Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jughead (comic book, #1) written by Chip Zdarsky, art by Erica Henderson

Jughead is an "all ages" humorous comic book series.

I opted not to include a read-alikes list.

Review:

The Jughead reboot made it onto my radar when I learned that Jughead was explicitly revealed to be asexual in Jughead No. 4. Still, Archie Comics has never even vaguely been my thing, so I was going to pass it by. Then Grimlock changed my mind by raving about the Jughead reboot even though she, too, didn't like the original Archie. She also let me know about a Comixology coupon code, which helped seal the deal. It's for 50% off and good until 11:59 PM EST tomorrow (2/14), if you're interested.

So I bought digital comics for the very first time, and single issues at that. I was a little nervous about what the reading experience would be like on my tablet, but I ended up liking the guided view (one panel at a time on the screen, rather than the whole page) quite a bit. In some ways, it increased the element of surprise in the story, since I couldn't see the full page and didn't know what was going to happen in the next panel unless I jumped out of guided view. It also made the comic seem longer than it was.

Okay, now to the comic itself. In this issue, Riverdale High is faced with unexpected and unpleasant changes. Jughead is apathetic about it all, until it affects something he really cares about: the cafeteria food.

Blood Alone (manga, vol. 4) by Masayuki Takano, translated by Nan Rymer

Blood Alone is a vampire manga that was licensed by Seven Seas. I got volume 4 via interlibrary loan.

Review:

In this volume, Blood Alone morphs into an action and cleavage filled vampire manga. It begins with Misaki watching out for some random kid while Kuroe is off searching for the kid's mother. No explanation is given for this case, and the volume never returns to it, because it's primarily intended to lead to the volume's true focus, Kuroe and Misaki's past. Misaki complains about the kid's behavior, Kuroe jokingly says that Misaki used to be worse, and suddenly we have a flashback to several years in the past, when Misaki was still human and Kuroe was a vampire hunter.

I had thought Kuroe worked alone, but he actually had a well-endowed partner named Jessie, who provided maybe 80% of the volume's cleavage. Jessie was Misaki's caretaker when Misaki's father was away, so after Jessie was injured during a hunt she sent Kuroe to temporarily take care of Misaki. They had a rough start, but Kuroe soon won Misaki over. Unfortunately, Kuroe was at a point in his life when he was resistant to using the powers that the vampire who took his sister left him with, and his hesitation meant trouble for both him and Misaki.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February Skoshbox


February's Skoshbox was overwhelmingly fantastic. My only wish was that there had been more of certain snacks. The box included: 1 box Pucca: Chocolate Crisps (crispy pretzel shell with chocolate filling), 1 Chibimaruko Marshmallow (grape jelly mini marshmallows), 1 Pekochan Parasol Choco (strawberry or chocolate parasol pop - I got chocolate), 1 Coffee Beat (creamy chocolate-covered coffee), 1 bag Veggie-Ottotto (puffed crispy veggie chips: consomme seasoning), 2 Soft Oreo: Vanilla (soft Oreo cakes-vanilla cream).

Pucca: Chocolate Crisps:

Little shapes (jellyfish?) made out of a crispy cookie shell filled with chocolate. These were delicious and reminded me strongly of snacks I'd had in Germany years ago. After a bit of Googling, I learned that those were probably something called Koala's March, which actually started off as Japanese snacks. I guess the similarity between the two isn't very surprising, then.

Chibimaruko Marshmallow:

A little package of four marshmallows with a bit of grape jelly in their centers. This reminded me of the Hello Kitty Marshmallows from the November 2015 Skoshbox, except I liked those more. Have I mentioned that I'm not a fan of grape-flavored anything? This was the only snack in this month's Skoshbox that I disliked. I wish the jelly center in these had been any other fruit flavor but grape. Ah well, at least the grape part was relatively small and the marshmallows were good and soft.

Pekochan Parasol Choco:

Cone-shaped chocolate on a little plastic parasol handle - with its wrapper still on, this looked like a little parasol. This was chocolate, so I knew it would at least be decent. It reminded me of the little chocolate suckers I used to get as a kid. According to the little booklet that came with my subscription box, this snack comes in either chocolate or strawberry flavor, so I'm happy I got chocolate.

Coffee Beat:

If someone decided to release a coffee-flavored M&M variety, it might taste something like this. As far as appearance went, they looked like little coffee beans.

I had thought these were going to be chocolate-covered espresso beans, so the reality took a little getting used to, but they were pretty good. I also liked that they came in a resealable cardboard tube, so I could have a little and then save the rest for later.

Veggie-Ottotto:

Puffed savory snacks, very crunchy. These were yummy, but gone too quickly. The packaging made it look like they'd all be shaped like various vehicles, but in reality they tended to look like other things: a rabbit, a carrot, a duck, and even a whale wearing a hat. I have no clue if that's actually what those all were supposed to look like.

Soft Oreo-Vanilla:

Vanilla cream sandwiched between two soft chocolate cakes. These were small (and each package only included one) but they were delicious. Thankfully, if I get a craving for another one of these, it shouldn't be too hard to find something similar among, say, Hostess products. I hope.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Story of Rats: Their Impact On Us, and Our Impact On Them (nonfiction book) by S. Anthony Barnett

The Story of Rats is nonfiction, originally published in 2001. I may have owned it for almost that long.

I've opted not to include a read-alikes list.

Review:

I first became interested in rats after being required to train a rat to do various tasks in an Intro to Psychology class in college. I ended up getting myself a pet rat (not realizing at the time that they should at least be kept in pairs) and have had a total of five rats over the years. I also spent several months writing a paper on various aspects of rodent control. I've read a bunch of nonfiction books on rats, and S. Anthony Barnett's is one of my favorites. However, it's been maybe a decade since I last read it, so I figured a reread was in order. Also, my last pair of rats died long enough ago that I figured rereading this wouldn't make me too sad.

One-Punch Man (manga, vol. 2) story by ONE, art by Yusuke Murata, translated by John Werry

One-Punch Man is an action comedy series. It's licensed by VIZ Media.

Review:

In the first half of this volume, Saitama and Genos learn more about the House of Evolution, the group behind the genetically modified beings they battled in the previous volume. The House of Evolution was founded by an evil genius who believes that humanity's continued evolution should be artificially assisted. Genos and Saitama battle the evil doctor's most powerful and least emotionally stable being, Carnage Kabuto.

In the second half of the volume, a terrorist group that believes that nobody should have to work decides to go after the richest man in town. The man's bodyguard, a ninja named Speed-O'-Sound Sonic, battles them – and also Saitama, who he mistakes for a terrorist because Saitama and the terrorists are all bald.

Blood Alone, Omnibus Collection 1 (manga, vols. 1-3) by Masayuki Takano, translated by Nan Rymer

Blood Alone is a vampire manga that was licensed by Seven Seas.

Warning: my review includes a Bunny Drop spoiler, mentioned because I thought the two series were worth comparing.

I've opted not to include read-alikes or watch-alikes. If you'd like some, please check out my first review of this volume.

Review:

I reread this so that I could read the next volume in the series and have a fresher memory of what had already happened. I'm rereviewing it because 1) my reviewing style has changed since I first reviewed this back in 2011 and 2) I'm even less impressed with it now than I was back then.

Blood Alone is an odd mix of vampire, crime, and sweet slice-of-life manga. The main characters in the omnibus are Misaki and Kuroe. Misaki is a young vampire - I don't think her age was stated, but I've seen guesses that range anywhere from 10 to 12, which is kind of horrifying when you consider how much of this omnibus focuses on Misaki's crush on Kuroe. Kuroe is a young man (maybe in his mid-to-late 20s?) who used to hunt vampires after one kidnapped his sister and possibly turned her. Now, though, he spends most of his time taking care of Misaki, writing, and doing occasional work as a private investigator. He seems to do everything from finding missing pet cats to tracking down serial killers, and his eyes are magically immune to trickery.

Misaki and Kuroe are aided by Sainome, Higure, and several others. Sainome was the daughter of the doctor who took care of Kuroe's sister, and she has the ability to see the last few minutes of a deceased person's life when she touches them. She often encourages Misaki's crush on Kuroe, while also being attracted to him herself. Higure looks to be about the same age as Misaki, but he's actually a much older and more powerful vampire. He acts as a sort of vampire mentor for Misaki.

Amphigorey (graphic novel) by Edward Gorey

Amphigorey is a graphic novel (?) featuring 15 different works by Edward Gorey. I bought it ages ago and might have read it before, although I can't remember.

Warning: this post contains spoilers. I don't personally think that matters much here, but some might. Also, I've opted not to include read-alikes.

Review:

This is basically an anthology of short, illustrated stories. As with any anthology, some stories are better than others. I found I tended to enjoy Gorey's longer stories more than his short poems. My favorites in this book were “The Unstrung Harp,” “The Hapless Child,” “The Curious Sofa,” “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” and “The Remembered Visit.” In general, even when I didn't necessarily enjoy the stories, I loved Gorey's artwork.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer (nonfiction audiobook) by David Leavitt, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer is nonfiction. I checked it out from my library via Overdrive.

I opted not to include a read-alikes list for this.

Review:

This is a tough book for me to review, because at least 50% of it went in one ear and out the other. Don't get me wrong, it was interesting, it's just that I couldn't follow a lot of it.

Part of the problem was the diagrams. I'm pretty sure there were a lot of them, especially in the first half of the book, and the poor narrator had to read all of it out loud. I have a feeling that, even if I weren't a more visual learner, I still would have had trouble following the various long series of letters or numbers used to demonstrate Turing's ideas.

The other problem was that the first half of the book didn't seem to have a solid organizational structure. The author would discuss people or ideas that didn't seem to have much connection to Turing, then move onto another subject, and then another. It was interesting stuff, but I had trouble seeing how it all connected.

Thankfully, the latter half was much less confusing. I enjoyed the sections on Turing's cryptography work during World War II, and I loved the sections near the end on Turing's ideas about machine learning and artificial intelligence. While I didn't always agree with his theories about how a machine might best be taught, which were based on old-fashioned child rearing techniques (and which I recognize would not necessarily have been considered old-fashioned from his perspective), I found his way of thinking about machines to be fascinating.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (live action movie), via Netflix

In Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Prem, a high school dropout, agrees to marry Sandhya, an overweight young woman, in the hope of improving his family's fortunes. Although Prem doesn't have a future beyond his family's cassette tape recording shop, Sandhya is educated and hopes to become a teacher soon.

Although Sandhya is eager to be a good wife and adapt to living with her husband's family, pretty much everyone is a jerk to her. Prem's aunt insults Sandhya at every opportunity, making fun of her weight and saying that she thinks she's too good for them. As for Prem, all he sees when he looks at Sandhya is a fat and therefore unattractive woman his father forced him to marry. He wants a different life, one where he managed to graduate high school and marry a slim young woman. Sandhya, meanwhile, becomes more and more fed up with the way she's being treated.

Warning: this review includes a few spoilers.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mixed Vegetables (manga, vol. 3) by Ayumi Komura, translated by JN Productions

Mixed Vegetables is a food and romance manga series. It's licensed by VIZ.

Review:

I reviewed the first two volumes of this series ages ago. For those who need a refresher: Hanayu is a pastry chef's daughter but secretly dreams of being a sushi chef, and Hayato is a sushi chef's son who secretly dreams of being a pastry chef. At the end of the previous volume, Hanayu learned that the sushi chef who made the first sushi she ever ate and who inspired her dream was Hayato's father.

In this volume, Hayato takes Hanayu to his family's sushi restaurant. Hayato's father takes an immediate shine to her and tells her she can work part-time at his restaurant. It's an exciting offer and prompts Hanayu to finally tell her father about her dream. Unfortunately, the news doesn't go over well, and Hanayu spends much of the volume worrying that she's being selfish and letting her father and her younger brother (who has the makings of a pro baseball player, as long as he's not expected to inherit the bakery) down. Meanwhile, Hayato still needs to tell his father about his dream, but can he go through with it after seeing how things went for Hanayu?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January Skoshbox


Of all the Skoshboxes I've gotten so far, this has been the most disappointing, especially compared to the deliciousness that was December's Skoshbox. Half of the snacks were either a bit too weird for me or didn't fit my snack texture preferences.

January's Skoshbox included 1 pouch of Puccho: Hoppe-chan Gummies (Japanese cherry flavor), 1 box of Sakupanda Zed (double chocolate panda face cookies), 1 Gaburi-chu Cola Stick (chewy cola flavored soft candy stick), 1 packet of Ao-Be Soda Gum (two sticks of mouth staining color soda gum, 1 bag of Korokoro Sugar Rusk (crispy sugar rusk cubes), and 2 Umaibo: Yakitori (grilled chicken skewer flavored corn puff).

Puccho: Hoppe-chan Gummies:

These were very, very tiny, but tasty. As the description said, they were cherry-flavored. They were a bit firmer than I expected, but considering their tiny size I guess that wasn't such a surprise. The pouch they came in was cute and resealable.

Sakupanda Zed:

I saved this one for last, because I figured it would be as good as Sakupan-Land from last year's November Skoshbox. Thankfully, it was, although the design seemed a little morbid. Each little cookie-thing was composed of two fused layers. One layer was a panda face made out of chocolate - each one had a different expression. The other layer was a chocolate cookie with a smaller, simpler panda face that I initially mistook for a chocolate-covered pretzel. After eating a few of these, I realized that the cookie part looked like what you might see if you could X-ray the chocolate panda face and see its skeleton.

Gaburi-chu Cola Stick:

I expected this to be my least favorite snack and, lo and behold, it was. I hated the sticky, chewy texture - I'm not a fan of Starburst candies for the same reason. The flavor was a weird mixture of Coke and citrus fruit (maybe orange?), with an edge of bubblegum underneath.

Ao-Be Soda Gum:

One stick was green and the other was blue. I tried them about a week apart, so I can't really say whether they tasted very different from each other, but the colors mattered as far as tongue-staining went. And, yes, these stain your tongue pretty well.

These had a kind of artificial berry flavor, bright and sweet. The texture made me think of Bubble Yum gum. I liked that, as well as the large size of the sticks. However, I'm not really a gum fan, because I think most gum loses its flavor too quickly, and I can't say that this stuff was an exception.

Korokoro Sugar Rusk:

This tasted like sugar-sweet peanut-flavored croutons. A small number of salted peanuts were also included in the bag.

I didn't dislike this the way I disliked the Gaburi-chu Cola Stick, but it was too strange for me. I'm used to things with this texture being salty, not sweet.

Umaibo: Yakitori:

These were a little bizarre, although not my least favorite snack in the box. Texture-wise, these were like giant hollow Cheeto cylinders, only without the powdery coating. The taste paired oddly with the texture, because it really did taste like some kind of seasoned/sauce-covered chicken.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (book) by Jane Jensen

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is a paranormal mystery based on a computer game. I've owned it for ages and finally got around to reading it.

I'm not including any read-alikes for this.

Review:

Gabriel Knight is a New Orleans bookseller and horror novelist. He wants to make it big as an author, but everything he's written so far has flopped. He has high hopes for his next novel, which he plans to base on the recent killings the media has dubbed the Voodoo Murders. First, though, he wants to figure out as much as possible about what's really going on. The police think all the voodoo stuff is fake, a smokescreen meant to hide mob activity, but Gabriel's not so sure. He finds his investigation mixing strangely and uncomfortably with the horrifying dreams he keeps having, in which a woman is burned at the stake.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz (manga, vol. 7) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz is a fantasy romance series based on a visual novel. It's licensed by Seven Seas.

Warning: this post contains some spoilers. Also, I opted not to include a read-alikes list.

Review:

It's the last volume! I read volumes 1 through 6 during my vacation because I didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have the whole set. Instead of waiting until my next vacation to get the final volume, I decided to request it via interlibrary loan (I'm so thankful for ILL, it's wonderful).

The first half of this volume was a continuation of the main story, while the next half was a continuation of the prequel story (set in the Country of Hearts) included at the end of several of the other Cheshire Cat Waltz volumes.

The main story: Alice is working at the cafe while Pierce and Boris enjoy a nice meal. Or rather, Pierce enjoys his meal while Boris picks at his and surreptitiously watches a Faceless customer. Alice becomes concerned when Boris suddenly disappears. He left to confront the Faceless man and put Pierce in charge of keeping Alice safe. However, there are quite a few more enemies in the area than Boris realizes. Luckily for both Boris and Alice, Blood and his gang are well-prepared.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Arrows of the Queen (book) by Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen is fantasy. It's the first published book in Lackey's Valdemar series, and it's the first book in the Arrows trilogy (or Queen's Own trilogy, or whatever you want to call it). This is one of the books I often recommend that newbies to the series start with, although there are several other good starting points one could choose.

Review:

Thirteen-year-old Talia is a member of the Holderkin, a puritanical and patriarchal group of people in the country of Valdemar. Although reading is considered an unwomanly activity, Talia loves to read and secretly dreams of becoming a Herald, or at least going to live with them. All she knows about them is whatever she's been able to figure out from books: they're kind and noble, they keep the peace in Valdemar, and they ride Companions, gorgeous and intelligent white horses. When the Elders tell Talia that it's time for her to be married, she runs away and accidentally stumbles upon one of the Companions she has dreamed about for so long. He doesn't have a Herald with him, so she figures she'll take him back to where he belongs and hopefully convince someone to give her a job. So begins Talia's new life as a Herald trainee.

Horimiya (manga, vol. 1) by HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara, translated by Taylor Engel

Horimiya is a romantic comedy. It's licensed by Yen Press and was originally a web comic (or is a spin-off based on a web comic? I'm not entirely sure).

Review:

At school, Kyouko Hori is perfect and popular. She has great grades, she looks gorgeous, and everyone wants to spend time with her. Izumi Miyamura, on the other hand, looks like a gloomy geek. Then one day Hori and Miyamura find out each other's secrets: both of them are very different outside of school. The reason why Hori can never go out with her friends after school is because her parents work all the time and she's responsible for taking care of her brother and all the housework. Outside of school, she never wears makeup and barely bothers to do her hair. And Miyamura is secretly tattooed and pierced.
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