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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading and reviewing goals

I've been really bad about posting non-review stuff on Booklikes but not here. A large part of it is that social interaction is so much easier on Booklikes. I know I have a few readers here, but most of my commenters/visitors seem to be temporary first-time visitors who stumbled over here via Google or a link somewhere.

Anyway, one of the things I posted about on Booklikes was my reading and reviewing goals for the year. I'm not calling them resolutions, because for some reason that feels more intimidating and set in stone than "goals." I've already gotten a start on a few of them. Here they are:
  • Be more organized. This particular goal involves taking greater advantage of LibraryThing. One of the things I've spent the past few days doing is cataloging my entire paper book collection.* During LibraryThing's holiday sale, I broke down and bought a CueCat, which I have so far used to scan over 970 books. During that process, I identified 15 unintentional duplicate purchases and 7 books I'd already reviewed (usually because it was easier to just get the book from the library than to figure out where I'd put my personal copy). I still have a little bit more work to do, but I'm done with the most important stuff - I now have a catalog I can search when I'm trying to remember whether I already own, say, volume 20 of a particular manga series.
  • Use LibraryThing to keep track of my movie/TV watching. I've already started doing this. It'll be nice to have a backup of my movie and TV reviews, and I'm hoping that it will make my end-of-year "best" and "worst" lists easier to compile.
  • Use LibraryThing to keep track of my acquisition and offloading of physical items (books, DVDs). I've already started doing this too. I kept paper lists of both in 2015, but I got tired of writing stuff down and began slacking off after a few months. Here's hoping I do a better job this time around.
  • Read 143 works. I base my Booklikes Reading Challenge on what I managed to finish in the previous year (rereads count too), so that puts me at 143 for 2016. It was very hard to reach my goal of 142 last year, so we'll see how this year goes. 

* - I had a twinge of privacy concerns about doing this. It was one of the reasons I hadn't done it up until now. However, since I add all my new e-book purchases and generally try pretty hard to review everything I read and watch, I figure I gave up on book collection privacy a long time ago.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (live action movie) - at the movie theater

I went out and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens today. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll skip writing a description.

First, some background. I enjoyed the original movies but haven't seen them in a long time. The prequel or two that I saw looked nice and shiny but, for several reasons, didn't work for me, and I never did go see the most recent prequel. As far as the comics, books, and other entries in the franchise go, I haven't tried any of it.

All right, moving on to The Force Awakens. I was looking forward to it, not so much because of residual nostalgic feelings about the franchise but because of the fandom reaction to it, specifically people's fan art. There are folks out there who have done some absolutely wonderful fan art for this movie. I love how much people love the Rey, Finn, and Poe trio, and I love how much they love BB-8, the movie's new robot (who is adorable, although I still don't understand how its head is attached to its body).

Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where I feel that the fandom reaction is more amazing and wonderful than the work that inspired it. The Force Awakens was too weighed down by nostalgia to give its new characters enough room to breathe. Poe felt like a minor character who was inexplicably given more than the usual amount of screen-time. Rey felt like a minor character who snagged herself a main character storyline. Finn was the most memorable of the three, despite literally being a normally minor character who ended up becoming a main character (you can't get much more minor than “random stormtrooper”).

Too much time was spent on characters from the original trilogy – not so much them as individuals (Leia was only a slight step up from a cameo, and Luke was little more than a teaser for the next movie), but them as a whole. Add in all the references, of which I'm sure I only caught a tiny fraction, and it was just too much. A nod to the past is fine, but this movie was giving its past an enormous bear hug.

Then there were the villains. I really disliked older prequel Anakin, and Kylo Ren reminded me a little too much of him, although he maybe had an extra helping of emo man-child. (I've honestly blocked out as much of older prequel Anakin as possible, so I could be wrong. Maybe they have the exact same amount of emo man-child.)

All in all, this was okay, but not the awesomeness I was expecting based on the fandom reaction to it. On the plus side, I can now wallow in whatever fandom goodness I come across without worrying that I'll stumble across spoilers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Worst of 2015

As far as the stuff I read goes, my "worst" lists include things I gave 1 and 1.5 stars to, although I'll include a few higher starred honorable mentions.

As far as the stuff I watched goes, my "worst" lists will be based on gut feeling. Like I said in my "2015 in numbers" post, I barely kept any stats. I hope to change that in 2016.

Worst Books:
Worst Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
Worst Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

A series is listed if one or more volumes got 1 or 1.5 stars. This may not mean that I think the whole series is that bad (although in this case, it probably does), but I'm listing them by series anyway, because I am lazy.
Honorable Mentions:
Worst Audiobooks:
Worst Movies:
Honorable Mentions:
Worst TV Series: 

Best of 2015

As far as the stuff I read goes, my "best" lists include things I gave 5 and 4.5 stars to, although I'll include some lower starred honorable mentions that, for one reason or another, I still feel good about.

As far as the stuff I watched goes, my "best" lists will be based on gut feeling. Like I said in my "2015 in numbers" post, I barely kept any stats. I hope to change that in 2016.

Best Books:
Honorable Mention:
Best Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories)
Honorable Mention:
Best Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

A series is listed if one or more volumes got 4.5 or 5 stars. This may not mean that I think the whole series is that good, but I'm listing them by series anyway, because I am lazy. It actually worked out pretty well - the only one on the list I feel iffy about is Circus and Liar's Game.
Honorable Mentions:
Best Audiobooks:
Honorable Mentions:
Best Movies:
Honorable Mentions:
Best TV Series:
Honorable Mentions:
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