Saturday, January 20, 2018

REVIEW: Tiffany Girl (book) by Deeanne Gist

Tiffany Girl is Christian historical romance.

My review includes very slight spoilers.

Review:

Tiffany Girl is set just prior to the 1893 World's Fair. Flossie wants nothing more than to become a painter, so it's a shock when her mother tells her she's going to need to stop attending the New York School of Applied Design, help out more with the sewing (her mother is a dressmaker), and start thinking about getting married. Her father has gambled away enough of the family's money that they can no longer afford her tuition. When Flossie hears about an opportunity to work for Louis Tiffany as one of his "Tiffany Girls" during a glassworkers' strike, she announces that she's moving out and will earn the money for her tuition herself.

Her new life isn't easy, but Flossie is determined to make the best of things. She deals with angry strikers and "bustle pinchers," tries to figure out how to make her finances work out, and deals with her loneliness by encouraging the people at her boarding house to all get to know each other better. One of her fellow boarders is Reeve, a handsome but emotionally closed off journalist who turns his nose up a "New Women" like Flossie.

REVIEW: Skip Beat! (manga, vols. 37-39) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura

I'm almost done with my vacation reading posts - only one more to go after this. Then I'd like to publish a "best" and "worst" of 2017 post.

If I had the shelf space, I'd start working on buying the entire Skip Beat! series so that I could periodically reread it. It's so good. Whereas other long-running series leave my feeling impatient, Skip Beat! just keeps working for me. I'd be perfectly fine with it not ending any time soon, which I suppose is a good thing, since it doesn't seem like it's going to. Here's hoping that it continues to be translated into English until the very end.

The three volumes I read during my vacation included the series' first on-page glimpse of Kyoko's relationship with her mother, along with a flashback to Kyoko's mother's past. Great stuff, especially volume 38.

As usual, there are major spoilers past this point.

REVIEW: The X-Files: Cold Cases (audio drama) written by Joe Harris and Chris Carter, adapted for audio by Dirk Maggs, starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

This audio drama is based on X-Files graphic novels (I'm not sure which ones) and structured like a collection of X-Files episodes, complete with most of the original voice actors, the X-Files theme song, and narration outlining the location and time. Most of the episodes are alien or black oil episodes, as Mulder and Scully go back to the FBI and look into incidents involving amnesia-causing bright lights, appearances from people who supposedly died a long time ago, and potential threats against Scully's son. However, the second one is more of a "random monster" episode, featuring the Flukeman, a creature from Mulder and Scully's past.

This had been on my wishlist for a while, but I never felt like spending a credit on it back when I had an Audible subscription. When I heard recently that it was on sale, I snatched it up. Even if it wasn't great, I figured that it'd be worth it for the nostalgia alone.

REVIEW: The Kneebone Boy (book) by Ellen Potter

The Kneebone Boy is a Middle Grade adventure/mystery novel. I got it via interlibrary loan.

This review includes MAJOR spoilers. I'm not kidding - I give away a big part of the mystery. If that's a problem for you, I recommend reading my review on LibraryThing, Goodreads, or Booklikes instead, where I have the ability to use spoiler tags.

Review:

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

REVIEW: Angelic Layer: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Angelic Layer is a battle/science fiction series based on CLAMP's manga of the same title. From the little I've read of the manga, I'm guessing the anime isn't an exact adaptation. The anime is licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

This review includes major spoilers.

Review:

Twelve-year-old Misaki Suzuhara moves from the countryside to Tokyo to live with her aunt. It's a bit of a culture shock, but not long after arriving she discovers a new obsession: Angelic Layer. With the help of a mysterious man in a lab coat, she selects her first Angel, a doll that, with practice, can move around on a special Layer using only the player's thoughts. Misaki customizes her Angel that very night, and names her Hikaru.

It's not long before Misaki is participating in her first practice battles, and in a shockingly short amount of time she's registered for an official tournament. Her goal, although she isn't sure whether she can accomplish it, is to battle Athena, the small-but-powerful Angel that inspired her to try Angelic Layer in the first place.

REVIEW: Black Butler: Book of Circus (anime TV series)

Black Butler: Book of Circus is a historical-ish series that mixes mystery and fantasy. It's licensed by Funimation.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Black Butler: Book of Circus could, I suppose, be considered the third season of the Black Butler anime. However, I think it's a good thing it wasn't called that anywhere on this boxed set, because that isn't quite correct. Calling it a reboot isn't entirely accurate either.

Those who have only seen the anime and haven’t read the manga might be a bit confused by the anime timeline. Book of Circus does something very similar to what Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood did, rebooting the series in order to follow the manga more closely, but instead of starting from the beginning it starts from the point in Season 1 where things went in their own direction. The arc involving Ciel’s aunt was true (and gets a few references in Book of Circus), but beyond that the slate was wiped clean. The very shaky Season 2 might as well not exist. For those wondering which volumes of the manga Book of Circus covers, it’s volumes 6 to 8.

In Book of Circus, Ciel is charged with looking into the mysterious disappearances of several children. The Queen believes they’re tied to a certain circus that’s always in the area at the same time as the disappearances, so Ciel and Sebastian check it out. They end up joining the circus to get a view of things from the inside. The things they uncover are shocking and horrible, and turn out to be more connected to Ciel than either of them originally anticipated.

REVIEW: Her Story (game)

Her Story is a mystery FMV (full motion video) game. I picked it up in a Humble Bundle.

Review:

I try to keep my game reviews focused on games that have simple gameplay but are story-rich. Her Story is definitely that - it's all about the story. Gameplay is limited to keyword searching and watching videos, and that's it (well, except for the Mirror game, but that's more of an extra).

You play as someone who's been given access to an old desktop computer from 1994. There are a couple text files that give you information on how to search and work with the police database, the database itself, and a simple game. Your job is to search the database and watch various video clips. They haven't been organized in any way. If you wish, you can assign tags to them or save them for quick re-watching.

The catch, when it comes to adding tags, is that searches only show you the first five retrieved results. If you add certain tags too many times, searching those tags becomes nearly useless. Of all the tags I chose to add, only one turned out to be useful - I used it whenever I came across video clips that felt particularly important but that I didn't know enough about to fully understand. Which I know is a pretty useless way to describe the tag, but I don't want to give too much away.

I recommend playing the game with a piece of paper and something to write with on hand. Each video clip will give you ideas about new keywords to try. Write them down as they come up and go through them one by one. (Librarian FYI - This is also a useful thing to keep in mind when performing searches in real life!) There's a little eye icon that makes it easy to tell whether you've seen a particular clip before or not.

The basic story (no spoilers): Back in 1994 the police recorded several interviews with a woman who claimed that her husband was missing. As the investigation progressed, it became clear that he had probably been murdered. The game gives you no guidance as to what you're trying to accomplish, so it appears that your goal is to figure out the full story: whether the woman murdered her husband or not.

REVIEW: Mystic Messenger (game) - Christmas Special 2016 (Zen and 707)

Christmas Special 2016 is one of two available DLCs for Mystic Messenger. It's different from After Ending and Valentine's Day, in that you don't need to have completed a character's route in the main game before doing one of their Christmas routes. If it weren't for the fact that it costs hourglasses, I'd say it'd be a great way for newbies to Mystic Messenger to dip their toes into the game and see how things work. It's much shorter, only 2 days of chats, emails, and phone calls.

I purchased Christmas Special 2016 when it was on sale near Christmas. I timed my first playthrough to coincide with the story - the first day takes place on Christmas Eve, and the second day takes place on Christmas. I aimed specifically for Zen's "good" ending (I assume there's also a "bad" ending) the first time through. The second time, I aimed for 707's "good" ending.

REVIEW: Mystic Messenger (game) - Jaehee's route (plus After Ending and Valentine's Day)

I know I said I'd review this ages ago...and then I didn't. Well, I'm finally getting around to it. The short version: I loved it! Enough to actually spend money in the app, which is saying a lot for me. I don't like spending money on or in apps.

First, a little about the game (again). Mystic Messenger is best played on a phone, although I suppose you could play it on a tablet as well. You'd lose a little of the immersiveness, since the app is supposed to mimic the experience of chatting with, emailing, and calling people on a phone, but I assume it'd still be playable.

Because it mimics interaction with real people, gameplay happens pretty much in real-time. Which means you're going to get notifications at all hours of the day that there's someone in the chatroom, or that you have an email, etc. If you miss a phone call or chatroom conversation, you can pay hourglasses (which you either earn throughout the game, buy with hearts you earn in the game, or buy with real money) to re-open them, although a certain number of chatroom conversations can be missed without ruining a route. The main game happens over the course of 11 days, or less if you get one of the earlier bad endings.

I started my first playthrough after I got back on vacation, which was a good idea, because the app uses your current timezone to schedule the various chats and game events. You can't change the timezone, so that's something to consider before starting the game. For my first time through, I opted to play relatively naturally, at least during the Common route (the first four days of the game). During that time I got to know the characters and situation. You play as someone who's installed a mysterious app and gets roped into joining a group that plans fundraising parties for charities. For some reason the group decides that you should plan their first party since one of their prominent members died a while back.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

REVIEW: The Garden of Words (anime movie), on Blu-ray

The Garden of Words is a short movie, only 46 minutes long. It’s licensed by Sentai Filmworks. If I had to pick a genre for it, I’d say maybe drama.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Takao is a 15-year-old high school student with a dream: he wants to become a shoe designer. His unsettled family life and flighty and immature mother forced him to grow up pretty quickly, so he knows he’s going to have to accomplish his dream all on his own, somehow scraping together the money for proper training himself. In the meantime, he allows himself to skip school and go to a quiet garden and sketch shoe designs on rainy mornings but forces himself to go to school at all other times.

One rainy morning he meets Yukino, an elegant-looking woman with nice shoes, at his usual sketching spot. Just like he skips school to sketch, Yukino skips work to drink beer and eat chocolate. The two strike up a quiet friendship and, despite the difference in their ages, Takao finds himself starting to fall for Yukino.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REVIEW: Natsume's Book of Friends (manga, vols. 11-13) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen

Another vacation reading post. I had a huge stack of these available during my vacation. I somehow forgot how good this series was and put off starting them until just a few days before I had to go back home, so I only managed to get through three of them. I'm definitely going to be continuing this series during my next vacation. I'm pretty sure I still haven't made it past the point where the anime stopped (or at least what I've seen of the anime, since apparently there's now more).

As usual with these vacation reading posts, there are spoilers beyond this point.

REVIEW: Orange: The Complete Collection (manga, vol. 2) by Ichigo Takano, translated by Amber Tamosaitis

Orange is a high school drama series. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment and complete in two omnibus volumes.

My review includes major spoilers.

Review:

Warning: this manga deals with depression and suicide. You've probably already read the first volume and know that, but this volume goes into more detail and includes a lengthy section from the POV of a character up to the moment he makes his decision to commit suicide.

I enjoyed this but had some issues with it that I’m not sure I can articulate. Well, I’ll give it a shot.

Orange is only the first two thirds of this volume. The last third is an unrelated story with a completely different tone. I’ll discuss them separately in this review.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

REVIEW: Alliance in Blood (e-book) by Ariel Tachna

Alliance in Blood is m/m urban fantasy with vampires and wizards, published by Dreamspinner Press. It's 210 pages on my Nook Simple Touch.

Review:

I was working on my “Best and Worst of 2017” post and realized I still needed to review this because it’s definitely going to end up on my “worst” list.

This is one of the Dreamspinner Press books I bought before I decided to boycott them for knowingly publishing P2P fanfic and then just sort of shrugging and doing nothing when they were called on it. I had given Tachna’s The Inventor’s Companion 3 stars when I read it back in 2011 and liked it just enough to give her books another shot. This turned out to be a mistake on my part.

I finished this a month and a half ago, so apologies if my summary has some issues. Alliance in Blood stars Orlando, a vampire, and Alain, a wizard. Vampires and wizards have been at war for a long time. Although wizards view vampires as dangerous monsters, they’ve decided that they need to try to form an alliance with them because the wizards are also at war with dark wizards and could use some help. The vampires agree to the alliance 1) because it would give them a chance at having the same rights as wizards and 2) because Alain and Orlando accidentally form a bond and discover that wizard blood might allow vampires to walk in the sun again.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (live action movie)

[This isn't the best or most insightful review, but one of the things I'd like to do in 2018 is be better about writing something for everything, even if what I write isn't all that detailed. I saw several movies in 2017 that never got write ups because I never turned my brief notes into posts.]

I was nervous about going to see this in the theater because, wow, two and a half hours. But my vet told me that my cat was probably on the mend and that I should cut back on force feeding her and see what her food consumption was like, so 1) I wanted to celebrate a little and 2) I needed to get out of the house and stop obsessing about her eating and litter box usage. I even made an event of it and bought myself popcorn and a drink, which I never do.

I still haven't seen Rogue One, and the last time I saw The Force Awakens was when it came out in 2016. I was a little rusty on what had previously happened. For example, I can't for the life of me remember why Finn had all those water (?) things attached to him, although the "leaking" scene was hilarious.

I feel approximately the same about this movie as I did The Force Awakens. Although it made for a nice time at the movie theater and didn't feel nearly as long as I feared it would, I didn't love it the way a lot of Star Wars fans I know did. Again, I seem to like the fandom output more than the original stuff that inspired it.

On the plus side, this didn't feel quite as weighed down by nostalgia as the first movie. On the minus side, it's a very long movie considering how little really happens. The main thing that kept it from feeling so long, I think, was that I enjoyed the characters a bit more this time around. I was nervous about what was going to happen with Rey, I was charmed by Rose, everyone loves Finn, and I worried that Poe was going to manage to get himself kicked out of the Resistance for insubordination. Cranky Luke was kind of fun, and I liked Leia better without Han around (I'm sorry!).

I can't remember how The Force Awakens did in this department, but I definitely noticed that The Last Jedi made an effort to have a significant number of female extras and minor characters. Very nice. And since I love animals, whether they're fictional ones or not, I also enjoyed all the new creatures. My favorites, I think, were the crystal fox things and the Porgs (Ship Porg is best Porg).

I don't plan to buy it or anything, but I'm glad I saw it. Now I need to sit down and watch Rogue One sometime. The main reason I've put that one off is because the few things I read about it made it sound like death and sadness. (Technically The Last Jedi had death and sadness too, but it also had downright goofy bits, like the Porgs and BB-8 literally using its head to fix things, so it balanced out.)

Monday, January 1, 2018

REVIEW: Orange: The Complete Collection (manga, vol. 1) by Ichigo Takano, translated by Amber Tamosaitis

Another vacation read review, so expect major spoilers after the break.

This is another manga that made it onto my TBR list because of some review I came across a while back. I can't remember which one or who wrote it.

Unfortunately, I saw the "complete collection" part and didn't look closely enough before requesting the volume. If I had paid better attention, I'd have realized that "complete collection" didn't mean that the series was complete in this one volume - instead, it's an omnibus edition with one more volume after it. I'd have requested both if I had known.

I went into this with vague memories that the reviewer had loved it, and also that it was maybe science fiction. I suppose it could be considered science fiction due to its thread about parallel universes, but it read more like drama that had the potential to be a tear-jerker.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...