Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Lone Wolf (e-book) by Louis Joseph Vance

The Lone Wolf is an adventure story originally published back in 1914. I think it's the first book in Vance's Lone Wolf series. Those interested in reading it can download it for free via Project Gutenberg.

Synopsis:

The main character was just a young boy when he was abandoned at a hotel called Troyon's by a man who may or may not have taken him from his parents. He was renamed Marcel Troyon, learned to speak French, and was raised without affection. As he grew older, he took to thieving and occasionally stole a few coins here and there from the guests at Troyon's. One such guest, Bourke, caught him. Rather than turning him in to Troyon's owners, Bourke took him under his wing. By 1910, when Bourke died, “Marcel Troyon” was long gone. In his place was Michael Lanyard, the Lone Wolf, whose guiding principles were to never have friends and never fall in love.

Years later, Lanyard returns to Troyon's after a few successful thefts. His intention is to lay low for a while, so he's a little startled to see Roddy, a detective from Scotland Yard. However, Roddy isn't after him. He's focused on Monsieur le Comte Remy de Morbihan. Seeing as how he has nothing better to do, Lanyard figures he'll watch De Morbihan too.

To Lanyard's shock, De Morbihan indicates that he knows who the Lone Wolf is. It's not long before Lanyard finds himself in the cross-hairs of the Pack, a mysterious criminal group De Morbihan is part of. He is given two choices: either join the Pack or cease operations in any of the Pack's territories and perhaps eventually be assassinated.

Review:

I was having trouble deciding what to read next and chose this book, out of all the ones in my e-book collection, using a random number generator. I couldn't even remember why I'd added it to my collection, but, now that I've finished it, I'm pretty sure it was one I downloaded after thoroughly enjoying Maurice Leblanc's The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar. Lanyard and Lupin had several similarities, and one character in Vance's book even said they were much alike. Unfortunately, Lanyard wasn't as enjoyable a character as Lupin.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mail-Order Marriages (anthology) by Jillian Hart, Carolyn Davidson, Kate Bridges

Mail Order Marriages is a Harlequin Historical containing three short stories set in various places in America during the latter half of the 19th century. As you can probably tell from the title and cover, they're historical romances featuring mail-order brides.

The mail-order marriages aspect immediately appealed to me and was the reason why I bought this book. I wanted to see how the various authors would handle the subject. I was a little surprised at how repetitious the stories felt, considering there were only three of them. The first two stories both include a "heroine inherits a lot of money and a man from her past chases after her" subplot, and both of them handle it in pretty much the same way.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oh, Goodreads...

On Friday, I learned about Goodreads' latest announcement, which can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1499741-important-note-regarding-reviews

The most worrisome part, to me, was that they then deleted several users' shelves (and sometimes also some of their reviews), notifying those users only after the deletions were finished. Goodreads later tried to explain their actions by saying the reviews they deleted weren't really reviews, but rather insults aimed at the authors. Even if that was the case, they could still have hidden the reviews and/or given the users who wrote them a couple days' warning before deleting them. As far as the shelves go, I've never had a "Badly Behaving Author" shelf of my own, but I can understand why others would want to have them. Those, too, could have been made private and were instead deleted without warning.

I have no current plans to delete my Goodreads account, since it's an incredibly useful way for me to keep track of the books I'd like to read. However, I'm on the fence about whether I still want to contribute reviews.

At least one of the people whose reviews I was following has left Goodreads and deleted her account. I'm currently exploring other options. Right now, the one I'm looking at most closely is BookLikes. It's really easy to import a Goodreads collection, although it takes forever - BookLikes has imported 16 of my books so far, with 764 more to go, and the estimated import time is 2009 hours. Also, imported reviews have all formatting removed - no paragraph breaks, no italics, no bolding, no links, and any Goodreads links you used morph into a mess.

I've only poked around on BookLikes a little so far. It looks like book-focused blogging, with a few social elements. I haven't been able to find a way to search for reviews across all BookLikes pages, which makes it harder to find other BookLikes users to follow, harder to decide whether specific books are worth reading, and harder to use BookLikes as a read-alikes tool. (I finally found the search box that lets me search more than just one specific BookLikes blog, although the results list is a bit of a slog.) However, that doesn't mean the site won't grow on me, and I do love that it allows me to give books half-star ratings, something Goodreads has always refused to implement. I'll take a better look around once more of my books have been imported. If you're curious about what a BookLikes blog looks like, here's mine. Books are still being imported, and the only post I've touched so far is the one for Deeanne Gist's Maid to Match.

Another option I'm thinking of trying is The Reading Room. The main thing holding me back is that it appears to have a very small community - many of the books I've looked up have no reviews. I'm also thinking of giving LibraryThing another go, although, since free accounts are limited to 200 books, I'd have to pay to upload everything I've got.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nightschool: The Weirn Books (OEL manga, vol. 1) by Svetlana Chmakova

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is a fantasy series that includes vampires and witches. It's published by Yen Press.

Synopsis:

Although daytime students don't know it, at night a certain high school becomes the Nightschool, a place where witches and vampires learn all the usual subjects, plus spell casting and more. Sarah Treveney is the school's new Night Keeper. I'm not entirely sure what this job entails, but it puts her into contact with everyone from Mr. Roi, one of the Nightschool's most powerful (and hottest) teachers, to Ronee, who seems to be queen of the Nightschool students.

Alex is Sarah's younger sister. She insists on being home schooled, because of something serious that happened in the past that has yet to be revealed. She, like Sarah and many of the Nightschool's students, is a weirn, a kind of witch. While Sarah is at work, Alex decides to study outside, which unfortunately puts her in the path of a group of patrolling Hunters.

Review:

I found the first and second volumes of this series at a used bookstore and snatched them up. Although I never fell in love with Chmakova's Dramacon the way some others did, I liked it well enough. I enjoy fantasy and was interested in seeing how well she'd handle a switch to a new genre.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Amnesia (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Amnesia is 12 episodes long and based on a visual novel series. It mixes mystery, romance, and fantasy.

This post contains spoilers. This is one of the most disturbing "romance" stories I've reviewed in recent memory, and I didn't feel I could adequately explain why without spoiling certain parts.

Synopsis:

The female protagonist of this series is never given a name, so I'll refer to her as Heroine, the same way Crunchyroll's episode descriptions do.

Heroine wakes up and discovers that she no longer has any memories of who she is or any of the people around her. Orion, a fairy only she can see, tells her that her amnesia is his fault – he accidentally bumped into her spirit, thereby attaching himself to her and knocking out all her memories. According to him, in order to get her memories back, she must interact with people she used to know. He believes it's best that she not tell anyone she can't remember anything, because she doesn't know, at this point, who she can trust.

In the very first episode, Heroine starts having visions that may be memories. Her situation rapidly becomes more confusing, however, when she suddenly finds herself transported back in time, without Orion to guide her. The first time she's transported back, Shin, who seemed to previously just be a childhood friend of hers, is now her boyfriend.

And so goes the general pattern of the series: Heroine is repeatedly transported to August 1st, where one of the men in her life is revealed to be her boyfriend. Certain details, like her job at the maid cafe, are usually the same. However, other things differ. Sometimes a group of girls bullies her. Her boss's personality changes from one repetition to the next. Through it all, Heroine has to orient herself and try to figure out what's going on, so that her world can stabilize and she can regain her memories.

Some general info about the various guys:
  • Shin – A childhood friend of Heroine's. He's studying hard to get into a university. He may or may not have killed someone.
  • Ikki – One of Heroine's fellow employees. His eyes seem to have the power to cause any girl except the heroine to fall in love with him, and it's not unusual for him to be surrounded by a crowd of his admirers.
  • Kento – Very logical and analytical. Normal human interaction does not come easy to him.
  • Toma – Another childhood friend of Heroine's. He acts like an older brother figure to both Shin and Heroine.
  • Ukyo – A mysterious photographer who is sometimes kind towards heroine and sometimes dangerous.
Review:

I started this one because I'm a sucker for pretty artwork and male harem series, even though they're almost always awful. I can't really say that it defied my expectations, although it had moments where it was more interesting than I originally thought it would be.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Little Monster (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

My Little Monster is a romantic comedy based on a manga written and illustrated by Robico. It's 13 episodes long.

Synopsis:

All Shizuku is concerned about is her grades. She wants to study hard, be the best in every subject, and one day have a high-paying job. However, her life becomes more complicated when her teacher bribes her into bringing assignments to Haru, a boy who beat up a few students on his first day and then stopped showing up to school.

Because Haru has so little experience dealing with people in a nonviolent way, he tends to view kindness and positive behavior through the lens of cliches. Therefore, when Shizuku brings him his homework, he automatically decides she's his friend, because that's the sort of things friends do. Although Shizuku has no interest in becoming further involved with Haru, he refuses to leave her alone and she begins to warm to him.

Gradually, their circle of friends expands to include Sasayan (the most grounded and ordinary person in their group), Natsume (a ditsy, gorgeous girl who desperately wants to make female friends), Oshima (an extremely shy girl), and a group of delinquents, led by Yamaken (has a terrible sense of direction). Oh, and there's also a rooster named Nagoya.

Review:

This is one of those shows that grew on me. I liked it for its complex characters. I even found myself rooting for its romantic storylines...until something came up that reminded me how messed up those romances would be.

Mating Season (e-novella) by Allie Ritch

Mating Season is erotic paranormal/sci fi romance. It's published by Liquid Silver and is approximately 25,000 words long.

Synopsis:

All Koll wants is a wife, someone to love who will love him back. On his planet, eligible men offer their ribbon to potential spouses before winter, the mating season. Women can choose to either accept or reject the ribbons. Those who accept stay with their chosen men during the winter and then, by spring, decide whether to move on or marry whoever it is they stayed with.

Koll, unfortunately, has never been able to convince any women to accept his ribbon. His bear-like size and gruffness keeps scaring them off. He has become something of a joke in his village.

While on his latest quest to find someone willing to stay with him over the winter, Koll comes across Shila, on the run from two men. Although Koll doesn't learn this until later, Shila is a Child of Nanook - she can transform into a frost bear. She likes Koll's large size just fine, and Koll thinks he has finally found the woman for him. First, however, Shila and Koll have to deal with the male frost bear shifters who are after her.

Review:

I picked this up because I loved the idea of a gruff-looking outcast, who's really a lonely softy, meeting a woman who likes him just the way he is. Unfortunately, this was one of those times when I liked the idea of a story better than its actual execution.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (book) by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X is action-packed YA science fiction. Or maybe middle grade science fiction. I'm not sure.

Synopsis:

When Daniel was only 3 years old, an alien known as The Prayer came to his home looking for something called The List and killed his parents because they wouldn't give it to him. The List turns out to be a computer containing The List of Alien Outlaws on Terra Firma. Daniel's parents had not only been aliens, they'd been alien hunters.

Daniel is determined to continue their legacy. By the age of 15, he's gotten pretty good at alien hunting. His life is a little lonely, however. He spends a lot of time with his family and friends, all of whom he has created using his powers. When his latest target, Ergent Seth, prompts him to move to a new location, he decides to try going to school for the first time. School has its annoyances, but there are benefits as well: Phoebe, his first real friend, may soon become his first real girlfriend. Unfortunately, the alien hunting side of Daniel's life butts in, and Ergent Seth turns out to be far more dangerous than any foe Daniel has ever faced before. If Daniel doesn't find and defeat him soon, Phoebe and others may end up dead.

Review:

I'm not sure whether this was written for a YA audience or a middle grade one. Either way, it's a bad book. If it was written for a YA audience, it's quite possibly the worst traditionally published YA novel in existence.
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