Monday, October 24, 2016

REVIEW: Illuminae (book) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae is YA science fiction. I got it via interlibrary loan and unfortunately reviewed it a few weeks after turning it in. I did the best I could, considering that I didn't have the book on hand to check details.


The day that Kady and Ezra break up is also the day their whole world falls apart. The illegal mining colony they call "home" is attacked by BeiTech, a rival corporation. The survivors, Kady and Ezra among them, end up on one of three ships: the Alexander, a battlecarrier that tried to come to the colony's rescue and was severely damaged in the process; the Copernicus, a freighter; and the Hypatia, a scientific exploration vessel. The three ships end up on the run from a BeiTech battleship, the Lincoln.

Because so many of the Alexander's crew were killed or injured in the initial attack, any civilian survivors with the right personality or training are conscripted. Kady is seen as being too angry, bitter, and closed off to work well with others. She stays on the Hypatia, even though her hacking skills are excellent and improving every day. Ezra is transferred to the Alexander and trained to become a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, the ships have more problems than just the Lincoln. The Alexander's AI, AIDAN, is damaged, some of the survivors might be sick, and it isn't always clear who can be trusted.

The whole story is told via interview and chat transcripts, video footage descriptions, memos, and more, all collected and arranged by a mysterious group for their equally mysterious employer.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

REVIEW: Only the Ring Finger Knows, Vol. 1: The Lonely Ring Finger (book) by Satoru Kannagi, illustrations by Hotaru Odagiri, English translation by Allison Markin Powell

Only the Ring Finger Knows is m/m romance. It was originally published in Japanese in 2001.

My review includes a few spoilers. Also, I'm still on my extended "not going to include read-alikes" break. I will say this, though, the relationship dynamics reminded me a lot of His Favorite. I wonder if that series was inspired by this one?


Yuichi seems like the most perfect guy at Wataru's high school. He gets good grades, has good looks, is good at basketball, and gets along well with everyone. However, a chance encounter at a water fountain shows Wataru another side of Yuichi, one that's cold and sarcastic. Wataru can't remember ever even talking to Yuichi, so why does the guy hate him so much?

The situation only becomes more awkward and upsetting when Wataru and Yuichi discover they've accidentally swapped rings. At their school, wearing matching rings and/or wearing a ring on your ring finger signifies that you're dating someone and, shockingly, Wataru and Yuichi's rings not only look exactly alike, but they also fit on each other's ring fingers. The matching rings are, of course, an indication that there is romance in Wataru and Yuichi's future.

REVIEW: Noble, My Love (live action TV series)

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Noble, My Love is a Korean drama consisting of 20 episodes that are each about 15 minutes long. The short episode length was unexpected (I'm used to K-drama episodes being about an hour long). It was also the best thing about the series. I don't know that I'd have been able to finish it if it had been 20 hours long. I expected it to be about a cold and arrogant CEO whose heart was thawed by an unexpected encounter with a sweet and energetic veterinarian, and maybe a dog. What I got was...not quite that.

Cha Yoon Seo is a veterinarian who is struggling under a mountain of debt. Her practice is small and caters mostly to rural clients, and she has to be available 24/7 just to get by. She's proud of what she has accomplished, but things do get awkward whenever she talks to former classmates, several of whom now have high-paying jobs at more fashionable locations.

Lee Kang Hoon is a rich, successful, and handsome CEO. People love him, even though he's an arrogant jerk. He first meets Yoon Seo when the dog he's using in a commercial escapes – she finds the dog and gives him water (don't expect much from the dog - he never shows up in the series again). They meet a second time after Kang Hoon is stabbed while escaping a kidnapping attempt. Although they didn't exactly hit it off during their first meeting, Kang Hoon becomes obsessed with thoughts of the kind-hearted veterinarian who stitched him up. How can he win over a woman who seems so determined to turn down everything he offers her?

Monday, October 17, 2016

REVIEW: Hospital Station (anthology) by James White

Hospital Station is the first book in James White's Sector General series. It was originally published in 1962.


Alien Emergencies was my introduction to the Sector General series. It contained books 6 through 8, so I could have opted to read Book 9 next but instead decided to go back to the beginning, Hospital Station. Although several of the stories do reference each other, Hospital Station is basically an anthology containing five short stories, so I'll be reviewing it as one.

All in all this was...okay. “Medic” and “Out-patient” were good, but the other stories all disappointed me a bit, for various reasons. I'm kind of glad that this wasn't my first experience with the Sector General series. I missed getting to see the full cast of characters I'd gotten to know in Alien Emergencies.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

REVIEW: Ajin, Season 1 (anime TV series, CGI animation)

Ajin is a mix of action, mystery, and fantasy (sci-fi?). This first season is 13 episodes long.


It's been almost a year since I last watched and reviewed anime. I figured it was finally time to watch something new, so I checked my Netflix queue and picked Ajin.

Ajin stars Kei, a high school student who is completely and utterly focused on the bright future his mother has outlined for him, to the point that he even ditched his best friend Kai when his mother said Kai would be a bad influence on him. Kei never toes the line and never does anything wrong...but then he's hit by a truck and his whole world changes. Instead of dying or waking up in a hospital, Kei gets back up again like nothing happened, proving to everyone that he's an Ajin, an immortal being. Ajin are considering nonhuman, and it is Kei's fate, from that point forward, to be hunted down like an animal, captured by the government, and put through horrific tests. However, with a bit of help Kei manages to evade capture and soon learns that there are more Ajin out there than has been made public.

REVIEW: The Silenced (live action movie)

The Silenced is a Korean historical thriller movie with sci-fi aspects.

This review includes slight spoilers.


I wasn't aware of the history when I saw this movie, so some of the details of my description are the result of later online reading. Anyway, this movie is set in 1938, during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Ju-ran, assigned the Japanese name “Shizuko,” is sent to a Korean sanatorium because she has tuberculosis. The girls at the sanatorium are repeatedly told that they'll eventually be evaluated, and the two healthiest candidates will be sent to Tokyo and become Japanese citizens. It's something that many of the girls long for.

One of the two girls who seems most likely to be chosen, Yeon-deok (renamed “Kazue”) befriends Ju-ran. Yeon-deok takes her places the girls aren't supposed to go and generally encourages her. Ju-ran is given special medication, and her health begins to improve to the point that she starts to hope that maybe she'll be chosen to go to Tokyo with Yeon-deok. However, the sanatorium is hiding dark secrets. Yeon-deok used to have a friend who was also named Shizuko, but Shizuko disappeared, supposedly taken away by her family overnight. As Ju-ran begins seeing and experiencing strange things, she wonders what really happened to the first Shizuko.

REVIEW: Dragonbreath (book) by Ursula Vernon

Dragonbreath is children's fantasy. It's the first in a series.


Dragonbreath stars Danny Dragonbreath, a young dragon who hasn't yet learned how to breathe fire, and his best friend Wendell, a green iguana. Whereas Wendell studies, does his homework, and would probably never get into trouble on his own, Danny has waited until the morning bus ride to write his science paper. He was going to ask Wendell for help, but his topic was the ocean and Wendell's was bats. Danny's science teacher isn't particularly interested in Danny's paper on “the rare and elusive snorklebat” and tells him to turn in a better paper tomorrow. Library research isn't really Danny's style, so, at his mother's suggestion, Danny visits his cousin Edward, a sea serpent. Danny drags Wendell along with him.

REVIEW: Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale (audiobook) by NisiOisiN, narrated by Keith Silverstein, Eric Kimerer, Cristina Vee

Kizumonogatari is the prequel to Bakemonogatari (which I have neither read nor seen). It's one of Vertical's first two audiobook releases.

I go over the book's fanservice-y scenes in detail in my review but otherwise don't include much in the way of spoilers.


Kizumonogatari stars Koyomi Araragi, a 17-year-old loser. He avoids having friends because he believes they would “lower his intensity as a human” (although one wonders if this isn't just his way of making himself feel better because no one wants to be friends with him). His life seems to be going nowhere, until one day he comes across Tsubasa Hanekawa, class president and all-around model student, and accidentally gets an excellent view of her panties when the wind blows her skirt straight up. Instead of getting upset or fleeing in embarrassment, Hanekawa decides to be Araragi's first friend.

Later, Araragi tries to wipe away the memory of Hanekawa's panties by buying some porn. On his way home, he comes across Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade (name found online, because otherwise I'd never have figured out how to spell it all), “the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, yet cold-blooded vampire.” Someone has removed all four of her limbs, and she is dying. She asks Araragi to save her by letting her drink him dry, and he, in a fit of pity and realization that he's a loser whose life, he decides, is probably worth less than hers, agrees. He expects to die but instead wakes up as Kiss-Shot's new servant, the one who now has to get her limbs back from the vampire hunters who took them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

REVIEW: Halo: The Fall of Reach (book) by Eric Nylund

Halo: The Fall of Reach is military sci-fi based on a game franchise.

I opted not to include any read-alikes.


Like I said in my review of the movie based on this book, I've never played any of the Halo games. I got this because I'd heard that the franchise has some good AI-human interaction. Starting with the first Halo novel seemed like the best way to go.

This book covers the origins of the Master Chief, the series protagonist. Dr. Catherine Halsey selected John for the SPARTAN-II program when he was only 6 years old, arranging for him and many other children to be kidnapped from their homes and put through intense training and brutal modifications. It's all hugely unethical, but the end result is something humanity turns out to sorely need: a group of super soldiers known as the Spartans, of which John-117 is the best. Their first mission pits them against human rebels, but it's not long before they find themselves fighting a much deadlier enemy, mysterious aliens known as the Covenant.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

REVIEW: Halo: The Fall of Reach (animated movie)

First, some info: I haven't actually played any of the Halo games. I started reading Halo: The Fall of Reach after someone said that the series had some good AI-human interaction moments, but I stalled almost halfway through for various reasons. In an effort to renew my interest in the book, give me a better foundation on the visuals, and maybe clarify some of the more confusing aspects, I decided to watch this. I was sure it would spoil certain aspects of the book for me, but I was okay with that.

Yeah, what I didn't realize was that this movie only adapts a small portion of the book – up to page 154 of my copy, to be exact. I'm currently on page 168, so I suppose I'll have to muddle through the rest on my own.

The movie covers the origin of Master Chief, the protagonist and playable character of the games. Dr. Catherine Halsey first identifies him as a candidate for the SPARTAN-II program when he is only six years old. John and other children are kidnapped from their homes and replaced with short-lived clones. It is then that their military training begins. However, Dr. Halsey has more in mind for the children than just training. There are dangerous augmentations that will turn them into true super soldiers, if they're able to survive the process.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

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

I first read and reviewed a paper copy of Foreigner only a few months ago, so there's a lot I won't go into again, and I won't be writing another summary. However, it's worth writing a second review. I have some comments to make on both the audiobook experience and on the rereading experience. As a result, I'll be touching on some spoilery things.

The audiobook doesn't include the pronunciation guide or the glossary that can be found in my paper copy of the book. Although I missed the glossary a little, the pronunciation guide wasn't necessary. I didn't actively compare Daniel Thomas May's pronunciation to the guide, but I do know that his pronunciation of “Jago,” at least, followed what Cherryh wrote in her guide. Maybe I'll finally start mentally pronouncing Jago's name correctly while reading the books.

Although I had some issues with May's narration, overall I enjoyed it. He was particularly excellent when narrating Bren's thoughts and dialogue (basically most of the book), infusing the lines with just the right amount of emotion. His atevi voices didn't work quite as well for me, but I'm not sure there was much he could have done about that. After all, atevi aren't supposed to do much obvious emoting.

FYI, this next bit is where the spoilers come in.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

REVIEW: Atelier (live action TV series)

Mayuko is a “fabric geek” who gets a job at Emotion, a high-class custom-made lingerie shop. Her first days there are nerve-wracking, as her new boss, Mayumi Nanjo, tells her that she doesn't understand beauty and dresses horribly. She eventually adjusts and learns to love the place and her coworkers. However, as much as Mayuko and the others admire Nanjo and her work, her way isn't always their way.

I really enjoyed this series, much more than I expected. I had thought it would be a sort of Japanese The Devil Wears Prada, but it was much warmer and kinder than that. Even though Nanjo was pretty blunt with Mayuko at times, she was also gentler than I would have expected – some of the things Mayuko did when she first started working there (like talking back at the boss) would probably have gotten her fired from any other place.

REVIEW: Black Butler (live action movie)

Oh look, it's my first review in over a month. Sorry, I've been in a horrible funk for a while now. Everything is hard: writing reviews, reading, and even watching TV. The only thing I've been doing is working, sleeping, and playing Stardew Valley. Here's hoping that this review is a sign that things are going back to normal, because I'm tired of doing nothing much. And also, I have an ILL book that's due in a week or two.

Anyway, yes, a live action Black Butler movie exists and I have watched and reviewed it. Contrary to what that movie poster might lead you to believe, it actually takes place in a modern day setting.

No watch-alikes, because I figured writing the review itself was hard enough. Also, warning, this review includes major spoilers.


I watched this out of morbid curiosity. To be honest, I was expecting it to be horrifically bad. I knew that the story and characters had been drastically changed in several areas, and I vaguely remembered reading something about Mizushima Hiro (Sebastian) losing weight for the role, because obviously the most important thing about Sebastian is his thinness.

In the end, this wasn't as bad as I originally expected it to be, but it wasn't great either. It helped a lot that I already knew it wouldn't be a redo of either the anime or manga story, and that the characters wouldn't be quite the same.

So, the story. The movie is set in some kind of alternate history modern day Japan. Genpou Shiori is a girl pretending to be a boy so that she can be the Genpou family heir. Several years ago, her parents were killed and she was kidnapped. She escaped by entering into a contract with Sebastian, a demon. Since then, her goal has been to find and punish those who killed her parents. In the meantime, however, she serves as a secret investigator for the Queen of England (I think?), for reasons that make no sense unless you have some familiarity with the original series and what's been twisted to fit the movie. Anyway, people are being spontaneously mummified, and no one is sure how or why. Shiori is tasked with looking into the murders, and her investigation unexpectedly touches on her past.

Monday, August 15, 2016

REVIEW: The Mysterious Lady Law (e-novella) by Robert Appleton

The Mysterious Lady Law is a steampunk thriller. It's published by Carina Press and is 31,600 words long.

No read-alikes this time, because I don't feel like it. Also, the very end of my review includes some spoilers.


This takes place in late 19th century London. Julia works as a waitress and dancer on an airship, while Georgina, her sister, cleans houses. Julia is utterly shocked to come home one evening and find her sister dead. Although Constable Aloysius (Al) Grant gives her as many updates on the case as he's able, there isn't much for him to say. The police keep hitting dead ends.

Just when it looks like Georgy's killer will go free, Lady Harriet Law shows up on Julia's doorstep and offers to take the case pro bono. Julia accepts the offer. After all, Lady Law has a phenomenal success rate, having solved 100% of her 650 cases. It's that same success rate that, in part, inspires Grant's distrust. How does Lady Law come to her conclusions? Why did she offer her services to Julia in particular? And how does the disappearance of Josh, the young assistant of the famed explorer Horace Holly, figure into all of this?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

REVIEW: The Coelura (book) by Anne McCaffrey, illustrated by Ned Dameron

The Coelura is sci-fi with strong romantic elements. It was originally published in 1983.

No read-alikes for this one, sorry.


Caissa is the body-heir of Baythan, an exceptional hunter and all-around perfect specimen of manhood (no really – much is made of his excellent genetic pattern). Caissa is now old enough that she should start considering bearing her own body-heir, but she isn't happy with the man her father suggests she at least establish a temporary heir-contract with. She has a feeling that his recommendation is tied to an undisclosed clause in his heir-contract with her womb-mother, the haughty and vain High Lady Cinna.

Out of loyalty to her father, Caissa agrees to at least meet the man he recommended, but the meeting leaves her feeling so insulted that she decides to leave the city for a bit to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, she didn't bother to check her fuel first and ends up briefly stranded in the ruins of Yellow Triad City. It's there that she meets a mysterious man named Murell and learns more about coelura, beings able to spin beautiful living cloth that responds to its wearer's mood.
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