Sunday, April 20, 2014

Killing the Kordovas (e-book) by Kathryn Lively

Killing the Kordovas is a dark comedy published by DLP Books.

Review:

I received this in a BookLikes giveaway held by the author. It's a little outside the norm of what I usually read, but I figured I could use a change.

This book began with a rant that went on long enough for me to wonder if I'd been given the wrong file. The rant turned out to be a stand-up comedy routine. Joe, a comedian, heard Danni complaining about Cindy Shore, a thinly veiled E.L. James stand-in, and convinced her to try it out on stage. Danni, a romance novelist, was bitter that Shore's P2P fanfic, Delilah in Pearls, was wildly popular.

Krystal Kordova had just gotten a major book deal, and that upset Danni almost as much as Cindy Shore's popularity. She began to think, “What if I could kill Krystal Kordova and get away with it?” So, with no real plan, Danni headed over to Krystal's perfume launch with Joe in tow. She lost her murderous urge fairly quickly – Krystal was vapid but kind of sweet, and Danni was somewhat touched by Krystal's excitement over her future book, never mind that someone else would be writing it. By the end of the perfume launch, Danni had become that “someone else.”

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book, especially once Danni's desire to kill Krystal Kordova dissipated. Was Danni going to end up sucked into Krystal's world, ghostwriting books for the Kordovas for the rest of her life? Initially, I'd have said that was her idea of hell. However, the paychecks were really nice, and several of the Kordovas turned out to be kind of likable. Danni sympathized with Krystal's excitement at the thought of seeing her own ideas in print, and who wouldn't feel for Kandace Kordova and her desire to debut as a singer with something other than Titz 'n Yo Face?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Olympos (manga) by Aki

Olympos is a fantasy manga. Yen Press's release collects both volumes of the series into one volume.

Review:

I feel like this manga has removed my insides, very slowly, and replaced them with cotton. I'd call this story depressing, except it's not quite that. I don't know. I'll try to explain.

I wasn't very impressed with Olympos, at first. It was slow-moving, it seemed somewhat episodic in a "meh" sort of way, and the characters confused me. The character designs were usually very pretty, but a few of them were a little hard to tell apart – Ganymede looked like Artemis, except with a hair ornament, and Apollo's darker hair was the primary reason I could tell him apart from Ganymede (the person on the cover is Apollo, by the way). Backgrounds were almost nonexistent – it was a little like watching a bunch of actors on a very minimalist stage.

The story focused primarily on Apollo and Ganymede. When readers are first introduced to Ganymede, he is almost without hope. He cannot die, and he has been trapped in Zeus's changeless miniature garden for ages. Apollo brings Heinz, a young mortal man, to Ganymede in order to snap him out of his funk and make him more interesting again. Heinz's great wish is to become rich and marry Mina, his sweetheart. Apollo has told him his wish will be granted, if he can convince Ganymede that there is a way out of the miniature garden – in order to leave, the two of them must go to the edge of the world and jump off.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (e-book) by Yasutaka Tsutsui

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a compilation of two stories by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It's also my first ever e-book checkout via my local public library.

I'm going to be lazy and say that, since this was a collection of two stories, I can treat it like an anthology and skip out on including a read-alikes list.

Review:

Despite my disappointment with the live action movie Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I was looking forward to this book – possibly one of those instances of me being too attracted to cover art. Seriously, the cover of this book is lovely. And also makes no sense. At the very least, the flowers should be lavender flowers, not daisies or whatever those things are.

First off, this book is short. My e-reader app says it's only 64 pages long. The print version is 200 pages. Second, it's not just one story, it's two, and they're completely unrelated at that. Two thirds of the book is devoted to “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” while the last third is “The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of.”

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (manga, vol. 1) by Ririko Tsujita

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko is an episodic series focused on school life. It was published by Tokyopop.

Synopsis:

Kanoko's family moves frequently, requiring her to switch schools often – in this volume alone, she attends four different schools. Kanoko seems to take this all in a stride. She sees herself as an impartial observer of her fellow classmates, a sort of young anthropologist. She doesn't attempt to make friends, because any form of favoritism would interfere with her impartiality. What she doesn't count on is that some of her classmates might try to be friends with her anyway.

In the first story, Kanoko accidentally finds herself becoming friends with three people engaged in a sort of love triangle. In the second story, Kanoko is at a new school, observing a seemingly perfect girl whose behavior seems to be a little “off” in a way Kanoko can't quite explain. In the third story, Kanoko is at a school where the girls move up in the social hierarchy by dragging each other down. A weird girl nursing a grudge against one of her classmates holds Kanoko's secret notes hostage in exchange for help. In the fourth story, Kanoko keeps an eye one girl in particular, a narcissist who firmly believes she is destined for greatness. In the fifth story, Kanoko visits the school from the first story in order to meet up with her old friends.

Review:

I purchased this because I'd seen good reviews and the series was short, only three volumes long. Sadly, Tokyopop fell apart before releasing the entire series, so only the first two volumes are available in English.

Midnight Secretary (manga, vol. 2) story & art by Tomu Ohmi

Midnight Secretary is a supernatural romance series published by VIZ Media.

This review contains spoilers.

Synopsis:

Kaya still sees the blood she gives Kyohei as simply another aspect of her job, so her hurt when she overhears Kyohei refer to her as food, just like any of his other women, surprises her. She is so upset by his words that it even begins to affect the quality of her work. She soon comes to the realization that she is in love with Kyohei, but what can she do?

Then Masaki, Kyohei's brother, provides her with a way out. If she wishes it, he can have her reassigned. He knows that Kaya has fallen in love with Kyohei, and, although he suspects the feelings are mutual, he also knows that Kyohei's pride and hatred of humans will prevent him from ever admitting it.

Review:

I loved the first volume of this series so much that I purchased the next three without hesitation. I was expecting more fluffy fun. Unfortunately, this volume went in a direction that made me very unhappy. I really hope this series rights itself over the course of the next couple volumes, or I'm not sure I'll be able to continue with it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Midnight Secretary (manga, vol. 1) story & art by Tomu Ohmi

Midnight Secretary is a supernatural romance series published by VIZ Media.

Synopsis:

Kaya Satozuka doesn't have the best opinion of her new boss, Kyohei Tohma. He juggles affairs with multiple women and even meets those women in his office. However, he's good at his job and Kaya is determined to prove that she can be the efficient, trustworthy, hard-working secretary he needs. Still, there's something strange about the director. He's allergic to sunlight, avoids certain dinners and parties, and his various girlfriends look drugged after they visit him.

When Kaya investigates, she learns the truth: her boss is a vampire. He blackmails her into keeping his secret and gives her additional duties, such as figuring out which of his women are ready to be scheduled for another “meal.” Kaya strives to protect her boss, even going so far as to serve as an emergency snack. What neither one of them counted on was that they might begin to fall for each other.

Review:

Yes, in real life, boss/employee romances are a bad thing, but I love them in fiction. I've wanted to try Midnight Secretary ever since I learned that it was a boss/employee romance with supernatural elements. I picked up the first volume and read it after a particularly horrible day at work. The verdict? It was lots of fun, and now I want to read more.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trusted Bond (book) by Mary Calmes

Trusted Bond is m/m paranormal romance, the second book in Calmes' Change of Heart series. It's published by Dreamspinner Press.

This review contains spoilers.

Synopsis:

Jin is worried that Logan only loves him because of his reah pheromones and the mate bond they share. Logan is upset that Jin still doesn't trust him and is more inclined to turn to Crane (Jin's best friend) rather than him when he's in trouble. Things come to a head when Jin is almost raped by a werepanther from another tribe, and Jin tries to hide what happened to keep Logan from killing the werepanther on his behalf.

While Jin and Logan are still working through their relationship issues, circumstances result in Jin being kidnapped and transported to Sobek, the secret werepanther capital. As he desperately tries to get back to his mate, his powers increase and go out of control.

Review:

After I finished this book, I spent some time trying to list what I liked about it. The best I could come up with was that it was a relatively quick read and  that Jin and Crane were nice together and would probably make a good couple if Crane weren't heterosexual (not that that's stopped Calmes from pairing up characters before). Unfortunately, the book's actual couple was Jin and Logan.

I liked the first book in this series, Change of Heart. It had lots of problems and wasn't really very good, but it was fun, and I enjoyed it enough to reread it. I wasn't expecting more than that from Trusted Bond and was actually looking forward to a few hours of guilty pleasure fun, but I didn't even get that much. Trusted Bond had all of Change of Heart's issues and then some.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

As the Crow Flies (e-book) by Robin Lythgoe

As the Crow Flies is a self-published fantasy novel. It's 158,420 words long.

This review contains some spoilers near the end.

Synopsis:

Crow is a thief who wants to finish just one more job and then live out the rest of his life in peace and happiness with his beloved, Tarsha. Unfortunately, that last job turns out to be more troublesome than he expected. Had he known Baron Duzayan was a wizard, he would never have tried to steal from him.

Now, in order to save both his and Tarsha's lives, Crow must do something that seems impossible: steal a dragon's egg.

Review:

I received this in a BookLikes giveaway held by the author. A fantasy novel starring a thief sounded like my kind of thing, and the reviews made it sound pretty good, although there was one on Goodreads noting editing issues that worried me.

In the end, this turned out to be a pretty decent read. I enjoyed Crow's “voice,” even though I didn't always like him (more on that later), and the story managed to keep my attention even as I fought off a cold. There were some very good, exciting moments. My favorite was probably the part where the group traveled through the Ghost Walk – if I remember correctly, that was when magic began playing a larger part in the story. The way Crow and Tanris complemented each other (and clashed) was usually fun, and I loved Not-An-Egg (although I fretted over the cat).

There were a few aspects that didn't work for me, however. Crow was one of them. Strange, I know, since he was also part of what I liked about the book.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Eighth Grade Bites (book) by Heather Brewer

Eighth Grade Bites in the first book in Brewer's vampire-focused The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series. I'm not quite sure about the audience it's intended for, but I'm guessing the youngest end of the young adult range.

Synopsis:

Vlad's father was a vampire and his mother was a human. After they died, Vlad figured that he was the last of his kind. At the beginning of the book, Vlad lives with his aunt (who was actually a non-related friend of his mother's) and is best friends with a human boy named Henry. Those two are the only ones in the whole world who know what he is.

Aside from his garlic allergy, increased need for sunblock, and diet largely consisting of blood, Vlad's life is pretty average. Bullies pick on him because they think he looks goth, and he has a huge crush on a girl named Meredith. What Vlad doesn't realize, as he's dealing with his relatively normal worries, is that a murderous vampire is looking for him. In order to survive, Vlad will have to look through the things his father left behind and learn more about his vampiric heritage.

Review:

I bought this because the series title amused me, I loved the cover, and I vaguely remembered hearing good things about it. Unfortunately, it did not work for me.

It started off well enough. Vlad's life was an appealing mix of normalcy and vampiric details. He'd hang out with his friend Henry and basically do “normal 14-year-old boy” things, playing video games, talking, whatever, but mealtime was different. Henry and Vlad's aunt ate normal human food, but Vlad got bloody meat, bagged blood, or warmed-up blood in a mug. Sunblock and blood capsules hidden in the lunches his aunt made for him allowed him to go to school during the day and fake being just like any other human student.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Kiss of Venom (e-novella) by Hailey Edwards

A Kiss of Venom is fantasy romance, part of the Araneae Nation series. Although most of the rest of the series is published by Samhain Publishing, I believe this novella is self-published.

This review contains at least one spoiler.

Review:

I received this novella in a BookLikes giveaway run by the author. It's book 3.5 in Edwards' Araneae Nation series, which takes place in a world divided into lands of perpetual winter and lands of perpetual summer. In those lands live various clans, each with specific characteristics that define them.

A Kiss of Venom stars Nicolette. She and Maisy, her musically-gifted young daughter, have traveled to the Araneidae clan, ostensibly so that Maisy can perform at Rhys and Lourdes' first anniversary party. In reality, Nicolette has been hired to kill Pascale, Lourdes' sister (this is directly related to events in A Hint of Frost).

Having been cast out of the Araneidae clan ten years ago because she slept with Armand, Lourdes' brother and the Araneidae heir, Nicolette has little love for the clan. She has since changed her name and appearance. She has also altered Maisy's appearance, so that no one will connect her and Armand's lavender eyes – yes, this is a Secret Baby book.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior (book) by Maureen McGowan

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is a fairy tale retelling with “choose your own adventure” aspects.

This post contains some spoilers.

Review:

I first spotted this in a used bookstore. I considered buying it (Cinderella + ninja warrior = YAY!), but after I saw that it was a “choose your own adventure” book, I opted to get it from the library instead.

I'll get this out of the way right now: this was a huge disappointment as a “choose your own adventure” book. Despite there being eight possible routes, there was only one ending – every choice eventually led to the exact same chapter 9. Also, readers could only make choices at three points in the story.

All right, moving on. Cinderella's mother, who was a powerful wizard, died giving birth to her. Several years later, her father married another woman and promptly died, leaving Cinderella at the mercy of her stepmother and her two stepsisters, Gwendolyn and Agatha. Cinderella's stepmother is also a powerful wizard, one who desperately wants to get her hands on Cinderella's mother's wand. She keeps an eye on Cinderella, in case the girl knows where it is, and, to be safe, turns Cinderella into a prisoner. Magic keeps Cinderella trapped in the basement, except when her housekeeping skills are needed.

Cinderella doesn't plan to stay a prisoner forever. Her cat, Max, found a book for her called Way of the Warrior, and she has been secretly practicing ninja skills ever since. Her ninja training has even unlocked some of the magical ability she inherited from her mother. When Ty, a handsome royal messenger, arrives at her stepmother's doorstep with news of a royal ball, Cinderella cautiously begins to hope that she might be able to leave the house for a bit and maybe find an opportunity to escape. She becomes even more excited when she learns that there will be a magic competition. The winner will receive training from the royal wizard himself.

Diabolik Lovers (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Diabolik Lovers is listed in several places as being a supernatural romance series and is based on an otome game. I consider it to be horror rather than romance. As a romance, it is awful. But more on that later.

This post contains spoilers.

Synopsis:

Yui's priest father sends her to live at a mansion after he is assigned to work somewhere else. Unfortunately, no one informed most of the mansion's inhabitants, a group of six handsome vampire brothers. She is attacked almost immediately after her arrival. The situation is soon sorted out – the boys have been told to treat Yui with respect and not kill her. So of course they spend every possible moment cornering her and drinking her blood without her consent.

Yui desperately tries to figure out what's going on – why her father sent her to the mansion, why she has been chosen to be a sacrificial bride, and what being a sacrificial bride even means. Gradually, she learns a little more about the Sakamaki brothers and their terrible past. Can she manage to escape with both her life and her soul intact?

Review:

The short version: LOTS OF BLOOD RAPE. NOPE.

But, since I watched this whole series, I will write a full review. Here you go.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blast of Tempest (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Blast of Tempest is a 24-episode series that mixes fantasy, mystery, and drama.

There are a few spoilers in this post, but I avoided spoiling any of the really major stuff. 

Synopsis:

After his stepsister Aika's death, Mahiro becomes consumed with a need to find and kill her murderer. After Mahiro leaves on his quest, his friend Yoshino tries to continue on as though little has changed.

Then one day Mahiro comes back, saying that he has made an agreement with a magic-user named Hakaze. If he helps her make it back to her people and stop the awakening of the Tree of Exodus, she vows to find Aika's killer, even if that person is a member of her own clan. Mahiro and Yoshino travel together, doing their best to avoid the traitors among Hakaze's clan and the deadly, civilization-destroying iron sickness brought on by the fruits of the Tree of Exodus.

Review:

I feel like I should have loved this show. Unfortunately, I didn't. I liked it well enough, and the second half of the series was particularly good, but for some reason I didn't connect with it enough to love it.

I think a big part of the problem was the characters. Aika, Mahiro, and Yoshino had a tendency to react to things oddly, as though their emotions were muted. Some of this made more sense by the end, but, by that point, any chance of me emotionally connecting with the characters had already been lost.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Adventures of the Rat Family: A Fairy Tale (book) by Jules Verne, introduction by Iona Opie, afterword by Brian Taves

Review:

I love rats, or at least the domesticated kind. I've had several pet rats over the years, I collect rat-related things, and I even used my love of rats as inspiration for a large research project in college. My coworkers know how much I like rats, and, when one of them found this book in her personal collection, she gave it to me to borrow.

I admit, I've never read anything by Jules Verne before. I've always associated Verne with adventure stories and science fiction, so finding out about this book was a surprise. It's the story of a young man named Ratin and a family composed of a mother (Ratonne), a father (Raton), their daughter (Ratine), her cousin (Raté), the family's cook (Rata), and the family's maid (Ratane). The world they live in includes something that seems very much like reincarnation, without the dying – every being moves up and down a ladder of existence, transforming into higher and lower beings based on aspects of their own lives or on the whims good fairies or evil magicians. On the lowest rung of the ladder of creation are mollusks. Then come fish, birds, quadrupeds, and finally human beings.

A look at my top 10 posts of all time

Or something. Blogger stats are bizarre and inaccurate. Mine are bloated with spam views. Also, strangely enough, my stats begin back in July 2007, even though my first post was published on May 22, 2008. I have no clue how that works.

Whatever. I'm going to write this post as though those stats mean something and these posts are popular with real live people. Here's the list, plus my theories on why they're so popular:
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