Saturday, March 26, 2016

His Favorite (manga, vol. 5) by Suzuki Tanaka, translated by Ivana Bloom

His Favorite is a m/m romantic comedy. It's published by SuBLime.

Review:

Clueless Makimura has a brand new crush: the beautiful student council president. What he doesn't realize is that he's being used by her to gather information about Sato – he's close to Yoshida, who is known to spend a lot of time with Sato. The student council president has pretended to be uninterested in Sato in order to wait for what she thinks is her best chance to win him for herself: a marathon in which the grand prize is a one-day pass with Sato (who wasn't consulted about this and never gave his permission to be used as a prize).

After the marathon, the students deal with an unusually high volume of litter on the school grounds - specifically, banana peels. Several students slip, lose their memories, and then slip again, regaining their memories. After the banana peel incident, several of the girls give Sato some home-made Madeleine cookies. One girl begs Yoshida to steal her cookies back after she realizes, to her horror, that they're awful. The volume wraps up with a chapter in which it seems like everyone's catching a cold except Sato, who says he never gets sick.

Final Girl (live action movie), via Netflix

Final Girl is a horror movie.

Review:

I considered buying this one when I spotted it at Walmart. I'm glad I resisted, and not just because it popped up on Netflix a short while later.

The movie starts off by introducing William and Veronica. William took Veronica in when she was an orphaned child. Supposedly he spent the next 12 years training her to be an assassin, except older teen (or young 20s?) Veronica is so bad at fighting and killing people that it seems more likely that she and William twiddled their thumbs for 12 years. William completes Veronica's training by having her unsuccessfully choke several people, including himself, by abandoning her in the woods so that she has to walk eight miles to get back to his car, and by pumping her full of drugs so that she can realize what her greatest fear is. Then comes her true test: killing a group of sociopathic teenage boys who have been taking blonde girls into the woods, hunting them, and killing them.

The Abyss Surrounds Us (book) by Emily Skrutskie

The Abyss Surrounds Us is f/f YA science fiction. It's published by Flux.

Review:

The Abyss Surrounds Us is set sometime in the future. Genetically engineered sea monsters known as “Reckoners” were developed to protect larger ships from pirates, and Cassandra Leung is a Reckoner trainer anxiously embarking on her first solo mission with her favorite Reckoner, Durga. Unfortunately, things go very wrong, Durga is killed, and Cas ends up captured by Santa Elena, the captain of the Minnow, a pirate ship. She learns, to her horror, that the pirates have not only somehow gotten their hands on a Reckoner pup, they also expect her to train it to protect them. She reluctantly agrees, hoping that at some point she'll learn the identity of the traitor who supplied them with a Reckoner pup and related equipment, and that she'll live long enough to pass that information on.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible (book) by Ursula Vernon

Harriet the Invincible is a middle grade fairy tale retelling. I checked it out from the library.

I opted not to include read-alikes for this.

Review:

In this fun retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is cursed by a wicked fairy named Ratshade. According to Ratshade, when she's 12 years old, she'll prick her finger upon a hamster wheel and fall into a sleep like death. Only a prince's kiss will be able to wake her.

Harriet finds out about all of this when she's 10 and, to her parent's surprise, thinks it's wonderful news. Sure, her 12th birthday will be a problem, but she's 10 and the curse needs her to stay alive until then. Since that makes her basically invincible, why not do all the adventuring she always wanted to do?

Dark Matter, Season 1 (live action TV series), via Netflix

Dark Matter is a sci-fi TV series. The first season is 13 episodes long.

This post includes a few small spoilers.

Review:

Several people wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are or how they got there. They name themselves the numbers One through Six, based on the order in which they woke up, and try to figure out what's going on. They have to work quickly: they're running out of money, it seems like everyone in the universe either wants them dead or in prison, and one of their number might have been a traitor.

A Thousand Leagues of Wind, the Sky at Dawn (e-book) by Fuyumi Ono, translated by Eugene Woodbury

I read another one of Eugene Woodbury's Twelve Kingdoms fan translations - this one is his translation of the book Tokyopop translated as Skies of Dawn. As I said in my post about the first book, I'd much rather read official, licensed translations than fan translations, so you won't see posts like this from me very often. The Twelve Kingdoms books are a special case.

I haven't included any read-alikes. If you want some, go check out my post for Tokyopop's translation of this book.

Review:

I wanted to read Youko's arc all in one go, so I went straight from Woodbury's translation of the first book to this one, which takes place right after Youko's defeat of the pretender Empress and the death of the Emperor of Kou.

Keeping in mind that Tokyopop's release of this book was an absolute embarrassment to traditional publishing – eight whole pages of text were missing from the hardcover edition – I think that Woodbury's fan translation could be an acceptable alternative. However, I didn't like his translation of this book as much as his translation of the first. There were no translator’s notes (maybe too much work?), and I noticed many more errors (typos, missing words or letters, and possibly a couple misused words).

Friday, March 11, 2016

His Favorite (manga, vol. 4) by Suzuki Tanaka, translated by Ivana Bloom

His Favorite is a m/m romantic comedy. It's published by SuBLime.

This post includes a few spoilers.

Review:

I'm starting to think that the first volume of this series was the roughest, because everything after that one was much better. Volume 4, in particular, was really good.

At the beginning of this volume, Yoshida gets upset when some of the girls call him “ugly” and say that he looks a lot like one of the monsters in an amusement park haunted house. Although Yoshida is terrified of haunted houses, Sato forces him to go to the one the girls mentioned. After that, we get an extended flashback to Sato's elementary and middle school years. When he's 12, his parents tell him he'll be going to a boarding school in England. What they don't tell him is that the “boarding school” is actually a brutal fat camp that uses dangerous and unorthodox methods (like combat against wild animals) to help kids lose weight. The volume ends in the present, with Nishida and Sato battling for the right to date Yoshida and the school's girls battling to win a contest that will give them a full day with Sato.

His Favorite (manga, vol. 3) by Suzuki Tanaka, translated by Ivana Bloom

His Favorite is a m/m romantic comedy. It's published by SuBLime.

Review:

The series continues to have a bit of an episodic feel, as each chapter has its own “story.” In this volume: Yoshida feels stressed and preoccupied because a cute girl has asked him out; Yoshida gets upset when he learns that Sato isn't a virgin (I had thought he and Sato had had sex already, but apparently not); a heat wave makes everyone feel gross and cranky; Nishida, an openly gay student, confesses his love to Yoshida; and readers get to see more of Torachin and Yamanaka now that they're a couple.

This series has grown on me, even though I still have some issues with it.

I'm glad that Sato seems to have mellowed out some. He's still a secret jerk, but he doesn't mess with Yoshida quite as often as he did in previous volumes, and there were some nice panels of Sato and Yoshida just hanging out and enjoying each other's company. I still wonder if Tanaka ever plans on digging a little deeper, bringing Sato's emotional issues out into the open, and really dealing with them.

How to Breathe Fire (e-novella) by Shona Husk

How to Breathe Fire is fantasy romance. It's published by Samhain Publishing and is approximately 19,700 words long.

Review:

Each year, the prosperous island nation of Adar offers one of its women to the Fire God as a bride in order to appease him and keep from being buried under lava and ashes. The newest offering is Camea. Although most other women would be trembling in fear, Camea is secretly elated. She figures that it's one of the witches who kills the women, and not the Fire God himself. If she can overpower the witch, she can escape Adar on one of the trading ships and see the world she's always dreamed about.

It isn't a witch that kills the bride...but it also isn't the Fire God. Matai is a prince of Adar who, many generations ago, was punished by the Fire God. He was turned into a being of fire and, each year since then, has been forced to live with a bride for a year and then kill her in order to save Adar. Even as Matai tries to keep as much distance from Camea as the Fire God will allow, he finds himself intrigued by her fearlessness.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shadow of the Moon, a Sea of Shadows (e-book) by Fuyumi Ono, translated by Eugene Woodbury

I've been thinking about Fuyumi Ono's Twelve Kingdoms series a lot lately and decided that a reread was in order. But not quite the usual reread. Behold, my first post about a fan translation. Don't expect too many of these, though, because I prefer to stick to licensed translations. The Twelve Kingdoms series is a special case.

This post does not include a read-alikes list. I should mention, though, that this was the first time I realized that this first book has a lot in common with Alice in Wonderland - another story in which a girl is transported to a strange land with absurd rules.

Review:

I downloaded Eugene Woodbury's fan translations of the Twelve Kingdoms books ages ago but dragged my feet about reading them. For one thing, I was still holding on to the hope that Yen Press (or maybe Haikasoru?) would announce a Twelve Kingdoms license rescue. For another, Woodbury's decision to translate Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Sokai as Poseidon of the East, Vast Blue Seas of the West made me worry that his translations would be more localized than I'd like. I haven't given up on that license rescue (and would definitely buy/rebuy anything that I'd already read), but I really wanted to find out what happened next in the series and decided I should at least give Woodbury's translation a shot.

I told myself I wasn't going to write anything about the story itself, since I've already reviewed the book, but I thought I should mention that I liked it even more than when I reread it back in 2014. I don't know if it was the translation or if I've just gotten so fed up with the current state of YA fiction. As frustrating as early Youko (I'm going to use Woodbury's romanization in this post) could be, it was refreshing to read about a heroine who actually changed, grew, and learned from her past mistakes. The Youko at the end of the book was definitely not the same person she was at the beginning.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Alien Emergencies (e-book) by James White

Alien Emergencies is a sci-fi omnibus volume. It includes several works from White's Sector General series.

This review includes one slight spoiler. I didn't say which story it came from, so hopefully it isn't too bad.

Review:

Warning: this review is pretty long.

Alien Emergencies is the second Sector General omnibus and includes either four or three works in the series, depending on how you count them. There's Ambulance Ship, Sector General, and Star Healer.

Ambulance Ship starts off with “Spacebird,” a story set on Sector General, a vast hospital in space. Ambulance Ship continues with stories detailing the first voyages of a specially designed ambulance ship, the first of its kind. True to the spirit of Sector General, the ambulance ship's crew includes not only humans like Senior Physician Conway and Pathologist Murchison, but also Dr. Prilicla, an incredibly fragile empathic alien who looks like a giant insect, and Charge Nurse Naydrad, who looks like a giant silver-furred caterpillar. These hospital employees are accompanied by members of the Monitor Corps, sort of an intergalactic police force. Ideally, everybody should work together in order to solve the medical mysteries they encounter in the best and quickest possible way, but things don't always go quite as smoothly as they should, especially at the beginning.

Sector General includes more stories dealing with the ambulance ship's various adventures. In Star Healer, however, Conway is provisionally promoted to the position of Diagnostician and can no longer be part of the ambulance ship's crew. Star Healer is the only novel-length work in the omnibus, and the only work where Conway is assigned several clinical cases and medical emergencies at once. His patients include: a violent alien that's about to give birth to its telepathic fetus and render it just as mindlessly violent as itself; Hudlars (very strong aliens) critically injured in a horrific accident; geriatric Hudlars whose bodies are deteriorating more rapidly than their minds; and a less time-sensitive case involving the Gogleskans, aliens who have an instinctual fear of physical contact, even with members of their own kind.

While Conway deals with all of this, he also has  to adjust to one of the more difficult aspects of being a Diagnostician: learning to live with multiple alien personalities inside his head. Every Diagnostician permanently possesses at least four Educator tapes, the full medical knowledge of a doctor of another species. Unfortunately, Educator tapes don't just impart medical knowledge, they also include the tape provider's personality, dreams, nightmares, body sense, and more. It's disorienting, to say the least.
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