Saturday, November 24, 2012

Draykon (e-book) by Charlotte E. English

Draykon is a fantasy novel, the first in a series. I got it for free via Smashwords. On my Nook, it was 276 pages, not counting the glossary and excerpt for the next book in the series.

Synopsis:

Llandry, a young, painfully shy jeweler, becomes an overnight sensation after selling a few pieces of her "istore" jewelry. "Istore" is what Llandry called the strange jewels she found in a little cave, and now everyone wants some of it.

Apparently, someone is even willing to kill for istore. Llandry's customers start turning up dead, mauled by vicious whurthags, their istore jewelry stolen from them. One of the murdered people was a friend of Eva, a powerful summoner. While Llandry tries to keep her very last piece of istore safe, Eva works with a sorcerer to find and stop the murderer.

Review:

What initially attracted me to this book was its absolutely gorgeous cover, reasonably interesting-sounding description, and decent reviews. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me, and I ended up spending maybe two months slogging through it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm on Goodreads now!

Just like the post title says, I'm on Goodreads now. Yup, I finally caved and got myself an account. I'm still figuring stuff out, but the statistical information alone makes me wish I'd gotten an account sooner. Plus, I love being able to easily compare my reading tastes to that of other users.

So far, I've only posted my most recent review. I've rated all the books I'd previously privately rated, which means everything I've read in the past year plus all of the e-books I've read. The only things I haven't included are audiobooks, since my ratings for those tend to be very influenced by my opinions about the reader(s). I may go back and add them anyway. I'm also considering retrospectively adding reviews to all those rated books.

Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top (non-fiction book) by Jerry Langton

Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top was one of my library checkouts. It's a non-fiction book.

Review:

I've been interested in rats for years, ever since an assignment in my undergraduate psychology class required me to train a rat to perform a series of tasks. Shortly after finishing that assignment, I got my first pet rat, and a year or two later I spent some time in Chicago, researching the city's rodent control program. When I spotted this book in the library, I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day Break, The Complete Series (live action TV series)

Day Break could be classified as action, drama, a thriller, and possibly science fiction (tough to say). The DVD set I own contains all 13 episodes on 2 discs. I got it from a bargain bin, with no prior knowledge of what the show was about or how well it had been received. I figured the answer was probably "not well," since only 6 episodes were broadcast. I decided to give it a chance anyway, because sometimes good shows don't get decent treatment. Maybe Day Break was a secret gem that got stomped on by its network.

Synopsis:

Detective Brett Hopper wakes up after spending the night with his girlfriend, Rita Shelten, at her place. Rita heads off to work, and Brett begins going about his day, only to have a SWAT team capture him. It turns out he's been framed for the murder of Assistant D.A. Garza. That night, Hopper is forcibly removed from his prison cell and taken before a very bad man who seems to be behind everything that's going on. He tells Hopper that, if he doesn't confess to Garza's murder, everyone he loves will die. To prove that he is serious, the very bad man shows Hopper video footage of Rita being killed. The same thing will happen to Hopper's sister if he doesn't do as he's told.

The next day, Hopper wakes up in Rita's bed again. Rita is fine, and everything appears to be going exactly as it did yesterday morning. Hopper comes to the conclusion that he is somehow repeating that horrible day. As he keeps repeating that day, he tries to find out more about what's going on, protect those around him, and clear his name, figuring that, if he can fix everything, somehow time will start moving forward for him again.

Some of the other characters include:
  • Andrea Battle - Hopper's current partner. She's in trouble with Internal Affairs right now and also has some issues with Hopper.
  • Jennifer Mathis - Hopper's sister. She made many attempts to call him the night before the repeating day, but he never picked up.
  • Damien Ortiz - Hopper's informant, and a member of the Latin Disciples, a gang. The safe house Hopper put him in was ambushed on the night before the repeating day. He escaped, but now he'd like some answers from Hopper.
  • Chad Shelten - Rita's ex-husband, and Hopper's ex-partner. Chad thinks Hopper stole Rita from him, so his feelings for Hopper aren't exactly warm and fuzzy.
Review:

While interesting and watchable, Day Break had some very big, very basic problems that, I think, doomed it from the start. I'm not sure how anyone involved in its creation thought it would ever last more than one season.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Natsume's Book of Friends, Seasons 1-4 (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Natsume's Book of Friends (Natsume Yūjin-Chō) is a slice-of-life anime with lots of supernatural elements. Assuming the fourth season is the final one, this series is 52 episodes long. Crunchyroll is streaming the first three seasons here and the fourth season here.

Sorry for the long synopsis. Four seasons gave me a lot of material to cover, even though I did my best to avoid spoilers.

Synopsis:

When Natsume was very young, his father died, and he was sent to live with one distant relative after another. Everywhere he went, he was eventually called a liar, or teased for being strange, because he could see yōkai (various supernatural beings) that no one else could see. By the time Natsume was old enough for high school, he had almost given up on finding people who would accept him. Then the kind Fujiwaras took him in, and he inherited a book his grandmother, Reiko, left behind.

Reiko, like Natsume, could see spirits and was shunned by many humans. Whenever she came across any yōkai, she challenged them to a game or a fight. Whenever Reiko won, which was every single time, since she was pretty powerful, she made the yōkai write their names in her notebook. In theory, she could have used their names to call on those yōkai and force them to obey her, but she never did.

Rather than use the Book of Friends to turn yōkai into slaves, Natsume chooses instead to give the names back to their owners. Madara, a powerful yōkai, agrees to act as Natsume's bodyguard on the condition that he gets to have the Book of Friends and whatever names are left in it if Natsume dies. Because Madara usually takes the form of an adorable lucky cat, Natsume nicknames him Nyanko-sensei.

When Natsume gives a name back, he is usually able to see a little of its owner's past and how Reiko originally came to meet them. He is also occasionally able to see yōkai memories in his dreams. Although he had previously mostly been frightened and resentful of yōkai, now he begins to befriend some of them. His efforts to help various yōkai lead to him eventually befriending (or being befriended by?) several humans, including a boy who can detect spirits, although not nearly as well as Natsume, the class president, a girl who is a descendant of onmyōji, and an exorcist.

At one point, the series introduces an entire society of exorcists. The Matoba clan is composed of some of the most powerful ones. The head of the Matoba clan is very interested in recruiting Natsume, but his approach to dealing with yōkai (he believes in enslaving, killing, or exorcising them, not befriending them) is not something the much more gentle Natsume can get behind. The exorcists only take up a small portion of the series, however - most of the focus is on Natsume making both human and yōkai friends and gradually learning to trust and rely on them.

Review:

I've been finished with this series for some time now, but couldn't figure out how to word my review. While I'm still not sure I've adequately described how I feel about this series, it's time to finally get this out of my Draft section.

Pricks and Pragmatism (e-novella) by J.L. Merrow

Pricks and Pragmatism is published by Samhain Publishing and is included in their Gay Contemporary category. As far as I can tell, it's only available in e-format.

According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 25,581 words, which came out to 58 pages on my Nook, not counting the many pages of excerpts at the end.

Synopsis:

This story is told in the first person, from Luke's perspective. Ever since his father kicked him out of the house when he was 16, Luke has been staying with other people. As a poor student hoping to become a journalist one day, he doesn't have much money, so he pays for his places to stay by having sex with the people who let him stay with them. Some of the men are nicer than others, but the one thing they all have in common is that they all eventually ask him to leave. For them, Luke is good enough for sex, but nothing else.

Then one of Luke's past roomies hooks him up with Russell. Russell is different from anyone Luke has ever stayed with. He doesn't seem to want to have sex with Luke, even though he's gay and seems interested. He dresses badly, is a bit of a nerd, and doesn't have much of a social life. He's also really nice, and Luke finds himself growing to genuinely like the guy.

When Luke learns that Russell is a virgin, Russell's rejection of him finally starts to make sense. A great, sweet guy like Russell must be saving himself for someone special. And Luke, who puts out at the slightest opportunity, couldn't possibly be that "someone special," even if he's starting to wish he were.

Review:

I bought Pricks and Pragmatism a while back, after having seen it recommended by several people who liked authors I've enjoyed. I finally started reading it when I saw that Samhain was going to be releasing another one of Merrow's stories. I wanted to get an idea of whether I liked Merrow's work enough to take advantage of Samhain's “new release” sale price. Spoiler: Yes, I took advantage of the sale price.

Giant Killing (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

Giant Killing is a 26-episode sports anime. In this case, the sport is soccer (aka football). Although this show is no longer streaming via Crunchyroll, it's still available via Hulu.

Synopsis:

East Tokyo United (ETU) has been doing badly for several years now in the Japanese professional soccer league. In a last ditch effort to turn things around, ETU's management hires Takeshi Tatsumi, a former ETU player, as the team's new coach. Tatsumi has spent the past three years in England, coaching an amateur soccer team to the point where it was able to go toe-to-toe against professional teams.

Although Tatsumi may be the coach ETU needs, ETU and many of its current fans won't accept him without a fuss. There's a bit of bad blood, due to Tatsumi having abandoned the team back when he was a player. Also, there are worries that Tatsumi's coaching methods will completely fracture what little cohesiveness and spirit the team possesses. Throughout it all, Tatsumi remains confident that he can turn the team around.

Review:

This wasn't originally in my queue, but when Crunchyroll announced that the show was going to be removed from their catalog, I decided to at least try it. I thought it was decent, but not necessarily the best sports anime I'd ever seen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Black Rat (live action movie), via Crunchyroll

Black Rat is a Japanese horror movie. I'm sorry my first published post in a while is for something so bad. My only excuse is that I wasn't feeling well and felt like watching something that wouldn't take much thought and could be viewed in one sitting. This fit the bill.

Synopsis:

Six supposed friends (more on this later) receive email from Asuka, a friend of theirs who killed herself a short while ago. The email instructs them all to meet in a particular classroom at midnight. Four of them arrive as instructed, and they are met by a girl wearing a bloody rat mask. The girl seems to potentially be Asuka, because Asuka died wearing that same mask, which she had made in preparation for a modern version of a traditional rat dance she had planned to do with her friends.

The person in the rat mask explains, in writing, that vengeance will be had. To underscore her meaning and seriousness, she drags the bloodied body of one of the missing six friends into the classroom. The other four friends run from the person in the rat mask, only to be chased down, captured, made to participate in a "penalty game," and killed when they fail the game. As they try to survive, the big question all the friends are wondering is "Who is the person in the rat mask?" Is it really Asuka, back from the dead and out for vengeance? Interspersed throughout the movie are scenes from the seven friends' past, during the period just before Asuka killed herself.

Review:

The short version: this is a terrible movie. And not in a “so bad, it's good” kind of way. I can't even recommend making fun of it with a group of friends. It's just plain bad.
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