Sunday, January 26, 2020

REVIEW: My Girlfriend's a Geek (manga, vol. 2) story by Pentabu, art by Rize Shinba, translated by Stephen Paul

My Girlfriend's a Geek is a contemporary romantic comedy series based on the real-life relationship of author Pentabu and his girlfriend. I wrote about the first volume of Pentabu's original book about 7 years ago.


Taiga gets excited when Yuiko asks if she can use his computer because hers is broken - it'll be her first time visiting Taiga's apartment, and they'll be alone together! However, the situation isn't quite what Taiga thinks it is. Also in this volume: Taiga continues the BL fanfic Yuiko asked him to write but has difficulty viewing the characters the same way she does; Taiga meets Yuiko's friends and is forced to go to a school uniform cafe with them; there's a new guy at Yuiko's workplace who she's nicknamed "Milan"; and Taiga feels conflicted about the way Yuiko views him.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

REVIEW: My Girlfriend's a Geek (manga, vol. 1) story by Pentabu, art by Rize Shinba, translated by Stephen Paul

My Girlfriend's a Geek is a contemporary romantic comedy series based on the real-life relationship of author Pentabu and his girlfriend. I wrote about the first volume of Pentabu's original book about 7 years ago.


Taiga is a broke college student who really wants a "cool" part-time job, meaning something that pays well, is easy and close to college, and would involve working with cute female coworkers. When he spots a cute employee through the window of an apparel store advertising for a warehouse loading and unloading position, he jumps at the chance. He easily gets the job...and then spends the next few weeks struggling to even find moments to talk to Yuiko, the cute employee he spotted. When he does manage to talk to her, he can't always keep the conversation going, and he's worried that the summer is going to end before he has a chance to ask her out on a date.

Taiga does manage to get his chance, but his interactions with Yuiko are a bit odd. Why does she get so excited when she sees him in glasses? Why does it sometimes seem like they're talking about completely different things when they talk about manga? Before they started dating, Yuiko told him that she's a fujoshi, but what does that even mean?

REVIEW: The Ghost Bride (book) by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride is historical fantasy with romantic elements. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


This is set in Malaya in 1893 and is narrated by Li Lan, the sheltered daughter of a now bankrupt but still fairly respectable family. She would normally be expected to marry, but her father, grief-stricken after smallpox killed his wife when Li Lan was very young, withdrew from the world and began taking opium. Her family doesn't know a lot of eligible and respectable young men that she might marry.

Even so, becoming a ghost bride is not something she'd willingly do, so she's horrified when her father brings home news that the wealthy Lim family would like her to marry their recently deceased heir, Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan refuses, but that doesn't stop Lim Tian Ching from entering her dreams and trying to change her mind. Meanwhile, Li Lan pines for handsome Tian Bai, the man she learns she was originally arranged to marry if Lim Tian Ching hadn't died and her family situation hadn't changed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: Love Labyrinth of Thorns (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Aoi Kurihara, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Hearts: Love Labyrinth of Thorns is one of many manga volumes based on the Alice in the Country of Hearts otome visual novel. Although it's a one-shot, if you're new to the franchise, I recommend starting with Yen Press's Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus volumes.


Upon ending up in Wonderland, Alice managed to convince Julius to allow her to stay with him at the Clock Tower. Julius gripes about Alice getting underfoot but doesn't put any effort into making her leave. Alice makes him coffee and gets irritated when he says he doesn't like it, but despite his complaints, he always drinks it, even if it's become stone cold. However, something suddenly changes between them. For some reason Julius begins avoiding Alice and acting cold and distant towards her. When she confronts him about it, he tells her to leave, so she does. Nightmare decides to step in and put both of their feelings to the test.

Monday, January 20, 2020

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins is one of the many, many manga volumes based on the Alice in the Country of Hearts otome visual novel franchise.


Wonderland is a strange place where nothing works the way it does in our world. People have clocks for hearts, day and night happen at random, only a select few people have faces, and nearly everyone is armed to the teeth. Alice has become accustomed to it, for the most part, but she's still surprised to wake up and discover that the Country of Hearts has somehow moved and become the Country of Clover. She's relieved that the twins, Dee and Dum, are still around and as happy to spend time with her as ever, but a new ability they've acquired since moving to Clover leaves her feeling disconcerted: they can now instantly transform their kid selves into adults and back again.

Alice felt comfortable around them when they were children. Being around them when they're adults feels weird. She finds herself feeling emotions she doesn't want to, which brings her face to face with her secret fear, that the twins will find someone else they like more and abandon her.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

REVIEW: Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 3) by Jen Lee Quick

Off*Beat is YA drama with gay romantic elements. The first two volumes were originally published by Tokyopop, and due to the wonders of interlibrary loan, I was able to read this third and final volume, published by Chromatic Press.


This volume begins immediately after the previous one, from the point where Colin hit Tory. The two of them finally sit down and talk about the things they've been hiding...for the most part. Colin talks about the Gaia Project and his involvement in it, and Tory no longer tries to hide the fact that he's been keeping tabs on Colin. The one thing they dance around, however, is their feelings for each other.

I didn't think I was going to get to read this volume. Physical copies are no longer available for purchase, and I don't like buying electronic manga or comics. I wasn't sure interlibrary loan was going to work out since the number of libraries that own this volume is in the single digits, but thankfully one of those libraries was willing to lend it to me.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

REVIEW: Missing: Letter of Misfortune (book) by Gakuto Coda, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Letter of Misfortune is the second book in Coda's Missing series. It's a Japanese light novel, and sort of a blend of horror and fantasy. Tokyopop had planned to publish more of the 13-volume series, but then it restructured in 2008 and this series and others ended up in limbo.


The Literature Club is back the way it was, for the most part - the main difference is that Ayame is still around, still nonhuman but much less powerful, and magically tied to Utsume by the events of the previous book. However, now Aki is having supernatural problems of her own. There's an urban legend about a cursed fax, a chain letter that the recipient receives for several days in a row and must send on in the same order if they want to avoid dying. It seems that the fax is real, and Aki has just begun receiving it. Not only is it creepy, arriving out of the blue at 2 AM, it's somehow causing Aki actual physical harm. The paper cut she got from the first fax showed signs of infection only a few hours later.

At the same time, there are rumors going around at school that there's a pack of wild dogs loose in the area. One of the teachers was bitten, and signs of the dogs can be found all over the school grounds, although no one has actually seen one of the dogs. Yomiko, the school witch, freaks out both Ryoko and Aki, warning Aki that she will be torn apart and eaten by dogs that no one can see. Somehow the Literature Club has to figure out what's going on and save Aki before it's too late.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

REVIEW: X-Day (manga, vol. 2) by Setona Mizushiro, translated by Shirley Kubo

X-Day is a 2-volume psychological drama. It's an old Tokyopop release, meaning it's now out-of-print, but it looks like it's still fairly easy and cheap to find online.

This post contains major spoilers.


The members of the little Ursa Minor chat group are getting more keyed up - Rika (11) has done something she regrets, Mr. Money is forcing himself to be more open about the situation with his mother and what it's done to his state of mind, Polaris is going to be forced to take part in a swimming relay race and feels anxious just thinking about it, and Jangalian still doesn't know how to gracefully put a stop to his obsessed stalker and the rumors she keeps spreading. Things are coming to a head now that everyone's been pushed into a corner.

REVIEW: X-Day (manga, vol. 1) by Setona Mizushiro, translated by Shirley Kubo

X-Day is a 2-volume psychological drama that was licensed and translated into English by Tokyopop.


Content warnings for physical abuse, attempted suicide, and stalking/harassment.

Rika injured herself a while back and took some time off the track team as a result. She's now in her third and final year of high school and, although she's technically all healed up, she's left the track team and keeps resisting the pleas of her former coach and teammates to rejoin. What one of her former teammates doesn't realize is that her new boyfriend used to be Rika's boyfriend - he dumped Rika not too long ago.

Rika feels depressed and disconnected from her school life but is intrigued when someone in an anonymous school chat room suggests blowing up the school (why this isn't an immediate red flag for school officials, I don't know - I find it difficult to believe that a school chat room wouldn't have some form of monitoring in place). Following some clues, she eventually ends up meeting and getting to know several people from the chat in real life.

REVIEW: Missing: Spirited Away (book) by Gakuto Coda, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Missing: Spirited Away is the first book in Coda's 13-volume Missing series. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, and only two volumes were ever translated and published in English. The third volume was scheduled to be released in September 2008, but since that's about when Tokyopop imploded, it never happened.


When Kyoichi Utsume was a child, he and his younger brother disappeared. He somehow managed to return, but his little brother did not. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with death and kamikakushi, mysterious beings that are said to spirit people away.

Rumors start flying at Utsume's high school that he, the guy who supposedly doesn't believe in love and romance, has found a girlfriend and is introducing her to everyone. Utsume's friends in the Literature Club discover that the rumors are true when he brings Ayame, a cute but oddly easy to overlook girl, to meet them. Ryoko and Takemi, two members of the Literature Club, decide to follow the couple and come back with gaps in their memories and a strange story of visiting a terrifying other world. Since there's no longer any sign of either Utsume or Ayame, it looks like Ryoko and Takemi's story may be true. Can the members of the Literature Club somehow retrieve their friend from the other world? Will he even want to come back?

Sunday, January 5, 2020

REVIEW: Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 2) by Jen Lee Quick

This time around, I'm going to say that Off*Beat is drama/mystery with potential (but problematic, due to the stalking and lying) gay romantic elements.


Colin confronts Tory about his stalking, but Tory lies and pretends that everything Colin noticed is a coincidence. They agree to meet up at Tory's house for another tutoring session (Tory doesn't even bother to ask Mandy to join them this time around), and Paul gets on Tory's case for his hidden motives for "befriending" Colin. It surprises Tory when Colin goes out of his way to spend more time with him. What he doesn't know is that Colin now has his own hidden agenda.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

REVIEW: Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 1) by Jen Lee Quick

Off*Beat apparently counts as a "boys love" drama. I had to look this up on its Wikipedia page, because at this point in the series it's a little tough to tell what I'm dealing with.


Tory is an intelligent and imaginative 15-year-old boy who becomes obsessed with Colin, a mysterious new neighbor of his, to the point of recording anything even remotely odd about his life and activities and convincing his mom to enroll him in a private school that he has to spend two hours commuting to just so they'll both be attending the same place (yes, Tory is basically a stalker). Tory is convinced that Colin may be hiding something and, after a year, finally begins to find evidence that he may be right. His efforts uncover something about a mysterious Gaia Project. Then there's the fact that Colin seems to be sick a lot.

REVIEW: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) (book) by L.C. Rosen

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is YA LGBT contemporary fiction with mystery/thriller elements.


Content warning for stalking, victim blaming, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, on-page drug use and drinking, and graphic discussions of sex.

Jack is a gay teen who likes casual sex and isn't interested in being in a committed relationship. Maybe one day - he isn't completely ruling it out - but definitely not right now. While he enjoys having sex, he doesn't enjoy people gossiping about his sex life, and for some reason his sex life is a hot topic among the gossips at school. When his friend Jenna suggests that he write a sex advice column for her personal blog, he reluctantly agrees. Maybe if he works in some true stories about his sex life, the rumors about stuff he's never done will go away. And the posts will be semi-anonymous, written by "Jack of Hearts," so there's no way some future college or employer will google him and see them.

For the most part, the advice column goes surprisingly well, but things take a turn for the worse in his private life. Someone keeps putting notes in his locker. At first they look like love notes, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jack has a stalker.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

REVIEW: Breed To Come (book) by Andre Norton

Breed To Come is science fiction. I bought my copy at a used bookstore.


Furtig is one of the People (cat people), a descendant of Gammage. Gammage was physically different - his fur was sparser and his fingers longer. He also believed that the tools and knowledge left behind by the Demons (human beings) could be useful. It was he who developed metal claws that allowed the People to more effectively hunt, as well as fight against the Barkers, Tuskers, and Rattons. When Furtig fails his Trial and chance to secure a mate, he opts to leave his tribe and go to Gammage, who is rumored to somehow still be alive and seeking to unite the People and even ally with the Barkers and Tuskers against a common enemy...the Demons. The Demons disappeared or died out long ago, after killing many of the People in their madness. Could they really be returning?