Friday, June 14, 2013

The End of My Attempt at Participating in a Blog Event

Hello! Last weekend, I posted very excitedly about taking part in the Wicked Wildfire Read-A-Thon, since I thought that it would be cool to see how much I could read in a week while, at the same time, actually making use of this blog. I wouldn't say that my participation in the event was a complete failure, but at the same time, I didn't do very well, either. On Saturday and Sunday I read like crazy, doing one of the nifty challenges that My Shelf Confessions, the host blog, had posted, and then finishing two novels and a book of manga, but after that, I completely farted out on the whole thing. Still, three books in a weekend isn't awful, so here's what I thought of the books I read! I posted these reviews on Shelfari, too, but, due to the fact that I wrote most of these very late at night, have done some editing. As I'm sure you'll notice, though, I was fairly ambivalent towards the reading I did get done, which may have stopped me from going on with the read-a-thon with the enthusiasm I had on Saturday. Hopefully, however, I'll do better the next time that I participate in something like this!

The I.T. Girl
Fiona Pearse
I downloaded The I.T. Girl from Amazon on a whim, when it was free for a day, and can't say that it wasn't worth at least the effort that it took to download it. Some of the corporate intrigue was genuinely suspenseful, and Orla, the heroine, was a fairly likable character. I also really liked all of the tiny details and very British details of Orla's day to day life. For the most part, though, this book seemed a little dull. Orla's romance wasn't very interesting, and though I understand computers and coding, some of the play by play explanations of coding projects and bug searches got to be a bit much. CooperDaye, the fictional financial company that the book centers on, seemed to be a cartoonishly horrific company to work for, too, though Orla's problems there didn't render her unsympathetic.

While I didn't love The I.T. Girl, I'm not sorry that I read it. However, I don't think that it's going to have a long term home on my Kindle and, reflecting back on the novel, am not quite sure how I got through it.

Clover- Volume 4
Since I've managed to drag out my reading Clover, which is a fairly light on text manga series, over a ridiculously long amount of time, I was really looking forward to reading this final volume and seeing how it all ended. However, I was a little disappointed to find out that this volume was a flashback, rather than the aftermath of Kazuhiko and Suu's story. The story in this volume, about the relationship between two brothers who are also Three Leaf Clovers (which I promise makes some sort of sense if you've read the rest of the comic) is well told and as pretty as ever, and, as a bonus, is interlaced with some incidental scenes between Kazuhiko and Oruha, as well as some of Suu's lamentations. I didn't really feel like this story had as much impact on the rest of the series as it should have, though, and wasn't entirely satisfied with this as an ending. As a whole, I did enjoy Clover, but this well-drawn and empty feeling story seemed to suffer from every problem that the series had in the space of one short book.

The Crystal Stopper
Maurice Leblanc
Even though I read the Arsene Lupin novels like crazy, considering they're entertaining and safely in the public domain, I think that the quality of them varies wildly from book to book. The Crystal Stopper, unfortunately, was not one of my favorites in the series. This may be in part because I read the entire book within a 24-hour time period, which I don't usually do. All of the complicated and contrived plot twists and problems started to run together, and it was a bit bothersome. Plus, I felt a bit like Clarisse, the romantic interest in this book, would have been okay with Lupin falling in a hole and never getting out if he'd managed to keep his promises to her before the accident occurred. Like the other novels in the series, however, The Crystal Stopper was never boring, and, as always, Arsene Lupin was both likable and vaguely reprehensible. Though I didn't love this book, reading it was a good way to waste a rainy Sunday.

If you're interested in reading The Crystal Stopper, too, it is available for free both at and Project Gutenberg.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Attempting to Take Part in a Read-A-Thon

Hello! I am awful at keeping up with this blog, though I haven't by any means stopped reading, so I've decided that it's time to take part in a blog event! It's called the Wicked Wildfire Read-A-Thon, and since it runs from June 7th to June 14th, I have already missed a day of it. If I can finish the book that I'm currently reading and one or two more, however, I don't think I'll have done too badly! There's a nifty info link here, to a post about in on the host blog, My Shelf Confessions, even though it looked a bit daunting at first glance.  So far, though, I've gotten to do virtual jigsaw puzzles as part of this whole thing, so obviously, it's not too serious or intimidating. Since this is just an intro post, I don't have all that much more to say, but hopefully, I remember that I'm participating in this and actually manage to get some reading done! Wish me luck, and have a nice day, too!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

3/26/2013- The Shadow of a Sin by Charlotte M. Brame

Yesterday, perhaps because I hate myself, I read The Shadow of a Sin by Charlotte M. Brame (though it is sometimes credited to Bertha Clay). It was a lovely Victorian melodrama about the young and fair Hyacinth Vaughn. The poor, sweet Hyacinth is raised in seclusion by her loving, but staid grandparents, and she longs to experience the brightness of life in the outside world. That's why she decides to elope with the first handsome young man to profess his undying love for her. Though Hyacinth repents of her rash plan before having the chance to go through with it, her plan to sin casts a sinister blot upon her young life.

Though there are plenty of things that I could complain about in The Shadow of a Sin, my biggest problem with the book is that Hyacinth Vaughn is one of the stupidest heroines in any novel that I've ever read. In her case, I'm not going to complain about how outdated the social mores depicted in this novel are, and I'm not going to say any more than this about how every book that I've ever read by Charlotte M. Brame has had at least one idiotic character in a leading role that could have solved every problem suffered by every character in a thirty second speech. I am, however, going to spew a couple of slight spoilers, so if you get upset about people ruining plot points in books from the 19th century, you may want to skip my next paragraph.

First of all, if you find a dying woman in a field, saying over and over again that a man is going to murder her, I think that Hyacinth's plan of, "Oh! My handkerchief is too lacy to bandage her wounds, so I think that I need to ask my boyfriend to lend me a better handkerchief, with his name on it, to leave on her body before we leave her lying in the field!" would not be the first one that sprung to the minds of many people. The fact that he also leaves his address with the dying woman is his fault, not Hyacinth's, but he wasn't in the novel enough for me to get infuriated with his character, so he doesn't get to be the subject of this rant.

Once all that is over with, if you have a fiancee who says that he'll love you no matter what, and you find yourself having to testify in court to save your last boyfriend from the gallows, it might be a good idea to mention this to the fiancee. Hyacinth does not do this. In fact, she runs screaming from the fiancee, assumes that her having a previous boyfriend will spoil his heart against her forevermore, goes crazy, and goes into hiding. At no point does it occur to her that, having saved someone's life, the new fiancee might be willing to forgive her for having spoken to other boys. If Hyacinth did assume that people weren't constantly willing to throw her in a ditch and ride away in their carriages, though, there really wouldn't be much of a story, though, so her mind-numbing stupidity is necessary to the plot.

The one thing that I can say for The Shadow of a Sin is that, although it is insane nonsense, it is interesting and fairly well written, like the rest of Charlotte M. Brame's work. I know that, whenever I start one of her books, I'll be ready to stomp my Kindle to pieces during at least one part of it. While her books are ridiculous, though, and involve foreshadowing as subtle as beating the reader in the head with a tree branch, most of the melodrama is actually pretty page turning. Since I'm not a reader of the Victorian era, I can't say for certain that her books seemed any less insane then, but I can see how they kept selling.

If you too would like to waste a day on The Shadow of a Sin, it is available as a shiny new eBook from Project Gutenberg. A Fair Mystery, another of Brame's books, was made available alongside it, but, for the sake of my own sanity, I'm going to wait a while until I read that one.

Monday, March 18, 2013

3/18/2013- Gamers by Thomas K. Carpenter

I finally came across a book that's easy to summarize, which feels like quite an achievement. Gamers, by Thomas K. Carpenter, which I downloaded for free from, is a sci-fi YA novel and the first book in a series. It's about Gabby, an improbably brilliant young hacker who lives in a futuristic world in which life has been turned into a video game. Though she primarily uses her hacking skills to help her friends, rather than for selfish reasons, she becomes concerned upon discovering that the LGIE, a governing organization that keeps track of the game, has been digging around in her personal files. When Gabby decides to investigate this for herself, she discovers, ever so shockingly, that her lovely, idyllic life may not be all that it seems.

Snarkiness aside, I thought that Gamers was a fairly entertaining book. It's nothing that I'd go crazy recommending to people, but it wasn't a chore to read by any means. The characters were likable, the world that they lived in was well thought out and littered with references to old-school gaming, and the story was suspenseful enough that it was easy to keep picking up for a few minutes of reading. I did, however, think that it had a few major issues.

My first problem with Gamers, and probably my biggest one, is that I'd feel charitable saying that it was a bit derivative. I don't want my finger pointing to be too specific, but the last chunk of the novel is about a high stakes competition where the students at Gabby's school are forced to compete in a ruthless game, where the losers may be killed and the winners are given grand rewards. This game is created by a ruthless agent of the aforementioned LGIE, it forces, at several points, the students to fight one another, and the stealthy, antisocial girl is named after an animal. No mass audiences sit and watch the Final Raid, as it's called, but it makes parallels between Gamers and certain other series easy to draw.

I had a couple of smaller problems with Gamers, but neither of them were nearly as distracting. One of them was that there were a few errors with grammar and verb tense, but, for me,  those were only momentary issues. I also hated the cliffhanger of an ending, since, in the interest of getting people to continue with the series, it left absolutely nothing resolved. It's possible to end some aspects of a story while still keeping readers interested in the characters, but Gamers actively created new plot points in the last few pages of the book. It wasn't horrible, really, but it was frustrating.

Even though I may not seem to have the nicest things to say about Gamers, I did sort of like it. It wasn't boring, I didn't hate the characters, and, even though the vast majority of characters that lived there were doomed, the novel's world seemed fairly cool as far as dystopian societies go. If you're looking for a few hours worth of fluffy reading material that's appropriately perilous to the cast, you could certainly do worse than to read Gamers.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Showcase Sunday #1

Hello! The last meme type thing (though it seems a bit odd to call them that) on here was fun, so it seems reasonable enough to try another one! This one is called Showcase Sunday, and is hosted by the lovely blog Books, Biscuts, and Tea. In it, you're supposed to talk about all of the books that you accquired over the past week, whether they be physical books or eBooks. I'm going to cheat a little for this post, partially because I got a really cool book last Saturday and want to write about that. Also, if I counted the free eBooks that I racked up last week, both from special offers and public domain stuff, I would be working on this post for hours. Because of these things, I doubt if this will be a very good Showcase Sunday post. I've finished my introduction paragraph, though, so I might as well just go for it!

Drury Lane's Last Case, by Ellery Queen (which I know is a pseudonym), is the only book I took a photo of, because it's the only one that looks out of the ordinary. I got really excited about finding an old mystery novel at Goodwill, especially for $1.99, so I got it, despite the fact that it's in that plastic bag for a reason. It's in very readable condition, though, so as long as I keep it in that bag when I'm reading it, the whole thing should stay together. A few of the pages are coming out, but in chunks, so it's easy to deal with.

Sherlock Homes vs. Fantomas, by Pierre de Wattyne and Yorril Walker, was a Kindle purchase that I made to celebrate the fact that the University of Illinois Springfield raised no major objections to my attending grad school there. However, the fact that it's about both Sherlock Holmes and Fantomas meant that if I didn't get into their grad school, I would have purchased it to make myself feel better.

At the start of the month, I ordered a couple of used books from Amazon for a penny each, and the 18th Robotech book, The End of the Circle, is the one that showed up first. I heard it was a really strange attempt to tie up all of the loose ends that result from shoving three different TV shows together in order to create one, so I hope that, even if it doesn't end up making a lot of sense, it's at least entertaining.

Soulless, by Gail Carriger, is the last book on my list, and since I found it in a real life bookstore, I'm guessing that it's the least strange one to have on the list. I'd read about it before and thought that it sounded cool, though, since Victorian London and supernatural things are both cool, so I'm hoping it's good.

This week, I got far more books than usual, so I might try to keep track of the free eBooks that I get to include in a post next week. I'm done with this post for now, though, so I'm leaving this blog! Have a nice week, everyone!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

3/13/2013- Fast One by Paul Cain

Eventually, I'm going to read something that's easy to summarize for this blog, but today, I didn't manage it. Fast One, by Paul Cain, is a 1933 hard boiled crime novel about Kells, a criminal who gets framed for murder after refusing to help another denizen of the underworld, Jack Rose, with some trouble on a gambling boat, and has a rather strong reaction to it. After he gets double crossed over and over again, he somehow comes to the conclusion that he needs to be in charge of all of the gangsters in town. Once Kells achieves this, things escalate quickly, and he proceeds to get double crossed for over one hundred more pages.

Fast One really should have been an exciting book. There are gangsters, gambling, political conspiracies, some inexplicable episode in the middle with boxers, and enough dead bodies that I think a sheet of notes would be helpful in keeping track of all of them. For all that goes in the book, though, I was bored during a lot of it. The characters, other than a few that spend the entire novel in the forefront, lack personality and come and go quickly, making it somewhat meaningless when a more important character kills them off. Beyond that, there are so many nonsensical plots both by Kells and engineered against him that at some points, the book stops making sense entirely.

Though I have plenty of complaints about Fast One, it wasn't totally without its merits. Some passages, especially towards the end of the book, were actually quite exciting. It also had the perfect ending, one that was very logical and made it hard to imagine another way that the story could have possibly ended. I just didn't enjoy it as much as I have other, more outlandish pulp novels.

If Fast One sounds like it would be more your cup of tea than it was mine, an eBook of it can be found at Munsey's, which is a super-nifty eBook database for out of copyright novels. There are some bothersome typos in it, but nothing that affects its readability. Most of them are simple capitalization errors or strange bits of punctuation resting where they couldn't possibly belong.

Monday, March 11, 2013

3/11/2013- A Nest of Spies by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre

I was going to start trying to start each of my posts here with a summary of the book that I was writing about, but A Nest of Spies, by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, may not be the best book with which to begin that. This novel, released in English in 1917, is the fourth book in the Fantomas series, which I've written about here before. What I've read of the series so far is about a super-detective, Juve, and his journalist friend, Jerome Fandor (though his identity is way more complicated than that) going after the inexplicably resourceful super-villain, Fantomas. I'm not sure what I can say specifically about A Nest of Spies without inadvertently spoiling the whole thing, but am pretty sure that I can safely say that it's about a remarkably complicated plot against the nation of France in which, shockingly enough, Fantomas happens to be an instrumental figure.

Despite some slow parts in the middle, A Nest of Spies is a very entertaining novel. It is only barely plausible, and the number of footnotes that refer back to massively convoluted plot points from earlier in the series gets really ridiculous, especially towards the end. Having read the last three books, however, I thought that reading this one was quite fun. It had stolen bears, bands of anarchists, and a royal ball, with all of that just within the novel's final stretch, so I'm not sure what else I could have possibly expected from it.

As entertained as I was by A Nest of Spies, however, I can't deny that it had some issues. First of all, if you read this without being willing to keep track of the characters' extensive lists of aliases, you'll have to be prepared to get quite lost. Since the novel is about spies, some of that is unavoidable, and, to be completely fair, most of the characters keep their false identities down to just one. There were some points, though, particularly when I was reading late at night, where I had to backtrack like crazy to remember who I'd been told, particularly among the secondary characters, was pretending to be who or was working for who. Fandor's disguise, which becomes one of the central parts of the book, is clearly presented, but some of the others just get ridiculous.

My other problem with the book, which is more superficial, is with the disguises themselves. I'll grant that Juve and Fantomas get to be awesome at putting together disguises that no one could possibly see through, since I bothered to put "super" in front of both of their character descriptions. When it comes to Fandor, though, who admits that he's a bit iffy on the quality of his disguise, I feel that I can say without spoiling too much that, if he's spending days on end with someone he knows, and they're spending the night in a hotel room with him on top of that, they should probably be smart enough to recognize him, especially if slightly later in the novel, they can spot him on a crowded street. Since we're not supposed to believe that this character is a total idiot, I couldn't get past his or her apparent inability to recognize faces as anything but a major plot hole.

Even though I'm complaining a lot now, I did really like A Nest of Spies and am disappointed that I'm almost out of Fantomas books. If you'd like to read this one, or any of the other books in the series, for yourself, all five of the translated volumes in the public domain are available at both Project Gutenberg and