Monday, January 30, 2017

REVIEW: The Galloway Road (e-novella) by Catherine Adams

The Galloway Road is a fantasy story published by Less Than Three Press. It's only 19,000 words long.


Renna is a young mage on her way to her first job. Her traveling companions include a pair of musicians specifically requested by Renna’s new employer, plus Brett, the mercenary hired to protect them all. Brett is closed mouthed about himself and his past, and Renna has secrets of her own. However, none of that may matter if they can't manage to survive the Galloway Road’s deadly horrors.

This story takes place over the course of 11 days and mostly features the group traveling from one inn to another. The beginning was boring, dull, and a little confusing, although the Galloway Road’s creepy atmosphere eventually grew on me, as did Renna and Brett (sort of). A word of warning: some of the descriptions are gruesome. The Galloway Road is called that because it's lined with gallows and gibbets. Sometimes the people Renna, Brett, and the musicians pass are dead, and sometimes they're not. Honestly, if I had been Renna or the musicians, Galloway Road alone would have had me questioning the wisdom of agreeing to work for Lord Galloway.

REVIEW: Big Windup! 2 (anime TV series)

Big Windup! 2 is the second season of Big Windup!, a baseball anime. Although the first season was licensed by Funimation, it apparently didn’t sell well enough for them to license the second season. Instead, Right Stuf licensed the second season and released it only a couple months ago.


This second season picks up right where the first one left off - the game between Tosei and Nishiura ended only a few hours prior. Nishiura plays against Sakitama in the first half of the season, and against Bijou in the second half. There are also a few prominent themes and storylines: Bijou’s assistant coach, an ex-Tosei player who wants to win so badly that he encourages a Bijou player to cheat and to injure other players; Abe and his efforts to properly communicate with Mihashi; and Mihashi’s blind obedience to Abe.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

REVIEW: Justice, My Foot (live action movie)

Justice, My Foot is a Hong Kong action-comedy movie.


Sung Sai Kit is the best lawyer around, willing to take any case (as long as he’s offered plenty of money) and say anything he has to in order to win. His wife, Madam Sung, appreciates all the finery that Sung is able to buy for her, but she also superstitiously believes that Sung’s work is the reason why 12 of their 13 children have died. When their 13th child dies right after Sung’s most recent court win, Madam Sung decides she’s had enough - Sung will retire, even if she has to push him every step of the way. She even goes so far as to curse the child she’s carrying. If Sung breaks his promise and goes back to being a lawyer, then their son will be born without a penis. (They just assume it’ll be a son, since all 13 of their other children were.)

However, it’s Madam Sung herself who eventually convinces Sung to go back to work. She meets a pregnant woman whose husband died under suspicious circumstances, and she argues on the woman’s behalf after the woman gives birth and then tries to kill herself. Sung takes the job on, but the corruption he finds himself up against may be more than even he can handle.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

REVIEW: Big Windup! (anime TV series)

I’ve already reviewed Big Windup! twice, but I figured a third time wouldn’t hurt.

Anyway, I’ve watched this twice in the past month. The first time was intended to be a refresher before watching Big Windup! 2, while the second time was a bit of presidential inauguration self-care.

This first season of Big Windup! introduces viewers to the Nishiura High School baseball team. The team barely has enough members, and they’re all freshmen. Mihashi, in particular, stands out. He says he doesn’t want to be on the team, but it’s obvious he desperately wants to be a pitcher. He pitched all throughout middle school, and his experience on that team was so bad that it emotionally scarred him. He’s now convinced that he’s a terrible pitcher and that no one could possibly want him on a team. However, Abe, the catcher, recognizes his determination and skill and wants him to stay on the team.

The first half of the season shows the whole team training and learning to work together, after which they play against Mihoshi, the team Mihashi would have been on if he hadn’t purposely transferred to another high school. In the second half of the season, Nishiura plays against Tousei, the winner of last year’s National Koshien Tournament.

REVIEW: Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller (e-book) by Chris Strange

Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller is a sci-fi thriller with a bit of a hardboiled detective story mixed in. It's self-published and 83,930 words long.


About 19 years ago, enormous monsters that were later dubbed “Maydays” appeared all over the world. Over the course of 9 years, they killed 1.1 billion people. Nothing anyone did seemed to have any effect on the Maydays, until Professor Nikolai Volkov unleashed his newly invented mind control technology. Humans still couldn’t harm Maydays, but now they could at least control them. Volkov decided to combine entertainment and punishment and created Volkov Entertainment Incorporated, a company specializing in broadcasting “Mayday vs. Mayday” battles.

The company has been doing pretty well for the past 10 years. Then something shocking and supposedly impossible happens: Yllia, one of the Maydays, dies. Jay Escobar, head of Volkov Entertainment’s Investigative Division, declares that Yllia was murdered. But who could murder a Mayday? Nukes couldn’t put a scratch on them, and even other Maydays are only able to do a little damage.

REVIEW: Tales from Outer Lands (e-book) by Shira Glassman

Tales from Outer Lands is fantasy.


My edition of Tales from Outer Lands was published by Torquere Press. The author has since rereleased it as part of Tales from Perach.

This collection contains two stories, which I’ll write about separately.

“Rivka in Port Saltspray”

This takes place a year and a half after Rivka left her home, so I think it’s maybe a year and a half prior to the events in The Second Mango. Rivka is stuck in Port Saltspray with no way to get her dragon-horse to Zembluss, where she’d been hoping to fight in a civil war and earn a much-needed paycheck. A man named Waterweed seems to be the answer to her problems: he wants to hire her to fight in a competition for him. The prize, he says, is his beloved’s hand in marriage - because he’s missing an arm, he’d never stand a chance on his own.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

REVIEW: The Second Mango (e-book) by Shira Glassman

The Second Mango is fantasy containing both f/f and m/f romance. It's very short - I don't know the word count, but it came out to 140 pages on my Nook Simple Touch.


The Second Mango is the first book in Glassman’s Mangoverse series. I’m reviewing the Torquere edition. The author has since gotten the rights back from that publisher and rereleased it, and I don’t know if the two editions differ in any way.

The Second Mango stars Shulamit, the new queen of Perach, and Rivka, a female warrior for hire who travels disguised as a man. Shulamit’s father died two months prior to the start of the story, and since then she has both been trying to deal with her grief and find herself a lover - a difficult task, since she’s a lesbian and the only other lesbian she’d ever met was Aviva, who’d been her first and only lover and who had left her without explanation. Rivka agrees to help Shulamit find a woman who might love her and who she might love in return. Their journey brings them to a temple filled with nuns who have been turned to stone by an evil sorcerer. Rivka and Shulamit are the only hope the nuns have of breaking free of their curse.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

REVIEW: Servant x Service (manga, vol. 1) by Karino Takatsu, translated by Amanda Haley

Servant x Service is a four-panel comedy comic strip series licensed by Yen Press.


I know it seems like I’m on some kind of four-panel comic strip series kick, but it’s mostly by accident. I’m trying to get through more of my manga collection, and they looked like the quickest reads and the volumes most likely to help me free up some shelf space. Unfortunately for my shelf space situation, this actually turned out to be pretty good.

Servant x Service is primarily set in a public service office building in Japan. The cast includes several newly hired employees in the Health & Welfare Department: Yutaka Hasebe, a carefree and lazy guy who is also somehow brilliant at everything he does; Lucy (etc.) Yamagami, a woman who became a civil servant in order to find the civil servant who approved her amazingly long name and give him a piece of her mind; and Saya Miyoshi, a woman who can never get her paperwork done because elderly people love talking to her and she doesn’t know how to gently disengage. They are overseen by Taishi Ichimiya, who hasn’t been around that much longer than them. The cast is later joined by: Megumi Chihaya, a temp who cosplays in her free time; Touko, a teenaged civil service geek; and an adorable stuffed bunny.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Ancient Magus' Bride (manga, vol. 1) by Kore Yamazaki, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Ancient Magus' Bride is a fantasy series. It's licensed by Seven Seas.


This starts with the heroine, Chise Hatori, being sold in an auction. Her new owner is Elias Ainsworth, a mage with some kind of animal skull (bull?) for a head. Elias tells Chise that she’s to be his new apprentice. He removes her chains and even gives her her own room. It’s hard to believe that all of this doesn’t come with strings attached - and then Elias tells Chise that he also plans to make her his bride.

You’d think that’d be the start of something awful and creepy, except Elias doesn’t actually do anything. He takes Chise to town, where she meets Angelica Purley, an artificer and one of the world’s last witches. Chise also meets other acquaintances of Elias, including Simon Cullum, a priest, and Lindel, caretaker of dragons, and learns more about what Elias meant when he called her a “sleigh beggy.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

REVIEW: Rocket Raccoon, Vol. 1: A Chasing Tale (graphic novel) written by Skottie Young, art by Skottie Young and Jake Parker

I picked this up during the "going out of business" sale at Hastings.


Note: Everything I know about Rocket and Groot I learned from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I've had no other exposure to these characters.

There are three stories in this volume. I’ll write about each separately.

The first one begins with a flashback to a time, three years prior to the story’s present, when Rocket saved Princess Amalya. Fast forward to the present, and Rocket is taking his latest date to a wrestling match starring Groot and some giant green thing. The date gets cut short when Rocket is arrested for murders he doesn’t recall committing but that were definitely done by someone resembling him. The thing is, as far as Rocket knows he’s the last of his kind.

This story was a bit messy, with lots of characters and a few different story threads, but it was also fun. There was the mystery of the identity of the murderer, Rocket’s fragile hope that he might not be the last of his kind after all, and the vast murderous horde composed of Rocket’s ex-girlfriends (I felt kind of iffy about how that aspect turned out). I liked the weird organic getaway vehicle.

In the second story, Rocket and Groot are with what appears to be a Space Boy Scout Troop for some reason. The kids want Rocket to tell them another story, and Groot suggests “the one with the map.” Rocket refuses and says Groot should tell it instead, so Groot does.

This one was kind of weird, what with everything Groot saying sounding like “I am Groot.” Still, like the first one it was fun - lots of action scenes, shooting, a Deadpool cameo, a sword fight, and a ship guided by (?) a severed eyeball. The ending was cute, and I could see why Rocket didn’t particularly want to tell the story. Ha! And the little leaf-headed scout was adorable.

In the third story, a telepathic dog being named Cosmo calls in a favor and asks Rocket to help an ex-battle mech rescue its ex-battle mech comrades before they can be reprogrammed and forced to act as weapons again.

This one was both cute and oddly sweet. I liked the robots.

Now for the volume as a whole: It was okay. It didn’t leave me clamoring for more, but I’d read another volume if I had one on hand. The art style wasn’t really to my taste, although it had a lot of energy and fit the stories well.

  •  Four pages of variant covers, 10 covers in all.

REVIEW: Standoff (book) by Lauren Dane

Standoff is paranormal erotic romance, the fifth book in Dane's Cascadia Wolves series.


Cade Warden is the Alpha of the Cascadia Pack. Feeling what it’s like to have a mate secondhand through his anchor bond to Nina, his brother Lex’s mate, is no longer enough for him. He’s lonely and wants a mate of his own, but it’s still a surprise, to say the least, when she turns out to be Grace Pellini, the sister of his biggest enemy.

Grace hasn’t had a real home and Pack for years. Even now, she's only gotten closer to her brother again in order to spy on him and analyze the dangerous virus he’s been testing out on random humans and werewolves. Although she hasn't yet managed to create a vaccine, she finally has enough info to help the National Aligned Packs in their war against her brother and his people. Her plans to continue spying on her brother are derailed when she realizes that Cade is her mate. Grace may have finally found the home and family she’s been longing for, if Cade’s pack members will accept her, and if they all manage to survive this war.

REVIEW: Azumanga Daioh Omnibus (manga) by Kiyohiko Azuma, translated by Stephen Paul

Azumanga Daioh is (primarily) a four-panel high school comedy comic strip series.


I first read Azumanga Daioh back when it was released in four volumes by ADV Manga. Although I had fond memories of it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten Yen Press’s omnibus edition if I hadn’t spotted it in the midst of a “going out of business” sale shopping frenzy. Happily, it made for a really nice reread, even though the ending didn’t affect me quite as strongly this time around.

Azumanga Daioh is a comedy series consisting primarily of 4-panel comic strips. It doesn’t really have what I’d call a plot. Instead, it follows the high school years of several girls in the same class from beginning to end, as well as the daily lives of some of their teachers. A few of the characters:
  • Sakaki: A cool-looking, quiet, and athletic girl who secretly loves animals and other cute things.
  • Chiyo: An adorable and smart 10-year-old who skipped a few grades.
  • Yomi: A girl who worries too much about her weight, but who also doesn’t let that stop her from eating the foods she loves.
  • Tomo: An energetic and annoying girl who tends to do things without thinking them through first.
  • Osaka: A transfer student who has a weird way of viewing the world and tends to live life at a slower pace than everyone else around her.
  • Kaorin: A girl with a huge crush on Sakaki.
  • Yukari: The class’s homeroom teacher. She’s so immature and lazy that it’s surprising she hasn’t been fired.
  • Kurosawa (aka Nyamo): The physical education teacher, and Yukari’s best friend.
The strips deal with everything from lunch, to hay fever, to several students’ bizarre dreams. It’s pretty light-hearted and fluffy throughout, although there’s one male teacher who’s extremely creepy.

Worst of 2016

2016 wasn't a great year for reading or movie-watching for me.

Worst Books:
Worst Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
Worst Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

Although my links go to the whole series, the entire series might not have been bad - it was just that certain volumes were bad enough to prompt me to include the series in my "worst" list.
Worst Audiobooks:
Worst Movies:
Worst TV Series:
Honorable Mentions:
  • Dramaworld (live action TV series) - I never wrote a post about this one or even managed to finish it, but I still feel like it should be included on this list. The premise made me extremely uncomfortable. A white girl who's a huge fan of Korean dramas gets sucked into Dramaworld, a fictional world where all Korean dramas take place. People are magically able to understand her, and she them, via automatically generated subtitles. The main character is supposed to act as a background facilitator of the romances that drive Dramaworld, but she promptly inserts herself into a prominent romantic story. This review does a great job of detailing how incredibly awful this setup is. 
  • I kind of want to list Yuri!!! on Ice here, which would make it the first series to ever appear on both my "Best of the year" and "Worst of the year" lists. I enjoyed it too much to call it one of the worst shows I watched in 2016, but I don't think it's unfair to say it was one of my biggest disappointments. This part in an interview with the creator, in particular, irked me: (about the kiss/hug) "As for me, I don’t want to say 'this is what actually happened' and force an interpretation on people. Everyone can imagine the future they want to believe in that scene, and I won’t stop them (LOL)."

Best of 2016

I separated out rewatches, rereads, and relistens because otherwise the lists probably would have been heavily weighted towards those.

I relied heavily on my LibraryThing ratings data to come up with these lists, although that doesn't mean that everything with a high rating got listed.

Best Books:
Honorable Mentions:
Rereads I'd Recommend:
Best Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
Best Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

A series is listed if one or more volumes got 4.5 or 5 stars. This may not mean that I think the whole series is that good, but I'm listing them by series anyway, because I am lazy.
Best Audiobooks:
Honorable Mention:
  • The Fold by Peter Clines, read by Ray Porter - I never got around to reviewing this one. I didn't think it was as good as its sequel, 14, but I still enjoyed it.
Relistens I'd Recommend:
Best Movies:
Best TV Series: 
Honorable Mention:
Rewatches I'd Recommend:

2016 in numbers

My 2016 reading and watching didn’t quite go as planned. For the first time since I started having yearly reading goals, I wasn’t able to meet my goal. Unfortunately, it’s also tough to say how far off I was, since my primary reading site, Booklikes, has been on the fritz for weeks/months now. I haven’t actually added a review or book to that site in several weeks, and I imagine I’ll be dropping it completely in 2017. Despite my issues with Goodreads, I've gone back to using it, although I still consider LibraryThing my primary cataloging site.

Here’s how the numbers break down, according to my LibraryThing data:


I watched 10 different TV shows and 16 different movies - 4 fewer TV shows and 3 fewer movies than last year. Of the 26 things I watched, 19 were live action and 7 were animated (only 4 Japanese anime). Most of what I watched (15) was streaming stuff. I got excellent value out of my Netflix subscription (12 out of the 15 streamed things), but should probably drop my DramaFever subscription (0 shows or movies) before it comes up for renewal. I broke down and used Crunchyroll for the first time in ages, but didn’t actually go so far as to get a subscription. I did start an Amazon Prime subscription, although I haven’t decided yet whether I like it. If I keep it past the one-year point, it probably won’t be for the streaming TV options, since I’m not wild about Amazon Prime’s selection.

Takeaways for 2017: watch more physical media and either start using my DramaFever subscription more or drop it.


Average Ratings:

I don't include ratings on this blog, but I do in LibraryThing. Out of the 133 things I read in 2016 (4 fewer than last year), I gave ratings to everything, although I didn’t quite manage to review everything. My average rating was 3.15 stars (last year it was 3.25 stars).

Last year I figured out what my average star rating was for novels, novellas, and short stories vs. graphic novels, manga, etc. I’m going to skip that this year, because trying to get the numbers to work out is annoying. I have a feeling that something might be off in my data, and I know for certain that at least one or two things had to be counted in more than one category (for example, Another S/0 includes both a novel and a short manga).

Paper books vs. E-books vs. Audiobooks:

Of the 133 works I read and listened to, 94 were paper books (71%), 25 were e-books (19%), and 14 were audiobooks (11% - all streamed digital audiobooks, even the 2 library checkouts). If you take out the graphic novels and manga, I think it works out to 37 paper works (63%), 22 e-books (37%). That means that in 2016 my e-book vs. paper reading was actually the reverse of what it was in 2015. Since I was purposely trying to get through more physical stuff in the hopes of offloading it, that makes sense. I'm probably going to try to continue that trend in 2017, for reasons that will be clear once you read the "Offloading vs. Acquiring" section of this post (ugh).

Used, New, or Library?

Of the 133 things I read, 39 (29%) were checked out from the library (interesting thing here: 2 of these were things I had donated to the library at an earlier date), 1 (<1%) was an ARC, 56 (42%) were new purchases, 29 (22%) were used purchases, and 8 (6%) were freebies (neither ARCs nor library checkouts).

Some takeaways: it’s probably a good thing I don’t really review ARCs, since I’m bad about reading them, and I should really stop getting freebies. Also, as a librarian I feel kind of guilty that I didn’t check out more stuff.

Offloading vs. Acquiring

I had hoped to offload more than I acquired in 2015. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I noticed I tend to buy more stuff when I’m stressed, so there was that. Also, Hastings went out of business and I ended up going a little wild with their final sales. Here’s how the numbers worked out:

Total number acquired: 342 (approximately - includes e-books, but I wasn’t always good about adding all my Humble Bundle acquisitions to LibraryThing)

Total number offloaded: 76

Shelf space used by up by newly acquired stuff: 166.77 inches

Shelf space freed up by offloaded stuff: 64.81 inches

Takeaway: I really need to do better in 2017 - either acquire fewer items (or at least fewer physical items) or offload more. Also, I buy way too many DVDs/Blu-ray discs (24) for someone who mostly watches stuff via streaming services.