Monday, June 14, 2021

REVIEW: Binti: Home (novella) by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti: Home is science fiction, the second work in a trilogy. I previously reviewed Binti, the first novella.

I bought my copy of this book brand new.

Review:

It's been a year since Binti left home and began attending Oomza University. Her studies are going well, but she's having emotional difficulties. She keeps having bursts of increasingly difficult to control anger. She's also suffering from PTSD-related panic attacks. Anything that reminds her of the slaughter on the spaceship that brought her to Oomza Uni can bring them on, including her best friend, the Meduse Okwu, who also happened to be one of the beings who participated in the slaughter.

Binti secretly fears that the changes the Meduse made her undergo have somehow made her unclean. She decides to return home and go on a pilgrimage to help cleanse herself. However, her journey soon takes an unexpected turn and forces her to confront her prejudices and some of the things she thought she knew about herself.

REVIEW: Wings of Fire, Book 1: The Dragonet Prophecy (graphic novel) by Tui T. Sutherland, art by Mike Holmes

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy is the first volume of a graphic novel adaptation of Sutherland's Middle Grade fantasy book of the same title. 

Review:

There is a mysterious prophecy that says five dragonets will be born who are destined to put an end to the war between the dragon tribes. In order to fulfill the prophecy, several eggs are acquired: Mudwing (Clay), Sandwing (Sunny), Nightwing (Starflight), and Seawing (Tsunami). The only egg that doesn't really fit the prophecy is Glory's - she's a Rainwing and they really needed a Skywing. The five dragonets are raised in secret to eventually carry out their role, but they're treated like prisoners and eventually decide to escape in the hope of finding the parents they were stolen from. Unfortunately, that's when Scarlet, Queen of the Skywings and one of the many threats to their existence, finds them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

At the halfway point - My 2021 offloading goal is going pretty well

I own lots of physical books and DVDs. I like owning them, but at the same time, I live in an apartment and have limited space. Also, if I ever do end up moving to a new place, that stuff translates into lots of heavy boxes or lots of things I'd have to find a way to whittle down fast.

I've had some vague offloading goals since 2016, but my efforts usually haven't gone well and/or haven't been consistent. In 2016, my offload stack was 5.5 ft. In 2017, it dropped down to a measly 1.4 ft. The next couple years weren't any better: 1.3 ft. and 1.9 ft. I felt amazingly productive when, in 2020, I somehow managed to offload 3.5 ft.

At the beginning of 2021, I decided to try being a little more purposeful about my offloading. I set up a goal of 1 foot per month, but told myself that if I didn't manage it, I wouldn't beat myself up over it. I figured that I'd initially do very well but would have issues meeting my monthly goal by this point in the year. Surprisingly, the project is actually going extremely well.

I've been using LibraryThing to keep track of my offloads, as I've done since 2016. My "1 foot per month" goal makes it easy to figure out whether I'm on track, because I know my number of feet needs to match my current month at some point before the end of the month.

Right now, I'm at 5.9 ft. offloaded, more than I've ever managed. It's been going much better than I expected, although I'll admit that it has definitely affected my reading choices. I concentrate a lot more on books I suspect I'd be comfortable offloading, and I've been getting through more of my manga collection. And it's forced me to be slightly more comfortable with DNFing - I've tried to make myself feel better about those by writing brief DNF reviews that I add to LibraryThing for my own benefit (when Future Me sees the book again and is maybe tempted to rebuy it, for example). A small number of my offloads have been things that, in a perfect world with much more shelf space, I'd have preferred to keep, but so far I haven't actively regretted getting rid of anything. 

Ultimately, I'd like to free up enough space so that I no longer need to keep any books in boxes and can have them all on bookshelves. At my current rate, considering that I still buy new stuff to add to my collection, that's definitely going to take longer than a year or two. But I'm still happy with my progress so far - I can actually see space opening up. Crossing my fingers that I continue to do this well during the second half of the year.

REVIEW: Big Guns Out of Uniform (anthology) by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Liz Carlyle, and Nicole Camden

Big Guns Out of Uniform is a romance anthology - either erotic romance or something very close to it. I'm pretty sure I bought it new.

Review:

I bought this book years ago, back when I was a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan and would read anything of hers I could get my hands on, even though I preferred her paranormals. This was technically a reread, but I only remembered Kenyon's story and the premise of Camden's story. Carlyle's story was a complete blank - absolutely nothing about it was familiar to me.

I recalled this being a so-so read for me, even back when I first read it. My romance reading tastes have changed a lot over the years, so I was curious to see how well this would hold up for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

REVIEW: Kuroko's Basketball, Season 2 (anime TV series)

Kuroko's Basketball is a high school sports anime series. I watched it on Netflix. If you haven't seen Season 1, I highly recommend you do so before reading my review.

This review contains things that could be considered spoilers.

Review:

Season 2 starts with a street ball tournament that introduces viewers to Tatsuya Himuro, Kagami's childhood friend and the person who got him started with playing basketball. Although they were very close friends, Himuro now sees Kagami as his rival and thinks they must abandon their friendship in order to play each other seriously.

Then the series moves on to the Winter Cup preliminaries, beginning with Seirin vs. Josei (no Generation of Miracles characters here, and I literally can't remember a thing about this match). After that, Seirin faces off against several other teams, including Kirisaki Dai'ichi (known for playing dirty), Shutoku (Midorima's team), To'o (Aomine's team), and Yosen (Murasakibara and Himuro's team).

The season also takes a break a few times for things like a flashback to Kiyoshi starting Seirin's basketball team, special training efforts, and a trip to a hot spring.

Monday, May 31, 2021

REVIEW: Woof Woof Story: I Told You to Turn Me Into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir!, Vol. 1 (book) by Inumajin, illustrated by Kochimo, translated by Jennifer O'Donnell

Woof Woof Story: I Told You to Turn Me Into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir! is yet another fantasy isekai series, this time with comedic elements. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Routa is a 29-year-old corporate employee who's been awake and working overtime who knows how long when his body suddenly gives out and he dies. His coworkers either don't notice or don't care. His last wish is to be reborn as the cute pet dog of some wealthy family, able to spend all his time eating and sleeping and never again having to worry about work.

His wish is granted, sort of. When he wakes up, he discovers he's now at a pet store in another world, in the body of a fluffy white puppy. Mary, a cute 14-year-old girl from a wealthy family, adores him instantly and decides to take him home with her. However, Routa gradually realizes that he's a little abnormal for a supposed dog. He's becoming really big, for one thing, and his face is very fierce. He has to concentrate on barking normally rather than growling like some kind of wild beast. Even worse, he seems to have terrifying destructive powers.

If he wants to keep his pampered pet life, Routa somehow has to keep Mary safe while preventing those around him from realizing that he's not just a very large but otherwise perfectly ordinary fluffy white dog.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories is a fantasy romance short story anthology. This particular volume is licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy new.

Review:

This is an anthology of short stories featuring characters from the Alice in the Country of Hearts otome game franchise. I just did a quick search, and it looks like one of the games used to be available for iOS and Android, but then the company that produced it, Quinrose, went bankrupt. That game is no longer available, and I'm guessing that means that all the other ones will never be available either. As an otome game fan, that makes me sad, but at the same time I've read so many of these manga spinoffs that I doubt I'm missing too much. 

Newbies to the franchise should absolutely not start with this volume. Although it does organize the stories by game (Alice in the Country of Hearts, Alice in the Country of Clover, and Alice in the Country of Joker) and briefly explains the overall premise of each one, it still assumes a lot of basic knowledge. It looks like all the manga may be out of print now, but if you can, I'd recommend checking out the original series, just called Alice in the Country of Hearts, from a library and starting there.

For those who are familiar with the franchise, this volume will work best for fans of Blood, Joker, the twins, Pierce, Boris, and Gray. There's also a very short Ace story in here, but it's pretty pointless (and kind of weird, a mixture of Ace in love with Alice but Alice also having a brief flash of being killed by him). Although the volume is organized by game, I'm opting to organize by character in my review.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 4) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Julia Kwon Gombos

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy historical romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Soah has regained some of her memories about Mui and Habaek, but she also remembers Habaek reuniting with Nakbin, so she pretends not to know Mui and agrees to marry Dong-young. However, Mui/Habaek can't quite bring himself to stay away, and Tae-eul-jin-in brings things to a head by forcing him to have a flashback to his last days with Nakbin.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 3) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Julia Kwon Gombos

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy historical romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Soah is confused and disappointed at the discovery that Habaek does not have a tattoo on his chest like Mui, which seems to her like a good indication that they're not the same person, no matter what her suspicions tell her. She is further thrown by the revelation that Nakbin may still be alive. If Habaek has Nakbin, what use does he have for a fake bride like Soah?

In the end, Habaek makes the choice for Soah and sends her back to her family with her memories erased. Will Soah somehow find happiness with people who never expected to see her again, or will she somehow remember Habaek and return to him?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

REVIEW: So Pretty It Hurts (book) by Kate White

So Pretty It Hurts
is the 6th book in Kate White's Bailey Weggins mystery series. 

Review:

Content warning: lots of detailed discussions about weight, anorexia, and eating disorders.

Bailey Weggins is a true crime writer and journalist for Buzz, a celebrity gossip magazine. Her love life is currently a bit uncertain - she loves her boyfriend, Beau, but suspects he only agreed to a committed relationship because he thought he'd lose her otherwise - so she deals with it by escaping to a house party in the country. Sparks fly between several of the guests, culminating in the shocking death of Devon Barr, an extremely thin supermodel. Bailey immediately suspects that an eating disorder played a part in Devon's death, but additional events cause her to wonder if Devon's death was helped along by one of the other guests.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

REVIEW: Mixed Vegetables (manga, vol. 4) by Ayumi Komura, translated by JN Productions

Mixed Vegetables is a romance Japanese manga series. Like a depressing number of the manga volumes I own, it appears to be out of print, although it can at least still be purchased digitally if you're willing to read manga that way. I bought this volume used.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Hanayu agrees to a radish peeling competition against Hayato. If he wins, she has to feed him pastries. If she wins, he'll tell her why he wants to be a pastry chef. Hanayu desperately wants to win, but can she manage it, considering that Hayato's job at the sushi restaurant involves peeling radishes?

Then the story moves on to Saki for the bulk of the volume. He had a crush on his homeroom teacher in high school...who is now Hanayu and Hayato's homeroom teacher, Miss Matsuzaka. Also, he never really got past his crush. However, he can't bring himself to see her, because he's convinced that he's only a bad memory for her, a student who ignored her and did something she considered to be a foolish mistake.

The volume wraps up with a flashback to Hayato's mother's first meeting with Hayato's grandfather.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 2) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Heejeong Haas

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Mui offers to help Soah go back home, but she refuses, saying that Habaek is deeply in love with her. In reality, she's hiding something that makes going home an impossibility.

Mui's comment that his words are Habaek's words does prompt Soah to begin wondering about the connection between Mui and Habaek. One god tells her that they're really the same person, while another tells her that this is a lie. Who's telling the truth? The only way to find out is to see if Habaek has the same tattoo on his chest that Mui has on his.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

REVIEW: Meridian, Vol. 2: Going to Ground (graphic novel) by Barbara Kesel, art by Steve McNiven, Tom Simmons, Morry Hollowell, etc.

Meridian is a fantasy (SFF?) series. I bought this volume used.

Review:

At the end of the previous volume, Sephie was enslaved and forced to work with the orphaned children trying to earn the right to stay in Akasia, and Jad found out that Sephie fell from her ship and assumed the fall must have killed her.

Sephie gradually gains more control over her powers and begins to understand their limitations. She's able to free herself and heads out in search of people who can help her. Although she's more careful after her experience at Akasia, she does manage to come across a few surprises, including a few people who knew her parents from before she was born. Meanwhile, Meridian's refugees find a new floating island to call home, and Ilhan deals with his new apprentice and a man who seems to have special knowledge of his and Sephie's new powers.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 1) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Heejeong Haas

Bride of the Water God is a historical romantic fantasy Korean manhwa. It was (is?) licensed by Dark Horse Comics, but it appears to be out of print now and in limbo. I bought this volume used.

Review:

Soah's village is desperate to end a long drought, so they decide to sacrifice her to the Water God, Habaek. Instead of just drowning, Soah wakes up in the land of Suguk, where she learns that Habaek is a child. What she doesn't realize is that the child she sees is only one of Habaek's forms - for some reason, he must spend days as a child but grows into an adult form at night.

I don't know how I feel about this series yet. The story was very slow to get going - all this volume accomplished was introducing several gods I tended to mix up, plus Habaek's mother, the goddess of punishment and torture (how's that for an intimidating mother-in-law?). Also, it appears that there might be a love triangle. Soah initially mistook Huye for Habaek and was relieved that he was good-looking. Also, Habaek might find himself in competition with himself later on in the series, depending on when he finally tells Soah the truth: when Soah first saw him in his adult form, he told her his name was Mui and didn't correct her assumption that he was Habaek's older cousin.

Yeesh, the character relationships are already a bit complicated. At any rate, I own three more volumes and am willing to see where this goes, although the series' out-of-print status makes me hope that it doesn't work for me overall.

The artwork is pretty enough - I particularly like the full-page illustrations. I'm not always a fan of the way the author draws people, though, very long and bony.

Extras:

A couple full-color pages that are so lovely I wish the entire volume could've been in color, plus an amusing/cute 2-page comic-style afterword by the author.

REVIEW: Meridian, Vol. 1: Flying Solo (graphic novel) written by Barbara Kesel; pencilers, Joshua Middleton, George Perez, Steve McNiven

Meridian is a fantasy graphic novel series published by Crossgen Comics. I bought my copy used.

Review:

The ground-level areas of the planet Demetria are toxic, so most people live on floating islands, each of which is governed by a Minister and specializes in a particular industry or type of work. Meridian, whose people specialize in building airships, is one such island. Meridian's Minister is Turos, and teenage Sephie is his heir. Turos' brother, Ilahn, is the Minister of Cadador.

A pair of gods (or something) decide to shake things up on Demetria by imbuing a pair of siblings with great powers: one with the power of destruction and one with the power of creation. They pick Turos and Ilahn, but the strain is too much for Turos and his heart gives out. Upon his death, his power is passed on to Sephie.

Ilahn has always been jealous of Turos and sees this as the perfect opportunity to take over Meridian and remake it as he sees fit. Sephie is initially naive and trusting but eventually realizes that she'll have to stand against her uncle if her people are to survive.