My Giveaways & Announcements
★ new rating system with umbrellas! because they are cute! ☂☂☂
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★ GIVEAWAY: Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings! (US/Canada)
2 copies with signed bookplates! ends December 21st!

Friday, October 30, 2009

review: The Strangler by William Landay

The Strangler
by William Landay

For the three Daley brothers, sons of a Boston cop, crime is the family business. They are simply on different sides of it. Joe is the eldest, a tough-talking cop whose gambling habit — fast women, slow horses — draws him into the city's gangland. Michael is the middle son; a Harvard-educated lawyer for an ambitious Attorney General, Michael finds himself assigned to the embattled Strangler task force. And Ricky, the devil-may-care youngest son, floats above the fray as a professional burglar — until the Strangler strikes too close to home.
As Joe's mob debts close in around him...and Michael becomes snarled in a murder investigation gone very wrong...and Ricky is hunted by both sides of the law...the three brothers — and the women who love them — are forced to one another's sides. Now, each must look deeper into a killer's murderous rage, into their family's own deadly secrets, and into the one death that has changed each of them forever. As William Landay's electrifying novel builds to a climax, bonds will be broken, the Strangler case will violently unravel, and two mysteries will converge and collide — until a shattering truth is revealed.

adult fiction ; mystery { genre
R for violence and sexual content { rating
January 30, 2007 { first released
Bantam paperback (496 pages) { review edition
bought at used price { acquisition ; ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I found this book at a foreign languages bookstore in Xi'an, China while on a roadtrip with my family. It was one of the only books I found interesting, and that was mostly due to the fact that there were brothers in it. I have no resistance against stories with brother-dynamics, and the premise of this - three brothers on different sides of the law - intrigued me to no end. Suffice to say I was expecting them to turn on each other or something at first, but I am just as happy having them work together.

First Lines
Ricky Daley: In the subway: twenty swaying grief-stunned faces. A man insensible of his own leg pistoning up and down, tapping tat-tat-tat-tat-tat on the floor. At Boylston Street the track curved, the steel wheels shrieked against the rails, and the lights flickered off. Passengers let their eyes close, like a congregation beginning a silent prayer. When the lights came on again and their eyes opened, Ricky Daley was watching them.

Overall Rating

While the title and setting directly references the Boston Strangler's case, this book is more of a story set in the periphery of the fuss. It explores the brothers' varied relationships with their family, their heritage, and their jobs, as well as both mental and physical struggles and consequences they face as they become entangled in the world of serial killers and mob bosses. The subtle twists and turns impact more emotionally than thrillingly, but that's what makes this story so wonderfully character-centric.

review posted to, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Thursday, October 29, 2009

review: Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt

Marla Mason #1:
Blood Engines
by T.A. Pratt

Meet Marla Mason - smart, saucy, slightly wicked witch of the East Coast...
Sorcerer Marla Mason, small-time guardian of the city of Felport, has a big problem. A rival is preparing a powerful spell that could end Marla's life - and, even worse, wreck her city. Marla's only chance of survival is to boost her powers with the Cornerstone, a magical artifact hidden somewhere in San Francisco. But when she arrives there, Marla finds that the quest isn't going to be quite as cut-and-dried as she expected...and that some of the people she needs to talk to are dead. It seems that San Francisco's top sorcerers are having troubles of their own - a mysterious assailant has the city's magical community in a panic, and the local talent is being (gruesomely) picked off one by one.
With her partner-in-crime, Rondeau, Marla is soon racing against time through San Francisco's alien streets, dodging poisonous frogs, murderous hummingbirds, cannibals, and a nasty vibe from the local witchery, who suspect that Marla herself may be behind the recent murders. And if Marla doesn't figure out who is killing the city's finest in time, she'll be in danger of becoming a magical statistic herself...

adult fiction ; urban fantasy { genre
PG-13 for violence and sexual content { rating
September 25, 2007 { first released
Spectra paperback (368 pages) { review edition
bought at used price { acquisition ; ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I actually discovered Dead Reign, the third book in the series, as I was browsing for Terry Prachett books. The fact that Marla's face is half-hidden by her cloak on that cover really was sort of an anomaly since many covers use the model's face as a seller. I thought this meant that the main character was not conventional, and I am very glad I was right.
After getting the feel of the premise and reading the first few pages of the second book, I immediately added it and book three (the only ones in the store) to my shopping cart. My friend Ah Yuan of GAL Novelty later got me this first volume from a used book store.

First Lines
Marla Mason crouched in the alley beside the City Lights book store and threw her runes. The square of royal-purple velvet spread before her on the ground was covered by a scattering of objects -- a garlic clove, a withered cigarette butt, a two-headed novelty quarter, fingernail clippings, and the stone from the head of a toad.

Overall Rating

This series is a refreshing look at magic that is tied to the contemporary world and its technologies. The characters are well fleshed-out in their motivations and controversial tastes through an open-minded main character, introducing marginal world-views without bastardizing them. Overall an exciting and thought-provoking read with fast-paced action and a no-nonsense anti-heroine leading the charge.

review posted to, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reading Challenges 2009

Here are the challenges I'm participating in for 2009. Some I may be too late to join, but are listed here anyways to challenge myself.

Participated Challenges
What's In a Name? Challenge 2009 - INCOMPLETE
1st in Series Challenge 2009 - INCOMPLETE
GLBT Challenge 2009 - INCOMPLETE

Monday, October 26, 2009

In My Mailbox 2009/10/26

Each week I will post a list of the books I've borrowed, received, or bought. I will keep a weekly tally in each post, as well as a yearly one on the sidebar. All books with PoC themes/authors will be listed for the "New Crayons" meme.
All prices are listed in Canadian dollars.
(hosted weekly by The Story Siren / The Printed Page; New Crayons by Color Online)

Tally for 2009/10/25
Borrowed: 0
Received: 0
Bought: 5
Total Cost: $18.50

Thursday, October 22, 2009

review: The Virtu by Sarah Monette

Doctrine of Labyrinths #2:
The Virtu
by Sarah Monette

Felix Harrowgate was a dashing and powerful wizard until his former master wrenched Felix’s magic from him and used it to shatter the Virtu — the orb that is the keystone for the protections and magic of the wizards of the city. Felix has painfully clawed his way back to sanity, and his only chance to reclaim the life he once knew is to repair the seemingly irreparable — to restore the Virtu.
Mildmay the Fox was an assassin and a cat burglar — until a curse caught up with him and his life changed forever. Haunted by death, his leg damaged by the curse that should have killed him, he does not know what awaits him in Mélusine, but for good or ill, his fate is tied to Felix’s, by blood...and by magic.
On their journey, Felix and Mildmay will encounter friends and enemies old and new, vengeful spirits and ancient goddesses. They will uncover secrets better left buried. But nothing can prepare them for what awaits their return: Felix’s former master, the cruel and decadent wizard Malkar Gennadion...

adult fiction ; fantasy ; glbt { genre
NC-17 for violence and sexual content { rating
June 27, 2006 { first released
Ace hardcover (448 pages) { review edition
borrowed { acquisition ; ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I really liked the beginning of the sane relationship between Felix and Mildmay from the first book and this book seemed like the direct continuation. Then, GAL Novelty, who has also read this series, said that this second book would appeal to my love for Mildmay.
Plus, the cover is gorgeous and I can rarely deny reading a book with a beautiful cover - my love for Mildmay is a bonus - so I began this right away after Mélusine and got through this volume in one day. I was reading through the entire night and had morning class the next day, but it was worth the erratic 4 hour nap I took at noon.

First Lines
Mildmay: When I opened the door, I could tell that Thamuris was dosed to the gills on laudanum.
"You sure about this?" I said.
Thamuris came drifting into the room like a ghost. His feet were bare, and his hair was down, and he was wearing something that looked basically like a bedsheet. I hoped like fuck nobody’d noticed him on his way here. "I have to," he said, and there was something about the way he said it -- I can’t explain it, but I knew there wasn’t a thing in the world I could say that would mean anything to him. He was past the point where anybody could talk him down. I took a deep breath, let it out, admitted to myself that I was going to get in trouble over this and I was okay with it. Then I shut the door and said, "What d’you want me to do?"

Overall Rating

A great improvement since the first book in terms of both writing and characters. This "sequel" feels more like a direct continuation of the previous book and focuses much more on the half-brothers' relationship - and their struggles to define it. Signs are showing of actual character development, as well as a growing mythology surrounding the mysterious cult of the labyrinths. However, there are still gay relationships, and the incest has increased about two-fold (which still isn't much), so read at your own discretion.

review posted to, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

review: Mélusine by Sarah Monette

Doctrine of Labyrinths #1:
by Sarah Monette

Mélusine - a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption, and destinies lost and found...
Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But the horrors of his past as an abused slave have returned, and threaten to destroy all he has since become.
As a cat burglar, Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. But now he has been caught by a wizard. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay, but for Felix Harrowgate...Thrown together by fate, these unlikely allies will uncover a shocking secret that will link them inexorably together.

adult fiction ; fantasy ; glbt { genre
NC-17 for violence and sexual content { rating
August 7, 2005 { first released
Ace hardcover (432 pages) { review edition
borrowed { acquisition ; ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I had been on a rampage looking for books that feature brothers recently and remembered GAL Novelty mentioning this series a while ago. I do admit that some of the tags (incest and lgbt to be exact) made me curious, but cautious too, and I had resolved to put it away if the incest bothered me (er, being a fan of Kaori Yuki's Angel Sanctuary though, it wasn't likely lol). However, I immediately fell in love with Mildmay, and no matter how obnoxious/insane Felix is, I could not stop reading until I saw the brothers complete their journey.

First Lines
Felix: The Hall of the Chimeras, having no windows, was lit by seven massive candelabra hanging above the mosaic floor like monstrous birds of prey. Their fledglings, twisted iron stands crowned with candles, rose up at intervals along the floor, interspersed with the busts of dead and ancient kings. At the east end of the hall -- not that east and west mattered in the great, labyrinthine bulk of the Mirador -- the Virtu of the Mirador on its obsidian plinth cast its own strange, underwater light, which reached down to touch the steel spearheads of the Lord Protector’s throne, but reached no farther.

Overall Rating

While the world and the characters were interesting and vibrant, the writing was hard to appreciate. I have to say though, I was completely pulled in by the 'brothers' premise, and I loved Mildmay very very much, so I may be a bit biased on the ratings here. Also, this book has gay relationships, violent rape and even a dash of incest, so read at your own discretion.

review posted to, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Saturday, October 17, 2009

review: Gintama by Sorachi Hideaki

aka "Silver Soul"
by Sorachi, Hideaki

20 years ago, the Amanto (aka "aliens") invaded feudal Japan and took control of the Shogun's rule, banishing the loyal samurai protectors and confiscating their swords. Now, machines have taken over the peoples' traditional way of life and men with the heart of true samurai dwindle.
Gintoki, a diabetic ex-samurai working as a freelance Anything, encounters Shinpachi, the son of one of the last samurai dojos, and Kagura, a human-like Amanto girl of the violent race known as the Night Hares. Together, they help people with Whatever in order to pay the rent: becoming drag queens, saving the world, and locating missing pets, just to list a few.
(my summary)

graphic novel ; historical ; humour { genre
PG for mild violence { rating
weekly serialization { status
Shonen Jump (Japan) December 8, 2003 issue { first released

Why I Read This
Truth be told I was getting a bit bored with the formulaic goings-on of Naruto and Bleach. Once they were out of my life, I thought I needed another shonen manga to fill in the spot. At the time, I was sort of following Reborn! and some people suggested Gintama as similar in terms of hilarity, so I bit and got hooked right away. The anime for this series is pretty amazing in my opinion, but maybe that's just due to SugiTomo's excellent Gintoki voice ♥

Overall Rating

One can say Gintama repackages the social issues of today (AI ethics, capitalist imperialism, terrorism, government vs. police corruption, stereotyping the Other, etc.) into 20 pages of metaphors and parodies involving pudgy aliens, virtual worlds, obsessive fans, and altogether WTF-ness that explodes onto the page.
Thus, one needs not really think too much to enjoy this series, though it can make you think if you let it. I do suggest cultivating a patience to go through mountians of text in every 20-page chapter since this is a very dialogue-heavy manga.
The punchlines are worth it though ;D

review posted to, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

This review was featured on a Japanese news site, Searchina, thank you very much!

review: Saiyuki by Minekura Kazuya

aka "Journey to the Extreme"
by Minekura, Kazuya

Gensoumaden Saiyuki is Journey to the West revamped with dragons changing into jeeps, a trigger-happy monk, a 500-year-old baby monkey, a playboy water spirit, and a not-pig who cooks and sews and generally mothers the crew, three of whom carry within them the blood of youkai/demons. They travel across Shangri-La, killing the youkai who have gone mad, on a quest to retrieve one of the Heavenly Scrolls that have fallen into the wrong hands, and to prevent the revival of Gyumaou, the youkai king. (Gensoumaden = "Fantasy Legend")

Saiyuki Gaiden brings the story back to 500 years ago, to the birth of Goku, the monkey born from the Earth itself, and the bloodbath in Heaven that banished the four main characters, formerly all residents of the upper realm, to be reborn in the mortal world. (Gaiden = "Another Story")

Saiyuki RELOAD follows up Gensomaden with more focus the other side of the story, exploring the lives of youkai trying to keep their sanity, and splitting up the heroes as they contemplate their loyalties to each of the warring sides.
(my summaries)

graphic novel ; fantasy ; historical { genre
PG-13 for violence and sexual content { rating
monthly serialization { status
GFantasy (Japan) 1997 { first released

Why I Read This
The Journey to the West and Monkey King legends had been my childhood obsession. I've even watched the really old 70s TV show in China, the Chinese cartoon adaptation, and all of the Hong Kong drama adaptations (Dicky is the Monkey King ♥). So of course when I found out there was a manga adaptation, I jumped at the chance to read it. The anime sucks though, don't watch it.

Overall Rating

Minekura has brought a gritty and flashy vibe to the classic Chinese myth of the Monkey King, throwing a bit of sci-fi into the fantasy mix, and twisting every character into her own tormented anti-heroes. The camaraderie and trust the characters place in each other, and the choices they have to face to survive are explored in detail and style, where there is no "right" answer, only the answers you choose to believe.

review posted to, goodreads, Shelfari
RELOAD review posted to, goodreads, Shelfari

review: One Piece by Oda Eiichiro

One Piece
by Oda, Eiichiro

One Piece is about pirates. The main character, Luffy D. Monkey, is a young boy who wants to be king of the pirates, driven by the promise he made to his childhood hero. He sets out on a small wooden boat and gathers crew members along the way:
Zoro, a rebellious "demon" pirate hunter who becomes his loyal first mate; Nami, a devious money-loving pirate thief who finds him amusing but is hiding her own secrets; Usopp, a compulsive liar and coward who joins him on a courageous whim; Sanji, a womanizing cook bound by duty to the floating restaurant he serves who follows him in search of the ocean of his dreams
...and many others along the way as the crew of misfits continue on their way in search of "One Piece", the treasure that would make one the Pirate King.
(my summary)

graphic novel ; fantasy { genre
G with very mild violence { rating
weekly serialization { status
Shonen Jump (Japan) August 4, 1997 issue { first released

Why I Read This
I've always been a fan of shounen manga (graphic novels aimed towards males), and One Piece seemed to embody everything I loved about the genre. It has explosions, adventure, battles, but also strong themes of friendship. The characters did not try to "act cool" as a lot of other series tend to have, and there's less unwarranted violence. The characters are also very unique and wacky, fallible in their quirks, and there is no huge romance plot of angst to hinder character growth.

Overall Rating

An epic if not legendary shounen (young men) manga that features an almost stereotypically cast crew of shounen manga heroes, but each with their own unique story to tell.
This is a very addictive series once you get attached to the characters (I didn't get hooked until 3-4 volumes in), but it's definitely worth it to get an exciting new chapter every week where the action never gets dull and the characters never stop charming you.

review posted to, goodreads, Shelfari

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

review: Kingdom Come by J.G. Ballard

Kingdom Come
by J.G. Ballard

A gunman opens fire in a shopping mall. Not a terrorist, apparently, but a madman with a rifle. Or not, as he is mysteriously (and quickly) set free without charge...
One of the victims is the father of Richard Pearson, unemployed advertising executive and life-long rebel. Now he is driving out to Brooklands, the apparently peaceful town on the M25 which has at its heart the very shining shoppers’ paradise where the shooting happened – the Metro-Centre.
Then the main suspect is released – thanks to the testimony of self-styled pillars of the community like the doctor who treated Richard’s father on his deathbed. Richard, determined to unravel the mystery, starts to believe that something deeply sinister lurks behind the pristine façades of the labyrinthine mall, its 24-hour cable TV and sports club...

adult fiction ; speculative { genre
PG-13 for violence { rating
January 2006 { first released
Fourth Estate (UK) paperback (280 pages) { review edition
bought at full price { acquisition ; ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
Assigned for an essay in my Media Theory: Consumerism class.

First Lines
The suburbs dream of violence. Asleep in their drowsy villas, sheltered by benevolent shopping malls, they wait patiently for the nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world.

Overall Rating

I did enjoy this book as a metaphor-littered philosophical thriller, and it beats the hell out of reading an academic essay on the same topic, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of focus on individual characters/personality.

review posted at, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari