Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Seven "His Butler, Merrymaking"--Review

Ciel is sent on a mission to a village called Houndsworth to discover the truth behind a mysterious "demon dog" haunting the village. Of course, the situation is a little more complicated than that. Ciel's cover mission is apparently to buy land for a resort, which leads to an investigation of Lord Barrymore, the man who owns the land and the village.

We open with Ciel, Sebastian and the servants all heading for the town. The servants are under the impression that they are going to a resort. Ciel is of course, not actually nice enough to invite them to go on vacation with him--he just does not want the servants to wreck his manor while he's away, since he does not have anyone to babysit them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sample: Thresholds (Magic Next Door) by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Six "His Butler, at the Funeral"--Review

The episode picks up where the previous episode left us after a short prologue containing brief scenes from earlier episodes in this arc. Madame Red had been killed by Grell, and Sebastian has been ordered by Ciel to take out Grell. Grell however, seems to be taking this as a first date. She expounds on how her (nonexistent) relationship with Sebastian is like Romeo and Juliet. Sebastian disagrees rather strongly, and they take the battle to the rooftops.

Grell paraphrases Romeo and Juliet and asks if Sebastian will deny the name Ciel gave him. Proving he can play along, Sebastian states that once Ciel gave him his name, he swore by the moon to be Ciel's butler. Grell, still in Shakespeare mode calls Sebastian inconstant. Grell waxes poetic, and then wanes into flirtatious silliness which serves to annoy Sebastian.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shiki, "Sixth Skull" --Review

This episode opens on Megumi discovering the ripped up pieces of her post card below Natsuno's window. She is in tears, because she has apparently forgotten the part where Natsuno did not like her when she was  alive, and has even less reason to like her now since she has killed his best friend. She walks away with a very angry look on her face.

The next morning, Natsuno discovers that Megumi had visited the night before. He makes a declaration that he will not be that easy to kill, and goes off to do some research. Of course, most of the research materials available are not going to be very useful, there being a lack of vampire slaying guides. So, he ends up watching horror movies with Toru's brother, who tells him stories about "okiagari," undead spirits from village folklore.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fortress of Dragons by C.J. Cherryh

409 pp.
 Fortress of DragonsFortress of Dragons ends the story arc that began in Fortress in the Eye of Time. In this book, Tristen makes many discoveries about himself, Cefwyn continues to battle treachery among his nobles and Ninévrisë has to deal with her husband’s wild oats. Mixed into the action and political intrigue is Cherryh’s usual arcs of character growth, interactions, and relationships.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Five "His Butler, Chance Encounter"--Review

The first scenes intersperse a conversation between Ciel and Madame Red with Jack the Ripper (only seen in shadows) getting ready to commit a murder. Ciel is angry that he failed to find the murderer, and his aunt is  trying to calm him down, and tells him to let Sebastian handle it. Ciel on the other hand says that Sebastian is his chess piece, and he is therefore ultimately responsible. Madame Red continues to talk about how worried she is about Ciel and his position as "the Queen's Watchdog" and invokes the name of Ciel's mother (her sister). Madame Red continues on about how she is sure that his mother wanted more for him than just being an "evil nobleman."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Five "Sticky Trap"--Review

In this episode, Lieutenant Hanadate turns up with a case; apparently, young men have been disappearing from parties being held for government officials, and a yokai is suspected. (A spider yokai referred to as a "black widow") The team attends the next party in hopes of catching it. We learn a little about Bonbori and Hozuki, and Agemaki rescues Zakuro from bullies. (We also see that Zakuro has an immense crush on Lieutenant Hanadate.)

Read the rest of the article at Associated Content.

Sample: Dragon Riders of Pern (Omnibus 1-3) by Anne McCaffery

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shiki, "Fifth Deceit" --Review

The opening is a series of clips from the previous episodes, up to the most recent, with Megumi appearing at Toru's house, and appearing to attack Toru. Natsuno wakes up with a scream, and it appears that he had  been having another night mare; when he wakes up Toru, he seems to be fine, and there are no bite marks.

The next scene after the credits is Seishin, who is visiting the families of the deceased. After speaking to a few people he discovers that the recent victims had something very unusual in common--they all resigned from their jobs before they died. When he goes to the library to talk to the librarian, he discovers that the librarian has also quit his job.

In Which I Try to Explain My Posting Policy

My blog was accepted by Demand Studios recently, which will hopefully drive more traffic to my blog. I was at first extremely nervous, because I occasionally talk about "adult content" topics like sex, feminism and things blowing up a lot. (And they say they're looking for "family friendly" sites.) So, I was really happy that they accepted the journal--but I also feel like I need to institute a rating system or faq.

 I put most of what I write behind a "jump break." This is to prevent people being "spoiled" or getting an eyeful if I am writing about a topic that the reader won't feel comfortable with. 

Among the things I write about are topics including:

a)  Romance and romantic situations. I do not particularly care about what gender the romantic pair (or grouping) are. I will warn for and discuss issues such as disparate age between characters or "romance" that is actually abuse.

b) I discuss or plan to discuss situations dealing with racism in fiction (which will generally be referred to as "racefail" a term meaning that someone said something racist with or without realizing it, which happens a lot more than you'd think.) 

c) I write about books, shows and movies which often have extremely disturbing or questionable content. Some of the shows and books I watch or read are extremely violent. If I think that something I'm reviewing has these topics, I will always mention them.

d) I often make fun of books that contain romantic cliches or which have what I feel to be bad writing. I do not think that being published automatically makes you a good writer. (Though you might have a good editor.)

e) I also write "personal experience" stories. I think a few of them are funny. Many of the things that I think are funny may not seem to be funny to anyone else. (And I suppose, the reverse is true.) Names and events have been changed, conflated or misremembered to distract the innocent and irritate the guilty.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fortress of Eagles and Fortress of Owls, by C.J. Cherryh

Fortress of Eagles
335 pp.
Fortress of Owls
394 pp.
Fortress of EaglesFortress of Eagles is so transitional, it might as well be cut into halves and stuck to the end of Fortress in the Eye of Time, and to the front of Fortress of Owls. Eagles mostly addresses the very aftermath of the events of Eye, where Cefwyn has returned to the capitol of Ylesuin with his fiancé Ninévrisë, Tristen and Emuin and plans for war. Owls continues the story, and adds existential angst for Tristen, who technically speaking, is less than a year old..  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shiki, "Fourth Death" --Review

This episode begins with Natsuno standing in the road, and looking off toward the city. At his foot is a dying cicada. We get more reports of people dying, and there is a brief interlude with Kaori and Akira Tanaka.
 Akira is talking about all the deaths that occurred, and Kaori breaks down and cries, telling Akira angrily to not talk about it. This is followed by reports of more deaths. Seishin looks worried, and much stressed by the increasing death toll.

In the next scene, its night time and we see Natsuno in his room. He is still awake due to Megumi-caused insomnia. He thinks he sees her shadow on the window screen, but when he turns and looks, Megumi is gone.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Four "His Butler, Capricious"--Review

Ciel's latest case is apprehending a serial killer who is targeting prostitutes, a killer known only as Jack the Ripper. Since his Earl Phantomhive persona is too well known, he disguises himself as a girl in order
 to investigate one of the suspects. Complications arise in various forms.

We open with Ciel arriving at the townhouse in London with Sebastian. Ciel is complaining about the Season, and there being too many people in London. Sebastian in turn points out that at least there will be no servant-caused catastrophes at least. Then they find Madame Red, Grell and Lau busily entertaining themselves in a parlor, while trying to find where the tea is kept.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Four "Timid Distance"--Review

In the opening of this episode, Zakuro is watching the soldiers practice. Susukihotaru has also come to watch one particular soldier. When she spots her friend, she decides to tease Zakuro about the events of the previous episode, where Kei and Zakuro had to share a room. Zakuro's shouting draws the attention of the soldiers, and Kei says "good morning" to Zakuro.Then Kei's hand slowly drops down when Zakuro gives a disdainful look and stomps off. Susukihotaru remains to watch her favorite soldier Riken, but when he looks back, she is overcome with shyness, bows, and then hides behind a door.

Later, everyone is gathered to learn about what assignments they have for the day, from Kushimatsu. Zakuro and Kei however are dismissed because they have already been on a mission.

Shiki, "Third Tragedy" --Review

In the scene before the opening credits, Natsuno is seen lying on the bed with window shut. Seishin's voice can be heard writing one of his horror novels. (Seishin is an author as well as a monk. It turns out that
 part of the reasons the Kirishiki family had moved to Sotoba--they are fans of his work, especially their daughter.)

The next morning Natsuno is walking to his school when a friend, Toru Muto drives up in a car and offers him a ride. (Toru is being instructed by a mutual acquaintance--a nurse who works at the village clinic.) Natsuno accepts the ride, but starts to fall asleep. It turns out that he is sleepy because he can sense that someone is watching him.

Pegasus, by Robin McKinley

404 pp.
Robin McKinley does some interesting things with the “psychic link with magical animals” theme in Pegasus. The main characters are Sylvi the fourth child of the king, and Ebon, the pegasus she is friends with. In Sylvi’s country, due to the terms of an Alliance made with the pegasi, the royal family is bound to the royal family of the pegasi via a spell which is supposed to create a bond that will help them understand each other. Oddly enough, these spell brokered friendships do not seem to create much in the way of mutual understanding, and in the normal course of things, most pegasus and human pairs only meet on special occasions.

Sample: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uraboku Episodes Twenty 22-24--Review

Since the last three episodes of the anime are so closely tied together, and the last episode is mostly epilogue, I will be covering all three of them at once. This is an anime of a not yet completed manga series, and as a result, it has a very rushed, unfinished ending. (I am not sure however how much of a rush job it is, as I have not been able to get a hold of the manga yet.)

Read the entire article at Associated Content.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Three "His Butler, Omnipotent"--Review

The episode begins with a scream of horror, but it is not Ciel punishing a swindling employee. It is Grell, Madam Red's butler, who is hurtling down the hall on top of a cart full of dishes and tea. Grell and the cart barrel through the door of the dining room, heading straight for poor Finni who isn't able to get out of the way in time. Grell gets knocked to the floor, soaked in tea in the process. Grell trying to clean Finni up, reaching for a napkin, but manages to tear the entire tablecloth off of the table, knocking everything off of it, severely annoying Ciel.

Bardroy asks why Grell is here, stating that Grell is an incompetent. Ciel notes that a Bardroy has no room to talk. It turns out his aunt, Madam Red imposed upon Ciel to take Grell in so that Sebastian could help Grell become a better butler. (Grell seem especially good at creating disasters.) Ciel had thought Sebastian would be the one actually inconvenienced by Grell being a walking disaster area, not himself.

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Uraboku Episode Twenty One "The Indelible Image"--Review

We begin with a flashback to happier time when Yuki was still at the orphanage, and Reiga was still Kanata. This is a very sweet scene once again shows that Kanata and Yuki were very close. (It is also ever so slightly romantic in tone, and there is a strong implication to me that this is from Reiga's point of view.)

The next scene is a repeat of the ending of the last episode. Luka, Tsukumo and Toko see and hear and explosion, and realize that the barrier surrounding the place where Cadenza has Senshiro and the other trapped has gone down. They head toward the battle.

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Three "Tragic Past"--Review

In this episode, Zakuro becomes frustrated because she has been "grounded" from taking part in assignments due to bickering with her partner Kei. Especially since everyone else seems to be getting assignments.  When she complains about it, Kushimatsu, the fox-spirit who assigns cases is not very sympathetic about it.

She exits her meeting in a foul move, and discovers Kei playing with two pumpkin headed spirit children. She becomes annoyed with him when he tells the rabbit-like Yokai that it's his duty to try getting along with spirits as a member the Ministry after he complimented Kei for being more able to coexist with spirits. Zakuro tells Kei snappishly that playing with kids is not one of his duties.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sample: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fortress in the Eye of Time, by C.J. Cherryh

568 pp.
Fortress in the Eye of Time
It usually takes me a while to get into a book, or even consider reading it. Even if the writer is familiar, and one I like a lot, there is no guarantee that even familiarity with the writer will get me to read the book. Fortress in the Eye of Time turned up when I was going through one of my “no high fantasy” phases, so I ignored it, when it came out. (I also ignored Hammerfall by the same author, which I also ended up loving, even though Hammerfall was a Big Rock Falls Everyone Dies kind of book.) But I finally got around to reading it--and it pulled me right in.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Uraboku Episode Twenty "Sin and Punishment and Promise"--Review

The episode opens with Toko talking to Luka. Luka is still staying away from Yuki, and this time he has an even better excuse. He doesn't want Elegy to go after Yuki, to get back him. Toko is not convinced. She presses the point, but Luka wants her to back off about it. ("It," being the illusion spell Elegy used on Luka, and also about Luka's relationship to Yuki's previous incarnation.) Luka asks Toko not to tell Yuki about it, and even uses the word "please." We get a brief flashback to a memory Luka has about the female Yuki.

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Two "His Butler, Strongest"--Review

This episode begins with an apparent rat infestation at the Phantomhive manor. The servants are taking a hands on approach to rat killing instead of you know, setting out poison or traps. (Finni tries to kill one rat with a nearby piece of decor...he misses it, of course.) Meanwhile, Ciel is entertaining some visitors in the billiard room. The conversation turns a little sinister, because Ciel's guests are "the evil noblemen" among whom are nobles and others who are engaged in criminal activities, or preventing foreign criminals from gaining territory in England. (I think this is a very interesting and kind of funny parallel.)

Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

447 pp.
Bayou Moon (The Edge, Book 2)Bayou Moon is the sequel to On the Edge. William, one of the minor antagonists in the previous book (and the friend of Declan and Rose from the previous book) has settled down in the Edge between the alternate earth referred to as “the Weird” and the real world which is known as “the Broken” He is living a quiet life working in construction, and collecting action figures. Said quiet life is interrupted when his home kingdom’s version of the secret service (called The Mirror) show up to ask him to go on a mission.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Two "Crimson Brilliance"--Review

This episode is further introductions, and the various members of the cast learning about each other. The team goes on a mission, and try to solve a case involving a spirit haunting a hotel that is being built. There is  some more hostile interaction from human bystanders.

The opening scene involves a dream Zakuro is having. A child version of herself is climbing up in the branches of a persimmon tree. She is warned to be careful because persimmon branches are fragile by a child version of Susukihotaru. Then Susukihotaru disappears and it is revealed that the tree is suddenly in a very scary looking place, and Zakuro becomes frightened. Shortly after blobby looking spirit come out of the ground, calling her name, then a different (and adult) voice tells her that persimmon trees are connected to the underworld and then a branch under breaks, and she falls into the water. Then she falls into the water. She wakes up with a start, and the last word before going to the opening animation, she says "mother."

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content.

Uraboku Episode Nineteen "The Vengeful Pair"--Review

In the wake of Elegy's attack, Yuki has been restricted to the mansion, and isn't particularly happy about this, since he's worried about Luka.

The first scene is a continuation of the ending of the previous episode. Fuyutoki is reporting that Luka has just encountered a general class Opast to Yuki and the others. Yuki wants to know if Fuyutoki knows where Luka is, but the butler says that Takashiro ordered Yuki to stay in the house. Yuki is upset by this, but doesn't protest.

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sample: Dies the Fire, by S.M. Stirling

1635: The Eastern Front, by Eric Flint

364 pp.
1635: The Eastern Front (The Ring of Fire)I have mixed feelings about the Ring of Fire series. On one hand, I loved the first few books, especially the first book in the series, 1632. On the other hand, I began to lose interest due to a combination of not liking the collaborative author, and problems with the way the stories and other novels jumping around within a three year period of time, and showing the results of a situation, without showing out the results came about. (This in particular was deeply annoying to me, and ended up making me reluctant to read the series due to the confusion.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Talent No Show at a Girl Scout Jamboree

I swear this is absolutely true in so far as I remember most of it and am still deeply embarrassed by it.

When I was a kid, my mother decided I should join the Girl Scouts. I was really not interested in joining the Girl Scouts, but Mom had rosy memories of Girl Scouting wonderfulness, so I was going to be joining the Girl Scouts. I got the uniform, I got the little cap, and I went through the strange initiation ceremony for becoming a Brownie. (Yes, there was a strange initiation ceremony. It involved aluminum foil if I recall. I was not allowed to be an abstainer, and got in trouble.) I had many adventures in not understanding what was going on, then getting picked on due to my general cluelessness.