Sunday, March 26, 2017

REVIEW: K: Missing Kings (anime movie)

K: Missing Kings is one of the many entries in the K franchise and is, I think, the direct sequel to Season 1 of the K anime.

Review:

If you’d like to watch this but haven’t seen Season 1 of the K anime yet, stop what you’re doing and go watch that first, because this movie isn’t going to make any sense to you otherwise. Characters briefly mention events that happened in the past, but no one bothers to explain things in any depth.

All right, so K: Missing Kings takes place about a year after the events of Season 1 of the anime. Scepter 4 is still acting as sort of the police force of the various clans, and they rush to the Gold Clan’s main building after hearing reports of an attack. Green Clan members are trying to locate Yashiro for some reason and are attempting to do so with Gold Clan’s resources (I think - honestly, Green Clan’s plan was a little confusing).

The Green Clan is also trying to get Anna from HOMRA to help them, but her powers have been unstable for a while. No matter - the Green Clan attempts to kidnap her anyway. Kuroh and Neko, Silver Clan members who have been trying to locate their King, Yashiro, since after the events of the anime, join forces with the few remaining members of HOMRA in an effort to protect Anna.

Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: Daughter of Mystery (e-book) by Heather Rose Jones

Daughter of Mystery is f/f historical fantasy.

Review:

Daughter of Mystery is set in the fictional European country of Alpennia, sometime in the early 19th century. Chapters alternate between Barbara’s perspective and Margerit’s. Barbara knows she’s of noble birth but has no idea who her parents are. Her father lost everything due to his gambling debts and sold her to Baron Seveze when she was only a baby. She is now the baron’s armin (formal bodyguard/duelist).

Margerit Sovitre is the baron’s goddaughter, although he generally hasn’t been in her life much. Margerit is an orphan who was taken in by her aunt and uncle. She has no interest in attending balls or getting married, but that’s the direction in which her life seems to be going, until Baron Seveze dies and everyone learns to their shock that he has left her his entire fortune. He also left her Barbara, despite his promise to free her, and made it so that Margerit cannot free her before she (Margerit) comes of age without most of the baron’s fortune going to the Convent of Saint Orisul instead. Margerit is willing to do this, but her uncle, who still controls her life, isn’t willing to let her. However, Margerit’s efforts win her Barbara’s loyalty. With Barbara at her side, Margerit pursues her heart’s desire: studying philosophy and theology at the university in Rotenek. Meanwhile, Barbara digs into the mystery of her own past.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: And Other True Stories of Trauma, Madness, Affliction, and Recovery That Reveal the Surprising History of the Human Brain (audiobook) by Sam Kean, narrated by Henry Leyva

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is nonfiction and was one of my library checkouts. My library has it via Overdrive.

Review:

This is going to be short, because I never really bother to take notes while listening to audiobooks, and I finished this audiobook almost three weeks ago. I had to look up nearly all of the names used in this review.

This book used specific examples and case studies of individuals with brain injuries to explain how the brain works. The examples included people I’d heard of before, like Phineas Gage and his iron rod, and people I had not, like Daniel Carleton Gajdusek and his work on kuru (and his conviction for child molestation, holy crap). The author included a wide variety of examples, although at times I felt that his choices were a little U.S.-centric. At least two examples involved U.S. presidents.

REVIEW: The Caves of Steel (book) by Isaac Asimov

The Caves of Steel is a sci-fi mystery. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

A while back, Audible did this thing that I think they called “blind date with an audiobook” or something like that. I got matched up with Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. I opted not to buy the audiobook, but the idea of a sci-fi mystery starring a human cop and a robot partner intrigued me, so I requested it via ILL.

The Caves of Steel is set in a future where the Earth’s population has reached the point where people must either live efficiently or die. Everyone lives in great steel-enclosed Cities, eats together in communal kitchens, and uses communal bathrooms, and only robots go out into the open air. Elijah “Lije” Baley, a New York City police detective, is well aware of the kind of life he could have had if his father hadn’t been declassified. He’s also well aware that his job will continue to exist only for as long as he is able to prove that robots can’t do it better, so it’s with significant wariness and distaste that he agrees to work with a Spacer robot on a murder case.

The victim is a Spacer named Roj Nemennuh Sarton. Tensions between Earth humans and Spacers, humans who long since left Earth for other planets but still maintain a small Earth presence, are already high, and this murder threatens to push things to a breaking point. The Spacers believe that one of the City humans killed Dr. Sarton. Although they could insist on their own investigation, they agree to let the New York City police handle it, on the condition that the robot Daneel Olivaw, Dr. Sarton’s creation, be included.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (book) by Jennifer Ashley

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is historical romance.

Review:

As usual, I regret that I didn’t review this sooner. My memories of this book are fuzzier than I’d like, but at least I took notes while reading. I’ll do the best I can.

Beth Ackerley used to be an elderly woman’s companion until the woman died and left everything to her. Now Beth is a wealthy but lonely widow. She thinks that marrying Lyndon Mather will help relieve her loneliness, until Lord Ian Mackenzie warns her about Mather’s mistresses. Since her idea about remarrying didn’t work out, Beth decides to travel to Paris and spend her time painting instead (never mind that she has never painted before in her life).

The thing is, Ian has decided that Beth is going to be his wife - not because he has fallen instantly in love with her, but rather because he wants to have sex with her, and sex with a respectable lady like Beth requires marriage (even Beth wonders at the logic of this). He follows her to Paris, where she asks that the two of them be lovers, but nothing more. The situation is complicated by several murders. An inspector warns Beth that Ian is probably the killer and can’t be trusted, while Beth finds herself unable to believe that Ian could ever murder anyone. But Ian is definitely hiding something

REVIEW: Haikyu!! Collection 2 (anime TV series)

Haikyu!! Collection 2 includes the second half of the first season of this series - episodes 14-25.

Review:

I picked up the second half of the first season of Haikyu!! before I’d completely finished the first half, but it took me a couple weeks to get around to watching it. I probably should have watched both parts back-to-back, but it worked out anyway.

This second half of the season features the series’ first non-practice matches. If Karasuno can win every single one of their upcoming matches, they’ll get to go to the nationals. Their first match is against a so-so team that includes an old friend of Karasuno’s captain. Their second match is against Date Tech, the team that temporarily crushed Azumane’s will to play. Their third match is against Aoba Johsai, the team Karasuno played a practice match against earlier in the season. Although Karasuno has played against them before, they have almost no experience facing off against Aoba Johsai’s primary setter, Oikawa.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

REVIEW: City of Strife (e-book) by Claudie Arseneault

City of Strife is fantasy. I read an ARC copy, which probably differs from the final book.

Review:

City of Strife is set in the bustling city of Isandor and stars a huge cast of characters, each with intersecting storylines, histories, and paths. A few examples:
  • Arathiel, a human whose ill-fated journey to find a cure for his sick sister transformed him, dulling all his senses and giving him a much longer lifespan. It’s been over 130 years since he last set foot in Isandor, and he now feels like an unwelcome stranger there. The one place he feels comfortable: the Shelter, which provides food and a place to sleep to anyone who needs it. It’s there that he becomes friends with Larryn, the Shelter’s owner, Cal, a halfling, and Hasryan, a dark elf.
  • Nevian, an apprentice mage in the Myrian enclave. He lives in constant fear of Master Avenazar, who killed his previous tutor and now regularly abuses him. Nevian’s only ally is Varden, a High Priest of Keroth and former Myrian slave. Unfortunately, Varden, too, must tread carefully around Avenazar.
  • Lord Diel Dathirii, an elf and head of the Dathirii family. When he witnesses Avenazar publicly torturing Nevian, he decides that it’s time to finally take a stand against the Myrians, who have thus far been permitted to live by their own laws while in their enclave in Isandor. The rest of his family will stand by his decisions and support him, but that may not be enough if Isandor’s other noble families decide to abandon House Dathirii to face the Myrians alone.
City of Strife is one of the very few (perhaps only?) ARCs I’ve ever requested from an author. I was interested in the book’s LGBTQIA+ cast and “found family” aspect, and the author had a nice online form that, if I remember correctly, only asked for interested reviewers’ email addresses (easy! low stress! didn’t require NetGalley or a Twitter DM!). The long book description concerned me a little and made it difficult to tell what the book would be like, but I figured I’d give it a shot.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

REVIEW: Haikyu!! Collection 1 (anime TV series)

Haikyu!! is a sports anime that focuses on high school volleyball. It's licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Hinata becomes obsessed with volleyball after seeing a short player, the “Little Giant,” score in a National Championship on TV. He practices as much as possible but has to do most of it on his own or with the girls’ volleyball team. He barely manages to get a team together before his very first match, so it’s no surprise to anyone but him when his team is thoroughly defeated. However, his athleticism and determination to win do at least make an impression on Kageyama, one of the opposing team’s players.

Hinata spends the rest of his time in junior high training, looking forward to the day he can join Karasuno High’s volleyball team, the same one the Little Giant used to play on. What he didn’t expect was that his greatest enemy, Kageyama, would also be joining the team. Even worse, neither of them will be allowed to join if they can’t learn to work together.

REVIEW: Otters in Space (e-book) by Mary E. Lowd

Otters in Space is a self-published sci-fi novel. It's 60,130 words long.

Review:

This is set sometime in the future. Humans have long since abandoned Earth. The dogs and cats they left behind eventually attained sentience and built their own societies in and around humanity’s ruins. They have jobs, government, cars, phones - basically, their lives look a lot like ours today.

Unfortunately for cats, this is largely a dog’s world. Cats are considered second-class citizens and have to struggle to get decent-paying jobs. Kipper, the book’s main character, doesn’t really expect that things will ever get better, but she tries to support her sister Petra’s political aspirations anyway. Then Kipper and Petra learn about a possible secret cat utopia in Ecuador, which they dub “Cat Havana” (never mind that Havana isn’t in Ecuador). After Petra suddenly disappears, apparently to go see Cat Havana for herself, Kipper decides to join her.

Monday, January 30, 2017

REVIEW: The Galloway Road (e-novella) by Catherine Adams

The Galloway Road is a fantasy story published by Less Than Three Press. It's only 19,000 words long.

Review: 

Renna is a young mage on her way to her first job. Her traveling companions include a pair of musicians specifically requested by Renna’s new employer, plus Brett, the mercenary hired to protect them all. Brett is closed mouthed about himself and his past, and Renna has secrets of her own. However, none of that may matter if they can't manage to survive the Galloway Road’s deadly horrors.

This story takes place over the course of 11 days and mostly features the group traveling from one inn to another. The beginning was boring, dull, and a little confusing, although the Galloway Road’s creepy atmosphere eventually grew on me, as did Renna and Brett (sort of). A word of warning: some of the descriptions are gruesome. The Galloway Road is called that because it's lined with gallows and gibbets. Sometimes the people Renna, Brett, and the musicians pass are dead, and sometimes they're not. Honestly, if I had been Renna or the musicians, Galloway Road alone would have had me questioning the wisdom of agreeing to work for Lord Galloway.

REVIEW: Big Windup! 2 (anime TV series)

Big Windup! 2 is the second season of Big Windup!, a baseball anime. Although the first season was licensed by Funimation, it apparently didn’t sell well enough for them to license the second season. Instead, Right Stuf licensed the second season and released it only a couple months ago.

Review:

This second season picks up right where the first one left off - the game between Tosei and Nishiura ended only a few hours prior. Nishiura plays against Sakitama in the first half of the season, and against Bijou in the second half. There are also a few prominent themes and storylines: Bijou’s assistant coach, an ex-Tosei player who wants to win so badly that he encourages a Bijou player to cheat and to injure other players; Abe and his efforts to properly communicate with Mihashi; and Mihashi’s blind obedience to Abe.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

REVIEW: Justice, My Foot (live action movie)

Justice, My Foot is a Hong Kong action-comedy movie.

Review:

Sung Sai Kit is the best lawyer around, willing to take any case (as long as he’s offered plenty of money) and say anything he has to in order to win. His wife, Madam Sung, appreciates all the finery that Sung is able to buy for her, but she also superstitiously believes that Sung’s work is the reason why 12 of their 13 children have died. When their 13th child dies right after Sung’s most recent court win, Madam Sung decides she’s had enough - Sung will retire, even if she has to push him every step of the way. She even goes so far as to curse the child she’s carrying. If Sung breaks his promise and goes back to being a lawyer, then their son will be born without a penis. (They just assume it’ll be a son, since all 13 of their other children were.)

However, it’s Madam Sung herself who eventually convinces Sung to go back to work. She meets a pregnant woman whose husband died under suspicious circumstances, and she argues on the woman’s behalf after the woman gives birth and then tries to kill herself. Sung takes the job on, but the corruption he finds himself up against may be more than even he can handle.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

REVIEW: Big Windup! (anime TV series)

I’ve already reviewed Big Windup! twice, but I figured a third time wouldn’t hurt.

Anyway, I’ve watched this twice in the past month. The first time was intended to be a refresher before watching Big Windup! 2, while the second time was a bit of presidential inauguration self-care.

This first season of Big Windup! introduces viewers to the Nishiura High School baseball team. The team barely has enough members, and they’re all freshmen. Mihashi, in particular, stands out. He says he doesn’t want to be on the team, but it’s obvious he desperately wants to be a pitcher. He pitched all throughout middle school, and his experience on that team was so bad that it emotionally scarred him. He’s now convinced that he’s a terrible pitcher and that no one could possibly want him on a team. However, Abe, the catcher, recognizes his determination and skill and wants him to stay on the team.

The first half of the season shows the whole team training and learning to work together, after which they play against Mihoshi, the team Mihashi would have been on if he hadn’t purposely transferred to another high school. In the second half of the season, Nishiura plays against Tousei, the winner of last year’s National Koshien Tournament.

REVIEW: Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller (e-book) by Chris Strange

Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller is a sci-fi thriller with a bit of a hardboiled detective story mixed in. It's self-published and 83,930 words long.

Review:

About 19 years ago, enormous monsters that were later dubbed “Maydays” appeared all over the world. Over the course of 9 years, they killed 1.1 billion people. Nothing anyone did seemed to have any effect on the Maydays, until Professor Nikolai Volkov unleashed his newly invented mind control technology. Humans still couldn’t harm Maydays, but now they could at least control them. Volkov decided to combine entertainment and punishment and created Volkov Entertainment Incorporated, a company specializing in broadcasting “Mayday vs. Mayday” battles.

The company has been doing pretty well for the past 10 years. Then something shocking and supposedly impossible happens: Yllia, one of the Maydays, dies. Jay Escobar, head of Volkov Entertainment’s Investigative Division, declares that Yllia was murdered. But who could murder a Mayday? Nukes couldn’t put a scratch on them, and even other Maydays are only able to do a little damage.

REVIEW: Tales from Outer Lands (e-book) by Shira Glassman

Tales from Outer Lands is fantasy.

Review:

My edition of Tales from Outer Lands was published by Torquere Press. The author has since rereleased it as part of Tales from Perach.

This collection contains two stories, which I’ll write about separately.

“Rivka in Port Saltspray”

This takes place a year and a half after Rivka left her home, so I think it’s maybe a year and a half prior to the events in The Second Mango. Rivka is stuck in Port Saltspray with no way to get her dragon-horse to Zembluss, where she’d been hoping to fight in a civil war and earn a much-needed paycheck. A man named Waterweed seems to be the answer to her problems: he wants to hire her to fight in a competition for him. The prize, he says, is his beloved’s hand in marriage - because he’s missing an arm, he’d never stand a chance on his own.
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