Thursday, December 31, 2020

A look back at 2020

I used to do more thorough "end of the year" posts, with "best" and "worst" lists, stats, etc. The last time I did anything like that was at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017. I figured I'd try to get back to something like that at the end of this year, but less methodical.

So, here goes. As with just about everybody, the pandemic was an issue for me this year, although thankfully it hasn't directly affected me or any of my family members. Neither I nor they have gotten sick or lost jobs so far (although I did have a couple ER visits that were made scarier by the knowledge that, if things got worse, there might not be anyplace else to send me). I worked from home part-time, which was nice in some ways and sucked in others, and I've been back to my physical workplace for some time now, although meetings are thankfully almost all still virtual. I didn't go visit my parents in October/November the way I usually do, so I didn't have my usual vacation manga binge, but I still got quite a bit read during the year.

I got into needle felting at the end of the year, although sometimes I think I like the supplies and the books more than actually doing the felting. We'll see if I'm still doing this craft by the end of 2021, or if I have just have a bunch of rusty needles and a tub of unused wool and doll eyes.

REVIEW: The Goes Wrong Show, Season 1 (live action TV series)

The Goes Wrong Show is a British comedy series. I watched it on Amazon Prime.


An amateur drama society performs a new play each week. Unfortunately, due to set disasters, actor personalities, script problems and other issues, the plays always go horribly wrong. The actors do their best to continue on, despite everything.

The first season has six episodes, each focusing on a different play. The order in which you watch the episodes doesn't really seem to matter, and in fact Amazon's order doesn't seem to match the original broadcast order at all.

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal the Galaxy! (book) by Dan Abnett

Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal the Galaxy is an original Guardians of the Galaxy novel set in the Marvel Universe. I bought my copy brand new.

This review contains things that might be considered slight spoilers.


This is narrated in the present tense by Recorder 127 of the Rigellian Intergalactic Survey. For some reason, 127 has odd blanks in his memory. He knows lots of things and can apply that knowledge in useful ways, but he has no idea why Roamer, a Spaceknight mercenary, keeps showing up and trying to capture him.

Rocket Raccoon sees potential profit in Recorder 127, so he and Groot do their best to stay by his side and keep the Spaceknight from taking him. Plus, Rocket's happy to have an excuse to shoot at all the trouble that keeps following both him and 127 around.

Meanwhile, Timely Inc. is the most powerful corporation in the galaxy, and they have plans to become even more powerful still. They just need to get their hands on Recorder 127 first.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

REVIEW: What the Font?!: A Manga Guide to Western Typeface (nonfiction manga) by Kuniichi Ashiya, translated by Jocelyne Allen

What the Font?! is a one-shot edutainment manga. It's licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy brand new.

Although the story isn't the point, this review does include a potential spoiler for the story aspect of this manga.


Note: I realize that I use "typeface" and "font" pretty much interchangeably in this review, even though they're not really the same thing. But trying to figure out when to use one vs. the other was too confusing, so I left it as is.

Marusu works in the Sales department of a small company. The company's designer has gone AWOL, so Marusu is roped into laying out a proposal, the reasoning being that she can draw a little and is therefore best suited to fill in for the designer. However, she's definitely out of her depth and knows nothing about typefaces. That's when Helvetica, the personification of the Helvetica typeface, suddenly appears. He offers to introduce her to other typefaces, who can then each tell her a little about themselves, their specialties, and ways in which they've been used.

The book begins with sans serif types (Helvetica, Futura, Gill Sans, Arial, Franklin Gothic, Impact, Frutiger, DIN, Optima, Gotham), then moves on to the Roman (serif) types (Caslon, Garamond, Times New Roman, Bodoni, Didot, Clarendon, Rockwell, Centaur, Jenson). After that, it covers a few examples of script (Zapfino, Mistral, Comic Sans), display (Trajan, Peignot), and blackletter (Fette Fraktur) fonts.

Each font is introduced with a few pages of four-panel comics in which Marusu gets to know their personalities, work, and history a bit better. The margins contain a little extra information. Then at the end of their section there's a page of notes about the font (or fonts - some are covered in pairs): their category, classification, year of creation, designer(s), foundry, more detailed information about their history and creation, and a usage example or two. After that, there's a page with the font's upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers.

Each larger section (sans serif, Roman, other styles) ends with additional notes and images of logos or other things that use those fonts. The book ends with an attempt to give a more chronological perspective of all the typefaces covered. And of course Marusu finishes laying out the proposal. A list of references is included at the very end of the book.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

REVIEW: Little Felted Animals: Create 16 Irresistible Creatures With Simple Needle-Felting Techniques (nonfiction book) by Marie-Noëlle Horvath

Little Felted Animals is a needle felting craft book.


I got a copy of this via interlibrary loan so that I could evaluate whether it would be worth buying for my personal collection.

This begins with a supplies and tips page (one specific item I haven't seen in other books: cotton piping cord), very brief info about wool (mentions combed and carded wool, but does not used the words "roving" or "batting"), and instructions for sewing on eyes. Then there are detailed instructions, with small colored photographs, for three basic body shapes: birds (example used: blackbird), short-legged animals (example used: rabbit), and long-legged animals (example used: cat - I would not have considered this a long-legged animal, but okay).

After that comes the patterns for the various projects. These are always set up the same way: first come the full-page photographs of each animal in the section, then two pages for each project, one with a photograph of the finished project and all the necessary supplies and one with a brief written overview of the steps, a life-size line drawing of the parts and the finished project, and a list of finishing touches you can do to make the final project look its best.

The various patterns included are: a penguin, a polar bear, a baby seal, a blackbird, a bunny, a Chartreux cat, a Welsh Corgi, a koala, a Turkish Van cat, a robin, a brown bear, a fox, a mouse. a sheep, a Dalmatian, and sitting and standing versions of a Jack Russell Terrier.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

REVIEW: Eternal Love (book) written by Mizumi Takaoka, illustrated by Yukariko Jissohji, translated by Translation By Design

Eternal Love is contemporary m/m romance published under Digital Manga Publishing's Juné imprint. I bought my copy used. I think it might be out of print in physical form, but copies are still available for relatively cheap, and the e-book is available for purchase. 


Tomoyuki works for the planning department of a Japanese trading company. When he's told that his company requires someone proficient in English and Arabic to travel to England for an emergency business trip, he thinks nothing of it. However, it turns out the trip is a sham arranged by Tomoyuki's ex-lover, Aswil al-Murshid. Six years ago, Tomoyuki had fallen in love with Aswil, only to have his heart broken at the revelation that Aswil was next in line for the throne of the country of Madina. 

There's no way Tomoyuki could ever have a future with a man like that, so he's confused and upset when Aswil suddenly shows up and has him kidnapped. The two of them can't marry, and Aswil will soon be marrying someone else, so does Aswil mean to keep him like some sort of mistress? As much as Tomoyuki still loves the man, he doesn't think he can live that kind of life. But will it be possible for him to escape?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

REVIEW: A Perfect Square (book) by Vannetta Chapman

A Perfect Square is an Amish mystery. My copy is an ARC that I picked up at a conference years ago, so this has been out for quite some time. This is the second book in Chapman's Shipshewana Amish Mystery series.


A young Amish woman is found dead in a pond with the back of her head bloodied. Although it appears that she was a stranger to Shipshewana, there are indications that Reuben, the owner of the land where she died, knew her. Unfortunately, Reuben refuses to speak to the police, and Tobias (his cousin) and Esther (Tobias's fiancee) are worried that he'll be blamed for a murder they're sure he didn't commit.

Deborah (an Amish woman) and Callie (an Englischer - a non-Amish person) do what they can to help their friends, but with Reuben refusing to say anything in his own defense, their options are limited. Meanwhile, a young Amish man is hiding in the woods - he knew the dead girl, and he may be the key to this mystery.

REVIEW: Violet Evergarden: The Complete Series (anime TV series)

Violet Evergarden is a slice-of-life series set in a historical-ish fantasy world (no magic, but the main character has highly functional prosthetic arms and the locations are all fictional). I bought my copy brand new.


When Violet Evergarden awakens in a hospital, her sole focus is on learning how to use her new prosthetic arms so that she can rejoin Major Gilbert Bougainvillea and be useful to him. However, the war is now over, and although everyone keeps saying that the Major is fine, no one will tell her where he is. All his friend Claudia Hodgins will say is that the Major left her in his care.

As Violet helps out at Claudia's postal company, she realizes she wants to become one of the company's Auto Memory Dolls. Auto Memory Dolls deal with clients who either can't write or who want to put difficult emotions into words - they write the letters their clients can't, communicating their clients' emotions to the letter recipients. Violet's hope is that becoming an Auto Memory Doll will help her understand the last words the Major ever said to her, "I love you."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

REVIEW: Adorable Felted Animals: 30 Easy & Incredibly Lifelike Needle Felted Pals (nonfiction book) by Sareee, Satomi Fujita, Campanella, and s@chi

Adorable Felted Animals is a crafting book for needle felters. I bought my copy brand new.


This book contains instructions for making a variety of felted animals: a Japanese Shiba, a Hokkaido dog, a long-haired Miniature Dachshund, a long-haired Chihuahua, a rabbit (sitting or standing poses), a Golden Retriever (laying down or standing poses), a Labrador Retriever, a Toy Poodle, a Pomeranian, a Pug, a short-haired Dachshund, a Shih Tzu, a Welsh Terrier, six breeds of cats (Siamese, American Tabby, Chinchilla Silver, Norwegian Forest, Abyssinian, and Munchkin) in a variety of poses, several birds (Budgerigar, Java Finch, Cockatiel, Red-breasted Parakeet, White Java Finch, and Peach-faced Lovebird), ferrets (adult and baby), hamsters, chubby baby rabbits in felt boxes, and four different dogs designed as phone strap decorations (Shiba, Hokkaido dog, Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Dachshund).

Although the title says this book contains instructions for "30 needle felted pals," as you can see, it really depends on how you count them. While there are indeed a lot of projects in this book, quite a few of them are variations of the same kind of animal. In some cases, this can be excused because four different artists (Sareee, Satomi Fujita, Campanella, and s@chi) contributed designs, and a rabbit designed by one person can look quite different than one designed by another. Still, it can be a bit repetitive. The cats, for example, are all designed by Campanella and are essentially just slight variations of the same general idea. As someone who is currently striving to make a good-looking needle felted cat, I appreciate seeing those variations and how they're accomplished, but anyone who isn't interested in that might find themselves annoyed.

Of all the needle felting books I own, this one is the most disappointing. The way the book is structured is terrible. It begins with full-color photos and descriptions of each project and a page devoted to materials and tools. Then there are fairly detailed but incomplete instructions for creating the Golden Retriever puppy (laying down pose), with full-color photographs. All of that is as expected, except for the bit in the instructions that directs you to another part of the book for the list of necessary materials and order in which you're supposed to make and assemble the parts.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

REVIEW: Robopocalypse (book) by Daniel H. Wilson

Robopocalypse is a sci-fi action novel. I bought my copy used.

This review includes slight spoilers.


This novel is set up as though it were a record, reconstructed from video and audio footage, of humanity's struggle to survive against an intelligent AI that has decided that humans have served their purpose and can now cease to exist. 

In the beginning, Archos, an intelligent AI, breaks free of its confines and kills its creator. Over the course of many months, it overrides the programming of robots across the planet, making them kill or enslave all humans they see. However, with the combined efforts of several individuals in various geographic locations, all is not lost. Cormac Wallace is one such survivor, and it is he who constructs the "hero archive," the record of all the actions taken and work done by those who helped defeat Archos.

REVIEW: When No One is Watching (audiobook) by Alyssa Cole, narrated by Susan Dalian and Jay Aaseng

When No One is Watching is a thriller, or at least it's marketed as one. I checked it out via one of my library Overdrive accounts.

This review includes slight spoilers.


This alternates between two POVs: Sydney, a black woman who was born and raised in Brooklyn, and Theo, a white guy who recently moved into the neighborhood with his wealthy girlfriend. Both of them are struggling with weights on their shoulders - Sydney has her mother's medical bills to worry about, and Theo was recently laid off and is being increasingly frozen out by his girlfriend.

Sydney's neighborhood is becoming unrecognizable - long-time neighbors leaving and shops she's gone to for years closing and getting replaced, sometimes practically overnight. As Sydney begins researching the area's history, with Theo's assistance, the two of them gradually realize there's something sinister going on.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

REVIEW: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya: The Movie (anime movie)

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is SFF. I checked out my copy via the library.

This review contains slight spoilers.


If you haven't seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, stop reading this review and go watch that instead. Even just reading this review will ruin things about the original series for you, and it's difficult-to-impossible to follow along with this movie if you haven't seen the original series or aren't otherwise aware of the basics of this franchise.

Now that you've been warned, on to the synopsis. Haruhi has decided that everyone in the SOS Brigade will be celebrating Christmas together, cooking and eating an illegal hotpot meal in the club room, wearing costumes, etc. Kyon, as usual, is less than enthusiastic but doesn't even try to change Haruhi's mind, because he knows better - once she has an idea in her head, she's going to make it happen. And of course everyone else in the club just wants Haruhi to stay happy so that she doesn't accidentally remake or end the world with the godlike powers she doesn't even realize she has.

Then one morning Kyon wakes up as usual and goes to school as usual, only to find that a lot of people suddenly have colds. Even Haruhi seems to be affected, or so Kyon assumes, until he learns that Haruhi's seat now belongs to Asakura, the being who once tried to kill him. No one seems to remember who Haruhi is at all, and everyone who used to be unusual in some way is now normal or just plain gone. What happened? Who was responsible? Can Kyon get his old world back, and does he even want that?

Sunday, December 13, 2020

REVIEW: Bungo Stray Dogs, Season Two (anime TV series)

Bungo Stray Dogs is a fantasy action series licensed by Funimation. I bought my copy brand new.


Season 2 of Bungo Stray Dogs begins with a flashback to Dazai's final days in the Port Mafia, focusing on one of Dazai's few friends, Sakunosuke Oda. After that, the story turns back to the present, in which the Armed Detective Agency finds itself up against the Guild, an American organization whose leader, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, wants the agency's "Skilled Business Permit." The permit is what allows the Armed Detective Agency to operate, so Fukuzawa of course refuses to hand it over, and so the Guild essentially declares war on both the agency and Yokohama, the city that houses it.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

REVIEW: Moon of Three Rings (book) by Andre Norton

Moon of Three Rings is science fiction with a heavy fantasy flavor. It was originally published in 1966 and appears to be the first in Norton's Moon Magic series. I bought my copy used.


This is the story of Krip Vorlund, a Free Trader, and Maelen, a Singer of the Thassa people of the planet Yiktor. Krip came to Yiktor hoping, as all young Free Traders do, to stumble across something that might make his fortune. He finds himself drawn to a beast show (basically a circus, although the text makes it sound more mystical than that) run by a beautiful and mysterious Thassa woman named Maelen. Maelen's goal is to one day add a barsk (a dangerous dog-like creature) to her group of "little people," and to one day perhaps take her beast show to space and other planets.

Unfortunately for both Krip and Maelen, there are dangerous politics at work, people who want power and the advanced weaponry Free Traders have access to (or so I understood - I admit that I lost track of the political aspects after a while). Maelen, her motivations a tangle, saves Krip's life but leaves him so changed that he wonders if it was worth it. The question then, is whether she can manage to make things right again, and what the ultimate price will be.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

REVIEW: Cutie and the Beast (manga, vol. 1) by Yuhi Azumi, translated by Angela Liu

Cutie and the Beast is a contemporary romance manga. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.


Momoka is a huge pro wrestling fan, and her absolute favorite is Kuga, a big and burly heel (bad guy). Kuga is 29 and used to most of his fans being male, so he's pleased when a female fan keeps cheering him on on Twitter. Momoka finally gets the courage to go to one of his matches, and the two meet in person afterward and hit it off. The problem? Kuga assumed she was in her twenties, and Momoka is actually an 18-year-old high school student.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

REVIEW: Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch If You've Got a Ringer, Vol. 2 (book) by Tsukikage, illustrations by bob, translated by Caleb DeMarais

Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch If You've Got a Ringer is, technically, a Japanese isekai fantasy light novel. However, instead of focusing on the character who's been transported to a new world, it focuses on a priest from that world. 

This is licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.


Nao (who's most often referred to as Toudou, so maybe I should switch to that) and her party have ventured into Yutith's Tomb, a place novice priests often go to level up. It should be easy for a Holy Warrior like Toudou, except for one thing: she's deathly afraid of most of the undead.

Ares, who still thinks Toudou is a womanizing guy, continues to try to assist her without her being aware of it. That means helping Toudou with her fear of the undead, leveling her up, and somehow adding a priest to Toudou's party, since she kicked Ares out. Unfortunately, Toudou, Limis, and Aria have crossed paths with one of the last people Ares ever wanted them to meet: the crusader Gregorio Legins, also known as the Mad Eater. So now he has to keep them safe from Gregorio as well...

Saturday, November 28, 2020

REVIEW: Sweet & Simple Needle Felted Animals: A Step-By-Step Visual Guide (nonfiction book) by Sachiko Susa, translated by Leeyong Soo

Sweet & Simple Needle Felted Animals is a crafting book. I bought my copy brand new.


Of the four needle felting books I now own, this is the one I'd most recommend to beginners. It has an excellent variety of projects and actually talks about things like "how do I know when I'm done poking the wool?" and why it's best to make the parts smaller at first and then build them up gradually. It sticks to the absolute basics of needle felting and, as far as I can tell, doesn't even mention wire armatures or flocking, and none of the designs require either of these things.

Like every other one of these books I've seen, it starts with a section on tools and materials. Finger guards are listed as being optional, and lol no they are not, unless you're extremely careful. This section includes a nice "grams to ounces" chart that's helpful if you're in the US and your scale for wool measuring (which isn't strictly necessary, but is helpful for at least determining if you have enough wool for the project) doesn't have a setting for grams.

Friday, November 27, 2020

REVIEW: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady: An Enola Holmes Mystery (book) by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady is the second book in Springer's Enola Holmes mystery series. In terms of its intended audience, I still think it's probably aimed at older Middle Grade or younger YA readers.


Enola is still in London, and has thus far still managed to stay free of her brothers and the restrictions they'd impose upon her. Granted, only Sherlock is looking for her very hard.

Enola now cycles between three different identities: Ivy Meshle, the secretary of the fictitious Dr. Ragostin, who supposedly specializes in finding missing people; Mrs. Ragostin, the naive child-bride of Dr. Ragostin; and the "Sister of the Streets," a mute nun who walks the poorest parts of London at night, giving out blankets, food, and occasional coins. An encounter with Dr. Watson reveals that Sherlock knows more about her current situation than she expected, so she attempts to contact her mother for advice and tries to find out what else Sherlock might know. In addition, she investigates a case that Sherlock rejected, the disappearance of Lady Cecily, daughter of Sir Eustace Alistair.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

REVIEW: Needle Felted Kittens: How to Create Cute and Lifelike Cats From Wool (nonfiction book) by Hinali, translated by Victoria Oyama

Needle Felted Kittens is technically a crafting book, but it could also be viewed as an artbook. I bought my copy brand new.


This book presents examples of Hinali's needle felting work and provides instructions for creating six different cats (well, five cats and a head).

The initial pages feature gorgeous full-color photos of Hinali's cats, and one hamster. The next sections cover the materials Hinali uses (with mentions of specific brands and products that can only be obtained in Japan), a couple techniques for blending wool, the tools Hinali uses, needle use advice, tips for cutting wool so that it looks more like real cat fur, cat proportions, and the three primary needling techniques Hinali uses. There's also a brief Q&A section.

The first set of instructions, for the little orange and white tabby kitten, are the most detailed (although it should be noted that even the tabby kitten instructions don't say how much wool the project requires, not even a ballpark amount). After that, the instructions mostly stick to body posing advice, how to fill out the wire armature with core wool, and which needling techniques to use on which parts of the body.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

REVIEW: Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 2 (book) by FUNA, illustrated by Itsuki Akata, translated by Diana Taylor

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is Japanese fantasy, specifically isekai. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.


The beginning of this book reminds readers that the princess Mile (who was then Adele) saved is still looking for her and thinks that she's the avatar of a goddess. The bulk of the story has nothing to do with that, however. Instead, the focus is on Mile's new life as a hunter, taking on jobs with her all-girl party, the Crimson Vow.

The girls decide to start taking on more difficult jobs in order to test their skills and gain more experience. Just figuring out which situations are difficult for them and which are easy is helpful. However, then Reina proposes that they gain experience fighting human opponents - fighting monsters is one thing, but what if they can't bring themselves to go all out against other humans when necessary? And so they find a promising looking merchant escort job.

Friday, October 30, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess (book) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess is either a YA or Middle Grade historical mystery, depending on where you check. The writing felt Middle Grade to me, but due to some of the content (Enola stumbling across the poor beggar woman whose scalp had been completely taken over with ringworm, for example), I'd say probably the older end of the Middle Grade range or younger end of YA. 

This is the first book in Springer's Enola Holmes series, and the book upon which the new Netflix movie was based. I bought my copy of this brand new.


On Enola's fourteenth birthday, her mother disappears. Once she realizes what's happened and that her mother is nowhere nearby, Enola contacts her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, who she hasn't seen since she was four, figuring that they, as brilliant as they are, could help. Instead, they seem more concerned about the condition of the estate and what Enola has been doing for the past ten years. Mycroft had been sending their mother funds for household expenses since their father died ten years ago, and she had apparently been squirreling that money away for her eventual escape. Enola, who is not pleased with Mycroft's plans to send her to boarding school, can understand her motive for what she did, but there is one question she desperately wants answered: why didn't her mother bring her with her when she left?

Using the gifts her mother left for her, Enola sets off to try answer that question but stumbles across a completely different mystery in the process: the missing Viscount Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwether.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 3 (book) by Okina Baba, illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is fantasy, specifically isekai. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Spider MC continues her quest to find a way out of the Middle Stratum and hopefully out of the labyrinth entirely. Unfortunately, she has discovered one of the drawbacks of defeating the fire wyrm at the end of the previous book: she's now so powerful and fearsome that weaker monsters avoid her, making it difficult for her to find food. And even then, there are still monsters around who are scarier and much more powerful than she is, namely Mother (the massive spider who gave birth to her) and Earth Dragon Araba.

Shun, meanwhile, has inherited the Hero title after his beloved older brother's death. The Hero title isn't normally passed down to members of the same family, so Shun never expected to become the next one and doesn't feel like he's even close to being as amazing as his brother was. Unfortunately, some shocking developments upend his life even further.

Monday, October 26, 2020

REVIEW: Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung (live action TV series)

Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung is a Korean historical drama with romantic aspects. I watched it on Netflix.

This is set during the Joseon dynasty. Goo Hae-Ryung is an intelligent young woman who, rather than getting married, wants to become one of the first female historians in the royal court. Meanwhile, Prince Dowon, the less beloved younger son of the king, has spent his life confined to the palace, not permitted to take part in politics or life in the royal court. He passes the time by secretly writing wildly popular romance novels and can't stand it when he overhears Hae-Ryung's less-than-positive assessment of them. 

After Hae-Ryung becomes an apprentice historian, her and Prince Dowon's paths become intertwined. Together, they eventually uncover the secrets at the root of both their pasts.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

REVIEW: The Twisted Ones (audiobook) by T. Kingfisher, narrated by Hillary Huber

The Twisted Ones is horror/dark fantasy. I first read a paper copy a few months ago, and I recently listened to the audio version via an Overdrive.


Melissa, called Mouse by everyone who knows her, is asked by her dad to go clean out her dead grandmother's house. What her dad failed to mention was that her grandmother was a hoarder. The house is horrible, but not a biohazard, so Mouse hunkers down and gets to work, with her hound Bongo for company.

One of the things Mouse finds is her stepgrandfather's journal. He showed signs of dementia, and Mouse's grandmother was almost certainly abusing him, preventing him from sleeping and taking things that were important to him. However, there are also signs that he might have known about something strange going on in the area, something connected to the hill that shouldn't exist that Mouse and Bongo accidentally stumble across.

REVIEW: Dewey Decimated (book) by Charles A. Goodrum

Dewey Decimated is the first book in Goodrum's Werner-Bok Library Mysteries series. I checked it out from my library.


Betty Crighton Jones (called Crighton from here on out) is the press officer for the Werner-Bok Library in Washington, D.C. Some recent developments are making her job particularly stressful. Anonymous letters sent to various members of the media claim that several of the Werner-Bok's rare books are, in fact, fakes, and it's starting to put the Library's reputation at risk. Not only that, but Murchison DeVeer, the Head of the Manuscripts Division, claims he knows that something fishy is going on in the Rare Books Division. 

In a effort to deal with the anonymous note situation as quietly and quickly as possible, the library director, Brooks, invites Dr. George, a respected retired librarian, to look into the situation in the guise of doing research for a book. Brooks assigns Crighton to be George's guide/assistant. Shortly before George arrives, however, DeVeer ends up dead in an apparent accident. Was DeVeer the one responsible for the notes, and is the problem now solved? Or is something more sinister going on?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

REVIEW: Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection (audiobook) by Don Roff, narrated by Stephen R. Thorne (and others)

Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection is horror, with enough focus on the science of zombies that you could also call it science fiction. I checked my copy out via one of my library Overdrive accounts.

This review includes major spoilers.


Dr. Robert Twombly is a biologist who attempts to deal with the sudden zombie apocalypse by keeping a record of his experiences, in the hope that it might help others. The audiobook is set up like it's his field recording (we're told that he has several boxes of batteries - somehow he manages to lug these around with him wherever he goes). Although Twombly's account is the primary focus, he occasionally finds traveling companions whose stories he also records. This came across more like an audio drama, with occasional background sounds, than an audiobook (based on its Goodreads page, the print version may be a graphic novel?).

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What? (book, vol. 2) by Okina Baba, illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is a Japanese fantasy novel, specifically isekai (portal fantasy, basically). It's published by Yen On. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes mild spoilers.


Spider MC is back, and she's finally made it to the Middle Stratum. Unfortunately for her, it's filled with pools of magma and fire-wielding monsters, and she's incredibly weak against fire. Not only that, but her spider silk burns up in seconds, meaning that her primary weapon is now useless. However, going back to the Lower Stratum doesn't seem like a good option, so she's going to have to focus on leveling up her other skills and get creative in order to survive and eventually make it back to the Upper Stratum.

Meanwhile, Shun, Katia, and Sue are now training at a special academy, and Shun and Katia have met most of the other reincarnated students that Ms. Oka talked about. However, there are two remaining ones that she refuses to say anything about. For some reason, they cannot be brought to the academy. While Shun is training, Julius, Shun's Hero older brother, is off fighting high-level monsters and growing increasingly concerned about the potential for a large-scale war.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

REVIEW: Winchester (live action movie)

Winchester is a historical horror movie originally released in 2018. I watched it on Netflix.

This review includes spoilers.


Dr. Eric Price is a man haunted by the death of his wife. At the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, he agrees to stay at Sarah Winchester's mansion in order to evaluate her mental health. Sarah has been having her mansion renovated nonstop for a while now, and she claims her family is cursed to be haunted by the shadows or ghosts of those killed by her company's firearms. As Dr. Price attempts to investigate what he views as Sarah's delusions, he becomes concerned about Sarah's young nephew.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

REVIEW: Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (manga, vol. 1) by Aka Akasaka, translated by Emi Louie-Nishikawa

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is a romantic comedy series licensed by VIZ. I bought my copy brand new.


Kaguya Shinomiya is elite Shuchiin Academy's student council vice president. Her family is wealthy and influential, and Kaguya is a highly intelligent girl who is used to viewing every interaction as a potential power struggle. Miyuki Shirogane is the student council president. His family is neither wealthy nor influential, but he's dedicated to his studies and still manages to earn everyone's respect.

There is a rumor going around that Kaguya and Miyuki are going out. In reality, although they're both secretly interested in each other, neither one is willing to admit it. Kaguya views love as a battle in which the first one to confess is the loser, and Miyuki is keenly aware of the difference in their classes and thinks Kaguya is constantly looking down on him. Neither of them wants to lose by being the first to confess to the other.

REVIEW: Twelve Angry Librarians (book) by Miranda James

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in James' A Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series. I bought my copy used.


Due to events in the previous book (which I haven't read and which this book's text was vague about, probably to avoid spoilers for those reading the series out of order), Charlie Harris is now the interim library director at Athena College's library. This year's Southern Academic Libraries Association (SALA) conference is being held at Athena College, so Charlie has that on his plate, as well various personal concerns. His interim position is prompting him to think whether he might want to be library director on a more permanent basis, his daughter and her husband might be moving away shortly after she gives birth, and his son's wife is also pregnant.

Charlie is less than pleased when he learns that one of the conference's keynote speakers is Gavin Fong, a slimeball who hit on his wife back in library school and was generally unpleasant. It doesn't take long to see that Gavin hasn't improved over the years, and he manages to make a few more people angry before dying, apparently of cyanide poisoning.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes (live action movie)

Enola Holmes is a historical mystery movie based on Nancy Springer's Middle Grade book The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first in Springer's Enola Holmes series. The movie is a Netflix Original.


When Enola Holmes was very young, her father died and her brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, went off to live their own lives, leaving her and her mother alone together. Enola's mother had very unique ideas about how to raise a young girl, and so instead of having a governess and learning how to be a proper young lady, Enola instead read every book in the family library, learned to fight, and solved cryptograms and word jumbles.

And then, on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola's mother vanishes. She clearly left of her own free will, and Enola is distraught - she had thought she and her mother were happy together, so why did her mother leave her behind? Mycroft and Holmes arrive in order to assess the situation and deal with her. Mycroft intends to send Enola to a finishing school and Holmes clearly intends to stand back and let him. In the nick of time, Enola discovers some messages her mother left for her and escapes to London, hoping to track her mother down herself. While doing this, she becomes embroiled in another mystery, that of the missing young Viscount Tewkesbury.

REVIEW: The Fate of Mercy Alban (audiobook) by Wendy Webb, narrated by Kristen Potter

The Fate of Mercy Alban is a blend of horror and mystery but does not, I think, qualify as gothic fiction. I checked it out via one of the library Overdrive accounts I have access to.

This review includes major spoilers. If you'd like to read a spoiler-tagged version, I cross-post on Goodreads and LibraryThing.


Years ago, Grace Alban left her family home, determined to escape the painful events that haunted her. The unexpected death of her mother brings her back to Alban House, with her teen daughter in tow. It turns out that Grace's mother had intended to tell a reporter about some of the Alban family's secrets. Was it the Alban family's curse that killed her?

As Grace tries to figure out what the next steps will be for her and Alban House and introduces her daughter to some of Alban House's more benign secrets (nifty secret passageways), she begins to uncover things about her family that even she was unaware of.

REVIEW: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (book) by Susanna Clarke, illustrations by Portia Rosenberg

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is historical fantasy. I bought my copy used.


The book begins in 1806. Although England still has magicians, they are all simply theoretical magicians, endlessly discussing, writing about, and researching the topic. They occasionally discuss the loss of practical magic, but it's the existence of Mr. Norrell that really shines a light on that topic, because Mr. Norrell is rumored to be an actual practical magician. He is also generally inclined to stay at home, with his enormous library. At least until he finally decides to venture outside and restore magic to England. 

However, Mr. Norrell is very particular about how he'd like magic to be restored. He believes that he is the only one fit to practice it, and his ideas about magic are the only ones fit to be in print. He manages to make most of England's theoretical magicians abandon their studies and becomes determined to be England's most important (and only) practical magician, aiding his country in the Napoleonic Wars. In his desire to gain the right connections, he does something that seems wondrous at first but gradually becomes a terrible act that affects multiple people's lives.

Approximately 100 pages into this, Jonathan Strange is finally introduced, and approximately 100 pages after that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell finally meet. A bit of carelessness on Mr. Norrell's part has resulted in Strange being England's second practical magician, and he eventually becomes Mr. Norrell's student. He's a very different sort of person and magician: better able to make friends and relate to others, and more willing to adapt and try new magic.

Although Strange and Norrell initially get along well enough (Norrell admires Strange and Strange puts up with Norrell), the differences in their personalities and approaches to magic, as well as Norrell's secrets, eventually drives a wedge between them. Their story eventually becomes the story of English magic.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

REVIEW: The Way of the Househusband (manga, vol. 3) by Kousuke Oono, translated by Amanda Haley

The Way of the Househusband is a comedy series licensed by Viz. I bought this volume brand new.


In this volume, Tatsu attempts to deal with a cockroach, volunteers to be Santa, tries to help his wife relax after a long day at work, takes on a part-time job, bakes bread, and more. He meets a few other people from his yakuza past, including a yakuza boss's widow who's trying to live a normal life but having trouble adjusting her behavior and mindset (so, basically the female version of Tatsu).

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

REVIEW: The Way of the Househusband (manga, vol. 2) by Kousuke Oono, translated by Sheldon Drzka

The Way of the Househusband is a comedy series licensed by Viz. I bought this volume brand new.

I mention most of the basic chapter topics in this review, which might count as spoilers in a series like this.


Once again, former yakuza boss Tatsu (aka Tacchan) pursues the way of the househusband. This time around, he attempts to get a little more fit via yoga and volleyball, tries to sell some stuff at a flea market, helps Masa with his laundry, goes car shopping, and spends some time with his in-laws.

REVIEW: The Way of the Househusband (manga, vol. 1) by Kousuke Oono, translated by Sheldon Drzka

The Way of the Househusband is a comedy series. It's licensed by Viz. I bought my copy brand new.


Tacchan, a former yakuza boss who was known as the "Immortal Dragon," is now a househusband who supports his wife in her career as a designer. He takes being a househusband just as seriously as he took being a yakuza boss, but he hasn't been able to change his demeanor to fit his new life. His tough guy behavior never falters, whether he's taking a cooking class, berating a Roomba for not doing its job properly, or going grocery shopping.

I've wanted to give this series a try for a while, but the reviews I looked at were mixed enough to give me pause. Then Right Stuf had a sale (I'm depressingly weak towards sales), and I decided to grab a bundle that included the first three volumes of this series. 

The danger of all gag manga is that the author won't be able to figure out how to keep the gag fresh, and that may turn out to be a problem here. I suppose I'll figure out whether that's the case soon enough. This first volume was okay, but it did have a few problems.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Long day, no package (*updated!)

A few months ago, Right Stuf had some particularly good sales, and I decided to splurge, even though I knew it might take a while to get everything. A lot of their items have been listed as out of stock for weeks due to the current issues with the US postal service.

I'd been waiting about three months for my super-cheap Kaguya-sama: Love Is War bundle (the first four volumes) to ship, and I was finally notified that they were on their way. They were originally supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but for some reason mail service in my area has been working fine, so the delivery date moved up to Monday, today. It was a busy day at work, so I didn't have time to check my texts, and I didn't see until the end of the day that the package had been delivered to my porch at a little before 2 PM. It always makes me nervous when packages are delivered to my porch instead of the apartment postal lockers, but I've never actually had a package disappear before. Until today.

I got home and no package. No package on any of my neighbors' porches either - I checked, just in case it had been delivered to the wrong apartment. So either it was delivered to entirely the wrong building, or someone stole it. I'd hoped that I'd open my door sometime this evening to find that someone had dropped off the package that was mistakenly put on their porch, but so far no such luck.

I don't think there's anything that can be done about it, and the thought of re-ordering something I've already paid for is upsetting, so I might end up never reading this series, or doing it via ILL one very slow volume at a time sometime in the far future. Tomorrow I'll call up the post office and ask why they haven't been using the postal lockers as much lately, and I guess when future packages arrive I'll be watching my texts like a hawk and hoping that my schedule has room for 20 minutes or so to dash home and back. I guess I should consider myself lucky that this package didn't contain anything really expensive or now out of print.

Update: On Friday I came home to find that the package had been delivered to a postal locker, with no note of explanation. I'm thinking it was either lost at the post office after mistakenly being scanned as delivered, or delivered to the wrong place and the person was kind enough to give it back to the post office to be correctly delivered. Either way, I now I have Kaguya-sama volumes. Yay!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

REVIEW: Bungo Stray Dogs, Season One (anime TV series)

Bungo Stray Dogs
is a supernatural action series. It's licensed by Funimation.


Atsushi is an orphan who has lived his entire life as an outcast for reasons he has only recently come to understand. As the newest member of the Armed Detective Agency, he's awed by the supernatural abilities many of his coworkers are able to use, and worried that he won't be able to measure up. Not to mention, one of the area's most dangerous groups, the Port Mafia, will stop at nothing in order to capture him. What he and his new coworkers don't realize is that there's someone else beyond the Port Mafia who's interested in capturing him as well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

REVIEW: Mononoke (anime TV series)

Mononoke is a supernatural mystery/horror series. I bought my copy brand new. For some reason Amazon (US) only sells the streaming version, although DVD copies are available in the Amazon Marketplace. Either this is out-of-print or there's some kind of agreement that's keeping it off Amazon. At any rate, Right Stuf has it for cheap, so I recommend getting it there (and unfortunately you'll need to resign yourself to waiting, due to the current presidential administration's efforts to kill the USPS).


Mononoke is composed of five self-contained stories. In "Zashiki Warashi," a pregnant woman is trying to escape an assassin and convinces an innkeeper to allow her to stay for the night. "Sea Bishop (Sea Bonze)" follows a group of people traveling on a merchant ship, which somehow ends up in the Dragon's Triangle, a part of the sea that's full of ayakashi (supernatural monsters). "The Faceless Monster" focuses on a woman scheduled to be put to death for killing her husband and his entire family. In "Nue - The Japanese Chimera," several suitors vie for the hand of Princess Ruri by participating in an incense identification game. And finally, in "The Goblin Cat" several seemingly unrelated people find themselves trapped in a subway car together, sometime after the supposed suicide of a particular female journalist. The one thing tying all of these stories together is the mysterious Medicine Seller, who finds and vanquishes (or purifies?) mononoke, vengeful spirits, using a special sword he can only draw once he has discovered the mononoke's Form, Truth, and Reason.

Monday, September 7, 2020

REVIEW: Bamboo Blade, Part 2 (anime TV series)

Bamboo Blade is a combination sports, comedy, and slice-of-life series. I own the series in two parts and opted to review them separately. My review of Part 1 is available here.

This review contains spoilers.


This is the second half of the season, episodes 14 to 26. Now that the team has five female members, they can finally properly compete. They take part in a training camp, and then a tournament in which Tamaki must face off against a cheating opponent, and Miya-miya finds her willpower tested when a girl from another school expresses an interest in winning Dan-kun as her boyfriend via a kendo match. As the series comes to a close, several team members struggle to stay motivated and committed to kendo, and the team's very existence is put into jeopardy.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

REVIEW: Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 1 (book) by FUNA, illustrated by Itsuki Akata, translated by Diana Taylor

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is yet another isekai fantasy series. This one is licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.


In Japan, Kurihara Misato was a prodigy, good at everything she tried...except making friends. Although she was never bullied, she could never seem to get close to anyone. Then, when she was 18, she was killed saving a child from being hit by a car. After her death, she appeared before a young man who called himself "God," who wished to thank her for saving the child by having her reborn in a new world with whatever abilities she desired. Misato's wish surprises him: she wants her abilities to be average. 

And so she is reborn as Adele von Ascham, daughter of Viscount Ascham, her station in life exactly halfway between the lowest and highest possible. It seems that God misunderstood her request to be "average." His definition of "average" with respect to her magical and physical abilities turns out to be similarly skewed. This puts Adele in a bit of a bind. How is she supposed to come across as average if she's actually ridiculously powerful? This particular volume covers her new life from age 10 to 12, beginning at Eckland Academy, a school for lesser nobles and talented commoners, and continuing on to her work as a newbie hunter (basically, an adventurer).

Saturday, September 5, 2020

REVIEW: The Haunted Monastery: A Judge Dee Mystery (book) by Robert van Gulik

From what I can tell, The Haunted Monastery was Robert van Gulik's sixth Judge Dee historical mystery, although there was technically one Judge Dee novel before all of those, van Gulik's translation of Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee.

This review contains slight spoilers.


Judge Dee is traveling with his three wives when the weather takes a sudden turn for the worse, forcing him to seek shelter at a Taoist monastery. When a gust of wind blows open the window in his room, Dee witnesses a possible crime: a man in a helmet attacking a naked one-armed woman. However, when he asks to see the part of the monastery where the crime occurred, not only is there no trace of the man and woman, there's also no window. The only window it could have been was bricked up long ago.

The weather has given Judge Dee the beginnings of a terrible cold, so he wonders whether the scene he saw was an hallucination, or possibly even ghosts. However, as he meets the Abbot and the other visitors at the monastery, he strongly suspects that his vision might be connected to the three relatively recent deaths that occurred at this same monastery, all involving young women.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

REVIEW: In Another World With My Smartphone, Vol. 1 (book) by Patora Fuyuhara, illustrations by Eiji Usatsuka, translated by Andrew Hodgson

In Another World With My Smartphone is yet another isekai series (similar to portal fantasy). It's licensed by J-Novel Club.


When God apologizes to Mochizuki Touya for accidentally killing him with a lightning bolt, Touya takes it very well. After all, he doesn't remember dying, and stuff happens. Still, God wants to make it up to him as much as possible, so he offers to give him a new life in a different world. He even agrees to grant Touya a favor, setting things up so that he can continue to use his smartphone in that new world. It will be powered by the magical abilities God has granted him. In addition to all of that, God also gives all of Touya's basic abilities a boost (strength, memory, etc.).

So begins Touya's life in a new world. He meets twin sisters who become his traveling and adventuring companions, as well as a young woman from a country very much like Japan, a duke and his daughter, and a princess, and gradually learns what sorts of things his magic and magically-powered smartphone can do.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind (book) by Makoto Inoue, translated by Alexander O. Smith, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind is the fifth light novel starring Hiromu Arakawa's characters from Fullmetal Alchemist, a fantasy action series. I bought my copy brand new.


Do not read this book unless you've at least made it through volume 4 of the manga, episode 10 of FMA: Brotherhood, or episode 25 of the first FMA anime.

Edward and Alphonse are training with Izumi in Dublith when they spot a book, The Evolution of the Body by Balerea Dell, in an old photograph. The book was banned, and all copies of it should have been destroyed, but the brothers decide to travel to the town of Lambsear in the hope that the bookstore and that particular book are still there. It might contain a clue that could lead them to the Philosopher's Stone, or information relating to successful human transmutation. Meanwhile, there have been a bunch of chimera attacks in the area, and Roy Mustang has been tasked with investigating and putting a stop to them. 

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Under the Faraway Sky (book) by Makoto Inoue, translated by Alexander O. Smith, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist: Under the Faraway Sky is the fourth light novel starring Hiromu Arakawa's characters from Fullmetal Alchemist, a fantasy action series.


This book is divided into two stories, "Under the Faraway Sky" and "Roy's Holiday." I'll discuss them separately.

"Under the Faraway Sky"

Edward and Alphonse Elric have now been traveling on their own for a year. Edward ends up with a cold, forcing them to stop at a nearby town for a while. The local doctor is busy, so the person he sends to give Edward a checkup is his assistant, who turns out to be Edward's best childhood friend back at Resembool, Pitt. It's a shock - when they were growing up, Pitt was just as much of a troublemaker as Edward, but now he's mature and pursuing a career he's interested in and that clearly helps people. It makes Edward a little jealous.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

REVIEW: Bamboo Blade, Part 1 (anime TV series)

Bamboo Blade is a combination of comedy, slice of life, and sports (specifically, kendo). It's licensed by Funimation.


Although Toraji Ishida was a talented kendo student, to the point that he beat his senpai and best friend on the team, as a kendo instructor he's an absolute loser. He puts almost no effort into instructing his students and does nothing about the rampant bullying a couple of the members engage in. It's gotten to the point where his kendo club has only one member left, Kirino. Then motivation enters Toraji's life, in the form of a bet. If the girls in his kendo club can win against the girls in his senpai's kendo club, he'll get free sushi for life at his senpai's relative's restaurant. Since Toraji is perpetually poor, this is a big deal.

First, however, he has to recruit some girls to the team. He lucks out, and his first recruit turns out to be amazing: Tamaki, the daughter of a kendo dojo master. His next recruits include a couple boys (who then get shuffled to the side for the most part), Miya-miya (the cutesy girlfriend of one of the boys), and a girl who was good at kendo in middle school but quit for some reason after she entered high school. Also, one of the club's absent members returns after failing in her efforts to become a great novelist and/or guitarist.

This series is 26 episodes long, and I own it in two parts. I'll be reviewing each part separately - this part contains episodes 1 to 13.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

REVIEW: Anime Supremacy (book) by Mizuki Tsujimura, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm

Anime Supremacy is a slice-of-life workplace story. It's licensed by Vertical. I bought my copy brand new.


The book is divided into four chapters (think of them as parts, if the idea of long chapters horrifies you - on the plus side, there are scene breaks that serve as good reading stopping points). The first three are devoted to particular protagonists while the last is an epilogue.

The first chapter deals with Kayako, a producer, who finds that working with the director she most idolizes isn't exactly the dream come true she expected it to be. The second chapter deals with Hitomi, a director working on the sort of series she dreamed about making when she first fell in love with anime. She struggles with getting everyone on her team on the right wavelength - her producer seems more focused on glamor and profits than anything else, and she can't seem to communicate well with the show's primary female voice actors. The third chapter deals with Kazuna, a key animator who finds herself roped into a marketing project she resents and doesn't feel particularly suited for.

All of these characters' paths cross at one point or another, and by the end all of their stories become tied together.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

REVIEW: Resident Evil: Degeneration (CGI animated movie)

Resident Evil: Degeneration is an action horror movie, part of the Resident Evil franchise.

This review includes slight spoilers.


I'm going to start this off by saying that I am not the target audience for this movie. My exposure to the Resident Evil franchise is almost solely limited to the live action movies. I've seen a small part of a Let's Play video of one of the games, something where Leon was the  playable character, and I once attempted to play one of the games and didn't even survive more that a few minutes (my first instinct was to try to shoot the zombie rather than avoid it like I was supposed to). I'm sure I missed out on a lot of backstory and world-building.

The movie begins at an airport. Claire Redfield's plane has landed, and she's waiting for her ride with a little girl named Rani when she spots Senator Ron Davis, a self-important guy who's easy to hate. Senator Davis is one of the stockholders of WilPharma, a controversial pharmaceutical company that Claire opposes. Anyway, they barely have a chance to say anything before a zombie attacks, a zombie-infested plane crashes into the airport, and the entire place dissolves into chaos. Luckily for Claire, Rani, and the senator, federal agent Leon S. Kennedy has been sent to the scene for reasons (terrorist threats), and he has time for a rescue mission. His team includes two members of the local Special Response Team, Angela and Greg, neither of whom have a clue what they're in for (even though Leon tells them).

REVIEW: Inside Out (CGI animated movie)

Inside Out is an animated drama with comedy and action elements. I bought my copy new.


When Riley was born, a place inside her manifested beings that each control one of five basic emotions: Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. Each of these being loves Riley and wants what's best for her. The very first emotion to manifest was Joy, and it is Joy who generally dominates Riley's control room.

When Riley is 11, her dad's job leads to the family moving from Minnesota, where she had lots of good memories, friends, a nice house, and hockey, to San Francisco. From the very beginning, it isn't a good experience. Their new house is crammed in between other buildings, doesn't have a yard, looks shabby, and has a dead mouse on the floor. The moving truck is going to be several days late. But Joy is Riley's dominant emotion, and so she tries to make the best of things. However, something strange is going on. For some reason Sadness keeps accidentally affecting Riley's memories, including the most sacred ones of all, her core memories, the ones that define who she is. 

REVIEW: Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse (graphic novel, vol. 2) by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet is SFF (more heavily fantasy, but with robots). I bought my copy used.

This review contains mild spoilers.


Although Emily and Navin managed to rescue their mother, she is now unconscious and slowly dying of poison. They use Silas's house to travel to the city of Kanalis, where they hope to find medicine that can cure her. Unfortunately, the main ingredient for that medicine is the fruit of the Gadoba tree, which hundreds have died trying to obtain. Meanwhile, Prince Trellis has been taken back to his father, the Elf King, who once again sends him out to find and kill (or capture?) Emily because she's a Stonekeeper. Trellis is accompanied by Luger, one of the Elf King's henchmen, to ensure that he'll do the job right this time.

REVIEW: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet is SFF (definitely fantasy, although the robots could be viewed as more sci-fi). According to Wikipedia, the series isn't quite complete yet but should end up being 9 volumes long. I found the first two at a used bookstore.


This begins with Emily and her parents on their way to pick up Emily's young brother, Navin. They get in an accident, and although Emily and her mother make it out, Emily's father is trapped in the car. When it slides off a cliff, he's still inside.

Two years later, Emily's mother is moving the whole family to a rundown house in a smaller, less expensive area. The place was previously owned by Emily's mother's grandfather, Silas, who used to create machines and puzzles. They're all working on cleaning the house up when Emily's mother is attacked by a tentacled monster that traps her, still alive, inside its belly. Emily and Navin chase after the monster and somehow end up in a strange fantasy world with only a talking amulet that Emily found among Silas's things to guide and protect them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

REVIEW: Gestalt (manga, vol. 2) by Yun Kouga, translated by Christine Schilling

Gestalt is a fantasy manga. It's licensed by VIZ Media. I got my copy of this used.


Warning: this review includes spoilers for volume 1.

Although Takara wants to beat Ouri, she doesn't want it badly enough to risk the death of her beloved Raimei. Ouri arrives and manages to save the day, although Dark Olivier's appearance is neither explained nor 100% dealt with. Then it's time to figure out the next step in the party's journey to the island of G. It turns out that there's a boat that leaves from Diohaan to G, but landmark gold pieces are the only things accepted as payment for that trip, and Ouri unwittingly sold the group's only landmark gold piece. Luckily, there's a way to get another one: a tournament that's only held once every five years, and that conveniently happens to be starting soon. The winner gets a landmark gold piece. Unfortunately, one of Ouri's siblings is also in the area and trying to get a landmark gold piece.