Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Game Recommendations

I didn't play games quite as much in 2018 as I did in 2017, and I certainly didn't finish as many, but I did play a few that I liked enough to recommend.

For context, I'm mostly a fan of adventure/puzzle games that allow you time to think things through. I also enjoy visual novels, which are sort of "choose your own adventure" stories with visual elements, and the occasional RPG. I played all of these games on my computer, with a mouse and/or keyboard - I don't currently own a controller.

In no particular order:


In this game, you are basically a Roomba. The only other character with whom you regularly interact is the house AI, Sabrina, who repeatedly tells you that your humans are very busy, but you'll get to see them soon. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after that. It soon becomes evident that something very bad has happened in this house. Was Sabrina responsible? Can you really trust her?

There are puzzles to solve, but they're all extremely simple and usually involve taking a thorough look at your environment and clicking buttons until the proper things light up. This game is less intended for puzzle aficionados and more for those who'd like an interactive character-focused story. Past a certain point it's pretty predictable, and, as a fan of non-evil AIs, aspects of the ending irked me, but I found it to be a gut-wrenching story nonetheless.

Rusty Lake Paradise

Weird puzzles and more Rusty Lake lore. I still think Rusty Lake: Roots is the best game in this series, but this was still enjoyable. If you'd like to get a feel for what these games are like, I'd suggest trying some of the free Cube Escape games on your smartphone - my favorite is Cube Escape: Birthday, although you can start from almost any point in the series. Just be warned that these games are weird and occasionally gross and/or gruesome.

The developer also released a Cube Escape game on Steam, Cube Escape: Paradox. I played and enjoyed the entire free portion but am currently stuck on a part in the for-purchase portion.

428 Shibuya Scramble (visual novel)

Note: I haven't completed this yet. I've played for 11 hours and have gotten several "Bad" endings, but I haven't made it through all the chapters/in-game hours yet.

This is a relatively old Japanese visual novel, so the controls occasionally leave something to be desired. However, the storytelling and characters absolutely make up for it. It starts off as a basic story about a kidnapped girl, and from there spins off into something that follows multiple POVs. I've found that the best way to progress is to follow one particular POV until you hit some kind of wall, either a "Keep Out" sign (indicating that another character's story must progress to a particular point before you can switch back to this character) or a Bad Ending (where you are given a hint as to what you need to do to make things right).

There's no way to skip "read" text, which is going to be a pain once I get all the way through the story and start hunting for missed endings, but I love this visual novel anyway. It's quirky, a bit cheesy, often funny, and just generally enjoyable to read. The visuals are mostly still photographs, but they're occasionally combined with camera movements in ways that can trick your brain into thinking you're watching a video.

Hidden Folks

Do you like Where's Waldo? This is like a black-and-white computer game equivalent. Each screen is jam-packed with tiny details, and, if you pay attention, you can gradually follow certain characters' adventures from one location to the next. I really enjoyed this, even though it was occasionally hard on the eyes, even with the different visual settings and the ability to zoom in on small areas of the screen.

Gray Matter

Jane Jensen, the woman who created the Gabriel Knight games, also designed this. It's an adventure game that mostly scratched my old school point-and-click adventure game itch. There's nothing in the game that will kill you, and gameplay involves collecting and using items, talking to people, searching your environment, and solving occasional mostly well-integrated puzzles. There's also a magic trick mechanic, although that's not as interesting as I thought it would be - you look through a children's book of magic tricks and use it to have the heroine perform actions in the required order.

The visuals and character movements were occasionally a bit clunky, and I disliked some of the things that the heroine had to do, but I enjoyed this nonetheless.

The Blackwell series

This is a point-and-click adventure game series in which you play as a woman (mostly Rosa, but one game has you playing as Rosa's aunt Lauren) who has suddenly found herself bound to a ghostly detective.

I played The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergence, and Blackwell Deception. In order to best follow along with the story, I recommend playing the games in order, but I will admit that the puzzles in the first game in particular have some annoying moments. My favorite games in the series, so far, are Blackwell Convergence and Blackwell Deception. You can definitely see the developer improving in every area: gameplay, storytelling, and character development. I'm looking forward to playing the final game in the series, as well as the developer's newer games.


If given a choice between Stardew Valley and Cattails, choose Stardew Valley. But if you've played Stardew Valley and want to try something else, maybe give this game a shot.

You play as a cat that was adopted by a little girl and then cruelly abandoned in the wilderness by the girl's mother (that woman sucks, and the opening animation was an unexpected gut-punch). In order to survive, you must hunt for food and forage for various herbs. At the start of the game, you must join a particular colony, which affects which characters you regularly interact with and the sorts of resources you can easily access. If you encounter cats from another colony, they will fight you, unless you're visiting their colony or you're at a festival. You can befriend and eventually marry and have kittens with cats from any colony, not just your own.

I've only played this for 9 or 10 hours and feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what this world has to offer. That said, I do feel like the characters and character interaction could use more depth. Still, it's fun to explore, catch vast amounts of prey, and make forays into enemy territory for goods you can't get closer to home.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Another one I haven't played enough (9 hours) to be entirely sure about recommending, although I really liked what I've seen so far. This reminded me how much I used to love playing RPGs. The characters and city are fun, and its turn-based combat is much less stressful for me than the real-time combat present in so many games I'd like to play but that would probably wreck my nerves. My only complaint is that it seems to be designed to actively discourage grinding - yes, I know lots of people hate grinding, but there are times I find the repetitiveness of it to be soothing.

Friday, December 28, 2018

REVIEW: Game Slaves (book) by Gard Skinner

Game Slaves is YA science fiction.


My copy of this is an ARC that I picked up at a conference four years ago. Yes, it took me this long to finally read it. Because it's an ARC, I won't be quoting from it.

Phoenix and his team spend their work days fighting battle after battle. Each time they die, they're regenerated. That's because they aren't people - they're the NPC enemies that human gamers try to defeat. The only difference between one day and the next is what game they're in. When Dakota, a new member, is added to Phoenix's team, things gradually start to fall apart.

Dakota won't stop asking questions. She has what she thinks are memories of a life prior to being in the game. Doesn't that mean she, and all of them, are really human? Doesn't that mean there's a life she could get back to? Phoenix tries to ignore her and concentrate on being the biggest, baddest opponent gamers have ever fought against, but then things start happening that even he can't explain away.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

REVIEW: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vols. 6-9) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

This is another one of my "vacation reads" posts, so be warned that there are spoilers in the sections for individual volumes.

I was hesitant about getting back into this series, since I'd had trouble getting into it during my last vacation. Thankfully, it seems like 4-panel comic burnout really was to blame, because I very much enjoyed the series this time around, at least up until volume 9. I think burn-out was again to blame for that, since I didn't notice any kind of significant difference between volume 9 and volume 6.

I do wonder if Tsubaki has any kind of resolution planned for this series, but even if it's one of those works that's designed to go on forever (ignoring the fact that the characters need to graduate at some point), I don't see it getting old for me for a while yet.

Review: The Tea Dragon Society (graphic novel) by Katie O'Neill

This was one of my vacation reads. The Tea Dragon Society is a fantasy one-shot graphic novel. I had wanted to read it for some time because everything I'd seen from it looked cute.


Greta is the daughter of a female blacksmith and has grown up learning her mother's craft. One day, she saves a Jasmine tea dragon. The dragon's caretaker, Hesekiel, offers to teach her about caring for tea dragons. Each dragon has its quirks, but, when properly cared for, they produce magnificent tea that carries the memories of their current caretaker. Greta's visits to Hesekiel also allow her to get to know Erik, Hesekiel's long-time friend and partner, and Minette, a shy girl who is approximately the same age as Greta and who is closely bonded to a Chamomile dragon.

REVIEW: A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns (nonfiction graphic novel) by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is a 60-page guide, in comic form, to using singular they/them pronouns, including how to handle it if you mess up, a script for introducing yourself with your pronouns and asking others for theirs, ideas for trying to move away from gendered language in your workplace, and more. Archie Bongiovanni identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, while Tristan Jimerson identifies as male and uses he/him pronouns, so the work includes a couple different perspectives.

I had seen a bunch of mentions of this online and picked it up thinking that it would primarily be an introduction to they/them pronouns geared towards employers and employees. It can function that way, and from that perspective, I particularly liked the last few pages (quick and easy pronoun reference chart, scripts for asking about someone's pronouns and what to say when you mess up someone's pronouns, quick and easy ideas for using gender neutral language). They sum things up nicely and could serve as handouts in trainings.

REVIEW: Game Night (live action movie)

Game Night is a black comedy/action movie. It's another one I had considered seeing in my local movie theater and ended up picking up from a bargain bin instead.


Max and Annie are two ultra-competitive game enthusiasts who met during a trivia night. Max's marriage proposal was worked into one of their game nights, and, from what I can tell, literally the only thing they do for fun is have game nights. Game night is their life.

Now they'd like to have children, but there's one problem: Max's sperm aren't very active, and the couple's fertility doctor thinks it might be due to Max feeling emasculated by his brother, who is handsomer, more successful, and always wins. When Max's brother holds his own game night, Max and Annie decide that if they are to succeed in their quest to have children, they must win. The game seems like a fun one: a mystery role-playing game in which one of the players, Max's brother, is kidnapped and must be rescued by the others. What Max, Annie, and the others don't realize is that things have gone wrong, the game isn't what it seems, and the danger is real.

REVIEW: Love 020 (live action TV series)

Love 020 is a Chinese romantic drama based on a book (which sadly does not appear to be available in English, although I admit I haven't gone hunting for fan translations).


I started watching this while I was on vacation, got sucked in, and ended up watching it when I should have been plowing through manga. I'll blame this show for my relatively low vacation reading total.

The series stars Bei Weiwei and Xiao Nai. Bei Weiwei is a Computer Science major who is known as the "department belle." She's also considered the second most beautiful female student at her university, with the first being a young woman named Yiran who probably cheated. However, Weiwei could care less about both those things. She just wants to study, get good grades, find herself a nice internship, and play her favorite MMORPG, "A Chinese Ghost Story."

Weiwei also doesn't really care when her in-game husband, whose screen name is Zhenshui Wuxiang, dumps her for someone else. But what she doesn't realize is that she was noticed, in real life, by one of the game's top players and the hottest guy at her university, Xiao Nai, whose screen name is Yixiao Naihe. When Naihe asks her (screen name Lu Weiwei) to marry him in the game, she agrees, figuring that the pairing will be practical and beneficial to them both. Soon, however, she finds herself falling for Naihe and wondering about the player behind the avatar.

REVIEW: Annihilation (live action movie)

Hey, I'm still here and still writing reviews! I'm just extremely slow about it anymore.

Here's a review for something I watched after getting back from my vacation. Annihilation is a science fiction movie based on the book of the same title by Jeff Vandermeer.


Lena is a former U.S. Army soldier who has long since quit that life and is now a biology professor. She met her husband while they were in the military, and he's still active duty. At the start of the movie, Lena is in some kind of quarantine and is being questioned. Flashbacks show that, 12 months after her husband left on a secret mission and was presumably killed in action, he suddenly reappears outside their bedroom. He seems strange and confused, and soon after his reappearance he begins to experience massive organ failure.

Lena then learns that her husband's mission involved entering something the people who study it call "the Shimmer," an area of land that was thankfully mostly uninhabited before it was blocked off and taken over by an odd, shimmery wall. Unfortunately, the wall is steadily expanding, and not one member of any of the past exploratory missions has made it back...except for Lena's husband.

Lena gets herself accepted to the next exploratory mission, one of the few composed entirely of women and entirely of scientists rather than military. Since she can't do anything for her husband outside the Shimmer, Lena believes she owes it to him to find out what he saw and what caused it all.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

REVIEW: Hikaru no Go (manga, vols. 13, 15-23) story by Yumi Hotta, art by Takeshi Obata, supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan), translated by Naoko Amemiya

Hikaru no Go is a series I used to love and recently realized I'd never finished. Unfortunately, it's difficult for me to describe it in a way that makes it sound as interesting as it is. It's based on the game Go and stars a boy, Hikaru, who knows nothing about Go but finds himself the sudden companion of the ghost of a former Go instructor, the elegant and often silly Fujiwara no Sai. Over the course of the series, Hikaru learns about Go, begins developing his own skills and playing style, and eventually becomes a professional Go player with his own rivalries. His longtime rival is Akira, a young Go prodigy who was a bit lonely at the start of the series and then found himself chasing after Hikaru, not realizing that the person he'd really played against was Sai via Hikaru.

Sai's desire to improve his Go and attain the Divine Move (a perfect game of Go) has kept him around all this time, and he previously played via a famous Go player named Shusaku. Although Shusaku was an accomplished Go player in his own right, he allowed Sai to make all his moves for him after Said appeared in his life. Hikaru, on the other hand, did not do that, and it both allowed Hikaru to grow as a player and added some conflict as Sai began to worry about not getting to play the games he'd hoped to play.

According to this blog, I stopped reading this series at volume 12. I had a fairly good idea of what happened after that, due to having been gifted a bootleg version of the anime by someone who insisted I'd enjoy it (she was right), and I'd leafed through a Japanese edition of the final volume, matching it against text-only fan translations as best I could. Official translations were definitely a better way to go, though, and I'm glad I finally got to finish this series...even though I had to skip volume 14 because the library no longer owned it.

As usual, since this is one of my vacation reading posts, you can expect major spoilers from this point on.

REVIEW: The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vols. 2-4) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Girl from the Other Side is a series I considered not adding to my vacation reading list, since I figured it'd be one I'd eventually want to buy. However, considering my complete lack of shelf space (I currently have a couple piles of books in my living room that I'm not sure how to store), I figured it might be best to read the series via library checkouts instead.

At this point, it's tough to say whether this will end up on my list of series I want to periodically reread or not. On the one hand, there are sad and chilling moments that make me suspect the series' ending will be like a punch in the gut. On the other hand, there are occasional parts that are a little hard to follow (have readers learned everything Teacher knows about the curse or not? I'm not sure), events occasionally progress in odd ways (we never see how Shiva convinces Auntie not to take her and go - the problem just evaporates), and I suspect that my ultimate feelings about the series will rely a lot on what Nagabe eventually reveals about the curse and Shiva's connection to it.

I had expected this to mostly be a slice-of-life series about Teacher raising Shiva, so the brief return to the Insiders and Shiva's aunt's fate took me by surprise. I definitely plan on continuing this, although, for now at least, it's probably a good thing that I'm doing it via library checkouts. Oof, I need bigger bookcases. If anything ever prompts me to buy a house, it will be my book collection.

Reminder: this is one of my vacation reading posts, so you can expect major spoilers from here on out.

REVIEW: Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vols. 3-4) by Ryoko Kui, translated by Taylor Engel

Delicious in Dungeon is a food manga featuring fantasy foods so delicious-looking, you'll wish you could eat them.

I was iffy about this series when I read it during my last vacation. I decided to continue on, and I'm glad I did. Kui didn't drag things out as much as I expected, and I enjoyed the combination of weirdness, humor, and occasional serious moments. I'd like to continue this series during my next vacation.

REVIEW: Black Butler (manga, vols. 24-26) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

Black Butler is one of my long-running vacation reads. Although I sometimes wish Toboso would finally get on with it, return to the primary storyline, and wrap things up, it's been nice to have this series to turn to when I need something with clean, gorgeous linework and easy-to-follow action.

I saved these three volumes for the very end of my vacation and thought I'd only have time for a couple of them. However, considering how volume 25 ended, reading volume 26 was a must, so I bit the bullet and made do with a little less sleep. I'm still not sure how I feel about the big twist in volume 26. On the one hand, it's nice that this series can still manage to surprise me. On the other hand, I feel like Toboso accomplished this by cheating. I doubt this particular surprise was planned since the series' beginning, and I can think of numerous spots where this information should have come up in past volumes and yet didn't. It irks me.

Okay, from here on out, prepare for major spoilers. As usual, I'll be cross-posting to Booklikes, Goodreads, and Librarything, where I can make use of spoiler tags.

Friday, November 23, 2018

REVIEW: Assassination Classroom (manga, vols. 1-2) by Yusei Matsui, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki

Another post-vacation review post. When it comes to my manga posts, I'm going to write about each volume but collect them all together in a single post. Be warned, these are going to be particularly filled with spoilers.

Assassination Classroom is a series I've been wanting to try for a while. I think I own the first season of the anime, although I haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Since I was able to get hold of a couple volumes of the manga during my vacation, I figured I'd give it a shot and see what I could expect from the anime.

It's tough to say whether this series will continue to work for me a few more volumes down the line, but I mostly liked these first two, as long as I didn't think too hard about the setup.

REVIEW: Khoobsurat (live action movie)

Khoobsurat is an Indian romantic comedy. This is another one of the movies I watched during my vacation.

A royal family hires Milli, a sports physiotherapist, to help King Shekhar Singh Rathore learn to walk. He was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident and has since refused to do anything that might help him regain the use of his legs. Milli becomes determined to somehow convince him to help her help him. Much to the queen's displeasure, she can't seem to help befriending Divya, the princess who'd like nothing more than the become an actress. Then there's Vikram, the handsome prince she begins to fall for...who happens to be engaged.

I really wanted to like this. The movie was bright and pretty, and Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan were a good-looking couple. Unfortunately, Milli got on my nerves. Her clumsiness and complete inability to adapt to social situations that weren't "hanging out with my close family members at home" were so overdone that I initially thought she was deliberately being awful. I eventually realized that this was supposed to be an indicator of natural cuteness on her part, but it didn't really help me like her much.

Vikram was good eye candy, but that's basically all he was. I strongly disliked that the plot hinged on him falling in love with Milli even though he was already engaged to someone else. And the thing was, his fiancee seemed to be perfectly decent. She wasn't given enough screen-time for me to judge her personality (less than five minutes), and I got the impression that the main reason she and Vikram never spent any time together was because, if they had, Milli would have had to do more than trip and smile to keep his attention.

This was decent enough to watch during a plane ride, but I wouldn't otherwise recommend it.

REVIEW: Death Note (live action movie)

This is the first of my post-vacation review posts. If you're not familiar with those, they tend to be filled with spoilers because most of them are for series I only read once a year in large chunks, and my spoilers are the best way for me to keep track of what happened. The best place to see my reviews if you're really worried about spoilers is Goodreads, LibraryThing, or Booklikes. My movie reviews, like this one, are only cross-posted to LibraryThing.

All right, on to the post. Death Note is a live action loose adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba's Death Note manga. It should be noted that a live action movie adaptation of the manga already exists. I reviewed it way back in 2008 (be warned, my reviewing style was much different back then) and, although it differed from the manga in many ways, it was still a much more faithful adaptation than Netflix's version.

I wasn't originally going to watch and review this movie due to its issues with whitewashing and my suspicions that it would be a terrible adaptation, but since Netflix decided to go ahead and make a sequel, I figured I'd finally take a look at what they were working with.

This adaptation stars Light Turner, a loser white kid who thinks he's much smarter than he actually is, as opposed to the original work's Light Yagami, who, as I recall, was respected, reasonably well-liked, and genuinely smart. This new Light comes across something called the Death Note, which he almost immediately uses to decapitate a bully. Although Ryuk, the demon (I don't recall the movie using the word "shinigami," but I could be mistaken) tied to the notebook, terrifies Light, that doesn't stop him from using the notebook some more. His next victim is the man who killed his mother.

After Light excitedly lets his cheerleader crush in on his new secret, the two go on what is essentially a killing spree with the notebook, killing hundreds of criminals. But of course that can't last forever - Light finds himself with some hard decisions to make after a task force is put together to catch "Kira" (the name Light gives the media, in the hope that people will think this mysterious killer is Japanese), headed by his own father. Light's father's efforts are aided by a mysterious investigator known only as L.

Long weekend plans

I got what I think might have been mild food poisoning a couple days ago, which miraculously wrapped up in time for me to enjoy turkey and pie. I don't go out for Black Friday shopping and only do a little checking for online deals because finding too many good things overwhelms me, so my plans for the next few days include playing games (at the moment, Cattails, Backstage Pass, and Memoranda), watching more Love 020, and writing a few of my post-vacation review posts. Let's see how much I can get through...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 ends with a whimper

I was going to attend the last movie in Studio Ghibli Fest today, Castle in the Sky, but it's been mysteriously canceled without warning at my local movie theater, so I guess that's the end of my Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 adventure.

That makes the second cancellation in this Fathom Events series, which isn't a good look for the theater. The last time this happened, it was due to them having agreed to another showing of a different movie and having to find space for it. I suppose I can understand that, but it's still annoying that they decided to cancel a movie that literally only had three showings scheduled. I was told this wasn't going to happen again, which makes me wonder what happened with Castle in the Sky. If they try to claim it was cancelled due to low attendance at the other Studio Ghibli Fest showings, they only have themselves to blame, since they made zero effort to market it. They didn't even have movie posters or signage at the theater announcing the showings - you had to have checked the Advanced Tickets section of the Cinemark website to know they were happening.

Back from vacation

I don't think I announced it here, but I went on vacation for a couple weeks. I visited my family and read a lot, although not as much as I did in previous years. If I recorded everything correctly, I managed to finish 37 manga and graphic novel volumes and 1 novel. I also watched three movies (the new Fahrenheit 451, Netflix's Death Note, and Khoobsurat) and way too many episodes of Seasons 1-2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I don't recall disliking Xander when I first watched the series, but I loathed him this time around) and a Chinese drama called Love 020.

The graphic novels and manga I got through included:
  • Assassination Classroom (remember all those inspiring teacher/delinquent students movies in the '80s and '90s? this is a bit like that, only the teacher is an alien planning on destroying the Earth in a year and the students are trying to kill him)
  • Black Butler (which took a shocking and not altogether welcome turn, although maybe this means the series is finally inching towards its endgame)
  • Delicious in Dungeon
  • Fence 
  • The Girl from the Other Side
  • Guardians of the Louvre
  • Hikaru no Go (I realized I'd never actually finished the manga, although I've seen the anime and remember matching up the dialogue bubbles in Japanese editions of the manga to terrible fan translations)
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
  • Natsume's Book of Friends
  • Skip Beat!
  • The Tea Dragon Society
I purposely concentrated on things I was pretty sure I'd enjoy, so there wasn't anything I hated, although my least favorite of the volumes I read was probably Guardians of the Louvre. It was very pretty, and there were certain sections I liked more than others, but it wasn't really to my taste. I don't know that I can pick a favorite out of everything I read, but the artwork for The Tea Dragon Society was lovely, Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun made me laugh, and I could easily have read 10+ more volumes of Natsume's Book of Friends. Fence was a bit rough around the edges but appealing all the same - although it isn't Japanese manga, it could be a great series for fans of sports manga/anime.

The one novel I read was Christina Dodd's Because I'm Watching, which I didn't realize was the third book in a series. My mom signed both of us up for a reader conference called Book Bonanza, and Christina Dodd is one of the authors who's planning to attend. Over the next few months, I'd like to read more books by other authors going to this event.

You can expect my usual spoiler-filled short takes on everything I read in the coming weeks. I can't spoiler tag things here, but I'll be making use of spoiler tags when I cross-post to Booklikes, LibraryThing, and Goodreads, if you're interested. I'd also like to post a bit about the movies I watched, although those will only be cross-posted to LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

REVIEW: Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime (book) by Ron Stallworth

Black Klansman is a memoir. I purchased my copy.

This review technically contains spoilers.


In this memoir, Ron Stallworth writes about becoming the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department and doing a bit of undercover work investigating the Black Panthers before eventually becoming deeply involved in an investigation into local KKK activities. And by "deeply involved," I mean that he accidentally ended up in an undercover investigation as the voice of a white man named Ron Stallworth who was supposedly interested in joining the Klan. He communicated with KKK members over the phone, while a narcotics officer named Chuck acted as the face of white Ron Stallworth when face-to-face meetings were necessary.

REVIEW: Anna Dressed in Blood (book) by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood is YA urban fantasy. I purchased my copy.


After Cas's father died, killed by one of the ghosts he hunted, Cas inherited his athame and began following in his footsteps. Although his mother knows what he does and does her best to help him with any protective magic she has at her disposal, Cas has never told her his ultimate goal: he wants to become skilled enough to find and kill his father's murderer.

The ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood will be his final one before confronting the ghost that killed his father. She's powerful - if Cas can beat her, he should be able to handle anything. But Anna isn't like other ghosts Cas has gone up against, and there are things going on in Cas's new city that he is unprepared for.

REVIEW: The Haunting of Hill House (live action TV series)

Netflix's new The Haunting of Hill House TV series is supposedly an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. In reality, they have very little in common, despite the writer's frequent inclusion of lines straight out of the original book. Honestly, I'm not really a fan of the book and even I'm kind of mad that this series got to call itself an "adaptation."

The story: Hugh and Olivia Crain are a house flipping couple who decide that buying Hill House, flipping it, and selling it would be a great idea. It'll be their last job before setting down with their kids and building their dream home. Unfortunately, their time in the house starts to sour almost immediately. Their youngest daughter, Nelly, keeps having nightmares about the "Bent Neck Lady." Her twin brother, Luke, has seen terrifying things in the house as well, and he keeps seeing a mysterious girl in the nearby forest. Then one night something happens. Hugh, terrified, packs up all the kids and takes them to a hotel, leaving his wife behind. When the kids next see him, their mother is dead and the tabloids are plastered with news about the haunted Hill House.

Years later, their last night at Hill House and the horrible days afterward have burned themselves into the Crain siblings' lives. Nell still wakes up from nightmares about the Bent Neck Lady. Luke is a junkie. Steven, the eldest Crain sibling, makes money by writing books about hauntings he doesn't believe in, including the family's time at Hill House. Shirley is a funeral home director, "fixing" the aftermath of death the only way she knows how. Theo is a skilled child therapist who works hard to keep anyone from getting too close to her.

REVIEW: My Neighbor Totoro (book) art and story by Hayao Miyazaki, text by Tsugiko Kubo, translated by Jim Hubbert

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese Middle Grade (I think?) novel with fantasy aspects, based on the movie of the same title. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Mei, Satsuki, and their father, Tatsuo, move into a crumbling old house in the country in order to be closer to the sanatorium where their mother, Yasuko, is recovering from tuberculosis. The girls adapt to their new rural life pretty quickly, although four-year-old Mei doesn't respond well to being left with their neighbor while Tatsuo is at work and Satsuki is at school.

Both girls realize there's something a little strange about their house when they first arrive. They briefly spot little beings called soot sprites, and Kanta, the boy who lives near them, tells them that their house is haunted. Then Mei starts talking about having met a being she calls Totoro and who Tatsuo believes is a forest spirit. Satsuki longs to see Totoro too.

REVIEW: In the Miso Soup (book) by Ryu Murakami, translated by Ralph McCarthy

In the Miso Soup is a little difficult to classify. I suppose you could call it a mixture of horror and mystery. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes spoilers.


Kenji is a "nightlife guide" for English-speaking tourists in Japan. Basically, he takes guys on tours of what the Japanese sex industry has to offer. Although Kenji gets quite a few customers via his little ad in Tokyo Pink Guide (a magazine about the sex industry in Tokyo), the work isn't as good as he expected it to be. He can never seem to save up enough for that trip to America he wants.

Kenji has seen a lot of foreigners, but his latest client, Frank, is different. On the surface, he's a loud and friendly New Yorker who wants to go everywhere and have some sex along the way. There are moments, however, when something dark and ugly peers out of Frank's eyes. Frank hired him for three nights, right up until New Year's Eve, and by the end of their first night together, Kenji becomes convinced that Frank is the serial killer who's been raping girls involved in compensated dating, killing them, and dismembering their bodies (not necessarily in this order).

REVIEW: The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Girl from the Other Side is a fantasy series. I purchased this volume.


My vacation is coming up, which means it's almost time for me to read massive amounts of manga and then write short, spoiler-filled takes for each volume. One of the series I requested is The Girl from the Other Side, despite my suspicion that I'd enjoy it enough to wish I'd just bought the whole thing instead of reading it via the library. A few of the later volumes have come in, but volume 1 is still checked out by somebody, so I decided to read my personal copy prior to going on my trip. (I don't own any of the volumes after this one.)

In this first volume we meet Shiva, a little girl, and the being she calls Teacher. Any day now, Shiva expects her aunt to come pick her up and Teacher, unwilling to make her sad, doesn't tell her that she was abandoned. Her aunt will never come for her and is possibly already dead.

According to humans, Outsiders are cursed beings belonging to the God of Darkness, and anyone who lives outside their walls must, by definition, be an Outsider. Teacher, an Outsider, tells Shiva that she must never touch beings like him (?). If she does, she'll become cursed and will turn into a hideous beast.

Monday, October 29, 2018

REVIEW: Daughter of the Burning City (audiobook) by Amanda Foody, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

Daughter of the Burning City is YA fantasy. I listened to it via one of the library Overdrive collections I have access to.

This review includes spoilers.


Sorina has spent most of her life working in the Gomorrah Festival, a city-sized traveling carnival, as the adopted daughter of the Festival's proprietor, Villiam. Although Sorina is the first known illusion-worker born in a hundred years and will eventually become the Festival's next proprietor, she doesn't feel particularly special. The blank areas of skin where her eyes should be mark her as a freak, even within Gomorrah. And although Villiam is kind and always finds time to talk to her, he doesn't seem to be putting serious effort into training her to be his successor. There is much Sorina still doesn't know about how Gomorrah works.

In addition to Villiam, her adopted father, and Kahina, Sorina's mother figure, Sorina has her other family members, her various illusions. Over the years, she has created several illusions so complex that they appear to almost be real people. Each of them was specifically designed to fulfill a role - Sorina's uncle, bossy older sister, annoying younger siblings, etc. - but each of them also acquired traits that Sorina didn't plan, special "freakish" abilities. They all add a bit of stability to Sorina's life, until one day she discovers something she hadn't thought possible: one of her illusions has been murdered.

Who would have killed an illusion? How did they manage it? Sorina doesn't know who to turn to. Should she trust Villiam, who believes that the killer is an outsider trying to harm him, the proprietor, through her? Or handsome Luca, who believes the killer is someone within the Gomorrah Festival?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

REVIEW: Spirited Away (anime movie)

Spirited Away is a fantasy movie. I saw it at my local movie theater as part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018.

Chihiro is a 10-year-old girl who's unhappy about moving to a new home and going to a new school. When her dad takes what he thinks might be a shortcut to their new home and ends up coming across an abandoned theme park, all she wants to do is leave that creepy place. But since her parents don't seem inclined to listen, she follows them in.

Unfortunately, the "theme park" actually turns out to be connected to the world of the spirits. Chihiro tries to leave, only to discover that her parents have been turned into pigs due to having eaten food intended for spirits. With a little help from a mysterious boy named Haku, Chihiro gets a job at Yubaba's bathhouse in order to stay safe until she can figure out a way to save her parents and go back to her own world.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW: The Garden Plot (audiobook) by Marty Wingate, narrated by Erin Bennett

The Garden Plot is a cozy mystery, the first in Wingate's Potting Shed Mysteries series. I checked it out via one of several library Overdrive collections I have access to.


Pru Parke used to dream about living in England. All her life, she'd avoided close ties with everyone but her parents, particularly her English mother. Texas never felt like home to her. So, several years after her mother's death, Pru decides to quit her job, move to London, and get a job as head gardener somewhere. She manages the first two things easily enough, but finding a head gardener position proves to be even more difficult than she expected. After nearly a year of one temporary gardening job after another, she has a mountain of rejection letters and will soon have to move out of the flat she's been renting.

Her latest temporary job has the potential, she thinks, to grow into something more permanent. Her employers, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, seem like kind and welcoming people, and Mrs. Wilson clearly misses her old home and garden. It's possible they might hire her to turn their mess of a backyard into a proper garden, if they like her work. Pru does as much as she can in the short time she's been given, and her efforts uncover part of a Roman mosaic...and also a body.

REVIEW: On Borrowed Time (book) by Jenn McKinlay

On Borrowed Time is the fifth book in McKinlay's Library Lover's Mysteries series. It's also the first book since the series added an aspect I didn't particularly want, a love triangle.


In this entry in the series, Lindsey is setting up for one of the Crafternoon meetings that these books always begin with, only to discover her brother, Jack, hiding in their meeting room. At Jack's request, she doesn't tell anyone about him, lets him stay in the room, and makes up an excuse to have the Crafternoon meeting somewhere else. She's both shocked and worried when she goes to check on Jack and discovers that 1) he's gone and 2) there is now a dead man in the meeting room.

Lindsey is sure Jack didn't kill the man but knows it looks bad, so she reports the body to the police but doesn't mention Jack. She soon learns that Jack is involved in something very dangerous. If she wants to rescue her brother, she has to somehow figure out what's going on and who she can trust.

REVIEW: Venom (live action movie)

Venom is yet another movie based on a comic book character.

Even I'm a bit tired of comic book adaptations by now, and the one trailer I remembered seeing of this movie didn't excite me. I've never read a Venom comic book and had no particular interest in or attachment to the character. I figured I'd skip this movie, but then I saw a few people on Twitter talking about how much they loved Eddie and Venom together. Once again, fan art managed to suck me in. And in this case, I'm glad about that. The movie turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable once Venom was finally introduced.

The basic story: Eddie Brock is an investigative reporter who's assigned to interview Carlton Drake, the movie's Elon Musk-like character. Although this is supposed to just be a puff piece, Eddie can't help but poke around a bit. He ends up getting himself fired, and his actions also lead to his fiancee dumping him. A few months later, however, one of Drake's employees comes to Eddie with information about Drake's secret and highly unethical project involving alien parasites. Bear with the first part of the movie, because this is where the fun begins.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Dramafever has shut down

I'd probably have found this out a lot sooner if I'd been paying better attention, since apparently the shutdown happened October 16th. I'd been meaning to look into why my next subscription renewal had been canceled but figured that it was due to someone finally noticing that I'd had the much cheaper Dramafever Birthday subscription price for the past several years. My year-long subscription had only just renewed in August, so I'm hoping I'm one of the folks they're planning on giving a refund to (their latest email states they'll be doing refunds shortly), but if I was supposed to do anything on my end it's probably too late. Well, if I missed out at least it wasn't too much money.

I never used my Dramafever membership as much as I should have, but it's still sad to see another streaming option go away, especially since it was one of the more stable niche streaming options I'd tried, with a pretty nice catalog of shows available. And ugh, I just realized that I was only one or two episodes away from finishing the live action version of The Perfect Insider. Looks like I'll be jumping over the Crunchyroll for a bit just to finish that one up.

Edit: Paypal notified me that I've received a refund, so at least there's that. At some point, I might look at what the current streaming options are beyond Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Crunchyroll (I will probably be annoyed with them forever, and there's the added issue, as far as I know, of them not having a Samsung app anymore). At the moment, between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and my massive backlog of unwatched DVDs, I have plenty of anime, K-dramas, and other things to watch.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Dub for Emma Season 1 fully funded, Season 2 almost there

It's down to the last 28 hours of Nozomi Entertainment's "Let's Dub All of Emma A Victorian Romance" Kickstarter. Season 1 has been fully funded for a while, and Season 2 has less than $10,000. I think it'll probably happen.

If you haven't noticed, I've created a list of things I'm looking forward to in 2019, and this is one of them. If Season 2 gets funded, then I'd also get to look forward to Hans dubbed in English.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

REVIEW: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (audiobook) by Shirley Jackson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a mixture of mystery and horror. It was one of my library checkouts.


The Blackwood family used to be much bigger, but now there is only 18-year-old Mary Katherine (Merricat), her older sister Constance, their Uncle Julian, and Merricat's cat, Jonas. Merricat is the only Blackwood who ever leaves the house. She does all the grocery shopping and tries her best to act normal and unafraid, but inside she is a seething mass of rage and fear, quietly wishing all the townspeople dead as some of them taunt her. When she is not running errands, she spends all her time playing with Jonas and devising protections for her home that usually involve burying or hanging items around various places on Blackwood land. Meanwhile, Constance cheerfully and patiently cares for her and Uncle Julian, who is unable to walk and who spends his days writing about and obsessing over an event that occurred several years ago. The delicate balance of all their lives is disturbed by the arrival of Charles, Merricat and Constance's cousin and Julian's nephew.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

REVIEW: Blue Spring Ride: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Blue Spring Ride is a high school drama/romance series. It's 12 episodes long. I haven't read the manga it's based on, but I suspect this is only an adaptation of a portion of the series.


When Futaba was in middle school, she was a shy and cutesy girl who had a crush on a boy named Tanaka (Kou). They were supposed to meet up for something like a date when he abruptly moved away. Futaba's middle school life deteriorated as the other girls became jealous of how much her cutesy behavior appealed to boys, and the end of her middle school life was miserable.

When Futaba entered high school, she decided things would be different. She became a loud slob, as far from her cutesy middle school self as she could manage, and did her best to be unappealing to boys. Her new personality gains her a couple friends, but cracks begin to appear in her facade when she runs into a guy at her school named Mabuchi who happens to look an awful lot like Tanaka. But is it really him? He's colder and more dismissive than Tanaka was. Although he does nothing but sneer at her, Futaba can't bring herself to leave him alone.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

REVIEW: La Mante (live action TV series)

La Mante is a short French thriller TV series, only 6 episodes long.

Yes, I know my tag for this post includes the initial article for the series even though I normally skip initial articles in my tags. 

Warning: my review will include major spoilers, but I'll save those for the very end and will make sure to note when I'm getting to the really spoilery part. If you're really worried about spoilers, this review will be cross-posted to LibraryThing, where I have the ability to use spoiler tags.


Content warnings for this series (not necessarily a complete list): torture, gruesome deaths and bodies, transphobia, references to rape, and references to child abuse and pedophilia.

Years ago (Wikipedia says 25), Jeanne Deber, La Mante (the Mantis), brutally tortured and killed several men who were, in one way or another, guilty of harming their families. She was eventually caught and imprisoned. In the present, a copycat killer is exactly copying Jeanne's murders. Jeanne says she might be able to help the police identify and capture the killer, but she will only speak to them via her son, Detective Damien Carrot.

Damien wants nothing to do with his mother, but he does want to stop the killer. He agrees to meet with Jeanne and be part of the team hunting the copycat killer, but he had a condition of his own: no one on his team (except the man who was originally responsible for capturing La Mante) is to be told that Jeanne is his mother and that he's meeting with her regularly to collection information.

Monday, October 1, 2018

REVIEW: The Pretender, The Complete First Season (live action TV series)

The Pretender is a drama/mystery series with what could be viewed as SFF elements, depending on your feelings about the main character's abilities. I own this on DVD.


Jarod is a Pretender, someone with the ability to become anyone he wishes to be. With a few days or weeks of preparation, he's able to become a surgeon, a cop, a pilot, and more. When Jarod was just a child, he was taken from his parents and kept at the Centre, where he was forced to do various simulations under the direction of Sydney, a psychiatrist. The Centre funds its activities by selling the results of its simulations to various governments and individuals.

At the start of this season, Jarod has long since escaped the Centre and is currently on the run, trying to find out as much as he can about his past and his parents, who, contrary to what he was always told, may still be alive. Because the Centre is Jarod's primary link to his past and because Sydney is something like a surrogate parent to him, Jarod keeps in touch, playing a game of cat and mouse with one of the Centre's operatives, Miss Parker, and her team.

A classic Pretender episode generally has Miss Parker and Sydney finding Jarod's previous location just a little too late and combing it for clues as to his current whereabouts. Meanwhile, Jarod is at some new location, pretending to be someone in a particular field (doctor, cop, lawyer, EMS driver, etc.) while investigating some sort of local injustice. He always escapes just before Miss Parker is able to find and apprehend him, and he generally leaves behind clues or a message for Miss Parker or Sydney, possibly involving whatever children's toy he played with in the episode (silly putty, barrel of monkeys, Rubik's cube, fake dog poop, etc.). In some episodes, aspects of this structure are either done away with or pushed into the background so that the overarching storyline of Jarod, Sydney, and/or Miss Parker's past can be given a bit of screentime.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

REVIEW: My Neighbor Totoro (anime movie)

[This post includes spoilers.]

My Neighbor Totoro is a fantasy movie. I watched it (or, more accurately, re-watched it) as part of the Fathom Events Studio Ghibli Fest.

Satsuki (11 years old), Mei (4 years old), and their father, a university professor, move to an old house in the country in order to be closer to the hospital where the girls' mother is currently staying (and also potentially for the mother's health once she's out of the hospital?). It's never stated what illness the mother is recovering from, but whatever it is has been going on for some time. The girls are holding up fairly well, but there is an undercurrent of fear that their mother is going to die.

While exploring the area near their new house, Mei discovers a path that leads to a giant furry being she calls Totoro. Satsuki eventually meets Totoro as well, and their new friend helps them through a difficult period.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

REVIEW: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Episode 1 (live action TV series)

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is a Japanese live action TV series adaptation of Nahoko Uehashi's fantasy book of the same title. I was very excited when I spotted it on Amazon Prime, but the kicker here is that it isn't a movie, like I at first assumed it was. It's the first episode of a 22-episode series (three seasons), the rest of which is not available on Amazon. It also isn't available on Netflix or Dramafever, the two other streaming services I use.

So I'd like to start this review off with a great big thumbs down to Amazon. If you can't get the rights to stream a full series, or even just a full season of a series, you shouldn't be streaming it at all. This isn't the first time I've seen something like this on Amazon. Their listings will say that they have an entire season available on Amazon Prime, but when you actually click through, they've really only provided access to a few random episodes. This Moribito thing is particularly annoying, however, because it wasn't clear from the outset that this was only the first episode of a much longer series.

But I watched it, so I'm going to review it. (Conveniently ignoring all the things I've read and watched that I have yet to review...)

This first episode introduces Balsa, a female spear-wielding bodyguard. She saves young prince Chagum from drowning and is immediately arrested and beaten. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, manages to arrange to meet with Balsa and says she'll help her escape if she agrees to be Chagum's bodyguard. Chagum's father, the Mikado, is determined to kill him because he's possessed by a water demon. Balsa has multiple helpful connections in town, but she and Chagum can't evade the hunters chasing them forever - the episode ends during Balsa's first encounter with them.

REVIEW: The Wild Robot (audiobook) by Peter Brown, narrated by Kate Atwater

The Wild Robot is a Middle Grade sci-fi/survival/talking animal book. I had seen it before and considered getting it, but I have too many books as it is. When I saw that my local public library had added it to their Overdrive audiobook collection, I pounced on it. I believe my checkout included access to accompanying files with illustrations, but I didn't attempt to find and open those files.

The Wild Robot begins with a terrible shipwreck during a hurricane (although the words "climate change" are never used, this is definitely a vision of the near future that includes some of the effects of climate change). The ship's cargo included several robots, only one of which survived the wreck. That robot, Roz, is activated by a group of curious otters. Over the next few months, Roz gradually learns how to survive in the wild and communicate with the animals around her. Can a robot somehow make friends and find a home in such a wild place?

Monday, September 24, 2018

REVIEW: Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 4) by Haruko Ichikawa, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Land of the Lustrous is SFF manga.


I wish I had a pile of these volumes to read all in a row. It's too easy to forget details. I may have to break down and start buying this series. Goodness knows where I'll keep the volumes.

If I remember right, the previous volume ended with what looked like a tragic memory loss on Phos's part - Phos gained new arms but appeared to have forgotten who Cinnabar was. This volume begins by telling readers this was a fake-out. Phos merely had a momentary memory glitch.

But that doesn't mean Phos is the same. Whereas Phos was previously childish, weak, and too fearful to engage the Lunarians in battle, they're now strangely competent and useful, to the point that Bort offers to pair up with them. It's an awkward offer. On the one hand, Phos could use Bort's strength and experience, especially since Kongo-sensei has just fallen asleep for who knows how long. On the other hand, Phos knows that there's a rift between Bort and Dia and that accepting Bort's offer may widen it.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

REVIEW: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku (anime TV series)

Wotakoi is a romantic comedy series.

The eternal problem, when I'm writing reviews for anime or manga: should I refer to the characters by their given names, their family names, or the name I best know them by? In this case, I'm going with the name I best know them by, which is going to result in almost all of the characters being referred to by their given names.


Narumi is a fujoshi otaku: she likes otome games and reading and creating BL manga. She's been this way for years, but now that she's in her twenties it's become a real problem. She hides her interests in an effort to blend in, but slip-ups happen. Her previous boyfriend dumped her when he found out she was a fujoshi, and she eventually left the company they both worked at in order to make a new start. Things will be better at her new workplace, she's sure.

Unfortunately, on her very first day she runs into Hirotaka, a fellow otaku (game otaku) and her best friend back in elementary and middle school. He almost immediately reveals her otaku nature, not realizing she's trying to hide it. All is not lost, however. Koyanagi and Kabakura, the two employees who heard what Hirotaka said, are otaku themselves (and also a couple!). And as for the whole dating thing, Hirotaka proposes solving Narumi's problem by dating her himself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

REVIEW: The Lemonade Crime (audiobook) by Jacqueline Davies, narrated by Stina Nielson

The Lemonade Crime is Middle Grade realistic fiction. It's technically legal fiction for kids.


Evan and his little sister Jessie are both in the fourth grade, not because they're twins, but rather because Jessie skipped a grade. Jessie is particularly good at math, very focused, feels strongly that things should be fair, and believes that rules are meant to be followed.

When one of their classmates, Scott, announces that he now owns a fancy new Xbox 2020, Evan sees red. He knows exactly where Scott got the money for it - Scott stole that money, over two hundred dollars, from Evan's shorts when they were swimming at a friend's house. Evan doesn't have any proof that Scott did it, but it's the only explanation. Then Jessie comes up with a plan: she's going to bring the truth to light in a court of law created by her and her classmates.

REVIEW: The Atrocities (e-novella) by Jeremy C. Shipp

The Atrocities is gothic horror. It's pretty short - it was only 75 pages on my Nook Simple Touch, and it ended on page 65.


The spooky house and governess heroine made me think this was a historical story at first, but it's actually contemporary-set. Danna has been hired to teach Mr. and Mrs. Evers' young daughter, Isabella. The Evers' home, Stockton House, is an odd place. It used to be a church, and in order to get to it, it's necessary to walk through a labyrinth populated by the Atrocities, statues depicting horrific violence and suffering. Stockton House's interior is no better - every wall and nook and cranny has something grotesque and unsettling on/in it.

Danna has her own horrors to deal with. At times, she slides into what she calls her "hospital dreams," vivid and twisted nightmares that feel terrifyingly real. She tries to focus on the job at hand, teaching Isabella, but it soon becomes clear that there's a lot the Evers didn't tell her about themselves and their daughter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Nozomi Entertainment Kickstarter - English dub for Season 1 of Emma: A Victorian Romance

Look what I heard about today! If we're all very lucky and enough people back it, there could be an English dub of the first season of Emma: A Victorian Romance, and possibly the second (you have no idea how badly I want to hear English-dubbed Hans). Here's a link to the Kickstarter.

I feel a bit weird about companies doing Kickstarters for things like this, but I ended up backing this anyway. It's only the second Kickstarter I've ever backed. Crossing my fingers that both seasons get funded and that the dub actually turns out well. I've only heard two English dubs Headline Studios has handled (based on this list), Gravitation and His and Her Circumstances. I don't recall liking the Gravitation English dub much at all, but His and Her Circumstances was great. That said, neither of those shows featured the kind of issues that Emma has - English characters from a variety of social classes and situations, an Indian prince, and, if Season 2 gets backed, several German characters.

At any rate, some of the higher level Kickstarter tiers have amazing stuff in them. I'm not even a cosplayer and the Housekeeper tier (includes a custom-made cosplay costume) sounds exciting to me. And I don't collect figures and still want one of those Emma figures. It's gorgeous. Not that my budget could withstand backing at that level. I can dream, though.

Well, I should get to bed so I can hopefully handle tomorrow morning better than I did today (some kind of stomach thing going around, I think?). I just wanted to make sure I posted about this first.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Haunting of Hill House (audiobook) by Shirley Jackson, performed by David Warner

The Haunting of Hill House is gothic horror. I checked this out via my public library's Overdrive.

My note at the end could be considered a spoiler.


I'll be brief, since I only just read and reviewed a paper copy of this back in June.

David Warner's narration was good, although I occasionally wished that a female narrator had been chosen instead, since he didn't always fit Eleanor and Theodora very well. From the look of things, both Audible and Kobo only have the version of this book narrated by Bernadette Dunn, which might potentially have worked better for me for that reason.

This is definitely one of those books that invites rereading. This time around, I knew what was going to happen and could therefore approach the story's events in a different way. Although I enjoyed that aspect and ended up with a new favorite interpretation of what happened, I was still frustrated with the way The Haunting of Hill House promised more of a ghost story than it actually delivered. It had some great creepy moments, and I just wanted more. Instead, I got several characters who became increasingly difficult to tolerate, and that ending.

I appreciated the ending more this time around than I did the first. In fact, taking my new interpretation of the story into account*, it was a perfectly logical and fitting ending. But I really wanted more creepy haunted house stuff, and ghosts.

REVIEW: Missing Abby (book) by Lee Weatherly

Missing Abby is YA suspense, but aimed more at the younger end of YA. It was an impulse library checkout of mine - I went looking for some YA or older Middle Grade mysteries or thrillers and this looked interesting.


I assume this is set somewhere in England, based on the author's bio. It's written from the perspective of Emma, a 13 (or possibly 14?) year old girl who realizes that she was likely the last person to see her former best friend Abby before she disappeared. She reports their encounter to the police and is forced to think about a time in her life that she thought she'd left behind and that she desperately hopes no one at her new school will ever find out about. Although a part of her wants to try to continue with her life as normally as possible, she can't stop thinking and worrying about Abby, Abby's last words, and the events that eventually drove them apart.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

REVIEW: Chi's Sweet Home (anime TV series)

Chi's Sweet Home is an adorable slice-of-life comedy. I watched the second season (series?), Chi's Sweet Home: Chi's New Address, six years ago, but between now and then I've also read the entire manga series. I picked up this particular boxed set during a sale and kind of wish I'd gotten the second one as well. I suppose I had a good reason not to, though. No shelf space!

Chi's Sweet Home adapts most of the first three volumes of the manga into 104 3-minute episodes. The Yamadas find Chi, a kitten that accidentally became separated from her family, and take her in despite living in an apartment that doesn't allow cats. They try to find a home for her but fail, and eventually realize they want to keep her themselves. Unfortunately, that may be a difficult decision to stick to if their apartment manager finds her and they're faced with the choice of either giving her away or being evicted.

Overall, the series is very light and gentle. There's the threat of Chi being discovered, Chi's occasional vague and slightly heartbreaking memories of her mother and siblings, and the part where Chi was accidentally locked outside during a severe storm. That's about it as far as stressful content goes, and even that stuff is depicted as gently as possible. There are no cats in Chi's Sweet Home that get run over by cars, or die of old age (or anything else for that matter).

Monday, September 10, 2018

REVIEW: Killing Mr. Griffin (book) by Lois Duncan

Killing Mr. Griffin is a YA suspense novel originally published in 1978.


Brian Griffin is a strict high school English teacher. He doesn't accept late assignments for any reason. He considers an "A" grade to indicate perfection, meaning that even his best students don't get more than a B in his class. He once humiliated one of his students, Mark, making him beg to stay in his class after an incident with one of his assignments, only to tell him "no" and force him to take the class over.

Mr. Griffin's kidnapping starts with Jeff's frustrated and angry mumbling: "That Mr. Griffin's the sort of guy you'd like to kill." From there, Mark hatches a plan to scare Mr. Griffin by kidnapping him and making him think he might be killed. Jeff, Betsy (Jeff's cheerleader girlfriend), and David (senior class president and one of the most popular guys in school) also get involved, as does Susan. Susan is one of the Mr. Griffin's best students. She doesn't exactly like Mr. Griffin, but she doesn't have any reason to want to scare him. She does, however, have a huge crush on David, and it doesn't take much for him to convince her to help. Susan's job will be to make sure Mr. Griffin is in the right place at the right time to be kidnapped, while Jeff, Mark, and David do the actual kidnapping. Betsy is supposed to provide the guys their alibis. Unfortunately for everyone, the kidnapping does not go as planned.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

REVIEW: Honey So Sweet (manga, vol. 2) by Amu Meguro, translated by Katherine Schilling

Honey So Sweet is a high school romance series. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

I'm just going to put a general spoiler warning on this. Some of the things I mention could be considered spoilers.


Onise's words at the end of the previous volume cause Nao to wonder whether her feelings for Sou really are romantic. As she puzzles through the concept of romantic feelings and how to recognize them, Onise suddenly brings things to a head. He kisses her while she's dozing and she wakes up and catches him at it. He's utterly horrified with himself and sure that this will be the end of their friendship, while she experiences an epiphany after the kiss: the one she has romantic feelings for is Onise. She wants to tell him, but how? The volume ends with the introduction of a new character, Ayaha Futami, a classmate of Onise's who takes an interest in him.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

REVIEW: Horrorstör (audiobook) by Grady Hendrix, narrated by Tai Sammons and Bronson Pinchot

Horrorstör is a horror comedy about a haunted Ikea knockoff called Orsk. I felt guilty about not having used any of my local public library's services in ages and recently got my library card reactivated in their Overdrive. This was the first thing I checked out.


I reviewed a paper copy of this back in February, so I won't be writing a summary this time around and don't plan on writing a lengthy review.

I definitely preferred this in paper form. Although Bronson Pinchot did an excellent job reading the product description pages in a cheerful and comforting advertiser voice, it wasn't quite the same as getting to see the images. I know that the library checkout included an enhanced content PDF download that may have had all of those images, but I couldn't figure out how to download them on my phone (if that was even possible) and, even if I could have, it still wouldn't have been the same as reading the text and having it all right there.

Tai Sammons was okay as the narrator of the bulk of the text. She fit Amy reasonably well, and I thought she did an excellent job with Ruth Anne. Her Trinity voice grated, but that was probably the point. I really didn't like her take on Basil, though, and overall I felt like her narration leeched out a lot of the creepiness I remembered from my initial reading of the book. Then again, that might just have been due to me having read it before and knowing what would happen.

My favorite part of the book was still the bit where Amy was trapped in the Liripip. It was an excellent use of the location and Amy's Orsk employee skillset.

All in all, this was a decent audiobook, but I'm glad my first exposure to the story was via a paper copy of the book.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

REVIEW: Dark, Season 1 (live action TV series)

[I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there are a few here and there. Unfortunately, an important aspect of the premise qualifies as a spoiler.]

Dark is a German sci-fi mystery/thriller series available on Netflix. I watched it after seeing someone recommend it on one of my German cooking discussion groups. At first, it reminded me a lot of the Netflix series Safe, which I'd started and abandoned. Both series have mystery/thriller, a small and interconnected community filled with secrets, and somewhat annoying teens. Still, I found Dark to be more immediately intriguing than Safe, and when the sci-fi aspects started cropping up, I was hooked.

Dark is set in the small fictional German town of Winden, where one of the country's last nuclear power plants is about to be shut down as the country transitions to other sources of power. There are concerns about the area's safety - a local teen has disappeared, and it's unclear whether he ran away, has been killed, or whether something else is going on. Then another boy, Mikkel, the youngest son of a local police officer, goes missing somewhere near a cave entrance. His father, Ulrich, fears the worst when a dead child is found, but the child turns out to be neither Mikkel nor the other missing boy.

As the series progresses, it weaves in parts of the town's history, from 1953, when the nuclear power plant was still being built, to 1986, when Ulrich's younger brother went missing, to the present, 2019, and its various disappearances, and shows how everyone's relationships are deeply interconnected.