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.

REVIEW: Night Shield (book) by Nora Roberts

Night Shield is romantic suspense. I own a used copy.

Review:

Jonah Blackhawk is a former juvenile delinquent whose life got on the right track with the help of Boyd Fletcher, the man who eventually became Denver’s police commissioner. He loves Boyd like a father and feels like he owes him a debt he’ll never be able to repay, which is why he agrees to Boyd’s latest request: work with the investigating team looking into a string of robberies committed by people who seem to be using Jonah’s clubs to scope out their victims. Specifically, he’d like Jonah to allow the detective in charge to work undercover at his newest place.

What Boyd doesn’t immediately mention is that the detective in charge is Ally Fletcher, his daughter. There’s an immediate spark between the two of them, but Ally’s a professional and Jonah isn’t really a fan of cops (other than Boyd) and secretly feels that his past makes him unworthy of someone like Boyd’s daughter. Still, Ally’s undercover work puts her and Jonah in frequent contact, and it isn’t long before Jonah’s employees put two and two together and decide they must be dating.

REVIEW: The Dinosaur Lords (book) by Victor Milan

The Dinosaur Lords is fantasy. I purchased a copy a while back.

Review:

Warning: this book includes on-page rape and detailed descriptions of violence. Many characters die.

In the world of Paradise, humans exist alongside dinosaurs. The tame (or, in some cases, relatively tame) dinosaurs are treated much like our pets and livestock. People breed and train dinosaurs for hunting, riding, and fighting.

When I first heard of this book, it was described as Game of Thrones meets Jurassic Park. There are the dinosaurs plus medieval-ish fantasy politics - as far as tone and overall feel goes, it's more like Game of Thrones than Jurassic Park. The four main players are: Karyl Bogomirskiy, a famed dinosaur knight who is one of the few to ride a Tyrannosaurus rex; Rob Korrigan, a minstrel and dinosaur master (trains and cares for fighting dinosaurs and dinosaur mounts); Jaume, famed dinosaur knight and poet, the Imperial Champion of Emperor Felipe, and the fiance of Princess Melodia; and Melodia, who is eager to do important things but seems doomed to waste away in the palace.

REVIEW: Fall Into Darkness (book) by Christopher Pike

Fall Into Darkness is a YA mystery/thriller. I checked it out via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Sharon McKay is on trial for her best friend Ann Rice’s murder. Never mind that there’s no body, no real witnesses, and no evidence. Sharon and Ann’s friends saw them hike up to the cliff that night and heard Ann scream “Don’t!” before she either fell or was pushed off the cliff. Everybody seems to be convinced that Sharon killed Ann.

Scenes of the trial from Sharon’s POV alternate between scenes prior to the accident/murder from Ann’s POV. What Sharon didn’t know was that Ann was obsessed. Ann’s brother, Jerry, had loved Sharon and had killed himself after their relationship ended. Ann blamed Sharon and wanted her to suffer. What better way to do that than frame her for murder, thereby ruining her bright future? (I’m sure you can think of better and less risky ways she could have gotten her revenge, but just roll with it.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

REVIEW: Animal Lover (game)

[This review includes spoilers. I tried to avoid giving too many details, but it probably isn't too hard to figure out at least some of what ends up happening.]

Warning: this game includes a death, references to suicide, and references to homophobic bullying.

Animal Lover is a visual novel created by Trainwreck Studios. It's primarily fantasy with some romance aspects later on. There's no sex, not even fade-to-black, implied, or text-only - the romance is limited to a date and an on-screen kiss or two. I considered this a plus. If you're particularly interested in games with LGBT aspects, one of the romanceable guys is revealed to probably be bisexual later on in the game (I say "probably" because the word is never used, but he does talk about a past relationship with another guy).

Now for the summary: You play as Lucy (the default character name, which you can change), an intern at a veterinary clinic. Lucy loves animals and is immediately charmed by the hamster a little girl brings into the clinic. Because it reminds her so much of the hamster she used to have, Lucy briefly forgets herself and gives him a little kiss before putting him back in his cage. Shockingly, the little hamster then transforms into a human being. A good-looking and very naked young man.

The hamster’s owners run out in horror, leaving Lucy to figure out what to do with the guy, whose name turns out to be Edmund. Edmund used to be a prince until he was transformed into a hamster (or something very like one) hundreds of years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly lived and died as a hamster, with no end in sight. Until now. Lucy agrees to help him find and free another human-turned-animal, eventually resulting in her having to clothe, feed, and house five good-looking guys from a variety of time periods. Not only that, but it looks like her kisses don’t have a permanent effect: a random guy keeps transforming back into an animal each time the sun sets. They need to figure out a way to undo the curse for good. Especially before Charlie, whose animal form was a bear, transforms.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

REVIEW: The Drops of God (manga, vol. 1) story by Tadashi Agi, art by Shu Okimoto, translation by Kate Robinson

I'm not sure what genre to assign to The Drops of God. I'm not surprised that its Wikipedia page just says "wine." Anyway, I requested it via interlibrary loan. Although it doesn't say its an omnibus volume, it collects the first two volumes of the series.

Review:

Shizuku Kanzaki is the son of Yutaka Kanzaki, a world-famous wine critic. Ever since he was a child, Shizuku was exposed to a variety of sights, smells, sounds, and tastes, all the things he’d need in order to properly appreciate wine. Unfortunately for Yutaka Kanzaki, it backfired. The relationship between father and son became strained, and Shizuku eventually went to work for a beer company without ever once tasting a drop of wine.

Shizuku has been estranged from his father for two years when he learns of his father’s death from pancreatic cancer. His father left a will describing 12 great wines and one legendary wine called “The Drops of God.” Shizuku can only inherit his father’s property if he is able to correctly identify the wines and their vintages before the end of a one-year time limit. Not only that, but he has a rival: Issei Tomine, “the prince of the wine world,” a famous young wine critic. Issei convinced Yutaka to adopt him a week before his death, so Issei is legally Yutaka’s son and also gets a chance at inheriting everything.

Issei and Shizuku’s first task is to identify and describe a particular wine set aside by Yutaka. The person who comes up with the most appropriate description will get to live in Yutaka Kanzaki’s mansion. Although Shizuku drops his glass before trying the wine, something about its appearance and smell brings to mind a wisp of memory. He seeks out the one friendly face in the wine world that he knows of, apprentice sommelier Miyabi Shinohara, to help him figure out what that wine is and why it affects him so strongly.

Friday, July 28, 2017

REVIEW: Cube Escape: Arles (game)

Cube Escape: Arles is a puzzle solving game in the Cube Escape series. Art buffs in particular might find this entry exciting, since you play as Vincent van Gogh in his bedroom in Arles. You have to collect various objects and use them to solve puzzles in order to try to get out of the room.

One content warning that also counts as a spoiler, sort of: at one point in the game van Gogh must cut off his own ear. There’s no emotion that goes with this - it’s just something he does, and he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about it after the act is completed.

As far as I can tell, the only way this relates to the other games is that Laura had a print of this particular painting in her home in Cube Escape: Case 23. It doesn’t seem to add much to the overall Rusty Lake story, beyond providing another confirmation that mental illness is likely the start of the creation of corrupted souls. I do hope that one of the later Cube Escape games demonstrates that there’s a way to purify (?) corrupted souls, because otherwise this series appears to be making a pretty bleak statement about mental illness.

I turned to a walkthrough for guidance a couple times while playing this, but for the most part this was another game in the series that I was able to play through on my own. Much of the game involved collecting various items and using them in different places in the room, and I don’t recall any puzzles that particularly stood out for me or that I particularly liked. I did enjoy the slightly creepy feeling that the “alternate” room inspired, though, and the painting puzzle was nice.

Overall, this doesn’t really add anything to the larger Rusty Lake story, but it’s a decent puzzle game with an interesting setup. It would probably make for a good first Cube Escape game for those who haven’t tried the series before.

REVIEW: Cube Escape: Harvey's Box (game)

Like all the other Cube Escape games, this one can be downloaded for free. I’d recommend playing some of the other entries in the series before this one - at least Cube Escape: Seasons - because otherwise it’ll probably come across as extremely random.

Anyway, in this game you play as Harvey the parrot. If you’ve played the other games, you know that Laura is going to Rusty Lake Mental Health and Fishing. For some reason she decided that the best way to transport her parrot was to stick him in a box with some of her other belongings. Your job is to complete a few puzzles in order to find a way out of the box.

Although it didn’t add much to the overall Rusty Lake story, this was still a nice little game. The puzzles were just difficult enough to be interesting, but not so difficult that they frustrated me and drove me to check a walkthrough (and I have a pretty low frustration threshold when it comes to puzzle games, anymore). My absolute favorite puzzle was probably the fly and maggot one. It took me a beat to figure out what I was supposed to do, but then going through line by line and thinking through the logic turned out to be extremely satisfying.

I wouldn’t recommend this as anyone’s first Cube Escape game, and it’s not terribly interesting story-wise, but it’s a nice little entry if you just want spend some time solving puzzles.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

REVIEW: Cells at Work! (manga, vol. 1) by Akane Shimizu, translated by Yamato Tanaka

Cells at Work! is an action and comedy manga series with educational elements. It's licensed by Kodansha Comics.

Review:

Cells at Work is a semi-educational series that takes place inside a human body and stars a bunch of anthropomorphized cells. Red Blood Cell is a cheerful delivery girl who takes oxygen to cells (I suppose they’d qualify as the “ordinary folks” of this world) and carbon dioxide back to the lungs. There are lots of potential dangers along the way, so different kinds of White Blood Cells protect everybody. One recurring character, for example, is White Blood Cell (Neutrophil) 1146, who is part of the force that acts as the body’s initial defense against foreign invaders and infectious diseases. He’s depicted as a savagely violent man who is nevertheless polite and maybe even a little friendly towards Red Blood Cell.

In this volume, readers get to see White Blood Cell and others deal with Streptococcus pneumoniae, cedar pollen, Influenza virus, and a scrape wound. This results in the introduction of characters like Helper T Cell, the violent and manly Killer T Cells, hilariously intense and dramatic Memory Cell, Mast Cell, Macrophage, the adorable Platelets, and more.

REVIEW: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World (audiobook) by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, narrated by Abigail Revasch and Tara Sands

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World is a Middle Grade (probably?) superhero book. I picked it up on Audible with one of my remaining credits when I decided to end up subscription.

Review:

I’m going to start this off by saying that I’ve never read any of the Squirrel Girl comics. I wouldn’t even know she existed if it weren’t for people’s reviews on Booklikes. I bought this because the excerpt I listened to sounded good and because I vaguely remembered Squirrel Girl seeming like a fun character when I read those comics reviews.

I should also mention that I took a lengthy break in the middle of listening to this audiobook - not because it was bad, but because I got into one of my “I don’t want to listen to audiobooks” moods. I think I slid back into it and remembered things pretty well, but if I get some details wrong that's probably why.

In this book, Doreen Green is 14 years old and has just moved from California to New Jersey. Going to a new school and making new friends isn’t easy, but Doreen happens to have the most powerful positive attitude on the planet. And also the powers of a squirrel, complete with the tail and teeth. All her life, Doreen’s parents have told her that she has to hide her tail and abilities - after all, they’re so awesome that everyone around her would instantly be jealous and sad that they weren’t like her. But Doreen can’t help herself and accidentally reveals what she can do while dealing with a local group of troublemakers.

Thankfully Doreen’s identity is safe. It seems that her tail has magical attention-diverting powers. While it’s out, she goes by the name she has always secretly called herself: Squirrel Girl. Unfortunately, even though Squirrel Girl isn’t technically a superhero (you can’t just call yourself a superhero, right?), it isn’t long before she finds herself dealing with what appears to be an actual supervillain.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

REVIEW: Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival (game)

Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival (MSPF) is a “pay what you want” f/f visual novel.

CiCi the mermaid has decided that she’s going to finally take part in the Passion Festival. There’s only one problem: although CiCi has many interests, she’s never really focused on one particular hobby. In order to make a good showing at the festival, she’ll need to pick an interest (martial arts, gardening, dance, or painting) and stick to it. Will she be able to hone her skills in time, and maybe even find love along the way?

REVIEW: No Longer Human (manga, vol. 2) by Usamaru Furuya, based on the novel by Osamu Dazai, translated by Allison Markin Powell

I checked this out via interlibrary loan.

This review includes a few spoilers.

Review:

[Content warnings: this volume includes on-page sex, and there’s a deliberately disturbing sequence in which a children’s manga character is given an enormous penis, has sex, and is then killed and left to be eaten by birds.]

This volume picks up where the previous one left off. Yozo has survived his attempted double suicide with Ageha. The idea of being punished for her death gives him the sense of purpose he craves, but this is snatched from his hands by the police’s decision to set him free and deliver him to the hands of one of his family’s former servants. Yozo blames his father and stews in his own bitterness while essentially living trapped in the former servant’s home.

Yozo manages to escape one prison only to end up in another. Having no other place to go, he ends up living with his friend Horiki's editor, Shizuko. She dotes on him, seeing his pretty face and nothing else. Although outwardly things appear to be going well for Yozo - he now has a roof over his head, a job as a children’s manga artist, and somebody willing to fork over money anytime he wants to go out and buy booze - he feels stifled by Shizuko’s love and her young daughter’s wish for him to be her real father.

By the end of the volume, Yozo has finally found something like happiness. Will it last? Ha ha, of course not.
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