Sunday, December 31, 2017

REVIEW: M.F.K. (graphic novel) by Nilah Magruder

This is a belated vacation reading review. As usual, be warned that there are major spoilers in this. I use spoiler tags on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Booklikes if you'd like a spoiler-free version of this post.

A tweet from Magruder saying that "it's asexual AF" put this on my radar. I took this to mean that there was an explicitly identified asexual character. Um... If there is, then it's not in this volume. I haven't read the webcomic, which includes a fourth chapter that wasn't published in this book, so maybe it's in that chapter? That said, those looking for romance-free graphic novels may want to check this out. (I sincerely hope that Magruder didn't think "romance-free" and "asexual" are the same thing.)

REVIEW: The Ginza Ghost (short story collection) by Keikichi Osaka, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Ginza Ghost is a collection of mystery stories originally published in Japan, primarily in the 1930s. I got it via interlibrary loan.


Have I mentioned that I hate reviewing anthologies? Collections of stories by the same author are easier to review than ones with stories by many authors, but I’d still rather review individual novels, novellas, and short stories.

Anyway, this made it onto my TBR after I finished Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders and went hunting for similar books. The Ginza Ghost starts with an introduction about Osaka and his stories. Like Shimada, Osaka was an author of honkaku (orthodox) mysteries. He was born in 1912 and began prolifically publishing mystery stories starting in 1932. Unfortunately, this was a time when honkaku mysteries were looked at unfavorably in Japan, and so he eventually had to switch to comedy and spy stories. In 1943 he was drafted, and he died of disease sometime in 1945.

The collection includes twelve stories organized semi-chronologically by publication date. I’m not sure why there were a few exceptions mixed in. Perhaps to make sure the volume ended as strongly as possible? “The Phantom Wife” wouldn’t have made for as good a stopping point as “The Ginza Ghost.”

REVIEW: Stranger (live action TV series)

Stranger is a 16-episode Korean drama. Each episode is about an hour long.


I finished watching this series a few weeks ago. Netflix's brief description:

"As a teen, prosecutor Hwang Si-mok received surgical treatment for his abnormally developed brain, but the procedure left behind serious side effects."

Which is absolutely not what this show is about at all. Si-mok's surgery is barely discussed and only really comes up a couple times in any kind of important way. He tends to come across as very cold, because the surgery affected his ability to show his emotions. He also believes he can't feel most emotions, but that isn't exactly true.

For the most part, the show is a murder mystery/political thriller. The murder mystery comes first. If I remember right, Si-mok was planning on meeting up with an informant (or witness?). Unfortunately, the man was murdered in his own home. Si-mok (who, remember, is a prosecutor and not a cop) thinks he knows who the killer is, chases the man down, and arrests and questions him. There’s a speedy trial and the man is found guilty. He swears he didn’t do it and kills himself to show his conviction.

Si-mok goes on TV and promises that he will find the real killer in two months. From this point on, things get murky. It’s difficult for him to know who to trust, and he views almost everyone with suspicion. Can he trust his bosses, who he thinks may be corrupt? Or his trainee, Young Eun-soo, who has hidden connections to the murder victim? Or Seo Dong-jae, a slick fellow prosecutor who might have acted under orders from higher up. The only person in his life who seems to be 100% trustworthy is Han Yeo-jin, a cop. No, they don’t end up becoming a couple - this isn’t that kind of show. (Although I did think, at one point, that there was going to be a love triangle. That wasn’t the case either.)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My reviewing plans have gone out the window

I was going to do a big push to write short reviews of everything I hadn't yet reviewed from 2017, to get it all done before 2018. Well, then my cat got sick. She's barely eaten anything for days - at the moment, I'm following the vet's advice and force-feeding her chicken baby food a few times a day. The current theory is that she might be constipated, or she might have eaten a non-food item. She lost half a pound over the course of three days, bringing her weight down to about 7.5 pounds. She's still behaving relatively normally, but I don't know how long that will last considering she isn't getting anywhere near the calories she should be. I have a feeling I'll be making another vet appointment on Tuesday, assuming I don't have to make an emergency appointment between now and then.

I'm very worried, and it's making it difficult to concentrate. I'm still planning on writing up a few reviews, but it won't be as many as I'd hoped. I had originally intended to start 2018 fresh - anything I hadn't reviewed by then wasn't going to be reviewed. Now, I'm not so sure. I definitely want to get my vacation reading reviews written. Those will happen, even if I have to write them after 2018 starts.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

REVIEW: Not Simple (manga) by Natsume Ono, translation by Joe Yamazaki

I'm not sure what genre Not Simple counts as. The best I can come up with is "family drama." It's licensed by VIZ.

Warning: this review contains slight spoilers. The manga itself features quite a bit of child abuse, and I mention some of the specifics below.


I’m not sure how to summarize this story, since so much of it counts as spoilers. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning. A young woman named Irene wants to run away with her boyfriend but is afraid that her dad will find them and literally kill her boyfriend. She then comes up with an idea that immediately qualifies her as a horrible person: pick up a random homeless guy, convince her dad’s goons that he’s her boyfriend, and run off with her boyfriend while the goons beat the homeless guy half to death. It seems like a great (horrible) plan, until she learns that her random homeless guy, Ian, is actually same same guy who convinced a family member of hers not to run off three years ago.

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding results in Ian lying on the ground, dying from a gut wound. Ian’s friend, Jim, tells Irene that he plans to turn Ian’s life into a book that will be coming out in about a year. The rest of the manga is Ian’s life up to this point: growing up with an alcoholic mother and cold and dismissive father, trying to keep his promise to his sister so that he can see her again, and then walking across the US searching for his sister after she disappears.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul (manga, vols. 1-5) by Sui Ishida, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Tokyo Ghoul is a series that I feel torn about. On the one hand, it was an interesting read. On the other hand, it may be a little too dark for my tastes, and even after 5 volumes I'm still not particularly attached to most of the main characters, although I do have a few side characters that intrigue me (Nishiki and Kimi, Uta, Yomo, Yoshimura).

I'll probably continue on with this during my next vacation, but after the incident with Suzuya I'm not sure it's a good idea for me to try the anime. It would be nice if both the ghouls and the ghoul investigators came across, morally, as varying shades of grey, but, as of volume 5, it really does feel like the more prominent ghoul investigators are as monstrous, or possibly even more so, than the ghouls they hunt. I can think of only one ghoul investigator I could name, Amon, who might turn out to be a decent human being, and if he keeps turning a blind eye to the way his colleagues behave, I don't know that even he would count.

As usual for these posts, there are major spoilers from here on out. I wrote the descriptions with an eye towards allowing me to pick the series back up again a year from now. Oh, and I took terrible notes for this series. For example, I recorded Hinami's name as both Hinami and Hinako, and didn't write down several other characters' names at all. I had to rely on fan-created wikis to straighten things out.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

REVIEW: Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vols. 1-2) by Ryoko Kui, translated by Taylor Engel

I added Delicious in Dungeon to my vacation reading list after reading an interesting review of the first volume (sorry, can't recall which review nor who wrote it).

It was...odd. And probably not something I could binge-read too much, although I didn't actually think it was bad. It was basically a foodie manga with fictional food. It probably would have appealed to me a lot more if I were a Dungeons & Dragons person, but as it was it was still a nice read. It bugged me a little that the characters seemed so relaxed about rescuing the main character's sister, but it fit with the way the world was written. Death was pretty common, but also not something to be very concerned about, since it usually wasn't permanent. Very strange.

Somehow the covers had led me to believe this would be a more emotionally intense series, I think because the characters' expressions reminded me a little of the haunted survivors of Attack on Titan. This really is a very laid back series, though.

Again, this is a post-vacation review post, so there are spoilers from here on out. That said, I don't know that spoilers would really ruin this series much. A large part of its appeal is its delicious-looking fantasy food illustrations.

REVIEW: Black Butler (manga, vols. 21-23) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

After weeks of not being able to write very much at all, I seem to be on a roll right now, so let's see how many more of these post-vacation posts I can knock out.

Black Butler is a series I've been reading chunks of every time I have a vacation. I always forget how enjoyable it is. I started reading the volumes I'd requested after slogging through a few mediocre manga, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Toboso's artwork is such a joy to look at that I'm willing to overlook that the main storyline may never get resolved. Do well all even remember what the main storyline is? Well, the arcs are generally fun, even if they don't necessarily have anything directly to do with Ciel's past and his investigation into his parents' murder.

I had thought I had finished the Emerald Witch arc during my last vacation, but apparently I wasn't quite done. I got back into it easily enough (that's what my spoiler-y post-vacation posts are for, after all), and it was lots of fun seeing Ciel's group do what they're best at, kicking butt.

There are huge spoilers from here on out. Continue on at your own risk.

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (manga, vols. 1-2) story by QuinRose, art by Riko Sakura, translated by Angela Liu

I will finish all the manga in this franchise, someday. Maybe.

This two-volume series features what I consider to be one of the series' most interesting pairings. Even though I don't think Blood is a particularly good for Alice, this pairing tends to dig the deepest into her past, the memories she most wants to forget, and her private insecurities, since Blood looks so much like the tutor she fell in love with back in her own world, and who married her older sister instead.

Not that The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party delves into any of that. For a series pairing up Alice and Blood, it was pretty mediocre and offered nothing new. I would also highly recommend that those new to Alice in the Country of Hearts (or any of the other countries) not start with this. It may be tempting to start with one of the shorter series, but it's a bad idea all around.

This is one of my post-vacation posts, so be aware that there are spoilers past this point.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit (manga, vols. 1-2) story by QuinRose, art by Delico Psyche, scenario by Shinotsuki, translated by Ajino Hirami

I have no idea how close I am to finally finishing all the manga in this franchise that's been translated into English. I feel like every time I check there's more.

At any rate, I think I've read all the enjoyable stuff, and now this is more about me being able to say "I'm done" than anything. The first volume of My Fanatic Rabbit was mediocre, but I've read worse. In general, I'm not a fan of the ones where Elliot is Alice's love interest because they're either too silly for my tastes and make Alice too focused on her love for Elliot's ears, or they focus too much on Elliot's violent side and make me worry about Alice. This one went in the latter direction, with a little of the former.

The second volume left me filled with rage, primarily because I've seen the kind of stuff that was pulled on Alice pulled with a family member. This wasn't even vaguely romantic, and it left me feeling terrible for Alice.

REVIEW: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (manga, vol. 2) by Nami Sano, translated by Adrienne Beck

This is another post-vacation review.

Sakamoto tutors Yoshinobu (the bullied kid from volume 1) while deftly avoiding and finally defusing Yoshinobu's amorous mother. Then Sakamoto outwits a teacher bent on believing he's trouble, even managing to add the teacher to his list of admirers due to a kind act he performs. Then there are a few shorter episodes: dealing with a slug in cooking class, drawing a classmate in a way that manages to be both flattering and insulting, and saving a classmate during a fire drill (?). The volume ends with a group of delinquents pursuing Sakamoto and always just missing him. As they try to find him, they hear about his past mysterious exploits. Then there's an incident involving a delinquent trying to pick a fight with Sakamoto and ending up in a bizarre push fight against him.

REVIEW: Arisa (manga, vols. 2-12) by Natsumi Ando, translated by various

I read the first volume of Arisa almost a year ago. I felt that it had significant problems - a premise that required too much suspension of disbelief and artwork that didn't really fit the "feel" of the series - but I was intrigued enough by it to want to continue on.

Boy am I glad that I decided to continue on via library checkouts during my vacation rather than via purchases. If I had purchased it, I'd have instantly offloaded upon finishing it. It was a mediocre series that never got better and that, in fact, became downright bad at the end. The one bright spot was a short spin-off included at the end of one of the volumes, a horror-comedy featuring Mariko, Arisa's best friend. Unfortunately, as good as that short was, it made it even clearer that many of the characters in this series really, really needed therapy, and not just for someone to like them for who they are.

Ando had no idea how to properly build up suspense, was fond of fakeouts, and threw a cheap twist at readers right at the end. Also, it really bothered me how much her characters were willing to excuse and/or forgive.

While writing up this post, I discovered that my notes were pretty bad. I left out lots of details, resulting in volume descriptions that seem to have little-to-no connection to the previous volume. Also, I somehow neglected to record the volume in which Mariko's short was included. That said, even though my volume descriptions are incomplete, please be aware that they're still filled with spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

REVIEW: My Neighbor Seki (manga, vols. 1-6) by Takuma Morishige

I'm finally getting around to writing the first of my vacation "review" posts. If you're unfamiliar with how I do these, be warned that they're mostly intended for the me of about a year in the future. They're absolutely filled with spoilers. I suppose those are unnecessary when I've finished a manga series, but they're incredibly helpful when I'm reading an ongoing series, have to stop at a certain point, and plan to pick it up again during my next vacation. If you're wary of spoilers, I do plan to start each post with general impressions of what I read during my vacation. These should be relatively spoiler-free.

Okay, let's get this ball rolling. I have fourteen series that I'd like to write about before the end of the year...

I can't remember how My Neighbor Seki got on my radar, but I'm relatively sure it was via a review I read online. It sounded intriguing, but not so much that I actually wanted to buy it, so it went on my "vacation manga binge" list.

I started my vacation with six volumes of this series, and I got through all of them, although it took some effort. This is not a series to binge-read. Although it wasn't in 4-koma format, it read like a 4-koma series, and it just got so old. There were occasional new character introductions to spice things up, but not nearly enough to keep things fresh for six volumes read back-to-back. And so a couple volumes sat on a table, partway read, while I read other things for a while. But the damage had already been done, and I kind of dreaded making myself finish the volumes, even though I knew the series technically wasn't bad.

A funny story: at one point, I read most of volume 4, only to look over at my piles of manga and discover that I'd actually started reading the previous volume the night before and hadn't finished. Since almost nothing of importance happens in the individual volumes, I hadn't realized I'd skipped most of a volume.

I might request more of this series during my next vacation, but it occurs to me that it might actually be better to periodically get volumes via interlibrary loan instead. Long waiting periods between each volume would likely improve this series for me.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mystic Messenger - Day 9 of Jaehee's route

Since a full playthrough of Mystic Messenger takes 11 real-time days, I decided I'd do things a little differently this time around. I'm probably going to write reviews (or maybe just quick posts?) of my different playthroughs, rather than one review of the entire game because of 1) the amount of time each playthrough takes and 2) the high likelihood that I'm not going to play certain routes (Jumin Han, ugh) or get all of the endings. At the moment, I don't plan on purposely aiming for any of the "bad" endings.

I'm currently on Day 9 of Jaehee's route and it is ♥. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm on the right track for her "good" ending. It's been a pleasure seeing her slowly become happier, and I like that her route has allowed me to occasionally chat with Zen as well. He's a sweetheart.

While Jaehee's route is technically a friendship route rather than a romantic one, it's a very intense friendship. One character half-jokingly calls Jaehee and the player character's chats dates, and Jaehee repeatedly talks about how much she enjoys talking to the player character, how she thinks about her all the time, and how talking to her gives her courage and makes her feel calm.

Part of me wishes I already owned the calling card for the game since Jaehee's voice actress sounds so nice, but that probably won't happen until sometime after I've finished this playthrough.* I suppose I'll have to replay Jaehee's route sometime in the future in order to make those calls I'd have made if I hadn't had to worry about running out of hourglasses. On the plus side, that won't be a hardship, even with the amount of time a playthrough takes. I like Jaehee so much that I'm actually a little sad I'm almost done with her route. I hope the other characters are as enjoyable as her. (Except Jumin, who I'm already convinced will be 100% an arrogant jerk. Sorry, Jumin fans - I don't see how he could not suck. The only good thing about him is his love of cats, and he manages to turn even that into a reason for me to dislike him.)

* I'm aware that I could get a cheap calling card just for Jaehee, but when I added up the cost of the calling cards for all the specific characters I'd like, it was clear that it'd be a better value just to get the calling card that covers everyone, although it involves spending more in one go.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Back from vacation!

I've actually been back for a few days. I just hadn't settled down to write this post.

So, vacation could have gone better. I got sick a few days in and spent a few days with a fiery sore throat, a cough, and a fever. I had to cancel a lunch with a friend/former supervisor because my voice kept going in and out, and unfortunately that was the only day she could meet with me. There was one miserable 3 AM where I woke up thirsty and discovered I couldn't drink more than a tiny sip of room temperature water. Hot water with honey mixed into it (because I was too tired to make herbal tea) was my savior.

I still have a cough, and there are some problems with a filling I got on Monday, but otherwise things are better.

Although I didn't get quite as much reading done during my vacation as I would have liked (I had a stack of Haikyu!! that I never touched, plus Naruto and some leftoever Natsume's Book of Friends and Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun), I still managed to get a respectable amount of reading done. If my count is correct, I finished 43 manga and graphic novel volumes, one short story, and one book (that I'd started prior to my vacation but finished during).

Here are the spoiler-y posts you can look forward to in the coming weeks:
  • Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (manga, vols. 1-2)
  • Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit (manga, vols. 1-2)
  • Arisa (manga, vols. 2-12)
  • Black Butler (manga, vols. 21-23)
  • Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vols. 1-2)
  • Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (manga, vol. 2)
  • Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (graphic novel, vol. 1)
  • M.F.K. (graphic novel, not sure if it's a one-shot or vol. 1)
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vols. 4-5)
  • My Neighbor Seki (manga, vols. 1-6)
  • Natsume's Book of Friends (manga, vols. 11-13)
  • Orange: The Complete Collection (manga, vol. 1)
  • Skip Beat! (manga, vols. 37-39)
  • Tokyo Ghoul (manga, vols. 1-5)
Next time I go on vacation, I'd definitely like to continue Black Butler, Locke & Key, Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Natsume's Book of Friends, Orange (if I don't request the next and I think final volume through ILL between now and then), Skip Beat!, and Tokyo Ghoul. I'll rerequest Haikyu!! and Naruto, too.

As for the rest: I think I might finally have read the last of Alice in the Country of Hearts/Clover/Joker/etc. Delicious in Dungeon was okay, but not something I'd want to binge-read. I really shouldn't have continued Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto - for me, the series is like looking on in horror as the weirdest and most disturbing insect I've ever seen crawls across my carpet. It's something to do with the art style, I think, since the actual content isn't really that horrifying. And My Neighbor Seki is definitely not one of those series to binge-read. It'd work best in small amounts, and trying to get through 6 volumes at once was a mistake on my part.

Other things I finished:
  • The Yellow Wallpaper (e-short story) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Free through Project Gutenberg. Strange and a little creepy. Very good, although I have lots of questions.
  • Alliance in Blood (e-book) by Ariel Tachna - I went from "this isn't great, but not the worst thing I've ever read" to "this is very bad." It started in the introduction, when the author wrote about how she'd "proudly" never read any vampire stories, and culminated with insta-love, a plodding story, and a wooden and boring big battle. The author may have thought that this story was too big to fit into a single book, but I have a feeling a good editor could have combined the first two or three books in the series into something much better than Alliance in Blood.
And visual novels! I "finished" one and got started on another in the few days between flying back and going back to work. I believe that both can be played on Apple or Android devices, although one is definitely best played on a phone rather than on a tablet.
  • The Arcana (game) - I may write a more thorough review, but for now my impression is that it's quite good. The artwork is lovely and the routes are interesting. I had things I liked about each of the three romanceable characters. The app's main problems are 1) the pricing structure (if you want access to the entire thing at any time without waiting, be prepared to pay $60+), 2) the amount of waiting (it takes 8 hours to get a new key so that you can read another chapter, and you can only have a maximum of 3 keys saved up), and 3) its incompleteness (it's a serial that's still ongoing - no clue when it will be complete).
  • Mystic Messenger (game) - Again, I may write a more thorough review later, but for now I'm loving this app, with some reservations. It takes place over the course of 11 real-time days, and it assumes that you have a daily schedule that's busiest from 9ish to 6ish but that still allows you multiple breaks to check your phone. If I could ask for one improvement, it would be for the app to allow users to enter their work/school schedules. At any rate, I will probably end up paying for a calling card for all of the characters, and for the bit that allows you to romance a couple extra characters. The Common route lasts a few days, after which you're locked into a particular character. I couldn't decide between Zen (a flirty but kind of lonely actor) and Jaehee (an efficient but overworked assistant, and the game's only woman aside from the player character), and apparently my indecision pushed me more towards Jaehee's route, so that's what I'm currently playing. From what I've read, it's a friendship route rather than a romantic one, and I'm really enjoying it so far. Jaehee's a great character, and I'm rooting for her happiness (even though she dislikes cats).

Friday, November 3, 2017

REVIEW: How to Take Off Your Mask (game)

How to Take Off Your Mask is a fantasy romance visual novel. You play as Lilia (name customizable, although I think if you choose something other than the default the characters don’t say her name in spoken dialogue). Lilia lives with her grandmother and helps out at her bakery. Lilia hasn’t had parents around for years, but she’s kept it together by focusing on her young friend Ronan and being the best “big sister” she can for him. They’re now in their late teens (I think? Or maybe early 20s) and Lilia still treats Ronan like a younger brother who needs constant supervision and protection. However, things are starting to change.

Lilia wakes up one day to discover that her body and speech have entirely changed. It turns out that she’s half-luccretia. Luccretias are feared and hated by many humans, and anti-luccretia sentiment has been growing lately. Half-luccretias look human until their first transformation, at which time they transform into their luccretia body, which has cat ears and a tail. Some luccretias talk like normal humans, while others end their sentences with “mya” or “nya.” Lilia is one of the “nya” types. Her luccretia form also happens to be several years younger than her human form, maybe 13 or 14.

As the anti-luccretia group makes its first moves, Lilia interacts with Ronan both as herself as as “Leea” (name customizable), her luccretia form. Because Ronan has no idea they’re both the same person, Lilia gets to see another side of Ronan and realizes they’ve both been hiding things from each other. Will they be able to take off their masks and finally be honest with themselves and each other?

REVIEW: Cardcaptor Sakura, Standard Edition, Vol. 1 (anime TV series)

Cardcaptor Sakura is a magical girl TV series that originally aired in Japan in the late ‘90s and, in heavily edited form, in the US from 2000 to 2001 (according to Wikipedia - I could have sworn I was younger when I watched it, but apparently my memories are faulty). I caught a tiny bit of it back when it was on TV, but for some reason it never captured my interest.

I was excited to learn that this series was finally being released in the US in unedited form, but I was a little wary. I had fallen in love with it via the manga but wasn’t sure the anime would be to my tastes since, like I said, what little I’d seen of it on TV hadn’t gotten me hooked. Buying the full thing (because I almost always buy the full thing) would be a serious monetary commitment. But then Right Stuf had their anniversary sale and I finally caved.

Cardcaptor Sakura stars Sakura, a 10-year-old girl. She lives with her father, who’s a professor (of ancient history? Egyptian history? not sure), and her older brother, Toya. Her mother died when she was very young. One day, Sakura finds a book in her home’s basement. It contains Clow Cards, almost all of which escape. With the help of the cards’ guardian, Kero, Sakura is able to capture one of the cards. Kero tells her that she is now a Cardcaptor and must collect all the rest of the cards before they do any harm - all the cards have some sort of magical ability and some of them can be very mischievous and/or actively harmful. Each card she collects gives Sakura new abilities that can help her capture more cards.

Along the way, viewers are introduced to other characters: Yukito, Toya’s best friend and Sakura’s not-so-secret crush; Tomoyo, Sakura’s best friend; and Xiaolang (I prefer Syaoran, but I’ll go with the romanization these DVDs used here), Sakura’s rival for both Yukito’s affection and card capturing. Most of the episodes are very “Card of the Week,” but some of them focus more on Sakura’s relationships and family history.


I'm about to go on vacation for a couple weeks. I'll still have access to the Internet, but it'll mostly be via my phone, so don't expect anything in the way of reviews. If I post at all, it'll be over at Booklikes, although I'll probably add books and ratings to LibraryThing and maybe Goodreads as well.

I plan on reading lots of manga volumes, so you can expect lots of spoilery review posts in late November and December.

As for today, I have to clean, pack, and take care of a million other things before I leave for the airport. I have a few reviews I might finish up and push out, as well.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

REVIEW: The Moai Island Puzzle (book) by Alice Arisugawa, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Moai Island Puzzle is a Japanese mystery novel. I got it via interlibrary loan.


Alice Arisugawa is the third Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan author I’ve tried. I thought Arisugawa would also be my first female honkaku mystery author, but I didn’t bother to research that and, as it turns out, the author is actually male.

He also wrote a male character named after his pseudonym into The Moai Island Puzzle. I don’t like when authors write themselves into their own books, even if all they and their character have in common is their names, so this was a bit of a red flag for me, but I figured I’d let it pass. I was really hoping this book would be as good as the one that led me to it, Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Or even Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, which had some issues but was still decent.

The Moai Island Puzzle starts by introducing readers to the members of the Eito University Mystery Club. The club’s only female member, Maria Arima, invites the other members to take a week-long holiday at her uncle’s villa on a tiny island. Only Alice Arisugawa (the narrator) and Jiro Egami are able to join her, but that doesn’t mean they’re alone: ten of Maria’s family members and family friends also take a holiday on the island at around this time every three years or so.

Alice and Egami arrive at the island with every intention of having fun. In particular, they’d like to solve the puzzle that Maria’s grandfather left behind. Before he died, Maria’s grandfather had several wooden moais, statues similar to the ones on Easter Island but much smaller, installed all over the island, each facing in a different direction. These statues are somehow the key to finding a treasure that Maria’s grandfather left behind.

Hideto, Maria's beloved cousin, was supposedly close to solving the puzzle three years ago but drowned before he could locate the treasure. Maria would like to finish what he started. Unfortunately, just as a typhoon is about to reach the island, a couple people are found shot to death inside a locked room. Was it suicide, or murder?

REVIEW: Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 1) by Haruko Ichikawa, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Land of the Lustrous is SFF manga that's still ongoing in Japan. It's published by Kodansha Comics. I checked it out via interlibrary loan.


Land of the Lustrous is set on a world that has been battered by meteors several times over the course of its history, to the point that all life was driven into the ocean. Some of the surviving beings eventually sank to the bottom and were consumed by microorganisms, transforming them into inorganic substances that eventually formed into crystals (I know, it’s bizarre, but just try to accept it). Those crystals eventually became 28 (ish?) genderless gemstone-based beings that washed up onto the shore. Those gem beings are the series’ good guys. Beings from the moon, called Lunarians, periodically attack the gem beings so that they can capture them and break their bodies down into weapons and decorations.

The series’ main character is a gem being named Phosphophyllite (Phos). Phos desperately wants to become a member of one of the watcher and fighter pairs that protect everyone against the Lunarians, but unfortunately Phos is so brittle that that’s out of the question. So far, Phos has been unsuited to every task they’ve been assigned to, which is why I suspect the latest task Kongo, the group’s leader, has come up with is probably just busy work. Kongo asks Phos to compile a natural history.

Phos starts off by talking to the tragic and dangerous Cinnabar, because that’s who everyone keeps saying they should start with. After that, Phos spends some time with the Diamond fighting pair, Bort and Dia. And then there’s an incident with a giant snail.

Monday, October 30, 2017

REVIEW: Gone Home (game)

Warning: this review includes one very spoiler-filled paragraph. I provide another warning just before you get to it.

Like Tacoma, Fullbright’s newest game, Gone Home isn’t so much an adventure game as it is an interactive story, although the story is even slimmer here than it was in Tacoma.

You play as Katie, who has just arrived home in the very early AM after a trip abroad. The family just moved to this home and I’m pretty sure Katie has never been there. At any rate, the house is empty - no one else is home, and you don’t know why. There are a few cryptic notes from your younger sister indicating that something has happened and that you shouldn’t tell your parents anything. There are also a couple phone messages, one of which is particularly worrisome. In order to find out what happened, you have to explore the house, reading any notes you find and picking up keys and combination lock codes so that you can open new doors and learn more secrets. Touching certain items triggers voiceover narration from your sister, explaining a little of what happened to her while you were gone and how things got to the point they are now.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

REVIEW: The Bishop's Pawn (e-book) by Don Gutteridge

The Bishop's Pawn is a historical mystery. It's Book 7 in Gutteridge's Marc Edwards Mysteries series. I downloaded it for free during a sale.

Warning: My review includes one significant spoiler. If you'd like to read a version of this review where spoilers are hidden, I suggest you check my pages on LibraryThing, Goodreads, or Booklikes.


This is set primarily in Toronto in 1839, although some of the characters take a brief trip to New York City later on. At the start of the book we meet Dick Dougherty, a massively overweight man who was once a lawyer in New York City but who, after some vague and mysterious trouble, was able to relocate to Toronto. Since then, he’s been taking care of his two wards, Brodie and Celia, and slowly taking control of his life again. A recent courtroom success has inspired him to apply for admission to the Bar (he wasn’t disbarred back in New York), and with Brodie and Celia’s help and encouragement he’s slowly regaining his mobility. He now takes daily walks that are so regular and predictable people can practically set their watches by him.

Unfortunately, although the common folk of Toronto love Dougherty, the same can’t be said for some of the area’s political leaders. There are rumors that Dougherty’s relationship with Celia isn’t entirely proper, and Dougherty’s refusal to give any details on the events that got him run out of New York City inspires even more whispers. Things come to a head when Archdeacon John Strachan delivers a fiery sermon that accuses Dougherty of “vile and abominable” behavior. Not long after the sermon, Dougherty is discovered dead, with one of his eyes removed and a note with “Sodomite” written on it pinned to his chest.

Marc Edwards and others suspect that one of Strachan’s parishioners was influenced by his sermon and killed the man. They even find a likely suspect, drunk and covered in blood. However, some of the details don’t add up. Marc suspects there’s something else going on, but the tense political situation makes it difficult to discover the truth.

REVIEW: The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't (nonfiction book) by Robert I. Sutton

The No Asshole Rule is a nonfiction book. I checked out a library copy.


In this book, Sutton 1) defines workplace assholes, 2) describes the damage they can do to their workplaces and to themselves, 3) outlines how workplaces can try to implement a “no asshole” rule, 4) describes how you can keep from being an asshole, 5) provides tips for dealing with workplace assholes if your workplace isn’t making a concentrated effort to keep them out or deal with their behavior in some way, 6) and describes some of the benefits of occasionally being an asshole and/or having one around. And probably a few other things I forgot to list.

Sutton’s workplace assholes are basically what other books call workplace bullies, although I agree with Sutton that “asshole” is probably a better word to use. I think the average adult would probably connect with it more.

I started reading this in the hope of learning more and better strategies for dealing with workplace assholes. Unfortunately, although this was an engaging read that I largely agreed with, it didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

REVIEW: Vintage: A Ghost Story (e-book) by Steve Berman

Vintage is YA m/m horror. I got it as part of a Story Bundle a while back.


Vintage’s protagonist is an unnamed mostly closeted gay teen, who I will call MC (short for “Main Character”) from here on out. MC ran away from home after his parents reacted badly to learning that he was gay, so now he lives with his aunt, who he’s afraid might do the same thing. The only people who know his secret are his new friend Trace and several other friends she introduced him to.

His life here is better than it had been back with his parents. He has friends, he’s convinced his aunt to let him drop out of school and get his GED and work instead, and he likes his job at the vintage clothing shop. Still, a part of him is always afraid that the wrong person will find out he’s gay and ruin everything and, at the same time, he desperately wants a boyfriend. When he sees a cute boy in vintage clothes walking alone, he takes a risk and talks to him. And even though he’s a weird goth kid talking to a guy dressed like a jock, it doesn’t go badly! Unfortunately for MC, Josh, the cute boy, is a ghost.

At first, MC and Trace are delighted at the prospect of meeting a real ghost. However, things soon take a turn for the worse. Josh follows MC home. Although MC is excited that a boy is finally interested in him, Josh’s touch could literally suck the life out of him. Josh’s raging jealousy is another problem. If MC and Trace can’t figure out how to put Josh to rest, MC and anyone he cares out could end up dead.

REVIEW: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (book) by Soji Shimada, translation by Ross and Shika Mackenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a Japanese mystery novel.


The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders to his friend Kiyoshi, an astrologer and occasional detective. The six young women were, in fact, killed and mutilated in the manner described in Heikichi’s will, but Heikichi couldn’t possibly have done it: he’d been dead for several days prior to the murders. In addition to Heikichi’s murder and the Azoth murders, one of Heikichi’s other stepdaughters was also killed. No one is sure whether that murder was related to the others or not.

After Kiyoshi takes on a client with a distant but potentially embarrassing connection to the case, Kiyoshi and Kazumi end up with a one-week deadline to solve a mystery that no one else has managed to solve in 40 years. Diagrams included throughout the text invite readers to solve the mystery along with them.

REVIEW: Hot Steamy Glasses (manga) by Tatsumi Kaiya, translated by Sachiko Sato

Hot Steamy Glasses in a one-shot yaoi manga - I suppose you could call it m/m contemporary romance. It's licensed by Digital Manga Publishing.


Hot Steamy Glasses features two stories, although the second one is extremely short, more of an extra than anything. Most of the volume is devoted to the story of Takeo and Fumi. Takeo is the president of a successful I.T. company. He’s been in love with his friend Fumi for the past 17 years. He lives in hope that, despite being heterosexual, Fumi will one day agree to live with him and go on a date with him. Fumi’s younger brother, Shogo, is doubtful of this but does want something to change: either for Fumi to finally give Takeo a chance or for Takeo to move on and fall in love with someone who isn’t quite so mean to him.

Takeo’s an otaku, specifically one who’s into moe characters (romanized here as “moeh”), and Fumi isn’t shy about expressing his annoyance and disgust. Still, Takeo persists and does what he can to appeal to Fumi and make him happy.

REVIEW: Tacoma (game)

I purchased Tacoma on sale via the Humble Bundle store and played it on Steam.


I suppose you could call Tacoma an adventure game, although it more of an interactive story than a game. There are a few instances where you need to figure out people’s passcodes, but they’re so easy to figure out that they don’t really count as puzzles.

You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor sent to Tacoma station by Venturis, the company that owns Tacoma. A short while ago an accident happened and the station, which had housed six human employees, one AI named ODIN, and a cat, is now abandoned. Your job is to explore the station and retrieve AI-recorded data and ODIN’s wetware.

The AI-recorded data takes the form of recordings that your augmented reality device allows you to see as though you’re glimpsing into the station’s past. All the characters are represented by colored silhouettes of themselves. You can rewind and fastforward in order to follow different people and occasionally access their emails and other files.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: Hatsune Miku Graphics: Vocaloid Art & Comic, Vol. 1 (artbook) English translation by Jocelyne Allen

Meh. I considered buying this and related Vocaloid titles a while back, and I’m now glad I didn’t. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have anything in it that I think I’d want to pore over again at a later date. For those who are wondering (because I wondered, back when I was considering getting it), it’s primarily an artbook. There are only a few comics.


There were a bunch of Vocaloid illustrations from various artists. Hatsune Miku was the most common subject, but there were also lots of works featuring Len and Rin and a few featuring Luka, Meiko, and (very occasionally) Kaito. Each artist got a line or two to introduce themselves, and some of them included commentary for the individual illustrations. Unfortunately, each artist only got one or two pages, so the more illustrations and commentary they included the smaller the illustrations were.

Dark days, continued

Remember this post I wrote back in December? My day-to-day life is basically the same, although I have since become more comfortable with calling my representatives. Also, I live in fear that I or people I know will survive a natural disaster only to learn that the president is too incompetent or childish to see to it that the federal government provides aid in a prompt manner. And I worry that we're one presidential tweet storm away from war. I used to worry a lot more about Friday news, but I've since become numb to that.

The reason why I'm writing this post is to include some links - then I promise I'll go back to posting nothing but reviews.

Monday, October 9, 2017

REVIEW: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 2, Standard Edition (anime TV series)

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You boxed set 2 includes episodes 13 to 15 and 17 to 25 on both DVD and Blu-ray discs (episode 16 was omitted because it was a recap episode). It’s a high school romance series.

Oddly, the info on the back of the case indicates that Disc 2 of the Blu-ray portion has episodes 9-12 and Disc 1 has the episodes after that. I’m going to say that’s probably an error, because I think I watched Disc 1 and then 2, and I don’t recall there being any episode order issues.

This post includes a few spoilers.


Again, I’ve previously reviewed this series, so I won’t say too much here. This set picks up right where the first one ended. Kazehaya and Sawako continue to be adorable together, and their romance continues to move at a snail’s pace. The bit where Sawako fell asleep on Kazehaya’s shoulder was wonderful - as was Ayane’s continued enjoyment at embarrassing Kazehaya by taking a picture of the moment.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

REVIEW: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 1, Standard Edition (anime TV series)

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You boxed set 1 includes episodes 1 to 12 on both DVD and Blu-ray discs. It’s a high school romance series.


Right Stuf had a huge sale and I ended up buying this and a few other normally prohibitively expensive series, figuring that if I didn’t do it during the sale then I’d probably be passing on those titles forever. For the record, the series I picked up were Kimi ni Todoke, Cardcaptor Sakura, My Love Story!!, and Chihayafuru. Sentai Filmworks and NIS America are budget destroyers, although it could be worse. I could be pining for Aniplex of America titles. (Actually, there is one I want: Erased. $180 for a 12-episode, 5-hour-long series means I’ll likely never get it.)

This particular boxed set contains what I consider to be the best episodes in the series: the introduction of the series’ main characters, the beginnings of Sawako and Kazehaya’s friendship and romance, and the cementing of Sawako’s friendship with Ayane and Chizuru. I wish I could say that you could buy this boxed set and skip the rest in order to save money, but this first boxed set ends at a terrible spot and can’t stand on its own, if you’re at all invested in Kazehaya and Sawako’s romance. At the point the set ends, Kazehaya is running towards Sawako and Ryu, convinced that Sawako has feelings for Ryu and is about to confess those feelings to him.

REVIEW: The Dark Victorian: Risen (e-novella) by Elizabeth Watasin

The Dark Victorian: Risen is a f/f steampunk paranormal mystery, the first work in Watasin's The Dark Victorian series. It's self-published and 33,860 words long.


The Dark Victorian: Risen is set in a steampunk London with magic and paranormal aspects. Jim, an agent of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, is given a new partner: Artifice, a Quaker and artificial ghost (meaning that she can turn incorporeal at will). All agents of the Secret Commission were once criminals - they were executed and then brought back to life, bound into service, with no memory of who they once were. They are able to guess some things about their past selves, but that’s about it. It generally isn’t a good idea for them to find and communicate with people they once knew.

Artifice, who chooses to go by the name Art, and Jim begin investigating their first case, the disastrous reanimation of several corpses. The culprit started with animals but appears to have moved on to humans. In each instance, the corpses manage to kill someone before either being destroyed or escaping.

REVIEW: My Love Story!! (anime TV series)

My Love Story!! is a 24 episode high school romance/comedy series. It’s licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

My review includes spoilers.


Takeo Goda is the kind of guy other guys look up to: strong, honorable, and kind. Unfortunately, he’s also the kind of guy girls steer clear of. Even though he’s just a high schooler, he’s huge and looks like he might be some kind of gangster. For years, every single girl Takeo has been interested in has fallen in love with his handsome best friend, Suna, even though Suna always rejects them. It’s gotten to the point that Takeo is resigned to this.

Then one day Takeo comes to the rescue of a girl being molested on the train. The girl, Rinko Yamato, brings Takeo baked goods as a thank you, but he immediately sees what’s really going on: she must be interested in Suna, just like all the other cute girls Takeo has liked in his life. Takeo really likes Rinko, so he decides to do the honorable thing and act as matchmaker between her and Suna. But does Takeo really understand Rinko’s feelings as well as he thinks, or is something else going on?

Friday, October 6, 2017

REVIEW: Invader (audiobook) by C.J. Cherryh, narrated by Daniel Thomas May

Invader is science fiction, the second book in Cherryh's Foreigner series.


I don't have much to say about this that I didn't already say in my review for the paper book and my review for the first audiobook. It was nice knowing all the things Bren didn't know this time around, and man I really wanted him to get some rest and read his post-surgery care instructions. I had forgotten how much of the beginning of the book involved Bren dragging himself from one problem to another when all he desperately wanted to do was sleep.

I continued to enjoy Daniel Thomas May's narration. As in the first audiobook, I loved him as Bren and was a bit iffier about some of his atevi voices. At any rate, I have the next four books in audio form and am looking forward to listening to them.

REVIEW: Unseemly Pursuits (e-book) by K.B. Owen

Unseemly Pursuits is a historical cozy mystery.


Concordia Wells is back for another year of teaching and trying to keep mischievous students’ pranks to a minimum. Hartford Women’s College has a new lady principal, Olivia Grant, who already has a reputation for being overly strict and who seems to hate Concordia in particular. Then there’s Madame Durand, a spirit medium who has started a “Spirit Club” on campus and who Concordia worries is taking advantage of her mother’s grief over the death of Concordia’s sister.

Everything takes a turn for the worse when an Egyptian amulet donated to the college is stolen and the man who donated it, Colonel Adams, is murdered. His daughter and Concordia’s best friend, Sophia Adams, confesses to the murder, but Concordia is convinced she didn’t do it. Finding the real killer will involve finding the amulet and learning more about her own father’s unexpected past as an Egyptologist.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

REVIEW: Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel (audiobook) by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, narrated by Cecil Baldwin, guest starring Dylan Marron, Retta, Thérèse Plummer, & Dan Bittner

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is an often surreal mixture of horror, fantasy, and humor.


I’ve been a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for a while (although I’m woefully behind at the moment), so I was very excited when this book was first announced. I’ve owned it in two different formats since it first came out in 2015, but I kept putting off reading it because I couldn’t decide which format to start with, audio or paper. I finally settled on audio, figuring that something that started as a podcast would be better that way. Now that I’ve finished it, I feel like I made the right decision.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel stars Jackie Fierro, a nineteen-year-old pawn shop owner, and Diane Crayton, a single mom with a shapeshifting teenage son named Josh. As far as Jackie knows, she’s been nineteen forever and has owned her pawn shop forever. She doesn’t really think too hard about any of that until a strange customer, the Man in the Tan Jacket, comes in and gives her a slip of paper she literally can’t put down. Whenever she tries to get rid of it, it ends up right back in her hand. All it says is “King City.” Even worse, Jackie suddenly can’t write anything except “King City,” making it impossible for her to do her job.

Meanwhile, Diane’s life seems perfectly normal until one of her coworkers disappears. No one but her even remembers he existed, and it’s a mystery she can’t bring herself to leave alone. Her situation is further complicated by her son’s sudden desire to talk to his father. Diane would rather never talk about Josh’s father. Unfortunately, she keeps seeing him everywhere she goes. It gradually becomes apparent that the solution to both Jackie and Diane’s problems lies in the mysterious and possibly unreachable King City.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

REVIEW: Lure of the Mummy (short story) by Janis Susan May

Lure of the Mummy is horror. It's published by Carina Press and is approximately 23,000 words long.

My review includes spoilers.


Bert Carmody is a translator who specializes in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. He dreams of fame but seems destined to slog through boring grunt work for the rest of his career. Only handsome, young, and athletic guys like Rick Hamilton get the interesting assignments. Nothing in Bert’s life will ever go right as long as guys like Rick are around. Even gorgeous and sweet Melanie Kerry is more interested in Rick than in him.

Things begin to change when Bert acquires a mummified cat from one of the locals. Fame and Melanie might finally be within reach, if the consequences don’t catch up to him first.

Friday, September 22, 2017

REVIEW: Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases (book) by NisiOisin, original concept by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Death Note: Another Note is a prequel to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's Death Note.

I’ll start this review off with a warning: the book assumes you’ve read (or watched) most of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. I’m going to be writing this review with the same assumption - there are major spoilers for the series from here on out.

Okay, so this book stars L and Naomi Misora. If you don’t remember who Misora is, she was the FBI agent who began investigating Kira after her fiance, FBI agent Raye Penber, was killed by him. The book’s narrator is Mello, who has decided to write down some of L’s cases after his death, starting with this one. You know, in between hunting down Kira or something.

Anyway, Misora is trying to decide whether to resign from the FBI after a particular event that got her suspended when she receives an email from her fiance that actually turns out to be from L. L wants her help with a case he’s currently working on: the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, also known as the Wara Ningyo Murders or the L.A. Serial Locked Room Killings. There have have been three murders so far and, due to the murderer’s pattern, L believes there may yet be a fourth and even a fifth, unless he and Misora can find the killer first. L sends Misora to be his eyes and hands, although it’s not long before she’s joined by Rue Ryuzaki, a suspicious and strange private detective who has a habit of crawling around on all fours and eating disgustingly sweet snacks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

REVIEW: You'll Be the Death of Me! (book) Stacia Wolf

You'll Be the Death of Me! is a contemporary romantic comedy published by the now-defunct Samhain Publishing. I read a used paperback copy.

My review includes a few minor spoilers.


You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

REVIEW: Parasite Eve (book) by Hideaki Sena, translated by Tyran Grillo

Parasite Eve is Japanese horror. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Warning: my review includes significant spoilers. I cross-post to Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Booklikes, all places where I have access to spoiler tags, so if you'd like to read a spoiler-free review I suggest checking one of my accounts in those places.


Parasite Eve begins with the death of Kiyomi Nagashima. While driving, she suddenly blacks out and has the same dream she had previously only had on her birthday, a dream in which she is a worm-like being swimming through fluid. She recovers from her dream just in time to hit a telephone pole.

Toshiaki Nagashima, Kiyomi’s husband, is a researcher specializing in mitochondria. When he hears about Kiyomi’s accident, he drops everything and rushes to the hospital. Unfortunately, Kiyomi is brain dead. Toshiaki and Kiyomi’s parents agree to honor Kiyomi’s desire to be a kidney donor, but Toshiaki has one secret request of his own: he would like a sample of Kiyomi’s liver.

Kiyomi’s kidneys go to an unnamed man and a 14-year-old girl named Mariko Anzai, and Toshiaki gets the liver cells he so badly wanted. While Mariko struggles with guilt and fear over her latest transplant, Toshiaki is happily convinced that since Kiyomi’s liver cells are still alive and thriving, she isn’t actually dead. What no one realizes is that there is a monster hiding inside Kiyomi’s cells, and it’s slowly becoming strong enough to take the next step in its evolution.

Monday, September 11, 2017

REVIEW: The Drops of God (manga, vol. 2) story by Tadashi Agi, art by Shu Okimoto, translation by Kate Robinson

The Drops of God would be considered food manga, I guess. I got this copy via interlibrary loan.

And hey look, it's my first review written on my new computer. I finally replaced my old one after it had a few "mysterious blackout" moments and stopped being able to go into Sleep mode or consistently turn off.

Anyway, this review includes some spoilers.


Most of the volume is devoted to Shizuku selecting French wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition sponsored by his company’s new Wine Division, although it isn’t immediately apparent that the first part of the volume has anything at all to do with the competition.

In the first part of the volume, Shizuku helps a struggling French restaurant. Their business was nearly killed off by a bad review from Issei Tomine, and now he’s scheduled to come reevaluate the restaurant. The restaurant’s owner is confident about his food but has no idea what to do about the wine menu - his wife used to handle that, but she died some time ago. In order to figure out where the restaurant owner went wrong, Shizuku must discover how to properly pair wine and food.

Shizuku’s efforts help him select one of the wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition, but he still needs two others. He finds the second one after visiting a bizarre wine shop staffed by twin brothers with very different opinions about wine and the third one after being approached by Maki Saionji, a wine importer and Issei Tomine’s occasional lover. The volume wraps up with both the competition and Shizuku and Issei finally reading the first part of Shizuku’s father’s will, which gives them the clues necessary to find the first of Shizuku’s father’s “Twelve Apostles.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

REVIEW: Ring (book) by Koji Suzuki, translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley

Ring is a Japanese horror novel. I own a used copy.

This review includes a few spoilers. I tried to keep them vague.

Warning: This book includes multiple mentions of rapes and a main character who is likely a rapist. Also, one of the main characters deliberately misgenders another character.

Kazuyuki Asakawa is a reporter who got into a bit of trouble in the past. From what I could gather (it was a little confusing), he wrote an article that exacerbated oddly widespread public reports of supernatural sightings. That’s why his boss is reluctant to okay his most recent project: an investigation into several disturbing simultaneous deaths. One of the victims was his niece, who tore out her hair as she died. Her death, like the others, was ruled “sudden heart failure,” but would that really cause a teenage girl to rip out her hair like that?

Asakawa’s investigation leads him to a difficult-to-get-to cabin, where he watches a mysterious videotape that warns him that all who watch the tape are fated to die exactly one week later. Those who do not wish to die must follow the tape’s instructions...except that the instructions were taped over. Asakawa would laugh it off it weren’t for those four simultaneous deaths.

In an effort to save himself, Asakawa enlists the help of the one man he knows who'd actually enjoy this strange task: Ryuji Takayama, a creepy and gross philosophy professor with a grating personality.

REVIEW: Night Shield (book) by Nora Roberts

Night Shield is romantic suspense. I own a used copy.


Jonah Blackhawk is a former juvenile delinquent whose life got on the right track with the help of Boyd Fletcher, the man who eventually became Denver’s police commissioner. He loves Boyd like a father and feels like he owes him a debt he’ll never be able to repay, which is why he agrees to Boyd’s latest request: work with the investigating team looking into a string of robberies committed by people who seem to be using Jonah’s clubs to scope out their victims. Specifically, he’d like Jonah to allow the detective in charge to work undercover at his newest place.

What Boyd doesn’t immediately mention is that the detective in charge is Ally Fletcher, his daughter. There’s an immediate spark between the two of them, but Ally’s a professional and Jonah isn’t really a fan of cops (other than Boyd) and secretly feels that his past makes him unworthy of someone like Boyd’s daughter. Still, Ally’s undercover work puts her and Jonah in frequent contact, and it isn’t long before Jonah’s employees put two and two together and decide they must be dating.

REVIEW: The Dinosaur Lords (book) by Victor Milan

The Dinosaur Lords is fantasy. I purchased a copy a while back.


Warning: this book includes on-page rape and detailed descriptions of violence. Many characters die.

In the world of Paradise, humans exist alongside dinosaurs. The tame (or, in some cases, relatively tame) dinosaurs are treated much like our pets and livestock. People breed and train dinosaurs for hunting, riding, and fighting.

When I first heard of this book, it was described as Game of Thrones meets Jurassic Park. There are the dinosaurs plus medieval-ish fantasy politics - as far as tone and overall feel goes, it's more like Game of Thrones than Jurassic Park. The four main players are: Karyl Bogomirskiy, a famed dinosaur knight who is one of the few to ride a Tyrannosaurus rex; Rob Korrigan, a minstrel and dinosaur master (trains and cares for fighting dinosaurs and dinosaur mounts); Jaume, famed dinosaur knight and poet, the Imperial Champion of Emperor Felipe, and the fiance of Princess Melodia; and Melodia, who is eager to do important things but seems doomed to waste away in the palace.

REVIEW: Fall Into Darkness (book) by Christopher Pike

Fall Into Darkness is a YA mystery/thriller. I checked it out via interlibrary loan.


Sharon McKay is on trial for her best friend Ann Rice’s murder. Never mind that there’s no body, no real witnesses, and no evidence. Sharon and Ann’s friends saw them hike up to the cliff that night and heard Ann scream “Don’t!” before she either fell or was pushed off the cliff. Everybody seems to be convinced that Sharon killed Ann.

Scenes of the trial from Sharon’s POV alternate between scenes prior to the accident/murder from Ann’s POV. What Sharon didn’t know was that Ann was obsessed. Ann’s brother, Jerry, had loved Sharon and had killed himself after their relationship ended. Ann blamed Sharon and wanted her to suffer. What better way to do that than frame her for murder, thereby ruining her bright future? (I’m sure you can think of better and less risky ways she could have gotten her revenge, but just roll with it.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

REVIEW: Animal Lover (game)

[This review includes spoilers. I tried to avoid giving too many details, but it probably isn't too hard to figure out at least some of what ends up happening.]

Warning: this game includes a death, references to suicide, and references to homophobic bullying.

Animal Lover is a visual novel created by Trainwreck Studios. It's primarily fantasy with some romance aspects later on. There's no sex, not even fade-to-black, implied, or text-only - the romance is limited to a date and an on-screen kiss or two. I considered this a plus. If you're particularly interested in games with LGBT aspects, one of the romanceable guys is revealed to probably be bisexual later on in the game (I say "probably" because the word is never used, but he does talk about a past relationship with another guy).

Now for the summary: You play as Lucy (the default character name, which you can change), an intern at a veterinary clinic. Lucy loves animals and is immediately charmed by the hamster a little girl brings into the clinic. Because it reminds her so much of the hamster she used to have, Lucy briefly forgets herself and gives him a little kiss before putting him back in his cage. Shockingly, the little hamster then transforms into a human being. A good-looking and very naked young man.

The hamster’s owners run out in horror, leaving Lucy to figure out what to do with the guy, whose name turns out to be Edmund. Edmund used to be a prince until he was transformed into a hamster (or something very like one) hundreds of years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly lived and died as a hamster, with no end in sight. Until now. Lucy agrees to help him find and free another human-turned-animal, eventually resulting in her having to clothe, feed, and house five good-looking guys from a variety of time periods. Not only that, but it looks like her kisses don’t have a permanent effect: a random guy keeps transforming back into an animal each time the sun sets. They need to figure out a way to undo the curse for good. Especially before Charlie, whose animal form was a bear, transforms.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

REVIEW: The Drops of God (manga, vol. 1) story by Tadashi Agi, art by Shu Okimoto, translation by Kate Robinson

I'm not sure what genre to assign to The Drops of God. I'm not surprised that its Wikipedia page just says "wine." Anyway, I requested it via interlibrary loan. Although it doesn't say its an omnibus volume, it collects the first two volumes of the series.


Shizuku Kanzaki is the son of Yutaka Kanzaki, a world-famous wine critic. Ever since he was a child, Shizuku was exposed to a variety of sights, smells, sounds, and tastes, all the things he’d need in order to properly appreciate wine. Unfortunately for Yutaka Kanzaki, it backfired. The relationship between father and son became strained, and Shizuku eventually went to work for a beer company without ever once tasting a drop of wine.

Shizuku has been estranged from his father for two years when he learns of his father’s death from pancreatic cancer. His father left a will describing 12 great wines and one legendary wine called “The Drops of God.” Shizuku can only inherit his father’s property if he is able to correctly identify the wines and their vintages before the end of a one-year time limit. Not only that, but he has a rival: Issei Tomine, “the prince of the wine world,” a famous young wine critic. Issei convinced Yutaka to adopt him a week before his death, so Issei is legally Yutaka’s son and also gets a chance at inheriting everything.

Issei and Shizuku’s first task is to identify and describe a particular wine set aside by Yutaka. The person who comes up with the most appropriate description will get to live in Yutaka Kanzaki’s mansion. Although Shizuku drops his glass before trying the wine, something about its appearance and smell brings to mind a wisp of memory. He seeks out the one friendly face in the wine world that he knows of, apprentice sommelier Miyabi Shinohara, to help him figure out what that wine is and why it affects him so strongly.

Friday, July 28, 2017

REVIEW: Cube Escape: Arles (game)

Cube Escape: Arles is a puzzle solving game in the Cube Escape series. Art buffs in particular might find this entry exciting, since you play as Vincent van Gogh in his bedroom in Arles. You have to collect various objects and use them to solve puzzles in order to try to get out of the room.

One content warning that also counts as a spoiler, sort of: at one point in the game van Gogh must cut off his own ear. There’s no emotion that goes with this - it’s just something he does, and he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about it after the act is completed.

As far as I can tell, the only way this relates to the other games is that Laura had a print of this particular painting in her home in Cube Escape: Case 23. It doesn’t seem to add much to the overall Rusty Lake story, beyond providing another confirmation that mental illness is likely the start of the creation of corrupted souls. I do hope that one of the later Cube Escape games demonstrates that there’s a way to purify (?) corrupted souls, because otherwise this series appears to be making a pretty bleak statement about mental illness.

I turned to a walkthrough for guidance a couple times while playing this, but for the most part this was another game in the series that I was able to play through on my own. Much of the game involved collecting various items and using them in different places in the room, and I don’t recall any puzzles that particularly stood out for me or that I particularly liked. I did enjoy the slightly creepy feeling that the “alternate” room inspired, though, and the painting puzzle was nice.

Overall, this doesn’t really add anything to the larger Rusty Lake story, but it’s a decent puzzle game with an interesting setup. It would probably make for a good first Cube Escape game for those who haven’t tried the series before.

REVIEW: Cube Escape: Harvey's Box (game)

Like all the other Cube Escape games, this one can be downloaded for free. I’d recommend playing some of the other entries in the series before this one - at least Cube Escape: Seasons - because otherwise it’ll probably come across as extremely random.

Anyway, in this game you play as Harvey the parrot. If you’ve played the other games, you know that Laura is going to Rusty Lake Mental Health and Fishing. For some reason she decided that the best way to transport her parrot was to stick him in a box with some of her other belongings. Your job is to complete a few puzzles in order to find a way out of the box.

Although it didn’t add much to the overall Rusty Lake story, this was still a nice little game. The puzzles were just difficult enough to be interesting, but not so difficult that they frustrated me and drove me to check a walkthrough (and I have a pretty low frustration threshold when it comes to puzzle games, anymore). My absolute favorite puzzle was probably the fly and maggot one. It took me a beat to figure out what I was supposed to do, but then going through line by line and thinking through the logic turned out to be extremely satisfying.

I wouldn’t recommend this as anyone’s first Cube Escape game, and it’s not terribly interesting story-wise, but it’s a nice little entry if you just want spend some time solving puzzles.