Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes From the Zombie Apocalypse (book)

[Quick note: I got this book via ILL.]

Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse isn't a novel, but rather a collection of notes and, occasionally, photographs.

The book begins with a timeline that spans from February to November of some unknown year. February is when the first incidences of "the super flu" are reported. Camp St. Teresa and similar places are established, initially to care for uninsured super flu patients. Later, these camps become quarantines. By November, the super flu has mutated. A few patients at Camp St. Teresa die and begin attacking others.

The notes and photographs that comprise the majority of the book are described as being the contents of a backpack discovered in a town in Northern California. The notes document various individuals' experiences just before and after the super flu mutated.

Review:

When I was a teen, I used to collect things I found in library books. Sometimes I found actual bookmarks, but usually I found scraps of paper, notes, postcards, anything that the previous readers found lying around that could be used as a bookmark. Sometimes I imagined what the people who left those things behind were like. Reading this book had a similar effect on me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My dad's visiting!

If I manage to get a post done this weekend, I'll be amazed - my weekend has gone from "slightly booked" to "so much stuff to do!" Assuming all goes well, I'll be picking up my dad tonight and bringing him over for his first visit to my place since I moved here almost 4 years ago. Then I'm working on Sunday. That leaves maybe a little of Saturday for writing, depending on when my dad needs to get back on the road. If I do find time to write something up, here's what you'll likely be reading about:
  • Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse (book) - This book is part of a collaborative project designed to document humanity's survival in a fictional alternate world in which the zombie apocalypse has taken place. The book is a collection of handwritten or typed notes and photographs.
  • Last Car to Annwyn Station (e-book) by Michael Merriam - A fantasy novel set in contemporary Minneapolis. It features a magical streetcar, fairies, and an animated corpse. This isn't a romance novel, but there is a bit of romance between the book's two main female characters.
Now, off to go eat something before it's time to go to the truck stop.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls: An Audio Melodrama in Three Despicable Acts (audio book) by Yuri Rasovsky, featuring a full cast

This is a short audio drama, only 2 1/2 hours long. I checked it out from the library.

Synopsis:

Barber Sweeney Todd has a customer come in, a sailor who needs to find a certain Miss Johanna so that he can deliver a string of pearls to her. The man Johanna loved had left to find his fortune, but may have died while on his journey. Those pearls are all that is left of his fortune.

Sweeney Todd quickly kills off the sailor and takes the pearls, intending to sell them. First, however, he'll have to deal with the sailor's loyal dog, which insists on hanging by the shop and attracting all kinds of attention. Then others come by, looking for the sailor, Todd's young assistant makes a few more comments than is good for him, and Johanna herself begins snooping around, convinced that Sweeney Todd is a murderer. Meanwhile, Todd's co-conspirator, Mrs. Lovett, suspects that Todd has come into some good fortune he doesn't plan on sharing with her.

Review:

Is it bad that I enjoyed this? It's lurid, blackly humorous, and a lot of fun.

The Dragon and the Pearl (book) by Jeannie Lin

Jeannie Lin's Harlequin Historicals get some really fabulous covers.

A note to those who haven't read Lin's Butterfly Swords: The Dragon and the Pearl stars characters who first appeared in that book.

Synopsis:

This book is set in China during the Tang Dynasty - primarily A.D. 759, with some flashbacks to the main characters' younger days. Ling Suyin, the former Emperor's consort, had hoped to live out the rest of her life quietly, an exile in the beautiful, remote home the Emperor left her after he died. When Li Tao and his men come, Suyin thinks he has come to kill her for something she did in the past. Instead, he takes her prisoner (sort of).

Li Tao had been warned that Gao, another warlord, had sent someone to kill Suyin, although he has no idea why Gao wants her dead. Li Tao tries to figure Suyin out and learn what it is about her that makes her so important that someone like Gao would want to kill her. She fascinates and attracts him, even though he doesn't have the time or luxury to be distracted - he stands precariously between at least two men who may try to kill him, Gao and Emperor Shen.

As they spend more time together, Li Tao and Suyin gradually begin to see underneath each other's masks and to fall in love. Unfortunately, Li Tao's chances of surviving in the face of both Gao and Emperor Shen's armies are slim.

Review:

I enjoyed Jeannie Lin's Butterfly Swords enough that when The Dragon and the Pearl came out, I snatched it up. Then it sat in my TBR pile for a while. Working on my read-alikes list for Bonnie Dee's Captive Bride reminded me that I hadn't read it yet, but still wanted to.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Captive Bride (e-book) by Bonnie Dee

This is a historical romance published by Carina Press. Carina Press includes it in their Historical Romance, Interracial, and Romance categories. I'm pretty sure I bought it after reading a review of it on Dear Author.

According to Carina Press, this book is 75,600 words long, which translated into 210 pages on my Nook.

Synopsis:

This is set in San Francisco in 1870. Corruption runs rampant in the local government and, while the police might help a white woman forced into prostitution, they certainly wouldn't help a Chinese woman. When Huiann arrives in America, she expects to soon be married to Xie, a wealthy businessman she has never seen before, who her parents arranged for her to marry. Instead, Xie tells her that he plans to sell her virginity to the highest bidder and that, if she behaves herself, she may one day be able to live in luxury while she trains other girls to become prostitutes the way Madam Teng will train her.

On the way to see the man who has bought her virginity, Huiann manages to escape. The store she hides in is Alan's. Alan Sommers saw Huiann when she first arrived. He had admired her beauty then, but had assumed she was meant to be someone's bride. Alan can't speak any Chinese dialects and Huiann doesn't know English, but Alan still understands that Huiann is in trouble and needs help, so he lies when a man enters his shop and asks if he has seen her.

After a while, Huiann starts to feel safe in Alan's shop and home. Alan hires her as his housekeeper and teaches her English, and Huiann makes a little money by sewing dresses for Alan to sell in his shop. They start to fall for each other, but the odds are stacked against them. Xie is still looking for Huiann, who he considers to be his property. Also, Alan is trying to become a politician, in the hopes of bringing about positive changes to the city. If anyone found out about his relationship with Huiann, the scandal would destroy his budding political career. Even if they got married, they would still have to face others' prejudices. Will Huiann and Alan be able to overcome all the things that stand against them?

Review:

This post was an absolute bear to write. I'm not sure why, since I even had decent notes that covered pretty much everything I wanted to write. I just had a hard time putting those notes into reasonably coherent and mostly organized paragraphs. I'd have abandoned the whole thing, except I liked the book enough that I wanted to make sure there was a mention of it on my blog. Plus, the cover image is pretty.

The Golden Compass (audio book) by Philip Pullman, narrated by the author with the support of a full cast

I checked this out from the library. After finishing Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, I really wanted to listen to another book read by a full cast, and The Golden Compass was one of the books that came up in my library catalog search.

I wonder, does The Golden Compass count as steampunk? I'm not sure, but my guess is that it does, which would explain why so many steampunk titles popped into my mind while I was thinking up read-alikes/watch-alikes.

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Lyra Belacqua (I could be wrong about her age...) has grown up wild and relatively free, raised haphazardly by the scholars at Jordan College. Like everyone else in this alternate world, Lyra has a daemon, a physical manifestation of her soul. Because she is still a child, her daemon, Pan, can assume whatever animal form he wishes. When a person goes through puberty, their daemon settles into a single form.

When Lyra first hears of the Gobblers (supposedly, monsters who eat children), she thinks of them mostly as delightfully scary story fodder. Then children she knows start to disappear, including her best friend, Roger. Lyra wants to find and save him but briefly finds herself distracted by a change in her own circumstances, after she is suddenly sent to live with the beautiful and mysterious Mrs. Coulter. After they learn that Mrs. Coulter is connected to the Gobblers, Lyra and Pan escape and are taken in by Gyptians, nomadic people who know more about Lyra and her past than she herself knows.

While traveling with the Gyptians, Lyra figures out how to use the alethiometer, a rare and very important device given to her before she left Jordan College. She befriends various people and beings, learns more about a mysterious thing called Dust and what the Gobblers really are, and tries to find a way to save her friend Roger and Lord Asriel, the man from whom she first learned about Dust.

Review:

I have read this book several times, and I think I may have listened to the audio version before as well, because several of the voices sounded very familiar. I love this book, although my enjoyment of it always seems to surprise me whenever I reread it. I'm not sure why that is. It's like I forget just how much I enjoyed it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Wedding Beat (book) by Devan Sipher

I found out about this book via Dear Author's "Debut Print Book" feature and immediately requested it via ILL. It sounded like a fun, cute read.

Synopsis:

Gavin Greene writes the wedding column for the Paper, and he has come to the realization that he may forever be a single guy attending other people's weddings. He doesn't want to be alone, but he's not quite sure what to do about it. His breakup with his last girlfriend, Laurel, was painful, and he doesn't know where things went wrong.

Gavin meets Melinda at a party, thinks she's wonderful, and realizes too late that she had been flirting with him. Having lost sight of her, he tries to find her again, fails, and then tries to forget her while interviewing brides- and grooms-to-be, dealing with family-related stress, and nervously wondering if he will be the next person at the Paper to be laid off. After making a bad decision, Gavin gets roped into covering a wedding that happens to be Melinda's wedding. His personal and professional lives collide in hugely uncomfortable ways.

Review:

I've seen this book described as a romantic comedy, but it's not. It's basically chick lit from a man's perspective. I'm more of a romance reader than a chick lit reader and, for that reason and a few others, I don't think this book was right for me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hanasaku Iroha (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

This is a 26-episode slice-of-life series, with each episode running approximately 23 minutes long. I haven't read anything about any more seasons being made, but I've heard there's supposed to be a movie showing in Japan later this year (according to the Wikipedia page).

[EDIT: I just realized that this post warrants a bit of a spoiler alert. Although I tried to minimize spoilers, my review does have a few.]

Synopsis:

Ohana loves her mother, but she has also spent pretty much her whole life not being able to rely on her. When Ohana's mother suddenly announces that her latest boyfriend has gotten into some financial trouble and roped them into it by using their address on the forms he'd filled out, Ohana at first thinks she'll be joining them when they move out in the middle of the night to skip out on his debt. However, Ohana's mother's answer to that is, "What kind of mother would do something like that?" Instead, she sends her daughter to live with her mother, Ohana's grandmother. Ohana's mother was disowned by her mother, and Ohana has never met her grandmother before. Prior to leaving, Ohana meets up with her friend Ko, in order to say goodbye to him. Shocked at the suddenness of it all and Ohana's apparently cheerful attitude, Ko blurts out that he has liked Ohana for ages and had hoped she would one day notice. Ohana has no idea what to say and runs off without telling him what she feels for him in return.

Ohana's image of how her life will be with her grandmother is rosier than the reality. Her grandmother is the manager of a traditional Japanese inn, Kissuiso, and she expects Ohana to work hard there, just like everyone else. There is no calling her "Grandmother" - she is "Madam Manager," even to her own son. Ohana isn't used to hard physical work, and she messes things up at first. She doesn't quite know how to get along with her coworkers either, which becomes even more difficult when one of her coworkers also turns out to be her roommate. The very first thing Minko tells Ohana to do is die, after Ohana pulls up some plants Minko had been growing, thinking they were weeds.

Gradually, Ohana gets used to life at Kissuiso and even comes to love it there. The show focuses primarily on the staff and work at Kissuiso - people's relationships, and the way Kissuiso is run (the driving force behind the inn is "the customer's happiness comes first"). However, Kissuiso is not a big inn, and it hasn't been a popular one in a long time. Things change. What will happen to everyone if the Kissuiso is closed for good?

Review:

This was an uneven show. Sometimes it was excellent, and sometimes it made me frustrated and angry with its characters, to the point where I had difficulty remembering why and if I even liked them.

A Girl Named Digit (book) by Annabel Monaghan

Release date: June 5, 2012

This is one of the ARCs I got at ALA Midwinter. The title used in my ARC is Digit: She's Got Your Number. The cover of my ARC is plain red, which, while boring, at least isn't as completely wrong as the cover the publisher finally decided upon. I'm guessing the girl on the cover is Digit/Farrah, but Farrah would never, ever have worn a shirt like that - it would have given her a mental breakdown.

Synopsis:

Farrah Higgins can act as a human calculator and can look at a group of numbers and see patterns that no one else can see. Her abilities can be so overwhelming that it's sometimes hard for her to function, and one particular freak-out period at school earned her the nickname Digit. Her parents moved her to another school, somewhere she could make a fresh start. She tried her hardest to blend in and be like everyone else, but being like everyone else meant suppressing her mathematical abilities.

While watching a TV show with a group of her friends (none of whom know about her math skills), Farrah spots a set of numbers during the opening credits. In later weeks, she spots more sets of numbers in the opening credits of the same show. Unable to help herself, Farrah puts the numbers together and starts considering what they might mean. The next day, her theory about the meaning of the numbers is proven correct when a suicide bomber blows up a plane at the JFK International Airport.

Shaken, Farrah goes to her dad, who takes her to the FBI, but John Bennett, the young agent who speaks to her, doesn't take her seriously. Farrah opts to do a little investigating on her own, only to get chased by a scary guy who isn't happy she managed to figure out the numerical code. Back at the FBI, Farrah finally manages to get John to really listen to her. It turns out Farrah has cracked a code used by a group of dangerous eco-terrorists who love Fibonacci numbers. In order to protect her and enlist her help in deciphering future codes, the FBI sends Farrah into hiding with John, who has more in common with Farrah than she first realizes.

Review:

I found a good chunk of this book to be highly addictive, even as I realized it was basically wtf reading for teens (see my Pregnesia post for an example of something I consider to be wtf reading for adults). I loved the early descriptions of Farrah as a girl who could be completely derailed by a bunch of randomly-placed tiles or sequins that aren't arranged in predictable patterns. I liked that all the terrorist stuff started with a bunch of numbers unobtrusively placed in the opening credits of a popular TV show – the eco-terrorists love Fibonacci numbers!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman (live action movie) - at the movie theater

Yes, I saw this today. It did not impress me. Details below. I tried not to include any major spoilers in either my review or synopsis. Unlike my post for The Avengers, this post includes a watch-alikes/read-alikes list.

Synopsis:

The movie starts off before Snow White's birth, shows how happy her family was, and then shows how her father grieved after her mother's death. A mysterious army shows up, which Snow White's father, the king, goes off to fight. After the mysterious army is defeated, the king discovers that they had been transporting a prisoner (Charlize Theron). The king is immediately smitten with her and marries her only a day or two, I think, after he finds her. She kills him on their wedding night and invites her own army, plus her brother, into the castle. Most of the people in the castle are either killed or imprisoned, although a few, such as Snow White's friend William, escape. Snow White is kept prisoner for the next few years.

During those years, the queen keeps herself young and beautiful by absorbing the youth of the kingdom's most beautiful women. And possibly also the kingdom's most handsome young men. All the while, she asks her mirror who's the fairest of them all...until the day Snow White comes of age and becomes more beautiful than she. If she eats Snow White's heart (I think), she'll stay beautiful longer, her powers will be stronger, and she'll have gotten rid of the only person in the kingdom who could vanquish her. However, Snow White manages to escape and meets people, such as a widowed huntsman and some dwarves, who start off as her protectors and eventually join her in the fight against the queen.

Review:

I didn't have high hopes for this movie, but I didn't expect it to be quite as bad as it was.

The best thing I can say about it is that it looked good. It was pretty, in a mostly dark sort of way, and the various fantasy elements (the troll, the shard beings, the lovely-weird plants in the sanctuary, etc.) looked great. Unfortunately, I thought the movie failed in every way that really counted. A good-looking movie is nothing if it doesn't at least have interesting characters and/or a solid story.

Wild Rock (manga) by Kazusa Takashima

In case you're not familiar with Blu, it was the imprint under which Tokyopop published BL manga (or boys' love, yaoi, or whatever the most commonly used fan term is now - trying to look up the proper terminology just made me more confused). The back of this manga indicates that it is rated "Mature."

I did a bit of searching, and it looks like there's an extra, involving a slightly older Nava, that was never included in Blu's release of Wild Rock. Or at least it's not in my volume.

Synopsis:

This manga is set in prehistoric times and is composed of three stories.

"Wild Rock"

This is the longest of the stories. Yuuen is the heir to one clan, while Emba is the heir to another. Both clans have been warring for some time, and Yuuen's clan keeps losing game to Emba's clan. Knowing that something must be done, Yuuen's father comes up with a plan. He instructs Yuuen to dress and act like a girl, seduce Emba, and, er, somehow use this to the clan's advantage. I'm not entirely clear on the details of this "plan." Anyway, it seems to work, and the two young men fall for each other. Yuuen, however, believes Emba has only fallen for him because he thinks he's a girl. Feeling guilty about lying to Emba, Yuuen calls off his father's plan...but then Emba visits Yuuen's clan and reveals the things he had been hiding from Yuuen. This story has a happy ending.

"Innocent Lies"

This story takes place further in the past and stars Yuuen and Emba's fathers (oh yes, the two have a history together). Yuni (Yuuen's father) gets angry after some of his clan members complain about having to put up with him just because he's heir to the clan. For some reason, this prompts him to try to find an oath flower (a difficult-to-find flower that young men give to women they'd like to propose to). Unfortunately, he gets injured by a trap set by Selem (Emba's father). Yuni doesn't know, at first, that Selem is the heir to an enemy clan. As Selem takes care of Yuni's injury, the two young men gradually grow more attracted to each other. Unfortunately, their respective positions mean that they can never be together. This story has a bittersweet ending.

"Child Rock"

This story is a bit of fluff for those who want to see how Emba and Yuuen's relationship has worked out. Emba's brother now has a child named Nava, and Emba and Yuuen are bathing him before taking him back to Yuuen's brother and his wife. Yuuen's brother is apparently clueless and has no idea that Yuuen and Emba's relationship is anything other than symbolic.

Review:

I originally wrote up a longer, more detailed explanation of what prompted me to buy, read, and review this, but it morphed into a giant rant about libraries, collection development policies, and the dangers of saying "we don't collect porn" without bothering to define the word "porn." So I'll just move on to the review.

Before rereading this, I vaguely remembered it as being little more than an excuse for hot caveman sex. Now...well, I was kind of right, although there wasn't as much sex as I remembered (a grand total of two sex scenes, which take up a fairly small percentage of the volume). There isn't much plot, and what there is doesn't quite make sense. But still. The result is kind of sweet, and, while I think I'm a little more critical of it than I was when I first read it back in grad school, I liked it overall.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...