Saturday, August 31, 2013

Say "I Love You" (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Say “I Love You” is a romance anime series based on a Japanese manga series by Kanae Hazuki. It's 13 episodes long. This post contains things that probably count as slight spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I've had a love-hate relationship with Crunchyroll for months now. The “hate” part was eclipsing everything, so this is the first show I've watched via Crunchyroll in maybe 6 months. While I'm glad they appear to have finally fixed whatever it was that was causing 23-minute episodes to take 1+ hours to watch, I'm still mad that it took them somewhere between 2 and 8 months to do anything.

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Mei has no friends and has never had a boyfriend. When she was a child, a group of her supposed friends blamed her when their class's pet rabbit died, and ever since then she's been convinced that people will betray you if you get close to them. Therefore, she doesn't get close to anybody.

Her standoffish behavior intrigues Yamato, one of the most popular boys in Mei's high school. No matter how much Mei ignores Yamato or pushes him away, he keeps trying to be her friend. She is confused and flustered when he chases off a stalker of hers by pretending to be her boyfriend and kissing her. She finds herself becoming attracted to someone for the first time, but she dislikes how fake and easily given Yamato's affections seem to be.

The two of them begin dating, and Mei makes her first friends, but there are a lot of bumps she and Yamato have to deal with along the way.

Review:

This is a tough review to write. I know I'm going to be writing a lot of negative stuff, and yet it's not that I hated this show. I marathoned it all in a day, which I'm usually unable to do with shows that bore me to death or fill me with anger. The problem is that, while I can easily articulate what I disliked about this show, it's harder for me to say what I liked about it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Fair Concubine (book) by Jeannie Lin

My Fair Concubine is a historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China. It's a Harlequin Historical.

Synopsis:

This is a Tang Dynasty take on My Fair Lady, which I have almost zero familiarity with.

Fei Long went back to his family home after his father's death, only to learn that his sister Pearl had run off with her lover. This would have been scandalous no matter what, but since Pearl was supposed to be a heqin (peace marriage) bride, it was particularly disastrous. Not knowing what else to do, Fei Long came up with the idea of teaching Yan Ling, a tea girl, to act like a noble lady and take his sister's place. Yan Ling would have a home and a good life, and Fei Long's family would not be dishonored. What neither one of them counted on was falling in love.

Review:

I enjoyed this one so much that I was rarely willing to stop reading long enough to take notes. That makes writing this review a little difficult, but I'll try my best.

Crygender (e-book) by Thomas T. Thomas

Crygender is science fiction with some mystery elements. It's published by Baen Books. The cover had intrigued me for some time (the hair! the pink!), but it wasn't until I heard that Baen and Amazon made a deal that I bought it. I was afraid the price would shoot up. That didn't happen, although some of the other books I bought during that shopping spree went up a few dollars.

Synopsis:

This book's present takes place sometime in the 2020s. Alcatraz Island is now a place called Babylon, a brothel that caters to nearly every desire its visitors might have. Babylon's owner and most famous personality is Crygender, aka Cryptic Gender. Crygender is a surgical hermaphrodite, such a skillful blend of both sexes that it's impossible to tell what sex Cry started out as.

Unfortunately, the clock is ticking. The surgeries that resulted in Crygender couldn't stay perfect forever. Cry is getting older, and the signs of past surgeries are beginning to show. The chemical cocktails Cry has been taking for years have also begun taking a noticeable toll. As if Cry's personal issues weren't enough, Babylon has attracted some new and potentially dangerous guests and employees: Jean Metis, an elderly World Cop with a spine prosthesis; Austin Tinker, a lawyer; Gloria de Groot, a mysterious woman on a mission; and Sylvie Wetzen, a 17-year-old runaway.

Review:

None of the reviews I read prior to buying this were very detailed, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Strike that, I did have some expectations based on Baen's description, but Crygender didn't exactly come through.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Rules (book) by Stacey Kade

The Rules is YA sci fi romance. It's the first book in Kade's Project Paper Doll series. My copy is an ARC I picked up at a conference, but it's been out for a few months - it shouldn't be hard to find in a bookstore or library.

Synopsis:

Ariane was born a test subject, a blend of human and alien DNA. When she was six years old, a guard broke her out and hid her in plain sight, using the story that she was his daughter and that he'd recently gotten custody of her. Since then, Ariane's life has been governed by five rules. Never trust anyone. Remember they are always searching. Don't get involved. Keep your head down. Don't fall in love.

Except it's hard always living behind a mask, being as invisible as possible. When Ariane's one friend, Jenna, becomes the target of cruel pranks, Ariane can't help but stand up for her. This brings her to the attention of Rachel, the spoiled queen of the school, and Zane, one of the people in Rachel's circle of friends/minions. Zane has become really tired of Rachel's games, and he thinks he might be able to both take her down a notch or two and protect Ariane from her...but he'll need Ariane's cooperation. Ariane soon learns that, after breaking one of the Rules, it becomes easier and easier to break the rest.

Review:

Fast-paced YA is really working out well for me right now. I managed to read this in a little over a day, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I've been having problems writing this review. I've decided it's time for another bullet point review.

Chak De! India (live action movie), via Netflix

Chak De! India is an Indian sports drama about field hockey. I decided to watch it because I wanted to try another Indian movie and Netflix guessed I would probably like it. Also, I vaguely remembered thinking Shah Rukh Khan, the actor who plays Kabir, was hot back when I was checking in issues of India Today as part of my Periodicals student worker job.

Seven years ago, Kabir Khan was the captain of the Indian men's hockey team. His fall from grace came after his team lost to Pakistan. Because it was his bad shot that lost the game and because he was the only member of his team to shake an opposing player's hand, Kabir was rumored to have thrown the game and was branded a traitor. His mother was ostracized and forced to move from their family home, and Kabir had to quit playing hockey.

Fast forward to the present, seven years later. The Indian women's field hockey team is in bad shape. It's well-known that coaching them is a career killer, so who would want to do it? Kabir Khan, that's who. He's determined to take those 16 young women, who are divided by their various prejudices, and make them play as a team. Not only that, he thinks they can become good enough to win the World Cup.

I may not be a fan of real-life sports, but I do seem to have a soft spot for sports movies and TV series. Chak De! India featured several cliches that fans of sports dramas are likely familiar with: a horrible team that becomes a well-functioning one, a musical training montage, a coach trying to overcome a painful past, and a few character types, such as the Experienced Player Who Has a Problem With the New Coach. In addition, there were some cliches that tend to only come up in stories about women's sports teams: overcoming unsupportive family members, the moment when the women's team has to play against a men's team to prove themselves, and the moment when the women's team has earned the respect of formerly dismissive men.

The movie didn't entirely follow the sports drama templates I was familiar with. For example, although the team overcomes its biggest issues during the first half and is able to make it to the World Cup, they continue to suffer from teamwork problems until nearly the end of the movie. In the words of one coach to Kabir: “How did you ever make it to the World Cup?” The latter half of the movie wasn't so much about refining strategies and figuring out how to use players' strengths against opposing teams as it was about ironing out those last few teamwork wrinkles.

And here's where I admit that I missed those “refining strategies and making use of players' strengths” moments. At most, the movie had India's match against South Korea. Most of India's players didn't have the experience necessary to figure out how to break South Korea's strategy, but Kabir knew that Bindia and the one other experienced player did, so he put her in the game. However, all the movie told viewers was that the pair were playing in an unusual way. What was it about the way they played that allowed India to beat South Korea? It was frustrating not to get some kind of explanation.

Although this movie didn't work as well for me as other sports dramas I've watched, it still had some good moments. I loved Kabir's pep talks, particularly the one he gave his team prior to playing against the Indian men's field hockey team. I liked the movie's main song, “Chak De! India” - it was incredibly catchy. Also, it was interesting seeing what sorts of problems each of the women had to deal with. For example, Mary and Molly, both from North-East India, were often treated as foreigners. Men would assume they were Chinese and/or couldn't understand Hindi and would hit on them. Rani and Soimoi, from Jharkhand, were bullied by the short-tempered Balbir. Soimoi had the additional problem of being unable to speak either Hindi or English. Vidya's husband's family wanted her to quit field hockey, and Preeti's fiance, who was on India's national cricket team, repeatedly dismissed field hockey as unimportant.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Strobe Edge (manga, vol. 4) story & art by Io Sakisaka

Strobe Edge is a romance manga series. It's licensed by VIZ Media and published under their Shojo Beat imprint. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

Synopsis:

Ando confesses his feelings to Ninako and tells her she should use him to get over Ren. Ninako refuses, because she doesn't think it's right to date one guy while she still loves another. Ando warns her that, eventually, she'll start to want more from Ren than he'll be able to give. It will hurt, he tells her, but Ninako refuses to believe him.

Ren has started to clue in to his own feelings, but that's not necessarily a good thing, because he's still dating Mayuka. Because he's a nice guy, his realization that he likes Ninako makes him miserable. The things he feels when he's around Ninako feel like a betrayal of Mayuka, which leaves him with two choices: either spend as little time around Ninako as possible, or break up with Mayuka.

Meanwhile, Daiki's relationship with Sayuri is going pretty well, until sudden news puts him in the position of choosing between his father and Sayuri.

Review:

Ren finally realized he likes Ninako, which was great. Honestly, I'm amazed it took him this long. There were several nice moments of him noticing her as a girl he has feelings for, rather than just as a girl he is friends with. He couldn't really say much about what he was thinking and feeling, not without feeling even worse. Part of me is hoping that he'll reach a point when he won't be able to keep it in anymore and will finally have to vocalize it all. Part of me is dreading that moment, because it'll be upsetting for everyone involved.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cinder (book) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a science fiction retelling of the Cinderella story. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Synopsis:

When she was little, Cinder was found and taken in by Linh Garan, who died of the letumosis plague a short while later. Her stepmother grudgingly took care of her, but, as a cyborg, Cinder has few rights. Eventually, Cinder becomes her new family's sole source of income, working hard as a mechanic at her booth in New Beijing's weekly market. Her only friends are Peony, her youngest stepsister, and Iko, an android.

When Prince Kai stopped by her booth to ask her to fix one of his androids, it was like a dream come true. She might not be able to go to the upcoming ball like her stepsisters, but she still got to meet and speak with the Prince. Not many girls can say that, much less cyborgs like her.

Prince Kai's father, the Emperor, is quickly dying of the plague. Levana, the Lunar queen, is poised and ready to swoop in and give Kai little choice but to marry her, after which she will probably enslave as much of Earth as possible. Kai's android may contain key information, but Cinder has to fix it first, and she suddenly has a lot on her plate. Peony has contracted the plague, and stepmother has volunteered Cinder for cyborg plague testing, something no one has ever survived, in order to get the family payoff (quick money).

Review:

For a while now, I've been kind of worried that I've lost the ability to love the books I read. It seems like everything I've read lately has just been “okay” at best. I wasn't sure how to break out of my funk. Should I read a new-to-me book by an author whose works I've enjoyed in the past? Should I reread an old favorite? I fretted that my reading funk might cause me to dislike books I'd normally enjoy.

Then Cinder came in via interlibrary loan. I read it in a couple days and loved it. It's not flawless, but I loved it anyway, and that makes me so happy. It confirms that my ability to love the things I read is not broken.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Clash of Kings (book) by George R.R. Martin

A Clash of Kings is the second book in Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire.

I'm pretty sure I managed to avoid major spoilers for this book, but there are a few spoilers for A Game of Thrones. You've been warned. 

Synopsis:

Now that King Robert is dead, it seems like just about everyone wants to be the next ruler. As far as I can remember, there are at least four potential kings and one potential queen:
  • Joffrey Baratheon – He loves to kill people. Almost no one likes him, but, as King Robert's son (supposedly), he has a pretty good claim to the throne.
  • Stannis Baratheon – He's a hard man and also not well liked, but, as the older of King Robert's brothers, he has the next best claim to the throne. He also knows Queen Cersei's dark secret, even if he can't prove it: all of her children were fathered by her brother Jaime, not King Robert.
  • Renly Baratheon – The younger of King Robert's brothers. Although he's younger than Stannis, he's more loved by his people and has a much better chance of convincing others to support him.
  • Robb Stark – The only one who's not aiming for King Robert's throne. Instead, he has been named the King in the North. If I remember correctly, Renly was fine with this. All the others, however, are not nearly as happy with this arrangement.
  • Daenerys Targaryen – Technically, King Robert stole the throne from her family. Now, as the Mother of Dragons, she plans to take it back.
The result is a highly volatile situation often filled with raping, maiming, and killing. Jon Snow, as a member of the Night's Watch, is one of the few characters who's as much outside all the battles over the throne as possible. He's not exactly safe, though, considering the horrors beyond the Wall that need investigating.

Review:

I probably would have waited longer before reading this if it hadn't been for all the fan shock/horror after the TV series' third season finale. I've stalled on the first season (the changes to Daenerys' part made me mad enough that I couldn't make it past the second episode) and I didn't want to look up spoilers, so I figured I'd read the next book in the series instead. I hope I'll manage to make it to the most recent book in the series, but things aren't looking good so far. Sadly, I did not think A Clash of Kings was as good and as gripping as A Game of Thrones.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chime (audio book) by Franny Billingsley, read by Susan Duerden

Chime is a mix of fantasy and historical-ish fiction. The description interested me, and I liked the audio sample.

The story: Briony seems like a model preacher's daughter. After her stepmother hurt her spine, Briony stayed with her to care for her rather than going off to get an education. Because her father had selfishly left them all to go do other things, Briony was the only one there to take care of her stepmother and her twin sister Rose, who was never the same after a head injury some time earlier. However, Briony has a terrible secret: she's a witch, and she's the reason Rose hurt her head and stepmother damaged her spine and eventually killed herself. Briony knows it's her duty to hate herself and devote herself only to taking care of her sister, but then Eldric arrives. Eldric seems determined to be her friend, and Briony finds herself wanting to tell him things she should never tell anyone.

What to say about this book... I suppose I'll start by giving an overview of my listening experience:

Discs 1-2: Briony's “voice” is very different and interesting. It's a little melodramatic and takes some getting used to, but I think I like it.

Discs 3-6: Ok, there is such a thing as being overly lyrical. Get on with the story, please. Please.

Disc 7: I still feel frustrated with Briony's “voice,” but at least things are finally happening.

Disc 8: ...This ending is pretty good. ::sniffling back some tears:: Except for one action on Eldric's part, which kind of ruined the romantic storyline for me.

What this all means is that, no matter which Goodreads rating I choose, it won't feel quite right. Discs 1-2 were decent, and Disc 8 was really, really good, but most of the stuff between was so much of a slog that I had to fight to stay interested and continue listening.

I have a feeling that many, if not most, reviews of this book include the word “lyrical.” Briony's POV was...different. Why say things with mere words when you can say them with word pictures? For example, people did not blush – instead, blood boiled to their faces. “Shoulder blades” were “shoulder wings.” And, early on, when Briony wished for her sister to scream so she could find her: “Go on! Jab your screams into my ear squish!”

This sort of thing only ever stopped during dialogue, and this was not a dialogue-heavy book. I liked it, at first, but it became extremely frustrating as the book progressed. I felt like Briony's overly-lyrical way of thinking slowed down the story. Even worse, this style made the book's few (but important) action scenes very confusing.

I spent much of the book suspecting that Briony's version of events was not correct – certain details didn't quite add up or make sense. My suspicions were later confirmed, although I didn't manage to guess everything. Even though some of the big reveals were pretty obvious, the final disc was still really good. Some of the things that frustrated me earlier in the book turned out to be more important than I realized, so I guess they were necessary, but... As much as I liked that final disc, I'm not sure all the slogging I did up to that point was really worth it. I enjoyed how all the pieces of Briony finally came together and how the truth was revealed, but the level of frustration I felt up to that point means that I doubt I'll ever reread/re-listen to this book again.

Although I thought Susan Duerden did a good job reading this, I can't shake the feeling that I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read it rather than listened to it. I could have skimmed some of the passages faster than Duerden was able to read them, and maybe I wouldn't have felt quite as frustrated.

Encore for Murder (audio book) by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, starring Stacy Keach with a full cast

Encore for Murder is a noir thriller that is, from my understanding, based on Mickey Spillane's notes for an unwritten novel. I had never read/listened to anything by Mickey Spillane before, but the audio sample sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot. A warning: this post contains spoilers.

The story: Mike Hammer is hired to act as Rita Vance's bodyguard. Rita, a old flame of Hammer's, is making an acting comeback and has been receiving death threats. Hammer sticks close by her, but Rita doesn't seem to be taking the situation seriously. Then things get a little more complicated, Rita disappears, and Hammer has to find and rescue her.

This did not turn out to be a good pick for me. The best thing I can say is that the story was sort of interesting and I enjoyed the full-cast, radio drama feel of it. Otherwise, though, I kind of hated Mike Hammer.

I don't think I've read a lot of noir fiction at all, nor watched many noir movies. It may just be that the genre isn't for me. Although some attempts were made to update this story (mentions of cell phones, the sex offender registry, and the reluctance of restaurants to serve meat cooked rare), it still felt pretty old school. Nearly every woman Hammer encountered was an enormous flirt – the only exception was maybe Velda, Hammer's secretary and partner, but even she had moments when she acted liked Hammer's girlfriend-in-waiting.

I might just have rolled my eyes at Hammer's very male gaze when it came to women, until I got to the torture scene. Rita was tied naked to a chair and was being threatened with a blow torch. I was a little uncomfortable with some of the almost sexual phrasing used in this scene, such as the description of the blowtorch as “a terrible flame ready to lick her flesh.” Also, post-torture, there was this from Hammer: “I've had a better time with a naked woman.” His lover had been stripped naked, beaten, and almost burned, and his first thought after rescuing her was about sex? Eww. Just eww. Other than feeling a little shaky, Rita barely seemed affected her own kidnapping and torture, which bothered me, too.

Prior to listening to this, I checked out a few reviews and noticed at least one mention of Hammer killing a lot of people. I read and listen to a lot of things with violence in them, so I just noted this and moved on. He really does kill a lot of people, though, and sometimes he kills them very violently. If I remember correctly, at one point he almost decapitated a guy with a car trunk door. I think it was his reaction, or non-reaction, to killing people that bothered me the most. At least one of the other characters even commented on the amount of killing he did, and he just brushed them off.

It was short and most of the acting was okay, but if this is what Mike Hammer stories are generally like, they are very much not for me. It's funny, I can root for and even kind of like characters like Jeff Lindsay's Dexter, and yet Mike Hammer just made me feel kind of icky. Maybe it's because Dexter makes it very clear that he is a sociopath, while Hammer seems to have zero recognition of the fact that some of the things he does are not okay?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Alice (live action TV mini-series), via Netflix

Alice is a sci-fi/fantasy mini-series based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice, a martial arts teacher, is dating one of her students, Jack of the chiseled good looks. Alice has had commitment issues in the past – her father's disappearance when she was a child left her with a lack of faith in lasting relationships – but she thinks Jack might be the one. She even takes Jack to meet her mother. Then, Jack gets a text telling him to run. He tries to act normal and convince Alice to go with him, right that minute, to meet his family. He even pulls out a ring, a family heirloom, and essentially proposes to her. Alice understandably freaks out at the suddenness of all this and tells him “no.” He leaves, after which she realizes that he left the ring with her. She rushes to give it to him, only to find him being beaten and kidnapped. When she chases after him, she falls through a mirror and into Wonderland.

Supposedly, this is not a reimagined Wonderland, but rather Wonderland as it has developed in the decades since the original Alice visited it and overthrew the Queen of Hearts. This Wonderland is a dystopian world in which real-world humans are captured, pacified, and held captive in the Queen of Hearts' casino, where their emotions are essentially milked out of them and distilled into teas that are then sold to the Wonderland populace. Alice is determined to rescue Jack and her father, who she learns has been in Wonderland all this time. Her only ally is the Hatter, and she's not entirely sure she can trust him.

I think this might have gone over slightly better with me if it had been presented as a retelling of the original story, rather than as a sort of extension of it. The Wonderland of this mini-series had very little connection to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, and because it was supposed to be a future version of it, it needed to feel more connected than it was. How did Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts evolve into a casino owner who sold emotion-teas? Actually, how did any part of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland become what it was in this mini-series? I could see the references, but they seemed to just be dropped in the show, with little thought given to how they came to be.

Even if this had been a dystopian retelling instead of some kind of weird continuation, I don't know that I would have found it to be anything more than mediocre. For some reason, in addition to turning Wonderland into some kind of dark, dystopian, sort-of-industrial land, there were also a lot of retro elements – Alice's outfit, the music, etc. I think the retro elements were intentional, but...why? It was kind of cheesy.

Alice, whose martial arts skills meant that she could join in on the action scenes a little, would have been a more enjoyable character if she hadn't been so stupid. She started off fairly well. Although her mother disapproved of her flat-out rejection of Jack's sudden offer to visit his parents and become engaged, I thought Alice reacted in a very rational way. Unfortunately, in Wonderland she became possessed with an urge to save someone, anyone, and that urge prompted her to rush off to the casino-prison over and over again. This, despite not having a plan, nor any allies aside from the Hatter (who figured they'd all get killed if they even tried to rescue anyone) and the White Knight (who was odd and hugely annoying).

There was romance in this, but it was insultingly predictable. The paths to everyone's happy endings were very clearly marked out well in advance, which made the attempt at a love triangle almost laughable.

All in all, this mini-series was mediocre.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Darling Jim (audio book) by Christian Moerk, read by Stephen Hoye and Justine Eyre

Darling Jim was on my list of audiobooks I'd cataloged that looked interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. It started off really, really well, but then became a slog for long stretches of time. Just a warning – this post contains spoilers.

The book begins by showing readers the end, or at least one end. The police are called to a home after a dead body is spotted inside. The house turns out to contain many more horrors than just one dead body. As near as anyone can tell, the dead woman had had two young women, her nieces, locked up in her home. One of the nieces escaped, killed her, and died before she even made it out of the house. The other niece was found still locked up, dead from the rat poison her aunt had been putting in her food.

Niall, a young postal worker, finds a mysterious diary in the post office's dead-letter bin. The niece who managed to escape and kill her aunt had written it. In her diary, Fiona told the story of the things that led to their aunt locking them up. Fiona became enamored with a drifter who settled in her village, a charming man named Jim. Unfortunately, so did her aunt. By the time Fiona realized there was something dark and deadly behind Jim's good looks, it was too late. Niall becomes obsessed with the story of Fiona, her sisters, and Jim, but Fiona's diary only tells part of the story. If Niall wants to find out the rest, he's going to have to go hunting in Fiona's home village for her sister Roisin's diary.

Fire & Ice (e-book) by Kate Aaron

Fire & Ice is a self-published (I think) m/m fantasy novel. It's 62,000 words long.

Synopsis:

Alyssia, the witch who threatened to take the Realm from the fae in Blood & Ash, is still on the loose. Skye is determined to hunt her down and stop her, but he has an additional problem: his brother Ash. Namely, Ash's relationship with Azrael. Not only is it not ideal for the person second-in-line to the throne to be gay, there is apparently also a fae law against homosexuality. Ash's father is even less approving of Ash's relationship with Azrael than Skye is.

Upset, Ash runs away with Azrael, although he at least stays in the Realm. It is then that he learns what the law means for common fae: gay men are killed, and lesbians are taken away, never to be seen by their friends and families again. Ash is horrified and becomes consumed with a need to change the law, something everyone tells him cannot be done.

Meanwhile, Fenton has heard rumors of Alyssia's location, and Skye decides that he and Fenton should go and investigate. Fenton has confessed his love for Skye, and Skye is flattered...and soon those feelings turn into something more. If they're a couple but not actually having sex, then they're not breaking the law, right? Fenton, who is asexual, is perfectly happy to cuddle Skye and sleep in the same bed with him without having sex. Skye figures he'll be okay with that, too, except he soon finds himself needing more.

Review:

That's it, I'm done with this series. I have no plans to buy Storm & Strike, the book after this one. I bought the first three works all at once because they were cheap and because the second two were tagged “asexual,” which intrigued me. Unfortunately, this was one of those times where taking a risk did not work out for me. I had some of the same problems with Fire & Ice that I had with the first two works in the series.

The Snowman (audio book) by Jo Nesbø, read by Robin Sachs

The Snowman is the 7th Harry Hole book, and the first one I've ever read/listened to. I started it because 1) it was long and I was hoping to slow myself down so I could catch up on posts (ha!) and 2) I remembered Robin Sachs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The basic setup is that someone is building snowmen nearby people who are about to disappear/die. Harry investigates the disappearances, realizes that there are more that occurred further back in time, and comes to the conclusion that Oslo has its very own serial killer.

I'd probably be willing to listen to another book in this series, but I don't think I could stand reading one. The pacing of this book was very slow and sometimes odd. It took a while for things to get going, and there were at least two or three moments that felt like they could have been endings but weren't.

I didn't really like Harry, and I flat-out cheered when Katrine Bratt turned him down, because, wow, hitting on her was super icky and unprofessional. I also raised an eyebrow at his complete lack of curiosity about the mold inspector. You'd think a supposedly sharp, paranoid police inspector would have had issues with giving a stranger extended access to his apartment without checking up on him first and making sure he was legit. This is not, by the way, a spoiler, because, as far as I can remember, the mold man stuff went nowhere and served no purpose other than to add "fear of mold" to Harry's list neuroses.

In general, the sexual relationships in this book were not my cup of tea – lots and lots of cheating, plus several unsexy sex scenes. The serial killer portion of the story, however, was interesting and creepy. And also gory. A couple bits were horrifying enough that I had to pause the book and listen to something else for a while, to give my brain some time to prepare for the rest. I had to pause some more near the end, when the tense moments came hard and fast. I had no clue whether Nesbø was the sort to kill major characters and the stress of it got to be too much for me sometimes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part Two (graphic novel) script by Gene Luen Yang, art and cover by Gurihiru, lettering by Michael Heisler

The Promise, Part 2 continues where Part 1 left off. Like Part 1, it's extremely short - only 76 pages.

There are things in this post that probably count as spoilers. Read at your own risk. I'm not going to list any read-alikes or watch-alikes in this post. If you'd like some, I'd suggest taking a look at my Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series posts.

Synopsis:

Aang and Katara head to Ba Sing Se to convince the Earth King to set up a meeting with Fire Lord Zuko, who no longer thinks that removing all Fire Nation citizens from the Earth Kingdom is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the Earth King isn't interested in a meeting. Even if he were, it's possible Zuko wouldn't be either – he's been spending a lot of time talking to his imprisoned father and, as a result, is only becoming more uncertain of the path he should take.

Meanwhile, Sokka has had enough of Aang and Katara's lovey dovey talk and has decided to visit Toph's metalbending school. It may not be Toph's school for much longer, however – a firebending class has taken the space over and refuses to leave.

Review:

This was, sadly, just as disappointing as Part 1. Once again, I felt it was too short. So many things could have been expanded upon and improved.

While I enjoyed getting a longer look at Toph's students and school, the tone of that storyline didn't seem to fit. Sokka, hoping to resolve the argument between Toph and the firebender teacher relatively peacefully, arranged for them to have a match to the sit. The students of the two schools would fight each other and try to force the teacher of the other school to sit. Things became fairly goofy, and nearly everything was played for laughs, which clashed with the much more serious Fire Nation scenes featuring a very haggard Zuko.

The characters were relatively true to the way they were in the original animation, except they seemed sort of like they'd...regressed? It's been a while since I last watched the series, but, personality-wise, a lot of the original characters seemed to be stuck in Season 2 mode. Zuko went back to hanging on his father's every word, even though this gave him an opportunity to spread his usual poison. Where the heck was Iroh? It would have made much more sense for Zuko to use him as a sounding board than his father, even if he had to do it via letters. Aang acted like a silly kid – Katara had to remind him that they had important things to do (like hopefully preventing a war), so he couldn't spend all his time playing with his giggling fanclub. And Sokka was back to being a clown. You'd think that the episodes in which he trained in swordfighting and took part in major battles never happened. Toph might be the only one who grew a bit, and even that's debatable.

I had thought that Kori, the girl from Part 1 who turned out to be the daughter of both Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation citizens, was a throwaway character, but apparently not. She got a grand total of one scene in this volume. I'm assuming she'll play a larger part in the final volume, because otherwise her appearance in this volume was a waste of space.

I'll read Part 3 because I want to see how things turn out between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation and what Aang chooses to do about Zuko. Unfortunately, I expect I'll be just as disappointed with it as I was with the first two parts.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Unexpected, but yay!

I was clicking through new Netflix catalog titles and came across something I never thought I'd ever see. Remember how, in my Digimon: Digital Monsters post I wrote:
"I've never seen the unedited version of the show and will probably never have the opportunity to do so."
Well. I was wrong. I now have the opportunity to do so. Not only has Netflix added the edited, English-dubbed version of the show, they've also added the original version with English subtitles. I don't care that I thought the first volume of the English dubbed version was disappointingly mediocre, I am so excited that I can now watch the original version.

Right. Now I'm off to watch a mirror-world version of one of Teenage Me's favorite shows. Yay!

Edit: Four episodes and a bag of popcorn later and my verdict so far is that it's not actually all that much different from the English dub version. The music, closing credits, and some of the names are different and so are a lot of lines (fewer corny jokes, if the subs are accurate). Mimi seems slightly less vapid, and some of the character relationships are handled/explained a little differently.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...