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:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Hint of Frost (e-book) by Hailey Edwards

A Hint of Frost is a fantasy romance book. It's 64,243 words long and is published by Samhain Publishing. According to my records, I downloaded it as a freebie a while back. However, it's no longer available for free.

Review:

I won A Kiss of Venom in a BookLikes giveaway and decided to push it to the top of my TBR. However, it's Book 3.5 in Edwards' Araneae Nation series, and I wasn't sure how confused I'd be if I read the series out of order. Since I already owned A Hint of Frost, Book 1 in the series, I figured it couldn't hurt to read that first.

After her mother, the Araneidae clan's leader, is poisoned to death, Lourdes becomes the clan's newest maven. There's no time yet to mourn – the clan has been betrayed by its Theridiidae allies and is still in danger. Lourdes does the only thing she can think of: she contacts Isolde, the Mimetidae maven and her mother's friend, and asks for protection and help finding her mother and father's killer. In exchange, Lourdes agrees to supply the Mimetidae clan with Araneidae armor and to carry out a binding ceremony with whomever Isolde chooses. Isolde's choice turns out to be Rhys, one of her sons.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Kei's Gift (e-book) by Ann Somerville

Kei's Gift is the first book in Somerville's Darshian Tales series. It's self-published m/m fantasy. It's 305,950 words long. For perspective, that's about as long as Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World and slightly shorter than George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones (approximate word counts found here).

Review:

Just based on the number of times I've seen it recommended, I think this might be Somerville's best-loved book. I've owned it for a while and decided I was finally in the mood to read it.

When I start reading e-books, I usually dive right in without bothering to check their descriptions or genres. I thought at first that this was m/m fantasy romance. Sixty pages in, I decided I needed to reset my expectations, because Kei and Arman hadn't even met yet. Plus, the book's earliest (and, for the next several hundred pages, only) sex scenes involved Kei and Arman with other people. Now that I've read the whole thing, I think it might best be called fantasy (epic fantasy?) with strong m/m romantic aspects.

Arman is a general in the Prijian Empire, ordered to begin the invasion of northern Darshian – the Prij have already conquered southern Darshian. Kei is a healer in the small village of Ai-Albon, in northern Darshian. Both men view each others' peoples as savages. To Kei, the Prij are greedy, war-like, and stupidly superstitious. To Arman, the Darshianese are simple, weak, and inferior. With time, they might even be grateful to their Prijian invaders, once they learn how superior the Prijian Empire is.

When Kei is made one of the Darshianese hostages and assigned to be a slave in Arman's household, the two men gradually learn more about each other and even become friends. However, they're still on opposite sides of a war, and their friendship is a fragile and complicated thing. Kei's people have good cause to hate Arman's, and Arman's people have the power of life and death over the Darshianese hostages.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Smashwords "Read an Ebook Week" sale, March 2-8

I originally posted this in my BookLikes blog and figured I should post it here, too. This sale is a great way to try stuff out:


I found out about this via Kagama - The Literaturevixen's post. Lots and lots of stuff is available for free or 25-75% off. Last year, I downloaded TONS of free stuff. This year, I was more restrained and only picked up, um, 12 free books. Even though my e-TBR has over 500 books, novellas, and short stories in it. ::hangs head in shame::

I did some checking, trying to find works I've read that are on sale and that I'd recommend. Unfortunately, most of my favorite authors appear to not be participating in the sale. However, if you're interested in m/m fantasy, one book I can recommend is Ann Somerville's Kei's Gift. It's currently 50% off with the REW50 code. I finished it a few days ago and should have a full review up soon. In my personal grading system, it gets a B+. Pros: the main characters are wonderful, and their relationship develops slowly and believably. Cons: some aspects were a little too black-and-white for my tastes, and I'm still not entirely sure the story needed to be that long.
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