Sunday, May 17, 2015

Virtuality (live action movie), on DVD

Virtuality is a science fiction movie that was originally intended to be the pilot of a TV series. However, the TV series was never picked up. This is a very important detail that the DVD case failed to mention, which means I totally wasn't expecting the ambiguous ending.


Virtuality takes place on the Phaeton, a starship designed to go on a 10-year journey looking for intelligent life. The Phaeton's mission changed once mission control reported that conditions were deteriorating back on Earth – due to increasingly catastrophic weather conditions, Earth will be inhabitable in about a century. The Phaeton's new mission is to search for a new home for humanity.

The Phaeton's crew includes 12 men and women, each with vital roles on the ship. In a very short time, they'll hit the “go/no go” point, at which time Frank, the commander, will have to decide if they'll continue on or turn back to Earth. In the meantime, each of the crew members blows off steam using recreational virtual reality modules (which seem to be malfunctioning in disturbing ways), and viewers are introduced to everybody and their sometimes complicated relationships. As if “go/no go” wasn't making things tense enough, nearly everything on the ship is being filmed for reality TV viewers back at home.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coraline (non-Japanese animation, movie), on DVD

Coraline is a stop-motion horror/dark fantasy movie based on Neil Gaiman's children's book of the same title.


Coraline's family has recently moved to the Pink Palace Apartments. On the suggestion of her busy and exhausted parents, Coraline goes exploring and finds a tiny door that opens up to a brick wall. That night, she wakes up (or dreams of waking up) and follows a jumping mouse to the door, only to find that it now opens to a tunnel that leads to a home just like hers, only better. Her Other Mother cooks delicious food, and her Other Father is more energetic and has time to play with her. The next day, Coraline is back in her original home.

Coraline gradually meets more of her neighbors in the Pink Palace, as well as a boy named Wybie. It's nice enough, but the more time she spends in her other home, the more she wishes she could stay there. Sure, everyone in the other world has buttons for eyes, but everything is so nice there. Until her Other Mother tells her she can stay, but only if she agrees to have buttons sewn onto her eyes.

The Bear Prince and Other Fantasy Folktales (e-book) by Elizabeth McCoy

The Bear Prince and Other Fantasy Folktales is a collection of three stories of the sort that might be told in the author's “Lord Alchemist” world. You have to note this as you're buying the e-book, because McCoy never specifically names that world in the text – she just says that it's a world where magic exists and alchemy has replaced chemistry. This is probably because McCoy published this work prior to publishing Herb-Witch, the first book in her Lord Alchemist series.

At any rate, I think this collection would work fine for someone with no familiarity with the Lord Alchemist series. However, those who are familiar with it would probably get more out of the author's afterword, which briefly explains some of the thought processes involved in creating stories that could conceivably be told in that world. The afterword was actually my favorite part of the e-book.  It made me wish McCoy had written “author's notes” sections for each of the three stories.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Hollow House (e-book) by Janis Patterson

The Hollow House is a historical mystery (with a gothic feel) published by Carina Press. It has a word count of approximately 88,000 words.

This one caught my eye when I was browsing Carina Press's mysteries. I loved the cover, and the setting, Denver in 1919, intrigued me, so I bought it. I'm very glad I did. It had its issues, but it was still a really enjoyable book.

The story: Geraldine Brunton's real name isn't Geraldine Brunton, but it will do, as long as it keeps anyone from connecting her with her past life in Boston. She wants to start a new life in Denver, but first she has to find a job. Unfortunately, she has no marketable skills and no references. It seems hopeless, until she stumbles across an ad for a companion to a semi-invalid lady. She takes a chance and applies. To her relief, Mrs. Stubbs, the lady, takes an immediate liking to her and is willing to overlook her lack of references.

Being Mrs. Stubbs' companion is sometimes boring and occasionally stifling, but Geraldine finds herself growing to like her employer. Her position gives her temporary security, but she knows things could change at any moment. This becomes especially apparent when one of the servants turns up dead and Mrs. Stubbs almost dies of what is either an accidental overdose or an attempt to poison her.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Mouse in the Mountain (e-book) by Norbert Davis

The Mouse in the Mountain is a hard-boiled detective novel. It came out to 110 pages on my Nook Simple Touch and can be read for free via ManyBooks.


This was originally published in 1943, and I downloaded it almost entirely because of the Great Dane on the cover. I should have investigated it a little more closely – I went into it expecting something like a cozy mystery about a guy and his dog, and I got a deceptively harmless-looking detective who had zero issues with killing people and who lied 99% of the time.

The beginning of the book fit in nicely with what I thought it was. Doan was a slightly pudgy, harmless-looking detective who happened to be vacationing in Mexico with Carstairs, his Great Dane. Carstairs was highly intelligent and not nearly as badly behaved as Doan kept insisting he was. I'm more of a cat person, but I imagine that fans of large breed dogs would be amused by Doan's efforts to ensure that Carstairs would be allowed on the tour bus to Los Altos.

Doan's fellow tourists included: Mr. and Mrs. Henshaw; Mortimer, their annoying little snot of a son; Janet, a schoolteacher hoping to see the same places as her historical crush, Lieutenant Emile Perona; Patricia Van Osdel, an heiress; Maria, Patricia's maid; and Greg, Patricia's boyfriend (?). I realized that this was not going to be a cozy mystery when the tour bus made it to Los Altos and one of the first things Doan did was casually shoot a guy. Granted, the guy had a gun, but his utter calm and complete lack of hesitation were still somewhat off-putting. Then Mortimer, the nasty little monster, described the wound in great deal and probably would have poked the body with a stick if his mom hadn't dragged him away. I really hated Mortimer.

Act Like You Love Me (live action movie), via Netflix

Act Like You Love Me is a romantic comedy. I hadn't realized this until after I started watching it, but Christian Keyes, the actor who plays Chad, is the same guy who played Julian, Robert's coffee salesman friend in Black Coffee.


Kelly is a dentist (orthodontist? I can't remember) who is still recovering from a bad break-up. She reluctantly allows her best friend to set her up on a date with Chad, an actor and gym teacher they recently met at a bar. The date turns sour when Kelly decides she's not ready to have sex, but the two find themselves paired up again when Kelly accidentally tells her mom she's bringing her (non-existent) boyfriend to her younger sister's wedding.

Susan, Kelly's sister, immediately suspects that Chad isn't really Kelly's boyfriend and does her best to make them slip up. Meanwhile, Kelly's mom has secretly started drinking again and suspects her husband is cheating on her, Kelly's dad is oblivious, Susan's fiance has a serious secret gambling problem, Larissa (Kelly's cousin?) is causing trouble, and Kelly's brother has contentious relationship with their father because he preferred music over becoming a dentist.

Robot Revolution (live action movie), on DVD

Robot Revolution is a sci-fi movie. I spotted it at Walmart and ignored it for a few weeks before I finally broke down and bought it. This was a bad decision.

The DVD box art looks decent, but don't be fooled: that is not what this movie is about. The only visible robots in the movie are the cleaning bot and Argus. Heck, that android isn't even Argus – in the movie, Argus's design makes him look a bit like he's wearing a WWII era gas mask.


Hawkins, a police officer, and her android partner, Argus, enter an apartment building looking for a woman named Vic who may be involved with a terrorist group. First, though, they have to scan and talk to every single person they encounter along the way. When they finally make it to Vic's apartment, they only have a short while to speak to her before her terrorist clients arrive. After that, the situation pretty much falls apart.

The thing Vic was working on was a nanovirus intended to infect and take over machines. This includes the chips that are implanted inside every person over the age of 18. When a shootout between Hawkins and the terrorists happens, the nanovirus is let loose. Hawkins, Vic, Argus, and several others find themselves having to battle nanovirus-produced zombies and an infected floor cleaning robot (which inexplicably has a laser cannon) in order to get out of the building.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Black Coffee (live action movie), via Netflix

Black Coffee is a romantic comedy with some Christian romance elements that, strangely, go nowhere. Netflix thought I would like it. Unfortunately, Netflix was wrong.

Robert's girlfriend, Mita, breaks up with him the same day he's laid off from the company his dad founded. While looking up the legality of his layoff in a bookstore (did the local library suck that badly?), Robert catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman named Morgan. Their paths cross again when he delivers a bag of coffee to her for a friend.

Morgan is an attorney who is in the process of setting up her own firm. Despite having a few misgivings, she hires Robert to paint her new offices, and the two of them chat and flirt a bit. The only problem: Morgan has a rocky off-and-on relationship with her ex-husband, Hill, who might refuse to ever give back the more than two million dollars worth of property she foolishly let him have.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sign of the Four (e-book) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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

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


I've only ever read a handful of the original Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, and I keep meaning to fix that. Although it's been a while since I last read A Study in Scarlet, I remembered enough to know that I wasn't a huge fan of it, so I decided to skip to the next one, The Sign of the Four. I downloaded it for free from Project Gutenberg.

This one starts with Holmes injecting cocaine into himself while Watson, appalled and disapproving, watches. Holmes is bored, bored, bored, and unless something interesting comes along, he plans to float on a layer of drugs, Watson's worries about the possibility of lasting damage be damned. Thankfully, Miss Mary Morstan arrives with a reasonably interesting case.

Miss Morstan's father has been missing for nearly ten years. Six years ago, she began receiving mysterious packages every year, each one containing a large pearl. Only that morning, she received a letter saying that she was a “wronged woman” and that she would have justice if she went to a particular meeting place. She could bring two friends, but was asked not to notify the police. Holmes and Watson decide to assist her, Holmes because he's intrigued and Watson because Miss Morstan is pretty. Luckily for Holmes, the case quickly becomes more complex.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saronna's Gift (e-book) by Carmen Webster Buxton

Saronna's Gift is a sci-fi romance set in Buxton's ThreeCon Universe. As far as I've been able to tell, most of the books could be read in any order – only a couple of them deal with the same characters or worlds. Those who'd like to start with this book shouldn't have any problems understanding what's going on.

Be warned, this review contains some spoilers.


Disclaimer: The author offered me a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. She has commented on a few of my reviews in the past, but we don't otherwise know each other.

The other books by Buxton that I've read were all marketed as sci-fi, although they all had some romantic elements. I was interested to see what Saronna's Gift, her first book marketed as sci-fi romance, would be like.

This book takes place on Krueger's World, which was colonized by Adolph Krueger. Krueger started off as leader of a fundamentalist Christian group and, from there, sort of became the head of his own cult. The people of Krueger's World rejected a lot of Earth history, technology, science, and medicine. Women  basically became property – if it wasn't possible to marry them off, their patriarchs could sell them. If I remember correctly, men could only have one wife, but they were permitted, even encouraged, to have multiple women.

When we first meet Saronna, her father is taking her to the off-world quarter to meet Vladimir Trushenko, a prospective buyer. To Saronna's dismay, the sale goes through, and she learns that Vladimir intends for her to be his son Duncan's woman. Just one thing: Vladimir didn't bother to tell Duncan about all of this. Duncan is horrified to learn that his father bought another human being for him, and learning that Vladimir primarily intended Saronna to be company for Naomi, his native girlfriend (sort of – it's complicated), only mollifies him a little. Since he can't send Saronna back to her family without risking that she'd be punished, he tells her she can stay as long as she wishes and he won't ask anything of her. She can leave anytime she likes, and he'll even help her get the education she'd need in order to live independently among off-worlders. This is all well and good until the two begin to fall for each other.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion (manga, vol. 1) by Sakurako Gokurakuin, original concept by Broccoli, translated by Rie Hagihara

Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion is a 5-volume fantasy series based on a trading card game. It was released in English by Broccoli Books. I let a coworker of mine borrow a couple of my live action Japanese DVDs, and she let me borrow her Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion box set.


If you'll remember, I hated the live action Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion movie. It looked awful, it was confusing, it completely skipped out on its own climactic battle, and then it just ended. I was curious to see how well the manga would work for me, and whether it would make more sense than the movie.

As it turns out, the live action movie and the manga only have a few similarities. However, like the movie, this first volume of the manga jumps back and forth between a lot of different characters. There are Kaname and Naoya, two friends. Kaname has weird dreams and back pains, and there are hints, early on, that Naoya isn't a normal teenage boy. There's Tsukasa, a gentle teen with amnesia, and Tomonori (I called him Nakaura in my review of the movie, but I'm switching to his given name now), who is both a priest (I guess?) and the mathematics teacher at the school everyone goes to. Mana is a teen who has recently transferred to the school – she desperately wants to find and reconnect with Kaname, who was both her childhood friend and her savior. Isshin is the oldest of the students. He develops a crush on Mana the instant he meets her, which is unfortunate, since she seems to be completely fixated on Kaname (who keeps telling her to leave him be).

This world has five factions, plus the mind breakers. The factions are: Arayashiki (Asian magic), WIZ-DOM (Western priests), Darklore (the guys with black wings), E.G.O. (humans, mostly girls and women, with special powers), and the Erasers (alien beings with white angel wings).

If I'm interpreting things correctly, mind breakers are able to act as the masters of members of these various factions, allowing them full access to their powers so that they can use them in battle. In this volume, Naoya suspects Mana of being a mind breaker, so he attacks her in an effort to force her to reveal her powers. Kaname jumps in to protect her, accidentally revealing that he is a member of the Darklore faction. Meanwhile, there's some stuff with Tomonori, who seems to consider Darklore to be his enemy, and Tsukasa, who secretly has the ability to grow white wings where his ears should be.

Fated to Love You (live action TV series), via Netflix

[This is a spoiler, but I feel it needs to be mentioned: this series features a miscarriage about halfway through. It and the aftermath turned me into a sobbing mess, and I don't even have any personal connection with miscarriages. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who did to watch this show and be blindsided by it.]

Fated to Love You is a contemporary romance. I watched the Korean version, which is a remake of a Taiwanese drama I've never seen. The K-drama version is 20 episodes long.

The series is about Kim Mi Young, a shy office worker whose nickname is “Post-it Girl” because everyone tells her to do stuff for them via post-its. She can never bring herself to say “no,” and nearly everyone around her abuses this aspect of her personality. When she wins a trip for two to Macau and a handsome guy in her office offers to go with her, it seems like a dream come true at first. However, everything goes wrong, and she wakes up in bed with Lee Gun, the wealthy heir to a successful hair product company, with no memory of how she got there.

Gun is just as surprised as Mi Young is. He had traveled to Macau with the intention of proposing to Se Ra, his girlfriend. However, she canceled her travel plans in order to accept an offer that would help her ballet career. It isn't until later that Gun and Mi Young learn they were drugged (Gun on purpose, Mi Young by accident) and that Mi Young is now pregnant.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Yukikaze (book) by Chohei Kambayashi, translated by Neil Nadelman

Yukikaze is a Japanese military science fiction novel. This English edition was published by Haikasoru. I bought my copy used online.


I actually bought Good Luck, Yukikaze, the sequel to this book, first – the mention of AIs in the publisher description piqued my interest. After I realized I'd screwed up, I of course had to buy Yukikaze, but the whole thing made me a little nervous. If I hated Yukikaze, its sequel would probably have sat on my shelves, taunting me and collecting dust, until I finally guiltily added it to my “sell to used bookstore” pile unread. But I did not hate it. I loved it.

Thirty or so years ago, the JAM, mysterious aliens, invaded Earth using a strange portal located in the Antarctic. We managed to beat them back, and, in the book's present, the war now takes place entirely on Faery, the planet just on the other side of the portal. The war has absolutely nothing to do with the average, every day lives of most human beings, and most of the people fighting the JAM are actually convicts from various countries, serving their time on the Faery Air Force (FAF) base.

Rei is one such convict. He's part of the SAF (Special Air Force), and Yukikaze, his fighter plane, is a Super Sylph. Super Sylphs have powerful central computers that collect combat activity data, and their duty is to always make it back, even if it means watching while FAF comrades die. SAF pilots like Rei are selected for their ability to be as cold and detached as possible.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World (book) original concept by Nobuhiro Watsuki, written by Kaoru Shizuka, translated by Cindy Yamauchi & Mark Giambruno

Voyage to the Moon World features stories starring characters from Nobuhiro Watsuki's manga, Rurouni Kenshin. The English translation was published by Viz Media.

I'm opting not to include any read-alikes or watch-alikes for this one.


This was one of my used bookstore finds. Although you wouldn't guess it from the description on the back of the book, this is actually a collection of two stories. The first is “Voyage to the Moon World,” the one that gave the book its title. The second is “Sanosuke and Nishiki-e.”

“Voyage to the Moon World”

Sekihara Tae, one of the daughters of the owner of Akabeko, a beef-pot restaurant, visits the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu dojo with a request: help one of the restaurant's regular customers find a book that was stolen from him.

Okuma Daigoro had arrived at the restaurant with a copy of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. After his meal, he decided to help out at the restaurant for a bit, and that's when the book was stolen. Daigoro doesn't know why someone took it – maybe they planned to translate it into Japanese and sell it, or maybe someone thought its ideas about traveling to the moon had merit – but he does know that his sensei will kick him out if he doesn't get it back. Kenshin and the others agree to help him.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (live action movie), on DVD

Confessions of a Shopaholic is a romantic comedy based on the Shopaholic book series by Sophie Kinsella. I haven't read those books and, considering how badly this movie stressed me out, I doubt I ever will.

Rebecca is deeply and horribly addicted to shopping. It's okay if she can't afford any of it – that's what credit cards are for! Except she has credit cards in the double digits, they're all maxed out, and the magazine she currently works for is closing up shop. Collection agencies won't stop calling, and she has 16 grand worth of debt. When Luke, the editor of a financial magazine she drunkenly accidentally sent a sample of her writing to, offers her a job, she takes it because 1) it's money and 2) it could be her stepping stone to Alette, the fashion magazine she has always dreamt of working for. Rebecca soon has  chance at both success and romance, but her addiction and lies threaten to destroy all of that.
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