Monday, May 28, 2018

REVIEW: The Shape of Water (live action movie)

This review includes a few things that could be considered spoilers. Read on at your own risk, or take a look at the spoiler-tagged version of this review that I've cross-posted on LibraryThing.

The Shape of Water is Cold War-set fantasy romance, I guess, although I have issues with the romance that I'll get into in a bit.

Elisa is a mute cleaning lady who works at a high-security government facility. When a mysterious aquatic being is brought to the facility, she forms a bond with him and comes up with a plan to free him and get him back to the ocean where he belongs. (Although apparently he was originally captured in a South American river where he was worshiped by the locals as a god, so wouldn't he have been more comfortable in fresh water?)

Unfortunately, two governments have a stake in the River God's fate. The U.S. government wants him dissected in the hope that his ability to breathe both water and air could somehow lead to important advancements in space-related technology. (I'm sorry, I know this doesn't really make any sense, but this is the reason viewers were given.) The Russian government doesn't see a point in capturing him for themselves but does want him killed before the U.S. can learn anything useful from him.

Status update

I've been reading and watching a lot more than my recent reviews indicate. The problem is that I've been having trouble making myself write reviews. Although I managed to post a few in the past couple days, I have many more to go. Here's what my current backlog looks like, assuming I'm not forgetting anything:
  • Porco Rosso (anime movie)
  • Deadpool (live action movie)
  • The Haunting of Hill House (book) by Shirley Jackson
  • Kenka Bancho Otome: Love's Battle Royale (manga, vol. 1)
  • Let's Talk About Love (book) by Claire Kann
  • Nine Princes in Amber (audiobook) by Roger Zelazny, narrated by Alessandro Juliani
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (audiobook) by Agatha Christie, narrated by Hugh Fraser
  • Bingo Love (graphic novel)
  • Making Arrangements (e-short story) by Rosefox - This is an original work on Archive of Our Own. It isn't currently listed in Goodreads, although I suppose I could still review it and just skip cross-posting there.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (live action movie)
  • Yuri on Ice (anime TV series) - Yes, I've technically already reviewed this, but I bought the discs and could write a review of my impressions of the show the second/third time around, the English dub, and the extras.
Crap, that's 11 reviews I should have written. Some of these have been sitting in my backlog long enough that I'd probably need to give myself a refresher first.

At the moment, the only show I'm seriously watching is Land of the Lustrous on Amazon Prime (I've almost caught up to my stopping point in the manga), although I have several others that I've started and stalled on. What I should do is sit down and plow through some of my anime discs. The amount of anime that I own and have never watched is ridiculous.

Reading-wise, I've finally caught up with my interlibrary loan books. I'm in the process of reading Jenn McKinlay's Book, Line, and Sinker (paper) and Wes Kennedy's To Terminator, With Love (e-book on my phone). In theory, I'm also still reading L. Rowyn's A Rational Arrangment on my e-reader, but I've stalled on that one so badly that my e-read is collecting dust. I'm tempted to move on to something else.

I'm considering giving my local public library's book club a shot. For once, I managed to find out what their current book is well before their next meeting. Unfortunately, it's one that I've heard terrible things about, Judith Newman's To Siri With Love. Do I want to read a book in which the author writes about wanting to forcibly sterilize her autistic son when he turns 18? Not really. But I miss being involved with a book club, so I might make myself read it anyway.

REVIEW: And Then There Were None (audiobook) by Agatha Christie, narrated by Dan Stevens

And Then There Were None is a mystery. I listened to it via Audible.


Several people, all strangers to one another, arrive at a small, isolated island. Some believe themselves to have been invited by an old acquaintance, while others thought they were being hired by someone named U.N. Owen. All of them discover, too late, that these were lies designed to lure them into a trap. With no way to escape the island, the guests begin to die, one by one, in ways that eerily fit the "Ten Little Soldiers" rhyme.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

REVIEW: Crooked House (live action movie)

Crooked House is a mystery movie based on Agatha Christie's book of the same title. I haven't read the book and so am unable to say how the two compare.

Charles Hayward, a private investigator, is approached by Sophia Leonides, a former lover of his, about investigating the death of her grandfather, a wealthy businessman named Aristide Leonides. Aristide died of a heart attack in the home he shared with his wife, his sons and their spouses, and his grandchildren. Sophia has reason to believe that someone else in the household killed her grandfather. If Charles can figure out who did it before Scotland Yard gets involved, the family might be able to avoid the embarrassment of a media circus.

Charles reluctantly takes the case and soon finds himself wading through the family's tangled web of festering resentments and secrets. Aristide's young new wife is an obvious suspect, but was she really the killer, as so many in the household seem to believe?

REVIEW: Of Fire and Stars (book) by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars is YA f/f fantasy. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Dennaleia (Denna) is a princess of the northern kingdom of Havemont. She's engaged to be married to Crown Prince Thandilimon (Thandi) of Mynaria for political reasons I can't recall. Denna has a secret: she can perform fire magic. Unfortunately, Mynaria is becoming more and more anti-magic. Recusants, illegal magic users, are being hunted down, and things only get worse after a member of the royal family is assassinated by someone who is likely a Recusant.

While everyone else is quick to blame the Recusants and the nearby country of Zumorda for Mynaria's recent problems, Denna and Mare, the Mynarian princess, are the only ones who suspect something else might be going on. As Mynaria prepares for Denna and Thandi's upcoming marriage, Denna and Mare work together to uncover the truth...and gradually realize that they've fallen in love with each other.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

REVIEW: Black Butler: Book of Murder (anime OVA)

Black Butler: Book of Murder combines fantasy, mystery, and historical elements. It's approximately two hours long.


This OVA is based on Black Butler manga volumes 9 through 11. I read them way back in 2013, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the OVA was very faithful to the manga.

I highly recommend that Black Butler newbies not start with this OVA. At the very least, watch Black Butler: Book of Circus first, since Book of Murder references it and parts of the story depend heavily upon it.

Okay, in Book of Murder Ciel is confronted by the "Double Charles." The Queen suspects Ciel lied about the circumstances behind all the deaths at the Baron's home back in Book of Circus, and she's giving him an opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty. He has been instructed to hold a party. She has selected the guest  of honor, Georg von Siemens, to be accompanied by her butler, Charles Grey, and has allowed Ciel to choose the rest of his guests on his own.

The party seems to be a relatively ordinary affair, up until Georg is found stabbed to death in his room. After that, several other guests die. Only one guest could not possibly have committed the murder: Arthur, a struggling young writer who has so far only published one book, a detective novel. Arthur is asked to investigate the deaths and determine who the culprit is.

REVIEW: Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light (live action TV series)

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light could be called a slice-of-life series, or maybe a family drama. It's very short. Each episode is only 25 or so minutes long, and there are only 8 episodes total, with the final episode partly devoted to an extra story involving two minor characters from the series.

This post includes slight spoilers.


I'm not sure how I feel about this. I had it in my Netflix queue for ages but only started watching it after I stumbled across several enthusiastic recommendations for it. Each recommendation talked about how surprisingly good and heart-warming it was despite essentially being a game ad.

The main characters are Hakutaro and Akio, a father and son. When Akio was very young, he and his father bonded over their mutual enjoyment of Final Fantasy. However, as Hakutaro was given more responsibilities at work, he ended up with less time to play video games. He became sterner and more unapproachable, to the point that grown-up Akio realized that they hadn't really talked in longer than he could remember.

One day, Hakutaro comes home with a shocking announcement: he has decided to retire. It was assumed that he'd become his company's next CEO, so this is a huge change. Although Hakutaro never discussed his decision to retire with his wife, she just rolls with it. Akio, meanwhile, decides to take this opportunity to try to rekindle his relationship with his father. He gives his father a gaming console and Final Fantasy XIV as a retirement present and begins his secret plan to befriend his father via the game. After they beat the final boss, he'll confess his true identity. However, things don't go quite as planned.

REVIEW: All Systems Red (e-novella) by Martha Wells

All Systems Red is science fiction.


Murderbot is a SecUnit that hacked its own governor module a while back. Instead of using its newfound freedom to go on a killing spree, it's been quietly putting a bare minimum amount of effort into its job in order to hide the massive amount of time and effort it's putting into surreptitiously consuming movies, serials, books, plays, and music. Its favorite serial is Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.

Murderbot's current job, acting as security for a small group of scientists, is fairly easy, up until a large carnivorous creature that wasn't mentioned anywhere in the region's hazard report tries to eat one of the scientists. The gaps in the data could be the result of corporate cost-cutting, but Murderbot soon suspects sabotage.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 4) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a fantasy series with historical elements due to the way the main character keeps getting transported back to his past life as an oiran. This is the final volume in the series.

Parts of my review might be considered spoilers.


It has become very clear that if Yukari can't figure out how to break his, Mahoro, and Satomi's connections to their past lives, then history will repeat itself whether they wish it to or not. Yukari learns that Yumurasaki's death was much more terrible and tragic than he realized, and he becomes determined to find a better solution than Mahoro/Takamura killing Satomi/Kazuma.

This is one of those rare short manga series that's actually pretty decent. It's a bit inconsistent throughout, and the first volume is, unfortunately, probably the weakest, but this final volume was excellent.

REVIEW: Due or Die (book) by Jenn McKinlay

Due or Die is the second book in McKinlay's Library Lovers Mysteries series.


This book takes place only three months after the last one - Briar Creek Library seems to attract murders. At any rate, this time around Lindsey's concern is the Friends of the Library. When they voted for their next president, they overwhelmingly opted to go with Carrie Rushton over their current president, Bill Sint. Lindsey silently approves of the change, but there's no denying that Bill's upset.

Unfortunately, not long after the vote Carrie's husband Markus is murdered in their home. Carrie doesn't have the best alibi, and Markus was known to be difficult to put up with. Did Carrie kill him so that she could finally be free of him? Lindsey's gut says no, and there's certainly no shortage of people who disliked Markus. A possibility that worries her: that Marjorie Bilson, a woman obsessed with Bill Sint, killed Markus as a way of getting back at Carrie and forcing the Friends to make Bill their president again. Unfortunately, Marjorie seems to blame Lindsey for Bill being voted out at least as much as she blames Carrie.

REVIEW: Paheli (live action movie)

Paheli is a Bollywood fantasy movie that stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji. Netflix has a ridiculous amount of Shah Rukh Khan's movies at the moment, so I decided I should try another one. I selected Paheli because Netflix's description called it "charming."

The movie starts with Lachchi marrying Kishan, the son of a rich merchant. She wants it to be a good marriage, but things are rocky right from the start. Kishan insults her for eating berries they found on the way back to his home (only "illiterates" would do that), spends their entire wedding night working on his accounting, and then tells Lachchi that he'll be leaving early in the morning to do some work for his father. He plans to be gone for the next five years.

Lachchi is deeply unhappy, but, luckily for her, she happened to be spotted by a spirit on the way to her husband's house. The spirit is madly in love with her and, upon learning that her husband would be gone for the next few years, decides to take his place. He uses his illusionist powers to take Kishan's form and take over his life, but he can't bring himself to lie to Lachchi. However, she's more than happy to accept the man who loves her and is currently with her over the man who abandoned her in order to go off and make money. Unfortunately, Lachchi and the spirit's happiness might be destroyed by Kishan's return.