Sunday, January 23, 2022

REVIEW: Chasing Lincoln's Killer (nonfiction audiobook) by James L. Swanson, read by Will Patton

Chasing Lincoln's Killer is YA nonfiction. I checked it out through OverDrive.

Review:

Chasing Lincoln's Killer follows John Wilkes Booth from his decision to assassinate Lincoln (with some mentions of an earlier attempt to kidnap him), to his attempts to evade authorities afterward and eventual death. Contrary to what the title implies, more of the book's time is spent on the assassination (and his accomplices' efforts) than on the pursuit, probably because blood, gore, and death were deemed more interesting than a couple guys becoming increasingly rank as they attempted to escape to Virginia.

REVIEW: Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (nonfiction audiobook) by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, read by the authors

Thanks for the Feedback is nonfiction. I checked it out on OverDrive.

Review:

I listened to this audiobook while working on other things, so I unfortunately can't give a very good overview of how it's structured. If I remember right, the authors started by laying out their definition of "feedback," which is broader than you might expect. Telling someone the ways in which they could improve the presentation they just practiced counts as feedback. So does telling them that they did great and are going to do just fine during the real thing (encouragement rather than advice). And that person who honked at you during your morning commute because you were zoned out and didn't notice the light had changed to green was also giving you feedback.

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong, Vol. 1 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi), translated by Faelicy and Lily

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is, at least in this first volume, a fantasy comedy that was originally serialized online, in Chinese. As the series progresses, it gains more serious elements and m/m romance. According to the little genre guide in the back of this volume, it would be considered part of both the danmei (Chinese BL) and xianxia genres. It's licensed by Seven Seas - I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes a few spoilers, mostly because I couldn't help indulging my urge to write about the series as a whole and not just this one volume.

Review:

Proud Immortal Demon Way is an incredibly long online serial, a "stallion" novel about Luo Binghe (referred to as LBH from here on out), a humble young cultivation disciple who is mistreated by Shen Qingqui (SQQ), the Lord of Qing Jing Peak, until he eventually awakens to his demonic powers, gathers up a massive harem, and kills everyone who formerly mistreated him. Shen Yuan has just spent 20 days plowing through Proud Immortal Demon Way when he suddenly dies and wakes up in the body of SQQ.

Shen Yuan had lots of complaints about Proud Immortal Demon Way and was known for being a massive anti-fan. As SQQ, he is told by System, a voice only he can hear, that he's being given the opportunity to "transform a stupid work into a magnificent, high-quality, first-rate classic" (14). It's a chance to finally address the original work's inconsistencies, plot holes, and various details that are brought up only to never be mentioned again. Unfortunately, the original SQQ was a scum villain who betrayed his sect and eventually had his arms and legs chopped off by LBH, the protagonist with invincible plot armor. If SQQ dies the same way now, Shen Yuan is dead as well. His first instinct is to suck up to LBH as hard as he can, but OOC (out of character) behavior is forbidden until he can fulfill some initial requirements. 

SQQ somehow has to survive long enough to unlock additional abilities, earn various types types of points (B-points, awarded for being a badass, are the most prominent, but System adds other at will) so that he can afford to break rules or screw up here and there, and somehow still accomplish whichever story events System decides are vital to the book's existence while transforming Proud Immortal Demon Way into a "better" story.

REVIEW: Where the Crawdads Sing (book) by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is a "coming of age" story with mystery elements. I bought my copy used.

Review:

In 1952, when Kya is only six years old, she watches her mother walk away from their home and never come back. Over the next few years, her siblings all do the same, unwilling to deal with their abusive drunk of a father anymore, until finally only Kya is left. She figures out a way to live with her father and learn from him, but eventually even he disappears. The most reliable thing in her life becomes the North Carolina marsh in which she lives.

The story alternates between showing Kya's survival, growth, and desperate loneliness over the years, and the discovery, in 1969, of the body of Chase Andrews and the ensuing police investigation.

REVIEW: The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine (book) by Diane Stanley

The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine is a Middle Grade mystery/fantasy. I checked my copy out from the library.

Review:

Franny's family moves a lot, so she's constantly the new kid at school. Her sister has a gift for zeroing in on the latest fads at their new schools and using those to seamlessly fit in, but Franny just has her love of reading.

Franny's newest school doesn't initially seem to be any different from her previous ones, but then she starts to notice odd things happening to a lot of the students. For instance, all of a sudden everyone is into jelly worms. A while after that, kids start spontaneously acting like snakes. Then there's an epidemic of intense headaches. It's bizarre and difficult to believe, but the only connection Franny can find between these incidents is that they're always similar to something in the newest Chillers book releases by I.M. Fine. With the help of her new friend, Beamer, she attempts to figure out what's going on and put a stop to it before someone gets seriously hurt.

Friday, January 21, 2022

REVIEW: My Happy Marriage, Vol. 1 (book) by Akumi Agitogi, translated by Kiki Piatkowska

My Happy Marriage is fantasy romance with a historical-ish setting. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

In this fantasy reimagining of the Meiji/Taisho era, there are beings known as Grotesqueries that can only be seen and fought by those with Spirit-Sight, known as the Gifted. Miyo Saimori was born to a Gifted mother and father, which should have guaranteed her a comfortable noblewoman's life. However, she never demonstrated any ability to use Spirit-Sight, nor any other Gift. After her mother died, Miyo's father neglected her and married the woman he'd preferred over Miyo's mother. Her daughter turned out to be Gifted, so it wasn't long before Miyo became less than a servant in her own home.

Miyo's only ray of hope was that she might one day marry Kouji, her childhood friend, but even that wasn't to be. When her father tells her that Kouji will marry her stepsister, Kaya, while she will be betrothed to Kiyoka Kudou and sent to his household immediately, it's all Miyo can do not to cry. The Kudou family is powerful, but Kiyoka is known for being so cold and terrible that he has thus far scared all his potential brides away within days of their arriving at his household. Unlike them, Miyo will have no home to return to if she leaves.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

REVIEW: The White Cat's Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King's Lap, Vol. 1 (book) by Kureha, illustrated by Yamigo, translated by David Evelyn

The White Cat's Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King's Lap is an isekai fantasy series that will almost certainly have stronger romance elements later on. It's licensed by J-Novel Club. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Nineteen-year-old Ruri has spent her entire life desperately trying to get away from her "friend" Asahi, but no matter what she does or where she goes, Asahi's always there. Something about that girl draws people in, and then Ruri has to deal with their jealousy as Asahi cheerfully misinterprets their bullying as "playfulness."

Then one day Asahi, Ruri, and a couple (?) of Asahi's fans find themselves suddenly transported to the kingdom of Nadasha, where they are told that one of them is the savior known as the Priestess Princess. For various reasons, Asahi is instantly declared the Priestess Princess, and her jealous supporters conspire against Ruri and get her exiled. Fortunately, Ruri finds a safe haven and learns that she's something called a "Beloved," a person whose powerful mana appeals to spirits and makes them want to help her.

Ruri's primary goals are to somehow go back home and stay far away from Asahi so that she can, for the first time ever, have real friends and a peaceful life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

REVIEW: Finna (audio novella) by Nino Cipri, read by Amanda Dolan

Finna is an LGBT science fiction novella. I checked it out via one of my OverDrive accounts.

Review:

Ava and Jules recently had a painful breakup, which is made worse by the fact that they both work at the same LitenVärld, an IKEA knockoff store. When a coworker calls in sick, Ava reluctantly agrees to come in only to discover that Jules is also working that day. Then a customer's grandmother goes missing, and Ava and Jules are suddenly forced to work together to find the woman, a task that will involve traveling through multiple wormholes to multiple LitenVärld variations. 

REVIEW: Wonder Woman: Warbringer (book) by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a YA Wonder Woman tie-in novel. According to my records, I bought it brand new, but I can't actually remember buying it.

Review:

Princess Diana is keenly aware that, unlike the other Amazons on the island of Themyscira, she was born an Amazon and has never really had to prove herself. She's so desperate to show that she's worthy that she joins a race even her own mother doesn't think she can win. But she has trained in secret and knows she'll manage it...until she spots a shipwreck and sees a human girl drowning. Although it'll cost her the race and there are strict rules against bringing mortals to Themyscira, Diana can't bring herself to just let the girl die.

Unfortunately, the girl, Alia Keralis, turns out to be a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy. She's unknowingly a catalyst for conflict, and her power has only gotten stronger as she's gotten older. Unless she's killed, she's doomed to plunge the world into war by her very existence. However, there's another solution: the Warbringer can be purified and her curse kept from being passed on if she makes it to a spring at Therapne before the sun sets on the first day of Hekatombaion, which is happening in about a week.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

REVIEW: I'm the Villainess So I'm Taming the Final Boss, Vol. 1 (book) by Sarasa Nagase, illustrated by Mai Murasaki, translated by Taylor Engel

I'm the Villainess So I'm Taming the Final Boss is yet another "reborn as the villainess in an otome game" fantasy romance light novel series. It's published by Yen On. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes mild spoilers.

Review:

At the worst possible moment, when Aileen's fiance, Prince Cedric, is publicly ending their betrothal so he can be with Lilia Reinoise, Aileen remembers her past life as a sickly Japanese girl who loved otome games. Specifically, the otome game that she now realizes she's in. Unfortunately, Aileen is the villainess, doomed to die as Claude, the demon prince and the game's final boss, transforms into a dragon and awakens into his true demonic powers.

Aileen decides that the best way to deal with this situation is to find Claude and make him her husband before his and Lilia's storyline even starts. Her memories of the game are a little fuzzy, so she doesn't immediately remember all of her possible death flags, but she figures that as long as she concentrates on Claude, she can deal with the rest as needed.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

REVIEW: Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter, Vol. 2 (book) by Reia, illustrated by Haduki Futaba, translated by Andria Cheng

Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter is a fantasy "reborn as the villainess in an otome game" series. It's published under Seven Seas' Airship imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

I made the mistake of not reviewing this right after I finished it, so my memories are fuzzy. I figured it was best to finally write something up before starting the third book and further muddying my memories.

A couple years have passed since the beginning of the first book, and Iris is doing well. Her company is thriving, and she's doing a brilliant job governing Armelia. She's gone back to the palace for the first time since her fiance dumped her, to attend the Foundation Day celebration, and even that's gone relatively smoothly.

However, there's political unrest brewing, and Iris has shadowy opponents in high places who are setting her up to fail. Luckily for her, she still has quite a few friends and supporters, but will it be enough?

REVIEW: One of Us Is Lying (e-book) by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying is a YA mystery/thriller. I checked it out via one of my library OverDrive accounts.

Review:

It all starts with detention. Five students at Bayview High whose social circles don't usually all overlap find themselves cooped up together. Soon, one of them ends up dead, killed by a peanut allergy after drinking water from a peanut oil-tainted paper cup. One of them is almost certainly the killer, but which one is it?

The story is told from alternating POVs. There's Bronwyn, a perfect student who's destined to get into an Ivy League school. There's Addy, the pretty girlfriend of Jake, the captain of the football team. There's Cooper, a rising star baseball player. And there's Nate, a detention regular who's already on probation for dealing. Simon, the victim, ran a gossip blog and knew secrets about each of them that he'd been preparing to expose to the world. Could someone have killed him in order to protect themselves?

Friday, December 17, 2021

REVIEW: Ice Planet Barbarians (book) by Ruby Dixon

Ice Planet Barbarians is sci-fi romance (erotic romance?). I bought it brand new. From what I can tell, it was previously self-published.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Georgie is an ordinary 22-year old woman who works at a bank drive-thru teller window. She wakes up from a weird dream to discover that she's been abducted by aliens, along with several other 22-year old women. One of the women, Kira, was implanted with a translation device, so she's able to tell them all what's going on. They've been abducted to be sex slaves, and anyone who screams or puts up a fight gets raped. Even so, Georgie doesn't want to give up, and she is saved from horrific failure by a conveniently timed crash landing.

Unfortunately, now the surviving women are stuck on a icy planet with only a small amount of food, no heat, and a high likelihood that the aliens that kidnapped them will be retrieving them in the near future. As the group's unofficial leader, Georgie heads off to look for food, help, or anything else useful and soon finds herself under the care of Vektal, a big blue alien with a tail, horns, and a love of cunnilingus. Georgie is somehow not horrified, and Vektal doesn't seem to be interested in hurting her. Has she found someone who can help her and the other women?

Hades (the game), an update

I recently went on a trip for a week, and before my flight, I was determined to beat the final boss in Hades. I succeeded, at which time I discovered what people meant when they said that the game really begins after that point. More story, more gameplay options, etc.

I really am terrible at this game, but not quite 100% terrible. God Mode is still on, but it only (lol, only) took until about 72% invulnerability for me to beat all the bosses. The lasers were my biggest hurdle, and now that I know their secret, that part of the final battle is practically restful.

I've made it through maybe four times now, and due to the way info is doled out, I suspect it'll take at least another six times to finish the main story and who knows how many additional times to fill up my relationship meters with everybody. I'm looking forward to it, even if the game is hard on my hands (compression gloves are my savior).

REVIEW: The Perks of Loving a Wallflower (book) by Erica Ridley

The Perks of Loving a Wallflower is the second book in Ridley's The Wild Wynchesters historical romance series. I bought it brand new.

This review includes major spoilers, which I warn about just before discussing. If you'd like to read this review with spoilers hidden, I recommend my cross-posting on Goodreads or LibraryThing.

Review:

In the previous book in this series, which I haven't read, Miss Philippa York was betrothed to a duke who fell in love with that book's heroine instead, and married her. Thankfully, Philippa wasn't in love with him and doesn't mind, and she and Chloe, the woman the duke married, are friends. However, Philippa understands that she does still need to marry someone. Because of an inheritance, she doesn't need money, but it would help her father's political ambitions a great deal if she married someone with a title. The problem is that Philippa is a bluestocking who'd much rather host her reading circle than moon over some duke, and she's well aware that marriage could spell the end of all the activities she enjoys.

Thomasina Wynchester is a master of disguise who regularly assists with the cases her family takes on. Although she previously never had trouble charming ladies into her bed, now there's only one woman who interests her: Philippa. Unfortunately, she can't even bring herself to have a normal conversation with her. The best she's managed is to attend Philippa's reading circle disguised as Chloe's slightly senile "great-aunt." With some encouragement from her family, however, she does finally manage to talk to and flirt with Philippa...disguised as Baron Vanderbean.

As the Wynchesters help Philippa with a case involving an old manuscript and a man taking credit for the work done by one of Philippa's reading circle friends, Tommy wonders if she can somehow win Philippa's heart as herself and what will happen to the two of them if she succeeds.