Saturday, February 29, 2020

REVIEW: Hiroshima's Revival: Remembering How People Overcame Destruction and Despair (nonfiction manga) by Takeo Aoki, translated by Pauline Baldwin

Hiroshima's Revival is a nonfiction manga about the reconstruction of Hiroshima after the US dropped an atomic bomb on it. I bought my copy at a used bookstore.


This manga begins with a little about Hiroshima's history and then the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. Each chapter covers one aspect of Hiroshima's post-bombing reconstruction and revival.

The first few chapters were dedicated to more immediate reconstruction efforts: restoring electricity, water, and gas (Chapter 1), restarting a streetcar service (Chapter 2), and reopening banks (Chapter 3). The next few chapters dealt with activities that began soon after the bombing and covered more of their history up to the present: getting legal commerce going again in the midst of a thriving black market (Chapter 4), the history of the company now known as Mazda and its three-wheeled truck (Chapter 5), reopening schools (Chapter 6), and getting the municipal government up and running again and acquiring funding for Hiroshima's reconstruction (Chapter 7). The last few chapters felt a bit more removed from the bombing than the rest, but still tied into Hiroshima's overall revival: providing cinema, music, and books to citizens again (Chapter 8), evolving a new local food culture (Chapter 9), and the history of the Hiroshima Carp baseball team (Chapter 10).

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

REVIEW: In the Tall Grass (audiobook) by Stephen King and Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang

In the Tall Grass is a horror novella. I checked it out via my library's Overdrive.


Becky and Cal are inseparable siblings. When Becky finds out she's pregnant, Cal is the most supportive member of their family. The two end up on a road trip that takes them by a field of tall grass out in the middle of nowhere. They happen to hear a lost young boy calling for help somewhere in the field, so they pull over. It's weird, though, because there's also a woman in the field, the boy's mother, and for some reason she keeps telling him to be quiet. By the time Cal and Becky realize there's something off about this situation, it's too late, they're already in the grass.

Monday, February 24, 2020

REVIEW: The Alchemist (audiobook) by Paulo Coelho, narrated by Jeremy Irons

The Alchemist is fiction with fantasy elements, if I wanted to work really hard to shove it into some sort of genre. In reality, it's a self-help book in fiction form. I checked it out via my library's Overdrive.


Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who's on his way to see a girl he once met and fell a little in love with. Before he gets there, however, some stuff happens that I can only vaguely recall. Something about a fortune teller, who tells him that a dream he had about the pyramids in Egypt will lead him to a great treasure. A mysterious man who turns out to be something more convinces Santiago to abandon his ordinary and comfortable life as a shepherd and begin his quest - the pursuit of his Personal Legend.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

REVIEW: I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up (manga) by Kodama Naoko, translated by Amber Tamosaitis

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up is yuri (f/f) manga.


Machi is tired of her parents' constant efforts to match her up with a successful man and half jokingly says she should marry someone they'd hate just to spite them. Her friend Hana surprises her when she suggests that the two of them get married. The news so shocks Machi's parents that they do indeed back off, at least temporarily. The special partnership certificate requires that they both live in Shibuya, so Hana moves in with Machi, which also helps them maintain the marriage charade.

Machi can't help but wonder if Hana is actually serious about all of this, though. Back in high school, Hana confessed her love for her, and Machi turned her down. They've continued to be friends, but what if Hana hopes their fake marriage will become a real one? As Machi starts to ponder her and Hana's relationship, she also takes a long, hard look at her life.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

REVIEW: Firebug (graphic novel) story and art by Johnnie Christmas, colors by Tamra Bonvillain

Firebug is a fantasy graphic novel.


Okay, I'm going to start off by saying that I got a little lost at times and wasn't always sure about what was going on. I'll try to describe the story as best I can, but I could be wrong about a few things.

Azar is a city located at the foot of a volcano. The people of Azar used to perform rituals to appease the goddess of the volcano, but that didn't stop the volcano from occasionally erupting and destroying everything. Eventually the Cult of the Goddess left Azar and established a new home for themselves, the Golden Capitol. It's now many, many years later, and there's a rebel group called the Third Wave that's convinced that the Cult of the Goddess is keeping the goddess captive, and they want to free her.

Keegan is the goddess's daughter. She tries to help the rebels, but something goes wrong, her mother ends up dead, and Keegan becomes the new goddess. At that point, she becomes determined to go back to Azar, the home of her ancestors. However, the Cult of the Goddess isn't her only enemy. An emissary from the water goddess is after her, and there's a prophecy that Keegan's return to Azar will mean its destruction.

REVIEW: Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy (graphic novel) by Dan Parent, pencils by Dan Parent and Bill Galvan

Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy is an Archie spinoff. It's one of three volumes total.

This review includes spoilers.


Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy is very episodic. In the first chapter, each of the characters has to present a report on an inspirational figure, and Kevin chooses George Takei. Takei finds out about his report and decides to pay Riverdale High a visit. In the second chapter, Kevin has some car problems that complicate a date at the drive-in movie theater. In the third chapter, Kevin is now dating his first ever boyfriend, Devon, but there's just one problem: Devon isn't out yet. In the fourth chapter, Kevin's secret admirer is back (his first appearance was in a previous volume I haven't read), and both he and Kevin are starring in Veronica's musical. Devon, meanwhile, struggles with jealousy.

REVIEW: Archie (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Mark Waid, art by Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, Veronica Fish

Archie is a reboot of the classic Archie comics. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Archie and Betty seemed like the perfect couple...until they broke up over "the lipstick incident." What's the lipstick incident? They refuse to say. Their friends try to get them to make up and get back together, but nothing seems to work. And now Veronica, a beautiful heiress, has moved into town, and Archie seems to be wrapped around her finger.

This was an impulse purchase. I have absolutely no nostalgic feelings for the original Archie comics. Neither their art style nor their humor worked for me. But then I tried and enjoyed the Jughead reboot. When I spotted the first volume of the Archie reboot while book shopping, I figured "hey, why not?"

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

REVIEW: The Forbidden Game: The Hunter, The Chase, The Kill (omnibus) by L.J. Smith

The Forbidden Game is a YA horror trilogy with romantic elements. I bought my copy used.

This review includes spoilers.


This omnibus edition includes all three books in the trilogy. In the first book, Jenny is doing some last minute preparation for her boyfriend Tom's birthday party and stumbles across a mysterious game store, where she buys a game in a blank white box. The game turns out to be a paper house, with paper figures you can draw on to look like the various players, and paper cards on which the players are expected to draw their worst fears. It seems like harmless fun, until the game becomes real, and Jenny, Tom, Zach, Dee, Audrey, Michael, and Summer are all trapped in the house and forced to face their fears if they want to survive. The one putting them through all of this is Julian, an evil but handsome being who wants to make Jenny his.

In the second book, everyone tries to adjust to the consequences of Book 1, and Julian's back for another game. In the third book, Jenny and her friends must travel to the Shadow World for a rescue attempt. They end up in a deadly amusement park, and this time around Julian isn't the only threat they need to worry about.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

REVIEW: SP Baby (manga, vol. 2) by Maki Enjoji, translated by JN Productions

SP Baby is a romance series published by VIZ Media. I bought my copy of this volume used.


Tamaki has to miss work due to a fever and is overjoyed when Natsu, her secret crush, sticks around to take care of her. Unfortunately, Kagetora, Tamaki's handsy boss, also shows up. It isn't long before Tamaki is finally forced to deal with her unrequited feelings for Natsu and whatever seems to be developing between her and Kagetora...who is still engaged to another woman.

I had to struggle to work up the willpower to review this. In some ways it was better than the first volume, but honestly it just dissolved into an unfocused mess.

Although I gradually came to like and root for Tamaki by the end of volume 1, in this volume it seemed like Enjoji forgot what kind of person she was supposed to be. The young woman who tried to put professional distance between herself and her employer and make him take her seriously as his new bodyguard was gone. And, once again, Tamaki did things that prompted me to remember that I'd initially dismissed her as an idiot.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

REVIEW: SP Baby (manga, vol. 1) by Maki Enjoji, translated by JN Productions

SP Baby is a romance series published by VIZ Media. I bought it from a used bookstore.


Tamaki Hasegawa is a part-timer on her way to an interview for a full-time job when she comes across a man being chased by someone she thinks means him harm. It turns out to be a misunderstanding, but the man, Kagetora Sugo, offers to replace her ruined interview outfit and even hire his bodyguard! It turns out that Kagetora is actually the nephew of the prime minister. He insists that he and Tamaki have previously met, but Tamaki can't recall him at all. One thing she does know: she needs to establish some boundaries between the two of them, fast. For some reason he keeps trying to kiss her. It bothers her, because the guy she's really interested in is Natsu, a kind employee at a flower shop.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Abducted Alchemist (book, vol. 2) by Makoto Inoue, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Rich Amtower

The Abducted Alchemist is the second book in the Japanese light novel series based on Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist manga.


After another unsuccessful investigation into Philosopher's Stone rumors, Edward and Alphonse Elric wait for a train. Strangely, when one finally arrives, it's hours late. They're also surprised to see Roy Mustang and Jean Havoc among the passengers, dressed in civilian clothes. They soon learn that there has been a lot of recent terrorist activity on the train tracks. The terrorists announce their bombing target 20-30 minutes in advance, enough time for civilians to get to safety but too little time for the military to do anything to stop them. It's terrorism without terror - civilians are more inconvenienced than anything, and they've directed their annoyance towards the ineffectual military.

Although he hasn't been able to find any proof yet, Roy suspects that the bombings are somehow connected to a string of kidnappings. The kidnappers abduct a child from a family with a connection to the military, demand and receive a ransom, and let the child go free, completely unharmed. As Ed and Al continue their own work, they accidentally stumble across something that may be key to both of Roy's investigations.

REVIEW: There's Someone Inside Your House (book) by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your House is a YA slasher novel. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Makani Young used to live in Hawaii with her parents, but then something happened that she doesn't even like to think about, and everyone she knew turned against her. Her parents sent her to live with her grandmother in Osborne, a tiny town in Nebraska, and it feels like exile. She now has a couple friends and a crush she can't stop thinking about. It's not the life she used to have back in Hawaii, but it could be worse.

Then a girl from school winds up dead and horribly mutilated. As the body count rises and the police try to find and stop the killer, Makani knows it's only a matter of time before her own secrets are revealed.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

REVIEW: Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics (nonfiction book) by Alisa Kwitney

Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics is an artbook.


This slim volume features a selection of cover, trading card, and gallery art from DC Comics' now discontinued Vertigo imprint. A few of the series featured are ones I've read, albeit a very long time ago: Sandman, The Books of Magic, Black Orchid, Swamp Thing, Sandman Mystery Theatre. Most are series I've never heard of before, or heard of but never looked into enough to find out what they were about. I've been meaning to try Animal Man for ages, for example, but it still hasn't happened.

When I was in high school, I'd occasionally use my lunch period to go to a nearby comics shop and buy a few things. The store was arranged by publisher, with imprints getting their own subsections, and an odd "miscellaneous" section to catch anything by smaller publishers. I spent most of my time in the Marvel and "miscellaneous" sections (yay, Elfquest!), but my love of Neil Gaiman's Sandman prompted me to spend time in the Vertigo section as well. Although I never bought many Vertigo titles - I didn't have much money and didn't know which series I might like, and the store owner was so unwelcoming that I didn't dare ask him for recommendations - I loved the covers. They looked so different from the Marvel and other DC stuff.

I spotted this book during a shopping trip years ago and bought it with the intention of using it as artistic inspiration. Nothing ever came of that, but it was still nice looking at all the artwork and huge variety of styles. Each section has a little bit of text, normally something about the history of a particular series. Most of the artwork just has captions with the title and issue number if applicable, date, and artist, but a few include tidbits of info about the artists' style and, very occasionally, something about their technique or the medium used.

All in all, this is a nice collection of artwork. I wish there had been more text focused on particular pieces, though, and interviews with some of the artists would have been great.

REVIEW: Misadventures of a Backup Bride (book) by Shayla Black

Misadventures of a Backup Bride is contemporary erotic romance.

This review contains slight spoilers.


Carson loves Sweet Darlin', the candy company he inherited from his biological father. He and his father were never all that close, but Carson still wants Sweet Darlin' to succeed. In order for that to happen, he needs a loan ASAP. Gregory Shaw is willing to give him one...if Carson marries Kendra, Shaw's flighty sorority girl daughter. Meanwhile, if Kendra doesn't marry Carson, she won't get her trust fund.

Carson knows that he and Kendra would make an unhappy couple, so, two weeks before the wedding, he lies and tells Shaw that he can't marry her because he's in love with someone else. Shaw decides to call Carson's bluff - he says he'll still give Carson the loan, if he still gets married in two weeks to this other woman he supposedly loves. Carson calls up Ella, an actress he'd met at a party six months ago - at the time, she was dating a friend of his, but she's single now. He asks her to be his pretend fiancee and leave him at the altar. She agrees because her acting jobs have been few and far between and she needs the money. Unfortunately, the two of them have instant chemistry, and their fake relationship turns real, fast.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

REVIEW: FukuFuku: Kitten Tales (manga, vol. 1) by Konami Kanata, translated by Marlaina McElheny and Ed Chavez

FukuFuku: Kitten Tales is a slice-of-life manga. I bought my copy new.


At the beginning of the volume, FukuFuku's owner (whose name is never mentioned) is sitting with her adult cat, FukuFuku, and looking through old pictures of FukuFuku as a kitten. After those first couple pages, the entire series basically becomes a flashback to FukuFuku's kitten days: adjusting to her new home, dealing with her first bath, napping with her owner, learning to use a scratching post, meeting other cats, etc.

I've read and adored Kanata's Chi's Sweet Home. FukuFuku: Kitten Tales was very similar in a lot of ways. The most noticeable differences: Chi's Sweet Home was in color while FukuFuku: Kitten Tales featured black and white artwork, and Chi's owners were a married couple and their young song while FukuFuku's owner was an older woman who lived alone. Also, Chi's thoughts and dialogue were translated for readers, whereas FukuFuku just meowed and purred. I don't think the two series crossover at all, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn I was wrong.

REVIEW: Harlequin Violet: Blind Date (manga) based on the original novel by Emma Darcy, art by Mihoko Hirose, translated by Ikoi Hiroe

Harlequin Violet: Blind Date is a romance manga adaptation of the novel Blind Date by Emma Darcy. I got my copy at a used bookstore.


Peggy Dean is excited to learn that she's a finalist on the Ross Elliot Show's special episode "Blind Date" contest. The first prize is a date with popular singer John Gale, but Peggy isn't interested in that. As a Media Communications major, she's primarily interested in seeing the set of the show. She's also hoping to win a stereo, the consolation prize given to the two finalists who aren't picked to go on a date with John. She attempts to sabotage her chances of winning by giving off-putting answers to John's questions, but instead she accidentally captures his interest.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

REVIEW: Glass Wings (manga anthology) by Misuzu Asaoka, translated by Emi Onishi

Glass Wings is a one-shot gothic fantasy manga. I bought my copy used.

This review contains spoilers.


Glass Wings is an anthology containing three unrelated stories, the first of which is the longest.

"Glass Wings"

Hagane is trapped by his own tainted blood, called "death blood." Death blood kills any living thing it touches, which Hagane learned to his horror when he accidentally killed a random girl he met by getting some of his blood on her. Now he lives with Tsubaki, a woman who claims to love him but who keeps him trapped in her home. Tsubaki has another captive, Ruriha, who Hagane finds himself drawn to. Will it ever be possible for Hagane to find love and happiness, or will his tainted blood continue to bring nothing but pain to himself and those around him?

REVIEW: Clover (manga, vols. 1-4) by CLAMP, translation by Ray Yoshimoto

Clover is cyberpunk science fiction. I read an omnibus edition I picked up a while back at a used bookstore. It contains the complete series.


Kazuhiko, a former government agent, is roped into doing one last job for General Ko, one of the heads of the government. She tells him he must deliver a package, which he soon learns is actually a young girl named Sue. In the first two volumes of Clover, Kazuhiko does his best to take Sue to her destination despite opposition from multiple sources. He gradually learns who Sue is, why people don't want her going free, and how she's connected to him. The third volume of Clover is a flashback to the time when Sue and a beautiful singer named Ora first met, the beginnings of Sue's desire to leave her cage. The fourth volume of Clover is yet another flashback, even further back in time, to the days when Ran escaped his own cage and met Gingetsu, a friend of Kazuhiko's.