Sunday, April 27, 2014

Soulless (e-book) by Gail Carriger

Soulless would probably best be called gaslight fantasy, although it has some steampunk elements. It's the first in Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and was one of my library e-book checkouts.

I hate the cover, by the way. Apparently, being soulless means you walk awkwardly.

Synopsis:

Alexia is soulless, meaning that supernatural beings become like ordinary people when she touches them. A transformed werewolf will turn back into a man, and a vampire will lose his fangs and be able to withstand sunlight - but only as long as she touches them. In times past, soulless people hunted supernatural beings. Now, they are a secret from most of the population. Not even Alexia's own mother knows she is soulless.

Supernatural beings, on the other hand, are very well-known to the public. Lord Maccon is the local pack Alpha and a most eligible bachelor - not that Alexia thinks one such as her would ever catch his eye. But she does think she and Lord Maccon would work well together. When strange vampires who seem unaware of supernatural etiquette start appearing, and other vampires and werewolves begin disappearing, Alexia becomes curious. Unfortunately, it's not long before she captures the attention of those responsible and finds herself in danger of being captured or killed by a horrifying man who looks as though he is made of wax.

Review:

This was one of those that worked for me overall but still had problems.

I enjoyed the humor, and the story was fast-paced and usually fun. I hated Alexia's habit of putting herself down and seeing herself as “less,” but it made sense in the context of what her family life was like – her mother never missed an opportunity to remind her that she wasn't society's idea of beautiful, that no one would ever want her, and that her very genetics were shameful (Alexia is half-Italian and has olive skin, which is treated as practically being a sin). The supernatural world's classification of Alexia as “soulless” probably didn't help.

Saga (graphic novel, vol. 1) written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples

Saga is an action-filled sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel series published by Image Comics. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

I'm going to skip out on the read-alikes list this time around because, if I don't, I'll never finish this post. I'm way behind on current graphic novels and just don't know enough to match this up with decent read-alikes, so pretty much everything I might include would be a guess.

Synopsis:

Marko and Alana's people have been at war for longer than anyone can remember. Against all odds, Marko and Alana somehow fell in love. They are now married, deserters, and...new parents. All they want is to take their baby somewhere safe, but it doesn't seem like there's any place that isn't touched by the war between their people.

Their more immediate concern is the large number of people who are actively trying to hunt them down and kill them. Among their pursuers are two bounty hunters and Prince Robot IV.

Review:

I'm usually more of a Japanese manga fan, but I kept hearing good things about this series, so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. This first volume was a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Odd Thomas (live action movie). via Netflix

Odd Thomas is a thriller based on Dean Koontz's book of the same title.

Odd Thomas is a short-order cook who can see the spirits of the dead and is compelled to bring their killers to justice. Only a select few know about his ability. One of them is Chief Wyatt Porter, who would prefer it if Odd just told him what he needed to know and let him handle the bad guys. Another is Stormy Llewellyn, Odd's girlfriend. Stormy and Odd believe they are destined to be together forever, because a card from a fortune-telling gypsy mummy machine told them so.

When Odd starts seeing bodachs everywhere, he knows something bad is about to happen. Bodachs are attracted to death and disaster, and, for some reason, a lot of them are gathering around a strange man Odd nicknames “Fungus Man,” due to his unfortunate hair. Odd desperately tries to figure out what's going on, so that he can alert the Chief and hopefully prevent the deaths of many people, including at least one of his friends.

The first few minutes of this movie were a little crazy, with some cheesy stuff and lots of background info-filled flashbacks. The story eventually found its groove and became fairly good, but, in the end, I'm glad I watched this on Netflix and didn't buy it when I spotted it in Walmart a week or so ago.

I hate to say this, since they were supposed to be soulmates, but the movie was at its best when Odd and Stormy were not on screen together. Odd's dialogue didn't always seem natural, but Stormy's was even worse, and that feeling was amplified when they spoke to each other. I also disliked that Stormy was little more than Odd's hot girlfriend. She went to dinner with him, she worried about him and tried to give him courage, and she went to work – that was pretty much it. As far as I can remember, she was given no backstory, which I know was not the case in the book.

The last half of the movie had some really good, heart-pounding moments, but, all in all, this is another one of those instances where the book was better.

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.
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