Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ancillary Mercy (audiobook) by Ann Leckie, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

I enjoyed Adjoa Andoh's narration of Ancillary Sword enough to want to listen to her narration of Ancillary Mercy, and I loved Ancillary Mercy when I read the paperback version a short while ago. There isn't much I can write about the story that I either didn't already say in my review of the paperback version or don't want to write for fear of spoilers, so I'll stick to writing primarily about Andoh's narration.

Like Ancillary Sword, I feel that, if you have no preference for one format or another, it would be best to read Ancillary Mercy in print before listening to it in audiobook format. Although I loved most of Andoh's voices, I continued to dislike her Translator voices, and a particular Translator character is included in a large portion of this book. While I didn't love that character in the paper version of the book, I also didn't really mind her. In the audio version, she grated on my nerves somewhat. To be fair, Andoh's voice had the opposite effect as far as the Ghost Gate ship was concerned – I think I came to like her more in the audiobook than I did in the paper version.

As usual, there were a few songs that clearly weren't meant to be sung aloud, which made listening to them a bit painful. However, I did think that the “peep peep peep” song reached new heights of hilarity in the audiobook. I wonder, did Andoh really mean for it to sound that intense? Between that and Anaander Mianaai's tantrums, poor Andoh's voice really got a workout this time around.

There was one bit in the narration that was either a mistake or a choice on Andoh's part that I didn't agree with. At the beginning of the book, Mercy of Kalr spoke through Seivarden, and Andoh used Seivarden's voice to say those lines. Later in the book, Mercy of Kalr spoke through Seivarden, but Andoh opted to use Mercy of Kalr's voice. The inconsistency bugged me.

I'm sure I'll be listening to this again, but I prefer my paperback copy, if only because it's so easy to flip straight to my favorite parts. I tried to remember to bookmark my favorite parts as I listened, but it's not quite the same.

K (anime TV series), via Netflix

K is a 13-episode fantasy (urban fantasy?) series. I wanted to watch it after seeing clips of some of its battles in various anime AMVs, so I was thrilled when Netflix picked it up.


K stars a carefree young man who goes by the name Shiro. Although he acts a bit like a stray cat sometimes, begging for food from his fellow classmates and wandering in and out of just about everywhere, he appears otherwise normal. That's why it's such a shock when HOMRA, an infamous group of thugs, airs a video clip that appears to prove that Shiro killed one of HOMRA's most beloved members. Shiro finds himself on the run with a skilled swordsman named Kuroh and Neko, a Strain who, besides being able to appear as either a cat or a human, has other mysterious abilities. Kuroh has sworn to kill Shiro, who he believes is the corrupt new Colorless King, unless Shiro is able to prove that he is innocent.

The Decagon House Murders (book) by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Decagon House Murders (Jukkakukan no Satsujin) is a mystery. I got it via interlibrary loan.


The one other book by Ayatsuji that I'd read, Another, was interesting enough that, when I heard The Decagon House Murders (originally published in 1987) had been translated, I knew I wanted to read it. In some ways it turned out to be better than Another, but in some ways it was worse.

In The Decagon House Murders, we have a setup in which seven friends who are all part of their university's Mystery Club decide to spend a week on Tsunojima Island. They stay in the Decagon House, a house built in a decagonal shape. It had been designed by the island's previous owner Nakamura Seiji (the translator left all Japanese names in their original order).

Just as Seiji had designed the Decagon House so that it and everything in it, including the mugs in the kitchen, was decagon-shaped, so had he also designed the Blue Mansion. It and everything inside it had been entirely blue. However, it had burned down a while ago. The way the story went, Nakamura Seiji's gardener had killed Seiji's wife and cut off her hand, then killed Seiji and a servant couple that lived in the house, and then burned the entire house down. The gardener had never been found. The Mystery Club thought it might be interesting to stay on an island where such a thing had occurred, just a harmless thrill. However, on the second day they discover seven plastic plates with “The First Victim,” “The Second Victim,” “The Third Victim,” “The Fourth Victim,” “The Last Victim,” “The Detective,” and “The Murderer” painted on them.

Meanwhile, Kawaminami, a former member of the Murder Club, has received a strange letter claiming that Nakamura Chiori had been murdered by “all of you.” Chiori, another Murder Club member, had died over a year ago, from a combination of alcohol poisoning and a bad heart. Kawaminami learns that another club member got a similar letter, prompting him to begin investigating. Was it really sent by Nakamura Seiji, Chiori's father? And if he's still alive, then what really happened in the Blue Mansion?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

iZombie, Season 1 (live action TV series), via Netflix

iZombie is a TV series based on a comic book series of the same name. I have yet to try the comic book, so I have no idea how the two compare.


The series stars Liv, a medical resident who reluctantly agrees to go to a boat party only to end up in the middle of a scene straight out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Liv falls overboard, but not before she's scratched by one of the zombies. When she comes to, she's inside a body bag and experiencing a strong craving for brains. Some time later, Liv has abandoned her efforts to become a doctor and has begun working at the morgue instead, because it gives her easier access to brains. None of her family members know her secret – she even broke things off with her fiance rather than explain to him what she had become and risk turning him into a zombie as well. However, Ravi, her boss, figures things out. Rather than being shocked or disgusted, he's actually pretty delighted (by the way, Ravi is probably my favorite character in the whole series). He thinks that he might be able to find a cure for Liv's condition.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Part Two, Episodes 14-26 (anime TV series), on DVD

Just a short review this time, since I don't want to give too much away and don't yet know how the rest of the series will turn out.

If you manage to make it through the first 13 episodes and their super-condensed depiction of events that were already covered in the first TV series, you're set, because this boxed set is when things really take off. Episode 14 is the point when this series and the original TV series begin to seriously diverge.

This boxed set made me happy I continued watching this series, despite the somewhat disappointing first bunch of episodes. The action, revelations, and twists were tons of fun.

According to my blog, the last volume of Fullmetal Alchemist I read was volume 16, way back in 2008. This FMA: Brotherhood boxed set didn't get as far as the events from that volume, which meant I should have been familiar with everything that happened. However, I was not. Apparently I've forgotten quite a bit in the past seven years, because Mustang's battle with Lust (which was amazing, by the way) rang no bells for me. Neither did Wrath's past. However, I did remember the bit where Edward and Ling Yao ended up trapped inside Gluttony.

It's actually kind of nice that I've forgotten most of this, since it means I can watch everything like I'm finding out about it for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing what else this series throws my way, and how things turn out for the Elric brothers in the end. I'm also looking forward to rewatching this stuff with the Japanese dub turned on, since this boxed set introduced several characters that never had a chance to be in the original TV series.

  • Disc 1, Episode 14 commentary with Mike McFarland (Havoc, although here he's speaking more as one of the show's ADR Directors), Chris Patton (Greed), and Vic Mignogna (Edward) - There's a good bit of discussion on the ways that this episode differs from the same one in the original series, as well as the effects that this has. In the original series, Greed got a bit more screen-time and became a very popular character among fans.
  • Disc 2, Episode 23 commentary with Mike McFarland (Havoc)m Todd Haberkorn (Ling Yao), Monica Rial (May Chang), and Trina Nishimura (Lan Fan) - For this commentary they brought together most of the people voicing characters that didn't exist in the original TV series.
  • Disc 2, Second clean opening animation - I enjoyed the song, although the actual closing animation wasn't as wonderful as the animation for the first opening song.
  • Disc 2, Second clean closing animation - I didn't like this one as much as the first, but it wasn't bad.
  • Disc 2, Trailers for The Slayers, Initial D, Nabari no Ou, Soul Eater, Kaze no Stigma, Dragon Ball Z, and Full Metal Panic!
  • Four full-color illustrated postcards - These are actually only postcards in terms of size - the stuff printed on the backs of them prevents them from ever being used as real postcards. These aren't bad, although I've seen better FMA: Brotherhood artwork. It's too bad the image on the boxed set wasn't used on one of the cards.

The Martian (book) by Andy Weir

The Martian is sci-fi. It's also Andy Weir's first novel.


The Martian is a near-future look at what might happen if an astronaut were accidentally stranded on Mars.

NASA had already previously sent astronauts to Mars on two separate occasions, so Mark Watney's mission, while not danger-free, was supposed to be relatively uneventful. Then the sandstorm happened. The rest of Watney's crew had every reason to believe he died in it, and so they left him behind. Except that he didn't die, which meant that he had to figure out how to communicate with Earth in order to let everyone know he was still alive, and he had to figure out how to go from 300 days worth of food to enough food to last for four years, the amount of time it would take for the next scheduled Ares mission to arrive.

Goong (live action TV series), via Dramafever and Viki

Goong is a 24-episode K-drama set in an alternate universe in which modern-day Korea is run by a constitutional monarchy. It's based on a manhwa by Park So-hee – I haven't read any of it yet, so I have no idea how it compares to this show.


Shin Chae Kyung is an ordinary girl who dreams of one day becoming a famous designer. She happens to attend the same school as Lee Shin, the Crown Prince of Korea. However, other than the time she overheard him proposing to his girlfriend, their paths don't really cross much. That's why it's such a shock when she learns that she and Shin are engaged. As it turns out, Chae Kyung's grandfather saved the previous king's life, and so the two of them agreed that their grandchildren would get married when they were old enough. This marriage will save Chae Kyung's debt-ridden family and give the royal family the stability it needs, as the current king's health gradually worsens. Unfortunately, Shin's still in love with his girlfriend, and Chae Kyung's not sure she's ready for the restricted and closely-watched life of a royal.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Sign of Four (audiobook) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, narrated by David Timson

The Sign of Four is Doyle's second Sherlock Holmes novel.

I bought this audiobook when it was a Daily Deal on Audible.

I reviewed an e-book version of this way back in April, so I don't plan to write another synopsis or very much about the story itself. My feelings about the story didn't really change, although I was maybe more keenly aware of the giant pile of mush that Watson became every time he thought about Mary. Even though they'd only just met, and he barely even knew her. In his eyes, she wasn't so much a person as she was an angelically ideal vision of womanhood.

Another thing I noticed was that the racism even more cringe-worthy when read aloud. Christians could be trusted to keep their word, while Hindus were untrustworthy liars. Tonga was called a savage for killing people with poisoned darts in order to help the man who saved his life, whereas Jonathan Small was just a rough man who'd been wronged and carried a grudge. And I still can't believe Holmes couldn't see the logical fallacy in supposed cannibals killing with poisoned darts. Well, I suppose I can believe it, but it disappointed me nonetheless.

The main thing I liked about this audiobook was the narration. David Timson's voice worked well for both Watson and Holmes. I would gladly buy his narration of another one of the Sherlock Holmes stories.


The audiobook comes with a downloadable reference guide that includes a short essay about the story, English translations of the Holmes' few German and French remarks, and a list of the music used in the audio production.

Ancillary Sword (audiobook) by Ann Leckie, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

Ancillary Sword is the second book in Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.


I wrote a review of my paperback copy of Ancillary Sword a couple months ago. Since my feelings about the story haven't changed, I'm not going to be writing about that here. I'm also not going to write another synopsis. Instead, I'll stick to the audiobook narration.

Adjoa Andoh did a primarily wonderful job narrating this book. I most loved the voices she used for Breq, Mercy of Kalr, and Tisarwat. Seivarden's somewhat creaky voice took some getting used to, but I came to like her as well. My least favorite of her voices were probably Captain Hetnys, Raughd, Fosyf, and Dlique. Considering how things turned out with Captain Hetnys, I thought that her German accent was an overly stereotypical choice, although I admit that my being half-German may be a factor in that. Raughd and Fosyf's voices were just plain annoying. I'm sure this was entirely intentional, since they weren't supposed to be anywhere near likable, but it did make listening to them a chore. As far as Dlique went, I liked her well enough when I read the paper version of the book, but I found that her oddly nasal voice in the audiobook made me dislike her somewhat.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ancillary Mercy (book) by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy is the third book in Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.

No read-alikes section in this review, since I wouldn't be putting anything in it that wasn't already in the read-alikes sections for the first two books. Also, I seem to be running out of steam as far as reviewing goes, and I'm hoping that skipping read-alikes sections whenever I feel like it, at least for a while, will help me get some momentum back. Or at least help me not lose what momentum I have left.


This is not a trilogy you can read out of order – if you haven't read the first two books, I highly recommend you do so before reading Ancillary Mercy. And if you're not a fan of the pacing in those books, you probably won't be a fan of it in this one. Also, a note: I've found that I need to reread these books in order to catch everything going on. I haven't reread Ancillary Mercy yet, although I definitely plan to. I'm just so far behind on my review writing right now that I decided I wasn't going to wait to write this one too.

Ancillary Mercy begins not long after the events in Ancillary Sword. For some perspective: Queter hasn't been interrogated yet. The part of Anaander Mianaai that is angry at Breq has taken Tstur Palace and has almost certainly sent a portion of herself after Breq. Meanwhile, someone who may be an agent of that part of Anaander Mianaai is interfering with the efforts to repair the Undergarden and allow the Ychana who lived there to go back to their homes.

It's tough to know what to say that wouldn't count as a spoiler. However, I feel I should also mention that readers finally get to meet the ship from beyond the Ghost Gate, a Presger Translator makes an appearance, and there is “AI stuff” and “messy relationship stuff” (“romance” isn't really the right word) galore.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain (audiobook) by A. Lee Martinez, narrated by Scott Aiello

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain is humorous sci-fi. I got it on Audible. It's almost seven and a half hours long.

Again, no read-alikes. I'm finally making progress on this review backlog.


Emperor Mollusk is a squishy super-intelligent cephalopod. He spends most of his time inside robotic bodies he built for himself, and he does not handle boredom well. He took over the planet Earth just because he could, but then found himself at a loss. His mind control turned all human beings into peaceful Emperor Mollusk fans, leaving the planet defenseless against outside attacks. Or Emperor Mollusk's inventions run amok. When you're constantly busy creating new things, it's easy to lose track of the occasional enraged genetically modified creature.

Mollusk is now a retired supervillain. He's not looking for forgiveness and doesn't particularly feel bad about what he did (except for maybe Saturn, that went badly). He just wants to continue inventing things and keep Earth as safe as possible until the humans have completely gotten over his mind control and are ready to take care of themselves again. Unfortunately, someone seems to be trying to kill him. Zala, a Venusian warrior who looks like a feathered reptile, becomes his reluctant bodyguard.

Like Clockwork (audiobook) by Bonnie Dee, narrated by Helen Stern

Like Clockwork is a steampunk romance published by Carina Press. The e-book version is about 31,000 words long, while the audiobook version was a little over 3 hours.

Again, I haven't included any read-alikes.


I was so happy when I realized that Carina Press has several audiobooks on Audible priced at less than $5. I identified a few with interesting-sounding descriptions, culled the ones with truly terrible narrators, and then selected one that I knew I didn't already own in e-book form. The book I ended up with was this one, Like Clockwork. I listened to the full sample, but I didn't bother to hunt down the e-book excerpt. Maybe I should have. Or maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.

At any rate, on the surface this seemed like a good fit for me. I like steampunk, and the narrator sounded fine. There would potentially be automatons. Nice, right?

Wrong. Right from the start, the heroine annoyed me. She was involved in the creation of the automatons (actually, from what I could tell, the only thing she invented was their realistically human exteriors, but whatever), but she was horrified at how quickly society had adopted them. She had intended for them to replace humans in dangerous jobs, that's it, but instead people started assigning them to service positions. (One more thing: why did the automatons need realistically human exteriors if they were just going to be doing dangerous industrial jobs? Victoria really didn't think this through very well.) Victoria grudgingly had one as a butler, and she even spotted one taking care of a child. The horror! What would become of children raised by stiff, soulless, emotionless machines? And what about those reports Victoria had gotten of automatons spontaneously attacking humans? Later examination revealed nothing wrong with the automatons, so what was going on?

Problems in Organizing Library Collections (nonfiction book) by Doralyn J. Hickey

Problems in Organizing Library Collections is nonfiction. I got it via interlibrary loan.

There are no read-alikes because this isn't fiction, although I have to admit that I read it more for pleasure than for professional development.


Not long ago, a couple people in one of the cataloging Facebook groups I'm part of were reading this, and I thought it sounded like fun. The series it's part of deals with many areas of librarianship, but this particular volume looks at the problems faced by those making decisions about the cataloging, processing, and organization of libraries. It includes 30 case studies featuring real-life problems and fictional libraries and people. It ends with written analyses of two of those case studies.

Unfortunately, this book was originally published in 1972 and is more than a little dated. Although my library science courses covered some historical information, they were understandably focused on current and future practice. I've seen the National Union Catalog books, but I don't have a clue what went into putting it together, and I was never required to use them. I've seen and used a card catalog in the past decade or so, and my cataloging classes briefly covered some of the ways that the current cataloging rules were meant more for printed catalog cards than for a computerized environment. However, I've never had to catalog on actual cards. And that's not even getting into the terminology I flat out couldn't understand.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Angel of Elhamburg (manga) by Aki

The Angel of Elhamburg is, I guess, a fantasy manga, although the fantasy aspects are very light. It’s published by Yen Press. I got it via ILL.

I'm super behind on my reviews, so I'm going to skip putting together a read-alikes list for this since I have a feeling it would take me a while.


The Angel of Elhamburg is about two friends, Madeth and Lalvan (or possibly Lalva – either someone at Yen Press screwed up, or "Lalva" is a nickname, because both versions are used in the text). When Madeth and Lalvan saw how the current lord was mistreating the people, they decided to do something about it. Lalvan was the one who fought the best and won all the battles, but Madeth was the one that everyone gathered around, leaving Lalvan secretly jealous of his childhood friend. A part of him couldn’t help but look down upon Madeth, who he saw as being less accomplished than himself. After all, Lalvan did everything for Madeth. He even wrote Madeth’s love letters for him, since Madeth couldn’t hardly read or write and cared nothing for poetry.

Lalvan is reminded of his jealousy every time he sees the Angel of Elhamburg. The angel kissed Madeth, blessing him the same way it had blessed the previous lord of the castle, but it kept its distance from Lalvan, even though Lalvan was the only one who could see it. Unfortunately, what Lalvan doesn’t realize is that he isn’t the only one hiding a secret, festering jealousy, and the next generation has to deal with the consequences.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

White Haired Witch (live action movie), via Netflix

White Haired Witch is a Chinese wuxia fantasy movie that Wikipedia tells me is loosely based on a novel. I spotted it in Walmart a while back and almost bought it several times, because the cover art was so pretty and because I thought it might be a gorgeous fantasy romance. Thank goodness I never caved, because it would be on my “to sell or donate” pile now.

Warning: this post includes spoilers.

This movie was complicated and confusing. I took a few notes here and there, but I'm sure my summary will get details wrong. Anyway, Zhuo Yihang is the movie's hero. He lived in some kind of monastery (or martial arts school? I have no clue). After he was declared the new head of the community, he was sent to deliver a red pill to the emperor (or king? I forget which title was used). Along the way, he met and was intrigued by a beautiful nameless warrior woman.

The emperor's eunuch secretly withheld the red pill from the emperor, resulting in the emperor's death. Yihang was accused of killing him, but Yihang had already left and ended up in Fort Luna. Fort Luna stood between two warring countries, and one side's army had been trying to take it over for ages. While at Fort Luna, Yihang met the nameless lady again and gave her the name Lian Nishang. Although Nishang had promised her teacher that she'd never fall in love, she ended up falling in love with Yihang. Unfortunately, the two lovers were soon separated, as the forces that had been sent to capture Yihang found him.
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