Sunday, January 27, 2013

Locks of Love: A Modern Gay Fairy Tale (e-short story) by Jordan Castillo Price

Locks of Love is a m/m retelling of the Rapunzel story. This second edition is published by JCP Books. The author's site lists its word count as 10,200, which came out to 31 pages on my Nook, 37 if you count the author's note at the end. I don't usually buy works that short, but I've read and loved several of Jordan Castillo Price's works. I figured Locks of Love would probably be worth it.


This story is set in a contemporary-feeling world in which everyone has some sort of "gift." Sometimes it's something useful, sometimes it's not. Hal's gift is the ability to talk to doors. He can convince just about any door to open without a key. Although being a thief would probably have been a more lucrative profession, Hal opted to become a locksmith instead.

After finishing a job in a nasty part of town, Hal is about to leave when he spots a gorgeous guy with auburn hair in a window. The guy, Micha, asks for his help escaping. Hal is skeptical and suspects some kind of scam or trap, but when Micha tells him to come back at midnight, he does. After seeing a scary-looking biker climb up to Micha's window, Hal tries to get to Micha's room by more conventional means, only to discover that his room isn't reachable by any doors. With his gift effectively useless, Hal will have to figure out some other way to save Micha.


Even knowing this story was written by JCP and was therefore probably good, I still hesitated to buy it. Several reviews stated that it was too short. Since that's a common complaint I have about short stories and novellas, it was a good bet I'd feel the same. Still, when a sale came around, I bought it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Strobe Edge (manga, vol. 1) story & art by Io Sakisaka

Strobe Edge features a mix of romance and comedy. I got it via interlibrary loan.

This post contains SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.


Ninako has never been in love, so when everyone around her tells her she loves Daiki, because she's been friends with him for ages and because he clearly likes her back, she believes them. She wonders about all of this, though, because she's strangely reluctant to take the next step and be Daiki's girlfriend.

Then she meets Ren during her train ride home. He has always felt so far away from her, like a pop idol you can see and sigh over, but never touch. It turns out that he's actually a really nice guy, if quiet and maybe kind of shy. After he accidentally causes Ninako to drop her phone and her cell phone charm breaks, he goes out of his way to find another one he thinks she might like and gives it to her as a present. As Ninako witnesses more of his acts of kindness, she begins to fall in love with him, although she doesn't recognize what those feelings are, at first.

Meanwhile, Daiki notices Ninako's budding feelings for Ren before she does, and he's not happy. In an attempt to nip things in the bud, he tells Ninako something about Ren she doesn't know: he's dating Daiki's sister, a gorgeous model. Things start to get a little out of control when Daiki finally confesses his feelings and everyone around Ninako assumes they're dating, but Ninako knows what she has to do. Even if her feelings aren't reciprocated, she can't change them, and dating Daiki under those conditions wouldn't be right.


I had problems getting into this manga. Ninako seemed nice, and I loved the bit where she told Ren “If somebody does something for me, I appreciate it, no matter what it is” when he thought he'd given her a cell phone charm that wasn't to her taste. However, she also seemed dumb as a rock, and way too easily manipulated. I get that Sakisaka was trying to show readers that she had no experience with love and had no idea what that emotion felt like, but it was like she didn't have a clue about any emotions, not just love. She interprets her reactions to Ren as the beginnings of a cold, rather than as emotional reactions. This was played more seriously than humorously, and all it did was lower my opinion of Ninako's intelligence even further.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Cadaver Client (e-novella) by Frank Tuttle

The Cadaver Client is a mix of fantasy and mystery. It's published by Samhain Publishing. According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 25,300 words long, which came out to 65 pages on my Nook, if you don't count the 9 pages of excerpts at the end. According to this page, it's the third story in Tuttle's Markhat series, although those first three could be read in pretty much any order.


In this story, Mama Hog gets Markhat involved in yet another dangerous case. She brings in the seemingly crazy Granny Knot, who is introduced as being a spook doctor (she can see and speak to spirits). Granny Knot turns out to not be as crazy as she acts, even if the case she has brought Markhat is supposedly on behalf of a ghost.

The ghost says his name is Sellway. Before he died, he was a soldier and, for whatever reason, he found himself unable to go home to his wife and child. Now that he's dead, he feels guilty about that. He amassed a fortune in the years before his death, and he'd like Markhat to deliver it to his wife and child. Markhat agrees to take on the case, which turns out to be twistier than he expects.


The Cadaver Client was more of what I enjoyed in The Mister Trophy and Dead Man's Rain. Markhat (who I realized still doesn't have a first name) was, as usual, snarky, smart, and in possession of a strong sense of justice, and the mystery itself was interesting. Unfortunately, some of the things I disliked about Dead Man's Rain were also present in this story.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates (e-short story) by Arabella Wyatt

Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates is a mix of historical adventure and science fiction. I suppose I should call it steampunk, but that doesn't quite seem to fit - to me, characters developing new abilities via science fiction-y methods does not necessarily equal steampunk. Anyway, the story is 18,442 words long, which came out to 44 pages on my Nook. It's published by Devine Destinies.

I suppose I should give a spoiler warning, except even the publisher's description spoils the whole story.


When Admiral Johnson announces his plan to start his own slave trade in the Caribbean, Captain Hartwell and the more loyal members of Hartwell's crew try to stand against him. Unfortunately, they are outnumbered, and so their best option becomes escape. After a fireball misses the ship and hits the ocean, Hartwell and his crew see an opportunity to escape. When they notice what appears to be a person floating in the ocean, Hartwell rushes to rescue them. The person turns out to be a silver skeleton, which Hartwell somehow instantly recognizes as belonging to a beautiful woman. Her flesh and organs reform before everyone's eyes, leaving Hartwell with a naked silver woman in his arms.

Hartwell's sister, Susanna, helps the woman, who calls herself Mechatronic, find clothes. It is quickly apparent that Mechatronic has amazing abilities, but Hartwell has other things to worry about. His new crew is too small, and his new ship is ancient and falling apart. He hopes to at least pick up more crew members at an abandoned pirate town. Unfortunately, several of Admiral Johnson's men catch up to them there. It's at that point that Hartwell and several of his crew learn that, in the process of rescuing Mechatronic, they were changed on a fundamental level and now have strange new abilities.


This story and I did not start off on the best footing, although I tried not to let that affect my opinion of it. When I first purchased it, All Romance Ebooks listed its word count as 184,420. Although I had never read anything by Wyatt before and had no experience with Devine Destinies, the book's description made it sound like a fun, fast-paced adventure, and $3.99 seemed like a nice price to pay for something of that length. You can imagine my shock when I opened up the file on my Nook and saw that it was only 44 pages. I contacted ARe, which tried and failed to get in touch with Devine Destinies and finally just corrected the word count on their product page using the info from the Devine Destinies site.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Midnight Riot (book) by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight Riot is the first book in Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series. I'd call it urban fantasy.

Janine's review of this book over at Dear Author was what first brought it to my attention. I eventually checked it out via interlibrary loan.


Probationary Constable Peter Grant is keeping watch at the scene of a murder when he meets a ghost who happens to be the sole witness to the crime. Peter is shocked and a little freaked out, but he does his job and questions the witness, which is how he learns that the murderer has a super-human ability to change his face and knock people's heads clean off.

Soon, Peter comes to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the one and only member of a special branch of London's Metropolitan Police. Nightingale's job is to make sure that magic and magical beings don't cause so much trouble that ordinary humans start to notice them, and Peter is his new apprentice. They spend the book dealing with two primary issues: a bunch of murders, and a territorial dispute between Mother and Father Thames. Although the murders are all committed by different people, they each have magic and sudden, inexplicable violence in common. And also, the murderer's face always falls off afterwards.


This is one of those cases where my enjoyment of the main character's voice eclipsed my issues with the story. I loved Peter Grant. He had a dry, snarky, and often self-deprecating sense of humor, even when describing his work, London, or his childhood. When Nightingale took him on and started teaching him magic, he didn't begin to morph into a Gary Sue – his training involved lots and lots of repetition and practice, and he didn't become a magical whiz just in time for the final showdown with the killer. His strength lay in his ability to deal with people, including the not-quite-human sorts, and his interest in information of all sorts. I have no idea how much of it was true, but I loved all the little London details.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Vor Game (e-book) by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vor Game is military science fiction, part of Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. It's included in the Young Miles omnibus published by Baen Books. The Vor Game was approximately 267 pages long on my Nook.


Miles, newly graduated from the Academy, is brilliant, but he has one teenie tiny problem: he's not a very good subordinate. Miles desperately wants ship duty, and he's told he'll get it...if he can manage to spend 6 months on Kyril Island as the new Meteorology Officer, keep out of trouble, and properly follow all orders given to him. Miles doesn't know a thing about meteorology, but that turns out to be the least of his problems, and it's not long before he joins a mutiny. He had good reasons for his actions, but still, it wasn't exactly what he'd been sent there to do. Count Vorkosigan, Miles' father, and Simon Illyan, Chief of Barrayaran Imperial Security, come up with another job for Miles, something perhaps more suitable for him, and give him one order: do as Captain Ungari tells you.

It doesn't take long for things to go wrong. Miles finds himself separated from Ungari, imprisoned multiple times, cycling between three different identities (Miles Vorkosigan, small-time arms dealer Victor Rotha, and Admiral Naismith), and desperately trying to rescue Emperor Gregor Vorbarra from a clever and seductive woman named Cavilo.


Although I took a break while reading this in order to gorge on movies and TV, I really did enjoy it at least as much as The Warrior's Apprentice. Miles was a bit more grown-up in this one, and had a better idea of just how much trouble he could get himself into.

Miss Minoes (live action movie), via Netflix

Miss Minoes is a Dutch comedy/fantasy based on a children's novel by Annie M.G. Schmidt. I learned about it via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.


Tibbe is a shy reporter who's been given an ultimatum by his boss - either turn in an article containing actual news tomorrow, or get a new job. Luckily for Tibbe, he meets Miss Minoes, a cat who has transformed into a young woman who retains various feline behaviors, like a desire to play with dangling things and eat mice. Miss Minoes collects news from the various neighborhood cats and reports it to Tibbe in return for fish and a place to stay. It's a good arrangement for the both of them, until Miss Minoes begins reporting things Tibbe can't quite bring himself to believe: that Ellemeet, the town's benefactor and president of the Pet Lover's Society, knocked over a fish stand, is abusive towards cats, and may be doing other nefarious things.

Eventually, though, Tibbe starts to believe what Miss Minoes has been telling him. Getting the rest of the town to believe him is another matter entirely, but Miss Minoes, the other cats, and Bibi, a young girl who likes to visit Tibbe and Miss Minoes, have an idea.


SB Sarah liked this a bit more than I did, which is not to say I thought it was a bad movie. It had a “children's movie” simplicity to it that didn't always sit well with my adult brain, but Miss Minoes was charming enough that I still enjoyed the movie overall.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Un-Go (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Un-Go is an 11-episode mystery series with supernatural and sci-fi elements.


This series takes place in a futuristic Japan that has recently survived a major war and several terrorist attacks. Many people are still adjusting to their post-war positions - things they did that seemed right and just during the war are suddenly deemed wrong and/or illegal.

The series looks at the investigations of Shinjurou, known as the "Defeated Detective." Every time he solves a mystery, Rinroku Kaishou swoops in with another solution - except, as it turns out, Shinjurou is pretty good at solving crimes, and Kaishou is equally as good at tidying things up so that influential people won't face any blame or embarrassment.

Shinjurou has a partner/boss named Inga. Usually, Inga appears to be a playful young boy/girl (Crunchyroll's subtitling says that this version of Inga is a boy, although I don't know if that was a translator decision or not). At times, however, Inga transforms into a sexy woman. In that form, Inga can ask a person one question, and that person must answer truthfully.

A good portion of the series is composed of 1- or 2-episode mysteries. Shinjurou observes things, asks questions, investigates, and, when the time comes, he tells Inga who to talk to and what question to ask. Usually, one or more members of the police follows Shinjurou around, so they can swoop in and cover up anything he discovers that might be politically embarrassing.


My synopsis is terrible – it makes this series seem much more boring than it is. My biggest complaint about Un-Go is that it's too short to properly explore the world and characters packed into it.