Saturday, May 31, 2014

Liege-Killer (e-book) by Christopher Hinz

Liege-Killer is science fiction. It was one of my library e-book checkouts.


I checked this book out because it was in Freading's “space opera” section, I liked the cover, and the description was coherent and made it sound like I'd be in for a lot of action. I'm happy to say that my decision was a good one, and I fully intend to download the second book in the trilogy once I've finished writing this review. Although this was originally published in 1987, it has aged pretty well.

At the beginning of Liege-Killer, someone has gone to the ruins of Earth and secretly revived two people from stasis. Those people turn out to be Reemul, a deadly Paratwa. Each Paratwa is a single mind that happens to have two bodies, called tways. One tway can maneuver a target while the other one swoops in for the kill.

A few hundred years ago, a few thousand Paratwa were responsible for the deaths of millions of humans. They were halted only by the Apocalypse (Earth, ruined to the point of being unlivable) and E-Tech, a group that believed science had run amok and should be tightly locked down and controlled. In the book's present, E-Tech is still in power, but only just. Then the Paratwa Reemul reappears and goes on periodic killing sprees, and E-Tech gradually regains the public's support.

I don't know if there's another, better subgenre term for it, but the bulk of this book was basically a science fiction thriller. Readers got various pieces of the overall puzzle via a variety of perspectives: Rome, the head of E-Tech; Paula, a single mother who witnessed a Paratwa attack; Bishop Vokir of the Church of the Trust; and Gillian, an experienced Paratwa killer from the past who was revived in the book's present. The various revelations and twists had me at the edge of my seat, although there was a big one that I guessed several hundred pages in advance. I couldn't wait to see what the Paratwa were planning, why they were doing it all, and whether Rome, Gillian, and the rest of E-Tech would manage to learn key pieces of information in time.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pandora Hearts (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Pandora Hearts is a 25-episode fantasy series.


Oz, Duke Vessalius' heir, has just turned 15 and is taking part in his coming-of-age ceremony when everything goes horribly wrong. A group of people in cloaks attack Oz, and Oz hurts his servant and closest friend, Gil, possibly killing him. Before Oz can figure out what's going on and learn of Gil's fate, he is dragged into the Abyss. While in the Abyss, he meets a powerful Chain named Alice, a.k.a. B Rabbit (Black Rabbit). Although most Chains look like beasts, Alice looks like a girl. In order to save both Alice and himself, Oz forms a contract with her.

Shortly after that, Oz and Alice manage to go back to Oz's world. The two of them, along with Break, Sharon Rainsworth, and Raven, work to find Baskerville, the group that plunged Oz into the Abyss, and deal with illegal contractors. While in the process of doing that, Oz and Alice hope to locate the fragments of Alice's memories.


Pandora Hearts started off slowly enough that I wasn't sure if I'd make it through the whole thing. It took more episodes than I expected for all the characters to appear and the basic story to be laid out. There were some interesting elements, but they felt like things that had been cobbled together from other series: the close master-servant relationship, the Chains (dangerous monsters) that could have contracts with certain individuals, the battles with illegal contractors, etc.

For a while, it looked like the show might turn out to be “monster of the week” coupled with “heart-breaking minor character's story of the week,” with occasional snippets of Alice's memories to keep things from becoming too boring. There were hints of mysteries, but I wasn't initially impressed with those, because at least one of them was so blindingly obvious I can't bring myself to consider it a spoiler, even though it wasn't revealed until six episodes in. When Oz got back from the Abyss, several years had gone by without him realizing it, and the mysterious young man known as Raven was actually his faithful friend and servant, Gil. The character designs for child and adult Gil could not have made that “revelation” more obvious.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One Bloody Thing After Another (e-book) by Joey Comeau

One Bloody Thing After Another is horror, but it's more unsettling than scary. It was one of my library e-book checkouts.

There are slight spoilers near the end, in the "Additional Comments" section.


So. This book was kind of unpleasant. And yet I read it in one sitting, without intending to. I guess that means it was good?

There are basically three storylines, each following different characters. There is Ann, her little sister Margaret, and their mother. There is Jackie, Ann's friend. And there is Charlie and his nearly blind dog, Mitchie.

Everything starts off with Ann and Margaret's mother, who isn't feeling well, to the point that she coughs up a bloody chunk of...something...during an interview. She quickly deteriorates into a mindless monster that craves meat. But not just any meat. No, she needs live animals. Margaret and Ann care for her for a while, until Margaret gets bit and becomes like her mother. Ann continues to search for live animals, while doing her best to hide the horror brewing inside her house from everyone outside, including Jackie.

Jackie is in love with Ann but doesn't know if Ann feels the same way about her. Jackie is also a mess. Ever since her mother died of cancer, she's been living with her father. The only thing that gives her even a little control over her emotions and violent impulses are the trees she has mentally connected with specific events in her life. When she learns that one of those trees has been cut down, she loses it and the police have to be called. Luckily for her, she has a special trick up her sleeve.

Charlie is an elderly man who walks his elderly dog along the same route every day. Every day, he visits the same woman and tries to figure out how to get his own particular horror to finally leave him alone, and, every day, he fails.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance (graphic novel) written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated and designed by Dave McKean

I'm not sure what genre to assign The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. "Realistic graphic novel"? It has a sort of faux-memoir feel.

I checked it out via ILL.


A while back, Rose posted a request on BookLikes for amusement park/theme park book recommendations, and this was one of mine. I hadn't read it in years, so I figured a reread was in order.

The title is long, so, from here on out, I'll just refer to it as Mr. Punch. The narrator of Mr. Punch is an adult recalling his childhood, in particular an extended period of time he spent with his grandfather, his father's father, before the birth of his younger sister. When he was a boy, those were just days he spent at his grandfather's arcade, hearing the mermaid sing and learning about Punch and Judy shows from Professor Swatchell. As an adult, those memories took on greater significance, because of disturbing things they revealed, or almost revealed, about the narrator's past and his family.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Clytie's Caller (e-short story) by Sharon E. Cathcart

Clytie's Caller is a self-published Regency romance story.


I won this in a BookLikes giveaway held by the author.

This short story takes place in England in 1816. Clytemnestra, nicknamed Clytie, used to enjoy going out and meeting people. Then something happened, and she became fearful and nervous around others and often resisted leaving her room. Her behavior threatened to have an effect on her family's standing and her brother's relationship with his fiancee, Isabel. Only Samuel, a doctor and a cousin of Isabel's, seemed to know what to do. He promised that he could help Clytie become more like her old self. What he didn't count on was that his feelings of sympathy and compassion might blossom into love.

I had seen Clytie's Caller in the Smashwords store but ultimately decided against buying it. The heroine's name didn't appeal to me, and I was doubtful that 6,270 words would be enough for a believable romance. When the story popped up as a giveaway, I decided it was at least worth trying for free.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snap! And the Alter Ego Dimension (e-book) by Ann Hite Kemp, illustrated by Zak Kemp

Snap! And the Alter Ego Dimension is a YA science fiction adventure. I think. It was one of my library e-book checkouts.


I was browsing Freading when this book caught my eye. I'm a sucker for “stuck in a video/computer game” stories, so I decided to download it. I'm honestly not sure whether this is a middle grade or young adult book. Most of the characters are 17 or 18 years old, so I'm guessing it's a young adult book, but it reads like it was written for a middle grade audience. Plus, it's illustrated, which is more common for middle grade books than for YA.

The story: Tammy, a South African teen, is hurt when her boyfriend Wayne loudly and publicly laughs at her pimple. While looking up some information on the Internet for him, she finds herself thinking that she'd like to be more like his gorgeous ex-girlfriend. Suddenly, a pop-up appears on her computer that won't go away. “Do you want to play Snap?” it asks. Answering “no” doesn't accomplish anything, so, given no other choice, Tammy answers “yes” and is sucked into the Alter Ego Dimension.

The Alter Ego Dimension is a gray place with visibility of five meters in any direction. Each person transported there brings with them anything they have on them and whatever was reflected in their monitor when they were transported. Poor Tammy is transported while wearing only her bikini, and suddenly finds herself in a fight for her life against her evil alter ego, whose goal is to overpower her, enter her world, and take over her life.

Tammy is saved by two Japanese teenagers, Etsu and Hiroshi. Later, the three of them are joined by Ulrich, a German teen, and Nick, an Australian. Somehow, they have to find a way to survive in the Alter Ego Dimension, which has no food or water beyond what others might have been transported with, and defeat their alter egos.

I'll start by saying that this was not what I expected to read. Snap isn't really a game, and no one ever plays it – the pop-up sucks people into the Alter Ego Dimension, they have to fight their alter ego, and that's it. I wouldn't call this a “sucked into a video/computer game” story.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Medusa (e-book) by Tony Talbot

Medusa is self-published YA science fiction.

This review includes some spoilers.

I'm not happy with my read-alikes/watch-alikes list, but I decided it was never going to get much better, so I might as well post my review.


I won this in a BookLikes giveaway held by the author. Tony Talbot is one of the reviewers BookLikes automatically assigned to me to follow when I first joined the site. His reviews were interesting, so I continued to follow him. I didn't know much about Medusa other than that its description made it sound like it might be a good fit for me, but I knew that Talbot wasn't shy about giving books lower star ratings, and I respected that.

I had some serious mental readjusting to do at the beginning of this book. I hadn't bothered to reread the description before starting and assumed it was science fiction with spaceships in space. As pretty as the cover is, I think it contributed to my confusion. Medusa is actually science fiction with a boat in the ocean. Lissa, the book's 16-year-old main character, has spent her whole life on the ocean, to the point that she can't remember which plants are “trees” and which are “grass.” I was reminded a bit of Waterworld (but, slight spoiler, that's not what's going on here).

Lissa Two's family used to be safe and comfortable, until her father died. Then they had to move to a poorer level in their sea-stead. Lissa's mother turned to prostitution to pay the bills, but even that didn't bring enough money in, so Lissa became a thief. After Lissa's mother died of water-plague, Lissa was saddled with her debts and Lissa Three, her mentally ill younger sister. It was lucky for Lissa that Connie found her.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Avalon High (live action movie), via Netflix

Avalon High is a mix of fantasy and romance. It's based on a book by Meg Cabot, which I have yet to read. I think I might have read one of the OEL manga volumes based on the book, but I can't remember a thing about it.

I knew before I started watching this that it would probably not be the best thing ever. Everyone in this movie is a stereotype, and the dialogue is kind of awful (The hot jock actually says this at one point, and it's not supposed to be dorky: “Listen. Hear the wind in the trees. It' music.”). Other than a few twists near the end, though, I'd consider this one of those “so bad it's almost good” kind of movies.

The basic story is this: Allie's used to being the new girl – she moves around a lot, because of her parents' work. This time, though, they've moved somewhere and plan to be there for three whole years. Allie is thrilled at the thought of finally being able to join and properly take part in the track team. She meets Will, a hot jock, while out running, and it seems like romance might be in her future as well.

Or not. It turns out Will already has a girlfriend, Jennifer. Allie tries to ignore her feelings while still being friends with Will. She finds another friend in the prickly, socially awkward Miles. She and Miles are paired together for a class project on the Order of the Bear, a topic which Allie's Arthurian scholar parents are only too happy to tell her about. It turns out that King Arthur has been prophesied to return, very soon, and the details point to Will being the reincarnation of King Arthur. This wouldn't be a problem, except that Mordred has also been reincarnated and is working to destroy Arthur/Will.

Like I said, everyone was a stereotype. Miles was the nerd who was picked on by bullies, Marco was the snarling bully, Will was the football player feeling pressured by others' expectations and his own need for a scholarship, and Jennifer was his pretty, cheating cheerleader girlfriend. Britt Robertson (Allie) and Gregg Sulkin (Will) had zero chemistry together, and I had problems remembering that Will was supposed to be the hot jock. On the plus side, Britt Robertson and Joey Pollari (Miles) played off each other well and were much more believable as friends than Robertson and Sulkin were as a potential couple.

Despite the cheesiness and predictability, I was actually kind of enjoying the movie, up until the twists near the end (which, according to the film's Wikipedia page, were invented for the movie and did not come from the original book). Those twists take all the previous Arthurian legend setup and blow it to bits, and then make no attempt to explain how the new pieces fit together. Warning: I'm including major spoilers from this point on.

The MacGregor Grooms (book) by Nora Roberts

The MacGregor Grooms is a contemporary romance. You could call it an anthology, since it contains three separate stories. For that reason, I will allow myself to be lazy and not include a read-alikes section.


It's been years since I last read or reread any of Nora Roberts' books. Her books used to be my top picks when I needed romance novels that were guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, I read too many in a row at one point and burned out on her. She works best for me in small doses, spaced far apart, so that I'm not so painfully aware of her character types and the patterns in her stories.

The MacGregor Grooms was, I think, the very first Nora Roberts book I ever read and fell in love with. I had previously tried one of her romantic suspense books and couldn't stand it, so this was a pleasant surprise. In general, Roberts writes good “large, loud, happy family” books, and The MacGregor Grooms is an excellent example.

This book is composed of three novellas, each starring one of Daniel MacGregor's grandchildren. I suppose each novella could work on its own, but, as a set, they're far stronger. Read together, they really drive home the “large, loud, happy family” theme. It's hard to imagine anything truly horrible happening to this family, but, if something did, they'd band together and weather it just fine. It was, for me, a very cozy and comforting reread.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

LibraryThing - "Vous et nul autre" update

One of the book sites I use is LibraryThing, which, once you get past the learning curve, has some nice features. I just found out that the "Vous et nul autre" feature (found under: Home > Stats/Memes > Memes) got an update a couple days ago. It used to just show you which books you shared with one other member. Now it shows you which you share with 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 other members.

Maybe useless to some, but I like it as a "What should I read and review next?" tool, since sometimes it's nice to review something that dozens or hundreds of people haven't already added to their collections and reviewed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hawksong (book) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Hawksong is YA fantasy, the first in the author's Kiesha'ra series. I bought it at a used bookstore.


This one was a reread. I think I read it when it first came out. For some reason, I never read any more of the series or any of the author's other books.

The avian shapeshifters and the serpiente have been at war for so long that no one can remember how the fighting started. Danica, soon to be named leader of the avian shapeshifters, is tired of all the killing. Zane, the leader of the serpiente, feels the same way. A political marriage between the two of them may be the solution they're looking for, if they can overcome generations of hatred and their own feelings of distrust.

This book had several things going for it. It was incredibly readable – I gobbled it up in a day. It featured a tense political marriage that eventually blossomed into affection and love – yay! And it had unusual shapeshifters (birds, serpents, and, briefly, tigers).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Story of Lee (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Sean Michael Wilson & Chie Kutsuwada

The Story of Lee is a look at the life of a young woman in Hong Kong. Maybe contemporary family drama with a side of romance? It was one of my e-book checkouts.

This review contains spoilers.


The Story of Lee focuses on Lee's relationship with her family, her love of British music, her desire to go to London, and her attraction to Matt, a handsome foreign man.

Lee is in her early twenties and lives in Hong Kong. On the one hand, she is told she must show her father respect and keep in mind his wishes for her. On the other hand, Lee feels like her father's wishes for her are stifling her. She doesn't know what to do, but she's not happy with the way things currently are.

Lee's father couldn't be more obvious about his desire for Lee to marry Wang. There isn't anything wrong with Wang – he makes decent money and seems to like her – but Lee isn't at all interested in him. She goes on one date with him because her father basically forces her to, but she makes it clear that there will be no kissing or anything else. And all thoughts of Wang fly completely out of her head when she meets Matt.

Matt is handsome, blond, and British (Scottish?), and he writes poetry. Once Lee and Matt find an opportunity to talk, they realize they get along pretty well. They talk about British music, poetry, and more. It was nice to see Lee fully relax around someone and have a frank, open, and easy conversation with them. At first, I liked Lee and Matt's relationship.