Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: Hatsune Miku Graphics: Vocaloid Art & Comic, Vol. 1 (artbook) English translation by Jocelyne Allen

Meh. I considered buying this and related Vocaloid titles a while back, and I’m now glad I didn’t. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have anything in it that I think I’d want to pore over again at a later date. For those who are wondering (because I wondered, back when I was considering getting it), it’s primarily an artbook. There are only a few comics.

Artwork:

There were a bunch of Vocaloid illustrations from various artists. Hatsune Miku was the most common subject, but there were also lots of works featuring Len and Rin and a few featuring Luka, Meiko, and (very occasionally) Kaito. Each artist got a line or two to introduce themselves, and some of them included commentary for the individual illustrations. Unfortunately, each artist only got one or two pages, so the more illustrations and commentary they included the smaller the illustrations were.

Dark days, continued

Remember this post I wrote back in December? My day-to-day life is basically the same, although I have since become more comfortable with calling my representatives. Also, I live in fear that I or people I know will survive a natural disaster only to learn that the president is too incompetent or childish to see to it that the federal government provides aid in a prompt manner. And I worry that we're one presidential tweet storm away from war. I used to worry a lot more about Friday news, but I've since become numb to that.

The reason why I'm writing this post is to include some links - then I promise I'll go back to posting nothing but reviews.

Monday, October 9, 2017

REVIEW: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 2, Standard Edition (anime TV series)

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You boxed set 2 includes episodes 13 to 15 and 17 to 25 on both DVD and Blu-ray discs (episode 16 was omitted because it was a recap episode). It’s a high school romance series.

Oddly, the info on the back of the case indicates that Disc 2 of the Blu-ray portion has episodes 9-12 and Disc 1 has the episodes after that. I’m going to say that’s probably an error, because I think I watched Disc 1 and then 2, and I don’t recall there being any episode order issues.

This post includes a few spoilers.

Review:

Again, I’ve previously reviewed this series, so I won’t say too much here. This set picks up right where the first one ended. Kazehaya and Sawako continue to be adorable together, and their romance continues to move at a snail’s pace. The bit where Sawako fell asleep on Kazehaya’s shoulder was wonderful - as was Ayane’s continued enjoyment at embarrassing Kazehaya by taking a picture of the moment.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

REVIEW: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 1, Standard Edition (anime TV series)

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You boxed set 1 includes episodes 1 to 12 on both DVD and Blu-ray discs. It’s a high school romance series.

Review:

Right Stuf had a huge sale and I ended up buying this and a few other normally prohibitively expensive series, figuring that if I didn’t do it during the sale then I’d probably be passing on those titles forever. For the record, the series I picked up were Kimi ni Todoke, Cardcaptor Sakura, My Love Story!!, and Chihayafuru. Sentai Filmworks and NIS America are budget destroyers, although it could be worse. I could be pining for Aniplex of America titles. (Actually, there is one I want: Erased. $180 for a 12-episode, 5-hour-long series means I’ll likely never get it.)

This particular boxed set contains what I consider to be the best episodes in the series: the introduction of the series’ main characters, the beginnings of Sawako and Kazehaya’s friendship and romance, and the cementing of Sawako’s friendship with Ayane and Chizuru. I wish I could say that you could buy this boxed set and skip the rest in order to save money, but this first boxed set ends at a terrible spot and can’t stand on its own, if you’re at all invested in Kazehaya and Sawako’s romance. At the point the set ends, Kazehaya is running towards Sawako and Ryu, convinced that Sawako has feelings for Ryu and is about to confess those feelings to him.

REVIEW: The Dark Victorian: Risen (e-novella) by Elizabeth Watasin

The Dark Victorian: Risen is a f/f steampunk paranormal mystery, the first work in Watasin's The Dark Victorian series. It's self-published and 33,860 words long.

Review:

The Dark Victorian: Risen is set in a steampunk London with magic and paranormal aspects. Jim, an agent of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, is given a new partner: Artifice, a Quaker and artificial ghost (meaning that she can turn incorporeal at will). All agents of the Secret Commission were once criminals - they were executed and then brought back to life, bound into service, with no memory of who they once were. They are able to guess some things about their past selves, but that’s about it. It generally isn’t a good idea for them to find and communicate with people they once knew.

Artifice, who chooses to go by the name Art, and Jim begin investigating their first case, the disastrous reanimation of several corpses. The culprit started with animals but appears to have moved on to humans. In each instance, the corpses manage to kill someone before either being destroyed or escaping.

REVIEW: My Love Story!! (anime TV series)

My Love Story!! is a 24 episode high school romance/comedy series. It’s licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

My review includes spoilers.

Review:

Takeo Goda is the kind of guy other guys look up to: strong, honorable, and kind. Unfortunately, he’s also the kind of guy girls steer clear of. Even though he’s just a high schooler, he’s huge and looks like he might be some kind of gangster. For years, every single girl Takeo has been interested in has fallen in love with his handsome best friend, Suna, even though Suna always rejects them. It’s gotten to the point that Takeo is resigned to this.

Then one day Takeo comes to the rescue of a girl being molested on the train. The girl, Rinko Yamato, brings Takeo baked goods as a thank you, but he immediately sees what’s really going on: she must be interested in Suna, just like all the other cute girls Takeo has liked in his life. Takeo really likes Rinko, so he decides to do the honorable thing and act as matchmaker between her and Suna. But does Takeo really understand Rinko’s feelings as well as he thinks, or is something else going on?

Friday, October 6, 2017

REVIEW: Invader (audiobook) by C.J. Cherryh, narrated by Daniel Thomas May

Invader is science fiction, the second book in Cherryh's Foreigner series.

Review:

I don't have much to say about this that I didn't already say in my review for the paper book and my review for the first audiobook. It was nice knowing all the things Bren didn't know this time around, and man I really wanted him to get some rest and read his post-surgery care instructions. I had forgotten how much of the beginning of the book involved Bren dragging himself from one problem to another when all he desperately wanted to do was sleep.

I continued to enjoy Daniel Thomas May's narration. As in the first audiobook, I loved him as Bren and was a bit iffier about some of his atevi voices. At any rate, I have the next four books in audio form and am looking forward to listening to them.

REVIEW: Unseemly Pursuits (e-book) by K.B. Owen

Unseemly Pursuits is a historical cozy mystery.

Review:

Concordia Wells is back for another year of teaching and trying to keep mischievous students’ pranks to a minimum. Hartford Women’s College has a new lady principal, Olivia Grant, who already has a reputation for being overly strict and who seems to hate Concordia in particular. Then there’s Madame Durand, a spirit medium who has started a “Spirit Club” on campus and who Concordia worries is taking advantage of her mother’s grief over the death of Concordia’s sister.

Everything takes a turn for the worse when an Egyptian amulet donated to the college is stolen and the man who donated it, Colonel Adams, is murdered. His daughter and Concordia’s best friend, Sophia Adams, confesses to the murder, but Concordia is convinced she didn’t do it. Finding the real killer will involve finding the amulet and learning more about her own father’s unexpected past as an Egyptologist.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

REVIEW: Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel (audiobook) by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, narrated by Cecil Baldwin, guest starring Dylan Marron, Retta, Thérèse Plummer, & Dan Bittner

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is an often surreal mixture of horror, fantasy, and humor.

Review:

I’ve been a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for a while (although I’m woefully behind at the moment), so I was very excited when this book was first announced. I’ve owned it in two different formats since it first came out in 2015, but I kept putting off reading it because I couldn’t decide which format to start with, audio or paper. I finally settled on audio, figuring that something that started as a podcast would be better that way. Now that I’ve finished it, I feel like I made the right decision.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel stars Jackie Fierro, a nineteen-year-old pawn shop owner, and Diane Crayton, a single mom with a shapeshifting teenage son named Josh. As far as Jackie knows, she’s been nineteen forever and has owned her pawn shop forever. She doesn’t really think too hard about any of that until a strange customer, the Man in the Tan Jacket, comes in and gives her a slip of paper she literally can’t put down. Whenever she tries to get rid of it, it ends up right back in her hand. All it says is “King City.” Even worse, Jackie suddenly can’t write anything except “King City,” making it impossible for her to do her job.

Meanwhile, Diane’s life seems perfectly normal until one of her coworkers disappears. No one but her even remembers he existed, and it’s a mystery she can’t bring herself to leave alone. Her situation is further complicated by her son’s sudden desire to talk to his father. Diane would rather never talk about Josh’s father. Unfortunately, she keeps seeing him everywhere she goes. It gradually becomes apparent that the solution to both Jackie and Diane’s problems lies in the mysterious and possibly unreachable King City.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

REVIEW: Lure of the Mummy (short story) by Janis Susan May

Lure of the Mummy is horror. It's published by Carina Press and is approximately 23,000 words long.

My review includes spoilers.

Review:

Bert Carmody is a translator who specializes in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. He dreams of fame but seems destined to slog through boring grunt work for the rest of his career. Only handsome, young, and athletic guys like Rick Hamilton get the interesting assignments. Nothing in Bert’s life will ever go right as long as guys like Rick are around. Even gorgeous and sweet Melanie Kerry is more interested in Rick than in him.

Things begin to change when Bert acquires a mummified cat from one of the locals. Fame and Melanie might finally be within reach, if the consequences don’t catch up to him first.

Friday, September 22, 2017

REVIEW: Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases (book) by NisiOisin, original concept by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Death Note: Another Note is a prequel to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's Death Note.
 
Review:

I’ll start this review off with a warning: the book assumes you’ve read (or watched) most of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. I’m going to be writing this review with the same assumption - there are major spoilers for the series from here on out.

Okay, so this book stars L and Naomi Misora. If you don’t remember who Misora is, she was the FBI agent who began investigating Kira after her fiance, FBI agent Raye Penber, was killed by him. The book’s narrator is Mello, who has decided to write down some of L’s cases after his death, starting with this one. You know, in between hunting down Kira or something.

Anyway, Misora is trying to decide whether to resign from the FBI after a particular event that got her suspended when she receives an email from her fiance that actually turns out to be from L. L wants her help with a case he’s currently working on: the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, also known as the Wara Ningyo Murders or the L.A. Serial Locked Room Killings. There have have been three murders so far and, due to the murderer’s pattern, L believes there may yet be a fourth and even a fifth, unless he and Misora can find the killer first. L sends Misora to be his eyes and hands, although it’s not long before she’s joined by Rue Ryuzaki, a suspicious and strange private detective who has a habit of crawling around on all fours and eating disgustingly sweet snacks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

REVIEW: You'll Be the Death of Me! (book) Stacia Wolf

You'll Be the Death of Me! is a contemporary romantic comedy published by the now-defunct Samhain Publishing. I read a used paperback copy.

My review includes a few minor spoilers.

Review:

You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

REVIEW: Parasite Eve (book) by Hideaki Sena, translated by Tyran Grillo

Parasite Eve is Japanese horror. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Warning: my review includes significant spoilers. I cross-post to Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Booklikes, all places where I have access to spoiler tags, so if you'd like to read a spoiler-free review I suggest checking one of my accounts in those places.

Review:

Parasite Eve begins with the death of Kiyomi Nagashima. While driving, she suddenly blacks out and has the same dream she had previously only had on her birthday, a dream in which she is a worm-like being swimming through fluid. She recovers from her dream just in time to hit a telephone pole.

Toshiaki Nagashima, Kiyomi’s husband, is a researcher specializing in mitochondria. When he hears about Kiyomi’s accident, he drops everything and rushes to the hospital. Unfortunately, Kiyomi is brain dead. Toshiaki and Kiyomi’s parents agree to honor Kiyomi’s desire to be a kidney donor, but Toshiaki has one secret request of his own: he would like a sample of Kiyomi’s liver.

Kiyomi’s kidneys go to an unnamed man and a 14-year-old girl named Mariko Anzai, and Toshiaki gets the liver cells he so badly wanted. While Mariko struggles with guilt and fear over her latest transplant, Toshiaki is happily convinced that since Kiyomi’s liver cells are still alive and thriving, she isn’t actually dead. What no one realizes is that there is a monster hiding inside Kiyomi’s cells, and it’s slowly becoming strong enough to take the next step in its evolution.

Monday, September 11, 2017

REVIEW: The Drops of God (manga, vol. 2) story by Tadashi Agi, art by Shu Okimoto, translation by Kate Robinson

The Drops of God would be considered food manga, I guess. I got this copy via interlibrary loan.

And hey look, it's my first review written on my new computer. I finally replaced my old one after it had a few "mysterious blackout" moments and stopped being able to go into Sleep mode or consistently turn off.

Anyway, this review includes some spoilers.

Review:

Most of the volume is devoted to Shizuku selecting French wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition sponsored by his company’s new Wine Division, although it isn’t immediately apparent that the first part of the volume has anything at all to do with the competition.

In the first part of the volume, Shizuku helps a struggling French restaurant. Their business was nearly killed off by a bad review from Issei Tomine, and now he’s scheduled to come reevaluate the restaurant. The restaurant’s owner is confident about his food but has no idea what to do about the wine menu - his wife used to handle that, but she died some time ago. In order to figure out where the restaurant owner went wrong, Shizuku must discover how to properly pair wine and food.

Shizuku’s efforts help him select one of the wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition, but he still needs two others. He finds the second one after visiting a bizarre wine shop staffed by twin brothers with very different opinions about wine and the third one after being approached by Maki Saionji, a wine importer and Issei Tomine’s occasional lover. The volume wraps up with both the competition and Shizuku and Issei finally reading the first part of Shizuku’s father’s will, which gives them the clues necessary to find the first of Shizuku’s father’s “Twelve Apostles.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

REVIEW: Ring (book) by Koji Suzuki, translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley

Ring is a Japanese horror novel. I own a used copy.

This review includes a few spoilers. I tried to keep them vague.

Review:
 
Warning: This book includes multiple mentions of rapes and a main character who is likely a rapist. Also, one of the main characters deliberately misgenders another character.

Kazuyuki Asakawa is a reporter who got into a bit of trouble in the past. From what I could gather (it was a little confusing), he wrote an article that exacerbated oddly widespread public reports of supernatural sightings. That’s why his boss is reluctant to okay his most recent project: an investigation into several disturbing simultaneous deaths. One of the victims was his niece, who tore out her hair as she died. Her death, like the others, was ruled “sudden heart failure,” but would that really cause a teenage girl to rip out her hair like that?

Asakawa’s investigation leads him to a difficult-to-get-to cabin, where he watches a mysterious videotape that warns him that all who watch the tape are fated to die exactly one week later. Those who do not wish to die must follow the tape’s instructions...except that the instructions were taped over. Asakawa would laugh it off it weren’t for those four simultaneous deaths.

In an effort to save himself, Asakawa enlists the help of the one man he knows who'd actually enjoy this strange task: Ryuji Takayama, a creepy and gross philosophy professor with a grating personality.
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