Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tribes (e-book) by Carmen Webster Buxton

Tribes is science fiction. According to Smashwords, it's 95,955 words long, which worked out to 258 pages on my Nook.

This post has spoilers, but I think I managed to avoid all the major ones.


On the planet of Mariposa, a person's tribe is everything. Tribes protect their members, police them, give them training, and more. In exchange, every tribe member is required to spend a few years in service to their tribe. Each tribe is composed entirely of a single gender. Daughters are always born with a tribe, their mother's. Sons are expected to be given to their fathers and become part of their fathers' tribes. If no one is willing to claim a male child, or if the mother doesn't wish to name the father, then he must be abandoned. Abandoned children become the slaves of whoever finds them first.

Jahnsi Han-Lin has just finished her service for her tribe and is on her way to her father's house when she comes across Hob, a runaway slave. Jahnsi and her family don't approve of slavery, so Jahnsi convinces Hob to come with her so that she can at least get his slave collar off and let him rest a bit before he decides what to do next. Hob understandably freaks out when he learns that Jahnsi's father is a member of the Ortega tribe - it was an Ortega who owned him and rented him out to customers as a sex slave. However, Hob eventually realizes Jahnsi and her family really do want to help him. Figuring out how to give a tribe-less slave a new and better life isn't going to be easy, though. Hob's owner, Andre Ortega, is looking for him.

Meanwhile, LuAnne Mingo, an offworlder, is a finder looking for her client's long-lost nephew - it's not tough to guess who he is. Can she find him before Andre Ortega does?


After finishing The Sixth Discipline, I wanted to try something else by Buxton but didn't feel ready to read the book's sequel, No Safe Haven. I spent some time looking through descriptions, and Tribes sounded like it had one of the biggest things that appealed to me about The Sixth Discipline: an exploration of a fascinating sci-fi/fantasy culture. I was also intrigued by the bit about Jahnsi being from a fighting tribe.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gamerz Heaven (manga, vol. 1) by Maki Murakami

Gamerz Heaven has action, comedy, and fantasy elements. It was licensed by ADV Manga, which no longer exists.


Kaito is a gamer who only exists in the real world because he has to - if he could, he'd do nothing but play games. One day, he gets a mysterious game called Gamerz Heaven in the mail. He has no idea who sent it, and it's a beta release with a limited and unknown number of saves. He decides to give it a try, only to learn that it's a bizarre virtual reality game that turns the real world around him into his gaming environment. A cute little boy called the Navigator (later renamed "Nata") is both his guide and the thing he is required to protect. Every single person in the game wants to both kill Kaito and grab Nata. If Kaito loses, the game villains will use Nata to enter the real world.

To add gravity to the situation, any person who is killed in the game, whether that person is a player or a real-world person who has become Kaito's opponent, disappears from the real world as though they never existed. Also, any property damage that occurs in the game is transferred to the real world. Whether Kaito chooses to continue the game or not, Nata and the real world will still be in danger. Kaito either has to actively protect Nata or watch as the real world is eventually taken over by Gamerz Heaven monsters. Kaito wants to protect Nata, but will a low-level player like him be able to get very far?


I saw this at a used bookstore and picked it up because sometimes I need a little crazy in my reading, and Maki Murakami is good for that. It wasn't until later that I learned that Gamerz Heaven is a 4-volume series, and ADV only put out 2 volumes in English. Which means, unless I hunt down scanlations, I'll never get to finish the series. So annoying...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Boys Over Flowers (live action TV series), via Netflix

Boys Over Flowers is a 25-episode contemporary romance K-drama. I watched the first episode via Crunchyroll, but, because Crunchyroll was having horrific buffering problems, I switched to Netflix for the rest.

This series is based on a manga. I think I've read a little of it, but I can't remember much about it.


Geum Jan Di's family owns a dry cleaning business, and she's attempting to deliver a cleaned school outfit when she realizes one of the school's students is threatening to kill himself while the other students egg him on. She saves the student and ends up in the news, prompting the school (a super-elite place whose students are all from wealthy families) to offer her a full scholarship. Jan Di doesn't really want to attend, but her family forces her to, figuring that attending such a prestigious school will open a lot of doors for her.

It's not long before Jan Di clashes with Goo Joon Pyo, the arrogant head of the F4. The F4, composed of Goo Joon Pyo, Yoon Ji Hoo, Soo Yi Jung, and Song Woo Bin, is known for terrorizing anyone who annoys them or tries to stand up to them. The student Jan Di saved was F4's previous victim, and now it looks like Jan Di might be their next.

Jan Di begins to suspect that one of the F4, Ji Hoo, is not like the rest. He seems kinder and more introspective. Her budding feelings for him face a few roadblocks, however. First, Ji Hoo has an unrequited love he has nursed for years. Second, Joon Pyo has started to mistake Jan Di's resistance to him for hidden romantic feelings.

Things just get more complicated from there: Joon Pyo has an evil mother who tries to destroy Jan Di and everyone she loves, there's a surprise fiancee, sudden amnesia, several scheming sweet-looking girls, etc.


I've seen this show recommended by a lot of K-drama fans, so I decided to give it a shot. To be honest, it took a lot of willpower for me to finish it. There were quite a few storylines I enjoyed, but I was so frustrated by the romance between Jan Di and Joon Pyo that there were several times I almost quit watching.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Demon's Librarian (book) by Lilith Saintcrow

The Demon's Librarian is an urban fantasy book published by ImaJinn Books.


Chess, a librarian, discovered a secret room full of books on demon lore in the library she works at. Using those books, she taught herself how to hunt demons. At the start of the book, she's hunting her very first demon and barely manages to kill it.

Paul and Ryan are demon hunters who have come to Chess' city looking for the very books she discovered in her library. They know that someone working at the library is the key to finding the books. Paul focuses on one of the prettier staff members, while Ryan follows Chess around. Ryan soon realizes that Chess is hiding something and appears to have magical abilities. Unfortunately, Paul has gone missing. The only thing Ryan can do is continue to watch Chess and hope she can somehow lead him to Paul.

Ryan and Chess end up revealing their abilities to each other, and Chess reluctantly starts working with Ryan. The situation becomes a lot more dangerous when Chess' latent abilities become stronger and start to attract increasingly horrific and deadly demons.


I spotted this in a used bookstore and bought it because 1) it had the word “librarian” in the title and 2) the author's name seemed vaguely familiar, although I couldn't remember whether I'd heard good or bad things about her work.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Moonlight's Silver (e-short story) by Rayne Auster

Moonlight's Silver is a paranormal m/m romance story published by Dreamspinner Press. It was 23 pages long on my Nook. The only format it was available in that could immediately be read on my e-reader was PDF. It was readable, but annoying, so I took a stab at converting the .LIT file to EPUB via Calibre, and it converted beautifully.

Just a warning: A while back, I learned that Dreamspinner Press has published several fanfic works with little more than the character names changed (Dear Author commented on it here), a practice which I find to be completely and utterly repugnant. I now rarely buy anything from them, but I had already purchased quite a few of their titles prior to learning this. Moonlight's Silver was one of them. I'm continuing my practice of reviewing as much of what I read and watch as possible, but if I learn at a later date that a particular work I reviewed is P2P (pull to publish) fanfic, I'll edit my review to include that information at the top so that readers can factor it into their buying decisions. No one on Goodreads has tagged Moonlight's Silver as P2P fanfic, so I'm going to assume that it's an original work.


Ankerite is a half-breed, unable to fully shift into either human or wolf form. While growing up, he was protected by a bodyguard. Now that he's out in the world and on his own, the best he can do is hide the parts of himself that aren't fully human and run away when necessary.

When the story begins, Ankerite is running from a werewolf named Cole. He's saved by Linden, who's not happy about another werewolf hunting someone in his territory. Seeing that Ankerite is wounded, Linden carries him back to his place. His kindness bewilders Ankerite, but what will he do once he finds out that Ankerite isn't the full werewolf he believes him to be?


I bought this a while ago, primarily because of its cover art. This cover art, by the way, has very little to do with the actual story. The character on the cover looks like he's probably a grouchy, broody fighter. Ankerite has his wolfie ears, but that's about where the similarities stop. Ankerite's first response to trouble isn't to fight, because he knows he can't possibly win against a true werewolf, but rather to run or hide. I'm pretty sure Ankerite doesn't even have the character on the cover's facial scar.

In my review for Mary Calmes' Change of Heart, I wrote “On the one hand, I consider this book to be really flawed in a lot of ways. On the other hand, Calmes hit on enough of my favorite romance tropes that I was willing to put up with the flaws.” That's pretty much how I feel about this story, too. I've read it maybe three times now. The first time around, I didn't really notice its flaws because I was blinded by the parts of it that appealed to me. The flaws became more obvious after I reread the story. I still enjoyed it, but I'd hesitate to recommend it to other people.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strictly Ballroom (live action movie), via Netflix

Strictly Ballroom is an Australian romantic comedy originally produced in 1992.


Scott Hastings is a superb ballroom dancer who everyone expects will go on to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. No one understands why he seems so determined to throw it all away by dancing his own steps. His dance partner, Liz, abandons him for a partner more likely to stick to the prescribed steps (i.e. one more likely to win). His mother, a dance school instructor, is desperate to get Scott back on track and begins hunting for a new partner for him.

Meanwhile, Fran, a newbie dancer, loves Scott's new steps and asks him if she can be his partner. At first, Scott is dismissive - Fran is an awkward "ugly duckling," hasn't demonstrated any particular skills in his mother's dance school so far, and is so invisible to other people that she might as well be a piece of furniture. However, Fran makes him pay attention to her, and he reluctantly agrees to teach her. If she can improve quickly enough, Scott will dance with her at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Scott and Fran, Scott's mother and several others have plans to partner Scott up with gorgeous champion dancer Tina Sparkle.

As they practice for the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix, Scott and Fran begin to fall for each other, and Fran gradually blossoms. However, when faced with the truth about his mother and father's dancing past, will Scott still be able to dance his own steps with Fran at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix, or will he cave to the pressures of the dancing world and dance the officially recognized steps with someone else?


I first watched Strictly Ballroom years ago, when my mom checked it out from the library. When I saw it was on Netflix, I decided to re-watch it to see if it was as fun as I remembered. The verdict? It was, although this time around the characters' lack of lives (outside of dancing) was more noticeable to me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wing Chun (live action movie), via Netflix

Wing Chun is a Chinese martial arts (wire-fu) movie that features both comedy and romance.


Wing Chun is a female martial arts expert who chooses to dress as a man. A scholar (I think) visits her, hoping to convince her to work for him as a bodyguard/protector. However, since she's probably expensive, he figures he'll convince her to marry him and then just pay her in food. No, he's not very bright.

Meanwhile, a woman named Charmy arrives at the village, desperately looking for something that will cure her sick husband. Every man who sees her is drawn to her beauty, but, even so, no one is willing to help her. After her husband dies, she is forced to sell herself to pay for his funeral. Wing Chun and her aunt (whose name I can't remember, so I'll call her Aunt) want to help her, so Aunt convinces the scholar to pay up, I think by hinting that this might put him in Wing Chun's good graces.

Aunt is delighted with Charmy, whose beauty and traditional femininity attracts all kinds of men to their tofu shop. Leung Pok To arrives in town, hears of Charmy, and assumes she's Wing Chun, the childhood friend of his that he's determined to marry. He mistakes Wing Chun for a man and believes her to be Charmy's lover. Then there's the added complication of some bandits, one of whom is determined to steal Charmy away and marry her, the other of whom wants to beat Wing Chun in a fight to prove that he can "tame" her and then marry her.


I would never have put this in my Netflix queue if it hadn't been for a comment on CarrieS's review of Tai Chi Zero. Even then, I almost quit maybe 10 minutes into it. Something about the colors screamed “old movie” (it was produced in 1994), it looked super cheap, and I was having trouble dealing with the Chinese dialogue. I have no idea how emotions are conveyed in a tonal language like Chinese, and only being able to tell emotions by people's facial expressions took some adjusting.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bunny Drop (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Bunny Drop (aka Usagi Drop) is an 11-episode slice-of-life series. It's based on a manga series but ends before the manga does. This detail is important, because quite a few people, including me, were horrified by the manga's ending. I've only read spoilers, not the actual manga (yet), but, in my opinion, it takes the nice, sweet family relationship developing between Daikichi and Rin and spits on it.

I watched most of this series via Crunchyroll's website, because I had to get it finished before March and the website currently works more smoothly than the Crunchyroll app on my TV. Buffering problems, ahoy.


When Daikichi, a 30-year-old single man, goes to his grandfather's funeral, he learns that his grandfather left behind a 6-year-old love child named Rin. Rin's mother ran off after Daikichi's grandfather died, so the remaining family is trying to decide what to do with her. Realizing that everyone sees Rin as a problem to get rid of, rather than as a family member and little girl in need of care, Daikichi offers to take her.

Daikichi soon learns that there's a lot to taking care of a little girl that he didn't even think of. Since he works full-time, he has to get her enrolled in some kind of nursery school. Rin is pretty good at taking care of herself, but she still needs someone to buy her food and clothing, make sure she doesn't hurt herself in the kitchen, and take care of her when she's sick. When she develops a bed-wetting problem, Daikichi realizes that she's also still trying to process her grief over his grandfather's (her father's) death and her fear that others in her life could die at any moment.

Mostly, this series is about learning what it means to be a parent. At the same time, Daikichi tries to navigate life as a single dad (including potential romance!) and track down Rin's mother.


It seems like Crunchyroll only just added this show to their lineup, and suddenly they announced it was going to be removed. I bumped it to the top of my queue right away – I love sweet slice-of-life stories.

Hiiro no Kakera, Seasons 1 and 2 (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Hiiro no Kakera is a 26-episode fantasy and romance series. It's based on an otome game.

By the way, a few days after posting about my problems with streaming CR on my TV, I got an email from their tech support, stating that the problem lies in the servers I'm streaming with and the service they're being provided by their ISP. They assured me they're working to solve the problem, as it affects users streaming on all non-computer devices (Roku box, Playstation 3, Xbox, Panasonic TVs with Viera Connect, etc.). It's now been about two months since I contacted tech support, and the problem still hasn't been fixed, which is just mind-boggling to me. I'll continue to bring the problem up on this blog as long as it exists. When it has finally been fixed, if that ever happens during the course of my membership (8 more months left!), I'll mention that too.


Tamaki is a high school student who travels to the small village where her grandmother lives, to stay with her for a while. Things don't go as well as Tamaki hoped: she spots a weird-looking round white creature with stick arms and legs, gets attacked by monsters, and is saved by a good-looking-but-cranky guy with magical abilities.

The guy who saved her is Takuma, one of the five guardians of the Tamayori princess. The old Tamayori princess was Tamaki's grandmother. Tamaki is shocked to learn that she's the new Tamayori princess. Her job is to protect the Onikirimaru seals and prevent Onikirimaru, a sword, from releasing its dark power upon the world. The five guardians are supposed to aid her. They are:
  • Takuma: A serious and tough-looking guy who enjoys doing crossword puzzles.
  • Mahiro: An upperclassman who seems to know an awful lot about Onikirimaru and the Tamayori princess but won't say why he knows so much. He's self-conscious about his short height and resents being a guardian, because it prevents him from following his dream of traveling the world.
  • Yuuichi: Another upperclassman. He has a tendency to fall asleep at any time.
  • Suguru: The leader of the guardians, and the eldest. He's polite and reliable and enjoys making tea.
  • Shinji: He appears later on in the series. He has a strong desire to prove that he's a useful guardian, and he seems to have a history with Mitsuru, a girl who works at the Tamayori shrine.
Logos is a group that opposes them and wishes to steal the Artifacts and claim Onikirimaru for themselves. If Tamaki and her guardians can't stop them, Onikirimaru may bring about the end of the world.


I started watching this series for the same reason I've watched shows like Uraboku, Hakuoki, and Brave 10 – the art style attracted me, and I looked forward to watching a cast composed mostly of gorgeous guys. I knew going into it that it was based on an otome game. To my knowledge, I've only ever seen one other anime (Hakuoki) based on an otome game and it kind of sucked. Its pacing was excruciatingly slow, and its heroine was a useless moron who turned the men around her into wet washcloths. The best thing about the show was its artwork. Would Hiiro no Kakera be better? I certainly hoped so.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I'm so very behind...

I seem to have some kind of reader's block at the moment, and I also haven't been getting through TV series as quickly. Somehow, this hasn't stopped me from building up a nice list of things I've finished and need to review. Here's what you can (hopefully) expect me to be publishing full posts about soon.
  • Hiiro no Kakera (anime TV series) - An ordinary high school girl learns that she's not so ordinary after all - she's actually the Tamayori princess. Also, she has five gorgeous guardians. Of course. Too bad they suck at their jobs. This series took me ages to get through, and not just because Crunchyroll is still having buffering issues. Even so, it's still better than, say, Hakuoki or Brave 10. The series' otome game origins are incredibly obvious if you watch past the closing credits of each of the episodes. Now I kind of wish I could play the game.
  • Hogfather (live action TV mini-series) - This is based on the book by Terry Pratchett. It has several of my favorite things: Susan, the Assassin's Guild, and Death. This adaptation was, as far as I could tell, PSA-free. After experiencing Going Postal's heavy-handed anti-smoking message, I was thankful of this. However, for some reason Hogfather didn't grab me as much as Going Postal did.
  • Bunny Drop (anime TV series) - I watched this via Crunchyroll and, once again, cursed their buffering issues - what kind of business lets a tech support problem go on for 2+ months? Anyway, this series is about a single, 30-year-old man named Daikichi who goes to his grandfather's funeral and learns that his grandfather left behind a 6-year-old love child. No one in the family wants to take her in, so Daikichi says he'll do it. During the course of the series, Daikichi gradually adjusts his life so that he can be a better caretaker for Rin. He gets her signed up for school, tries to help her with her grief and fears about death, takes care of her when she's sick, etc. He also tries to find out more about Rin's mother and begins to fall for the divorced mother of one of Rin's friends. It's a wonderful series, and I highly recommend it to fans of sweet and relaxing slice-of-life stories. Unfortunately, the spoilers I've read of the end of the manga tainted my viewing experience. Thank goodness the anime ends before the manga does.
  • Boys Over Flowers (live action TV series) - I watched the first episode via Crunchyroll, couldn't stand the buffering issues anymore, and switched to Netflix for the rest. I spent a lot of this series yelling at the characters, and I do not think Jan Di ended up with the best guy. Yi Jung and Ga Eul's romance alternately made me squee and want to punch Yi Jung. And there were so many musical montages, omg. I've seen this show recommended over and over again whenever anyone asks for K-drama contemporary-set romance reccs. It did have some really great moments, but, overall, I still prefer Coffee Prince.
  • Tribes (e-book) by Carmen Webster Buxton - Carmen Webster Buxton looks to be a good go-to author for me when I need a "complex and interesting sci fi culture" fix. This book takes place on a planet where the tribe you're born into is everything, and your tribe is determined by the tribe of whichever of your parents is the same sex as you. Those who have no tribe become someone's slave. The story is composed of two main threads. One follows Hob, a sex slave who has run away. He's taken in by Jahnsi and her family, who try to protect him. The other follows LuAnne Mingo, whose goal is to find the long-lost nephew of a very powerful client of hers. I loved the cultural stuff, and I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen when the characters in the two story threads finally crossed paths. The ending and the romantic aspects didn't make me quite as happy, though. More details when I finally write a full post.