon and head for the ocean.  The road holds many perils for them and they will have to use all of their wits, bravery and strength to get Maren to the ocean before it is too late.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot.  The story is interesting, there are no major plot holes, the grammar is good.  The pacing could use work, some places it is very fast and others it is quite slow.  The characters are likeable or detestable as the case may be.  The hint of magic running throughout the story and the deeply interwoven relationships are wonderful additions.  Many things appear to be coincidences but are not at all merely chance.  I am not especially fond of first person narration but this story pulls it off nicely.

Overall I would recommend this book to fans of magical stories.  It teaches a useful lesson about accepting yourself for who and what you are.  If you have a teenager struggling with self-identity this wold be a good book for them.  I found no objectionable content, no sex, no cursing, no drugs.

I received this book free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Essential Bar Book

This is a review for The Essential Bar Book by Jennifer Fiedler.
I gave this book ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ 2 stars, I disliked it.

Jennifer Fiedler is the author of a column for  She covers their biweekly food and wine pairing column "8 & $20" and covers wine collecting, auctions, Q&As, and design for the magazine.  She has also co-written a book about making beer.

I find myself at a loss with this book.  I wanted to like it, I wanted it to be a great book but it failed to meet my expectations.   I feel like I am out of the target audience of this book.  I am well past the legal drinking age and I am quite familiar with various types of alcohol and a wide variety of drinks.  This book is intended more for complete novices who want to learn about drinks and liquors before going to bars and making fools of themselves.  At that it is a great book.  There are hundreds of definitions in this book as well as recipes for many great drinks.  Someone who is newly of drinking age would find this book very useful.  I intend to pass it along to my younger sister who is much closer to 21 than I am.

Aesthetically this book is very reminiscent of the 1920's.  It uses an old fashioned font and has a very 'art deco' feel to it.  The pages with definitions are white.  The pages with recipes are black.  Many of the pages that face each other are opposite colors.  For me, this is a design flaw.  It is very straining on the eyes to switch back and forth.  If your eyes are better than mine this probably won't bother you.

If you are about to or recently turned 21 this is a good book for you.  If you haven't ever bothered to learn much about alcohol and want to, you would find this book interesting.  If, however, you are like me and studied up on your liquor types and terms many moons ago when you were finally old enough to drink, this book won't do you much good.

I received this book from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Assassination Classroom

This is a review of Assassination Classroom volume 1 by Yusei Matsui.
I gave this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 stars, I loved it.

"We are assassins and our target is our teacher."

I have to admit when I first saw this manga it didn't look that appealing to me.  I read the synopsis and it still looked strange to me, but I decided to pick it up and give it a try anyway.  I am very glad I did.  Despite appearances this manga is great.  It is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.

Koro-sensei is not your average teacher.  The most obvious difference is the tentacles.  And then there is his ability to fly at mach 20.  And what normal teacher wants their students to kill them?  The students of class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High are the losers and rejects of the school.  They climb a mountain and attend classes by themselves in the old run down school building.  They aren't allowed to enter main campus and the students of classes A-D would rather die than be sent to class E.  The remote classroom makes it the ideal place for training would be assassins.  Koro-sensei destroyed the moon and he vowed to destroy the earth in one year.  If the kids of class 3-E can assassinate him before they graduate the world will be saved.  No military in the world can kill him so how can 30 kids the world has given up get the job done?  And why did he choose to spend a year as a teacher if he is just going to destroy the world?

As he deflects assassination attempt after assassination attempt Koro-sensei is making real connections with his students.  He is slowly rebuilding their self-confidence and teaching them valuable life lessons.  This manga has a lot of gags, Koro-sensei can move at mach 20 so why eat reheated leftovers for lunch when you could just fly to China for fresh mapo tofu or to Italy for fresh gelato?

Despite the silliness this manga has a great plot.  Koro-sensei is reaching out to kids that feel like everyone has abandoned them and helping them to find their own value.  He always finds clever ways to boost their self-confidence.  There have been allusions to deeper reasons that he wants to teach this class.  He was very specific about which school and class he wanted to teach during his year between destructions.  I find myself not wanting to wait to read what happens next to this diverse class!

I honestly can't think of a manga that this is similar too, it has slice of life elements, school manga elements and supernatural elements.  I highly recommend it.  And once you have read the manga you should check out the anime!