Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Minireviews - 2/27/02

Welcome to MOATB's first Monday Minireview session! Monday Minis are a few quick hit reviews that I'll post once a week on any random new things I've tried. The subjects covered will usually be random things besides books, or will be books that are either very short or that I don't have as much to say about. That being said, welcome to the first Monday Minireviews!

Gotham City Impostors
In case you haven't heard, Call of Duty and Batman had a drunked one night stand, and CoD got pregnant. The result was Gotham City Impostors, a Batman themed first person shooter that is only available through downloading. This review is off the xBox 360 arcade copy that my boythingy downloaded last week.
I've heard this game described as a mistake, and honestly, the idea behind it is one that I wouldn't have personally touched. I love Batman, I love CoD, but the idea of them together...
Nonetheless, I gave it a try after watching him play it a few dozen times, and honestly? It's kind of great. I've never played Team Fortress, but I was told that this game kind of plays like that. But you know, with batman.
So far, I kind of love the different loadouts/setups you can use. I have a love for playing assassin sneaky bastards, although my love of support characters means that I'm trying to figure out the only support healing item. We'll see how that turns out.
Using an arbitrary rating system...I'd give GCI a 7/10.
...It would get another point if there was more than one female class.

His Robot Girlfriend - Wesley Allison
So I kind of love the idea of androids and that kind of thing. Love Neko was one of my favorite manga for a long time, despite being kind of pervey. I thought it was cute as hell, and went on a 'robot lover' phase where I would read anything like it.
That was a long time ago, but when I saw a legitimate book of that theme, FREE in the Barnes and Noble store...well, I couldn't resist.
His Robot Girlfriend is about a guy who...well, buys a robot girlfriend. And she takes care of him and...yeah. Spents a lot of money? I don't know, it wasn't a very memorable book.
The idea was interesting, but...well, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. The author has no idea how to write, in my honest opinion, and has a severe issue with 'show, don't tell'. There is literally no description in this book. Seriously, the entire book is 'he does this. she did this. she brought him something. they went to bed and she felt like a real girl'.
It was a disappointment, I'll tell you that much, and while I finished it to say that I had...yeah. I'd never read it again. Or recommend it. But I think In Her Name gave me hope for free books, because I probably shouldn't have expected anything good from a random free book as it is.

Hysteria - Eve Gale
So maybe, like I didn't, you don't know what 'treatment for Hysteria' means. Maybe, like me, you see this book as a random free offering, see a pretty cover, and download it out of curiosity.
Let me save you some time. Treatment for Hysteria means being given a orgasm by a doctor. I don't know why, and I don't understand the context, but apparently, that's what this book is about. So yeah.
I went into this expecting a book set in an asylum and got... a girl talking about how much she wants to ride some kind of 1800s sex mount or something. I..didn't get my asylum.
I guess, if you're into that kind of thing, you might like it?
This wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, I'm a paranormal romance junkie, so the fact that it's sexually charged wasn't the problem so much as the way it was sexual. ...It was kind of creepy, to be blunt, and like I said, not my thing.

Barnes and Noble's Nook Tablet - 16gb Version
So, as you may or may not know, my kindle was crushed a few months ago after someone who has yet to come forth decided to slam their girth down on it, then hide it in my room to cover their tracks. Being as I'm usually a e-book girl, this was a very painful few months, and since I'm going on a 16 hour bus ride next month, it seemed time to get myself a new e-reader so I wouldn't die on the way to meeting my future in-laws.
So last week I got myself a Nook Tablet, deciding to upgrade, and I'm kind of amazed. I'm not writing a full review, because...well, I'm good with a computer and such, but details of technology escape me. I'm not enough of an expert to go in depth about specs and such.
But here's what I have noticed so far:
The screen is crisp and responds quickly.
This machine is amazingly responsive. The browser moves faster than a lot of computers I've used.
The books are easy to read, and generally format very well.
The backlight is a big change from a kindle, and given the choice between the ink system and a backlight...the backlight wins.
There's not a lot of glare, which is something I was expecting.
However, the smudges on the screen from it being a touch screen are annoying. I'll have to invest in something to fix that.
There's some decent free books on here. Like I said, In Her Name: Empire was amazing.
The app market is...lacking, to say the least. There isn't even a free facebook app. Why the fuck is there not a free facebook app? Hell, there isn't even an official facebook app at all. The hell?
I miss android market.
I'm still trying to figure out that point of that random loop at the bottom corner of the machine.
I wish there was a physical back button.
And also, I'm still figuring some things out.
But yeah, if you're investing in an e-reader, I'd definitely recommend the nook tablet, even if the apps do kind of suck so far. It's kind of sexy.

And that concludes this edition of Monday Minireviews. Hope they were useful!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Free Friday Reviews - In Her Name: Empire - Michael R. Hicks

So a few months ago, just before my kindle bit the big one, I heard about this book being offered out as a free book. I thought it was an amazing marketing strategy, but sadly, my kindle died and I never got around to doing anything about it. But I just got a new Nook--life is good--, so I got around to reading it. Best idea I've had all week.

So in honor of Moatb's first Free Friday Review, where I'll be reviewing a random free book or item that you, my readers, can also get, I finished In Her Name: Empire today.

In case you haven't heard of In Her Name, the series is by a self published author who decided to offer the first book completely free to whoever wanted to download it. The idea is that if you like it enough, you'll go out and buy the next books in the series. This idea is genius, although that may just be because the book itself is pretty amazing.

Empire is the first book in the In Her Name series, and revolves around a boy named Reza. As a child, Reza's parents were killed in front of him by a member of the deadly alien race, the Kreelan. After he fights back against the alien, he cuts across her eye and she, for some reason, lets him live after marking him the same. Instead of death, Reza is sent to a planet the human race has turned into an orphanage, where he lives for years until the Kreelan show up and change his life once more. Reza is taken and paired with a member of the Kreelan, part of a grant experiment for the Kreelan to determine if humans have souls.

Usually, when I see a free book, I assume one of three things: it's a sample of chapters that is mislabeled as a free book, it's porn, or it's a novella. Occasionally, though, downloading a free book gives you something absolutely amazing, and this was one of those times. Empire is an amazing first part of a new series, and the fact that it was free only makes everything sweeter.

My favorite part of the book was undoubtedly the Kreelan themselves. The Kreelan reminded me very strongly of the Na'vi from Avatar. They're described as blue skinned women with fangs, claws, and long hair that they never cut. They're described as being connected somehow to one another, they're very nature related, they shun technology, and almost everything they have is hand made. Of course, they're also very different from the Na'vi: they're combat oriented, have a very bloody society, are very technologically advanced despite not using technology in daily life, and invade and destroy other races.

Honestly, I'm pretty sure I could make a case for Empire being an Alternate Universe fanfic for avatar, with some magic thrown in. That's not a bad thing, though.

The idea behind the plot is kind of a cool one. The entire reason that Reza is taken is because the
Kreelan, being an advanced race, see all other creatures as animals. Because of this, Reza and several other children are taken to the Kreelan planet in order to be part of a grand experiment to see if one of them can prove that their blood can sing: that they, too, have a soul and are more than just animals.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty amazing idea, and I kind of love where Hicks went with it. Hell, there's a part of me that can't wait to see fanfiction of this book, just to see other people's takes on it.

One of the really cool things about Hicks' writing is his character progression. Empire totals over seven hundred pages on my Nook, which might not be as much on another source, but is still a pretty reasonable chunk of story. It stretches over a very long time, and details Reza and his partner's life through training, challenges, meeting, etc. What's cool about it is how well the characters are developed over the course of this timeline. Reza and his partner's relationship goes from one of master and disobedient pet to tentative friendship, and it's completely believable. Despite the fact that Reza is following the ways of a race of beings which killed his parents, at no point when I was reading did I have to stop and think 'huh. weird how he's suddenly okay with these creatures'. Instead, his progression from hating the
Kreelan at the beginning of the book to slowly coming to accept them follows well, without any vast character changes. It's slow and reasonable and it makes sense.

I'm not going to say that In Her Name: Empire is perfect. Because it's not. It's self published and the author probably didn't have a professional editor. There are some mistakes, some adjective abuse, etc. But most of the problems with this book aren't in the story or the writing, so much as they're in the editing. And that's okay, because the story IS worth it.

If you liked the Avatar movie, I'd actually recommend Empire for you. If you like a mix of science fiction and fantasy in your books, then I'd recommend Empire. If you want to try something new, something that's worth the value...well, can't go wrong with free, right?

So if you think you're interested in Hick's In Her Name: Empire, even a little, then pick up your completely free copy from any of the following locations:


Google Books:

From the author's blog:

Barnes and Noble:

Stray - Rachel Vincent

A little late posting this, but, well, welcome to the life of a college kid and all that.

So I've actually had the second and third books in this series for about two years, but could never find the first. I finally managed it at the used book store the other day, because used book stores are amazing.

Stray is the story of Faythe Sanders, the only daughter of the South Central werecat pride's Alpha. As the only tabby, or female werecat, in her family, it's her job to one day get married to the future Alpha of the pack, then give birth to as many children as it takes to have a female. Because werecat's rarely have female children, a daughter is rare. A pride without a tabby will be destroyed by time, so they are prized and guarded for what they are.
Faythe was meant to get married and start popping out kids. Instead she abandoned her fiancee before the wedding, then ran off to college in a fight for her independence. But after a tabby vanishes, and Faythe is attacked on campus, her father pulls her back home to protect her. But Faythe has spent years clawing her way out of her pride, and she isn't willing to give up so easily, especially when it means being under the thumb of the man she left at the altar.

Let me start by saying that I kind of loved this book. Don't get me wrong; it has its problems. Boy, does this book have its problems. But they kind of don't matter to me, because I loved the package deal.

First off, the world building was fascinating for me. I loved the Pride, I loved the werecat hierarchy, and I just flat out loved the werecats...although I'll concede that werecats sounds kind of silly. The werecat thing itself kind of makes me love this book, because I adore shifters of all kind, and I particularly love the more unusual ones...or, hell, any kind that isn't a wolf or a fox, to be honest. The cats were kind of badass, all fangs and claws and black velvety awesomeness. I like the fact that, unlike in a lot of movies, the shift between animal and human wasn't some magically instantaneous and painless thing. I mean, I know that, since shifting is impossible to begin with, I probably shouldn't nitpick, but the idea of someone being able to completely change their body structure in a sudden painless instant is iffy to me. Seems a little too perfect.

Speaking of shifting, random note: I loved the fact that some of the characters in the book specifically laugh at the media portrayal of shifting. At one point several of them get to together for a movie night of shifter movies specifically for that reason. That's kind of awesome.

As far as characters go...well, this is a little harder for me, because at this point I've read more than the first book, and I want to comment on their characters throughout, but I'm trying to limit myself to what you see in the first book only.

Based on the first book, my favorite character was probably Marc. I mean...the guy gets abandoned by the girl he's supposed to marry, but still loves her and is willing to put up with her shit so that he can KEEP loving her. I don't know, the inner romantic in me kind of wants to hug this guy and not let him go. Like, ever.

Least favorite character was...hmm. Probably Faythe herself, if I'm honest. Don't get me wrong, I love this book. But the main character kind of pissed me off a few times. She gets better in the later books, that's for DAMN sure, but in this first book, Faythe is such a self absorbed twat. As tabbies are being kidnapped, including her 17 year old cousin, and one tabby is actually killed and the body left to be found...Faythe is too busy bitching about how independent she is. She's in huge danger, is actually attacked by a stray in the beginning of the book, has another tabby die, but who cares about that? Fuck that. Independence is more important, and Faythe needs to get back to college to do school things and read books. She laughs in the face of kidnapping, rape, and murder, apparently.

I mean, Faythe isn't a complete twat, I guess, as much as she pissed me off. Her craving for independence is a valid one, which is made abundantly clear in later books, and when she's actually put on the spot, she delivers. But that being said, the sheer level of self-absorbed bullshit she sprouts at the beginning of this book pissed me off.

Thankfully, this book gets better the farther you read. Faythe's dad is a badass, her mom is...a 50's house wife, apparently, her ex-Marc is a hybred badass/sweetheart, and the random guys on her ranch are all individually awesome.

And the story...I wish I could explain how amazing this story gets the further you read, but if I did, I would spoil everything. Suffice to say it gets badass and I completely loved it, at least after the first half or so of the book.

I would recommend Stray for fans of paranormal romance, because there is definitely a heap of that, although that isn't ALL the book is. I would recommend it to fans of shifters of all kinds,and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a good paranormal series, and is willing to read through a bit of a slow start to get there. Oh! And if you love the general writing style of a YA book, but want something a little more mature, Stray is kind of perfect.

So if you're a fan of were-anythings, romance, or paranormal awesomeness, pick up Stray soon and see if you get as obsessed with Rachel Vincent's Shifter series as I did.

And keep an eye out for a Free Friday post coming up soon, as well as a video review of the Shifter's series as a whole sometime next week!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Video Reviews - a post

So those of you who follow me on twitter (@Slytherling) know that I promised a review of Rachel Vincent's shifter series by Friday, but as you can plainly see...that didn't happen. I do actually have reason, though! I'm going to be trying out my first video review, and I figured that I'd use the Shifters as my first test subject. So if you guys have any suggestions for video book reviews of any kind, please feel free to drop me a hint or two, haha.
Otherwise, expect a review of the first book in the series, Stray, as a written review by Wednesday, and I'll try and finish the series by next week so that I can do a video of the entire thing.
Until then. . .
Keep an eye out for a contest post sometime in the next two weeks.
I have this really cool signed bookmark by Rachel Caine that I made sure to get for you guys so that I could host my first giveaway. If all goes sucessful, I'll look into having a few throughout the year. <3

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Retro Reviews - Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey

Retro Reviews are something that I'm going to try and start doing once in a while on the blog. They're reviews of books that I read when I was a lot younger, after I reread them again now. The goal of retro reviews is to get readers who usually only go for the new and shiny books to try something that isn't quite so new and shiny.

Dragonflight was chosen as the first retro review because I recently found out that the author, Anne McCaffrey, died last November, and I'm rereading in her honor.

Dragonflight is the story of Pern, a planet that is both very similar and very different from medieval earth. On Pern, dragons are huge, telepathic beasts which mentally bond to humans upon their hatching. Their purpose on the planet is to protect Pern from Threads, which are parasites which fall from a red star that orbits near Pern, and destroys all organic matter that they come into contact with. At the beginning of Dragonflight, it has been over four hundred years since the last time Threads fell upon Pern, and the dragonmen and their Weyr are now considered burdens to the people they protect. But the queen dragon, which gives birth to all others in her Weyr has perished, and so the dragonmen nonetheless go out on a Search to find young women who might bond with the next queen, whose egg is preparing to hatch. It is on this search that F'lar finds Lessa, the last remaining member of the Ruatha bloodline that has gone down in history as producing some of the very best Weyrwomen. Lessa bonds with the new dragon queen, a huge golden beast named Ramoth, and is taken into the traditions and learnings of the Weyr. But F'lar and the other dragonmen quickly find that Lessa isn't content with just following old traditions, and there are signs that the threads, which some believe no longer exist, will soon fall upon Pern once more.

I read Dragonflight first as a child, second in high school when I was required to for a club, and finally for a third time this week. Both times I read this book as a kid, I absolutely adored it. I loved the dragons, the characters, the world. I loved the dragon riding more than anything, and I loved the fact that the dragons could teleport and had telepathy and... I just loved it.

Reading it as an adult, I still love this book for what it is, but I do see the flaws more. The book is definitely a product of the time it was written in, and this is a lot more visible to me as an adult than it was as a child. Despite the fact that the entire book is about Lessa, women in this Pern novel are pretty much useless. If they don't have a queen dragon, they are literally nothing more than slaves. This is despite the fact that there are female dragons besides just the queen: only men are dragon riders. Even the queen dragon, and Lessa, are told that they can't fly and generally treated terribly. Lessa's relationship with F'lor kind of screams abuse, too. At one point, she is terrified to the point of trembling because she knows that, despite having done something to possibly save the world, she knows that F'lor is going to 'shake' her as he does anytime she does something he doesn't like.

That being said, if you keep in mind the fact that this book was written in the 1960s or so, for what it is, this book is kind of great. I loved Lessa for being the manipulative and devious character she is, and I kind of hope that she broke some of the female stereotypes as far as the series goes, since I never read the rest of the books. I vaguely remember female dragonriders in one of the other books that I might have read...but I can't be sure that was Pern and not a different series entirely.

The dragons were definitely my favorite part. Much like cats, their entire lives outside of the thread fighting consists of sleeping, eating, breeding, and generally being superior and amazing. They can fly, teleport through 'between', talk telepathically with their bonded, and if given the right stone, can breath fire. They're just...awesome. Not as awesome as the dragons from the movie version of How To Train Your Dragon, in my opinion, but still pretty fantastic.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to any and all fantasy fan who hasn't already touched upon McCaffrey's work, because it's a fantastic entry into a series that, while I haven't read yet, my grandmother never stops talking about once I mention it. I'd recommend it to fans of Eragon who want to see one of the original dragonriders, and I'd recommend it to people who hated Eragon and want to see what a good book about dragonriders looks like. I'd also recommend it to anyone who likes dragons, because let's be honest: DRAGONS. <3

So if you think Dragonflight sounds interesting, try picking a copy up the next time you're out. Check your library, since it's an old book, or buy a copy yourself if you think it's good.

Read this book and honor a great author who has gone on to her next great adventure.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesdays at the Castle - Jessica Day George

It's when I get down to writing up reviews for books that I realize how broad my interests in books range. From an adult novel about fairies to a kid's book about magical castles and princesses, I think the only defining characteristic I have left is 'fiction', and considering my love of books like Parasite Rex, I'm not sure even that fits...

Tuesdays at the Castle is a book by Jessica Day George about Princess Celie, the youngest daughter of the king and queen of Castle Glower. Castle Glower is magic castle which chooses it's monarch and protects them as it can. Every Tuesday, the castle changes, creating new rooms, new towers, whatever it wants. To Celie, the castle is a friend, and she is the only one who takes the time to map out the changes the castle goes through.
One day, shortly after her parents leave to pick her eldest brother up from his graduation as a Wizard, news comes in that the king and queen were assassinated on their return. But Celie doesn't believe that they're gone, and it's up to she and her siblings to protect the castle and country from a would be usurper and betrayal from within.

This book, while obviously written for a younger reader than myself, has become one of my favorite books. Celie is an adorable but daring heroine with extreme dedication to her cause, and I found myself excited and rooting for her every step of the way.

I absolutely adored Castle Glower, which I feel fits as a character as well because of its obviously sentient nature. The castle is incredibly resourceful and creative, and was pretty much my favorite aspect of the story.

Honestly, there's not a lot I can say about this book other than that it's a great book for pre-teen readers, and it's not your typical princess story. There's a lot of adventure, pranks, and humor to please a young reader of either gender, and indeed, to please readers of many ages. This book isn't the kind of book you spend your time looking for metaphors and deeper themes in, but at the same time, it touches on a lot of older subjects than most young reader books. Subjects like death, love, assassination, and pretty much the full gauntlet of fantasy novel themes are all touched upon in a easy way for younger readers to be able to understand and enjoy.

Overall, I'd say that this books only flaw is that it ends so fast. I feel that it could easily be made into a series, but that it also is perfect as a stand alone book for young readers to tackle on their own, or for parents to read to their kids.

I'd recommend Tuesdays at the Castle to any reader who wants a light fantasy read, regardless of age, either for reading to others or for reading themselves. I'd recommend it to fans of any of