Monday, May 30, 2016

The Player of Games (book) by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games is science fiction, the second book in Banks' Culture series. I normally try to start with the first book in a series, but I was advised by several people in a reading group to begin with this one.


Gurgeh is possibly the Culture's best game player. He has studied and played games his whole life (somewhere between 60 or 100 years, I wasn't quite sure). The problem is that he's bored. There are few truly new games for him to discover and learn, and few players who are a proper match for him. He yearns to do something no game player has ever done, and that yearning results in a mistake that allows a devious little drone to blackmail him.

Faced with the possibility of a ruined reputation, Gurgeh has no choice but to accept the secret mission Special Circumstances believes he's uniquely suited for. He is to travel to the Empire of Azad, a place outside the Culture, and take part in their biggest and most complex game, a game so important that the empire itself is named after it. The game determines everything, from one's place in the empire to what government position one may hold – and the winner gets to be emperor.

The Goblin Emperor (audiobook) by Katherine Addision, narrated by Kyle McCarley

The Goblin Emperor is a fantasy novel set in an industrial steampunk world.


I read and reviewed the e-book version of The Goblin Emperor only a month ago, so I'm not going to go into too much detail in this review. If you'd like info about the story and how I felt about it, check that review out. My feelings aren't that much different after listening to the audiobook. Here are some new things I can say:

Even though I loved this book enough to immediately look it up on Audible, I wouldn't have bought the audiobook if the narration had irked me. Kyle McCarley was a great fit – he sounded like he could be Maia, and he did a good job differentiating between the various characters. I didn't compare his pronunciation to Katherine Addison's pronunciation guide, so all I could really note was that the way he pronounced Maia's mother's name was correct (I distinctly remember that one, because I realized part of the way through the book that I'd mentally been pronouncing her name wrong, the way the elves would have rather than the way the goblins would have). His pronunciation of everything else seemed consistent, and I don't recall him stumbling over the names or fantasy words even once.

Little Robot (graphic novel) by Ben Hatke

Little Robot is a children's graphic novel.

I've opted not to include any read-alikes for this.


I recently cataloged this for the library where I work. I thought it looked cute, so I checked it out.

The story's pretty short: a little girl (we're never told her name) skips school and goes off to play on her own. A few hours earlier, a box fell out of a truck and landed in a river. The girl finds the box, opens it, and accidentally starts up the robot inside. The girl and robot have fun playing together, but their budding friendship is threatened by their differences (the little robot is aware that it's not human and wants to meet others like itself) and by the large and menacing robot that wants to take the little robot back to its factory.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dragondrums (book) by Anne McCaffrey

Dragondrums is technically sci-fi, but it reads like fantasy. I don't know how it was originally marketed, but nowadays it could work as a YA novel.

I've opted not to include any read-alikes this time around. Also, my review includes character relationship spoilers and possible spoilers for the main storyline.


This final book in the Harper Hall trilogy stars Piemur, the young apprentice who became Menolly's first friend at Harper Hall. Unlike Dragonsinger, which took place immediately after Dragonsong, Dragondrums takes place about three years later (it's mentioned that Menolly has had three Turns of instruction from Master Shonagar).

Piemur is looking forward to singing Lessa's part in Master Domick's newest song, but then something horrible happens: his voice breaks. Piemur's voice was the best thing he had going for him, musically, and there's no telling if he'll still sound as good when it finally settles. In the meantime, Masterharper Robinton has a job for him. He wants Piemur to put his natural gossip collection skills to good use and act as his spy, gathering information about the Oldtimers while pretending to be a regular drum apprentice.

Foreigner (book) by C.J. Cherryh

Foreigner is science fiction.


At the beginning of this book, the starship Phoenix accidentally ends up lost in space, far away from its original destination and anywhere else familiar to its human crew. Approximately 150 years later (I think), it comes across the atevi homeworld. First contact with the atevi is nerve-wracking but appears to go well until a cultural misunderstanding of some sort results in a war that almost wipes the human colonists out. A treaty is established that allows the human colonists to live on a single island, Mospheira, in exchange for sharing information about their more advanced technology via a paidhi, an interpreter and the sole human allowed to live among the atevi.

Approximately 200 years later, we are in the book's present. Bren Cameron is the current paidhi. He thinks he had a good handle on his job and a good relationship with Tabini, the aiji (leader) most closely associated with the human colonists, until he's attacked by an assassin. While assassination is an accepted part of atevi culture, this situation is unheard of for a human paidhi. As Bren tries to figure out what's going on and where he went wrong, he finds himself becoming increasingly isolated, prevented from contacting Mospheira and unsure of who he can trust among the atevi.

His Favorite (manga, vol. 7) by Suzuki Tanaka, translated by Ivana Bloom

His Favorite is a m/m romantic comedy. It's published by SuBLime.

I opted not to include any read-alikes in this post. Check out my posts for volumes 1 through 5 if you'd like some.


Yoshida is secretly still stressing about being a virgin. When he once again meets that cute high school girl who inexplicably has a crush on him (and who he still doesn't realize is Murakami, a guy in drag), he wonders if he might soon have an opportunity to lose his virginity.

After that, the volume focuses on a new transfer student, Takeru Azuma. Azuma hates Yoshida on sight even though, as far as Yoshida knows, they've never met. Nishida may know what's going on, but first Yoshida has to track him down – the guy is constantly busy saving people.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

BookLikes may have been sold

I originally posted this over at BookLikes, but I'll reblog it here in case BookLikes suddenly disappears. Which, considering that no one on the site has had any contact with BookLikes employees since maybe May 19th, is a very real concern.

In light of the stuff reported in my original post, I plan to try to recreate my BookLikes reading lists over at LibraryThing and maybe use a LibraryThing export to get my Goodreads shelves back to something resembling up-to-date. I'm not really a big fan of Goodreads, but I loved the social interaction over at Booklikes, and Goodreads is, as far as I know, the only other site capable of providing something similar. Crossing my fingers that BookLikes continues to exist and thrive.


In case you aren't following the Bug Reports discussion, YouKneeK and I have come across some details that may indicate that Booklikes was sold.

YouKneeK found that Dawid Piaskowski stopped being Booklikes' "CEO and cofounder" in April 2016. I discovered that Joanna Grzelak-Piaskowska, Booklikes' other cofounder and owner, sold Booklikes in 2016 ("After selling to Bauer Media Group in 2015 and BookLikes in 2016, Joanna with her husband are already working on something new."). Considering the info about Dawid, I would guess that the sale happened sometime last month.

I've searched Google and several business and company info databases and have been unable to find anything about the new owner(s). Dawid Piaskowski is still listed as the owner of the site's domain name.

If anyone finds any other info, please let the rest of us know! At the moment, I'm most concerned about the owner's plans. If they intended to keep the site running, wouldn't they have introduced themselves? And, if they didn't intend to keep it running, what did they buy it for? All I can think that they might want is any data it has generated or collected. Which is a little worrisome.


[Additional developments, 5/30/16] BookLikes tweeted this today:

They still haven't commented directly on the site (since May 19th, I think?), although supposedly they will soon.

This response leaves me feeling confused, since it doesn't jibe at all with what was written in The Hundert, but it's possible there was an error in translation or something.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fox's Bride (e-book) by A.E. Marling

Fox's Bride is self-published fantasy. It's 87,190 words long.

I couldn't think of enough read-likes and watch-alikes to make it worth including them as a separate list, but those who'd like another fantasy detective and who enjoyed the tomb raiding scenes might want to watch the movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

Hiresha is visiting Oasis City, a place reminiscent of ancient Egypt, when she has the bad luck to be chosen as the Golden Scoundrel's next bride. True, the Golden Scoundrel is a god inhabiting the body of an incredibly adorable fennec fox, but no matter how adorable he is, Hiresha had always planned on one day marrying a human being. She refuses to agree to marry an animal, especially once she learns that the marriage is supposed to happen in the afterlife. She and the fox are scheduled to be entombed together in four days.

That just won't do, so Hiresha tries to escape with her maid and friend, Janny, and her bodyguard, Chandur. Unfortunately, the Golden Scoundrel disappears at around the same time. Chandur is accused of kidnapping her and stealing the fox and will be put to death in less than two days if Hiresha can't find both the true thief and the fox. And then she still has to figure out how to avoid her own scheduled death.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (e-novella) by Zen Cho

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo is self-published historical chick lit. It's short, only 25,040 words long.

Again, no read-alikes. Only one more review and I'm finally caught up!


This is set in London in 1920. All Jade Yeo (whose real name is Geok Huay) wants is a chance to be a little adventurous and bad for once. She gets her opportunity after writing a negative review of Sebastian Hardie's latest book – the first time they meet, Sebastian seems to be more intrigued by her than upset. Jade likes the idea of a bit of “no strings attached” sex with a handsome man like Sebastian. Unfortunately, life has a way of complicating things.

I'll start off by emphasizing that this is historical chick lit, not romance. Jade gets a happy ending, but if you read this expecting it to be a romance, certain aspects will be extremely off-putting. Heck, I knew the author had categorized it as chick lit, and I was still taken aback by certain details.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Robin Hood (non-Japanese animation, movie), via Netflix

Disney's Robin Hood combines adventure, humor, and romance.

I'm still plowing my way through my review backlog, so no watch-alikes or read-alikes.

In case the story isn't already familiar: Robin Hood and his friend Little John steal everything they possibly can, right out from under Prince John's nose, and give it to the poor (not that this seems to improve anyone's lives much). Robin's life is a risk-filled, care-free existence, but there's one person he can't get out of his head: his childhood sweetheart, Maid Marian. When he hears about an archery contest in which the winner will get a kiss from her, he can't help but want to take part, even though it's obviously a trap designed to capture him.

This was my first time watching this movie in years, maybe since I was a kid. I vaguely remembered having enjoyed it, although not as much as some of Disney's other movies, and I was curious to see whether a re-watch would highlight similarities between Robin Hood and Zootopia's Nick.

Keanu (live action movie) - at the movie theater

Keanu is a comedy.


Rell, a stoner who's just been dumped by his girlfriend, falls head over heels in love with a kitten he finds on his doorstep. What he doesn't know is that the kitten, Keanu, belonged to a gangster who was recently killed in a brutal shootout. After his apartment is broken into and Keanu is stolen, he decides he'll do anything to get his little buddy back and convinces his friend Clarence to help him. Unfortunately, “anything” involves infiltrating a gang and pretending like they, a couple of middle class nerds, are hardcore gangsters. Meanwhile, several other gangsters want Keanu back (everybody loves Keanu).

I wouldn't have realized this movie was coming out or even have considered seeing it if one of my cat-loving coworkers hadn't shown me the trailer. We both thought it looked like an April Fool's joke, but we also both thought Keanu, the kitten, was adorable. Since it costs less than $4 for a matinee ticket in my town, I decided to go see the movie with a friend (another cat-loving coworker) when it came out.

Jurassic Park (audiobook) by Michael Crichton, narrated by Scott Brick

Jurassic Park is a science fiction thriller.


My first exposure to Jurassic Park was the first movie. After seeing that a bunch of times, I read the book. I remember liking both the movie and the book about the same, but for different reasons – the movie had great action scenes and amazing on-screen dinos (the part of me that wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up was thrilled), while the book had a lot more science-y details and a greater variety of dinos.

I spotted this during an Audible sale. I loved Scott Brick's narration in the excerpt, so I decided to take a trip down memory lane and find out how well the book held up. The answer is...not so well.

Texts from Jane Eyre: and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters (audiobook) by Mallory Ortberg, narrated by Zach Villa, Amy Landon

Texts from Jane Eyre: and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters is a humorous collection of texts various famous characters and people might have sent, if they had had the ability to text.


I had previously read a few of these online, and liked them. I wanted to read the book but, with my TBR, who knows when I'd ever have gotten around to getting a copy? When Audible had this on sale for a dollar, I was interested but hesitant. How well would it translate into audio form?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet On My Heart (book) story by Sana Shirakawa, concept by QuinRose, illustrations by Nana Fumitsuki

Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet On My Heart is a novel based on Japanese visual novel/otome game. I decided not to include any read-alikes.


In this book, Alice experiences a “move” and ends up in the Country of Diamonds. Although many of the people are familiar, no one seems to know who she is. The very first people she sees are Elliot and the twins, all of whom try to kill her. Even Blood is suspicious of her, and only starts to unbend a tiny bit after she saves the life of one of his Faceless employees. Alice gradually comes to the conclusion that the Country of Diamonds is Wonderland's past.

Alice settles into the Hatter Mansion as best she can, arranging books in the Hatter family library, attending Survey Meetings, and getting to know this unsettlingly different Blood. Diamonds Blood is a little rougher around the edges than the Blood Alice remembers being friends with in Hearts and Clover, less composed and secure in his position. Part of her wonders if it would have been better for her to stay in someone else's territory, but part of her kind of likes this version of Blood. Still, is it a good idea to get too close to him, or anyone in Diamonds for that matter, when she doesn't have a clue how long she'll get to stay before the next move?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sensation (book) by Nick Mamatas

Sensation is science fiction, but set in the present.

I decided not to bother to include a separate read-alikes/watch-alikes list, because I could barely think of anything to list. A couple I'd suggest, however, are The Matrix (the robots are significantly more sinister than the spiders, but the result is similar) and A. Lee Martinez's Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain (more B movie sci-fi than literary sci-fi, but, like the spiders, Emperor Mollusk has a huge amount of influence and tends to ride around in a fake body).


It all starts with a wasps' nest in Raymond's mother's basement. The wasps are Hymenoepimescis sp., which usually reproduces by attacking the Plesiometa argyra spider and laying its eggs within the spider's abdomen. As the larvae feed off the spider, they change its behavior, compelling it to create a web that can allow them to finish their development. When the spider is done with its work, the larvae kill it. (The spider and wasp species are real – nature is freaky and horrifying.)

Hymenoepimescis sp. doesn't usually build a nest or use humans as its hosts, but in this case it was affected by the unusually high radon levels in Raymond's mother's basement. Julia, Raymond's wife, is attacked by one of these wasps and unknowingly has its eggs injected into her. Over the course of the next few months, the larvae gradually affect her behavior in various ways, until one day she decides to leave Raymond. From that point on, she proceeds to become famous, carrying out an assassination and inspiring a nameless political movement which has no apparent goal. What neither she nor Raymond realizes is that they are both pawns in an ancient war between Hymenoepimescis sp. and Plesiometa argyra.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dragonsinger (book) by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonsinger is technically sci-fi, but it reads like a fantasy school story.


This book picks up right were Dragonsong left off. Menolly arrives at Harper Hall on the back of a bronze dragon, with the Masterharper himself as her traveling companion. The whole thing is more than she could have ever dreamed, but then comes the hard part: making a place for herself at Harper Hall. The Masterharper said that girls could be harpers, but part of her still doubts him and worries that she's only getting a warm welcome because of her fire lizards.

This was another nostalgia reread. Of all the Pern books, this is the one I've reread the most, and not just because I adore Elizabeth Malczynski Littman's cover art. I love fantasy school stories, and that's basically what Dragonsinger is (although the series is technically sci-fi, if you handed this particular book to someone unfamiliar with the series as a whole, they would almost certainly classify it as fantasy). There are no dangerous villains or races against time, just Menolly being tested and then taught by various Masters, making friends and dealing with bullies, and trying to figure out where she fits in.