Monday, September 11, 2023

REVIEW: Heaven Official's Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu, Vol. 1 (book) by Mo Xian Tong Xiu, translated by Suika and Pengie, interior illustrations by ZeldaCW

Heaven Official's Blessing is a Chinese danmei (m/m) novel. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This first volume of the series introduces Xie Lian, the former crown prince of the Kingdom of Xianle. When he first ascended and became a god, he had many worshipers and was loved by his followers. Unfortunately, his caring nature and desire to save the common people turned out to be his downfall, and at the start of this story he has ascended for the third time and is mostly powerless, penniless, and unlucky. Good thing he's pretty much used to it by this point.

In order to pay off his debts, Xie Lian agrees to look into reports of a ghost groom who's been kidnapping and likely killing brides in the Mount Yujun area. He is reluctantly assisted by Nan Feng and Fu Yao, two junior martial officials.

In the second half of the volume, Xie Lian meets a mysterious young man named San Lang and journeys to Banyue Pass to investigate attacks on travelers in the area.

REVIEW: The Meg (live action movie)

The Meg is a sci-fi action movie. I bought my copy new.


The billionaire funding a fancy underwater research facility visits in order to watch the first mission to explore whether the Mariana Trench is actually deeper than previously believed. It is, in fact, deeper, but celebrations are cut short as the mission submersible is attacked by a large unidentified creature, putting the lives of everyone on board at risk.

In order to save the people in the mission submersible, the team enlists the help of former rescue diver Jonas Taylor. Jonas, too, once encountered something like the creature that attacked the mission submersible, although no one believed him at the time. Unfortunately for Jonas and the research team, this rescue mission is only the beginning of their encounters with the "Meg" (megalodon, a prehistoric species of shark believed to be extinct until these characters find it).

REVIEW: Beau Is Afraid (live action movie)

Beau Is Afraid is a weird dark comedy. I bought my copy new.


Beau is a paranoid and anxiety-riddled man who is going to visit is mother tomorrow. Unfortunately, this will involve a plane trip, and there are many, many things that can and do go wrong before he even makes it out the door. Which makes this sound like a relatively normal story, but believe me when I say it isn't. Beau has valid reasons for being afraid, and yet even he could not possibly imagine just how weirdly horrible his situation will become.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

REVIEW: Nothing But Blackened Teeth (novella) by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is horror. I bought my copy new.


Not too long ago, Cat took a break from her university studies to take care of her mental health - it had gotten bad enough that she was feeling suicidal. Now she's on a trip with the people she's closest to: Phillip (a rich white guy Cat was once briefly in a relationship with), Faiz (another guy Cat was once in a relationship with, although they learned they made better friends than lovers), Talia (Faiz's fiancee), and Lin (possibly another guy Cat was once in a relationship with??).

Talia has always dreamed of getting married in a haunted house, and so Phillip has paid for them all to travel to Japan and spend some time in a old Heian mansion supposedly haunted by a bride whose groom died before they could be wed - the bride was buried alive in the house, to keep the house standing while she waited for her groom, and every year after her death they buried a new girl in the house, to keep the bride company. Cat is there because Phillip and Faiz were there for her when she needed them the most, but the tension is palpable - Tina only barely tolerates Cat for Faiz's sake.

As you'd probably guess, getting married in a house haunted by the ghost of a bride who never got to marry her groom isn't a good idea, and things rapidly go south.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

REVIEW: Flirtasaurus (book) by Erin Mallon

Flirtasaurus is a contemporary romantic comedy. I bought my copy new.


Calliope (aka Callie) has been studying to become a paleontologist and has just landed a museum internship that could be her ticket to her first real dig, if she doesn't completely blow it with Dr. Eileen Knowles, the current head of paleontological studies at the museum and the lead excavator on the dig Callie desperately wants to be part of.

Unfortunately, her efforts to become the kind of woman who commands respect in a male-dominated field don't always have the effect she'd like. And romance certainly isn't part of her plans. That doesn't stop her from becoming attracted to Ralph, a sexy, rumbly-voiced astronomer who narrates presentations at the museum's planetarium. And it doesn't stop Ralph from being interested in her right back.

Monday, July 17, 2023

REVIEW: The Lost (book) by Natasha Preston

The Lost is a YA thriller (could possibly be considered YA horror?). I bought my copy new.


Piper and her friend Hazel decide to play amateur detectives and look into some of the recent disappearances of teens in their hometown. Most people have written the disappearances off as runaways, but something doesn't seem right to Piper. 

Unfortunately, the girls let their guard down a bit too much and go off with Caleb and Owen, two good-looking college students from wealthy and well-respected families who also happen to be sadistic kidnappers. Before they can process what's going on, Piper and Hazel end up trapped in a house with several other kidnapped teens. 

Caleb, Owen, and a third person, Matt, randomly select prisoners at various times, sending them to one of six rooms. Five of the rooms contain some form of torture (sound, temperature, light, sleep deprivation, and water), while the sixth one is where two prisoners are forced to fight each other until one has died. All of this is intended for the amusement of Caleb, Owen, and Matt, who are a nasty combination of rich, bored, and horrible.

Somehow, Piper plans to escape (Hazel is firmly in "nah, we're going to die" mode). First, however, she has to survive.

REVIEW: The Last Session: Volume 1, Roll for Initiative (graphic novel) written by Jasmine Walls, art by Dozerdraws

The Last Session is a contemporary-set graphic novel. I bought my copy new.


Lana, Drew, Shen, Walter, and Jay have all been friends since the time they first met at a high school GSA meeting. They started playing Dice & Deathtraps (obviously Dungeons & Dragons) around then. Four years later, they've decided to meet up and finally complete their first campaign, the only one they never finished. It's one last opportunity to get together in person before some big life changes for several of them. It's also an opportunity for them to all meet Cassandra, Jay's girlfriend, in person. Cassandra has heard about their campaigns from Jay and is excited to get to play with them for the first time.

Unfortunately, Cassandra's newbie mistakes rub everyone the wrong way. Her presence changes the group dynamics and makes what was supposed to be a fun final in-person game a frustrating experience. Lana reacts particularly negatively, to the point that Cassandra notices and starts to feel unwelcome. Will their final game end with hurt feelings and strained friendships?

REVIEW: One Love Chigusa (novella) by Soji Shimada

One Love Chigusa is science fiction. I bought my copy new.


This takes place in the relatively near future, 2091. Xie Hoyu, a 25-year-old man, gets into a terrible motorcycle accident that would likely have killed him if it weren't for advancements in modern medical technology and a coincidentally nearby ambulance. Even so, the work done on him was particularly extensive, and he was left with a cyborg body that had more non-organic parts than anyone else in the world. His doctors were reassured that he seemed to be healing and adjusting well. The one difference that Xie initially noticed was a lack of interest in human company.

When it comes time for him to be discharged, however, the differences in his perceptions of the world become more apparent. Human faces, particularly women's faces, now look demonic and distorted with anger. It's so difficult for him to be around others that he begins contemplating suicide, until one day he sees his salvation: a woman whose face and manner are both refreshingly human and exceedingly beautiful. He becomes consumed by a desire to find her again and speak to her.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

REVIEW: Misery (live action movie)

is a horror movie adaptation of Stephen King's book of the same title.


Paul Sheldon is tired of writing his massively popular Misery Chastain books. He'd like to start writing the kinds of things that win awards, so he kills Misery off in his latest book and then starts working on something fresh and new. He's just finished that book and is on his way from a hotel in Colorado to deliver the manuscript in New York when he crashes during a snow storm and is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a nurse who proclaims herself his #1 fan.

Paul has injured both legs, and Annie tells him that the phones will be down for a while due to the storm. In a show of thanks, Paul lets Annie read his newest manuscript, and she's outraged by its profanity, which she thinks is beneath Paul. Things only get worse when she reads his final Misery book and learns that he's killed off her favorite character. Annie forces Paul, trapped in her home by the snow and his injuries, to write a new Misery book that brings her back to life.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

REVIEW: The Cabin (book) by Natasha Preston

The Cabin is a YA thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new.


Mackenzie plans to enjoy her time with her friends at Josh's cabin this weekend, even if Josh himself disgusts her. The group is joined by Josh's brother, Blake, who Josh has mostly lived apart from since their parents got divorced. Mackenzie is prepared for Blake to be just as awful as Josh, but she finds herself actually enjoying his company...enough to sleep with him that night, even though she never does one night stands.

The next morning, everyone wakes up with massive hangovers, only to discover that Josh and his girlfriend Courtney were stabbed to death in the kitchen sometime during the night. They were all drunk, but surely someone should have heard something? 

Unfortunately, since the cabin was locked up and there were no signs of forced entry, the police immediately assume that someone in the group must have committed the murders. Mackenzie refuses to believe that one of her friends could be capable of such a thing, and she's so drawn to Blake that she doesn't believe he could have done it either. But if the killer wasn't one of them, then who was? And what if those around Mackenzie have more secrets than she realizes?

Monday, July 3, 2023

REVIEW: Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (nonfiction book) by Eric Schlaepfer and Windell H. Oskay

Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components is photography-heavy nonfiction. I bought my copy new.


This ended up on my radar while I was looking for nonfiction with a good combination of visuals and info. I don't actually know much about electronic components, so I was somewhat reluctant to take the plunge and get this, but then I spotted it on sale and snatched it up, and I'm glad I did.

This lovely book is organized into six sections: passive components (resistors, capacitors, fuses, etc.), semiconductors (transistors, LED, diodes, etc.), electromechanics (various switches, motors, buzzers, etc.), cables and connectors, retro tech (cathode ray tubes, vacuum tubes, neon lamps, incandescent light bulbs, etc.), and composite devices (circuits boards, microSD cards, LED displays, etc.). The book wraps up with a "making of" section that describes how the various electronic components were prepared and photographed, plus a bit about macro photography.

REVIEW: BadAsstronauts (novella) by Grady Hendrix

BadAsstronauts is humorous sci-fi. I bought my copy new.

This review includes some spoilers.


Melville, South Carolina has produced two astronauts: Walter Reddie, who flunked out of the Shuttle Program, never went to space, and is now a drunk; and Walter's second cousin once removed, Bobby Campbell, Jr., who is doomed to die alone on the International Space Station after ensuring the safe return of his six other crewmates. NASA doesn't have the funds to save him, and the only one making noises about doing anything is Richard Branson, but Walter knows it's just that, noises.

Walter has an idea. If NASA won't save Bobby Campbell, Jr., then he and Melville, South Carolina will. Initially, it seems like a bad joke. Walter's an aging drunk, and astrophysicists aren't exactly growing on trees in Melville. Gradually, however, a movement starts to build around Walter, something so big and powerful that the world can't help but wonder whether the self-proclaimed "Redneck NASA" will manage to save Bobby Campbell, Jr. after all.

REVIEW: The Cellar (book) by Natasha Preston

The Cellar is a YA thriller (or YA horror?). I bought my copy new.


Summer is a 16-year-old who's kidnapped by a man who calls himself Clover. Clover renames her "Lily" and tells her that she is now his family, along with three young women who he has named Poppy, Rose, and Violet. The four of them live in the cellar of Clover's home, entirely dependent upon him. Although his behavior is initially relatively predictable, over the next few months of Summer's captivity he becomes more and more unstable.

Meanwhile, Lewis, Summer's boyfriend, and Summer's friends and family are all looking for her, refusing to give up hope that she might still be alive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

REVIEW: The Devotion of Suspect X (book) by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander

The Devotion of Suspect X is a Japanese mystery novel, the first in Higashino's Detective Galileo series (at least in terms of English language releases). I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Yasuko is a single mother who works in a lunch shop. She used to work at a hostess club but has since left that life behind - along with her abusive ex-husband, Togashi. Unfortunately, Togashi manages to track her down once again, and this time things escalate to the point that Yasuko strangles him to death in an effort to protect herself and Misato, her teen daughter. Yasuko is still grappling with what she's done when her next door neighbor, a math teacher named Ishigami, stops by and calmly offers to help.

Ishigami is a quiet and solitary man whose only interest in life is mathematics...and Yasuko. He had gotten into the habit of stopping by her workplace to buy lunch, just to see her. He has no illusions that she might ever feel the same about him. When he hears the commotion in her apartment, he immediately offers to help. He isn't shocked by what's happened - his only concern is the problem presented by Togashi's death, and Yasuko and Misato's safety. He'll do anything to help them, so he takes care of literally everything, disposing of Togashi's body and laying out exactly what Yasuko and Misato must do in order to deal the police's inevitable suspicion.

The one thing Ishigami doesn't take into account is that the police will involve Yukawa, a physicist who's the only person he's ever met whose intellect is a match for his own.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 5 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xu, translated by Suika & Lianyin Pengie, illustrated by Marina Privalova

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


Wei Wuxian is freaking out after the events that ended the previous volume and decides to go to Guanyin Temple with Wen Ning in order to put some space between himself and Lan Wangji. Unfortunately, Jin Ling shows up too, and he and Wei Wuxian end up captured, along with Lan Xichen. You would think the characters would be too busy trying not to die for romance to enter anyone's minds, but you would be wrong - everything somehow manages to happen simultaneously. Wei Wuxian demonstrates that he can flirt and fight at the same time.

The first 187 pages of this volume wrap up the main story, while the rest of the volume is composed of eight extra stories, most of which feature both Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji and show either their lives after the main story or scenes from when they were teenagers.