Pardon the Dust

Remember when we had those Geocities webpages and everyone had those ugly under construction banners that stayed on their page for years? I need one of those.

This is the new home of ChicksWithCrossbows, since the domain is set to expire. I’m working out some of the kinks with moving the archive (like the site apparently deciding all of the posts were authored by one conglomerate instead of many different people).

Some of the settings and sidebar stuff is down, our links are gone and need to be re-input, etc. etc. I’m working on it. Thanks for your patience.

*puts on hard hat* *walks off carrying chain saw*

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Book Review: The Fox’s Quest

Last year, I reviewed YA LGBT book The Fox’s Mask, the first in the Kitsune Trilogy, by Anna Frost. I really enjoyed it, and was interested in seeing how the story would progress.

I received a copy of the second book, The Fox’s Quest, and was really excited to jump in. I will do my best to talk about the book without giving away any spoilers! If you haven’t read the first book though, I recommend doing so before reading this review, because I have to talk about some things that happened there.

Okay, did you read the first book?

Did you?

Alright, I warned you!

The book picks up not far from where the first book left off. Sanae is dead, but for some reason her soul has stayed on, following around Akakiba and Yuki in her fox form, and helping them on their journey. Akakiba is very much suspicious of the spirit and doesn’t acknowledge who she claims to be, though he still follows her advice, which I find adorable in his stubborn willingness. The dragon Drac is also around, and it is immediately obvious that there is discontent because of the bond between Yuki and his dragon companion.

Nuuuu boys. /tears

Anyways, as the story goes on, we learn more about what is causing the magic to fade from the land, something that is of course detrimental to the Fox Clan and any other spiritual beings in the world. The quest to find the source leads to lots of interesting fights, new characters, and new twists in the story – it was really enjoyable because there were new layers being discovered throughout the book that showed that the plot was much deeper than “let’s kill the Fox Clan.”

What I liked:

  • You know, this time, I didn’t have any twitches to the individual voices of the characters. I thought they were all well done. Part of this might be that I am familiar with the characters now, so I am more comfortable with their voices.
  • I felt like Mamoru had more time within the story, and I like that this character had become such a major plot point.
  • Sanae torturing shinobi was pretty hilarious and amazing.
  • Akakiba did stay true to the gender he identified with – male. Anna had commented on my previous review saying that this would be the case, but I want to say that I really appreciated the dialogue between Yuki and Akakiba on the topic when it was broached. *applauds Anna*
  • Also the boys were just so cute when they finally talked things out *flails*
  • There were a lot of great fight scenes!
  • The story ends with a lot to still be discovered!

What I didn’t like:

  • This is totally my own thing, and I don’t think it’s something that Anna did wrong at all. But I really wish that the boys had resolved things sooner rather than later. BUT that leaves room for more in the third book, right? [RIGHT?!]

The book is already out, so make sure you get your hands on it! I can’t wait for the third one to come out. 🙂

Comic Review: Batman: Li’l Gotham Issues 1 & 2

Batman: L’il Gotham is a digital-only series by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs uses the Batman universe to tell holiday short stories (and possibly later other stories that aren’t holiday related.) I’m a huge fan of Batman but I haven’t read any of the comics in years and I wouldn’t even know where to pick it back up (feel free to point out story arcs I should catch up on in the comments). So when I’m thrilled to have some stand alone Batman-related things I can enjoy as quick reads.

The first issue takes place on Halloween. Batman teaches Robin how to Trick or Treat. It’s as adorable as it sounds. And of course the villains, like the Joker and Harley Quinn, love Halloween because they can go out in public like normal people. (Obviously in this simplified version of Gotham, they’re not considering the option of just wearing normal clothes and ditching the makeup.) I especially enjoyed the variety of costumes in the background.

Issue #2 is the Thanksgiving episode. The Penguin takes issue to the ritual consumption of birds and thus plans to spoil the holiday. There’s a cameo by Li’l Barbara Gordon! I squeed. There are also Batman and Robin parade balloons, which Robin snarks about a little.

Nguyen’s beautiful watercolor style gives the comic a storybook feel but it’s still richly detailed and intricate. The writing is reminiscent of the older Batman cartoons, complete with cheesy villain puns (which I adore). They’re all complete stories, and read like episodes of a show.

If you like the cartoon incarnations of Batman or just fun little stories about him and Robin, you’ll enjoy this series.

Book Review: Fire From Heaven

I’ve previously raved about Mary Renault in my review for The Persian Boy. I went back to the first book of her three novels on Alexander The Great – Fire From Heaven.

First of all, I’ve been growing increasingly more interested in Alexander the Great since reading The Persian Boy. I had started reading this book late last year, and then got distracted by eBooks since I had those with me on holiday. But then once I was back into this book, I just couldn’t stop.

Mary Renault goes into a lot of detail in this book. So if you love getting tons of descriptions within your story, then you will love her writing. There were times when it felt like it was a lot of information to take in, but it’s all part of her story building. She writes great fight scenes, and great emotional moments.

Fire From Heaven is a historical novel that covers the time from when Alexander was a child until the death of his father [shouldn’t be spoiler, that’s history yo]. It makes sure to highlight some of the major moments of his childhood from the perspective of Alexander, but also those around him. Unlike The Persian Boy, this isn’t from a first person POV – sometimes the inner monologue jumps around. Actually, more than sometimes. But it gives an interesting view of how people could have seen the events around them unfold, including his mother, father, and Aristotle.

The way Mary Renault has written her characters, in particular Alexander, is entrancing. I believed all of them – disliked the right ones, loved the right ones, I was played like a harp by her writing, falling into each character’s story. Does that make sense? Make it so. I watched on as Alexander grew up before me while reading, and his development was believable.

The most interesting part [okay, fine, for me, what, don’t judge me, I don’t have a problem] is how she writes the friendship of Alexander and Hephaiston. When I finished this book, all I wanted was for them to be together forever. She had obviously done her research, and used what information she could find to build upon the way these two historical people could have interacted with each other – and it’s believable. It still makes my heart break thinking about it. BREAK.

/wipes tears

If you are looking for an iteration on the life of Alexander the Great that has emotional depth and really brings this historical legend to life, then please read this book. I really loved it.

We Watch The Taste: Episode 3

I may have an unhealthy addiction to cooking competition shows, but now I’m being enabled as Autumn, Alex, and myself all watch this new show. The Taste is like The Voice meets Masterchef, where the judges each have a team and the judging is done blind. Since lack of blind judging has been a major complaint on shows like Top Chef, I’m excited to see a show were personal bias is as close to eliminated as humanly possible.

We’re starting with the third episode, which is the first official episode. The first two were the frustrating and annoying audition rounds. Our four judges seemed determined to hold out for some culinary genius that never came, saying repeatedly that food was good but they passed. But! That part is over and now we’re on to the good stuff.

Favorite Team/Mentor:

Autumn: Nigella; Bourdain a close second. They both are very much anti-pretentious–the arrogant professional chefs who did not make it onto the teams get quite a public shaming on this show. Nigella is a home cook and is patron saint of home cooks so it feels like rooting for the underdog.

Alex: For me it would be Malarkey. But to be honest some of that is because of the name. I wasn’t familiar with the other chefs aside from Bourdain before this show, and I’m not a fan of Bourdain. I do like Malarkey’s style though and the kind of food he is looking for from his team.

Tori: I’m totally Team Ludo. He seems to think this some incarnation of Hell’s Kitchen where he needs to berate his team into not failing. It’s a terrible strategy but I have an affinity for people on reality shows who try to play the game, even when it’s the wrong game. Hell, especially when it’s the wrong game. I also adore Bourdain and he’s always a favorite guest judge on Top Chef but I unfairly blame him for the level of snark in TC judging now: like they saw how popular he was and decided that was the way to go.

We're all rooting for you, Lauren. Don't screw this up.

Favorite Individual Cheftestants:

Autumn: Lauren (Team Nigella), Uno (Team Bourdain). Lauren is a home cook and I personally worry about the range of her repetoire–this is something I identify with while watching her compete. Uno’s use of organ meats in her dish made her an obvious choice for Bourdain. I like cooks that can use “icky” ingredients successfully.

Alex: Khristianne Uy from Team Malarkey. Duck Fat seared Scallops? I don’t even like scallops and I want those in my mouth. Also she had to put up with Charlie Sheen, so obviously she can handle any of the crap these guys put her through. I also like Lauren Scott from Team Nigella, because she is young and yet is so passionate about food. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with!

Tori: I love Khristianne (Team Malarkey). She seems to have a unique culinary point of view which is the judge way of saying I want to eat her food. I have an irrational love for Jeff because he reminds me of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec. I share the Lauren love, but I also love of the nerdier guys like Paul. I was totally ready rake Paul over the coals for calling Sarah a damsel in distress but then they cut to her holding a towel that was on fire, and then another towel catches fire on her station, and I was like, “Okay, Paul. You win this round.” Diane drives me nuts. I appreciate her desire to be a personality but she grates, which is too bad because her food might be awesome. It’s too early for me to pick an outright favorite though.

Overall Initial Thoughts and Impressions:

Autumn: I absolutely adore the attempt at blinding in this show. Having studied neuroscience I know how crucial this is to judging something fairly. I do have to say that the professional guest chef judging the teams’ dishes while standing in front of the contestants is not blinded. I understand why this was done for the sake of drama, but why sacrifice the show’s major strength–its testament to objectivity?

Alex: I didn’t dig the first two episodes, but after seeing the first episode of the teams working together I think my opinion of the show will be changed. I love cooking shows, and contest cooking shows, so I don’t see what I wouldn’t like. I also like the idea of the judges not knowing who prepared the dishes – it means less bias and more concentration on the food. I do feel that should continue to be the main focus of the show as it progresses.

Tori: I love the idea of blind tasting to foster fair judging based solely on the food. I also like the challenge of the cheftestants having to fit their flavor profile into “one bite” on a spoon. It means they really have to think about each element. I’m hoping that as the show goes on, teams band together and learn from mistakes, rather than it turning into senseless shouty drama.

Are you watching The Taste? What do you think so far? Who are your favorite mentors/cheftestants?

Comic Review: Watson and Holmes

I grew up watching Matlock and Murder She Wrote, so I guess it’s only natural that as a kid, I soon fell madly in love with Sherlock Holmes. I love the books, any tv adaptations I can find. I watch Sherlock and Elementary–and I apologize profusely over my doubts that the show could make a female Watson work with the usual bromance dynamic, because they have. Mea culpa. The point is, if it’s well done, I can’t get enough Holmes.

Watson and Holmes, the comic book by Bollers, Leonardi, and Menzoa, takes place in modern day Harlem. In this incarnation, Jon Watson is a medical intern who happens to be on duty when a twenty-something drug overdose patient comes in. Sherlock Holmes soon follows, and tells Watson that the guy has been drugged with “something unusual.” When Watson’s lab tests confirm it, he tracks down Sherlock and gets sucked into the case.

Sherlock is a private investigator here rather than the recently popular “police consultant,” which adds an element of danger as far as interference, but it’s a distinction I like. Holmes rarely has respect for the law; he just wants the truth. At their first meeting he tells Watson, “As for precincts, you won’t find me there… Only police and thieves. Though I’m sure there’s room for overlap.” So he retains his canonical jerkass personality–at least on the surface. Watson is an overworked doctor-in-training who’s curiosity keeps him following the PI, despite his unorthodox (and illegal) investigation methods.

The art work is gorgeous and detailed and the references to the original Sherlock Holmes are smartly done. The mystery is intriguing, complete with a gang (the Suicidaz) and a missing person. Sadly there’s only one issue out so far. But it’s only 99 cents, which is comic book dollars is basically free, so if you like Sherlock Holmes and want to see a new spin on it, it’s more than worth checking out. Hopefully the second issue will show up soon. (It looks like there’s a cover image for issue two floating around on their Facebook page, which I take as a good sign.)

First Impressions: Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic Anime

Image from project-maji.com

At Yaoi Con last year, I saw lots of cosplay from this manga. After looking into it I had seen that it had just started as an anime in October! So of course I added it to my Cruncyroll queue, because the character design looked right up my alley. So far, I’ve been right!

From what I have gathered, it includes a mixture of different characters from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Two of the main characters are Aladdin and Alibaba. But the main plot seems to be something completely different, despite the familiar characters.

I did my thing again where I just jumped into this show, without looking into it. I do enjoy that because it leaves a lot up in the air for me – I don’t know what’s coming next. Of course sometimes this has a downside, because of the potential confusion.

But anyways, I jumped. I’m four episodes in, and I am enjoying it! I still feel like the overall goal of the show is a bit uncertain, but I think in the next episode we will get there. And they have already revealed some of the characters we will meet in the future, and let me tell you.

I think I can stick around for awhile at least.

Why hello.

Hello to you, too.