Sunday, July 24, 2016

REVIEW: Julia, Skydaughter (novella) by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Julia, Skydaughter is science fiction. It was one of my library checkouts.

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

Review:

This takes place sometime in the future, in a place that I'm guessing is somewhere in the Middle East. Julia is a 12-year-old revolutionary, prepared to die, if necessary, to overthrow the Secret Emperor. She's supposed to get deep inside the palace and record its architecture, so that her fellow revolutionaries will know exactly how to attack. In order to do that, she must become a harem girl, but at the same time she must avoid allowing anyone to see the special hardware she has hidden under her burqa, the hardware that connects her to an AI named Robin.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

REVIEW: Every Heart a Doorway (book) by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway is fantasy, although with some mystery aspects.

Review:

Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a special place, one of several worldwide, for children and teens who briefly traveled to magical other worlds. Their parents could no longer understand them or deal with them. Maybe they'd never been able to. They thought their children had been kidnapped, or had run away, that they were now suffering from some kind of trauma or delusion. Eleanor promised she'd help them try to get better, when what she really intended to do was give them a place where they could be themselves and meet others like them.

Nancy is the newest arrival. She longs for the world she visited, the Halls of the Dead, and she's sure she'll find her way back one day. In the meantime, Eleanor's boarding school seems like a better alternative than living with her parents, who keep trying to dress her in rainbow colors. Unfortunately, she's not even completely settled in before someone ends up murdered.

REVIEW: I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (manga, vol. 3) art by Ayumi Kanou, story by Visualworks, translated by Jocelyne Allen

I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is a fantasy romance series based on a social game. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment (the manga, not the game).

Review:

At the end of the previous volume, the King of Hearts, angered by the sight of Makoto's (technically Alice's) face, magically sent him away. Hatter tried to save Makoto and got sent away as well. At the start of this volume, Makoto wakes up to discover that he's in chains. Several menacing men threaten to torture and rape him if he doesn't tell them where the King's palace is, but thankfully Hatter saves the day. Their troubles aren't over, however, as a new enemy, the Jabberwock, arrives.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

REVIEW: I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (manga, vol. 2) art by Ayumi Kanou, story by Visualworks, translated by Jocelyne Allen

I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is a fantasy romance (ish) series that is, I think, based on a social game. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment (the manga, not the game).

Review:
 
This volume focuses more on the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and Dormouse's issues with Dum. The Cheshire Cat freaks out at the thought that the King of Hearts might view his current actions as a betrayal. Then Dormouse tells Makoto a little more about why he hates Dum, but Makoto finds it hard to believe that serious and responsible Dum could have coldly executed March Hare, Dormouse's loved one, even on the orders of the King. After that, it's time for gardening (yes, really). This break also allows the White Rabbit to deal with his newfound awkwardness around Makoto. He hasn't adjusted well to the news that Makoto is really a guy in a girl's body. Putting it like that makes this sound a lot like a trans story but, again, I'm probably putting way too much thought into this.

What about the King of Hearts and the possibility of Alice and Makoto returning to their own world and getting their bodies back? The volume gets back to that halfway through, when the group finally arrives at the palace.

REVIEW: I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (manga, vol. 1) art by Ayumi Kanou, story by Visualworks, translated by Jocelyne Allen

I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is a fantasy romance (ish) series that is, I think, based on a social game. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment (the manga, not the game).

Review:

Makoto is an ordinary boy who gets sucked into Wonderland via a book. To his horror, he also discovers that he has swapped bodies with Alice, a girl who was sucked into Wonderland in the same manner some time before him. Alice, a weapons nut, quickly tells Makoto some of what's going on. It turns out that Wonderland is teeming with monsters, which are controlled by the King of Hearts, the ruler of the country. Alice has heard that a gate in the King's palace can help her and Makoto get back home and hopefully get their bodies back, but first they have to survive the monsters and find the palace, which is hidden from ordinary Wonderland citizens.

Thankfully, that's when Alice and Makoto come across the White Rabbit, a captain in the King's army. All of the King's soldiers know how to get to the palace, and although you'd think one of the King's soldiers would be yet another enemy, most of them are as fed up with what the King is doing as the rest of the country's citizens. The White Rabbit agrees to help, but first the group needs to gather up a few more allies.

Monday, July 11, 2016

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Diamonds, Wonderful Wonder World: Official Visual Fan Book (book) translation by Alexis Eckerman

For such a skinny volume, this was jam-packed with stuff. I'll be going over each section individually. First, the more general stuff:

This book was lovely, and I liked a lot of things about it, but as an English-language release it had problems. The biggest one was that, as far as I can tell, none of the games are currently available in English, and this was clearly written for people with access to Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Wonderful Wonder World. Several sections were either useless or overly confusing without the game.

Although my experience with the franchise is limited to the English-language translations of the manga (which I still haven't completely finished reading) and the Alice in the Country of Diamonds light novel, I still got a lot out of this book. I'm not clamoring to own a copy of my very own (I checked this out via interlibrary loan), but I'm glad I requested it and got to read it.

I would like to mention one thing, though. I've seen this tagged as an artbook, and I'd hesitate to call it that. The artwork is a big reason for English-language folks to buy this, but the only section that's really devoted to the game's artwork is the "Illustration Gallery." That section has nice, large images, even when they're not full-page. Every other section has images that are maybe 1-4 inches wide. It's sort of a combination artbook, game guide, and promotional extras collection.

Now for the various sections.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

REVIEW: Whisper of Death (book) by Christopher Pike

Whisper of Death is YA horror, originally published in 1991. I got it via ILL.

This review includes loads of spoilers. You've been warned. No read-alikes list, because all I could come up with was Stephen King's The Langoliers, and I'm only familiar with the TV movie adaptation.

Review:

I'll start this off with a laundry list of warnings. This book features abortion and treats it as murder. It has multiple references to rape (one instance where the word is used and a few others where it isn't). Also, at one point, the heroine consoles herself after her decision to have an abortion by telling herself that “Our child probably would have been retarded” (22), because both she and the father didn't do very well in school. Oh yes, and there's some fat person stereotyping.

Okay, now on to the summary. Roxanne and Pepper are two high school students in Salem, Arizona who try their best to look cool and unaffected by the world. They start dating, have sex, and Roxanne discovers she's pregnant four weeks or so later. She'd like to keep the baby, but Pepper convinces her to have an abortion. At the clinic, however, Roxanne changes her mind. She and Pepper head back to Salem, at which time things begin to get weird.

The whole town is deserted, and even radios and telephones don't work. The only other people Roxanne and Pepper find are three other teens: Helter, a hothead who believes in shooting first and asking questions later; Leslie, the school beauty; and Stan, the overweight smart kid who's already taking college-level math. It's Stan who figures out the common denominator tying them all together: Betty Sue, a girl at their school who killed herself four weeks ago.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

REVIEW: I Am Not a Serial Killer (book) by Dan Wells

I Am Not a Serial Killer is a thriller with fantasy/horror aspects. It may count as YA, but I'm honestly not sure about that.

Review:

John Wayne Cleaver thinks it's his fate to become a serial killer, and he's doing what he can to try to avoid it. He's attending his therapy sessions with Dr. Neblin, and he's made up all kinds of rules for himself, based on commonly recognized indicators that someone might become a serial killer. No paying too much attention to one particular person, no hurting animals (in fact, as little contact with animals as possible), etc.

He enjoys helping his mom and aunt out at their mortuary. The bodies and embalming process fascinate him, and he likes the quiet. However, something new going on in town has snagged his attention: murders that he thinks are the work of a real serial killer. As he looks into the deaths as much as possible without technically breaking his rules, he starts to believe that he's the only person in town who stands any chance of stopping the killer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

REVIEW: Grounds to Kill (e-book) by Wendy Roberts

Grounds to Kill is a cozy mystery published by Carina Press. It's 66,000 words long.

My read-alikes list isn't great, but it exists. Yay.

Review:

Jen is a barista with two big secrets. First, the homeless guy who keeps coming by the cafe where she works and who she keeps giving day-old baked goods to is really her paranoid schizophrenic father. And second, she has an ability known as automatic writing – someone or something writes messages to her via her left hand. Her latest message: “Dear Jen, Arthur is screwing Misty.” Arthur is Jen's cop boyfriend, and Misty is Jen's half-sister and nemesis.

Jen dumps Arthur after confirming that he did, in fact, sleep with Misty. Then she decides to get back at Misty with some dog poop. It's a spur of the moment thing, and it isn't until after she lobs the poop into Misty's apartment that she realizes that Misty is lying dead on the floor, her throat slashed.

Monday, July 4, 2016

REVIEW: Click Your Heart (live action TV series), via Netflix

Click Your Heart is a short Korean romance series.

Review:

I started watching this one because I was curious about the format. It sounded like it was set up to be like an otome game, and it really was. Unfortunately, this format probably would have worked better on a website, with considerably better labeled episodes, than on my TV.

Min Ah has just transferred to a new high school, but she hasn't managed to leave the rumors about her behind. Everyone knows that if you get to close to her, you'll end up getting hurt. Luckily, one person still likes her and wants to be around her: her childhood friend, Da Won. He gets her into the school's broadcasting club and gives her her first assignment, interviewing the school's star baseball player, Ro Woon. Unfortunately, Ro Woon gets hurt protecting her from a baseball, which only seems to confirm the rumors about her terrible curse.

After that, it's all up to you, the viewer. Who should Min Ah fall in love with? Ro Woon, the arrogant baseball player who likes her even when the rest of the school hates her? Da Won, her childhood friend, who's secretly in love with her but doesn't know how to tell her? How about Chani, the sweet, smiling guy whose passion is dancing and who says he and Min Ah have met before but won't say where or how? Or maybe Ju Ho, the tough guy who's desperately trying to track Min Ah down?

REVIEW: Fox & Wolf (e-book) by Eugene Woodbury

Fox & Wolf is YA (?) urban fantasy. It's 43,470 words long.

Review:

Note: This work is currently available for 50% off at Smashwords.

Yuki is a werewolf who's been kicked out of three schools in the past four years for getting into fights. She has a habit of acting without thinking first, and her amber eyes and  brilliant white hair do an excellent job of attracting bullies' attention.

She's determined to do better at Sumiyoshi Girls Preparatory Academy, but blending in suddenly becomes the least of her concerns when she spots a kitsune, a werefox, in her class. What Yuki doesn't realize is that Ami, the werefox in question, has no idea what she is. Ami, for her part, just wants to keep her head down, graduate, and become a veterinarian. Being friends with an enthusiastic weirdo like Yuki is definitely not part of her plans.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

REVIEW: A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 3) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu

A Centaur's Life is a slice-of-life fantasy series. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment.

I'm using the same read-alikes/watch-alikes list I used for the first volume, although it technically works better for the series as a whole rather than for this volume specifically.

Review:

In this volume, Hime and her classmates play softball, Shino deals with a bully and becomes a younger centaur girl's big sister-figure, Hime and her friends form an after school study group, Manami's little sisters play with other kids while she's at a student council meeting, the boys fight over control of the TV, and Hime's class gets a new student.

REVIEW: Falling for Q46F (e-short story) by Jason Werbeloff

"Falling for Q46F" is a zombie apocalypse story. It's only 3,740 words long, and it's available for free via Smashwords.

I've opted not to include any read-alikes for this.

Review:

This got on my radar after a couple people I follow on Booklikes reviewed it. It being free gave me the additional push I needed to download it.

"Falling for Q46F" begins with this sentence: “As I do every night, I feed the bunker wall, sing to the dining table in F major, and put the fridge to sleep.”

It sounds poetic, but then the main character, Q46F, mentions that the wall is made of human heads, that the table will eat itself if it isn't sung to, and that the fridge is powered by human lungs. The zombie apocalypse has come, and the only building materials that zombies are guaranteed to not try to chew through are their own bodies (a quibble: wouldn't that mean that the dining table would be just fine?).

Q46F is a lonely android that has been on its own since its creator died over 27 years ago. All it can do is follow its dead master's instructions: maintain the bunker and monitor the radio for signals from survivors. Every day is the same, until one day Q46F receives a message.

Monday, June 27, 2016

REVIEW: A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 2) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu

A Centaur's Life is a slice-of-life fantasy series. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment.

I'm using the same cruddy read-alikes/watch-alikes list I came up with for volume 1. Sadly, I haven't thought of anything better to add yet.

Review:

In this volume, Hime gets a visit from Shino, her young cousin. Shino adores Hime. When she and Hime meet Manami, the class president, and Manami's young triplet siblings, she gets jealous when Manami's siblings greet Hime with kisses. After that, Hime decides to get her hair cut, everyone tries to make it through the colder weather in their own way, there's a flashback about a class visit to a merfolk high school, and Hime worries that she'll be too nervous to do well during a traditional centaur archery event. The volume ends with a lengthy story called “Fears of a Human Faced Dog” which, as far as I know, isn't set in the same world as the rest of the volume.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

REVIEW: A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu

A Centaur's Life is a slice-of-life fantasy series. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment.

My read-alikes/watch-alikes list is a stretch, and mostly focused on watch-alikes. I can't seem to think of any slice-of-life fantasy (or even sci-fi!) manga series that are similar to A Centaur's Life in overall feel/tone.

Review:

Himeno (nicknamed “Hime”) is a shy, pretty, and somewhat ditzy centaur currently attending high school. Her best friends are Kyoko, one of the goatfolk, and Nozomi, a draconid. In this volume, Hime deals with the awkwardness of having an angelfolk guy give her a love letter, starring as a princess in a school play, and everyone's differing physical abilities in gym class. Readers also get a peek at her family life and other everyday aspects of living in a world populated entirely by fantasy beings.
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