Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reorganizing my e-books

Yesterday I reorganized my e-books (on my Nook - Calibre is a whole 'nother story). Previously, I had shelves for genres, as well as shelves for books I'd purchased, finished, reviewed, and was in the process of reading. E-books can be on more than one shelf, which meant I sometimes had books on my "bought" shelf as well as one or two genre-specific shelves.

The thing was, I rarely used the genre-specific shelves. All having my books on those shelves did was increase the number of pages my e-book collection took up and increase the amount of time it took to assign my books to shelves after I loaded them onto my Nook. So, yesterday I got rid of all the genre-specific shelves and set up shelves for "free" and "free and old" (older, out of copyright books I've gotten from Project Gutenberg and elsewhere). I'll have to wait and see how it works out for me, but I think those shelves will more closely fit how I browse through my collection. It's still better than my physical books, I guess - those have zero organization. I may catalog books for a living, but my personal collection is a mess.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Better Than a Dream (e-book) written by Raica Sakuragi, illustrated by Katsumi Asanami

The English translation of Better Than a Dream is published by Digital Manga, Inc., which lists its genres as Drama, Romance, and Yaoi. Although it has a few illustrations, the bulk of the book is text - this is not manga.

According to All Romance Ebooks, Better Than a Dream is 40,400 words, which came out to 112 pages on my Nook. A paperback version exists, but it looks like it might be out of print.

Synopsis:

Yuuki and Tsukada were a perfect, happy couple...until Tsukada, an avid mountain climber, died in an avalanche. Since then, Yuuki has done his best to run Fuuka, his café, and deal with his grief as quietly as possible. Hardly anyone knew what the nature of Yuuki's relationship with Tsukada was, or that Yuuki is gay.

Shin, one of Yuuki's old high school friends, is one of the people who knows. After Tsukada's death, Shin became a regular at Fuuka, eventually even going so far as to sit in Tsukada's former favorite spot. It's not unusual for him to spend the night at Yuuki's place. Although there have been moments when their relationship has almost crossed the line from friendship into something more, they both keep holding back. Yuuki is lonely, but the one he really misses is Tsukada. Anyway, he figures that Shin's feelings must not be strong enough to overcome societal taboos against homosexuality.

While Shin is away on business, a stranger arrives and shakes everything up. Yuuki intended to hire a waitress but instead finds himself hiring Kamishiro on as Fuuka's new chef. Kamishiro is a complete mystery - he's a professional chef with years of experience under his belt, and yet he's willing to work for minimum wage and a room at Yuuki's place. Yuuki wonders about him, his past, and whatever happened to him that scarred him and left him with a limp. Still, he turns out to be a surprisingly good fit for Fuuka.

Unfortunately, Shin does not react well to the news that Kamishiro has taken a room at Yuuki's place. All of the relationship issues and emotions everyone had been able to bury are now pushed painfully to the forefront.

Review:

Of the two DRM-free e-books Digital Manga, Inc. decided to sell through ARe, this one's description excited me the least. There seemed to be too many characters, and I'm not a fan of the “grieving widow/widower/lover” trope. It also didn't help that the excerpt on the publisher's website was boring and strange - DMI folks, please tell me you didn't seriously think the stuff from the POV of the dog would convince people to buy the book.

You know what, though? Better Than a Dream turned out to be an okay read. While I do think there are lots of better books out there, if you're going to try one of DMI's “yaoi novel” offerings, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dead Man's Rain (e-novella) by Frank Tuttle

Dead Man's Rain is published by Samhain Publishing and is included in their Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Vampires categories. In my opinion, neither Science Fiction nor Vampires is appropriate. I haven't encountered anything in the Markhat series so far that would lead me to believe this is a science fiction story, and, although vampires are a part of Markhat's world, they're barely even mentioned in this novella.

According to this page, Dead Man's Rain is the second work in Tuttle's Markhat series. However, Tuttle also states that the order of the first three books isn't critical, and I very much agree. Dead Man's Rain makes no references at all to the events of The Mister Trophy and could just as easily be read first.

Those who prefer print books are in luck: The Markhat Files is a paperback book that includes the first three Markhat stories, The Cadaver Client, The Mister Trophy, and Dead Man's Rain.

I haven't been able to find a word count for this novella, so all I can say is that it comes out to 58 pages on my Nook, if you don't count the additional 6 pages of excerpts.

Synopsis:

Markhat is a finder, which, in his world, seems equivalent to being a P.I. Mama Hog approaches him just as he is leaving the funeral of a man he fought beside during the war. One of her clients, the Widow Merlat, needs more help than she can give, and Markhat is the best alternative she's able to offer. The widow is rich, so Markhat agrees to at least listen to what she has to say.

The Widow Merlat believes her dead husband has come back and is now a revenant. She wants Markhat to help her put him to rest. Unfortunately for her, Markhat doesn't believe in revenants. When he is reluctantly convinced to take the case, he does so figuring he'll find a living person bent on scaring the widow. There are some good suspects, too: the three Merlat children are each horrible in different ways, and one of them might have learned that the widow plans to cut them all off from the bulk of the family's money.

Review:

Dead Man's Rain was good, but left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Even if this story didn't reference the events of The Mister Trophy, I at least wanted it to add something to my understanding of Markhat and his world. All I learned, I think, was a little more about Markhat's specialty during the war – he was a dog handler.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Digital Manga titles on All Romance Ebooks

The good news: Digital Manga Publishing has added several titles to All Romance Ebooks (do a publisher search for "Digital Manga Publishing."

The bad news (at least for me): They are all DRM-protected.

I'd probably have bought at least one of them if they had been DRM-free, even though I'd have had to read it on my computer. However, I'm still sticking to my "buy DRM-free" rule, and I haven't wanted anything badly enough yet to break that rule.

Anyway, back to ARe. There's one oddity involving Better Than a Dream (which is a novel, not manga like all the others). If you do a search for all works by Raica Sakuragi, you'll see Better Than a Dream listed three times in ARe. The Digital Manga Publishing version is DRM-protected. The Digital Manga, Inc. version is also DRM-protected. However, the DIGITAL MANGA, INC. version (yes, in ARe, searching is case-sensitive) is DRM-free. All three versions are the same price. I have no idea why the publisher is doing this. Maybe it's a mistake, or maybe they're testing how something sells with DRM vs. without. The DRM-free version has been there since I first blogged about it back in May, so, if it's a mistake, they haven't noticed it yet.

I'm currently reading Frank Tuttle's Dead Man's Rain, but, once I finish that, I think I'll switch to Better Than a Dream, so I can give my feedback on whether it's worth swooping in and buying it DRM-free. Here's hoping Better Than a Dream is better than The Selfish Demon King.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Selfish Demon King (e-book) written by Kyoko Wakatsuki, illustrated by Naduki Koujima

The English translation of The Selfish Demon King is published by Digital Manga, Inc., which lists its genres as Fantasy, Romance, and Yaoi. To make this as clear as possible: it is a novel, not manga. Although there are a few illustrations, the bulk of the book is text. Also, this book is not suitable for younger readers - it contains several explicit sex scenes (the text is more explicit than the images).

According to All Romance Ebooks, The Selfish Demon King is 28,000 words, which came out to 68 pages on my Nook. The book has been released in paper form, but it looks like it's out of print.

Synopsis:

Shizuku, a cute 17-year-old, is shocked when he comes home one day to find a handsome stranger in his house. The stranger, Duga, immediately declares himself in love with Shizuku and whisks him away to his palace, ignoring the protests of Shizuku and Shizuku's father and brothers.

Shizuku had grown up thinking he was an ordinary human, but in actuality he is an incubus. His father and brothers are all demons and kept Shizuku's true nature from him in order to protect him from Duga. You see, Duga is the selfish and arrogant Demon King. Every 100 years, before his mating season, he must find an incubus to take as his companion. Many incubi have tried to capture his interest, but the only one Duga wants is Shizuku.

Shizuku doesn't know what to think. Duga is extremely jealous and threatens to kill anyone, even Shizuku's family members, who dares touch Shizuku. However, Duga is kinder to Shizuku than to anyone else, even going so far as to compromise and allow Shizuku to see his family for an hour a day. Then there's the sex, which Shizuku enjoys more than he cares to admit. However, he can't help but wonder: why him? What is it about him that interests Duga? And what if Duga tires of him? Yui, another incubus, seems convinced that it's only a matter of time before Duga chooses a different companion, and Shizuku, seeing Yui's beauty, finds it hard to disagree.

Review:

I've seen several positive reviews for The Selfish Demon King, which just goes to show you how subjective reviews can be. Personally, I thought this book was pretty bad. The best thing I can say about it is that it was a quick, light read. Also, I have (unfortunately) read worse.

It's hard to know where to begin, but I think I'll start with the worst stuff (Duga is a rape-y alphole – consider yourself warned) and work from there. It'll be like ripping off a band-aid – do it nice and quick and get it over with.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rangers at Roadsend (e-book) by Jane Fletcher

Rangers at Roadsend is published by Bold Strokes Books, which includes it in its Lesbian Fiction, Romance, Action/Adventure, and Romantic Fantasy categories. I suppose you could call this science fiction, but it's science fiction in the way most of Anne McCaffrey's Pern books are science fiction - the events happen to take place on another planet, and there are a few rare mentions of a science fiction-y origin, but the overall feel is more like fantasy.

For those who prefer paper books, yes, a paperback version of this book is available.

According to All Romance Ebooks, this book is 95,237 words long, which came out to 259 pages on my Nook.

Synopsis:

Rangers at Roadsend is part of Jane Fletcher's Celaeno series. On her site, Fletcher states that the books in this series are intended to be standalone novels, so I took her at her word and started with the one that looked the most appealing to me.

First, some basic info about the world: All humans and all animals not native to the planet (domesticated animals) are female - hundreds of years ago, when people first colonized this planet, something happened that reduced male fertility to zero and made it impossible for male children to be born. Males are only present in species native to the planet. Domesticated animals are bred via cloning. Human babies are created via a process involving Imprinters, people with special gifts that allow them to combine the genetic material of two women. Instead of a mother and a father, every woman has a birth mother and a gene mother.

Now, on to the story: Sergeant Chip Coppelli is curious and a little concerned about Katryn Nagata, a new Ranger assigned to her squadron. At 25 (I think), Katryn is old for a Private, indicating that she may have committed an offense worthy of demotion. Since Katryn was transferred from another squadron, that offense was probably something that made her unpopular with her comrades. Lacking any further information, all Chip can conclude is that Katryn is potentially trouble.

While working closely with Katryn on an investigation of a robbery of a shipment of jewelry, Chip begins to question her initial assessment of the woman, but she can't be sure that her opinion isn't being affected, even just a little, by her attraction to her. After learning that the offense Katryn committed might have been murder, Chip sits her down and asks for the full story, nothing left out.

Katryn swears she didn't kill anyone. Chip believes her, but she also knows that, without solid proof of her innocence, Katryn will likely live the rest of her life with that murder hanging over her head. With that in mind, Chip tries to find out what really happened.

Review:

I have a fairly easy time finding m/f and m/m books that fit my tastes, but f/f has been really hit-or-miss. While browsing All Romance Ebook's Lesbian category, I noticed that quite a few of the titles I marked as being potentially interesting and non-skeevy were published by Bold Strokes Books. The next time ARe had a sale, I decided to give Bold Strokes Books a shot. Rangers at Roadsend was one of my purchases.

This is another one of those times when writing things out in paragraph form seems to be a problem for me, so I'm falling back on bulleted lists.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender desktop wallpaper!

I'm posting this because I only recently found out it existed and because my Avatar: The Last Airbender posts are popular enough that I'm assuming at least a few people will find it to be of interest.

Gene Luen Yang, the creator of American Born Chinese (which I read, enjoyed, and could never get myself to write a post about), has written an Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel. I knew that much, because a week ago I tried to find it at my local Hastings and failed miserably. What I did not know was that Dark Horse, the publisher, has desktop wallpaper based on the cover of the first volume. And the wallpaper is even in my size (ginormous 1920 x 1200).

Hemovore (e-book) by Jordan Castillo Price

Hemovore is published by Samhain Publishing and is included in their Vampires and Gay Alternate Worlds categories. For those of you who don't like e-books, you're in luck: this book is also available in paperback format. The paperback version is included in different categories: Urban Fantasy, GLBT, and Vampires.

If you don't count all the excerpts at the end, this e-book was 237 pages on my Nook. According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 82,276 words long.

Synopsis:

Mark has been in love with his boss, Jonathan, for years, but he's never had the guts to say anything because 1) he's not sure whether Jonathan is even attracted to men and 2) Jonathan is V-positive. V-positives can't eat normal food, don't age, need blood in order to survive, are allergic to sunlight, and lose weight so easily that they need to regularly drink pure fat (usually in the form of flavored oil smoothies) just to maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately, the hemovore virus, which they are infected with, is highly contagious and has a significant chance of killing the newly-infected. V-positive bodily fluids of any sort are dangerous to V-negatives like Mark. And so he keeps his mouth shut about his feelings and does his best to sell Jonathan's paintings and keep him well-supplied with cat blood, the only blood Jonathan is both willing and able to stomach.

Both Mark and Jonathan are excited when someone shows interest in buying all of Jonathan's paintings. Unfortunately, things go badly, and suddenly they're both on the run from a murderous V-positive from Jonathan's past. With no access to their bank accounts, a dwindling supply of cash, and no cat blood, among lots of other problems, it doesn't look like they can stay hidden and safe for long.

Review:

Oh, I loved this book.

Jordan Castillo Price is one of those authors that makes me glad I bought an e-reader, because otherwise I doubt I would ever have read Hemovore or Among the Living, which I also enjoyed. At the same time, however, I found myself wishing that I had been reading Hemovore in paperback form rather than e-book form. There were several times I would have liked to have been able to flip back and forth between parts of the book in order to confirm certain world rules, and that would have been easier to do with a paperback.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Last Car to Annwn Station (e-book) by Michael Merriam

Last Car to Annwn Station is published by Carina Press and is included in their Fae, Fantasy, Female/Female, and Romance categories. I'd call it more fantasy than romance.

Like most of my e-books, this is something I purchased. I can't remember if it was a recommendation on a blog, or if it just caught my eye while I was scanning Carina Press's offerings. Unfortunately for those of you who prefer to read paper books, as far as I know this is only available in e-book form. It's 81,000 words long, which worked out to 205 pages on my Nook (208 total).

Synopsis:

Mae works for Minneapolis Child Protective Services. One of her newest cases is odd and frustrating. Despite all the evidence of abuse and neglect, judges keep returning Chrysandra Arneson, now 12 years old, to her mother, Marie Arneson. The only reason for this that Mae can think of is that Arnesons are wealthy and well-connected.

Mae refuses to let Chrysandra's case go, but she quickly ends up in deeper, stranger trouble than she could ever have expected. After first trying to deal with a magical streetcar and the hounds of the Wild Hunt on her own, she finally confides in a friend of hers, a law librarian named Jill. Together, they find themselves dealing with danger in both the human and fae worlds.

Review:

This book has a lot of elements that might attract readers: a magical streetcar, a zombie child, a multitude of fae creatures, references to Welsh mythology, and a bit of f/f romance. While many of those elements interested me at first, I found Last Car to Annwn Station to be so-so overall.

The Insiders: A Portfolio of Stories from High Finance (anthology) by David Charters

The Insiders was one of my library checkouts.

This book includes 25 short stories - perhaps more accurately called vignettes - starring international bankers, brokers, business executives, and others from the world of big business. All the stories are set in London, and many feature a fictional company called Bartons and its employees. All the stories end with some sort of twist.

Review:

In his introduction, Charters writes: “Please do not feel sorry for the characters who come to grief. Like gamblers in a casino, they know the risks and make their own decisions – and they do not complain when they win” (p. 7). I took this to mean that bad things would probably be happening to at least a few likeable characters. As it turned out, bad things happened to many characters in these stories. They lost their jobs, went broke, were left by their wives, failed a job interview. One even committed suicide. For the most part, I barely felt a twinge for any of them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Brave (CGI animated movie) - at the movie theater

Before seeing Pixar's Brave, I had watched both the American and Japanese trailers for it. Neither trailer tells you much about what the movie is really about, and the Japanese trailer, in particular, left me with the impression that the movie would have some kind of nature-related message.

Synopsis:

As a child, Princess Merida grew up wild, free to do pretty much what she liked. Her father taught her archery, and it became one of her strongest skills. As she grew older, her mother put more restrictions on her behavior, determined to turn her into a lady. Merida doesn't really consider what that might mean for her, until her parents finally tell her that she will be expected to marry the first-born son of the leader of one of the three neighboring clans.

Merida attempts to win the right to decide her own fate, but the results are disastrous, putting a rift between her and her mother and leaving the clans at each others' throats. In despair, Merida runs off and eventually comes across a witch who promises to give her a spell that will change her mother and thereby change her fate.

Unfortunately, the spell does things that Merida never intended, and if she doesn't figure out how to set things right soon, the effects will be permanent.

Review:

I think seeing Snow White and the Huntsman so recently made me appreciate this movie more. Brave was clearly written by someone (according to IMDb, Brenda Chapman) who knew what kind of story they were telling and stuck to it. There was no romance shoe-horned in at the last second. This was, pure and simple, a story about a mother-daughter relationship.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (live action movie) - at the movie theater

I went into Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter feeling cautiously optimistic. I haven't read the book, so all I knew about it was what I had seen in the movie trailer.

In case you haven't seen the movie yet: There is nothing in my review or synopsis that I would consider to be a major spoiler.

Synopsis:

When Abraham Lincoln was a young boy, he witnessed a man named Jack Barts whip his best friend, an African American boy named Will Johnson. In trying to defend Will, Abraham was almost beaten as well, but his father stepped in and protected him and his friend. As punishment, Barts, a vampire, snuck into the Lincolns' home and bit Abraham's mother as she slept. She later sickened and died, and Abraham, who witnessed the attack, became determined to kill Barts.

Several years later, Abraham Lincoln, now a young man, unsuccessfully tries to kill Barts and is saved by Henry Sturgess. Sturgess agrees to teach Lincoln how to kill vampires if he promises to only kill those vampires Sturgess directs him to kill. And so, by day, Lincoln studies law and works at a shop. By night, he kills vampires. Despite directions from Sturgess to have neither friends nor family, Lincoln finds himself falling for Mary Todd, a woman who knows nothing of the darkness he fights.

Eventually, Lincoln comes to the realization that Sturgess's way of dealing with the vampires is not enough. Vampires have encouraged slavery in America because it provides them with easy access to humans who can be killed without raising too much suspicion. Lincoln is of the belief that everyone, black or white, should be safe from vampires. It becomes his goal to end slavery and remove the vampires' access to an easy source of food, thereby making it difficult for them to exist in America in their current great numbers.

Review:

I went into this expecting an over-the-top and possibly campy action movie. At times, that's sort of what I got. There were moments when I could practically see the CGI – during the horse stampede, for example, or early on, when Sturgess threw Barts through a bunch of wood. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it all nearly as much as I had hoped I would.
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