Sunday, January 26, 2014

Natsume's Book of Friends, Seasons 1 & 2 Premium Edition (anime TV series)

This Natsume's Book of Friends boxed set was published by NIS America.

My anime boxed set purchases have gone way, way down since I started watching streaming anime. I think I only purchased four series total in 2013. This was one of them. Getting the whole series was expensive (tip: Amazon doesn't have the best prices – I purchased it via Rightstuf), but, after seeing the series on Crunchyroll, I decided it was worth it. Since I've already written up a post for all four seasons, this post is just going to be about my re-watch experience and the boxed set itself. There will be no watch-alikes or read-alikes included at the end of this post. Take a look at my original post for the series if you want anything like that.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Legal Drug (manga, vol. 1) by CLAMP

Legal Drug is a mix of supernatural mystery, drama, and comedy. It was published by Tokyopop.

Review:

I found a used copy of this at my local entertainment store and bought it because series by CLAMP are always worth a try.

So far, this has a very episodic feel. At the beginning of the volume, Rikuo finds an unconscious Kazahaya in the snow and takes him back to Kakei, his boss at the Green Drugstore. Fast-forward a month, and Kazahaya and Rikuo are both working for Kakei. Sometimes the jobs he asks them to do are fairly ordinary, but sometimes they have a supernatural component.

This volume covers three of Kakei's special jobs. First, he asks Rikuo and Kazahaya to find a mysterious book. Then, he sends Kazahaya out alone to catch invisible fireflies. The third job requires that Kazahaya watch a black-and-white movie in order to determine what color jewel a woman is wearing in a certain scene. The characters have special abilities that help them do these jobs. Kakei can see the future, Kazahaya has visions of other people's memories, and Rikuo can break anything. Presumably, Saiga, Kakei's partner/lover/whatever, also has a special ability.

Vampire Academy (book) by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy is YA paranormal fiction with a bit of romance. It's the first in a series.

Synopsis:

Prior to the beginning of the book, Rose and Lissa ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy. They were convinced that Lissa was in danger.

After they're dragged back, Lissa tries to reintegrate herself into the Academy's Moroi student hierarchy, and Rose tries to stay out of trouble enough to keep from being expelled. Unfortunately, their problems aren't over. Someone keeps leaving dead animals where Lissa will find them, and there's a possibility that whoever is doing it knows about the secret powers Lissa has been hiding from everyone but Rose.

Review:

With the movie's release date coming up soon, I decided it was time to finally read this book. I spotted a copy in the bargain bin at my local entertainment store and snatched it up.

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Only King (manga) by Lily Hoshino

My Only King is a one-shot manga featuring several "boys' love" stories (some contemporary romance, some with fantasy elements). It's published by Digital Manga Publishing.

I won't be including any read-alikes or watch-alikes. Also, FYI, my post has several spoilers.

Review:

This was one of my used bookstore finds. It was wrapped in plastic and had the “you must be 18 years or older to purchase” sticker (all done by the used bookstore - the manga volume itself says 16+). This could mean anything from “the main characters are both male and do no more than hold hands and kiss” to “OMG, raunchy rape-y sex.” The cover looked cute, so I decided to take the risk.

For the most part, the art is good-looking, uncluttered, and easy-to-follow. I may keep the volume just for that. Characters' necks occasionally seemed off (a tad too long), and I didn't always like how Hoshino drew lips. Overall, though, I enjoyed the artwork. I do feel I should note that Hoshino prefers to draw m/m couples so that one is more clearly male and the other looks like a flat-chested girl. Mewt could have dressed in a boys' school uniform, and he'd still have looked like a cross-dressing girl. His behavior was also more stereotypically female (lots of cute blushing).

For those wondering about the sexual content: it's mostly kissing, with one fade-to-black sex scene (can you call it a scene if it doesn't happen on-page?). There's some nudity, but, in my opinion, nothing worth the “wrapped in plastic” treatment.

This is basically an anthology. Since there aren't that many stories, I might as well go over each of them individually.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales: Sanctuary (OEL manga, vol. 1) story by Melissa Marr, art by Xian Nu Studio (Irene Diaz & Laura Moreno)

Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales: Sanctuary is a fantasy OEL manga based on Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely world and characters. It was published by Tokyopop.

Review:

I don't know why I bought this. I know it was a used copy, and I think it was really cheap. That's still not a good explanation, because OEL manga adaptations of books don't generally have a good track record with me. Plus, I haven't even read any of Melissa Marr's books.

I thought this was an adaptation of Marr's Wicked Lovely, but then I spotted the “Desert Tales: Sanctuary” portion of the title and wasn't so sure. It turns out that it's actually a spin-off that uses characters from the Wicked Lovely world. The manga volumes were later turned into a novel, Desert Tales – not the usual way these things are done.

I don't know that I would have liked this volume any better if I had read the Wicked Lovely books, but, just in case, I'll start by saying that my review should probably be taken with a grain of salt. I had no idea who Rika or Keenan or Donia were, although apparently readers of the Wicked Lovely series would know. Character relationships and timelines were sometimes hard for me to follow. How long ago was Rika the Winter Queen (or whatever)? How long has it been since she was mortal? Who's Donia?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Starstruck (e-book) by Ashleigh Raine

Starstruck is a contemporary romance published by Samhain Publishing. It's the third book in the Hollywood Heat series. I haven't read anything else in the series and never once got the impression that I'd missed out on anything important.
 
Review:

I've mostly been reading fantasy and sci-fi these past few months, so I decided to see if it was time to switch to a romance glom. I remembered enjoying a contemporary romance excerpt involving a heroine who was an extra and a hero who was a big-name TV actor. After a bit of searching, I located the book, Starstruck.

Micah is one of the biggest stars in the show Sexy M.D. (my mental image of the show was something like Grey's Anatomy). He's been acting since he was a child and has a very jaded opinion of Hollywood. Jenna is an extra on the show, nervous and excited because it's her very first time acting in a real TV show. Had things gone as they were supposed to, she and Micah would have never spoken to one another. However, during one of the takes, Micah accidentally smacks Jenna in the face. Jenna gets sent away, and Micah, mortified, goes after her to apologize.

Micah finds himself drawn to Jenna and her bright, shiny joy for acting and Hollywood life. He visits her at her restaurant job and accompanies her home when her car acts up. It's not long before the two of them end up in bed together. Their relationship progresses fast, which was one of the first problems I had with this book.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Inu x Boku Secret Service, Complete Collection (anime TV series), via DVDs

I originally watched Inu x Boku Secret Service via Crunchyroll. I liked it enough to buy the DVD release when I spotted it in a Rightstuf sale. Since I've already written a post about this series, I'll be focusing more on the re-watch experience and how I felt about the DVD release. There will be no watch-alikes or read-alikes listed at the end of this post.

Story-wise, the criticisms in my first post still stand. I could have done without the fanservice featuring 15-year-old Ririchiyo. Also, there are a lot of problematic elements in this series. The romance between Ririchiyo and Soushi is something that only works on a fantasy level – in real life, the depth of Soushi's devotion would be disturbing. The guy has absolutely no emotional balance, even by the end – his entire life and being is focused on Ririchiyo.

Despite the series' problematic elements, I enjoyed it. In fact, I think I may have enjoyed it even more than I did during my first viewing. Rather than spending the whole time wondering if Soushi was a liar who was going to betray Ririchiyo at some point, I knew what sort of person he was right from the start. He really was that devoted to Ririchiyo, and he really did see himself as someone who was dirty and beneath her. Out of the whole cast, Soushi was probably the most interesting character, followed by Ririchiyo, but you can't understand quite how interesting he is until you've seen episode 11.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (live action movie), via Netflix

Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is based on the novel The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui. I haven't read the book, although I plan to at some point. I own the anime based on the book, but opted to wait to watch it until after I had seen this live action movie.

WARNING: This post contains some spoilers.

Kazuko Yoshiyama is a pharmaceuticals researcher who has secretly been working on her own project. Shortly after successfully developing a time travel liquid, she is hit by a car and ends up in a coma. She wakes up briefly and is distraught – the smell of lavender has reminded her of her first love, Kazuo Fukamachi. She gives her daughter, Akari, instructions on where to find the liquid she developed and tells her a specific date. However, she doesn't bother to say why that date is important. Akari misremembers it and travels back in time, but too late to meet Kazuo where her mother said he would be. Lacking other options, she befriends a young filmmaker named Ryota and stays at his place while she tries to find Kazuo on her own.

I wanted to like this, I really did, but it just didn't work for me. It was far more boring than I expected, and it felt unfocused.

First, Akari was so determined to help her mom that she drank a liquid that, for all she knew, could have killed her. She gave no thought to how she'd get home – all she wanted was to do what her mother asked, because maybe then her mother would get better, or at least feel more at ease.

Then, Akari met Ryota. She lived with him, watched him make the low-budget science fiction movie that was his pride and joy, fell in love with him, and learned terrible things about his future. Suddenly, she was willing to give up her chance to go home in order to try to save him. Never mind that staying wouldn't have changed a thing about his fate. She had already chased after him and failed to get to him in time to keep him from going on the bus ride that was going to kill him. Had she stayed, she'd have been alone, stuck in a time she wasn't familiar with, jobless, homeless, and grieving. To top it all off, she'd have left her mother all alone in her own time.

The movie's ending seemed pointless. I really hope that the book and the anime work better for me than this movie did.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

True Stories of Crime from the District Attorney's Office (non-fiction e-book) by Arthur Train

True Stories of Crime from the District Attorney's Office is a non-fiction collection of stories of various crimes. I didn't keep good track, but I think most of the crimes took place between 1900 and the date the book was published, 1908.

This is available for free from Project Gutenberg. Because it's basically an anthology, and because I'm lazy, I'm not going to be listing any read-alikes at the end of this post.

Review:

I downloaded this ages ago, during a long Project Gutenberg browsing session. I didn't really know much about it or its author, Arthur Cheney Train, but it was free, and I was curious about the sorts of crimes that were considered noteworthy back in 1908.

According to Wikipedia, Train became an assistant in the office of the New York District Attorney in 1901. In 1908, when this book was first published, he left to open a general law practice. By that time, he had already been writing fiction for several years. His most popular character was a lawyer named Ephraim Tutt.

This book was a collection of 11 cases, covering such things as check forgery, a missing Stradivarius, murder, and various abuses of trust on the part of lawyers and people who deal with others' money (stockbrokers, bankers). At some point, I'd liked to give Train's fiction a try, because his explanations of the legal aspects of the various cases were usually pretty clear. At times, I felt a little like I was watching Law & Order: Early 20th Century, complete with Train occasionally saying something to the effect of “the law was carried out, but was justice really done?”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Shirley (manga) by Kaoru Mori

Shirley is a historical slice-of-life manga. I assume it's set in England, but I have no idea what time period. It's a collection of short stories that feature maids but that are unrelated to Mori's other maid-focused work, Emma.

I'm going to be lazy and treat this one like I usually treat anthologies: there will be no read-alikes included at the end. If you're interested in read-alikes, you might check out some of the posts I've written about Emma.

Review:

I went through some of my unread/unreviewed manga and picked out one-shots and titles for which I know I only own the first volume. This one stood out in the pile. I mean, it's Kaoru Mori. I love her stuff. The only reason this sat unread for so long was because, every time I finish another volume of her works, that's one less volume I'll be able to read for the first time. ::sniffle::

CMX published this after they'd already put out several volumes of Mori's Emma. I had assumed that it was a one-shot Mori wrote after finishing Emma – she seemed so maid-obsessed that it wouldn't have surprised me if she couldn't bring herself to completely leave them behind. As I began reading this volume, however, I became more and more convinced that it was an earlier work. The artwork didn't have the detail and near-perfection (yes, I'm a fangirl) I remembered seeing in Emma.

This volume looks at the lives of three separate maids, whose lives appear unconnected until you notice one recurring character and one cameo appearance, in a later story, by the lady from the first few stories. I'll write up a separate section for each chapter.

Dystopia: Love at Last Sight (OEL manga) by Judith Park

Dystopia: Love at Last Sight is a mix of drama and romance, possibly with a dash of science fiction. It's published by Yen Press. I found it at a used bookstore and bought it because it was a one-shot - no worrying about needing to collect lots of volumes or not being able to find the earliest volumes.

Review:

I have a massive manga collection, and one of the things I want to do in 2014 is finally read, review, and possibly even offload a bunch of them. I tagged this as OEL (original English-language) manga, but it's probably more accurate to call it OGL (original German-language) manga. The author is described as an “international superstar who is a German mangaka by way of Korea.” I wasn't entirely sure what this meant, but I spotted one sound effect in German, with the English translation in a smaller font right next to it, so I suppose it was originally written in German.

This started off relatively okay. It managed to be both melodramatic and kind of boring at the same time. For a good chunk of the volume, there were three main characters: Dionne, Lyon, and Shikku. Lyon was Dionne's older brother, and Shikku was Dionne's best friend. When he was little, Lyon had a serious heart condition. As a result, his and Dionne's parents were super-protective of him and neglectful towards Dionne. Later in life, Lyon tried to compensate for this by being as supportive and caring towards Dionne as possible.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dead City (book) by James Ponti

Dead City is middle grade urban fantasy. I cataloged it for my library and thought the cover looked fun (sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ish), so I checked it out.

Review:

Some might consider Molly to be a bit odd. Her mother was a forensic pathologist and, every summer for years, Molly would spend time with her at the morgue. Molly's mother, Rosemary, made sure she never saw anything nightmare-worthy, but her time at the morgue did help give her a love of science. After her mother died, Molly decided to apply to MIST, the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology, a science magnet school and the school Molly's mother used to go to. It's not long before Molly is recruited to be an Omega, a person charged with protecting and policing zombies. Omegas protect the zombies that just want a relatively peaceful existence and police the dangerous zombies.
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