Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: Tabula Rasa (live action TV series)

Tabula Rasa is a Belgian mystery/thriller series. I feel like it needs major content warnings but, at the same time, the most necessary ones count as huge spoilers. My solution to this problem is going to be to include them in the LibraryThing version of this review, hidden by spoiler tags.


Seven or eight months prior to the series' present, Annemie (Mie) was in a car accident that left her unable to create new memories. She and her family were forced to move to her parents' old home after Mie forgot that she had something on the stove and set their old place on fire. In theory, Mie's parents' old place should at least be familiar to her, and she and her husband arranged things so that she could live as normal a life as possible - an alarm on the front door to remind her if she forgot to close it, a tracker on her cell phone so she could call family members if she got lost, a panic button, a GPS to help her go places on her own, etc.

However, in the series' present Mie is in a mental institution. She can't remember how she ended up there and her family is forbidden to discuss potentially upsetting topics with her. A police inspector, Wolkers, regularly visits her to ask her questions about Thomas De Geest, a missing man. Mie was the last person to see him alive and may know what happened to him, if only she can unlock her memories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 3) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a short fantasy series with a few historical elements due to the whole reincarnation thing. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

This review contains spoilers.

In this volume we learn that Kazuma is Yumurasaki's brother. Their mother sold Yumurasaki when she was a child, which allowed Kazuma to survive. When he meets Yumurasaki again years later, she doesn't recognize him, but he recognizes her and decides to devote the rest of his life to protecting her.

In the present, Yukari has decided to try breaking free of his past life by purposely learning more about those around him and allowing himself to grow attached to people. In particular, he'd like to grow closer to Mahoro. Unfortunately, Yukari, Mahoro, and Satomi have all become so bound up in the patterns of their former lives that breaking free might not be possible. Mahoro and Satomi have a habit of blanking out and attacking each other every time they spend more than a few minutes together, and Yukari can't seem to stop being drawn back to the past.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

REVIEW: Ponyo (anime movie)

Normally when I hear about Fathom Events showings I'd like to go to, the closest ones are at least an hour and a half away. Not this time. The movie theater in my town is doing Studio Ghibli Fest, one Studio Ghibli movie a month with three showings (2 English dub, 1 English subtitles). I'm so happy! I'll probably skip Grave of the Fireflies because I don't like crying in public, but I plan on seeing all the rest of them. Spirited Away is a particular favorite of mine, so if my schedule permits, I plan on attending both a dubbed and subbed showing of that one.

This month's movie is Ponyo, and today was the first of three showings, one of the English dub ones. I had not seen it before and wasn't really sure what to expect.

Warning: this review includes spoilers.


Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives in a little fishing town, finds and rescues Ponyo, a goldfish with a human face. The two quickly become friends, but they can't stay together - Ponyo's father is looking for her and is determined to keep her with him forever. A magical goldfish girl living with a human boy would disturb the balance of nature and potentially threaten all life everywhere.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 2) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a short fantasy series with a few historical elements due to the whole reincarnation thing. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.


Katsuhiko Satomi has arrived at Yukari's house in order to take over the housekeeping duties while his aunt is waiting for her back to heal. Yukari immediately notices that he seems familiar and figures that he knew him in his past life. But who was he? Takamura, the man who may have killed Yumurasaki? Or perhaps someone else?

The question continues to plague Yukari as he is once again transported into the past. This time around, he witnesses new sides to Takamura and Kazuma that make him wonder about everything he's assumed so far. Meanwhile, Satomi and Mahoro struggle against their past selves, who hate each other intensely.

REVIEW: Kakegurui (anime TV series)

This review includes slight spoilers.

Kakegurui is one of those series set at a school designed to be its own little world with its own special set of rules. In this case, that world is focused on gambling.

The school is a private academy whose students all come from rich and privileged families - the children of politicians and businessmen. In their world, valuable skills include knowing when to take risks and being able to tell when your opponent is bluffing. The school has a system where you can gain power through gambling - but if you fail, you can also lose power and essentially become everyone else's slave.

Ryota is one of those failures. He ends up owing a lot of money to Mary, another student, which means he's now basically her pet. He's considering transferring to another school when a new student arrives and shakes everything up. Yumeko is something many of the school's students have never faced before: a compulsive gambler who doesn't really care if she wins or loses, as long as she gets to experience the thrill of taking risks.

REVIEW: The Fold (audiobook) by Peter Clines, narrated by Ray Porter

The Fold is a sci-fi mystery. I bought my copy via Audible.


Mike is a small town English teacher who would prefer to stay a small town English teacher forever. However, an old friend of his has finally found a project that intrigues him enough that he's finally willing to use the abilities he's locked away as much as possible.

Mike is sent to learn as much as he can about the Albuquerque Door project and report his findings back to his friend Reggie, so that an informed decision can be made about whether to renew the project's budget. Mike, with his high IQ and eidetic memory, is uniquely qualified to do this job - he can get up to speed faster than anybody else Reggie might have on staff. And one of the things Mike quickly figures out is that the Albuquerque Door folks are hiding something from him. The Door does exactly what it's supposed to do, allowing people to travel a great distance in just a single step, and the hundreds of tests that have been performed have all gone perfectly. So why is everyone so secretive and so adamant that more tests need to be run?

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand (book, vol. 1) by Makoto Inoue, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Rich Amtower

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand is the first of a series of Fullmetal Alchemist light novels. I bought a used copy a while back.


This volume is composed of two stories. The primary one is "The Land of Sand." The shorter bonus story is "The Phantom of Warehouse 13." Both of these stories were adapted into episodes in the original anime series.

"The Land of Sand":

Edward and Alphonse arrive at the dying former gold mining town of Xenotime and are shocked to learn that two boys who say their names are Edward and Alphonse Elric have been living in Xenotime for a while, researching how to make a Philosopher's Stone in order to revitalize the town. Who are these imposters, and how close are they to finishing their research?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

REVIEW: Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 3) by Haruko Ichikawa, translation by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Land of the Lustrous is SFF manga. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.


In this volume we get a bit more world-building and a new character. Winter is starting, which means less sunlight and therefore less energy for most of the Lustrous. While almost all of them go into hibernation, Kongo-sensei and Antarcticite become everyone's guardians. Antarcticite spends most of the year in a liquid form, but every winter they solidify and gradually grow stronger as temperatures get colder.

Phos is usually the first of the Lustrous to begin hibernation and the last to wake up, but this time around they can't seem to stay asleep, a possible side effect of their new legs. Kongo-sensei assigns Phos to Antarcticite as their new partner. Phos isn't sure they're up to the task, especially after the disastrous incident with the Amethyst twins, and then there's the issue of the talking ice floes that prey on Phos's anxieties.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVIEW: Dragon Sword and Wind Child (book) by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano, illustrations by Miho Satake

Dragon Sword and Wind Child is Japanese fantasy.


Fifteen-year-old Saya is the only survivor of an attack by the army of the God of Light on her village when she was a child. Although she occasionally dreams about the attack, she now lives with her adoptive parents in the village of Hashiba, which has accepted the God of Light and his immortal children, Princess Teruhi and Prince Tsukishiro. Saya has no memories of her birth parents and loves the Light just as much as any other person in Hashiba, so it's a shock when several strangers arrive and tell her that she's a princess of the Children of the Dark. Unlike the immortal Children of the God of Light, the Children of the Goddess of Darkness can die and then be reincarnated, and Saya is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden. Before she has a chance to truly process this, Prince Tsukishiro arrives and takes a sudden interest in her.

Saya is faced with several choices: she can become one of the prince's handmaidens and eventually his bride, knowing that he doesn't really love her; she can kill herself like the Water Maidens before her; or she can somehow find a way to escape. She chooses the third option and discovers both the Dragon Sword, a weapon so powerful it can kill gods, and Chihaya, a Child of the God of Light who is seen as a failure by his siblings because he has always been drawn to the Darkness.

REVIEW: A Princess in Theory (book) by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory is contemporary romance.


Naledi (Ledi) Smith has been on her own for most of her life, bounced around in foster care after her parents were killed in a car crash. Now she's a grad student with multiple jobs and a supposedly upcoming epidemiology internship that she still hasn't been contacted about. The spam emails she keeps getting that say she's betrothed to a Prince Thabiso from some country called Thesolo do not amuse her.

As it turns out, the emails aren't spam. Prince Thabiso has been looking for his betrothed for years. He hopes to find her and either bring her back to Thesolo or finally convince himself that they aren't soulmates the way he'd been told as a child they were. His assistant, Likotsi, tracks her down, but their first meeting doesn't go anything like Thabiso expected it would. Ledi mistakes him for a new waiter named Jamal, and rather than clear up the misunderstanding, Thabiso decides to just go with it. He'll get to see how Ledi behaves around him when she's unaware that he's royalty, and being a waiter can't be that hard, right? (Ha!)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

REVIEW: The Master Key (book) by Masako Togawa, translated by Simon Grove

The Master Key could be called a psychological story, or crime fiction. It's a Japanese novel in translation. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


This is set in Tokyo, at the K Apartments for Ladies. I didn't write down enough of the mentions of exact years to be 100% sure, but the book's "present" is probably the late 1950s.

The K Apartments for Ladies were originally meant to help "Japanese women emancipate themselves" (17). All of the women who live there are unmarried. Men are only allowed into the building if they check in first, after which they're escorted to whichever apartment they plan to visit. All the rents are frozen at wartime levels, so it's a cheap place to live. In the book's present, the entire building is about to be moved four meters in order to make room for a road-widening project. This can supposedly be done without disturbing any of the building's residents, who have all opted to stay inside until the project is finished.

Togawa gives readers glimpses into the particular stories and secrets of several of the building residents. In every instance, the weight of their secrets either begins to overwhelm them as the date of the move nears, or there's a strong possibility that the move will force their secrets into the light. Some of the residents mentioned include: Chikako Ueda, who once worked with a male accomplice to bury a dead child in an unused communal bathroom in the building's basement; Toyoko Munekata, who is supposedly hard at work correcting her late husband's manuscripts; Noriko Ishiyama, who has taken to living like a mouse, existing off of others' scraps; Suwa Yatabe, a violin instructor; and Yoneko Kimura, a retired teacher who spends her days writing letters to every single one of her former students.