Saturday, September 29, 2012

Code:Breaker (manga, vol. 1) by Akimine Kamijyo

Code:Breaker is an on-going shounen manga series, although I haven't been able to confirm that new volumes are still being released in English (the first couple volumes were published by Del Rey). An anime adaptation will begin airing in Japan in just a few days.

Synopsis:

Everyone who sees Sakura assumes she's exactly what she looks like: delicate, elegant, graceful, and well-mannered. Every guy at school can't help but think "she's the kind of girl I'd like to protect"...except Sakura doesn't need their protection and isn't the slightest bit interested in their protestations of love. When she spots a mystery no one else seems to be paying attention to, she latches on and doesn't let go.

That mystery involves a murder Sakura is convinced she witnessed. Although police say it was just a campfire, Sakura is sure she saw several gang members get burned alive by blue flames. Only one person was still alive in those flames - and that person, Rei Oogami, turns out to be a new transfer student at her high school.

In public, Rei is a cheerful, seemingly normal teenage boy, who just happens to wear a black glove on his left hand. In private, he's much more menacing. When Sakura witnesses him burn several more gang members alive using blue flames that came from his left hand, she's not sure what to think. On the one hand, Rei's bloodthirstiness is terrifying, and there's a strong possibility he's a much a villain as any of those gang members. On the other hand, there was a moment that made her wonder if there might still be some humanity in him. Sakura becomes determined to get to the bottom of the mystery that is Rei Oogami and, hopefully, stop him from killing more people.

Review:

This review was requested by x3amykawaiix3, who may unfortunately be disappointed by my lukewarm reaction. This first volume of Code:Breaker wasn't necessarily bad, but had very little that made me want to continue reading.

Part-Time Pets (manga) by Reno Amagi

Part-Time Pets is a one-shot yaoi manga published by Deux Press.

Synopsis:

This volume is composed of four stories and something at the end that has the feel of an extra. The cover art features Soji and Tama, the characters from the volume's second story. It's important to note that the "animal-human hybrids" stories only take up half the volume, despite what the cover art may lead readers to believe.

First story: Norio Kameyama is the president of a company that has fallen on hard times. In an effort to save the company, Norio visits the Kemomimi Corporation, an elite placement service that provides human/animal hybrid workers (they look like people with animal ears) to animal-loving employers, and hires a bunny. Shiro Inaba can do, or learn to do, just about any job that needs doing at the company, and he quickly becomes a favorite of the others workers. When he's at home, though, he needs care and attention just like any other pet. Norio takes care of him, his jealousy over Inaba being so good at everything he tries at work warring with his reaction to Inaba's neediness and cuteness at home. Inaba's contract is only good as long as Norio's company needs help, however, so what will Norio do once Inaba needs to leave?

Second story: Soji Okana is the author of the hugely popular Momo the White Cat-Detective series, inspired by his beloved cat, Momono. When Momono died, however, Soji had difficulty continuing the series, so he sought out the Kemomimi Corporation, hoping to find the perfect cat (er, cat-human hybrid) to renew his inspiration. The cat he hires is Tama Mikezaki, a bad-tempered loner. Although their relationship has a rocky start, Tama gradually warms to Soji and tells him a little about his life prior to working for the Kemomimi Corporation. Tama decides he wants to be more than just Soji's temporary pet, but can he convince Soji to buy him?

The extra bit at the end of the volume is a continuation of Soji and Tama's story.

Third story: Makoto is a rich kid who has always wanted a pet dog. However, his lungs are weak, so being around dog fur all the time wouldn't have been good for him. One day, his father brings home a temporary pet from the Kemomimi Corporation, a dog-human hybrid named Kuroshiba. Unfortunately, Kuroshiba isn't cuddly and playful, the way Makoto thinks dogs should be, and it seems like all Makoto ended up with was a super-strict tutor who happens to have dog ears. Eventually, though, Makoto realizes that Kuroshiba's serious expression hides deeper emotions, and he remembers that he first met Kuroshiba years before.

Fourth story: This is the longest story, taking up half the volume, and it has nothing to do with the Kemomimi Corporation or animal-human hybrids. Enishi Amuba is a koimiko, a young priest with the power to grant love. Those who touch a koimiko grow more beautiful, those who kiss his lips will gain success in love, and those who have sex with him will find true love. As a result, Enishi is constantly sought after by people who only care what his body can give them. The only person who doesn't seem fazed by him is his homeroom teacher, Suzumori, a nice, friendly guy. Enishi realizes he has fallen in love with Suzumori, and, because a koimiko can't grant himself love, he offers himself to Suzumori so that Suzumori can find love elsewhere. It is only later that Enishi learns that the person Suzumori loves died five years ago. Somehow, Enishi has to stop the man he loves from killing himself.

Review:

I bought this one used. I was a bit nervous, because I knew nothing about it other than it looked like it might be cute. It was wrapped in plastic, so I couldn't even flip through it to get a sense of how I might like it. I just crossed my fingers and hoped it wasn't too rape-y.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

So Over You (e-book) by Gwen Hayes

So Over You is a self-published YA novel with a contemporary setting. If it had been written for adults, I might be tempted to call it chick lit, because, although it has romance in it, I don't think it quite qualifies as a romance novel.

According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 40,000 words long, which came out to 109 pages on my Nook, not counting the excerpt from Amanda Brice's Codename: Dancer at the end.

Synopsis:

Layney Logan, co-chief editor of her high school newspaper, the Follower, views Jimmy Foster, the newspaper's other co-chief editor, as her arch nemesis. Everything he does seems calculated to annoy her. It doesn't help that the two of them have history together - they used to date each other and broke up back in the 8th grade. If Layney had a choice, she'd be around just about anyone but Jimmy, but she'll put up with him for the sake of the paper.

Unfortunately, the paper's not doing too well. Due to school district budget cuts, the Follower technically doesn't exist anymore. Layney and Jimmy plan to put it out online, but they'll need to make money somehow if they want be able to afford the software they'd like to use. The journalistic staff of the Follower comes up with what everyone but Layney thinks is a great idea: a calendar featuring the 12 hottest guys from the school's various clubs and sports teams. Layney argues that the calendar would objectify the boys, so Jimmy shoots back that, in order to de-objectify them, someone on staff should go out on dates with each of them and then write about them as people, in a feature designed to explore what girls are looking for in teenage boys. Jimmy nominates Layney as the girl for the job.

Layney eventually agrees because the idea makes her uncomfortable - after all, a good journalist sometimes needs to venture outside her comfort zone. Most of the rest of the book deals with each of the twelve dates - some of the guys are nice, some of them are creeps, and some of them fall somewhere in between. Layney starts to really think about her relationship with Jimmy, where things went wrong, and the horrible event in her past that may be the real reason she broke up with him.

Review:

This was an unusual purchase for me, because, while I read YA, I so far have purchased very little YA fiction in e-book form. Also, I don't often read YA contemporary fiction - too much of a chance that serious/angsty real-life issues will come up (which basically is what happened in this one). After I finished Second Son of a Duke, one of Hayes' stories written for adults, I wanted to try more of her works, and the description of So Over You appealed to me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Cloud Roads (e-book) by Martha Wells

The Cloud Roads was one of my purchases and was 306 pages on my Nook. I bought it because I kept hearing good things about Martha Wells and her Raksura books, both in comments on my blog and on Dear Author. I'm a little stuck on what genre term to use for it - I suppose either fantasy or soft sci-fi could work.

Synopsis:

Moon has essentially been alone since he was a child, when his mother and siblings were killed. He has lived in various groundling settlements, but none of those places have ever been home, because he has always needed to hide his abilities from everyone. Unlike everyone he has met since his family died, Moon can shapeshift from his groundling form into a winged form. He has no idea what he is and has long since given up on finding others like himself.

Until the day he meets Stone. Stone tells him he is a Raksura and offers to take him back to the Indigo Cloud Court. There are two main breeds of Raksura, each with different castes, and Indigo Cloud is short on Aeriat warriors (winged Raksura who act as scouts and guardians and protect the colony from Fell, beings that prey on all the various intelligent species). It just so happens that Moon is an Aeriat warrior.

Having no place else to go, and hoping to finally find people around whom he can be fully himself, Moon joins up with Stone. It's not long before he finds himself wishing he had asked more questions before agreeing to go anywhere. Unfortunately, Stone wasn't quite honest about the reason Indigo Cloud needs Moon, and he has plunked Moon right in the middle of a deadly conflict.

Review:

I enjoyed this book enough to finish it within 24 hours of starting it, although it wasn't without its issues.

Sword of the Guardian (e-book) by Merry Shannon

Sword of the Guardian is published by Bold Stroke Books, which includes it in its Romance, Action/Adventure, Romantic Fantasy, and Lesbian Fiction categories. For those who prefer print books, a paperback version is available.

According to All Romance Ebooks, this book is 135,013 words long, which came out to 346 pages on my Nook.

Synopsis:

At the start of the book, Talon and her sisters are working for a group of traveling entertainers. Lyris and Bria sing, while Talon is an acrobat. All three girls were orphaned when barbarians came and killed their parents. Since then, Talon has pretended to be a boy in order to protect her sisters. The only ones who know her true gender are Lyris and Bria.

Talon and her sisters are performing for the royal family when an assassin kills Crown Prince Daric. Talon pushes Lyris out of the assassin's path and inadvertently saves Princess Shasta's life. King Soltran finds out that Talon is a girl and decides she would make a perfect bodyguard for Shasta - he figures there would be no chance of improper behavior.

Time passes, with Bria and Lyris acting as Shasta's maids and companions and Talon acting as Shasta's bodyguard. Talon realizes, to her shock, that she's attracted to other women. Shasta, for her part, has no idea that Talon is a woman and eventually develops a crush on her guardian. Things aren't completely relaxed in the kingdom, however - the assassin who killed Daric is still on the loose, and Shasta may still be in danger.

Review:

This was one of two books I purchased when I decided I wanted to give Bold Strokes Books' f/f fiction a shot. Sword of the Guardian was my first choice – when I read that it starred a princess and her cross-dressing guardian, I knew I had to have it. It was a surprise to me that I enjoyed Jane Fletcher's Rangers at Roadsend as much as I did, and I fully expected to enjoy Shannon's Sword of the Guardian even more. Unfortunately, Sword of the Guardian turned out to be a disappointment.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Mountains of Mourning (e-novella) by Lois McMaster Bujold

I've finally written a post. Enjoy!

I downloaded The Mountains of Mourning for free via the Baen Free Library. It's part of Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga and comes chronologically after The Warrior's Apprentice. It was 79 pages long on my Nook.

Synopsis:

This takes place 3 years or so after the events of The Warrior's Apprentice (Miles was 17 in that book, and he's 20 in this novella). Miles is on home leave and looking forward to getting a shiny new lightflyer as a graduation present.

His leave is interrupted by Harra, a woman who desperately wants to see Count Vorkosigan, Miles' father. Harra's baby had been born with a cleft palate, and she claims her husband killed her because of that. The village speaker refused to listen to her, claiming that the infant died of natural causes. Harra wants justice, and the Count sends Miles to deliver it.

This will be the case by which the Count shows his people that infanticide will no longer be tolerated. Although Harra is certain she knows who killed her child, Miles keeps an open mind, determined to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the right person has been convicted and punished.

Review:

While I didn't enjoy this novella quite as much as I did The Warrior's Apprentice, it was still a good read. Whereas The Warrior's Apprentice was a wild ride, with Miles piling lies upon lies to get himself and those around him out of trouble, The Mountains of Mourning was more of a mystery story. This time, Miles needed to uncover the truth rather than obscure it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This blog and the next few months

Hey, folks! It's been a while since I've written a more personal post. Anyway, this is mostly an FYI to let my handful of regular readers know that my posting schedule may get kind of wonky over the next few months. I recently started taking some nasty medication. So far, side effects have been relatively mild, and I'm hoping they will stay that way. Nausea, fatigue, and a couple other things have cropped up. Naps seemed to have helped with the fatigue, and, if ginger ale and crackers don't start working for my nausea, I'm hoping the meds my doctor prescribed will.

Currently, my last day of meds is supposed to be February 1, 2013. I have it marked on a calendar, and I'm counting down the days. In the meantime, I'd like to continue writing this blog, but I don't know how often I'll manage to post, or how often I'll finish something I can post about. It seems to be taking longer than usual for me to finish writing or reading anything.

Well, with any luck, I'll be writing a post soon about the first season of Downton Abbey. I started watching it over the weekend, and I love it. My mom has given me a few spoilers, and now I'm fretting over Mr. Bates.
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