Category Archives: Books

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. 🙂

Advertisements

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.

Review: Claudia’s Story: An Interview with the Vampire grahic novel adaptation

I grew up on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I read the first book when the movie came out in 1994 and the rest of the series, to a point, and I’ve reread them a lot since. I’d always loved vampires in various forms, but something about Interview with the Vampire brought out the richness and realism of what being such a creature who used to be human might be like. I’m also a sucker for a good story framing and having a quirky reporter taping the interview was awesome. To this day, the first four books in that series remain some of my favorites.

Claudia’s Story, an adaption by Ashley Marie Witter, is Interview from her perspective, which is dark and disturbing. It tells how she was turned, how she grew from a true child vampire into a woman trapped into a child’s body for all eternity, and how she puts up with Louis (doting but self-hating) and Lestat (Monsieur Can Do No Wrong). I’m a huge fan of swapped POVs and unreliable narrator, which is part of the reason I love The Vampire Chronicles. One book is Louis’ take and the next book is Lestat going “Pfft yeah right, here’s how I saw it.”

So to give us an entirely new perspective is a great idea for a fresh way to retell the story. We get bits and pieces of Claudia’s diary in the third book, Queen of the Damned (which bares little resemblance to its movie incarnation), when Jesse, a supernatural investigator, recovers the journal. It’s always something I wanted more of, and here we are.

It is impossibly creepy to see it drawn out on the page. Claudia is small, maybe five in the novel, and in the graphic novel there are scenes where that alone is enough to make my skin crawl.

Louis' expressions of frustration, angst, and sadness are as perfect as Lestat's grin.

(Child monsters are always the worst, aren’t they?) Witter doesn’t shy away from the gritty darkness of a child who is not a child, nor does she avoid the uncomfortable conversations that arise because of it. It is Claudia’s story, after all, and Witter tells in all of its twisted, strange entirety. It’s devastatingly heart-breaking and completely disturbing at the same time.

The art work is breathtakingly gorgeous, too. Even if Louis looks constantly depressed (accurate). And finally, finally, we get a depiction of Armand that doesn’t make him look like a middle-aged man with a bear hide on his head. (I’ll concede Antonio Banderas played the hell out of that part in the movie but the costuming.. yikes.)

It works as a stand-alone story, but I suspect its best audience will largely be fans of the book and/or the film. Although if you like pretty and haunting vampire comics, this is definitely one to add to your collection.

 

(Also I forgot how much of a jerk Lestat is in Interview. Seriously, like, I know he’s the quintessential teenager pretty much always, but if he did like three things differently, everything could have been puppies and roses and sparkl–err… Well.. Maybe it’s better that he didn’t.)

Review & Giveaway: “Clockwork Angel” manga adaptation

So you guys might remember that I basically threw my hands up in the air and let The Infernal Devices fandom suck me in. I regret nothing. But thanks to the talented artist Hyekyung Baek, they’re making a manga adaptation of the series, starting with the first book, Clockwork Angel. This volume covers the entire plot of that novel by Cassandra Clare.

It goes without saying that fans of the books will love the manga. The illustrations by Hyekyung Baek are gorgeous and the story remains true to the plot, managing to somehow get a lot of side-plots into the book even though it’s necessarily shorter. The manga keeps a lot of Clare’s jokes and wit, too, and they’re actually funnier with the visual aid. This cuts both ways, of course, and things like Jem’s illness are more striking with illustrations. But it’s a really fun way to reread the books and relive your love of the characters.

The best thing about the manga version is that it might appeal to people who otherwise won’t read the book, either because it’s in the YA section (don’t get me started) or because they prefer comics (nothing wrong with that). It’s a story that lends itself well to a visual format

Jem and his violin are my OTP.

The plot is, obviously, the same as the novel: Tessa arrives in London at the behest of her brother, or so she believes. But she’s taken by the Dark Sisters, who reveal that Tessa is a shape-shifter and they plan to use her for their own nefarious purposes and then marry her off to someone called The Magister. She’s rescued when Will Herondale and other Shadowhunters end up at the Dark Sisters’ house during a murder investigation. She stays at the institute where she meets Jem, the violinist with a secret, and Jessamine, who doesn’t want to be a Shadowhunter at all, as well as Charlotte and Henry, who run the London Institute. She agrees to help them and they agree to help her track down her brother. Turns out the Magister is trying to build an army of automatons which are very creepy and faceless.

Did I mention it’s gorgeously drawn? And that Will and Jem were basically born to be manga-bishounen? Because they were.

So if you haven’t read The Infernal Devices and you like manga and comics, you should check this out. If you have read them, I assume you’re already a rabid fan of Will or Jem or Tessa or Magnus Freaking Bane, and therefore I don’t have to tell you get yourself a copy. You probably already have 50 and are now using it to wallpaper your room. I mean… I’m certainly not doing that….why do you ask? That would be insane. Speaking of, I HAVE AN EXTRA COPY! You know what that means! GIVEAWAY!

To enter to win one (1) new copy of the Clockwork Angel manga vol. 1, just leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Oct. 31st. I will have Magnus Bane use his warlock magic (and/or use a Random Number Generator if he’s unavailable) to pick one winner.

Rules: Winner must live in the US or CA. The winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 1st, and posted here in the afternoon. The book will be happily shipped to the winner as soon as possible after they send me their address. Void where prohibited and all that jazz. Entries must be posted by midnight PST on Halloween, 10/31/12. Any comments after that are not eligible. If you comment and do not wish to enter, please say so and I will merely draw a new number (or have Magnus pick a new winner) if it lands on you.

Good? Good.

FTC Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. Nothing else was exchanged.

Book Review: The Fox’s Mask

I don’t consider myself a reader of YA novels. That’s not because I have anything against the genre, though. I just generally tend to lean toward books that are more *clears throat* adult in content.

Okay look, I like some smutty stuff, I admit it. It’s not all I read, but these days my time for reading is limited, and maybe I’m drawn more to smutty fiction than anything else.

The only YA book I have previously read [aside from the Harry Potter series] is Cinder, by Marissa Meyer [Tori did a review of it you can check out here]. I keep walking past the young adult section of my local Barnes & Noble, eyeing all the different novels, slightly overwhelmed, and also not quite sure if I will find something that really catches my interest.

And I’m babbling. What I mean to say is, I was pleasantly surprised when I was sent a review copy of The Fox’s Mask, by Anna Frost. This book is labeled as young adult, but it is also labeled as being LGBT, and set in an alternate reality feudal Japan. I was instantly curious and excited and jumped right in. I am also an anime fan, so this book seemed to promise a beautiful mix of things I enjoy.

I have to admit that there is one theme in particular that I really want to talk about in my review, especially if anyone else reads it and wants to discuss it further. The problem is that one element is a huge spoiler. So most of this review will be spoiler-free, until that moment.

The book is written in third person but from the points of view of different characters. The text doesn’t shift how it looks to show who is talking, but it is still generally clear whose point of experience we are hearing the story from. I enjoyed Anna’s style of writing – there is a lot of dialogue and inner monologue, but also great descriptions of settings. Though I was immediately picturing a Rurouni Kenshin setting in my mind, it was just the base for the world she described. The dialogue of the characters flowed nicely, and only every once in a while was I jarred slightly when an internal monologue sounded extremely “teenage-angst-ish.”

The main characters are Akakiba and Yuki. Akakiba is Yuki’s tutor, teaching him the way of demon hunting. Akakiba is 18, and Yuki is only 15. The prologue shows that their meeting was unfortunate, but for some reason Yuki has stayed with Akakiba for three years at the time of the first chapter. Akakiba is a very smart-mouthed character who reminded me slightly of Edward Elric – so of course I liked him right away. Yuki was tough, but not as loud as Akakiba. I liked the balance of their personalities and how they worked together.

With the introduction of demons, it is obvious that this story will have a lot of magical/spiritual elements. Anna weaves in a lot of symbolism and words from the Japanese culture that I appreciated – though she used the Japanese terms to describe some things, I felt like it was always obvious what she was talking about. I’m always on the fence about using different languages to describe things within a story, but this is an instance where I feel like it mostly worked. There were only one or two times I had to think about what was being referred to.

The overarching plot of the story is that for some reason, magic seems to be fading from the land. Healing spirits aren’t around their shrines, there are fewer dragons, and even fewer demons, so it seems. The additional points of view are of Akakiba’s younger sister, Sanae, who adds a different view as trouble starts to emerge within the Fox Clan, and also offers a chance to show some of the traditions and special abilities of the group. Other main characters whose views are used are Mamoru and Jien. Mamoru is from a rival clan, and his story eventually reveals how deep the demon problem is becoming. Jien is a friend of the family, a monk who Akakiba had helped save, and often the comedic relief.

What I liked:

  • The feudal Japan style setting
  • The incorporation of a cultural background with the supernatural, spirits, demons, and dragons felt natural with the story line
  • The undertones of attraction between Yuki and Akakiba
  • I was actually caught off guard with how the story progressed and the ending of the book
  • There wasn’t a love triangle o/

What I didn’t like:

  • Sometimes the inner monologue of the characters sounded jarringly younger, which might just be a personal preference
  • While I liked what Mamoru offered in his chapters, I almost wish there was more – I felt like the balance of points of view was weighted heavily on the two main characters, and having multiple points of view I feel should be well rounded

Recommend if: You like anime set in a feudal/Japanese universe, and supernatural type stories. I could see this being an anime, or a manga, any day.

The book comes out tomorrow, Friday October 19!

Okay, if you have read the book or don’t mind spoilers, here is the part I really want to talk about.

No seriously, spoiler ahead, just stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled for an end of the book reveal.

….you got it?

 

Okay…

 

Continue reading

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

It’s no secret that I love vampires and always have, and will basically devour anything about vampires at all* but there is so much vampire media out there, I have to draw the line somewhere or I would never sleep again. So I never picked up Vampire Academy. Because.. I mean.. I’m sure it’s great, Mead is awesome and hilarious, but the name put me off. I don’t really care for the vampires-in-school thing. Suffice to say, it’s on my reading list now, so mea culpa.

Bloodlines  drew me in because it was about an alchemist and I love alchemy. Bonus vampires? Sold. That was all I needed. And then I met Adrian.

Adrian Ivashkov is like if Daniel Molloy and Will Herondale somehow combined their DNA. He’s sweet and caring deep down, sure, but he’s sarcastic, doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, and lives on gin and cigarettes. (And blood. Obviously.) *waves fangirl flag*

The story is about Alchemist Syndney Sage, who has to go to a boarding school with a vampire princess, Jill, to keep her safe, since alchemists in this world live to cover up the existence of vampires and nasty things from mundane people. Jill is also being threatened by vampires for political reasons. And Adrian is just there as far as Sydney knows, at least at first, because he has nothing better to do.

Syndey is book smart and OCD and happy to go to this boarding school posing as a senior, because she’s never been to real school and it’s as close to college as she feels like she can get. She is less good at fitting in with other students, particularly when one of them thinks her golden alchemist tattoo is making her smarter, because there’s an illegal tattoo operation in town that’s giving students unfair advantages for the right price.

I did take issue with a scene in beginning where Sydney is fitted for a uniform and spends a lot of time whining about her size. She’s like.. a four I think? She talks about how fat she is, and I really loathed that. I get that teenagers (hell, people) can obsess about size, and it’s in character for her being so OCD and perfectionistic, but all the same it really bothered me at the time, because man, if she’s a cow then I’m like a Humpback Whale, so thanks there, chica. However, it’s sort of forgivable because it is so much a part of her character, and in the second book [spoiler] Adrian even calls her out for having a serious eating disorder, which we see in glimpses as the series continues, so it’s not treated as a healthy behavior but all of the same[/spoiler].

I have no idea how this stacks up to VA since I haven’t read any of them, but I enjoyed both this and its sequel, again, because Adrian makes me giggle like a mad person. It does sort of run on vampire politics which can get old quickly, but I don’t know if there’s much I can’t forgive for Adrian, particularly maybe the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time, which was [spoiler]The Adrian Hunts for A Job Scene… just.. I was in stitches, especially when he drinks the martini at the bar interview… such a bad idea but so hilariously played, Adrian![/spoiler]

I also liked that Mead has clearly built an in-depth vampire world, and then writes stories from the perspective of Sydney, who isn’t really keen on magic and whose up-brining makes them weird about vampires, even the good non-murderous ones. It’s an interesting twist to have a YA heroine who not only lacks magical powers but would not take them if they were offered.

*Not Twilight. But then, to be honest, I did read Meyer’s short novella about Bree Tanner, in which the titular character thought she was a real vampire and not a sparklepire, and it wasn’t terrible, so… you know. Also Vampire Baseball. That will never stop being hilarious to me.

Recommended if: You like supernatural stories set in boarding schools, and/or can forgive that for a handsome, snarky, gin-drinking vampire. Which, I mean, what can’t you forgive for that?

Book Review: Anno Dracula

Guys, I just got done reading a pretty awesome book.

At first I wasn’t sure about it, since the cover wasn’t immediately telling what the story was about, and I really didn’t look into it too much. But my best friend recommended it to me because Neil Gaiman said everyone should read it. Also, sometimes it’s fun to just jump into a book without reading the back, because it’s more surprising that way.

From the cover and title I understood that vampires were involved, and well, I do like vampires [that don’t sparkle]. And most pointedly, it starred “Prince” Dracula as “His Majesty.”

Okay, I’ll bite.

Haha, get it?

So I dropped the other books I was currently reading at the time and focused in on this one.

Needless to say, I soon wasn’t disappointed. This is, it turns out, an alternate history of the time of Jack the Ripper. I’m a bit of a sucker for historical fiction, and also have always had a weird thing about Jack the Ripper [I blame all the years I watched Unsolved Mysteries]. This was in fact a perfect combination of things relevant to my interests.

It doesn’t all happen right away, either. Things start slow, though the story certainly doesn’t feel that way. There are different points of view throughout the novel, but it never gets confusing – everyone has a very unique voice. Along with this involving vampires, there are also a lot of other fictional places that Kim Newman takes his inspiration from, and that also made reading this book really fun and exciting. If you love  Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and other cult favorites when it comes to vampire novels, yes. Check this book out.

So, without spoilers, here are some fun facts about this book:

  • Van Helsing is dead, killed by Dracula
  • Dracula has married Queen Victoria and turned her into a vampire, becoming King of England
  • Vampires are rampant and accepted in Britain
  • Someone starts killing vampire prostitutes in Whitechapel
  • The Diogenes Club gets involved in the investigation

Even days after reading this book, I’m still going through the pages at the back [of my nook] to read all the notes that Newman has made, and reading up on all the connections further pointed out on the wiki page. A ton of research went into this story, and it’s really refreshing to see so much work put into a book, especially a vampire-focused one.

But more exciting was when I saw that this is actually the first book in a series of novels and short stories. The titles have me just laughing hysterically [such as Dracula Cha Cha Cha] and wanting to read them all at once. Apparently at one point these novels were all out of print though, so right now only the first two are available, and more still to come. Huzzah!

So to recap, I highly recommend this novel if you love:

  • Vampires of the non-sparkly, bad-ass variety
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Jack the Ripper [though maybe don’t admit that too loudly…]
  • Cult vampire stories
  • Victorian history
  • And more!

Okay, on to the next book! And anime! And video game! Man do I need more than 24 hours in a day.