furmaid-dweckTitle: Furmaid
Author: Julia Dweck
Illustrator: Aida Sofia Barba Flores
Publisher: KiteReaders
Publication Date: June 22, 2012
Number of Pages: 61
Format: Ebook
Source: Free Promotion

Synopsis
“Not another mermaid story,” little Minnow wails, as Mama minnow tucks him into his coral bed. Readers will learn that this is no ordinary mermaid tale. This mermaid’s “tale” is quite extraordinary. Readers will delight in the bold and colorful illustrations and tender story line. Swim along with Finoor on her very first enchanting underwater adventure.

ReviewThe art and formatting for this book are fantastic and it looks really good on my kindle. I really like the artist’s style with all of the colors and unique characters. My daughter absolutely loved the different kinds of mermaids. The concept of a furmaid was also very unique, and it made me chuckle that she has issues with brushing and hair turning frizzy with heat – one of the reasons I now keep my hair rather short!

Sadly all the praise ends there, neither of us could really get into the story. It was overlong, and more just keeps getting added on. At first the story goes on and on about Finnor’s furry tail, before trouble starts with an iceberg. Before Finnor has had a chance to cope with the situation another one is thrown at her. Since the story is told by little Minnow’s mama as a bed time story, it constantly jumps back to their conversation as well. There is just way too much going on and it just drags. My daughter got bored before I did and stopped paying attention by the time I was nearing the last few pages. Not a good sign!

I also really don’t like ebooks that serve as giant advertisements, and it is something that I see more often with children’s books than adults. The first page has a giant thank you page at the very start with tons of links and offers to sign up for a newsletter and like a Facebook page. This always puts me off a little, can we not go without social networking and email spam getting into everything?

RatingStrengths: Really nice art, interesting concept, free audio book is a nice treat
Weaknesses: Story is way too long with no clear focus

theinvincible-lemTitle: The Invincible
Author: Stanislaw Lem
Publisher: Wydawnictwo MON, Seabury Press
Publication Date: 1964
Number of Pages: 162
Format: Ebook
Source: Library

Synopsis
An interstellar 2nd-class cruiser called Invincible, lands on Regis III which seems bleakly uninhabited, to investigate the loss of sister ship, Condor. The crew finds evidence of a form of quasilife, born thru evolution of autonomous, self-replicating machines. The evolution was controlled by robot wars. The survivors are swarms of minuscule, insectoid machines. Individually or in small groups they’re harmless & capable of only simple behavior. However, when bothered, they form huge swarms displaying complex behavior arising from self-organization & are able to defeat an intruder by a powerful surge of EMI. Some members of the crew suffer complete memory erasure as a consequence. Big clouds are also capable of high speed travel to the troposphere. The angered crew attempts to fight the enemy, but eventually recognize the meaninglessness of their efforts in the most direct sense of the word.

ReviewThis book takes a completely new twist on evolution and the fight for survival. The group that is the most advanced will win, hasn’t that been the lesson from our own human history? Let me tell you man, I always find the insects that swarm in the present day pretty scary, the ones in The Invincible take it to a whole new level. It is truly horrific and kind of amazing the capabilities of this mysterious swarm, but at the same time the malevolence you typically get from any story is missing. It’s easy to hate something that is out to get our heroes because of some desire to do harm. The swarm isn’t targeting anyone out of spite or to destroy, it acts as any other creature would – doing what it needs to survive. This is what makes the events that take place that much more unsettling, calling into question man’s place as king of the food chain.

In essence, the idea explored in the story is whether or not it is man’s right to interfere with things that don’t affect them directly. A question that has been ever present in discussions about our right to meddle with nature. If history is any indication, we certainly do love to stick our noses where they don’t belong, even when it comes to our fellow man. Who or what has the right to survive? There is a quote that really struck me that I had to write down immediately after reading it because the general thought can be applied to so many things.

“How many extraordinary phenomena like this, so foreign to human comprehension, might lie concealed in space? Do we need to travel everywhere bringing destructive power on our ships, so as to smash anything that runs counter to our understanding?”

It takes a while for the story to get rolling, but once it does it creeps up on you fast. There is a lot of action and the story is legitimately tense, I was left guessing what was going on and wonder how the scenario would play out the entire way through.

There were a lot of characters that come and go in the story and I found it hard to keep track of them. The only characters I found myself remembering well and caring about are Rohan and the commander, Horpach. I can’t decide if this is a good or bad thing, since the story is so focused on the point of view of Rohan it doesn’t become too bogged down. At the same time, all these other names are constantly tossed in and I gave up trying to remember who they were. It makes sense for there to be a lot of characters, this is a story about a star ship crew after all, but it would have been nice if there was a little more to these other characters. It makes the whole drama of the attacks a little less gut wrenching as I’m sure they could have been if it had been characters I actually cared about.

Despite my complaints about the characters and the slow start, I have a newfound love for adoration for Stanislaw Lem and science fiction.

RatingStrengths: Incredibly imaginative take on evolution and a first encounter story
Weaknesses: Extremely slow start with a lot of technical terms which may alienate folks that are not used to hard science fiction, a lot of filler side characters that aren’t very memorable

mars6-soryoTitle: Mars #6 (Mars)
Author: Fuyumi Soryo
Publisher: TokyoPop, Kodansha
Publication Date: January 13, 1998
Number of Pages: 198
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Synopsis
Kira and Rei are definitely in love – but no one said love was easy. When a new guy enrolls in their school, he instantly develops a crush on both Rei and Kira! To make matters worse, it turns out this mysterious stranger is actually a face from Rei’s violent past. Slowly, Kira begins to discover Rei’s darker side, but she’s not so sure she likes what she sees. As scandalous stories and shocking secrets are revealed, Kira hopes beyond hope that their love will be able to conquer all.

ReviewA new villain arises! This time in the form of a pretty young boy who takes an instant liking to our star crossed lovers. As implied from the synopsis, there is a lot more lying underneath the surface between Masao and Rei. Masao has a strange sort of worship of Rei, or at least the violent and angry Rei of the past. The two play a cat and mouse game, and at times it is unclear which one is which.

Kira begins to learns how shallow appearances can really be, an lesson that becomes clear about Masao as the volume progresses. As she learns more and more about Masao’s bleak character, she begins to see similarities between him and Rei. For the first time Kira finally begins to really feel afraid of Rei and his destructive nature. She’s beginning to wonder if Rei really is the person that she thought she fell in love with. I like these new complications in their relationship because it is very true to life.

Even though a character like Masao is a bit too hard to believe, I enjoyed this volume for how steadily it creeps along.

My only warning to some is that Rei uses a particular slur at Masao early on in the comic that will offend many’s delicate sensibilities, especially given today’s social climate with gender.

RatingStrengths: Strong plot development between the main duo
Weaknesses: While I didn’t mind it given the context, Rei uses an offensive slur to refer to a character thought to be homosexual