Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jurassic World (live action movie) - at the movie theater

I saw Jurassic World today. This isn't a review so much as it's a bunch of notes, but it'll remind me how I felt about it when it comes out on DVD and the Velociraptors tempt me to buy it.

The basic story: A couple parents whose marriage is on the rocks send their two sons to visit Claire, their aunt, at her workplace, the Jurassic World amusement park. Claire, meanwhile, is trying to get a newer, bigger, and more dangerous genetically modified dinosaur ready for its park debut. Things go awry, the children are in peril, everyone is in peril. Thankfully, an ex-Navy Velociraptor tamer is there to save the day.

Ugh. I already knew from reviews and comments on Twitter that the movie was going to crap on its few female characters, but what I didn't expect was how upset the dino-on-dino violence would make me. The field of dead dinosaurs. The baby triceratops being lifted up in the air by its saddle. The Velociraptors getting smashed.

Up to a certain point, the vast majority of deaths were dino deaths. The one human death that bugged me was during the flying dinosaurs bit. That kind of prolonged and detailed death is normally reserved for characters the audience is supposed to want to see die, but this character barely had a name and certainly hadn't done anything to warrant a terror-filled, multi-minute, multi-dino death.

Other things:
  • So many Jurassic Park references. And, unfortunately, all they did was remind me that I liked that movie more. And also, that opening up another dinosaur park was a really stupid idea.
  • The only movie I remember much about is the first one. Did the other two end in ways that made opening up yet another park filled with dangerous dinosaurs seem like a good and plausible idea? Because I kept getting stuck on that.
  • I know this has been said before, but it was incredibly dumb for Claire to be wearing high heels through the whole movie. Some of the areas they trekked through would have been difficult enough in sneakers or boots. Whenever she ran, I squinted at the screen, trying to figure out if she had briefly switched shoes. If she could run that fast in heels, imagine what she could have done in more appropriate footwear.
  • Something about the way the Velociraptors and T. rex reacted and fought didn't seem quite right.
  • The justifications for using Velociraptors in warfare made no sense to me. That goes double for tiny Indominus rex.
  • A big "no" to the Owen and Claire romance. I was mentally debating how long it would take them, after the events in the movie, to remember that they can't stand each other. I give them no more than a week or two.

Murder in Mystic Cove (e-book) by Daryl Anderson

Murder in Mystic Cove is a mystery published by Carina Press. It has a word count of approximately 90,000.

My read-alikes list isn't very good. I had trouble thinking of books that would fit that I had actually read, so I ended up listing books with similar settings.

Review:

Addie Gorsky used to be a homicide detective in Baltimore but is now Chief of Security at Mystic Cove, a retirement community in Florida. It's not her favorite place to be, but it does mean she's around to help out her dad, who has cancer.

At the start of this book, Addie discovers the body of Mel Dick, one of Mystic Cove's more annoying residents, with gunshot wounds indicating that he was murdered. The police think the most likely suspect is the man's wife, but Addie isn't so sure. Mel had been acting oddly in the months prior to his death, and he certainly wasn't lacking in enemies. Addie decides to conduct an investigation of her own, risking the ire of both her boss and Sheriff Spooner.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cold Sleep (book) by Narise Konohara, illustrations by Nanao Saikawa, translated by Douglas W. Dlin and Iori

Cold Sleep is m/m romance, I suppose. As you'll see in my review, I'm not really comfortable applying the “romance” label here.

This is published under Digital Manga, Inc.'s Jun̩ imprint and is one of their yaoi novels Рnot manga.

Review:

Cold Sleep is composed of three stories, two of which are related. “Cold Sleep” is the longest, taking up 166 pages of the volume. “Class Reunion” is 24 pages long, and the related story, “The One I Love,” is 27 pages. I'll be writing about each part separately, with a little bit at the end about the volume as a whole.

“Cold Sleep”

Tohru Takahisa (who'll I'll refer to as Tohru from here on out) wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He is told that he was in a car accident and that Keishi Fujishima (who'll I'll call Fujishima, since that's usually how Tohru thought of him) is his friend. After Tohru gets out of the hospital, Fujishima takes him in. Tohru is grateful, but he also feels awkward about it. What if Fujishima throws him out for some reason? Where would he go? He's been told that he has no family or other friends, and he doesn't even have a job.

That last bit, at least, he can do something about. He finds a part-time job at a convenience store, starts making friends, and becomes more curious about his past. There are indications that Fujishima hasn't been completely honest with him, but, at the same time, Fujishima appears to be a good person.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Moon Embracing the Sun (live action TV series), via Netflix

The Moon Embracing the Sun is a Korean historical-ish (meaning that it has period costumes, but no actual historical events are depicted) romance series with fantasy elements. It's 20 episodes long.

Review:

Here's Netflix's description for the show: “Years after she's assumed dead by the palace, a young noblewoman, now trained as a shaman, returns to court to reclaim her rightful position as queen.” This is not quite accurate. It makes it sound as Yeon Woo returns with the intention of regaining her rightful position. In reality, Yeon Woo does little except exist and be virtuous and good – it's only through the actions of others that she even remembers what her rightful place is, and then regains it.

Let's back up for a moment. Here's my description of the show: Yeon Woo, the 13-year-old daughter of a government official, inadvertently catches the eye of both the Crown Prince (15) and his illegitimate brother, Yang Myung (17). I'm not sure if she ever realized that Yang Myung loved her, but the one she fell in love with was the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince's grandmother plotted Yeon Woo's death and arranged for Bo Kyung, the daughter of one of her supporters, to become queen instead. Yeon Woo was saved by the trickery of Nok Young, a shaman, but lost her memory.

Eight years later, Yeon Woo and the Crown Prince, now the King, meet once more. The King is confused and upset because this girl who calls herself Weol looks so much like his dead first love, and yet she doesn't seem to know him. He works to uncover the truth about Yeon Woo's death, even as various government officials conspire against him.

Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! (manga) by Fumi Yoshinaga, translated by William Flanagan

Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! is a single-volume slice-of-life, food, and restaurant guide manga. The English translation is published by Yen Press.

Review:

Although I generally enjoy Yoshinaga's works, I dragged my feet over getting this one. I didn't think a restaurant guide/slice-of-life manga featuring restaurants I'd never be able to visit would work very well for me. I ended up buying this during a moment of weakness and a nice Right Stuf sale.

The manga starts with a disclaimer: “This story is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons is purely coincidental. But all of the restaurants in this book are real.” It felt a bit odd, considering that the volume's main character is a foodie named F-mi Y-naga, “who makes her living by drawing men engaging in anal sex" (7). Which sounds awfully similar to Fumi Yoshinaga, if you focus primarily on a certain portion of her work.

Anyway, Y-naga spends most of her time working and likes to unwind by eating delicious foods. Her newest assignment involves introducing restaurants to readers, which gives her an excuse to eat out even more. Along the way, we meet various people she knows. Her current roommate is S-hara, a guy who ended up becoming her assistant because he couldn't get any other work. M-waki is a sweets fanatic who was Y-naga's roommate before S-hara. F-yama is Y-naga's foodie friend, and also her secret (sort of) crush. T-i is a guy who loves eating meat. The list goes on – there are a bunch more people who make brief appearances.

The structure of the volume is pretty simple: two or more people (usually Y-naga and someone else) have a reason to go out to eat, and so they do. Everybody talks about how good the food is and tries to describe what it is that makes it so good. Each chapter focuses on a single restaurant and ends with a page of information about that restaurant: its address, phone number, hours, directions, and parking availability. Yoshinaga also notes how much you should budget for and includes a few other comments about things she didn't have a chance to mention in the manga.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Shadow of the Knife (e-book) by Jane Fletcher

Shadow of the Knife is a f/f science fiction book that reads like fantasy. It's published by Bold Strokes Books. I have no idea what its word count is, although it came out to 250 pages on my Nook Simple Touch.

No read-alikes list for this one. I just can't. Check out my posts for Jane Fletcher's other books if you really want some.

Review:

Warning: this book contains some torture. Although I didn't consider the physical aspects to be very graphic, the emotional aspects are awful, and the book ends without giving readers a chance to see how well the character manages to recover.

Although most of Fletcher's Celaeno series could be read in any order, I would advise newbies not to start with Shadow of the Knife, even though it's chronologically the first book (it takes place 14 years before Rangers at Roadsend). While the overall story would probably make sense, I think this is the only book in the series that doesn't explain why there are no men on Celaeno, and how reproduction works there.

This was my last unread Celaeno book. I was both looking forward to it and dreading it, because, once I finished it, that would be it – I haven't been able to find any signs that Fletcher is still writing, much less that she plans to write more in this series. Okay, so the world-building has serious problems, the pacing often isn't very good, and the books tend to end too suddenly. I know all of that, and yet something about this series really works well for me. Rangers at Roadsend and The Walls of Westernfort were my favorites, and I was hoping Shadow of the Knife would be as good or better.

Shadow of the Knife stars Ellen Mittal, a rookie in the Roadsend Militia. Farmers in the area have had hundreds of sheep stolen from them, and the Militia hasn't managed to find a single one. Ellen, increasingly frustrated with the uselessness of the Militia's efforts, talks to a Ranger friend of hers and ends up becoming involved in a deeper investigation into the thefts, which may have something to do with a gang in Eastford led by a woman known as the Mad Butcher. Ellen's life is further complicated by Hal, a new farmer in Roadsend who is either genuinely interested in her or somehow involved in the sheep thefts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Inu x Boku SS (manga, vol. 2) by Cocoa Fujiwara, translated by Melissa Tanaka

Inu x Boku SS is a fantasy romance series licensed by Yen Press.

Review:

Ririchiyo is surprised to realize that, despite her continued prickliness, she has become friends with Watanuki and Karuta. Closing the gap between herself and Soushi proves to be far more difficult, however. Whereas the other client-agent pairs tend to be more relaxed around each other, Soushi is always the perfect and servile bodyguard. Ririchiyo decides that having a cup of coffee with him, as friends rather than as client and bodyguard, might bring them closer, but her plans are ruined by the arrival of Kagerou, her fiance.

This is the volume in which the details of Soushi's past and his reasons for being so devoted to Ririchiyo are revealed. It happened a little sooner than I expected – the anime saved this revelation for the very end – but I still loved it. I loved this evidence that Soushi was at least as vulnerable and lonely as Ririchiyo, and seeing them grow closer via the letters they exchanged was sweet and kind of heartbreaking.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Inu x Boku SS (manga, vol. 1) by Cocoa Fujiwara, translated by Melissa Tanaka

Inu x Boku SS is a fantasy romance series licensed by Yen Press.

Review:

My first exposure to this series was through the anime, which, as far as I can tell, means I know what's going to happen in this manga through at least part of volume 3.

In this first volume, we meet Ririchiyo Shirakiin, the sensitive daughter of a wealthy family. The Shirakiin family is one of a select few families with an ayakashi (supernatural being) ancestor, and Ririchiyo is considered to be a “throwback,” a sort of reincarnation of the Shirakiin family's ayakashi ancestor. Although she has spent her life coddled and protected, she has also felt isolated. Anyone who ever spoke up for her or was nice to her only did so because of her position within the Shirakiin family, and so, as a defense mechanism, Ririchiyo began adopting a haughty and prickly demeanor.

Ririchiyo knows that her behavior makes it that much harder for her to make true friends, but she can't seem to stop herself. In an effort to change, she requests to leave the Shirakiin family home and is allowed to go as far as Maison de Ayakashi, an apartment building whose tenants come entirely from families with ayakashi ancestors. Each resident of Maison de Ayakashi is protected by a secret service agent (no explanation is given for why some throwbacks are secret service agents and why some are clients). Soushi, Ririchiyo's agent, is surprisingly devoted to her. No matter how prickly she is towards him, she can't seem to push him away, so he accompanies her as she gets to know her new home and those who live there.

Maoyu: Complete Collection (anime TV series), on DVD

Maoyu is a 12-episode fantasy series licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Review:

Maoyu is technically a generic fantasy series featuring a war between humans and demons. However, the focus is more on commerce, agriculture, and negotiation.

Twenty or so years ago, the humans invaded the demon world and took control of one of their cities. Then the demons invaded the human world and took control of one of their small islands. This sparked a war that seemed to have no end, until a human hero and his allies appeared. The Hero, wanting to end things as quickly as possible, left his allies behind and sped to the Demon King's castle, only to discover that the Demon King was actually a beautiful woman who seemed to have no interest in fighting him. Instead, she wanted to partner with him (in a way that sounds rather like a marriage but never actually goes anywhere) and find a way to wrap up the war in such a way that there is neither victory nor defeat. The Demon King is a “big picture” person and knows that, even if the war was permitted to suddenly end, many would die of starvation and many would end up enslaved.

The Hero agrees, and so begins their partnership. The Demon King disguises herself as a human woman known as the Crimson Scholar and introduces various agricultural improvements to a human settlement. As the series progresses, her innovations have a butterfly effect, prompting merchants, religious figures, and more to get involved.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Virtuality (live action movie), on DVD

Virtuality is a science fiction movie that was originally intended to be the pilot of a TV series. However, the TV series was never picked up. This is a very important detail that the DVD case failed to mention, which meant I totally wasn't expecting the ambiguous ending.

Review:

Virtuality takes place on the Phaeton, a starship designed to go on a 10-year journey looking for intelligent life. The Phaeton's mission changed once mission control reported that conditions were deteriorating back on Earth – due to increasingly catastrophic weather conditions, Earth will be inhabitable in about a century. The Phaeton's new mission is to search for a new home for humanity.

The Phaeton's crew includes 12 men and women, each with vital roles on the ship. In a very short time, they'll hit the “go/no go” point, at which time Frank, the commander, will have to decide if they'll continue on or turn back to Earth. In the meantime, each of the crew members blows off steam using recreational virtual reality modules (which seem to be malfunctioning in disturbing ways), and viewers are introduced to everybody and their sometimes complicated relationships. As if “go/no go” wasn't making things tense enough, nearly everything on the ship is being filmed for reality TV viewers back at home.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coraline (non-Japanese animation, movie), on DVD

Coraline is a stop-motion horror/dark fantasy movie based on Neil Gaiman's children's book of the same title.

Review:

Coraline's family has recently moved to the Pink Palace Apartments. On the suggestion of her busy and exhausted parents, Coraline goes exploring and finds a tiny door that opens up to a brick wall. That night, she wakes up (or dreams of waking up) and follows a jumping mouse to the door, only to find that it now opens to a tunnel that leads to a home just like hers, only better. Her Other Mother cooks delicious food, and her Other Father is more energetic and has time to play with her. The next day, Coraline is back in her original home.

Coraline gradually meets more of her neighbors in the Pink Palace, as well as a boy named Wybie. It's nice enough, but the more time she spends in her other home, the more she wishes she could stay there. Sure, everyone in the other world has buttons for eyes, but everything is so nice there. Until her Other Mother tells her she can stay, but only if she agrees to have buttons sewn onto her eyes.

The Bear Prince and Other Fantasy Folktales (e-book) by Elizabeth McCoy

The Bear Prince and Other Fantasy Folktales is a collection of three stories of the sort that might be told in the author's “Lord Alchemist” world. You have to note this as you're buying the e-book, because McCoy never specifically names that world in the text – she just says that it's a world where magic exists and alchemy has replaced chemistry. This is probably because McCoy published this work prior to publishing Herb-Witch, the first book in her Lord Alchemist series.

At any rate, I think this collection would work fine for someone with no familiarity with the Lord Alchemist series. However, those who are familiar with it would probably get more out of the author's afterword, which briefly explains some of the thought processes involved in creating stories that could conceivably be told in that world. The afterword was actually my favorite part of the e-book.  It made me wish McCoy had written “author's notes” sections for each of the three stories.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Hollow House (e-book) by Janis Patterson

The Hollow House is a historical mystery (with a gothic feel) published by Carina Press. It has a word count of approximately 88,000 words.

Review:
 
This one caught my eye when I was browsing Carina Press's mysteries. I loved the cover, and the setting, Denver in 1919, intrigued me, so I bought it. I'm very glad I did. It had its issues, but it was still a really enjoyable book.

The story: Geraldine Brunton's real name isn't Geraldine Brunton, but it will do, as long as it keeps anyone from connecting her with her past life in Boston. She wants to start a new life in Denver, but first she has to find a job. Unfortunately, she has no marketable skills and no references. It seems hopeless, until she stumbles across an ad for a companion to a semi-invalid lady. She takes a chance and applies. To her relief, Mrs. Stubbs, the lady, takes an immediate liking to her and is willing to overlook her lack of references.

Being Mrs. Stubbs' companion is sometimes boring and occasionally stifling, but Geraldine finds herself growing to like her employer. Her position gives her temporary security, but she knows things could change at any moment. This becomes especially apparent when one of the servants turns up dead and Mrs. Stubbs almost dies of what is either an accidental overdose or an attempt to poison her.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Mouse in the Mountain (e-book) by Norbert Davis

The Mouse in the Mountain is a hard-boiled detective novel. It came out to 110 pages on my Nook Simple Touch and can be read for free via ManyBooks.

Review:

This was originally published in 1943, and I downloaded it almost entirely because of the Great Dane on the cover. I should have investigated it a little more closely – I went into it expecting something like a cozy mystery about a guy and his dog, and I got a deceptively harmless-looking detective who had zero issues with killing people and who lied 99% of the time.

The beginning of the book fit in nicely with what I thought it was. Doan was a slightly pudgy, harmless-looking detective who happened to be vacationing in Mexico with Carstairs, his Great Dane. Carstairs was highly intelligent and not nearly as badly behaved as Doan kept insisting he was. I'm more of a cat person, but I imagine that fans of large breed dogs would be amused by Doan's efforts to ensure that Carstairs would be allowed on the tour bus to Los Altos.

Doan's fellow tourists included: Mr. and Mrs. Henshaw; Mortimer, their annoying little snot of a son; Janet, a schoolteacher hoping to see the same places as her historical crush, Lieutenant Emile Perona; Patricia Van Osdel, an heiress; Maria, Patricia's maid; and Greg, Patricia's boyfriend (?). I realized that this was not going to be a cozy mystery when the tour bus made it to Los Altos and one of the first things Doan did was casually shoot a guy. Granted, the guy had a gun, but his utter calm and complete lack of hesitation were still somewhat off-putting. Then Mortimer, the nasty little monster, described the wound in great deal and probably would have poked the body with a stick if his mom hadn't dragged him away. I really hated Mortimer.

Act Like You Love Me (live action movie), via Netflix

Act Like You Love Me is a romantic comedy. I hadn't realized this until after I started watching it, but Christian Keyes, the actor who plays Chad, is the same guy who played Julian, Robert's coffee salesman friend in Black Coffee.

Review:

Kelly is a dentist (orthodontist? I can't remember) who is still recovering from a bad break-up. She reluctantly allows her best friend to set her up on a date with Chad, an actor and gym teacher they recently met at a bar. The date turns sour when Kelly decides she's not ready to have sex, but the two find themselves paired up again when Kelly accidentally tells her mom she's bringing her (non-existent) boyfriend to her younger sister's wedding.

Susan, Kelly's sister, immediately suspects that Chad isn't really Kelly's boyfriend and does her best to make them slip up. Meanwhile, Kelly's mom has secretly started drinking again and suspects her husband is cheating on her, Kelly's dad is oblivious, Susan's fiance has a serious secret gambling problem, Larissa (Kelly's cousin?) is causing trouble, and Kelly's brother has contentious relationship with their father because he preferred music over becoming a dentist.
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