Sunday, February 25, 2018

Worst of 2017

I tend to hand out lower star ratings much more freely than higher star ratings, so these lists are a bit longer than my "best" lists. I generally stuck with things that I gave 1- or 1.5-star ratings to while constructing these lists, but sometimes I bent those rules a little.

Worst Books (E-books, Paper):
Worst Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
  • "The Monster of the Lighthouse" by Keikichi Osaka (mystery) - This was in a collection called The Ginza Ghost, which I reviewed as a whole.
  • "Aviva and the Aliens" by Shira Glassman (fantasy, comedy) - This was in a collection called Tales from Outer Lands. This particular story was way too goofy for my tastes, although the other one in the collection was decent.
Worst Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

Again, I'm being lazy and listing entire series when it's possibly just a single volume that I rated low enough for it to count as "worst."
Worst Audiobooks:

None that I can recall, or I never finished them.

Worst Movies:
  • Justice, My Foot! (live action comedy) - I gave this two stars. It had some redeeming qualities, but it wasn't anywhere near what I'd call great.
  • K: Missing Kings (anime fantasy) - Another 2-star movie. Pretty enough, but lacking in substance and a complete story.
Worst TV Series:

None that I can recall, or I never finished them.

Best of 2017

I normally try to post these lists within in the first month of the new year, but this time around life got in the way and I was too stressed out over my cat's health to put the lists together in a timely manner. Better late than never, right?

Here's how this is going to work: I'm starting off with a "Best of 2017" post, followed by a "Worst of 2017" post. There is no minimum number of titles I plan to list - it's quite possible for there to be no "best" or "worst" titles in a particular category in a particular year. For my "best" lists, I generally include things that I've given 4 stars or higher, although it's possible that I might list something with a lower star rating if my feelings about it have improved since I read/watched it. Titles are listed in no particular order, and my "best" lists will probably be shorter than my "worst" because I'm stingier with the higher star ratings than I am with the lower. I'm opting to list rereads/rewatches separately from new-to-me things, where possible.

Best Books (E-books, Paper):
Rereads I'd Recommend:
Best Audiobooks:
Relistens I'd Recommend:
Best Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
Best Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):
I'm aware that I'm being lazy here - instead of listing and linking to the particular volumes that got the series put on the list, I'm listing the series as a whole if I considered any of the series' volumes to be particularly good.
Rereads I'd Recommend:
Best Movies:
Sorry, I was terrible about reviewing movies in 2017, especially if I saw them at the movie theater.
  • Hidden Figures (live action biographical drama)
  • Wonder Woman (live action superhero)
Best TV Series:
Rewatches I'd Recommend:

REVIEW: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (graphic novel, vol. 1) written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Three months after finishing my vacation, I'm finally posting my very last post-vacation review. After this, I'll finally write and publish my "best and worst of 2017" post, only two months late.

As usual, this post-vacation review is filled with spoilers. If you'd like a spoiler-tagged version, check out my reviews on LibraryThing, Goodreads, or Booklikes. The gist of my review, though, will be that I liked this overall, even though the art style wasn't really my thing.

REVIEW: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun Limited Edition (anime TV series)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is a comedy series based on a 4-koma manga. I bought the anime on a whim during a sale without bothering to really look it up much. I knew I liked the manga,and I knew, based on a couple complaints I'd seen, that the anime would not resolve the issue of Chiyo's unrequited love for Nozaki. Even though this series has romance in it, it really is best (and significantly less frustrating) to approach it as primarily a comedy.

The basic premise: Chiyo has had a crush on Nozaki since the first time they met. She finally works up the courage to tell him, but he misunderstands and thinks she's trying to tell him that she knows he's a manga artist and she's a fan of his work. He gives her his autograph and ends up inviting her to his house. She does the beta (filling in marked areas with black ink) for him and is shocked to learn that he's the writer and artist of a popular shojo manga.

As the series progresses, Chiyo meets more and more of Nozaki's assistants/friends, learns more about the life of a manga artist, and learns how Nozaki, in particular, does his work. He doesn't really have much of an imagination, so a good chunk of the series is devoted to Nozaki mining real-life situations and people for things he can use in his manga.

REVIEW: I Am Here! (manga, vol. 1) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks

I Am Here! is a romance series. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

This review includes a reference to a revelation that I feel is probably too obvious to count as a spoiler, but, just in case, here's your spoiler warning.

Review:

This is actually an omnibus collection of the first three volumes of the series. Hikage Sumino is an eighth grader who'd like nothing more than to have friends like other people do. Unfortunately for her, she's practically invisible. Even when people notice that she's in the room, they soon forget she's there. It isn't just people her own age who don't see her - adults constantly forget she exists too. She's been left behind on field trip days, ignored in restaurants, and even hit by someone on a moped when she tried to help a cat. The only times she seems to truly exist are when she's taking care of the sunflower she's been growing and when she's blogging. She has two regular commenters who encourage her: Black Rabbit and Mega Pig.

When two of the school's most popular boys, Hinata and Teru, talk to her, it starts to look like maybe Hikage can finally have her time in the sun. First, however, she must struggle against her own introversion and low self-esteem, as well as jealous classmates.

REVIEW: Authority (book) by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority is the second book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Whereas Annihilation took place inside Area X, Authority takes place outside, at Southern Reach. The folks at Southern Reach are charged with studying Area X, putting together expeditions to send into it, and potentially protecting the world against Area X and whatever might come out of it. Unfortunately, Southern Reach is currently a dysfunctional environment at best.

A man who prefers to be called Control but whose real name is something else is sent to Southern Reach to be its new director. Grace, the assistant director, takes an immediate dislike to him, leading to a power struggle that stretches across most of the book. While trying to get Grace to accept his authority, Control, a spy from a family of spies, also attempts to get his bearings. He interviews the twelfth expedition's biologist, learns as much about Area X and Southern Reach as his new employees are willing and able to tell him, and tries to figure out if the previous director was as unstable as the mess in her office made her look, all of which he reports back to his shadowy boss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

REVIEW: Forgotten (live action movie)

Forgotten is a South Korean thriller.

Review:

In case the name romanizations in my review don't quite match the subtitles in Netflix, I'll start with this note: I completely forgot to write characters' names down and am using a list of character names I found online to write this review.

All right, so Forgotten stars Jin-seok, a 21-year-old college student (I think?) who has just moved to a new house with his mother, father, and older brother. Jin-seok and his brother, Yoo-seok, have to share a room for a while because their father agreed to store some of the house's previous owner's stuff in the other bedroom. Both brothers are told never to go into the other room, but right from the start Jin-seok keeps hearing strange sounds coming from the room that no one else seems to hear.

Things only get worse when, shortly after the move, Yoo-seok is kidnapped right before Jin-seok's eyes. The entire family waits for any kind of word about Yoo-seok - a ransom request, anything. Nothing at all happens, until nineteen days later Yoo-seok shows up again with no memory of what happened while he was kidnapped. Jin-seok, who has had nightmares for some time and takes medication for his anxiety, finds his fears and paranoia becoming worse after his brother's return.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

REVIEW: Erased (live action TV series)

Erased is a mystery series based on the manga by Kei Sanbe.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

When I first heard that Netflix was adding Erased to its streaming lineup, I was thrilled. I thought they were adding the anime, which, at its current cost of at least $15 per 25-minute episode, is way outside my preferred price range (yes, I realize it's available for free on Crunchyroll, but I try to use that site as little as possible). I was less excited once I realized that what they were adding was actually a live action TV series, but I figured I'd watch it anyway.

The story: Satoru is a loner who'd like to create manga for a living but whose work keeps getting rejected. His one special skill is this thing he calls Revival: an ability to travel back in time and alter events that originally got someone killed. He doesn't seem to have any control over it, and he's only ever gone back a few minutes in time. However, when his mom is murdered and he becomes a suspect, he tries to consciously use his ability to save her...and ends up 15 (?) years in the past. It's a time in his life when several children in his town were kidnapped and killed. With nothing else to guide him, Satoru assumes that this must mean the kidnappings are tied to his mother's future murder. If he can find and stop the kidnapper, he can save his mother.

REVIEW: Silent Hill (live action movie)

Silent Hill is a horror movie based on the Silent Hill video game series.

This review includes a few spoilers - no story spoilers (or at least no big ones), but one spoiler describing what happens to one particular character.

Review:

Disclaimer: I have never played any of the Silent Hill games. My nerves can't handle horror games. If I have any exposure to them at all, it's via watching my dad play them or watching Let's Play videos. However, I haven't even had that level of exposure to the Silent Hill games.

In this movie, Rose is a mom who's at her wit's end. Her adopted daughter, Sharon, keeps sleep walking and having nightmares. She sometimes says "Silent Hill" in her sleep but can't remember it when she wakes up. Medication hasn't been working, and Rose is afraid Sharon is going to hurt herself one of these days. Against her husband's objections, Rose does some research, learns that Silent Hill is a real place (an old abandoned mining town), and decides to take Sharon there. While on her way she gets into a car chase with a suspicious cop, because that's totally a good idea when your potentially traumatized daughter is in the car with you.

Rose gets into an accident while swerving to avoid hitting someone. When she wakes up, she's in Silent Hill, an eerie place where ash falls like snow. Sharon has disappeared and Rose tries to find her. She quickly learns that the town has hidden horrors that must be avoided if she is to survive.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

REVIEW: Horrorstör (book) by Grady Hendrix, designed by Andie Reid, illustrated by Michael Rogalski

Horrorstör is horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Horrorstör is a ghost story that takes place in an Ikea knockoff called Orsk. Amy, one of the main characters, is low on cash, convinced she's about to be fired, and desperate to transfer to a different Orsk. She thinks her boss, Basil, has it in for her, which is why she's horrified when he calls her in for a special meeting. It throws her off a bit that Ruth Anne was also called in. Ruth Anne is a model employee, so why would anyone want to fire her?

As it turns out, Basil isn't planning on firing anyone, at least not right now. No, Basil has a problem. It appears that someone has been hanging around Orsk after hours and breaking things. In one instance, the person even pooped on a Brooka (sofa). The security cameras are no good - whoever's doing this has been limiting their activities to sometime between 2 and 7:30 AM, the time period when the store lights power down to twilight mode. Basil figures that he, Ruth Anne, and Amy can sweep the store and either find the culprit or at least prevent them from damaging anything else before the store's general manager and Regional arrive in the morning. This is a horror novel, so of course things don't go nearly that well.

REVIEW: A Love Song for the Miserable (manga) by Yukimura, translated by Sachiko Sato

A Love Song for the Miserable is yaoi manga published by Digital Manga Publishing.

Review:

All Asada wants is to transfer to his company's Events Planning Division and hopefully start implementing some of his ideas to make their events better and more exciting. However, his request for a transfer is turned down. On the plus side, his horrible day at work leads to him meeting Nao, the son of the owner of a cake shop. Nao convinces Asada to be his taste tester, and the two men become friends.

Unfortunately, their relationship sours when Nao tells Asada that he plans to go to France to study to be a patissier. Asada reacts badly, and he and Nao don't meet or even speak to each other again until three years later, when Asada finally achieves his goal of joining the Events Planning Division and must get a new patissier to participate in the division's upcoming sweets fair. The patissier he's been assigned to negotiate with is Nao.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 1) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is sort of a time travel manga. It's licensed by Viz. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

At his birth, Yukari was declared to have retained memories of his past life. In the series' present, seventeen-year-old Yukari is a prolific author of books set in the Edo period. He doesn't particularly like writing and he never does any research, but his memories of his past life compel him to write.

His lackluster attitude towards writing dismays Mahoro, a student at Yukari's school who happens to be a huge fan of his work. Yukari feels a connection to Mahoro, which he immediately realizes is due to the fact that they knew each other in the past - Yukari's past self was cut down by a sword and died in a fire, and it seems that Mahoro's past self died right beside him.

It'd merely be an interesting discovery, except that Yukari suddenly finds himself drawn into the past and deposited into the body of his former self, Yumurasaki, a popular oiran (according to the translator's notes, a class of courtesan). For some unknown reason, Yukari keeps getting pulled backward and forward in time, meeting people in his present who are reincarnations of people he knew when he was Yumurasaki.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

REVIEW: Peter Darling (book) by Austin Chant

Peter Darling is m/m fantasy published by Less Than Three Press. One of the characters is a trans man. In some ways this feels like a spoiler, because it takes a while for this to come up in the book. However, the publisher makes this aspect clear on both the product page and the back of the book.

Review:

Ten years ago, Peter left Neverland behind in order to go back to his family, who he hoped would finally accept him as he was. Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as well as he'd hoped, and in the book's present he's gone back to Neverland.

Peter seems to think that he can slide back into his old life in Neverland without any trouble, but things have changed since he left. The Lost Boys have a new leader and have become much more peaceful in Peter's absence, and Peter's efforts to "play war" now have more horrible and deadly consequences. The one person in Neverland who seems to genuinely like that Peter is back and shaking things up is his old nemesis, Hook.

REVIEW: Mystic Messenger (game) - Zen's route (plus After Ending and Valentine's Day)

[This post includes a slight spoiler.]

I played Zen's route through once and got his "good" ending. Zen's route deals with two major problems: first, Zen injuring himself, which may ruin his chances at a musical role he's very much looking forward to doing, and second, the unwanted attention of his co-star. Zen spends a good chunk of his route at least a little depressed - apparently his depression in his Christmas route wasn't out-of-character after all.

Although I enjoyed this, I was also disappointed on several levels. First, it underscored that Jaehee's route was a good deal simpler. I'm pretty sure it had fewer images, fewer Story moments, and fewer complications. It would have been nice if the player character could have met Jaehee prior to the party the way she was allowed to meet Zen. Second, the emotional labor involved in Zen's route was more noticeable. For some reason, I didn't mind or notice the number of times the player character had to tell Jaehee that Jumin was treating her terribly the way I noticed the number of times I had to tell Zen that he really was a good actor, that he was worth more than his good looks, etc.

REVIEW: Annihilation (book) by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation is science fiction, the first part of a trilogy. I picked up a used copy of it a while back.

Review:

I'm pretty sure I bought my copy of Annihilation sometime late last year. I probably wouldn't have read it until months or even years later, except I saw a preview of the movie and was intrigued. I wanted to read the book before the movie came out.

The book begins with the start of the latest expedition into the mysterious Area X. The twelfth expedition is made entirely up of women: a psychologist (their leader), a biologist (the book's narrator), a surveyor, and an anthropologist. There was also supposed to be a linguist, but she opted not to go the Area X, or was prevented from going.

Unexpected things happen right at the very start of the expedition. Prior to going into Area X, everyone was rigorously trained in topics relating to their field of study, as well as the known geography of Area X. However, one of the first things they come across is a tower that was most definitely not on the map they were shown. They have a choice: they can either explore the tower, or they can forge ahead and check out whatever the previous expedition left behind at the lighthouse (which was on the map) and the surrounding area. They opt to go to the tower, which turns out to have writing on its walls, made out of some kind of plants. After their first trip into the tower, the expedition begins to rapidly fall apart.
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