Sunday, January 29, 2012

One for the Money (live action movie)

It's been a while since I last reviewed a movie I saw in the theaters. Sometimes I get an urge to review what I've seen, sometimes I don't. I felt like writing about this particular movie.

Synopsis:

Stephanie Plum was fired from her job 6 months ago and hasn't found anything new since. Her car has been taken away from her, she has bills that need to be paid and a pet hamster to feed, and she's down to her last four dollars. Out of desperation, she blackmails her cousin Vinnie into letting her work for him at his bail bonds office, hunting down skips. The skip she really wants to find is Morelli, a cop who supposedly murdered a guy. Morelli and Stephanie have history together - Morelli took Stephanie's virginity back when they were in high school and then never called her again. Stephanie wants the nice chunk of change she'd get from catching Morelli, sure, but she also wants a little revenge.

What Stephanie doesn't realize until it's too late is that she's in way over her head. She might not survive her new job, even with Morelli doing what he can to save her butt and Ranger, a hot fellow bounty hunter, getting her a gun and teaching her how to shoot.

Review:

It's been ages since I last read Janet Evanovich's One for the Money and two or three years since I last read any of the Stephanie Plum books. Still, the basics aren't hard to forget. Stephanie is a terrible bounty hunter, Morelli and Ranger are hot, and Stephanie is often surrounded by quirky/crazy people.

Wilder's Mate (e-book) by Moira Rogers

I'm calling this an e-book, rather than an e-novella, because Samhain Publishing's site says its length is "Category" (like "category length romance novel"). What this means in terms of page and word count: 36,653 words, which came out to 101 pages on my Nook. I initially thought the story was 121 pages long, but those last 20 pages are just extra stuff Samhain dumped at the end. Samhain's works have a pretty decent track record with me, and I love that their new works are 30% off on their site for the first week after being released, but I hate all the extra stuff they put at the end, and I hate that the font size for the newer books (like Wilder's Mate) is two sizes smaller on my Nook than whatever they used to use.

Okay, enough griping about Samhain.

Synopsis:

This book takes place in a steampunk version of the Wild West.

When Nathaniel, Satira's mentor, is kidnapped by vampires, Satira is convinced that the only person who cares more for his life than his inventions is her. She's determined to go after him on her own if she has to, but then Wilder, a bloodhound (basically a werewolf), shows up and surprisingly offers to take her with him.

Bloodhounds were created by the Guild to protect humans from vampires, but that doesn't mean Satira is entirely safe from Wilder, especially when the new moon comes.

Review:

I've had this sitting unread on my Nook for a while now. When I saw that the next book in the series, Hunter's Prey, was going to be released by Samhain soon, I decided to finally read the first book so that I could better judge whether the second one would be worth it. My verdict? I'm definitely buying the second book.

The Dead of Winter (book) by Chris Priestley

Release date: January 31, 2012

This is one of the ARCs I picked up at ALA Midwinter. The back of the book says it's a YA novel, while Amazon says it's for ages 12 and up. I've tagged it with "young adult."

FYI, since I know some people really care about this sort of thing, this book is written in the first person from Michael's perspective.

Synopsis:

Michael, now an orphan, has only just finished attending his mother's funeral when he's told that his guardian will be Sir Stephen, the man for whom Michael's father gave his life. Michael's mother hated Sir Stephen, and Michael's not too fond of him himself, but he promises to at least stay with Sir Stephen through Christmas.

Hawton Mere, Sir Stephen's home, is not an inviting place. Michael thinks he can feel someone or something watching him, he sees things no one else sees, and he hears strange sounds no one else hears. The servants, at least, seem nice enough, and Charlotte, Sir Stephen's sister, makes an effort to welcome him. Sir Stephen, on the other hand, is ill, and Michael rarely sees him. When he does see him, the man seems frightening and mentally unbalanced. The longer Michael stays at Hawton Mere, the more he wants to leave, and he wonders: what secrets does Hawton Mere hide?

Review:

When I was younger, I used to read lots of horror novels. The first time I raided my parents' bookshelves, I took Stephen King's Firestarter (which I enjoyed) and a German copy of Pet Sematary (that didn't work out so well – my German vocab just wasn't up to the task). I'm much more of a wimp now and rarely read horror, but I couldn't resist the bit on the back of this book that said fans of Neil Gaiman would enjoy it.

This is one of those books that I enjoyed more as I was reading it and in the grip of its creepy atmosphere than when I wasn't reading it. When I wasn't reading it and had more of a chance to think about it, I found that certain aspects of it irked me more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

RH Plus (live action TV series), via Crunchyroll

This show is based on a manga series with the same title. The manga is not legally available in English, as far as I can tell, and I have no idea how similar the live action series is to it.

Synopsis:

This series stars four vampires who live together in a mansion and tend to see each other as something like a family. The eldest is Kiyoi, who acts as the group's surrogate father. He's been taking care of Ageha since Ageha was little. Ageha is the cute one in the group. He tends to get jealous whenever anyone seems to monopolize Kiyoi's affection or time. Masakazu is supposedly smart and in college (or a college graduate?), but his attention is easily snagged by pretty women, and he often blows off work in order to go on group dates. Makoto is the newest addition to the group. He's quiet and serious, and it is revealed that, when he was little, his mother left him to become a prisoner at a church, saying that she had given birth to a monster.

The mansion's upkeep is funded by jobs given to the group by a mysterious man known as "Mister." Mister and Kiyoi seem to have some kind of history, and Mister closely resembles a man who was once very important to Kiyoi. The jobs tend to be dangerous ones that the police either can't or won't look into themselves, and Kiyoi has the power to accept or reject them as he sees fit.

Review:

The description of this show on the Crunchyroll website confuses me, because, in the earlier episodes at least, this series is clearly shounen ai. Ageha seems a little too eager for Kiyoi's attention, Makoto stares at Kiyoi just a touch too long, and it's a long while before any other possible explanations for Ageha's rage explosion over Makoto getting hurt present themselves. I'm sure I would have loved all of that in the original manga on which this series was based. Unfortunately, it didn't translate too well into live action form, so it's probably a good thing that the shounen ai aspects mostly disappeared later on.

Some might be more pained by the show's cheap special effects, but I cringed more at the bad acting (just to be clear, I didn't think all of the acting was bad, and some of the actors were pretty decent). I found Naoya Ojima (Masakazu) to be the worst offender, although it may not have been his fault – it may just have been that his character was most prominent in the “humorous” scenes, and one of the things this series failed at was being funny. I have a feeling those humorous scenes were ripped straight out of the manga. The problem is, what works in manga is painful to watch in a live action show.

The worst episode by far was episode 3, in which Masakazu attended a mixer and found whatever charisma he might have possessed completely eclipsed by that of Konoe (Rei Fujita). I enjoyed watching Konoe be cool and confident, but, next to him, Masakazu's horrified/upset facial contortions looked even more unnatural. During the scenes where Masakazu was supposed to be drunk, I winced as the horrible acting continued, accompanied by his blusher-covered cheeks. I almost quit watching the show after that.

The Very Comely Countess (book) by Miranda Jarrett

Synopsis:

This book takes place primarily in London in 1799.

William Manderville, the Earl of Bonnington, has cultivated a reputation for being a charming rake. Only a few people know that he is actually an undercover agent for England. The pleasure trips he takes to France are actually meant to allow him to smuggle important information back to England. He always takes a pretty woman with him, someone others are supposed to believe is just his latest mistress. She often is, but she's also meant to help him maintain his cover. Unfortunately, the woman he had with him during his last trip almost got them both killed by speaking too freely with a French lover she'd taken behind Will's back. They managed to get out, but Will had to kill three men.

Will is determined to have a better partner next time, someone pretty, willing to do as she's told, and smart enough not to invite additional trouble. When he sees a painting of a beautiful woman, he thinks he might have found who he's looking for. He hunts down the painting's model, Harriet Treene, a lowborn orange-seller, and things eventually work out so that he offers her a job as his next partner. He tells her that she'd be his mistress in name only - the important thing is that everyone who sees them believe she's his mistress, so that they can go to France together without comment. He promises to eventually repay her by providing her with the funds to set up the tea shop she dreams of having.

Harriet thrives in her role, modeling for paintings and stirring up talk about "Miss Calliope" (Harriet's nickname, because of a painting she models for). The trouble is, although this was all supposed to just be a ruse, Harriet and Will have started to fall for each other. Harriet doesn't want to be Will's mistress, but she also doesn't think an orange-seller and an earl can have any other kind of future together. Will, for his part, becomes more and more worried about bringing Harriet with him to France - the more he comes to care for her, the more he fears putting her in danger.

Review:

I had never read a book by Miranda Jarrett before, and all I knew about this one was that it was a historical romance, likely one with a countess in it. I found the setup, with an earl hero who is an undercover spy training an orange-seller to play the part of his mistress and help maintain his cover, to be interesting. Unfortunately, I kind of disliked Will at first. I wasn't fond of the way he thought about women. From what I could tell, he didn't really want a partner, he wanted someone who could be beautiful, obedient, and good in bed if he felt like sleeping with her. Actually, here's a quote:
“'All I wish for now is a replacement for Jenny,' he [Will] declared, 'a sweet-tempered little hussy with a strong enough stomach for the sea, one who will take orders like a soldier and be willing to risk her pretty neck for the sake of her king and country.'”(p. 6)
He made me wish that Harriet would turn out to be plain, but, of course, she was breath-takingly beautiful.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My ALA Midwinter book haul

Remember how I said I'd have to practice restraint, because I could only take back what I could carry? Well, apparently I can carry quite a bit in a backpack, large purse, and tote bag. The number of books I got at this conference was only slightly less than the number of books I got at my last conference. Admittedly, several of the books are pretty skinny.

Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I managed to get:
  • Kylie Jean, Football Queen (book) by Marci Peschke - This is the only one I got that I didn't get for myself. It's short, so I may read it anyway, even though it's aimed at a younger audience than the books I normally read. According to Amazon, this book was released earlier this month.
  • Whatever After: Fairest of All (book) by Sarah Mlynowski - This looked like fluffy fun. Due out in May 2012.
  • Belles (book) by Jen Calonita - Due out in April 2012.
  • The Peculiars (book) by Maureen Doyle McQuerry - The back of my ARC indicates that this may be steampunk. Due out in May 2012.
  • I Hunt Killers (book) by Barry Lyga - Of all the books I brought back, this one has the most interesting presentation. It's in a bag made to look like an evidence bag. Due out in April 2012.
  • 172 Hours on the Moon (book) by Johan Harstad - The cover is creepy. The description on the back of the book confuses me. I passed this one by several times before finally caving and picking up a copy. Due out in April 2012.
  • Pandemonium (graphic novel) written by Chris Wooding, illustrated by Cassandra Diaz - Here's hoping the story is good, because the art really isn't to my taste. The cover is eye-catching, though, and makes me wish the whole thing could be in color. Due out in February 2012. EDIT: Whoops, my bad. I just came across the bit in my ARC that explains that the ARC is primarily in black and white, but the final version will be in full color. The full-color pages at the beginning look pretty good, and this explains why the black-and-white pages look unfinished. It's because they are.
  • The Wood Queen (book) by Karen Mahoney - I may decide I need to read The Iron Witch before I even get started with this book. According to Amazon, The Wood Queen is due out in February 2012, but the copy I snagged has nothing on it to indicate that it's an ARC.
  • Fracture (book) by Megan Miranda - This was released earlier this month.
  • Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars (book) by Nick James - The cover badly needs a redesign - I and several other people who took a closer look at it thought it looked like steampunk. The publisher reps had to keep telling people that it was actually science fiction. Actually, maybe it's the title that's the problem. To me, "skyship" sounds very steampunk. I do like science fiction, so I picked this one up anyway. According to Amazon, this was released back in September 2011.
  • Digit: She's Got Your Number (book) by Annabelle Monaghan - The FBI needs the high school-aged heroine's help, because she's a math genius. I decided I so needed to read this book. Due out on June 5, 2012.
  • So Pretty It Hurts: A Bailey Weggins Mystery (book) by Kate White - The cover caught my eye, and I'm curious to see if Bailey is really "a heroine who keeps us laughing while sitting at the edge of our seats." Due out in March 2012.
  • Brave New Love: 15 Dystopian Tales of Desire (anthology) edited by Paula Guran - The only contributing author whose name I recognize is Maria V. Snyder. I picked it up hoping that "tales of desire" meant that at least some of the stories were romances. Due out in March 2012.
  • Epigenetics in the Age of Twitter: Pop Culture and Modern Science (non-fiction book) by Gerald Weissmann - No, this isn't at all what I usually read, and, no, I don't know what I was thinking. I had been at the conference for a few hours by then, and I was tired. I'll still give this one a go, because I tried out a few random pages and it seems very readable. Due out in March 2012.
  • My Boyfriend Is a Monster #5: I Date Dead People (graphic novel) by Ann Kerns, illustrated by Janina Görrissen - The artwork caught my eye. Due out in April 2012.
  • Poison Most Vial (book) by Benedict Carey - Due out in April 2012.
  • The Dead of Winter (book) by Chris Priestley - I was going to skip out on this one, until I noticed the bit on the back saying that fans of Neil Gaiman would enjoy it. See how easy I am? Due out on January 31, 2012.
  • Cruising Attitude (memoir) by Heather Poole - I occasionally enjoy reading blog posts written by flight attendants, and it's possible that I've already read some of Poole's writings online. This seemed potentially light and funny, so I snagged it, even though I don't read many memoirs. Due out in March 2012.
  • A Perfect Square (book) by Vannetta Chapman - It's an Amish mystery! And not a YA or middle grade novel! Due out in April 2012.
Believe it or not, I did practice restraint - even with all the books I got, there were still quite a few books I was tempted to take but didn't.

After the last conference I went to, I had this great plan to review all my ARCs just before or just after their release dates. This time around, I know better. There are a few things, like the graphic novels, that I am highly likely to read and review in a relatively timely manner. Everything else...who knows? I have ever-growing physical and digital TBR piles, several library books, and an addiction to Japanese anime, so all I can say is that I'll get to things when I get to them.

All in all, it's been a good day. I'm tired, but I picked up lots of interesting-looking books and talked to all the vendor reps I wanted to talk to. There weren't nearly as many people visiting the exhibits as I had thought there would be, which I'm sure was disappointing to the vendors, but I kind of liked not having to fight my way through a crush of people.

Friday, January 20, 2012

ALA Midwinter

I'll be at ALA Midwinter tomorrow, talking to people at the cataloging- and technical services-related tables and picking up books I don't really need (I haven't even come close to finishing my last pile of conference ARCs). On the plus side, my TBR pile shouldn't increase by too much, because I can only come back with as many books as I can carry, rather than as many books as I can load into a car. On the minus side, this means I actually have to show restraint.

I'll try to remember to list the books I manage to get. Judging by the list of vendors, it's unlikely I'll end up with any manga, but graphic novels are a possibility, and I'm sure the YA selection will be overwhelming.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Uraboku (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Uraboku's full title is Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru. If it ever gets released on DVD in the U.S., its title will probably be The Betrayal Knows My Name, in order to match the manga (which is why I've tagged this post the way I have).

Synopsis:

Yuki Giou grew up in an orphanage. His greatest desire is to be useful to and wanted by others. His world is turned upside down when a man named Takashiro arrives and says that he is his brother and has been looking for him for years. After Yuki is attacked by a strange creature called a Duras, he learns that several members of his clan, including him, have special powers that they use to fight Duras.

The Giou clan's Zweilts (pairs of fighters with special abilities) try to protect Yuki, who has the ability to wield God's Light, from Duras and from a mysterious enemy named Reiga. Many of the members of the Giou clan, including Yuki, are reincarnations of former Giou clan members, and events that happened a thousand years ago hold the answers to why Reiga is trying to attack Yuki now. In addition to worrying about his and others' safety, Yuki also wonders about the relationship his past-life self (who was female) had with a mysterious and protective man named Luka.

Review:

I wanted to love this show, I really did. It has angst, it has bishounen, it has bishounen angsting over one another. It has battles with pretty effects. It has friendships so close that you'd swear they're actually romantic relationships. In the end, though, this show was a giant tease that never delivered.

The pacing, while not nearly as excruciating as, say, Hakuoki's, could have been better. Yes, Yuki was introduced to the Giou clan and told about the Duras fairly quickly, but the show didn't seem truly interesting to me until approximately halfway through, when Hotsuma and Shusei hashed out their relationship issues, Reiga revealed himself, and Reiga and Takashiro had their big battle. I really got into the show at that point, and I was convinced that, finally, there would be some answers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New color scheme!

The blue color scheme I used for a long time on this blog had started to bother me, especially as the weather got a bit chillier. I tried out a red color scheme that was a little too red for my tastes and have finally settled on a yellowish brown color scheme. Since I didn't change anything about my template except the color, I don't have to recreate my drop down menus - hurray!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bellwether (audio book) by Connie Willis, read by Kate Reading

I think this book was originally published in 1997, which accounts for the slightly dated feel it had each time Sandra's rancher boyfriend's cell phone came up.

I did my best to keep this post spoiler-free.

Synopsis:

Sandra is a researcher working at HiTek. Her area of study is fads and, currently, her particular focus is hair bobbing. She knows a lot about different fads, but the one thing she doesn't know and is hoping to find out is how they start.

While banging her head against the wall that is her research topic, Sandra also has to deal with her company's fondness for acronyms, meetings, and creating "streamlined" funding allocation forms that no one can figure out how to fill out.

Sandra's research appears to be going nowhere. What she doesn't realize is that, somehow, Bennett, a biologist at HiTek who has an interest in chaos theory, Flip, HiTek's annoyingly careless interdepartmental assistant, sheep, and a bunch of fads she sees every day will combine into an epiphany about fads and scientific breakthroughs.
 
Review:

It's been almost three years since I last read a book by Connie Willis – I had forgotten how enjoyable her writing can be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Amaranth & Ash (e-book) by Jessica Freely

Sorry for how long this review is. Here's the short version: I enjoyed this book, although some missing quality, I'm not sure what, kept me from absolutely loving it. I found the romance to be sweet (by which I don't mean "lacking in sex" - there is much of that in this book, particularly in the latter half) and well done. The world-building is rich when it comes to the caste system but seems to be somewhat fuzzy in other areas.

The word count for this book is 67,886, which came out to 175 pages on my Nook.

Synopsis:

The setting is sometime in the future (I think), on another planet. A caste system determines how and where people live. Chel are the underclass. They live off of the scraps left by the other castes, are viewed as not having souls, and do dangerous and/or dirty jobs that often land them an early grave. Pel are the laboring caste. They have it better than chel, but they don't get the luxuries that the Elai do. They work hard and are only ever treated by regular doctors. Elai are the highest caste. They are treated by vasai. Vasai are sort of outside the caste system. Vasai are intersex (have both male and female genitalia) and can use their souls to heal others, but only if those others have souls. It is popularly believed that, even if a vasai and a chel were to meet each other, the vasai would be unable to heal the chel, because chel don't have souls.

Amaranth is a vasai who wants, for once, to be able to heal people who actually need healing. He (Amaranth prefers male pronouns) is convinced that the Elai he treats only really come see him because they like having sex with vasai - it's believed that vasai can't heal without sexual contact. Amaranth's dissatisfaction with his life prompts him to wander outside of the mostly Elai area, where he brushes against a soul in agony. Searching for this person who actually needs his help, Amaranth finds Ash, a chel. Ash, recently raped and badly beaten, would not have survived without help. Amaranth takes him home and begins to heal him, proving that the Elai have lied about chel not having souls, and about vasai needing sexual contact in order to heal. Amaranth healed Ash through touch alone, and he felt his soul.

Initially, Ash is suspicious of Amaranth's motives for helping him, but he gradually realizes how lonely Amaranth is. Amaranth and Ash become closer, but Amaranth can't keep Ash a secret forever. Amaranth's beliefs have already put him at odds with other vasai. If others discover that he has fallen in love with a chel, his reputation may be damaged beyond repair.

Review:

This book sat in my wishlist for months because 1) it's kind of expensive and 2) I had some feelings of trepidation over how the author would handle the intersexed characters. In the end, I'm glad I bought and read it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chi's Sweet Home - Chi's New Address (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

At 104 episodes total, this seems, at first, like a massive series. However, each episode is approximately 3 minutes long, so the entire thing is really only a bit over 5 hours long.

Synopsis:

Season 1 (episodes 1-26): Mr. and Mrs. Yamada face a tough decision when a girl in Hokkaido offers to take Chi. Their apartment doesn't allow pets, but they are to the point where they feel like Chi is a member of the family. Finally, they opt to move to a pet-friendly apartment. There, they introduce themselves to their new neighbors, and Chi meets the neighbors' pets: a large bunny, a parakeet, a friendly dog, and a regal longhair Scottish fold cat. Chi briefly gets lost exploring her new neighborhood, but she manages to find her way home again.

Season 2 (episodes 27-52): Chi explores her new neighborhood some more, gets to know the neighbors' pets (including the parakeet), and meets several other cats. The Yamadas continue to learn how to better take care of Chi, which includes figuring out how to brush her teeth and learning how to best travel with her.

Season 3 (episodes 53-78): More of Chi in the new neighborhood. I don't think there's anything specific that defines this season. Chi spends a lot of time with local cats, including one that behaves in an almost motherly way towards her, but I think these local cats showed up in Season 2 as well. The season ends with the entire Yamada family, including Chi, going to Hokkaido to visit Juri (the girl Chi was almost given to in Season 1) and her family.

Season 4 (episodes 79-104): Chi and the Yamadas spend time in Hokkaido. Then the whole family goes back home and has their usual day-to-day experiences - the biggest thing I can remember is that, for what may be the first time, we finally get to see Mr. Yamada doing work-related things. Near the end of the season, Chi accidentally hitches a ride on a truck and gets horribly lost. The Yamadas begin to lose hope that they'll ever see Chi again, but, luckily, Chi finds help along the way.

Review:

Initially, I had planned on writing separate posts for each season. However, the individual seasons didn't seem to be different enough from each other to warrant that treatment.

I have still only read one volume of the manga, and, when I realized that Chi's Sweet Home: Chi's New Address was actually the sequel to the anime Chi's Sweet Home (which I haven't seen and which is also 104 episodes long), I was worried that I might be lost. It was quickly apparent, however, that Chi's New Address was newbie-friendly. All you needed to know was that the Yamadas lived with a kitten named Chi in an apartment where they couldn't have cats, and, even then, the Yamadas move almost immediately after the start of the series. Later on, the series also brings in an old friend of Chi's. I hadn't yet gotten to the point in the manga where he was introduced, and his and Chi's reunion might have been richer for me if I had, but at no time did I feel lost or confused.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Worst of 2011

I debated whether or not to write this post, but I decided that, since I like to read "Worst of" posts, others might want to see a list of my "worst of 2011." Some of the works listed below aren't necessarily "worst," so much as "biggest disappointment." If that's the case, I'll say so.

I've only listed things I've written whole posts about.

Reading:
  • Romancing Mister Bridgerton (book) by Julia Quinn - This book isn't so much one of the worst I read in 2011 as it is one of the biggest disappointments. The first half of it was wonderful. In the last third of the book, however, Quinn did a few things that really disappointed me and tainted my enjoyment of the earlier parts of the book.
  • Basilisk (e-novella) by Kate Cotoner - No real emotional connection, the characters' first sex scene is on stage, in public (public sex and sexual situations are one of my personal red flags), and I just didn't find the characters in general to be all that interesting.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (e-book) by Anthony Hope - Not as much fun as I was expecting it to be, and filled with characters I didn't like or didn't care about.
  • Never a Bride (e-book) by Amelia Grey - I hated the heroine and was annoyed by the hero. Grey's writing is appealing, and the hero and heroine occasionally made a good pair, but, overall, I didn't like this book. I managed to find another one of Grey's works while at a used bookstore, though, so I plan to give her another shot.
  • Duck! (e-book) by Kim Dare - I've read reviews that have said that Dare writes wonderful, hot, emotion-filled BDSM romance, but I just didn't see that this in this book. I found the characters dull and the world-building weak, and the romance disturbed me a little, because I felt that what Raynard took as a sign of Ori's natural tendency towards submission was actually a sign that he could have used some therapy after all the abuse he had endured.
  • DEAD(ish) (novelette) by Naomi Kramer - There was too much telling, not enough showing, and this novelette has the distinction of being the only work I read in 2011 with not a single likable character.
  • Pregnesia (book) by Carla Cassidy - This book features an 8-month pregnant heroine with amnesia, its only sex scene features said pregnant woman performing a hand job on the hero, and it's packed with "are you kidding me" moments. Its primary saving grace is that it's fast paced and, with a title like Pregnesia, only an idiot would pick it up with the expectation that it will be fantastic. For that reason alone, I suppose it shouldn't be on this list, but I decided to include it anyway.
  • Abandon (book) by Meg Cabot - Okay, so there are worse YA paranormal romances out there (*cough* Breaking Dawn *cough*). I suppose this one fits more in the "biggest disappointment" category. I love the Persephone myth, and I usually glom onto dark, brooding heroes, but Cabot somehow managed to write a dark, brooding hero that didn't make me go all fangirly. Personally, I think Cabot would be better off sticking to light-hearted stuff.
  • Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation (graphic novel) by Ron Wimberly, introduction by Ray Bradbury - I haven't read the original work this was based on, but I got the feeling that this graphic novel tried a bit too hard to be faithful to that original work. It didn't make effective use of the strengths of the graphic novel format. I also wasn't a huge fan of the artwork style.
  • Blood Alone, Omnibus Collection 1 (manga, vols. 1-3) by Masayuki Takano - I've read worse manga than this, but this is probably the worst manga that I wrote a full post about in 2011. It reads as though what Takano really wanted to do was write a slice-of-life almost-romance about a girl and the man who takes care of her - the vampire elements are there and could have been really interesting, but Takano didn't make effective use of them and couldn't seem to draw really good action scenes.
Listening:
  • The Adventures of Sally (audio book) by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Kara Shallenberg - I was expecting more light, frothy fun, in the vein of Jill the Reckless. What I got instead was a heroine I didn't quite like but who was inexplicably loved by everyone else, a love interest who never seemed to mind being stepped upon by the heroine, and a whole collection of moments that either angered me or chilled me, emotional reactions that I don't think were what Wodehouse was necessarily aiming for. Even if he was, it doesn't really matter, because that wasn't the kind of book I wanted to read.
Viewing:
  • Bunraku (live action movie) - I do believe that this is the worst movie I watched all year, beating out even Cowboys & Aliens.
  • Cowboys & Aliens (live action movie) - I'd only recommend watching this if you can do so with a friend, in an environment where you're free to make fun of it without upsetting others. It's not quite in the "so bad it's good" category, but it's close. Maybe that means it shouldn't be on this list, I don't know.
  • Murder Princess (anime OVA) - This felt like an unfinished mish-mash of a bunch of other much better shows.  None of the characters grabbed me, and I can't even recommend it for its fight scenes.
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund (anime TV series) - Technically, this isn't a truly bad series. The story was fairly interesting, and I was intrigued enough by what was going on that I couldn't seem to stop watching, even though I sometimes wanted to. The reason why I've added it to this list is because it includes several things that are gigantic, glowing red flags for me: sexualized children and incestuous or semi-incestuous relationships. The main character has the mind of a sexy, flirtatious woman unabashedly going after the guy she's interested in, but she has the body of a young (undeveloped) child. I watched the censored version, so I thankfully never got to see her naked. This same character even got the equivalent of an on-screen gynecological exam near the end of the show. There's another character who ended up in a romantic relationship with the young boy she had cared for like a brother. The overall story may have been interesting, but I spent way too much time wishing there were some things I could un-see.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts (anime TV series) - This show definitely had its funny moments, and there were some aspects of it that I liked. However, a lot of its humor fell flat with me, and there were quite a few running gags that I thought seriously outstayed their welcome. Plus, remember what I said about incest being a red flag for me? Yeah, this show has incest-related jokes.

Best of 2011

The things listed below aren't necessarily everything I enjoyed this year, but they're what I would whole-heartedly recommend to someone with tastes similar to mine. Nothing is listed in any particular order, and I have only included works that I've written whole posts about.

Reading:
  • The Only Gold (e-book) by Tamara Allen - Historical m/m romance with a bit of action near the end.
  • The Iron Duke (book) by Meljean Brook - Steampunk romance, and, I think, the best steampunk I read this year.
  • Kimi ni Todoke (manga) by Karuho Shiina - I've written about three volumes of this series, although I've read many volumes more than that. This is a wonderfully sweet shoujo series that could probably make my poor heart explode if I read too much of it in one sitting.
  • Bleeding Violet (book) by Dia Reeves - Although I connected more with Reeves' Slice of Cherry than I did with this book, I'd be more likely to recommend Bleeding Violet to others. Reeves gets lots of kudos from me for creating a setting that is so interesting and vibrant that it could be considered a main character.
  • A Bride's Story (manga) by Kaoru Mori - I've only written about the first volume, although I've read the second one. The artwork is beautiful, and the characters, culture, and setting are interesting. This series is highly recommended to those who'd like a gorgeous slice-of-life story. If I were still in college, taking Anthropology classes, I'd be encouraging all my classmates to try this.
  • Chi's Sweet Home (manga) by Konami Kanata - If you're a cat lover, I urge you to try this series, even if you've never read manga before. Chi is incredibly adorable, and those who have lived with and loved cats with find much to relate to.
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar (e-book) by Maurice Leblanc - Of all the things I really enjoyed reading in 2011, this is the oldest, and it can be gotten for free via Project Gutenberg. Okay, so it's a little eye-roll-worthy, but it's still lots of fun.
  • Skip Beat! (manga) by Yoshiki Nakamura - A shoujo series that feels like a shounen series. There's romance, but the heroine, Kyoko, is too focused on her goal of becoming a bigger star than her ex-boyfriend to notice - and it's an absolute blast.
  • Emma (manga) by Kaoru Mori - I finally finished reading this series in 2011, although I read the bulk of the series earlier. Mori's historical cross-class romance is lovely. This series may appeal to a broader audience than A Bride's Story, simply because there's a bit more going on. Unfortunately, unless you get it via the library, it can be difficult and expensive to track down. Hopefully it will get rereleased.
  • Sleight of Hand (e-novella) by Katrina Strauss - The only thing on my list that could be classified as erotic romance. This novella is what got me interested in Strauss's works.
  • A Rose is a Rose (e-book) by Jet Mykles - I debated whether or not to include this one in the list, because, while Carson was a vibrant, wonderful character, Eddie could have used more fleshing out. Still, I really enjoyed this book, so I decided to let it squeak by.
  • Marrying Miss Marshall (book) by Lacy Williams - Another book I decided to let squeak by. It's maybe not the best of the best, but I really loved the heroine. This is the only inspirational romance on this list, and the only inspirational romance I read in 2011.
  • On Apology (non-fiction book) by Aaron Lazare - This is the only non-fiction book I read in 2011. It did a wonderful job of helping me think more about about apologies, why they're necessary, and what makes an apology good or bad.
  • Among the Living (e-novella) by Jordan Castillo Price - This novella prompted me to buy a few more of Price's works. If those are just as good, Price will be getting more of my money in 2012.
Listening:
Viewing:
  • Baccano! (anime TV series) - This is cheating, a bit, because I included it in last year's list after watching it on Hulu. In 2011, I wrote about the DVD release. It's a fantastic, fast-paced, adrenaline-packed, gory show.
  • Spice & Wolf (anime TV series) and Spice & Wolf II (anime TV series) - Lawrence and Holo may be one of my all-time favorite anime couples. I didn't quite like the second season as much as the first, but I still thought this was a great show overall.
  • Big Windup! (anime TV series) - Like Baccano!, adding this series to the list feels like cheating, because it was on my 2010 list too - in 2010, I watched the series on Hulu, while in 2011 I bought the DVD release. I wish this show had been popular enough in the U.S. to warrant the licensing of the second season. It reminded me of why I like sports anime and manga - there's so much energy, and I absolutely loved the various friendships.
  • Dark Side Cat (anime) - This show's combination of its length (6 episodes, each approximately 6 minutes long), energy, and humor made it something I would recommend, although that might not have been the case if it had been a longer series.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender (non-Japanese animation) - This series starts off good and just gets better. Yes, its intended audience is children, so there's some goofy humor, but this is a fabulous show that I would recommend to adults, too.
  • Taisho Baseball Girls (anime TV series) - Had this been a better year for anime watching for me, this series might not have made the list, because the girls were more cliched than I would have liked. Still, it's a fun series, and I cheered for the girls as they played their final match against the boys.
  • RideBack (anime TV series) - This is one of the few mecha anime I've seen that I've actually enjoyed. Although I thought the beginning of the series was the strongest part (I LOVED watching Rin fall in love with RideBack riding and translate her love for and experience with ballet into her riding), it's still a good show overall.
  • Maria Watches Over Us (anime TV series) - This series took a bit of time to grow on me, because the girls' hyper-femininity didn't always sit well with me. I think this is the first yuri show I've ever seen. It's pretty, melodramatic, and a bit addictive.
  • Special A (anime TV series) - Added because this list needs some sparkly shoujo romance. No, it's not the best shoujo romance of all time, but it's probably the best I saw in 2011.
  • Soul Eater (anime TV series) - I'm not as fond of the latter half of the series, but the first half of it is gold. It's eye-catching, fun, and inventive. Like other shounen series, there are enough characters packed into it that everyone is sure to have at least one favorite. Mine is Death the Kid.

2011 in numbers

[UPDATE: I just realized that, occasionally, some of my numbers don't add up quite right - for instance, the number of print books I read doesn't match the number you get when you add up all the print books I bought and got for free. I don't really feel like going through and checking everything, though, so I'll just say that my numbers might not always be accurate, but they should be fairly close.]

Here are some numbers for 2011. All of these numbers are based on full posts I've written about a single thing. My posts with short takes on multiple works weren't counted, and neither were my posts about multiple volumes of manga - the numbers below are more about what I actually wrote about than how much I read and watched. That made the counting a little easier.

Formats:
  • 21 print books (as far as those go, I was amused to see that I began and ended the year with Julia Quinn - totally unplanned)
  • 13 e-books
  • 7 e-novellas
  • 7 audio books
  • 2 graphic novels
  • 17 volumes of manga (the actual amount I read was much higher, but I didn't write single posts about most of them)
I can't believe I only read 41 books in the past year. I need to work on that.

I only read one non-fiction book in the past year - everything else was fiction. This isn't very surprising. Since beginning this blog, I've only read 8 non-fiction works, and three of those were manga/graphic novels.

Audience:
  • 10 young adult (or juvenile) books
  • 31 books for adults
2011 felt like a big year for young adult reading for me. I was a little surprised that the number of young adult/juvenile books I read wasn't higher.

Animation, Live action:
  • 2 non-Japanese animation
  • 22 anime
  • 3 live action
These numbers are no surprise. I always watch way more animation, particularly Japanese anime, than live action.

Movie vs. TV series:
  • 2 movies
  • 22 TV series
  • 1 OVA
The numbers don't quite match up to the animation vs. live action numbers, so I have a feeling my tagging is a little off on one or two posts, but you get the idea. Although I know I saw more than 2 movies in the past year, I only wrote about two. It's no surprise that the TV series number is high.

My Nook:

I bought my Nook in April, and I found myself wondering how this affected my reading habits. I felt like I read more e-books than print books after getting my Nook, so I took a look at the numbers.
  • 13 print books (this includes 1 book that is essentially a picture book for adults, so it might be more accurate to say I read 12 print books)
  • 6 e-novellas (I read one novella while trying out someone else's Nook, so I'm not counting that one)
  • 12 e-books
As it turns out, I read more individual works in e-format, but my book reading is still slightly more print format than e-format. It's impressive, though, that e-books make up almost half of my book reading now. It would be interesting to know how the page count compares, since it seems like e-first publishers' definition of "book" is shorter than traditional print books. However, I don't have those numbers and, even if I did, I'm still not entirely certain that one Nook page always equates to one print page.

All my novella reading in the past year has been due to my Nook (at least according to the full posts I've written) - I read no print anthologies.

Purchased vs. Free:

Books:
  • 31 purchased (9 print books, 6 e-books, 10 manga volumes, 6 e-novellas)
  • 19 library (11 print books, 2 audio books, 5 manga volumes, 1 graphic novel)
  • 16 free, but not library (2 print books, 7 e-books, 5 audio books, 1 e-novella, 1 graphic novel)
Viewing (not including movie theater):
  • 11 purchased
  • 1 library
  • 14 streaming
Again, this only reflects the things I wrote full posts about. The actual number of things I purchased and got for free (library, library convention haul, Project Gutenberg, etc.) is much higher, but I'd have a horrible time trying to count it all up.

If you count the posts I wrote about multiple manga volumes (my post vacation manga posts), my library reading goes from 19 to 59, with 45 of those being manga volumes. Those 40 manga volumes were checked out from a library that has an actual manga collection - the library I work at has no manga (unless you count the Odd Thomas OEL manga that we for some reason purchased), so every volume I get from there has to be requested via ILL. Getting through a single series via ILL can be very time-consuming, since I don't usually request multiple volumes of a series, out of fear that the later volumes will get to me first. This explains why I tend to buy more manga volumes than I check out from the library, even though manga volumes are expensive enough that I really would prefer to get them via the library.

As far as purchases of print books go, it should be noted that I tend to buy used if at all possible. The only exception tends to be impulse Harlequin buys. As far as manga goes, I sometimes buy used, but I usually buy new at as low a price as I can find - I get nervous about buying used manga, because I don't want to get shipped something that has damaged artwork.

All of the streaming things I watched and wrote about could be viewed for free, although I should note that, a few weeks ago, I caved and bought myself a subscription to Crunchyroll. That's one of the reasons you'll probably be seeing more streaming anime posts in 2012.
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