Tag Archives: urban

The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Rachel Griffin #4)

Title: The Awful Truth About Forgetting

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #4

Rachel is determined to fight against the demons invading her world—if anyone could figure out how. But she’s also struggling with the betrayal of one of her closest friends, and the things she remembers that everyone else forgets. Ordinary magical school life once again mingles with an adventure that could determine the fate of the world.

I like that Rachel is learning physics from Gaius. I also like the growing relationship with Vlad and the Knights—and how Rachel is now a key figure for Vlad as well.

“We are defending the world,” replied Vlad, firmly. “I am not certain that all we do keeps the entire world from spinning off into chaos. But, on the other hand, I am not sure it doesn’t. Why would I take the risk?”

And the humor is, as always, spectacular. Sigfried takes another easy first place with his many quotable moments.

“Siggy! Come and meet me in the gym. I’ve had a most superior idea! Come see!” Rachel spoke into her calling card.
“I can’t. We’re locked in.” Sigfried sounded petulant, as if the security measures had been designed to personally stop him. “Lucky and I are burrowing through the basement floor with flaming acid. But we won’t be out for another hour or two.”

The revelation of one of the major villains was a very nice surprise. Rachel can’t tell anyone who could help, because that would mean showing that she’s aware of something she should have forgotten. Rachel is also starting to run into real trouble due to her relationship with Jariel. Her trust in him is pitting her against those she loves, who still see him as an enemy.

Overall this was a fantastic fourth book, and given the secrets revealed by the end, I hope the next will not take long to arrive. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (Rachel Griffin #3)

Title: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #3

When a bit of dreamwalking goes wrong, Rachel ends up across the world and deep in another mess. Demons are breaking into her world—and will break her world utterly if they aren’t stopped. The only problem is that no one knows how to stop them.

The best thing about these books is still the humor. Siggy and Lucky, as always, get first place.

“Sorry,” growled Lucky. “Couldn’t resist. I mean they were just flying there… like tiny chickens. Who could be expected not to want to annihilate them utterly with super-hot flame?”

But they’re starting to get fierce competition from Gaius, whose remarks often left me in stitches.

Gaius raised his right hand solemnly, “I will keep your secret. Er… with Vlad’s standard clause of: ‘if you are planning to blow up a significant portion of the world, the deal is off.’”

Now that we’re three books in, the character development continues to improve. We finally get more details about who Vlad and Gaius were in their previous lives (well, off-planet, before-Raven-meddled lives). And the answers are fascinating, because it’s obvious neither of them have truly changed at their core, but the various factors around them may have the power to move them in somewhat different directions this time.

I especially liked the development with the Raven. He’s gone from being Rachel’s most dreaded nightmare to something closer to a best friend. It’s also interesting to see how Rachel may be unwittingly humanizing him, as his appearance has been changing from beast to angel.

I liked how history plays a bigger role in this. Certain historical references come up, and end up being very important to the overall plot. Although I’m also really amused it gives Gaius the opportunity to show off.

“In other words, we do not want any Pyrrhic victories,” said Gaius, “which is appropriate, considering that we are discussing a deity worshipped by the Carthaginians. Oh… wait. Wrong Roman war. That would be a Punic victory, wouldn’t it?”

Overall this is another excellent story in the ongoing series. If you liked the earlier books at all, this one continues to up the ante. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel (Rachel Griffin #2)

Title: The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #2

Things have barely quieted down at Roanoke Academy since the battle with the dragon. Now that the Wisecraft know there is a geas that can control people without them remembering it, everything is in an uproar. Rachel is desperate to be in the thick of things, but the adults are trying to keep students in the dark—even though the students themselves are the ones most likely to be hurt. If no one will tell her anything, she’s determined to keep investigating herself . . .

I really like how Vladimir Von Dread and Gaius are shaping up as the book goes on. Pretty much all the adults have written Vlad (and by extension, his loyal henchman Gaius) off as evil, but as the first book showed, that’s oversimplifying things by a lot. Now Rachel is finding that the people she trusted so well are brushing off serious concerns, but Vlad is willing to take her warnings to heart.

As for Gaius, he’s enough older than Rachel to make dating a concern—which even Rachel admits. So she teeters between wanting to keep him as a friend, and wanting him to be more. I like how Gaius is, even more than Vlad, ambiguous.

But nobody beats Siggy when it comes to making me laugh.

Rachel sighed. “Sigfried, you’re a human being. You don’t have glands like that.”
Yet!” said Siggy stubbornly. “You told me people can’t turn into dragons—but look at Dr. Mordeau! If she can do it, I can do it. I have great hopes for alchemy class. I can’t wait to perform alchemical experiments on my head!”
“It’ll work out great!” Lucky added loyally. “You’ll overcome many naked monkey boy handicaps! When have horrible experiments with unknown magical forces ever gone wrong?”

The scene where Mr. Burke is trying to explain about dangerous areas to Sigfried is another bit of comedy gold. Siggy and Lucky take all his warnings as if they were signs on attractions, and wants to see them all.

This is a darker book than the previous. Although the event itself happens offscreen, a student was raped, and she’s struggling to heal.

The Raven also gets some interesting bits of development. Rachel’s always seen it as a harbinger of doom, but once she knows a little bit more of who he is and what he’s doing, her feelings get more complicated.

Overall the story continues to build and improve. I rate this book Recommended.

One Punch Man (Anime)

Title: One Punch Man

Episodes: 1-12

Saitama was once an ordinary man, but he trained hard and became a hero. The only problem is that he’s gotten too strong. Now everything he faces dies in a single punch. Can he find any meaning to being a hero?

It’s hard for me to summarize this show because it’s a comedy whose central gag is in the title: everything dies to Saitama in a single punch. I don’t generally like comedies because I tend not to have the same sense of humor, but there were a few pieces of this one that did make me laugh.

Genos is easily my favorite character in the series. I don’t find Saitama either relatable or funny, but that changes when he interacts with the overly-serious Genos, who pretty much worships him. Saitama might have gotten into the hero business to help people out, but that’s really hard to tell these days. Genos is the one with all the raw emotion behind his every action, and the fact that most of the time he fails miserably despite his incredible firepower can also be funny. His repair bills must be enormous.

Other characters like Sonic the ninja offer a good bit of amusement with how very much they get into their fights.

The animation is also particularly good for a TV show, especially the last episode. The fights are big and bombastic, and a lot of fun to watch (at least, until Saitama gets involved, generally).

If you have the Blu Rays, they came with 6 OVA episodes, which are generally minor bits from the series expanded from someone else’s point of view, or adventures involving other characters. Those were good, but due to the content I’d recommend watching them after watching the regular series.

Overall I did enjoy this, although I needed to get past the first episode to find anything I liked enough to want to continue. I rate this show Recommended.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin (Rachel Griffin #1)

Title: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

Author: Jagi L. Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #1

Rachel is excited to finally be attending Roanoke Academy, a prestigious school for arcane arts. As the youngest of her family, she’s got a big reputation to live up to, and she’s hoping to be just as brilliant in her own way. But all she really has is a perfect memory, which brings her into bigger mysteries than she ever expected . . .

I liked this, but I think certain conventions of genre or form made a few things much more obvious than they needed to be. For example, it was immediately apparent to me as soon as the defeated evil was mentioned that this would factor heavily into the current problems.

That said, it was still a lot of fun. I lost track of probably half the characters, but the ones I do remember were good. Siggy and Lucky were particular favorites. Sigfried is a teen new to the world of magic, who instantly became famous and wealthy when he slew a dragon and took over its horde, and Lucky is a small fuzzy dragon he befriended and later makes his familiar. They have the sort of interests typical to young men—that is, collecting treasure and burning people’s faces off.

Nastasia was another fun character. As the princess of Magical Australia, she’s dignified and proper. Unfortunately her father has a habit of doing crazy things like declaring Monopoly money to be their country’s currency.

It did feel like the plot happened rather fast. The whole story only covers about five days. In addition, some things that felt like they should be key (Rachel’s discovery of the angel statue, among others) end up going nowhere.

Overall, it was a good read, and very funny. I rate this book Recommended.

Raven (Shadows #2)

Title: Raven

Author: Sam Blood

Series: Shadows #2

Phoebe is desperate to get a job at Cameron Technologies. Not only would it mean working under her idol, Melissa Cameron, but it’s also her chance to get off the streets. But the interview doesn’t go as planned, and soon she’s got far more pressing issues occupying her thoughts. Strange creatures have appeared, a killer stalks the streets, and someone is out to make Melissa Cameron pay. If Phoebe can’t unravel the mystery in time, she may lose everything she cares about.

This is an unusual second book because it actually takes place 11 years before the first book. That means both that this would be just as good a starting point for a new reader, and that returning readers will immediately tie this to the muddled images Griffin remembers in his own prologue (as well as a few things his brother told him later). So for a returning reader, a sense of tragedy overhangs even the happiest moments, because although we didn’t get the details, we know the important points of the conclusion.

Once again the characterization is very strong. It was fun seeing Melissa Cameron through the eyes of those closest to her—all her different roles leave her an open question right up until the end. Is she truly on the right side, or is there something more?

I adored Taylor and his snark.

“We’re not stupid,” Taylor agrees. “There’s no way we’re getting into a car with a stranger unless you give us lots of candy.”

Gecko was also a treat. Seeing him here, so much younger and more open than he was in the first book, is one of the many interesting juxtapositions. And the Shadows that appear are all such fun.

“Seriously? Seriously?” Ember cocks her head incredulously. “First field assignment with Human Relations, and I meet the girl with a fire phobia. I’m made of fire. This is going to be hard. Um, please don’t freak out. We’ll get past this. Somehow.”

I think this quote is the one that sums up the whole book. The exploration of this is what drives so much of the plot.

“Do you know what real love is, Phoebe?” Melissa says intently. “It’s noticing the bad parts in the people we love, and believing they can rise above their flaws. It’s seeing them as real people, not just who we want them to be. And it’s finding the good in them, even when we don’t recognize who they are anymore.”

I could never get behind Phoebe’s rants about homelessness, though (although I do think it’s in character for her to make them). Even without finding out that she HAS a home she could go back to, her disdain of the foster system and demand for the adult amenities she’s currently denied just strike me as incredibly self-centered. She wants the freedom of being homeless but blames the system for not providing things she by her own choices gave up. Even beyond that, her arguments lack nuance. There’s a balance between taking care of people that have gotten a bad set of circumstances and trying to erase the consequences of bad decisions (which is where I put Phoebe).

There were also several grammatical errors that detracted a bit from my reading.

Overall, though, this was another fantastic adventure that somehow managed to spoil the end from the very beginning due to the first book, yet still keep surprising me the whole way through. I rate this book Recommended.

More favorite quotes:

“I exist, you know,” Taylor says dryly, clearly feeling ignored in the conversation. “I have many interesting qualities.”

And:

“Oh, great,” she says, “dead birds. Phoebe, when I die, will you stuff me and pose me for strangers to show how much you love me?”
“Only if they pay me. I swear.”

Shadows (Shadows #1)

Title: Shadows

Author: Sam Blood

Series: Shadows #1

Griffin has spent most of his life trying to forget the non-human friend he had when he was little. Before the accident. Before he lost his mom and his brother turned into a stranger. But a moment of rebellion sends him straight through a portal into another world—a monstrous world where none of the occupants are humans, but they have a mysterious connection to humans. Just what is the relationship between Shadows and humans? Why do so many want to kill over it? And what will become of Griffin, who has inadvertently stepped in the middle of all of this?

This was amazing. First, I just love the concept behind the Shadow world. Every occupant is nonhuman, and they range from familiar mythological creatures like satyrs and phoenixes to more unusual creatures like the half-parrot/half-dragon Cirrus. These all come together in a civilized society very like ours, with some adjustments for things like aerial traffic. And that’s before the story even gets into what, exactly, the Shadows are and why that matters.

I like how this book handles soulmates. Too often it’s a solely romantic relationship, or one free of the most serious problems. Griffin and Cirrus have a soul-deep connection, but it’s one that freaks both of them out, and as much as they both want it at some level, they’re also running from it. Watching their friendship blossom was one of the best parts of the book.

The humor is also extremely good. It felt like every few paragraphs I’d stumble over something else that cracked me up.

“I don’t want to die. And if you died, I’d probably feel like, slightly bad about that too.”

And:

“That was awesome! I thought you were as uncoordinated as I am.”
“Lots of laser force practice. You know, a shooting game back home.”
“You played this with your friends?”
“I was a bit of a loner. I just turned up and shot strangers.”
“This explains so much,” Cirrus says.

I seriously need to reread this and pull all my favorite quotes.

The characters are another strong point. Griffin is an interesting choice of protagonist, because he’s not a hero. He sort of wants to be. He deludes himself into thinking he will be. But in the end, he’s a single person contributing to both sides of a conflict that’s much bigger than himself, and his decisions, good and bad, hurt both sides. In other words, he’s a normal kid in way over his head.

Cirrus, of course, is just awesome. Awkward teenage boy, even if he is a different species. I love his snarky conversations with Griffin, and the way he’s struggling to handle his own heart. He wants his best friend back, but what happened ten years ago impacted more than just Griffin, and now Cirrus is unsure how to approach Griffin.

Hanna is another interesting addition. She’s lust at first sight for Griffin, but even he has to admit she’s got some issues that could seriously complicate their relationship.

“My Mum used to tell me something,” Cirrus says grimly. “She said be careful when trying to put a broken person back together, in case you cut yourself on the pieces.”

Which is why I liked how it worked out in the end.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’ve already bought the sequel. Highly Recommended.

(And one more quote, which contains small spoilers)

“Oh, and for the record: high-jacking the laboratory filled with my life’s work and trying to crash it into my place of residence: not appreciated.”