Sunday, November 27, 2011

Second Son of a Duke (e-novella) by Gwen Hayes

This self-published historical romance novella is 47 pages long on my Nook. I'm not sure when it takes place - All Romance (ARe) has it in its Historical Other category, and I'm not historically savvy enough to guess the time period from story details.

If you're good at reading between the lines, there are SLIGHT SPOILERS near the end of the review. I tried to avoid flat-out spoilers, though.

Synopsis:

Teddy Middleton is only the second son of a duke, but you wouldn't know it by his behavior. Because his brother Derek, the actual heir, is completely unreliable, Teddy does his job for him.

Juliette is in a similar situation with her brother Peter. Because neither he nor their mother can be trusted to take care of anything of even minor importance, Juliette takes care of everything.

Derek and Peter may be mostly useless, but the two of them do manage to plan out one thing: a marriage between Teddy and Juliette. Without consulting either of them or even letting them know what was happening in advance. The novella begins with Teddy and Juliette's disastrous wedding night. They barely know each other (cleaning up after their brothers' messes did not give them much time for socializing), and now they have to figure out how to live together. Both of them are braced for the worst...only to find, as they get to know one another, that maybe they make a good match after all.

Review:

This sat in my wishlist for ages before I finally bought it. I thought the cover image was gorgeous and eye-catching, and the excerpt seemed interesting, but I'm wary of self-published works, and I couldn't find many reviews for Second Son of Duke, beyond the customer reviews on Amazon. What ended up tipping the scales was the price. I was buying e-books during one of ARe's sales, and, even though this novella wasn't part of the sale, I decided it wouldn't hurt to add $0.99 to my total. If my purchase ended up being a bad one, lesson learned, and I would just make sure not to buy anything else by this author, no matter how pretty the cover image. I've now read Second Son of a Duke twice, and, thankfully, I don't feel the need to kick myself over my purchase. I've even bought a couple more of Hayes' works.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rupert of Hentzau (e-book) by Anthony Hope

I read this for free via Project Gutenberg. It's the sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda, which I read and reviewed a while back. I didn't really like that book, so I didn't hold high hopes for Rupert of Hentzau. To my surprise, I thought it was better than the first book.

There are some mild spoilers in this post.

Synopsis:

This book takes place 3 years after The Prisoner of Zenda and is told from the perspective of Fritz von Tarlenheim. Queen Flavia and Rudolf Rassendyll have not seen each other since the end of the events of the previous book, although, every year, Queen Flavia sends Rassendyll a letter.

This year, there is trouble. The letter is stolen by Rupert of Hentzau's people. If you read the previous book, you'll probably remember that Rupert managed to escape. He was exiled and has, ever since, tried to convince the King to let him come back.

The King hasn't fared too well in the past few years. His imprisonment still weighs on him, and the people closest to him, who should be his best support, see him and can only think "Rassendyll would have made a better king." The King has no idea that his wife is in love with Rassendyll, but he'll certainly know if Rupert can get the Queen's letter to him. That is something Fritz von Tarlenheim and Sapt want to stop at all costs. Rassendyll decides to come out of him self-imposed exile to join them.

The rest of the book is spent trying to get Queen Flavia's letter from Rupert, in order to save her reputation and keep the King from finding out about her secret love. Rassendyll once again impersonates the King. Although Queen Flavia's reputation is indeed saved, the book's ending is tragic.

Review:

One of the reasons why I didn't like The Prisoner of Zenda was because I didn't believe that Rassendyll had much reason to go to the lengths he did to save the King and Ruritania. In terms of motivation, I thought Rupert of Hentzau was a much better book. I could believe that Rassendyll would do all that he did to prevent Flavia's jealous husband from reading the love letter she wrote.

I don't know how this book was received at the time it was written. It wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't as popular as the first book, simply because it didn't start off with The Prisoner of Zenda's outrageous setup (an Englishman who looks just like the King of Ruritania is enlisted to pretend to be the King) and because of its tragic ending.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dark Side Cat (anime), via Crunchyroll

This series is very brief, only six episodes long, with each episode running approximately 6 minutes (even less than that, I think, if you cut out the opening credits). Basically, if you find yourself at all interested in watching this, you should give it a try - it doesn't even take much of a time commitment.

Synopsis:

Wherever Dark Side Cat goes, there is mayhem. Even if he's just chasing a rat, he somehow manages to destroy property and bother humans along the way. The mayor is determined to rid the city of stray cats, especially Dark Side Cat. One of the series' few recurring human characters is a freelance reporter who finds herself fascinated by Dark Side Cat.

Review:

I added this to my Crunchyroll queue because it starred a cat, and because the image Crunchyroll used (which I have also used in this blog post) looked kind of cool. I didn't know how short the show was until I started watching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So very behind - plus, insects and PTSD

If I get a full review posted before the end of the day, I'll be really surprised. I just don't see it happening.

I've got a lot of things I could write about, but I read most of it long enough ago that I'd need a refresher before I'd feel comfortable posting anything. I still have to write something up about Maid Sama, Collection 2, but I'm trying to get a second viewing in first.

Here's what I'm reading/listening to right now:
  • The Adventures of Maya the Bee (audio book) by Waldemar Bonsels - I'm pretty sure that my first exposure to this work was via a German-language TV show (Die Biene Maja, which, amusingly, is not actually German, but rather Japanese anime). I kind of doubt I ever read the book, because the decapitation scene took me by surprise. Then again, it's amazing what sorts of things managed not to make an impression on my child self.
  • Rupert of Hentzau (e-book) by Anthony Hope - If you have PTSD or know and love someone who does, this may not be the best book for you - the king, who I believe is suffering from PTSD (although Hope of course doesn't put it that way) after the events of the previous book, is looked down upon by his own people for being less of a man and less of a king than Rudolph, his lookalike. Personally, I like this book better than the first one, because I can actually believe Rudolph's motives this time. I have a feeling, though, that I may end up less than pleased by the way the book ends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maid Sama!, Collection 1 (anime TV series)

Sentai Filmworks currently sells this 26-episode series in two separate collections. This is the first collection, containing episodes 1-13. There is no English dub. Extras are bare bones (see the "Extras" section after my review).

Synopsis:

Seika High School is a former boys' school that has recently become co-ed. Even so, the study body is still mostly male, and the boys haven't quite gotten used to having girls around. Misaki, the first female Student Council president, is determined to change things and make Seika High School a pleasant place for girls.

Misaki has a big secret, however: after school, she works as a maid at a maid cafe. Her family is poor, and the job pays pretty well, but Misaki is sure that she'd lose all the respect she worked so hard to gain at Seika if everyone found out about her job. When Usui, the boy all the Seika girls would most like to date, discovers Misaki's secret, she's sure she's doomed...except Usui doesn't tell anyone, and just keeps coming to the maid cafe.

These 13 episodes show Misaki trying to do her best both as president at Seika High School and as a maid at her job. Misaki and Usui are the main characters, but there are lots of minor characters who pop up regularly: the three former delinquents who become Misaki's biggest fans and are the only students aside from Usui who know she works at a maid cafe, Misaki's friends, Misaki's mother and younger sister, and more.

Review:

When I first started hearing about this series, I assumed it was a romantic series intended for a male audience. My assumption was based on the maid cafe aspect. Although I later learned that the series was really intended for a female audience, I continued to put off looking into it, primarily because of the maid cafe aspect. It wasn't until I saw some appealing clips from the show in a few anime AMVs that I finally broke down and bought it.

For those who aren't completists like me, I'm not sure Collection 1 will inspire a need to buy and watch Collection 2. There is very little about Collection 1 that sets it apart from other shoujo school romances, and there are quite a few areas where this show could have been improved.

Reaper (e-novella) by Mina Carter

If you don't count the author info and the extra stuff that Samhain puts at the back of its e-books, this novella is 77 pages long.

Synopsis:

Ten years prior to the beginning of this novella, some kind of war happened. During that war, bombs were dropped that somehow fundamentally changed the DNA of some, but not all, people on the planet. Those who were changed became paranormals: vampires, werewolves, ghouls, etc. Those who stayed human tried to survive in the midst of paranormals whose instincts often drove them to eat humans.

Mason used to be a soldier. Now, he helps the inhabitants of Sanctuary, a small town, defend themselves against whatever paranormals might come to bring them harm. When Andy arrives, Mason and the others aren't quite sure what to make of her. She seems human, but she knows a lot more about paranormals and ways to defend against them than the average human.

Andy is something the people of Sanctuary have never encountered before - a Reaper, a being who reaps the souls of those who have died or are about to die. Andy and Mason may be the best chance Sanctuary's residents have of surviving when werewolves descend upon the town.

Review:

I saw this novella when it still brand-new and had a reduced price on the Samhain Publishing website. I read the description, got excited when I saw that it was a post-apocalyptic story starring a woman who'd been turned into a Reaper, read the excerpt, and decided I had to buy it. Unfortunately, although there were aspects of it that I liked, this novella didn't quite work for me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still here

I'm still here! I've been reading, too, I just haven't been writing anything. The thought of writing coherent sentences has been too exhausting. I'm hoping to get back to post-writing soon, though, because I've read some fun stuff lately. And some not-so-fun stuff. Here's a list of things that might be on the posting horizon:
  • Jane Eyre (audio book) by Charlotte Bronte - I listened to LibriVox's version 3. Can you believe I had never read this book before? I knew about the mad wife, but that was about it. I would have never made it past the first 10 chapters if I had been reading this, rather than listening to it. Past that point, I had more fun, even though I occasionally wished Jane could be far, far away from Rochester.
  • Sea Change (e-book) by Darlene Marshall - A historical romance in which the heroine pretends to be a man so that she can continue to practice medicine. I loved this book and plan to read more of Marshall's stuff.
  • Wild & Steamy (e-book, anthology) by Meljean Brook, Jill Myles, Carolyn Crane - I got this primarily for Brook's story (it features Constable Newberry and his wife - so much yay!). I thought Brook's story was the best one in the anthology, although I liked aspects of Crane's enough to want to try the first book in her Disillusionists series. Myles' story wasn't bad, I'm just not a huge fan of threesomes. I should definitely have a post coming out for this one soon - all I have left to do is write about Crane's story.
  • Pigeons from Hell (e-short story) by Robert E. Howard - Technically, I'm not done with this one yet, but I had to add it to the list anyway. I mean, that title is awesome. I was hoping for a crazy, campy read, but so far the story itself hasn't been nearly as much fun as the title.
  • Some Kind of Magic (e-book) by R. Cooper - This romance stars a werewolf who's trying to resist being mated to a half-fairy, because fairies are known for being promiscuous. I read some worrisome reviews, but the book isn't as bad as I feared. However, I agree with everyone who said that the writing was confusing.
  • Pawprints (e-book) by Anne Cain - I admit it, I bought this one almost solely for its cover image, which I swear looks like Fruits Basket fan art. The contents of the book don't live up to the pretty cover, unfortunately. It's been long enough ago that I read this that I think I'll have to reread it in order to write a decent review. I'm not looking forward to the reread. It's not so truly awful that it'll be fun to write about, but it's also not so good that the reread will be enjoyable. It's a meh kind of book.
  • Unlocked (e-novella) by Courtney Milan - Very nice, but, again, I read this long enough ago that I think I'll need to do a quick reread. Those who like their romance to come with grovelling on the part of the hero will love this one. I do wish it had been longer, though.
  • Second Son of a Duke (e-novella) by Gwen Hayes - I had this one in my wishlist for the longest time. I was worried that my desire to read it was mostly due to my "ooh, pretty" reaction to the cover. I bought it, read it, and enjoyed it. Again, as with Milan's novella, I wish it had been longer. The hero and heroine of this one have both been cleaning up after their irresponsible brothers for as long as they can remember, but they never expected that their brothers would go so far as to force the two of them to marry. The wedding night is disastrous, but things get better as the two get to know one another.
It's amazing - I've only owned my Nook for a few months, and now most of the things I read and finish are e-format. I do still have plenty of print books lying around, but there's something appealing about picking up my Nook and knowing I can change my mind about what I'm reading without having to hunt through physical shelves. I still wish that my Nook allowed me to browse the covers of books not purchased through B&N, though.
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