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.