Sunday, March 5, 2023

REVIEW: The Voices (live action movie)

The Voices is a horror movie with dark (very very dark) comedic elements. I think I bought my copy new.

Even my synopsis gets into spoiler territory, but I felt it was necessary in order to get across how dark this becomes.


Jerry is a cheerful guy who loves his job working at a warehouse in a bathtub factory. He's had some problems in the past, but he's now seeing a court-appointed psychiatrist and is doing great...except that he doesn't have any friends or a girlfriend, just his dog Bosco and cat Mr. Whiskers. But then he falls head over heels for Fiona, one of the office ladies (in Accounting, I think? I can't remember) at his company.

Unfortunately, she isn't nearly as enamored with him as he is with her and stands him up when he invites her to dinner. He sees her later when she's having car trouble and assumes that this is what kept her from joining him for dinner, so he picks her up and starts taking her home. Unfortunately, he hits a deer, which goes through the windshield. He hallucinates the deer begging him to put it out of its misery, which he does, slitting its throat with a knife, much to Fiona's horror. Fiona runs off and Jerry goes after her, accidentally tripping and stabbing her. He then "puts her out of her misery" as well, stabbing her repeatedly while apologizing.

When he goes home, Bosco, who Jerry hears as the good part of his conscience, tells him to go to the police. However, Mr. Whiskers, his darker side, doesn't think he should feel bad about killing. Although Mr. Whiskers pretty much wins this battle, there's still the issue of Fiona's body, which Jerry eventually collects, dismembers, almost entirely stores in Tupperware containers throughout his home. He keeps her head in his fridge, where it continues to talk to him.

This is, of course, not the end of Jerry's troubles, as various people start worrying about and looking for Fiona, and Jerry begins to fall for Lisa, one of Fiona's coworkers.

REVIEW: Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (live action movie)

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is a found footage South Korean horror movie. I bought my copy new.


Ha-Joon, the owner of a ghost hunting streaming show, aims to get to a million views by setting up a live broadcast at the abandoned Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital. A team of people (three guys, three girls), each of whom have cameras attached to them, will go in and explore while Ha-Joon holds down the fort at a nearby location, watching the footage and managing the stream.

The show was supposed to be scripted - two (or possibly three? I can't remember) of the guys were in on it, along with Ha-Joon. They planned to genuinely scare the others and use their reactions to increase their show's views and overall popularity. However, it soon becomes apparent that there are things happening in the abandoned facility that are unplanned.

REVIEW: The Black Phone (live action movie)

The Black Phone is a supernatural horror movie. I bought my copy new.

My review includes spoilers.


This is set in Denver in 1978. A serial killer called "The Grabber" has been abducting and killing kids in the area. 

Finney deals with an abusive, alcoholic father at home and bullies at school. The main people he's got in his life to back him up are his sister Gwen, who is unfortunately also one of their father's targets, and his friend Robin, who deals with bullies by publicly beating them up so that they're less likely to attack him or his friends at other times.

The Grabber strikes, takes Finney's friend Robin, and, not long after that, Finney himself. When Finney wakes up after being abducted, he finds himself in a dark room that contains only a toilet, a mattress, and a disconnected black phone. As the days pass, the Grabber comes by several times, bringing Finney food and water, and giving him chances to escape. However, Finney has begun receiving phone calls from the ghosts of the Grabber's previous victims, and he knows from their warnings that if he tries to leave and doesn't succeed, he'll definitely be killed. As he follows their advice and tries to figure out a way to escape, his sister attempts to bring on the psychic dreams she inherited from her mother in order to find her missing brother.

REVIEW: Chronicle (live action movie)

Chronicle is a found footage superhero (or supervillain?) movie. I bought my copy used.


This movie focuses on three teens: Andrew, Matt, and Steve. Andrew is a loner who's constantly bullied by his peers and abused by his alcoholic father. His beloved mother is slowly and painfully dying of cancer. His way of dealing with all of this is to make a video diary chronicling his life and the things going on around him, which is the source of most of the movie's "found footage."

Matt is Andrew's cousin and the closest thing he has to a friend. Matt takes Andrew to a party in an effort to help him mingle - it goes badly, but Matt and Steve (a popular and charismatic student) have Andrew come with them to film their exploration of a large hole they found in the woods. They discover a glowing crystalline object and, several weeks later, the three teens film themselves displaying amazing new telekinetic abilities.

For a brief while, Matt and Steve help Andrew use his new abilities to make friends and become more popular. Unfortunately, things don't turn out quite the way Andrew hoped, and his behavior rapidly becomes more erratic and violent. Only Steve and Matt have any hope of keeping Andrew from harming others.

REVIEW: Bride of the Barrier Master, Vol. 1 (book) by Kureha, translated by Linda Liu

Bride of the Barrier Master is a fantasy romance Japanese light novel series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


I'll start off by saying that I finished this weeks ago and waited far too long to review it. There may be details here and there that I've gotten wrong.

In this series, Japan is protected by five clans wielding powerful barrier-weaving magic. Hana and her twin sister Hazuki are members of a branch family of one of those clans. From an early age, Hazuki was known to be a powerful barrier practitioner who might be able to restore her family to its former glory. Hana, meanwhile, displays only weak abilities at least until her 15th birthday. At that time, for some reason her powers suddenly awaken. However, after spending years being viewed as the lesser twin sister, Hana has no desire to tell anyone about the change. 

That doesn't stop Saku Ichinomiya, the new head of the Ichinomiya clan, from noticing her, however. He needs a powerful wife to help him with his duties, and Hana seems like his best bet, even if she won't publicly admit to her powers. 

REVIEW: One Cup at a Time: A Cat's Cafe Collection (graphic novel) by Matt Tarpley

One Cup at a Time is a collection of strips from the Cat's Cafe webcomic. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


I don't really have a lot to say about this collection, other than that I enjoyed it. As usual, the characters and their interactions are enjoyable, and readers will probably be able to relate to several of the characters and situations depicted. There's lots of mental health-related rep in this comic: dealing with stress, depression, over-stimulation, not knowing what to do when friends are going through a rough time, etc. This particular volume also touches on the pandemic a bit.

If I had to pick, I'd probably say that I liked the first volume more, if only because of the COVID-19 strips. They weren't very frequent and were most noticeable to me for what they didn't cover as what they did. I was surprised that feelings of isolation didn't come up more - then again, this series is so focused on the value of community and supporting others that I suppose there were things it couldn't really do without becoming...not itself.

Overall, this is a largely comforting and enjoyable series.


Some pages at the end for readers to write down their thoughts and feelings (nice idea, but if I'm going to do that, it will be in a notebook I've devoted to that purpose), as well as two pages of stickers featuring Cat's Cafe characters and designs.

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 1 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Suika & Pengie, interior illustrations by Marina Privalova

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a danmei (Chinese m/m) series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


At the time of his death Wei Wuxian was widely known as the Yiling Patriarch, the feared and skilled commander of a vast undead army. Thirteen years after his death, Wei Wuxian reawakens in the body of Mo Xuanyu, a young man who was expelled from the Jin cultivation sect for being gay. After a bit of investigation, Wei Wuxian figures out that Mo Xuanyu was abused to such a degree by his family that he turned to demonic cultivation, freely offering his body in exchange for revenge. 

This essentially means that Wei Wuxian is being given a second chance at life, but it's not long before he's once again drawn into the orbits of those he knew during his first life. The Yiling Patriarch burned a lot of bridges, and Wei Wuxian figures most of these people would want to kill him if they knew who he really was. Unfortunately, for some reason Lan Wangji, a cultivator who was his polar opposite when they were growing up, seems determined not to let him out of his sight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

REVIEW: Chainsaw Man (manga, vol. 3) by Tatsuki Fujimoto, translated by Amanda Haley

Chainsaw Man is a blend of action, horror, and comedy. I bought this volume new.


Denji and the others have been trapped on the eighth floor of a hotel. They're going to starve to death if they can't figure out how to escape, but the only option available seems to be making a contract with the Eternity Devil that trapped them, which has said it will let the rest of them go if they let it eat Denji.

After the Eternity Devil portion of the story, the group winds down with some drinking (which Himeno also hopes will convince newbies Arai and Kobeni not to quit - their experience with the Eternity Devil was pretty traumatic). The volume ends with everything going all to hell.

REVIEW: The Recruit (live action movie)

The Recruit is a 2003 spy thriller. I checked my copy out from the library.


James Clayton is a young programmer who's spent years trying to figure out what happened to his father. He's working at a bar one night when a man who indicates he works for the CIA approaches him and hints that he has information about James' father. The man, Walter Burke, is there to recruit James to the CIA. 

After initially declining the offer, James reconsiders it due to the possibility that he might learn more about what happened to his father. Then it's off to The Farm to undergo training as a potential CIA operative, where he soon learns that no one, not even his fellow classmates, can truly be trusted. That's just the start, however - James is eventually faced with a world filled with so much deception he can't be sure of anything.

REVIEW: Dr. Stone (manga, vol. 2) story by Riichiro Inagaki, art by Boichi, translated by Caleb Cook

Dr. Stone is a post-apocalyptic series. I checked my copy out from the library.


Senku manages to make gun powder and, in the process, finds evidence that there may be other humans besides himself, Tsukasa, Taiju, and Yuzuriha around. Unfortunately, Tsukasa tracks Senku and the others down before there's any time to investigate, and Senku is faced with several impossible choices. This volume also features an extended flashback to Senku's childhood, as well as the period of time when Senku was first revived and had to do things on his own.

Monday, February 20, 2023

REVIEW: You'll Be the Death of Me (book) by Karen M. McManus

You'll Be the Death of Me is a YA mystery/thriller. I bought my copy new.

This review includes spoilers.


Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close friends due to the Greatest Day Ever, a time when they all skipped school together and had an amazing day. They've since drifted apart, and they're now all in high school and mostly hang out with different people. But the Greatest Day Ever still ties them together, so when Ivy is faced with coming to school after a humiliating senior-year class president election loss to Brian "Boney" Mahoney, she easily agrees when Cal suggests that the three of them skip school together like old times.

Unfortunately, the Greatest Day Ever isn't exactly something that can easily be replicated. Things go from vaguely disappointing to horrible when the three of them spot Boney (who should be at school, delivering his acceptance speech), follow him into an abandoned building, and then discover his body. For various reasons, none of them want to be around when the police arrive, but the end result is that Ivy becomes the prime suspect in Boney's murder. Finding out what really happened will involve digging into all of their secrets and getting to know the people they've become since they drifted apart.

REVIEW: Chainsaw Man (manga, vol. 2) story & art by Tatsuki Fujimoto, translated by Amanda Haley

Chainsaw Man is a blend of horror, action, and comedy. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Denji battles the Bat Devil in order to save Meowy and Power and get his chance to touch Power's boobs. Then it's time for Denji vs. the Leech Devil (the Bat Devil was her boyfriend). 

In this volume we learn about the Gun Devil, a devil so powerful it killed over a million people in 5 minutes. Since those horrible minutes of destruction, the Gun Devil has disappeared. Aki's team is assigned to finding and collecting pieces of the Gun Devil, which other devils eat in order to grant themselves more power. Those pieces should ultimately help them find the Gun Devil itself.

REVIEW: What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (nonfiction book) by Randall Munroe

What If? 2 is a blend of science/math and humor. I bought my copy new.


If you liked the first What If? volume, you'll probably enjoy this one. Randall Munroe once again tackles a variety of questions in as scientific a way as possible. This occasionally (often?) means he has to make some assumptions so that the questions are answerable, and his assumptions might not always gel with what the person who asked the question intended. But hey, it's entertaining.

Some of the questions were more math problems than "what if?" scientific thought experiments - for example, the one about how many pages a person would have to read in order to read all of the laws that apply to them, or the one asking at what point in history there were too many English-language books to read in one lifetime. My favorite questions were the true "what ifs," the ones that involved fundamental changes to the world, the universe, or time itself. The more horrifically destructive the results, the better. (Bring on the candy rain and neverending dogs!)

I started reading this while I was sick, assuming that the explanations would help me drift off to sleep. Instead, I found this book to be entertaining in a way that was absolutely perfect for my exhausted and congested self. Many of the chapters told little stories about worlds or universes in which something had gone horribly awry, which was great fun to read about. At the same time, Munroe wasn't asking me to keep track of characters or plots, everything came with amusing pictures, and each chapter was relatively short. I could easily read a chapter or two and then decide it was time to nap for a few hours. True, I couldn't always follow the science, but I can't guarantee that I'd have been able to follow it even if I'd been healthy.

If I remember right, I listened to the audio version of the first What If? book. I recall enjoying it, but, what with the illustrations, it'd probably have been better to read it than listen to it. My enjoyment of this volume is making me consider going back and reading a paper copy of the first book.

REVIEW: Secrets of the Greek Revival (book) by Eva Pohler

Secrets of the Greek Revival is a cozy mystery. I bought my copy of this brand new.

This review contains spoilers.


Content warnings for parental death and mentions of sexual abuse.

This stars three friends who I suppose you could say are going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. All of them have something going on at home that's dragging down their mood. Ellen feels like she and her husband are gradually growing more and more distant from each other, and she isn't sure what to do about it. Tanya's mother has dementia and can't remember who she is most days. Meanwhile, Sue lets her own mother badger her.

To get their minds off things, they're debating buying and renovating an old Greek Revival house near one of San Antonio's historic districts. The house may be haunted, which the three friends have varied feelings about. Ellen doesn't believe in ghosts, but after some research she learns that this house does have a lot of history - it used to house several female psychiatric patients. The more Ellen learns about how they were treated, the more determined she is to get the house and turn it into something that can shine a light on their lives. While Ellen, Tanya, and Sue try to renovate the house and uncover its mysteries, they must simultaneously deal with someone or something who wants them off the property. 

REVIEW: The Evil Secret Society of Cats (manga, vol. 1) story & art by Pandania, translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley

The Evil Secret Society of Cats is a collection of humorous 4-panel comics. I bought my copy of this volume new.


The Evil Secret Society of Cats is all around us. Their goal is to teach humans to fear the feline taking over our lives with their cuteness. If you've ever been late to leave the house because of a cat who was too cute not to pet, you've experienced the Society's nefarious activities. (Or you're a human member of the Society, because that's an option too.) Some recurring characters are: Feline Commander (the leader of the secret society), Dr. Meow (the cat who develops all of the society's technologies), Queen (a high-level cat operative), the Destroyer (a secretly sweet former stray cat), Robocat (a robot created by Dr. Meow), and the hero Doggoman and Doggoman's little sister. There's also a hedgehog cafe owner who pops up occasionally, and who reminded me of the Cat's Cafe comic.