Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brood of Bones (e-book) by A.E. Marling

Brood of Bones is a free self-published fantasy novel that I downloaded from Smashwords. It has a word count of 86,650.

Review:

I found this while browsing through freebies. I liked the cover, but the description made the book sound like a train wreck. I admit, I downloaded it mostly out of morbid curiosity.

Hiresha is an Elder Enchantress, a woman who possesses powerful magic but can only use it in her sleep. Her sleeping disorder gives her great power as an enchantress but prevents her from achieving the life she most wants, that of a wife and mother. At the request of Sri the Flawless, she returns to Morimound, the city of her birth, only to discover that something awful has happened. Despite being in her eighties, Sri the Once Flawless is now pregnant. Not only that, so is every other woman and girl age 12 and up.

The city is in turmoil. Some, like Abwar, the Priest of the Ever Always, declare the pregnancies to be a divine gift. Others beat the women and girls, call them sluts, and feed them poisons to try to purge them of their pregnancies. As Hiresha begins her investigation, she learns horrifying things about the fetuses and finds herself having to make choices that could potentially bring even greater harm to the citizens of Morimound.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Skies of Dawn (book) by Fuyumi Ono, translated by Alexander O. Smith

Skies of Dawn is the fourth book in Fuyumi Ono's The Twelve Kingdoms series. I've been debating what genre to put it in. It's definitely fantasy. I'd also argue that it's epic fantasy - this book alone covers 100 years and multiple kingdoms.

Review:

I have now finished all of the books in this series that were licensed and translated into English. If I could ask for one Tokyopop license rescue that hasn't already been announced, I'd ask for this. Ono created a fascinating world, and I'd happily read more about it.

Skies of Dawn is probably the most complex book in the series so far, because it doesn't just deal with one main character, but rather three: Yoko, Suzu, and Shoukei. Readers who've read the first book should be familiar with Yoko. Skies of Dawn picks up almost where Sea of Shadow left off - Ono chose to skip Yoko's defeat of the false king and the death of the King of Kou, and began instead with Yoko's coronation. Yoko quickly learns that her problems aren't over – her new kingdom, Kei, is a mess. As King, she has the power to make things better, but she doesn't even know where to start.

The two new characters, Suzu and Shoukei, are located in completely different kingdoms. Suzu is a Japanese girl who was transported to the Twelve Kingdoms one hundred years ago. After a few years, she became the servant of a flying sage in the Kingdom of Sai, which granted her immortality and the ability to understand all languages. Although her mistress is cruel, she doesn't dare leave, out of fear that she'd lose her new linguistic skills. Shoukei also had a painful history. Thirty years ago, her father was King of Hou. He was so unyielding and brutal that he, his wife, and his kirin were eventually killed by his own people. Shoukei was spared but forced to live the life of an ordinary villager.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Prince Who Charmed Her (book) by Fiona McArthur

The Prince Who Charmed Her is a Harlequin Medical Romance.

No read-alikes list this time. I'm feeling lazy, and coming up with read-alikes lists for Harlequin romances always takes me a lot of time.

Review:

This is another one of the books that was in my used bookstore Harlequin Medical Romance bargain pack. It didn't work for me, but at least I liked it more than Her Christmas Eve Diamond.

Dr. Kiki Fender is working on a cruise ship as a way to escape. Nine months ago, she'd had a whirlwind romance with Prince Stefano of Aspelicus. Soon after he suddenly left her, she'd learned she was pregnant. She spent the next few weeks hoping he'd contact her, but he never did. Kiki miscarried at 18 weeks, and there was still no word from Stefano. Now it's mere days before what would have been her due date, and Kiki is shocked to encounter Stefano while treating a passenger suffering from a severe allergic reaction.

Stefano had meant to call Kiki and explain himself, but he'd been delayed by an accident and a long rehabilitation period. By the time he'd recovered, she was long gone. Their sudden reunion on the cruise ship shocks him as much as it does Kiki. Even if he can't mend things between them, he at least wants to explain himself and apologize. Unfortunately, it seems as though everything he says and does just makes Kiki more upset with him.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Her Christmas Eve Diamond (book) by Scarlet Wilson

Her Christmas Eve Diamond is a Harlequin Medical Romance. I got it as part of a used bookstore bargain pack a while back.
 
Review:

Well, crap. This was supposed to be some nice, fluffy fun. Instead, I now want to cry, and not in a good way.

Cassidy Rae is a Scottish nurse. She was badly hurt a few years ago when her Spanish fiance went back to Spain and cut things off with her when she refused to go with him. All she wants to do is take care of her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, and find herself a nice Scottish guy. She's not happy when a fortuneteller tells her that she's going to be a Christmas bride, and that her groom won't be from Scotland.

Soon after getting back to work, Cassidy meets Brad, a new doctor at her hospital. He's from Australia and probably won't stick around any longer than her fiance did, but she can't help but be charmed by him. The attraction is mutual, but Brad has something he hasn't told Cassidy: he has a young daughter named Melody. Melody's mother, Alison, took off with her in the middle of the night two years ago, and he's been looking for her ever since. Odds are good that Alison fell in love with an American doctor and moved to the United States with him – Brad just doesn't know exactly where. When he finds out, will that be the end of his and Cassidy's romance, or will she unbend enough to reconsider her decision never to leave Scotland?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bossypants (audiobook) by Tina Fey, read by the author

I needed a change in work-time listening, so I decided to go back to audiobooks for a while. This one seemed like it would be fun.

In Bossypants, Tina Fey talks about her childhood, her father, comedy, feminism, Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, parenting, and more. I didn't always follow the shifts between topics very well, and some things that I'm guessing were sidebars and section breaks in the original book were a bit odd when read aloud. Even so, I'm glad I listened to it rather than read it. I was never a big viewer of SNL, and I've never seen 30 Rock, so I mostly know Fey for her Sarah Palin impersonations. When she rattled off lists of various people's best SNL sketches, I rarely had any idea what she was talking about. The details about 30 Rock meant even less to me, but Fey's narration kept it from being boring.

While some parts seemed a bit strange in an audiobook format, others were very good. For example, disc 1 ended with Fey directly addressing listeners, asking them to take a break for an hour and try to picture the guy she'd just mentioned, who was supposed to have looked like a “handsome Robert Wuhl.” Later in the audiobook, Fey cut to an actual audio clip of her first impersonation of Sarah Palin. She also frequently mentioned image files that were supposed to have been part of the audiobook (I didn't go looking for those, so I can only comment on the audio aspects of the book).

That's pretty much it, I guess. Bossypants made for a nice few hours of listening. Some parts were more humorous than others, and there was some nice behind-the-scenes info (off the top of my head, I'd say the bit about Sarah Palin's appearance on SNL was my favorite). I also enjoyed her comments about women in the workforce and in the media.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Night Gardener (book) by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener is a middle grade horror novel that takes place in 19th century England. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Molly and Kip are two siblings who escape the Great Famine in Ireland only to find themselves orphaned and penniless. Kip doesn't know the full truth – in order to protect him, Molly told him that they'd simply gotten separated and their parents would come for them soon. In the meantime, they need money and/or a place to live, so Molly lies about her age and gets hired as the Windsor family's new maid.

The Windsor family home is creepy and strange. It and the enormous tree next to it have nearly become one. Branches have grown through the walls, and the Windsors forbid Molly and Kip to do anything about it. Molly has to clean up mysterious muddy boot prints throughout the house every day, and Kip swears that he saw someone moving around outside at night. Then there's the locked room with the green door, the one room in the house Molly isn't allowed to enter.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Lost Planet (book) by Rachel Searles

The Lost Planet is middle grade science fiction, the first in a series. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

While I was cataloging this for my library, I became intrigued by the girl on the lower right corner of the cover. Reviews told me that her name was Mina, and that she was an android who'd basically raised Parker, the boy on the lower left. That sounded pretty cool, and the cover practically screamed “fast-paced action,” so I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well for me as I'd hoped. Mina and Parker's relationship was entirely the wrong reason to read this, since they didn't actually have much of one.

Parker finds and rescues an unconscious, wounded boy outside his home. That boy turns out to be Chase, the book's primary protagonist. Chase can't remember his own identity (they got his name from a chip in his head), how he got there, or why he was wounded. He doesn't even know basic things that just about anyone should know, or why he said “Guide the star” when Parker first found him.

Chase desperately wants to find out more about himself, but Mina, Parker's android bodyguard, seems determined to keep him locked up. Parker breaks Chase out, but, to Chase's frustration, he only does it so the two of them can do some shopping and sight-seeing. Things quickly go very, very wrong, and the two boys find themselves on the run and in grave danger. The only safe place left may be with Asa, Parker's guardian, but first they need to find Mina and avoid slavers and Fleet soldiers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Glass House (live action movie), on DVD

The Glass House is a thriller. I'm pretty sure I first saw it not long after it came out, way back in 2001. The characters are nothing special, the story doesn't really do anything unusual, and there are some bits that don't make sense. I still enjoyed it, even on a re-watch.

The story: Ruby Baker and her little brother are taken in by Terry and Erin Glass after their parents are killed in a car accident. Terry and Erin's house is huge, slick, modern, and kind of sterile – not really very kid-friendly. It's a big change, and everyone has to do some adjusting.

There are hints fairly early on that there's something not quite right about the Glass household. Ruby's calls are maybe being monitored, Terry is kind of creepy, and Erin might have a drug addiction. Ruby's brother, appeased by video game consoles, is perfectly happy with his new life, so Ruby does some digging on her own.

Dragons: Dawn of the Dragon Racers (CGI animated short film), via Netflix

It's been a while since I last saw either of the movies, but I'm pretty sure Dawn of the Dragon Racers takes place between the first and the second. Hiccup, Snotlout, and Astrid argue over who invented dragon racing, which leads to a flashback of dragon racing's beginnings. A big boat race called the Regatta is taking place soon, and there's some panic, because a bunch of sheep have gotten lose. The various dragon riders round up the sheep, and, despite Hiccup's complaints, the whole thing turns into a competition. While Hiccup's dad is away, everyone realizes they kind of enjoyed the dragon racing, and it gets turned into an actual game, with points and rules.

This was...okay. I'm not sure why most of it was structured as a flashback, rather than just being a short film set in the recent past. The animation was nowhere near the quality of the movies, but the characters' efforts to outdo each other and gather the most sheep were kind of fun to watch. Hiccup couldn't seem to decide whether to protest everyone's competitiveness or join in on the fun. I was a little surprised that no one accidentally set Fishlegs' boat on fire while going after the sheep, although that didn't stop his plans from getting ruined anyway. He got over that amazingly quickly.

Meh. I didn't go into it expecting much, with it only being 26 minutes long. I don't regret watching it but have no desire to ever rewatch it. At the same time, I haven't watched any of the other How to Train Your Dragon shorts and have no idea how this one compares.

Happy New Year! Plus, some goals

I don't have many specific reading goals, since those tend to paralyze me and then depress me when I don't meet them. One that I've been doing each year since I joined Goodreads is read a certain number of works. In 2014, my goal was 125, based on what I'd managed to finish the previous year. I surpassed my goal, so this year I'm aiming for 142 works.

Other things I'd like to accomplish:
  • I want to get back to privately rating everything I read and watch. I had ratings for the stuff I'd read last year, because of my LibraryThing account, but I had nothing for the things I watched, and I realized I missed that.
  • I want to finish more of my physical TBR/TBW pile. I don't have a specific goal, like “X number of DVDs and books a month,” but I need to do something, because I'm out of storage space again. I have multiple copies of some things, which isn't really necessary. For example, I have several releases of Cowboy Bebop and plan on donating one copy to my library once I finish deciding which one I'm willing to part with.
  • In 2014, I started a BookLikes reading list of science fiction and fantasy by women authors. It now has 264 books on it, with only a few authors making repeat appearances. Prior to putting this list together, I had thought I was well-versed in women SFF authors. It was amazing to realize how limited my reading has actually been, and how most lists tend to cover the same dozen or so women. I'd like to read more books from this list, and maybe recreate the list over at LibraryThing.
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