Sunday, June 5, 2022

REVIEW: Seven Dirty Secrets (book) by Natalie D. Richards

Seven Dirty Secrets is a YA thriller. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Content warning for this book: domestic abuse.

On her eighteenth birthday, Cleo discovers that someone has left an invitation to a scavenger hunt on her sink while she was showering. Which is super creepy, but initially she thinks her best friend Hope or her brother Connor left it. No such luck. As she works her way through the scavenger hunt to find the next clues, it becomes increasingly clear that whoever set this game up knew a lot about Cleo's relationship with her boyfriend, Declan, who drowned during a trip he, Cleo, and their friends took a year ago. And whoever it is doesn't plan to stop this game until all the secrets from that trip are out in the open.

REVIEW: Heroine Complex (book) by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Complex is urban fantasy. It could also be considered superhero fiction. I bought my copy used.

Review:

A few years ago, demons tried to invade Earth via interdimensional portals. They failed, and for some reason several humans ended up with superpowers as a result. Aveda Jupiter (real name: Annie Chang) is one of them, and she's now San Francisco's most beloved and hardest working superhero, battling the much weaker demons that occasionally turn up. Evie Tanaka is her childhood friend and personal assistant. She's used to dealing with Aveda's tantrums and is, in fact, an expert at making sure Aveda's public persona remains perfect. Evie always keeps her emotions in control, even when work is stressful or Bea (her younger sister, who she's been raising since their parents died) acts particularly rebellious. Because she knows if she slips up, she might accidentally kill someone.

Most of the superpowers people got after the demons came were relatively weak. Aveda, for example, got telekinesis, but she can only just barely move things. Evie's power, on the other hand, is much more dramatic and terrifying: she can light things on fire. 

When Aveda injures herself, she convinces a reluctant Evie to pose as her for an event, during which Evie accidentally reveals her superpower. Now Evie's stuck pretending to be Aveda for a while longer, even though she'd much rather fade into the background and let Aveda have the spotlight.

REVIEW: Death by Sudoku (book) by Kaye Morgan

Death by Sudoku is a cozy mystery. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Liza is a recently divorced (or separated? can't remember) former public relations specialist who now creates Sudoku puzzles for her hometown paper. She's off to take part in a Sudoku competition when she encounters Derrick, a minor celebrity who knew her during her public relations days. It's a bit awkward for Liza at first, because she tries to keep her Sudoku and Hollywood public relations selves separate (Sudoku isn't exactly glamorous or cool), but Derrick is also taking part in the competition, so she enjoys the chance to reconnect with him. 

Later on, Derrick mentions something about an apparent code he noticed in a particular paper's Sudoku puzzles. Not long after that, Liza comes across his dead body. Was he really on to something with his theories about the Sudoku puzzles and, if so, can Liza figure out who the culprit is in time?

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (live action movie)

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a 1960 thriller based on a novel by Robert Bloch. I haven't read the novel, and this was my first time watching the movie. I bought my copy of this brand new.

Review:

Marion Crane, a real estate secretary, has a secret relationship with her boyfriend Sam. She wants to get married, but he's too concerned about his debts and general lack of money...so when Marion is handed an envelope with $40,000 at work and told to immediately deposit it at the bank, she instead decides at the spur-of-the-moment to steal the money for her and Sam.

Increasingly concerned about the amount of attention she's getting from a cop, Marion ends up at the Bates Motel off the main highway. The proprietor, Norman Bates, seems a little odd and awkward, but Marion feels sympathetic towards him when she overhears Norman's mother berating her for wanting to allow Marion over for dinner. Now that she's had some time to think, Marion is reconsidering her decision to steal the money. Unfortunately, the Bates Motel was the wrong place to stop for the night.

REVIEW: Meet Cute (book) by Helena Hunting

Meet Cute is a contemporary romance. I bought my copy used.

Review: 

Content warning for this book: parent death in car crash.

Kailyn is a trust lawyer who's been a huge fan of the show It's My Life since she was a teen (I pictured it in my head as being like The Wonder Years, although maybe it's more Dawson's Creek based on the Monday crying meme). Daxton Hughes is an entertainment lawyer who used to play the main character in It's My Life when he was a teen. The two of them first met in law school, when Kailyn accidentally walked into Dax's Frisbee game and then fangirled all over him. They were friendly rivals during law school, with definite potential for romance, until Dax betrayed Kailyn by turning in one of her assignments for her late. 

Or at least that's how Kailyn recalls things. Dax doesn't seem to remember any of that, at least not judging by his reaction to her when they meet again after Kailyn is hired to set up a trust for Dax's younger sister, Emme. Kailyn figures it won't be a problem...except that 6 months later Dax and Emme's parents die in a car crash, and Dax is unexpectedly named Emme's legal guardian. Linda, their aunt, doesn't react well to this news. When she sues for custody, Kailyn is appointed Emme's conservator.

As Dax and Kailyn spend more time together, Kailyn gradually begins to thaw towards Dax and discovers she has a soft spot for Emme as well. Which creates a problem for her - Kailyn's been promised a partnership at her firm if she can convince Dax to work there, but her firm also has a rule against relationships at work. Plus, how will Dax react when he finds out about the partnership agreement Kailyn has with her boss? Then there's still the custody battle with Linda.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

REVIEW: Snatch (live action movie)

Snatch is a crime movie with black comedy elements. I bought my copy new.

Review:

A jewel thief named Franky Four Fingers steals a massive diamond, only to end up dead when he attempts to take a detour to satisfy his gambling addiction. The stories of multiple characters intertwine before the diamond finally ends up in someone's hands: there's Turkish, a boxing promoter, and his pal Tommy; an Irish gypsy named Mickey; a couple small-time crooks accompanied by their getaway driver and a dog; and more, all of them with their own goals and motivations.

REVIEW: House at the End of the Street (live action movie)

House at the End of the Street is a psychological thriller. I bought my copy brand new. 

Review:

Sarah, a divorced mother, moves into a gorgeous new home with her teenage daughter Elissa. The two have a rocky relationship, and it gets rockier when Elissa meets Ryan Jacobson, their college-aged neighbor. The Jacobson house is the reason why Sarah and Elissa can afford to live in their new home: several years ago, Carrie Anne Jacobson killed her and Ryan's parents and disappeared into the forest surrounding their home, thus driving down all the area property values (a much bigger concern for local homeowners than the fact that two people they presumably knew were brutally murdered).

Carrie Anne hasn't been seen since and is assumed to be dead. Ryan survived because he was living with his aunt at the time, but now he's back and is reluctant to sell his family's home. Elissa finds herself intrigued by Ryan, who is polite, sad, and withdrawn but seems to be equally intrigued by her. Unfortunately, Ryan is keeping some dangerous secrets.

REVIEW: Garm Wars: The Last Druid (live action movie)

Garm Wars: The Last Druid is a sci-fi movie. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Okay, let's see if I can come up with a halfway decent description for this... This takes place on a world in which eight tribes, collectively known as the Garm, were created by the goddess Danaan. For unknown reasons, Danaan abandoned her creations, who then proceeded to fight against each other. In the movie's present, only three tribes still exist: Columba (who rules over the skies), Briga (who rules over the land), and Kumtak (barely managing to survive as slaves among the Briga).

Wydd is a Kumtak elder who finds Nascien, the last surviving Druid, and becomes determined to go to the land of the Druids and learn why the Garm exist and why Danaan left them. He, Nascien, and a Gula (a sacred dog that looks like a basset hound) attempt to escape, resulting in a battle between Briga and Columba forces. Two surviving soldiers, a Briga named Skellig and a Columba named Khara, reluctantly agree to help Wydd and Nascien in their quest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

REVIEW: Gintama (live action movie)

Gintama is a live action movie adaptation of the manga, which is largely a comedy but which also has some dramatic moments. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

This takes place in an alternate Edo-period Japan in which aliens have invaded the country and taken control, outlawing swords. This technically starts in a cafe, where Shinpachi first meets Gintama, a former samurai. However, that's just a fake beginning: the real beginning is a quest to capture a beetle (Kagura just wants one, while Gintama hopes to sell it for a profit). And the actual for-real beginning is when Gintama learns about a serial killer, and a dangerous sword. The killer may have murdered a friend of Gintama and his group, so they go after him in an effort to find out the truth and stop him from killing again.

REVIEW: Stardust (book) by Neil Gaiman

Stardust is fantasy. I bought my copy new.

Review:

This begins with the story of an ordinary young man who wants to gain his Heart's Desire, spends some time at a mysterious market that only happens every nine years, and ends up accidentally fathering a son with the probably-not-human slave of a witch. 

When that son, Tristran, turns 17, he's head over heels in love with Victoria, the most beautiful girl in his town. She, not realizing he'd take it seriously, sets him an impossible task to win her heart: bring her back the star they both saw fall. And so begins Tristran's journey away from his ordinary village, into a world where witches, unicorns, and magic exist, and where fallen stars take the form of young women. 

Multiple characters' stories end up intertwined: a witch seeking the fallen star so that she can harvest her heart for its power to grant youth; several brothers competing for their late father's throne; and of course Tristran.

Monday, May 23, 2022

REVIEW: Pacific Rim: Uprising (live action movie)

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a sci-fi action movie. I bought my copy new.

Review:

Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place 10 years after the first Pacific Rim movie. Parts of the world have recovered from the past kaiju attacks, while other parts are still in ruins. Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost, who sacrificed himself to save the world in the first movie, is living as a thief in Santa Monica, California, one of the still-ruined parts of the world. Jaeger parts fetch the best prices, but they're also heavily guarded - he and another thief, Amara Namani, are caught and put in jail. Jake's adoptive sister, Mako, gives him a choice: he can either go to prison for a very long time, or he can reenlist in the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) and help train young cadets, including Amara. Jake reluctantly agrees to reenlist.

Amara is a huge Jaeger enthusiast and excited to be given a chance to pilot one, but first she'll have to learn to trust and work together with other people. Unfortunately, there isn't much time, as as the PPDC finds itself up against an upgraded threat to humanity.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" (live action movie)

Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder is a crime thriller based on a play written by Frederick Knott. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Margot Wendice is married to Tony Wendice, a retired English tennis player, and has been having an affair with Mark Halliday, an American crime fiction writer. Neither Margot nor Mark realizes that Tony knows about their affair, and Tony has now set in motion plans to murder Margot for her fortune.

It should be the perfect murder: Tony plans to use Mark himself as his alibi and has blackmailed a former acquaintance of his into agreeing to be Margot's murderer. Things don't go quite as planned, but Tony's a quick thinker and figures out a way to take Margot down regardless. Or so he thinks...

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

REVIEW: Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars (book) by Nick James

Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars is YA science fiction. It's not an ARC, but I did pick it up at a conference for free ages ago.

Review:

This alternates between first-person chapters from Jesse's POV and third-person chapters focused on Cassius. There's a lot to the world-building, and I'm probably forgetting large chunks of it, but basically this is set on a devastated Earth that's horrifically hot and kind of toxic. There are two main political factions: the Skyship dwellers who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere, and the corrupt Surface government that controls the "Chosen Cities," oases protected from the results of the chemical bombings that made so much of the rest of the planet nearly unlivable. Both groups are after one thing: Pearls, mysterious little orbs that fall from space and can power entire cities or ships.

Jesse is a young Skyshipper on what should have been a simple Surface mission to retrieve a Pearl. Instead, he accidentally crosses paths with Cassius, a young Pearl hunter for the Surface government. The encounter changes both of their lives, awakening powers that neither one of them understands.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

REVIEW: My Boyfriend is a Monster #5: I Date Dead People (graphic novel) by Ann Kerns, illustrated by Janina Görrissen

I Date Dead People is the fifth entry in the "My Boyfriend is a Monster" graphic novel series. I got it as an ARC at a conference at least 10 years ago.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Nora's family has recently moved into a beautiful old house previously Eleanor Hays, a famous author. Although her younger siblings make some odd comments and several items go missing, Nora doesn't realize there's anything odd about her new home until she's home alone one evening and meets a ghost. It initially scares her, but Tom, the ghost, doesn't seem all that bad - he returns the stuff he took and just asks that Nora's family not remove the house's grandfather clock. However, he's not the only ghost haunting the house, and a couple of the others aren't nearly so nice.

REVIEW: A Confusion of Princes (book) by Garth Nix

A Confusion of Princes is YA science fiction. My memories say I bought it new from a bargain bin, while my records say I bought it used.

Review:

When Khemri was only a year old, he was taken from his parents in order to be turned into a Prince Candidate, a being faster, stronger, and smarter than ordinary humans. He spent the next few years of his life getting his body enhanced and improved, and the next few years after that learning how special he was. On his seventeenth birthday, he officially became a Prince, was assigned his Master of Assassins, and was nearly killed by another Prince.

That's when he realized that, in a universe populated by millions of other Princes, 1) he wasn't really all that special and 2) he was in constant danger of being assassinated. Granted, being assassinated isn't necessarily the end when you're a Prince. As long as a Prince is connected to the Imperial Mind when they die, there's a good chance they'll come back to life (in an unharmed and slightly different body).

All Khemri wants is a fancy spaceship and some free time to enjoy himself and all the benefits of being a Prince. Instead, he finds himself caught up in a larger scheme that forces him to constantly work hard and deal with actual danger.