Monday, January 31, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Thirteen "His Butler, Freeloader"--Review

In this episode, a young prince from India turns up looking for a servant he believes has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, Ciel is trying to uncover who is behind politically motivated attacks against Englishmen returning
 from India, and Sebastian meets a butler whose skills are evenly matched with his own. In other news, Abberline is still very concerned for Ciel's welfare and continues to be the only one who thinks it is odd that a twelve year old is playing Master Detective. (Okay, granted the pre-teen or teen hero is pretty much a staple of anime and most fantasy novels, but I can't help pointing this out.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Eight "Fickle Rain"--Review

In this episode, chores are interrupted when Agemaki and Susukihotaru turn up missing. We discover that Kushimatsu seems to know who is responsible for the kidnapping. Meanwhile, the two mysterious half-spirit girls  who seem to have a grudge against Zakuro decide to attack her via her friends. We also discover that the black widow yokai "Lady Rangui" is apparently an ally of Zakuro's enemies, "The Village of Oracles." 

We open with a mixed bag of girls and their partners, who are all working on cleaning the Ministry building. Meanwhile, Agemaki has gone into town on an errand, and runs into Susukihotaru who is returning the sword to the shop (the sword that had been possessed, back in episode four, "Timid Distance"). They talk, and Agemaki notices that Susukihotaru has become a little less shy, and notes that it must be because of her friendship with Riken. This results in some flustered behavior from Susukihotaru. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Twelve "His Butler, Forlorn"--Review

This episode concludes the "Hope Diamond arc" and leaves us with more mysteries. (Such as, what were the writers thinking when they came up with this?)

We open with Elizabeth remembering how Ciel had disappeared and his parents had died. Despite being a very cheerful, slightly silly girl, Elizabeth's main motivation is to try to make Ciel happy, because she loves him. These sad thoughts are accompanied by a montage of sad memories and burning houses. The last scene before the opening credits is Elizabeth looking entranced and very doll-like. When her head moves, there is a mechanical click.

The scene then shifts to the scene where the previous episode ended. Sebastian is perched on the window ledge in the room with the mysterious symbol. He makes several snide comments about how much Ciel has lost, and when Ciel snaps back at him, Sebastian reminds Ciel of their conversation during the Frost Fair. Sebastian apparently senses that Ciel is strongly affected by his memories, and quotes Ciel's words about having been shattered and reborn at him. Ciel's temper flares and he shakes off whatever unease he had been feeling.

Read the rest of this review at Yahoo! Contributor Network.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett

347 pp.

I Shall Wear Midnight In I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany Aching is beginning her career as the witch of the Chalk, the region where she grew up. Acting as a kind of general purpose medic and social worker, she finds herself doing all the jobs that people do not think of doing, like cutting the toe nails of an old woman with arthritis when she cannot do it herself. (People had thought to feed the old woman, and help her in other ways, but it had apparently not occurred to anyone that an old arthritic woman might have trouble clipping her nails.) This is a lot of work for one girl to do, but she’s helped (or at least, not quite as hindered) in her duties by her friends the Nac Mac Feegles.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord

Small Beer Press
188 pp.

Redemption in Indigo: a novelRedemption in Indigo is a fairytale about a woman who is given a magical item of great power, and the ticked off immortal who wants it back.

Our Heroine is one Paama, an excellent cook who is cursed with a husband who has no appreciation for her cooking. (He tends to inhale food, not taste it. This would be sheer agony to anyone who had pride in her cooking.) Because of this and many other reasons, all of them related in some way to her husband, she has returned home to her family.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Eleven "His Butler, However You Please"--Review

In this episode, the "hope diamond" arc continues.

We begin with Lady Elizabeth turning up with a mysterious gift that she immediately takes back when she sees that Ciel's signet ring has been repaired. After making various flustered excuses, she runs off, with the present. Ciel is puzzled by this, which prompts Sebastian to remind Ciel that his birthday is tomorrow. Ciel is not interested: it had been his birthday when his parents had died, the home he had grown up in had been burnt to the ground, and he had been kidnapped by occultists. None of these things are things he wants to be reminded of.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is upset because she feels she cannot give Ciel the ring she found, since he already has one. While she's stuck in traffic she hears someone playing a hurdy gurdy. When that person disappears into the shadows of an alley, Elizabeth is compelled to follow--apparently by the ring, which is glowing. She walks down the alley and sees a doll shop. The hurdy gurdy player is there, and they have a conversation. (There is something very mechanical and bizarre about him, but Elizabeth does not appear to notice, bless her curly little head.) The conversation takes a sinister turn, and we cut back to Ciel, who is learning that Elizabeth had disappeared.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sample: Fall of Light, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Monday, January 17, 2011

Heaven’s Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

298 pp.
Heaven's Spite (Jill Kismet, Hunter, Book 5)In Heaven’s Spite, Jill is drawn into a very complicated plot that may result in her absolute damnation. (Actually, she is pretty much already there according to the doctrine of her church as stated by the character.) It turns out that Perry, the demon crimelord she has a contract with has provided her with an artifact that had been stolen from her teacher by a leader of a religious cult of Lovecraftian inclinations. (Evil cult of evil matriarchal sorceresses who are compared to termites a lot. Like many evil cultists, they are trying to break their evil, evil gods out of some kind of dimensional prison.)  

A Few Anime I've Seen Recently...

This list is ganked from a different journal, with a few additions. I may or may not attempt episode reviews of these shows.

Dragon Crisis: Boy's family belongs to a family of apparently supernatural treasure hunters. During an attempted snatch and grab of an object about to exchange hands, boy discovers that the "object" is actually a girl dragon in human form. The coolest part of the show is the opening credits. The dragon-girl acts more like a puppy than a proper dragon. I am not impressed, and really not interested. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear

Subterranean Press
267 pp.
 New AmsterdamNo one is going to believe that I dislike vampire stories, given the number of books with vampires I have reviewed. (Sadly, it is nearly impossible to avoid them.) If I have to put up with vampires, I would at least like them not to be of the “must kill humans to feed” variety, and that is what we have in this book. Of course, “vampires with harems” can have their own severely disturbing aspects to them when they appear in fiction, but at least I’m not confronted with an often badly handled kill-to-survive ethical dilemma.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Ten "His Butler, on Ice"--Review

This episode begins the "hope diamond" arc, which replaces the "circus arc" from the manga. The episode begins with a thief who has run off with a stolen ring. In pursuit are his former partners. The thief reaches the river and is waylaid by a mysterious figure, who attacks him using what are apparently very sharp threads. The thief falls into the water and from the perspective of his former partners, it appears as if he jumped into the river under his own power.

The next scene is Ciel and Sebastian, who are at a "Frost Fair," being held on the now completely frozen Thames. They discuss the frost fair, and the last time the Thames froze over enough to hold one. Also at the fair is Elizabeth, attended by her lady's maid, Paula. Elizabeth is searching for the perfect present to give to Ciel. She is motivated mostly by guilt for having broken Ciel's heirloom ring.

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher

342 pp.
 Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2)Fool Moon is the second book in The Dresden Files. This book is mostly about werewolves. (You have to figure if there are vampires the werewolves will turn up sooner or later.) More specifically, it is about several different kinds of wolves, none of whom are contagious.

The book opens with Harry refusing to help someone learn a powerful binding spell. (On the assumption that anything that would need to be contained by the spell is something, the person he is tutoring should not be trying to summon.) This turns out later to have been a mistake. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

304 pp.
Steelflower (Steelflower Chronicles, Book 1)Steelflower is a sword and sorcery novel of the kind that reminds me of a certain “shared universe” series that came out in the early eighties. (Specifically, it reminds me of Thieves World by Robert Lynn Asprin.) It also has the flavor of a book that written based off of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. (The story begins in a tavern, for one thing. Because this is the most frequent way adventuring parties meet in table top gaming, you know.) Our Heroine is a young woman named Kaia. She is an outcast from her people because she is a woman who had been born without the magical powers inherent to her race.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Nine "His Butler, Phantom Image"--Review

In this episode, Ceil has acquired a camera that is supposed to be able to reveal "otherworldly beings," which have an emotional connection with the person being photographed. (It is further clarified that the otherworldly beings in questions are the ghosts of loved ones.) He gives the servants the job of taking Sebastian's picture.

Of course, it becomes obvious that Sebastian is aware of what the servants are up to, and a battle of sorts ensues as the servants struggle to catch him in a moment where he is standing still for ten seconds, (that being the amount of time necessary to take the picture). The servants take a break from their mission, and complain about their various mishaps. They are interrupted by Sebastian, who assigns them the task of hiding Pluto, since a guest will be arriving at the mansion. Pluto however, turns out to be too much to handle, and Sebastian eventually has to deal with him.

Sample: Spirits that Walk in Shadow, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

322 pp.
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)Storm Front is an urban fantasy where magic and the things that go bump in the night are an open secret depending on who you are and where you live. In a world where wizards keep a low profile, the main character Harry Dresden is unique in that he is actually listed in the phone book as a wizard. When he is not writing pamphlets with imaginative titles about being a wizard, he works as a paranormal investigator.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Right Hand Magic, by Nancy Collins

284 pp.
 Right Hand Magic: A Novel of GolgothamRight Hand Magic is a “magic is out in the open” urban fantasy. Our heroine is a young woman named Tate, an aspiring artist in search of a new place to live. (She is a sculptor who works with steel, which does not make her very popular to her yuppie neighbors.) Despite having a trust fund, with rich parents, she is looking for a cheap place to stay. After looking around, she comes across a very cheap room at a boarding house in a part of Manhattan where absolutely no cab or moving company will go: Golgotham.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Seven "A Feline Home"--Review

In the opening of this episode, it appears to be a fairly quiet day. (Despite Agemaki sticking his foot into his mouth by saying he has gotten used to the smaller spirits because Zakuro is much scarier.) She stomps off
 and encounters a maid who is bringing in a guest. When the girl, a servant of the Agemaki household jumps into Agemaki's arms, Zakuro is less that pleased. (Zakuro is destined for a day full of irritations.)Then we go to the opening theme.

After the opening theme, everyone is behind the door trying to listen to what is going on, even Ganryu. (Obviously, he is picking up bad habits from Bonbori and Hozuki.) They are all gossiping about what they had seen, and making various speculations.

Shiki, Miss Strangeworth and “The Possibility of Evil”

Miss Adelia Strangeworth, the main character in the Shirley Jackson short story “The Possibility of Evil” is a sweet little old lady who grows roses and to all outward appearances is a kind, gentle, old fashioned woman. This is only in outward appearances and surface manners however. In reality, Miss Adelia is a bigoted, cruel and small minded woman who has been sending horrible, bigoted, threatening letters to people she doesn’t like. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sample: Storm Born, by Richelle Mead

Random Reading List

I am currently working on a variety of writing projects for various places. I have also recently discovered that I really really like Jim Butcher's The Harry Dresden Files. I think it's mostly because Dresden has the same "hard boiled detective" voice that both Garrett (from Glen Cook's Garret PI books) and Vlad Taltos (from Steven Brust's Dragaera books) 

The reading list includes books I've read before and ones that I haven't. This is only the short version of the list, as the longer one is much, much longer.

My current reading list for fantasy/sf is:

The Harry Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher (Yes, ALL of The Harry Dresden Files.)

Whispering Nickel Idols, by Glen Cook
I've read this before. It's the usual Garret mystery with some revelations behind bad girl mob boss Belinda's "eccentricity" (read: deeply messed up crazy.) 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
More deeply messed up crazy in the form of psychological horror. Two girls live together in a run down house. One of them is the murderer, (or at least was convicted) and one of them is protecting the other. Then we have the traditional distant relative who is after the family inheritance, and Bad Things Happen. 

The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt
I have not read this book yet. 

This does not include books I might decide to add on later.
My non-fiction book reading list: 

God is not One by Stephen Prothero
This is basically an overview of some of the major world religions that explains how each of the religions are different from each other in some pretty fundamental ways. It also presents the idea that ecumenism is actually pretty darn difficult, because of the inherent differences. This is at least partially read. I keep getting distracted by other projects. (This does not mean the book is boring, it means I'm easily distracted.)

Godless, by Dan Barker
I've read this previously, and really liked it.

American Voudou by Rod Davis
This is a book about Voudou and its cousin African Diaspora religions as practiced in the US. I've only read a couple chapters so far, but it's pretty interesting. I may or may not review it, since it came out in the late nineties and therefore, not very current.

Dharma Punx by Noah Levine 
I really liked this book when I first read it. I need to read it so I can finally get around to reading Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Eight "His Butler, Training"--Review

This episode continues from where the other episode ends. It turns out that Lord Barrymore has been killed, and his body has been left in the arena where dog baiting had taken place. This results in more strangeness from the villagers, who are chanting a lullaby about the demon dog. The villagers, now believing that they have angered the demon dog enact various rituals. (This is one of the many points in the series where I have to wonder what the writers were thinking, or smoking while creating the episode.)

Maylene and Finny both go wandering around the manor house in the middle of the night due to mysterious noises. As they do some exploring on their own. What they discover is that Angela is apparently entertaining a mysterious visitor (which breaks Finny's heart, since he had developed a crush on Angela.) This is more than poor Finny can take, so he runs off into the night, feeling sorry for himself, and Maylene returns to her room.

Silver Zombie by Carole Nelson Douglas

355 pp.
 Silver Zombie: Delilah Street: Paranormal InvestigatorSilver Zombie takes Delilah Street back to Kansas where she discovers some of the secrets of her past with the help of her boyfriend Ric and his formidable mother, Helena Troy. (Douglas has a penchant for “clever” names.) She also ends up tangling with her weather-witch nemesis and dangerous figures from Ric’s past. She also has to deal with the developments and transformations that had taken place in Vampire Sunrise (and so does Ric, for that matter).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Girls Like the Bad Boys (the “Good Guys” say)

It is a common complaint. The idea is that girls are attracted to “dangerous” and violent guys, and ignore the “nice guys” who have all of these good qualities but the girl only sees the “nice guy” as a friend. (Guys, do not be the ones making this complaint; it does not make you sexy. It makes you look like a whiny jerk who expects his female friends to put out for him as payment for being nice.) Of course, these nice guys are so nice that they think if a woman is in an abusive relationship that she must like being abused. (They have clearly not heard of “the cycle of abuse” and “co-dependency.”)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Six "Onward Together"--Review

In this episode, everyone is recovering from the previous episode with the black widow yokai, and Zakuro tries to find out about what happened to her mother. Meanwhile, Ganryu is upset that he had not been able to do anything during the battle and we learn more about Bonbori and Hozuki's past.

The opening is Agemaki turning in the report on the case to Hanadate, who apologizes for his less than stellar performance (since he was captured by the spider yokai). Hanadate asks after Zakuro, and Agemaki says that she is fine. Then Hanadate gives Agemaki a bag of cookies intended for Zakuro and the team. (At least it wasn't candles.)