Sunday, March 31, 2019

REVIEW: Chain Letter (book) by Christopher Pike

Chain Letter is YA horror, originally published in 1986. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Last summer, seven teens from the same high school went to a concert and, for various reasons, ended up riding back together (oh man, that car must have been cramped). They were drunk, rowdy, and stupid and ended up running someone over in the middle of the desert. Although a few of them wanted to talk to the police, in the end they all agreed to just bury the guy and forget about him.

In the book's present, one member of the group, Fran, has just received a creepy chain letter from someone calling themselves "Your Caretaker." The Caretaker says that Fran must perform a task that will be listed in the newspaper classified ads. Then she must cross her name off of the Column I list in her letter, put it at the bottom of Column II, make a copy of her letter, and send it on to the next person in the list, who is another one of the seven people who were in the car when the man was run over. The next person on the list must receive the letter within five days of Fran getting her letter.

The tasks the Caretaker asks them to do are initially relatively painless. Fran has to alter her painting of the school mascot in the gym. Kipp has to flunk an exam. However, the instant someone decides to defy the Caretaker and refuse to do their stated task, the Caretaker makes it clear that they mean business. If these teens want to avoid getting hurt or killed, they'll have to do what the Caretaker wants, no matter how much they'd prefer not to. The only other way out is to figure out who's behind the Caretaker. Is it one of them? Someone outside their group, watching their every move? Or possibly even the man in the desert. What if he wasn't really dead when they buried him?

REVIEW: Coffee Boy (e-novella) by Austin Chant

Coffee Boy is m/m contemporary romance. It's published by NineStar Press.

Review:

Kieran heads to his new internship at Heidi Norton's campaign office feeling nervous but hopeful. He's been told it's a trans-friendly workplace, and Marcus, the person who arranged his internship, is also a former professor of his, so he figures he'd have the benefit of knowing at least one person there. Unfortunately, he's almost immediately misgendered by one of his new coworkers, who seems confused and uncomfortable when he corrects her. Then he discovers that Marcus isn't there yet and he's going to have to deal with Seth, who immediately strikes him as stiff and intimidating. And also disconcertingly hot.

As Kieran gets used to his new internship, he learns that Seth isn't quite as intimidating as he first appeared, in part because Seth clearly has a major secret crush on Marcus, who is, unfortunately for Seth, both heterosexual and very happily married. To make matters worse, Kieran finds himself developing an awkward crush of his own on Seth.

REVIEW: Now You're One of Us (book) by Asa Nonami, translated by Michael Volek and Mitsuko Volek

Now You're One of Us is essentially Japanese gothic fiction. I got it via interlibrary loan.

I'm not sure if anything in this review counts as spoilers or not. Some details feels spoiler-y but do come up fairly early in the book.

Review:
 
Because they owe someone money, Noriko's parents agree to consider an arranged marriage between her and Kazuhito Shito. Kazuhito is handsome, kind, and wealthy. The marriage's main drawback is that Noriko would be expected to move away from her small town and live with Kazuhito and multiple generations of his family in their home in Tokyo. It makes Noriko nervous, but Kazuhito is wonderful and everyone in his family seems so nice when she meets them. In the end, she agrees to the marriage.

Everything goes well, for a while. Nobody's personality suddenly changes - everyone is just as friendly as when she and Kazuhito first met. It does turn out that Kazuhito wasn't immediately forthcoming about his mentally handicapped younger brother and bedridden grandfather, which Noriko worries is a sign that she'll be roped into being their caretaker, but thankfully that isn't the case. Everyone in the family supports each other, and disagreements are resolved by the family matriarch, Great Granny Ei.

Two months after her marriage to Kazuhito, Noriko's peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of a man from the nearby area. It turns out that the Shitos are his landlords and he hopes to get permission to pay his rent a little late this month. He also wants to tell Noriko something important but is interrupted by one of the Shitos before he gets the opportunity. After that, Noriko visits her parents for the first time since her marriage and comes back to discover that the man and his entire family died in a fire. It's arson, a suspected suicide, but Noriko begins to wonder. What had the man wanted to tell her? Did the Shitos murder him to prevent him from talking?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

REVIEW: The Subsidiary (book) by Matías Celedón, translated by Samuel Rutter

The Subsidiary is...experimental literary horror, I guess? I got it via interlibrary loan.

This review includes mild spoilers.

Review:

I went into this looking for office/corporate horror. I suppose I got that, to a certain extent, but this turned out to be a much more artsy and experimental book than I had hoped for.

The book's gimmick is that it's written/produced using actual office stamps. As a result, each page usually only has about 1-4 short lines of text.

At the beginning, readers are told that this is being written by an office worker at the subsidiary, using only the stamps found around the office. On June 5, 2008, workers are told that there will be a power supply interruption between 8:30 AM and 8:00 PM and that they are to remain at their workstations. The doors are locked, and the phone lines are down. The power outage goes on for a good deal longer than planned, but things at the subsidiary become hellish for the women in only 24 hours, if I interpreted things correctly.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Tacoma is free over at Humble Bundle for the next 22 hours, or while supplies last

I reviewed the game a while back. It's a story in videogame form, in which you're an investigator looking into an incident at a space station that was populated by 6 humans, their cat, and an AI named ODIN.

It's definitely worth trying for free. You can get it here.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

REVIEW: Office (live action movie)

[This review includes slight spoilers.]

Office is a South Korean thriller/horror movie. (I made the mistake of not writing people's names down as I was watching and had to rely on wiki posts for name spellings. Apologies if any of the names in my review are incorrect.)

Mr. Kim is an office worker who goes home one day, has dinner with his family, and then beats them all to death with a hammer. He then disappears before the police can find and arrest him. As the police interview his coworkers, it's clear that they aren't being truthful, but what are they hiding?

Mi-rye is an intern in Mr. Kim's section. Of all her coworkers, Mr. Kim was the only one who treated her well. It hurts to think of him as having done something so horrible, and it hurts that she and others in the office are required to continue working as though nothing happened. She's also been explicitly told - threatened, in fact - to not tell the police anything she might know about Mr. Kim and his motives for killing his family. But Mi-rye is being pushed to her limit as well. She's been an intern for 5 months when most interns are given full-time employee status at 3 months, and her coworkers constantly make snide comments behind her back. Although she's afraid of the gift Mr. Kim left her, part of her is drawn to it as well.

REVIEW: Aggretsuko: Season 1 (anime TV series)

Aggretsuko is a Japanese comedy series. Each episode is fairly short, only about 15 minutes long. I mostly watched it in the morning, before heading off to work.

Retsuko is a 25-year-old red panda who started her accounting job with high hopes and stars in her eyes. Now that she's been there a while, however, those sparkly feelings are gone and all that's left is suppressed rage she only lets out in her solo end-of-the-day death metal karaoke sessions. No one knows about her love for death metal karaoke, not even her best friends at work.

As the series progresses, Retsuko finds occasional glimmers of hope that she might be able to leave her horrible job behind. She also finds things - friendship, romance - that make her current job a little more livable.

REVIEW: Salvation of a Saint (audiobook) by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith, narrated by David Pittu

Salvation of a Saint is a Japanese mystery novel. In the U.S., it's being marketed as the second book in the author's Detective Galileo series. Judging by the Wikipedia page for the author, that may be true in Japan as well, although there are Detective Galileo short story collections that came out prior to the first full novel that are not available in English.

Review:

When Yoshitaka married his wife, Ayane, it was on the understanding that she would at some point become pregnant. It has now been a year of trying, and still no baby. Yoshitaka sees marriage without children as pointless, so he informs Ayane that the two of them are done. Not only that, but he already has another potential mother of his children lined up. Ayane appears to quietly accept this, but in reality she has decided to put a plan into effect, something involving white powder.

A short while after Ayane and Yoshitaka's conversation, Ayane leaves to spend some time with her parents and some old friends. She provides her apprentice, Hiromi, with a spare key, just in case. As it turns out, Hiromi is Yoshitaka's secret lover. Hiromi makes Yoshitaka some coffee, and the two of them contemplate their future together. All appears well until Hiromi tries to contact Yoshitaka before their next planned date. When she gets to the house, she discovers him dead. The police determine that that the coffee he made himself was poisoned, and it isn't long before they start digging into Hiromi and Yoshitaka's secret relationship together.

Hiromi had access to the house and had even used Yoshitaka's coffee-making supplies and equipment shortly before Yoshitaka drank his poisoned cup. However, she had no motive, and it's unclear how and when she might have added the poison. Ayane had a motive but was nowhere near her husband when the poisoning happened, and if she'd sabotaged any of the coffee-making supplies or tools, Hiromi should have been poisoned as well when she and Yoshitaka made coffee together. It's up to police detectives Kusanagi and Utsumi to figure out what happened.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

REVIEW: Suddenly Royal (book) by Nichole Chase

Suddenly Royal is contemporary romance.

Review:

Samantha Rousseau barely even notices the royals visiting her college campus. She's a wildlife biology grad student specializing in raptors. Between taking care of injured raptors, teaching classes, convincing her truck to keep working, and dealing with her stepfather's medical bills, there isn't much time in her life for anything else. Then she gets invited to what she thinks is dinner with a potential donor, only to be told that she's one of Lilaria's lost royals. The queen wants to reinstate her title and lands, which would mean leaving her studies and life in Minnesota behind. On the plus side, Lilaria is supposed to have an excellent healthcare system - they might have more effective treatments for her stepfather's prostate cancer, and it would certainly be better for her finances.

It's a lot for Samantha to think about, and unfortunately there isn't much quiet time for thinking. Reporters immediately start swarming, and her classes are suddenly filled with people who definitely aren't interested in birds. Then there's the gorgeous and enticing Prince Alex. Is he really as interested in her as he seems, or is he just trying to convince her to go to Lilaria and accept her title? And even if he is interested in her, what sort of relationship could she, an American who knows nothing about royal life and can't speak a word of Lilarian, hope to have with a prince?
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