Sunday, March 29, 2015

She's Gotta Be Mine (e-book) by Jennifer Skully

She's Gotta Be Mine is a mix of women's fiction, romantic comedy, and romantic suspense. It's the first book in Skully's Cottonmouth series and has a word count of 99,550.

Review:

This was one of my freebie downloads from a couple years ago, although it looks like it's no longer free. It was better than I expected it to be, but I was not the right audience for it.

Roberta Jones Spivey is upset. Warren, her husband of fifteen years, has left her for Cookie, the high school sweetheart he never got over. Roberta is forty years old and has felt unloved and unattractive for years, and this is the last straw. She decides to remake herself as Bobbie, a sexy and adventurous redhead, follow Warren to the small town of Cottonmouth, California, and show him what he's missing.

Bobbie gets herself a job as a waitress, learns about the locals and their complicated relationships and histories, and flirts with both Nick, a supposed serial killer, and Brax, the sheriff. Everything's going great until she starts to wonder what it is she's really trying to accomplish. Then someone turns up murdered, and Bobbie, afraid that the wrong person will be blamed, starts asking everyone uncomfortable questions.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Another (book) by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Karen McGillicuddy

Another is a Japanese mystery/horror novel published by Yen Press.

Review:

This book was adapted into an anime, which I've already seen and reviewed. It's been a while since I last saw the anime, but I think it was a fairly faithful adaptation, with the only differences I can recall being a trip to the beach that was entirely invented for the anime and slight differences in the way some students died at the end.

This book is set in 1998 and begins with Koichi in the hospital, recovering after one of his lungs spontaneously collapsed for the second time. He had previously been a student in Tokyo, but, with his father gone to India for his job, he temporarily moved to the small town of Yomiyama to live with his grandparents and Reiko, his aunt. He was supposed to start as a transfer student in third-year Class 3 at North Yomi middle school, but his health issues delayed things.

When he's finally able to start school, Koichi soon notices that his classmates and teachers are behaving strangely, but he isn't able to pinpoint what's going on. Are they all acting oddly because he's new, or is it something else? Koichi finds himself drawn to Mei, a mysterious girl with an eye patch who keeps issuing vague warnings and who no one besides Koichi ever seems to talk to. It isn't until far too late that he learns the details about the curse that has affected North Yomi's third-year Class 3 for 26 years.

Dune (audiobook) by Frank Herbert, read by Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, and others

Dune is science fiction.

I've opted not to include a read-alikes list.

Review:

I started listening to this audiobook for several reasons. One, it was long (22 hours), which meant I wouldn't have to pick another book for a while. Two, it looked like a full-cast audiobook, and I was in the mood for one of those. And three, I had read it when I was a teen but couldn't remember much about it, so I figured a re-read (or re-listen) was in order. I think most of my memories of the series actually came from the 2000 miniseries.

Less happened in this book than I originally remembered. It begins when Paul Atreides is 15 and he and his family move to Arrakis, the harsh desert planet that is the center of spice production (spice being the most important and valuable substance in the universe). Paul and his mother, the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, barely survive one of their own people's treachery. They join a band of Fremen, waiting until the day they can drive House Harkonnen off Arrakis and Paul can assume his rightful place as Duke Atreides.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Arpeggio of Blue Steel (anime TV series), via Netflix

Arpeggio of Blue Steel is a 12-episode military sci-fi anime based on a still-ongoing manga series. It wasn't originally in my Netflix queue. I only decided to watch it after hearing that it featured sentient warships. I'm not much of a fan of naval battles, but I love the idea of sentient AI. Unfortunately, this series turned out to be far more focused on naval battles than on its characters.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel takes place in a world that has been brought to its knees by the appearance of a mysterious fleet of sentient warships armed with nanotechnology. Chihaya Gunzou (Japanese name order) is a frustrated student who suddenly finds himself with an opportunity to join the fight against the Fleet of Fog, as the warships are called. When he touches a captured and seemingly nonfunctional Fleet vessel, it activates. I-401's mental model (a human form created out of nanomaterials) approaches Gunzou and names him as her captain. Some time later, Gunzou has a whole crew and a mission: transport a powerful top-secret warhead to the U.S. in the hope of ultimately winning the war against the Fleet.

Alien, 1979 Theatrical Version (live action movie), on DVD

Alien is a sci-fi horror film. It's part of the dauntingly large Alien Quadrilogy box set I won in an auction at my workplace. I decided I'd review it one movie at a time, and do separate posts for the extras as I got around to watching them.

This box set includes a theatrical version and director's cut or special edition of each of the movies, which created additional problems for me. This was not a re-watch on my part – I've never seen any of the Alien movies – so I wasn't sure which version to start with. I did a quickie Internet search, and the general consensus for Alien seemed to be “watch the theatrical version.”

In this first movie, the commercial spaceship Nostromo receives something that may be a distress signal while on its way back to Earth, which triggers a premature awakening of its seven-member crew. A few members of the crew go out an investigate, and one person is attacked. They unwisely bring him and the creature attached to his face back onto the ship. Things get worse from that point on.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces (live action movie), on DVD

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces is a Japanese alternate history action movie. It was another one of my bargain bin finds. I'm happy to say that this one was more than worth what I spent on it. After the mess that was Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion, I can honestly say that I'm so relieved.

Review:

According to the container, this movie is based on a book by Soh Kitamura, which, as far as I can tell, has not been translated into English. In this alternate history Japan, World War II never took place and the aristocrats continue to thrive while the poor grow poorer. The year is now 1949, and the only thing the aristocrats have to fear is K-20, a masked man who can perfectly assume anyone's identity and who has been stealing valuable artifacts from the rich. His latest theft is unusual: a creation of Tesla's (or based on one of Tesla's inventions? I can't remember) that could potentially either provide the world with cheap and wireless power, or bring the world to its knees. K-20's greatest foe among the aristocrats is Baron Akechi, the lead detective trying to capture him.

Heikichi has nothing to do with any of that. He's a circus acrobat and illusionist whose greatest worry after a successful show is whether all his doves are back safe and sound. His ringmaster's worsening health prompts him to accept a somewhat fishy job offer that requires him to use his skills to take a picture of Akechi's engagement to Duchess Hashiba (from here on out referred to as “Yoko”). Unfortunately, Heikichi was tricked, and he soon finds himself framed and imprisoned for K-20's crimes. If he wants to take down K-20, clear his name, and save the city, he'll have to become more skilled than K-20.

Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion (live action movie), on DVD

Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion is a Japanese fantasy movie. It's 1 hour and 23 minutes long. I found it in a bargain bin and am thankful I didn't pay full price for it.

This post includes spoilers.

Review:

I wasn't expecting much from this movie, but I hadn't expected it to be as terrible as it was. Part of my dislike of it was probably due to me having no knowledge of the franchise. As far as I know, I've never seen the anime or read the manga. However, I'm pretty sure that, even if I'd had some background knowledge about the series, I'd have thought this movie was awful.

I'll try my best to explain the plot, beginning with a list of the characters. There's Kaname, a high school student who's been having sharp back pains. His new friend Naoya has premonitions. Tsukasa is a mysterious wounded kid who's being helped by a priest named Nakaura. Isshin is Kaname's sempai.

Tsukasa is further wounded by someone who leaves behind a few black feathers. Kaname blacks out from the pain in his back and wakes up at a research facility where he is told that his DNA has been analyzed and that he's a descendant of the Darklore clan. Those in the Darklore group can sprout wings with black feathers, causing Kaname to wonder if he's been blacking out and attacking people. Naoya's family is part of E.G.O., a group that opposes the Darklore group. They push for him to kill Kaname. I have no idea which faction Nakaura's church sides with, although I do know they weren't happy about him taking Tsukasa in. Tsukasa is an Eraser, someone who can sprout wings with white feathers. I had to watch the extras just to learn that Nakaura's faction is called WIZ DOM. Oh, and Maya, one of the researchers who analyzed Kaname's DNA without his consent, is related to Isshin but was cast out for some reason.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Catati Test (e-short story) by Misty White

"Catati Test" is a science fiction short story, the first in Misty White's Catati series. It has a word count of 4,950 (according to Smashwords). Or possibly 3,800 (according to the beginning of the e-book file).

No read-alikes list for this one. Also, my review includes some things that may be considered spoilers.

Review:

This was one of my freebie downloads. The next few entries in the series are just as short (about 5,000 words) and about a dollar each, so I was curious to see whether they'd be worth it. The short answer is: I think I'll pass.

The Catati first made contact with humans when Tammy was in high school. By the time she was ready for college, the Catati had decided to allow humans to take the entrance exam to get into one of their schools. Tammy was overjoyed to be one of the first humans to attend the Catati school, until she kept failing a class that Catati children passed with ease. After her most recent failure, Tammy chats with Yakí, her Catati friend, and realizes to her horror that the Catati must have given humans an easier version of the entrance exam.

Plague: A Lord Alchemist Short Story (e-short story) by Elizabeth McCoy

"Plague" is fantasy, a prequel to McCoy's Lord Alchemist duology. It has a word count of 8,060.

Although I did include a read-alikes/watch-alikes list, it's very short.

Review:

From the look of things, the further I get into this world/series, the more I enjoy it. I find that to be very reassuring, considering that I have several more works in the series I haven't yet read.

This story takes place sometime prior to Herb-Witch – before Iathor's father's death, but after the creation of the newer dramsman's draught. Iathor is trying to save his city from a strange plague that doesn't seem to respond to any treatments he thinks up. Some people respond to his brews better than others, but not a single person is fully cured. As the city's food supplies run low and members of Iathor's own household fall ill, all hope seems lost.

A Hero at the End of the World (book) by Erin Claiborne

A Hero at the End of the World is urban fantasy. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

I learned about this one via KizunaYueMichaelis' review of it. Although the review basically boiled down to “meh,” I loved Jade Liebes' cover art, so I decided to give the book a shot.

Imagine a world where prophecy states that a specific boy would be the one to defeat a tyrant. That boy spends years thinking that it's his destiny to be a hero, and everyone around him goes easy on him because, well, he's the prophesied hero. Then the time comes for him to carry out his destiny...and he chickens out, delays the final battle, and his handsome and smart best friend kills the tyrant instead. This is Ewan Mao's story.

Fast forward five years, and Ewan has a dead-end job at a crappy coffee shop while Oliver Abrams, his former best friend, is a rising star at the Home Office's Serious Magical Crimes Agency (SMCA). When Ewan is approached by Archibald Gardener Hobbes (aka Archie) about an alternative magical system that's supposed to be able to change lives, he is, at first, annoyed and desperate to be left alone. When he eventually caves, he's told that he can be everything he ever hoped he could be. The only catch is, he has to convince Oliver to kill someone first. Which sounds suspiciously evil. But if the person Ewan convinces Oliver to kill is evil, then that would make Ewan a hero, right?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Field Research (e-short story) by M.C.A. Hogarth

"Field Research" is a story in the anthology The Furry Future, but it was also distributed as a freebie to Hogarth's newsletter subscribers and Patreon supporters. I subscribe to Hogarth's newsletter.

No read-alikes list for this one.

Review:

This very short story gives some of the background of Kis'eh't, a Glaseah who later becomes a crew member of the Earthrise.

Kis'eh't is a brilliant chemist who had her pick of high-paying jobs but chose one that offered more interesting and flexible research opportunities. For her, doing research and practicing her religion are the same thing. It's all she wants to do, so it shakes her to her core when she learns that one of her research assistants has been terminated, and why.

This is a nice little extra for fans of Hogarth's Pelted Universe, although I wouldn't recommend it to Pelted Universe newbies. Kis'eh't's issues with academia and her internal struggle with the ethical issues surrounding her research's funding wouldn't be all that unfamiliar. However, there were other bits that would make more sense to those with a better grounding in the overall Pelted Universe.

I don't know that I'll ever reread this, but it was still nice seeing the Glaseahn religion through the perspective of a Glaseah whose area of study was a hard science, rather than soft.

Radiance (e-book) by Grace Draven

Radiance is self-published fantasy romance. It has a word count of 74,740.

Review:

I bought this for several reasons. One, I read a review of it on Dear Author and was intrigued by the idea of a fantasy romance in which the protagonists were repulsed by each other's appearances. Two, I really liked the excerpt. And three, the cover. The colors are lovely, and the pose screams “romance.”

On to the story. Brishen is the third son of the Kai king, and Ildiko is a niece of the Gauri king. They know that their impending marriage will forge an important alliance between their kingdoms, but they're both sick with horror and nervousness. The Gauri are terrified of Kai fangs, claws, and glowing eyes (I pictured them as being a bit like anthropomorphized anglerfish), and to the Kai, Gauri eyes look sickeningly like parasites.

Brishen and Ildiko accidentally meet before their marriage. Horrifying appearances aside, they get along remarkably well, and they begin to hope that maybe their marriage won't be so bad after all. They privately arrange to postpone sex indefinitely (they aren't expected to produce an heir and, besides, it sounds like Kai and Gauri can't interbreed) and help each other through difficult moments as best as possible. Unfortunately, the countries of Gaur and Belawat have been at odds for some time, and the alliance between the Gauri and the formerly neutral Kai has put a target on both Brishen and Ildiko's backs.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Other End of the Line (live action movie), on DVD

The Other End of the Line is a romantic comedy. I happened to have it on DVD, but it's also available via Netflix.

Review:

My movie-watching this month is starting to develop a theme: pretending to be someone you're not. Priya Sethi works nights at a Citi One Bank Card call center in India. As part of her job, she assumes an American persona – her name is Jennifer, and she lives in San Francisco. Priya loves her American culture classes and absorbs any new idioms and slang she comes across.

Priya calls Granger Woodruff because he has several potentially fraudulent charges on his credit card, and the two soon hit it off. When Granger's work requires that he go to San Francisco, he asks “Jennifer” if they could meet in person. Priya initially says no, but then she meets Vikram, the man her parents have arranged for her to marry. Marriage to Vikram might mean the end of Priya's job and any chance of adventure, so she decides she'll do one last wild and crazy thing and go see Granger in person.

David's Selfie (e-novella) by Daisy Harris

David's Selfie is m/m contemporary romance. It's published by Samhain Publishing and has a word count of 32,498 (according to ARe).

Review:

I remember buying David's Selfie because the excerpt was somehow sweet despite starting with a dick pic. I also remember having to contact customer service to get the file to work, because, just like my previous few orders, the file was corrupt upon download. I took an extended break from the site after buying this novella, but, happily, I just did a test and it looks like Samhain may have finally fixed the problem. Now I can go back to haunting their “bargain bin” page on a weekly basis.

Anyway, David's Selfie stars David, a doctor and single father, and Craig, a student and go-go dancer. David is a widower who wants to get back into dating and having sex. He's bisexual and seems to be pretty open about it, although he hasn't been with anyone but his wife since college. His first foray into maybe having sex again involves sending his best attempt at a dick pic to a guy he met online. The two of them arrange to meet at a bar, but David panics when he sees his date in person. Thankfully, the guy didn't see him, and David escapes and resigns himself to not getting laid anytime soon. Except that David forgot his cellphone, with his dick pic still on it, in the bar's bathroom.

Craig is a dancer at the bar and finds the phone during one of his breaks. He's intrigued by both the dick pic and the many pictures of David's three-year-old daughter Maia (it feels weird just typing this). When David calls, Craig offers to return the phone in person, and the two (plus Maia) meet at a coffee shop the next day. Things click between them, and, despite the enormous amount of effort it takes to mesh their two schedules and find someone to look after Maia, they continue to meet, go on dates, and soon have sex. Unfortunately, Craig has a secret: he hasn't mentioned that he was the go-go dancer David was ogling that night at the bar. All David knows is that he's a student who plans to one day open his own Zumba studio.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (live action movie), via Netflix

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is an Indian romantic comedy (maybe an inspirational romantic comedy, due to the mentions of God throughout, particularly at the end?). I loved it, even though it was almost three hours long and I had to take multiple breaks. It's such a sweet movie.

At the beginning of the movie, we see Surinder taking his new bride, Taani, to his home. It's incredibly awkward, and we soon learn why: they've only just met. In a flashback, we see Surinder, a beloved former student of Taani's father, at the preparations for Taani's wedding...to another man. It's a love match, and everyone is happy, although poor Surinder has quietly and painfully fallen in love with Taani at first sight.

All this happiness is ruined when Taani learns that her fiance has been killed in an accident. Her father promptly has a massive heart attack, and, on his death bed, says that he would rest easier if Taani married Surinder, who he has always felt would be perfect for her. Taani and Surinder agree and are soon married.

Surinder was adorable, right from the start. He was so awkward and shy and desperate to make Taani happy. While Taani was still peeking uncomfortably at what she thought would be their bed, he was quickly packing up everything he needed. Even though it was an obvious lie, he told her that he always slept in the attic anyway, and she could have the bedroom. Problem solved. Everything Surinder did during those early days just melted my heart.
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