Friday, June 26, 2020

REVIEW: Heart Change (book) by Robin D. Owens

Heart Change
is the 8th book in Owens' Celta HeartMates SFF romance series. I bought a used copy a while back.


Content warning: Animals in peril, and one of the main characters has suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the book.

Signet D'Marigold believes she is doomed to be alone. Her parents died during her Third Passage, and none of her friends have ever stayed by her side or kept in touch for long. No one has ever been able to figure out what her Flair is, so she feels useless and lonely until the young prophet, Vinni T'Vine, tells her he's had a vision that her Flair can help his young brain-damaged HeartMate, Avellana Hazel, survive her First Passage.

Signet isn't the only person enlisted to help Avellana. Cratag Maytree, a personal guard for the T'Hawthorn Family, is hired to be Avellana's bodyguard. Cratag is secretly hurt to be hired out like this - he thought T'Hawthorn valued him more, and he'd prefer to be there for Laev Hawthorn's upcoming Passage. Still, he'll do as he's told, and he's certainly looking forward to spending time around Signet. He'd met her several times before and been attracted to her, but he's sure a beautiful and well-bred lady like her couldn't possibly feel the same about a man like him, a scarred outsider with little Flair.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

REVIEW: Knives Out (live action movie)

Knives Out
is a traditional murder mystery, in the vein of Agatha Christie except with vomit.

The basic story: The police, with the assistance of a famous private detective working for an anonymous employer, are investigating the death of Harlan Thrombey, a famous mystery writer. Harlan's death appears to be a clear case of suicide. After his birthday party, he played a game of Go with his caretaker, Marta Cabrera, and then, after she left, laid down and slit his own throat.

However, something doesn't quite add up. Why was a famous detective like Benoit Blanc hired to look into Harlan's death? On the day of his birthday, Harlan cut his financial ties to several members of his family. If he was actually murdered, there are quite a few potential suspects. And Marta, who can't lie without needing to throw up, knows more about what happened that night than she's saying.

REVIEW: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 1: Deus lo Vult (book) by Carlo Zen, illustrations by Shinobu Shinotsuki, translated by Emily Balistrieri and Kevin Steinbach

The Saga of Tanya the Evil
is fantasy military fiction. It also qualifies as fantasy historical fiction. It's licensed by Yen Press under its Yen On imprint. I bought this volume brand new.


Note: Due to the way this book handles religion and religious belief, devoutly religious people should probably approach it with caution.

The main character of this book used to be a Japanese salaryman (his name is never mentioned). Specifically, he worked in HR and did layoffs. One particularly upset person he'd just laid off pushed him in front of a train, landing the salaryman in front of Being X, aka God. Being X, annoyed at having to deal with yet another unbeliever, decides to put the salaryman in a position where he will be forced to believe in God. And so the salaryman is reborn in a new world, as an infant girl named Tanya. He retains his personality and memories of his former life but is forced to deal with the limitations of Tanya's body. At age 8 Tanya joins the military, and the book covers Tanya's time there from age 9 to 11, as she rises up in the ranks during the start of this world's first world war.

Tanya's new world is very similar to Germany just before World War I. In fact, the book begins with a map of Europe, labeled with new country names (except the United States, which is allowed to remain the same for some reason) - Tanya is a soldier for the Empire. Somehow, Tanya's interest in economics (and psychology and history?) and experience in Human Resources translate to "military genius" in this new world.

Friday, June 19, 2020

REVIEW: Plant Daddy (game)

Plant Daddy
is a browser game about growing plants in your sunny little apartment. If you just want something low-stress and soothing, this may be the game for you.

You start off with a little windowsill space and enough in-game currency (leaves or flowers) to buy one basic plant. As it grows, you earn more in-game currency and can buy more plants, more furniture to set plants on, decorations, and plant nurseries that allow you to analyze plants and grow specific plants you or others have discovered. You also eventually unlock the bathroom, which will give you more plant-growing space and additional options.

At a certain point in the game, you unlock a To Do list. Completing items on the list gives you more in-game currency and adds a tiny bit of direction to the game, but you don't have to do the stuff on the list if you don't want to.

I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed this game so far, but maybe I shouldn't be, considering how hooked I got on a free clicker game about taking care of a vast army of chickens. Anyway, I've been enjoying growing a bunch of different plants and seeing what sorts of traits, if any, they turn out to have. You get the option to name the plants (I used to name them all but now I only name my favorites) and change their pot styles and colors. The windows in both rooms have nice features too: you can open them to increase the ambient noise, and if you turn the shower on in the bathroom you can draw pictures in the steam on the windows.

Apparently it's possible to find plants with four or even five rare traits. Maybe one day I'll find those. At any rate, I've ended up playing this more than I expected, and even if I'm not actively playing it, I've found that I like having it open in a tab just for its background noise.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

REVIEW: Islands: Non-Places (game)

I picked up Islands: Non-Places as part of a bundle. It's basically a series of mildly interactive places. You're taken to various locations - an escalator, a fountain, a parking lot, a lounge, etc. - that gradually change as you interact with them in very specific and linear ways.

This isn't a walking simulator. Although you can rotate the locations, you can't freely explore them. All you do is look for blinking lights (or anything else that seems to be inviting you to click it), click them, and then watch the scene unfold in beautiful and surprising ways. My favorites were probably the parking lot and the flooding lounge, but the escalator was amusing too.

Although Islands: Non-Places was very nicely done and made for an intriguing forty minutes or so, I'm not sure I'd recommend it to most folks, and I'd have been very annoyed if I'd paid full price for it ($4.99). I like casual, low-adrenaline games as well as stuff that some folks would argue aren't games at all, like visual novels (both the ones with choices and kinetic visuals novels where you just sit back and read). This could have fallen into the second category, except there wasn't a story to it. This could have fallen into the first category, except that its interactive aspects were extremely limited and linear, and there wasn't anything that counted as puzzles once you figured out that you had to rotate the scenes and click stuff. In the end it was experience. A very short one.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

REVIEW: The Accidental Demon Slayer (book) by Angie Fox

The Accidental Demon Slayer
is labeled "paranormal romance" on the spine but might more accurately be called urban fantasy with romance aspects. It's the first book in the author's Demon Slayer series. I bought it used ages ago. It was published by Dorchester's Love Spell imprint, and it looks like Dorchester's rocky history might have forced the author to go the self-published/small press route around Book 4.


Lizzie's adoptive parents were decent enough but never very loving, so she's thrilled when her biological grandmother contacts her out of the blue and wants to meet. Her dreams of warm hugs are ruined when her grandmother locks her in her own bathroom, just in time for a demon to appear and try to kill her. Once that's been dealt with, her grandmother explains that she's a witch and Lizzie is a demon slayer, and they have to get moving before more demons arrive. Lizzie is a preschool teacher who carefully plans everything, so this is very much outside her comfort zone, but she eventually grabs her dog Pirate (who can now talk) and reluctantly gets on her grandmother's motorcycle.

Lizzie's grandmother takes her to the Red Skulls coven, where she's supposed to gain the coven's protection and begin learning to use her powers. These plans are complicated by imps, more demons, a sexy shape-shifting griffin named Dimitri, werewolves, and no one being willing to tell Lizzie anything about what's going on.

Monday, June 8, 2020

REVIEW: Six Cats a Slayin' (audiobook) by Miranda James, read by Erin Bennett

Six Cats a Slayin' is the 10th book in James' "Cat in the Stacks" mystery series. I checked it out via Overdrive.

This review includes spoilers.


Charlie has an uncomfortably flirtatious new neighbor, Gerry, who seems interested in buying up homes in the area. When she invites him to her big Christmas party, he decides to go in order to be polite but makes sure to take Helen Louise, his girlfriend, with him. Both of them are shocked when the party ends with Gerry's death, quite likely due to poison.

Kanesha's in charge of the investigation, and Charlie does his best to stay in her good graces by keeping his nose out of it. Mostly. It helps that he has a lot on his plate. His daughter-in-law is running herself ragged trying to take care of her new baby and might land herself in the hospital soon if she doesn't accept help. Also, in addition to Diesel, Charlie now has five mystery kittens to take care of. Someone, quite possibly a scared child, left them on his doorstep, and he's determined to find out who it was and see if they can be reunited.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

REVIEW: Satan's Secretary (manga, vol. 1) by Kamotsu Kamonabe, translated by Jennifer O'Donnell

Satan's Secretary is a dark fantasy comedy licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


When a child is born with the Crest of Light on the back of his hand, it's a signal that Satan, too, will soon become unsealed and threaten world domination. Satan's a bit of a heavy sleeper, though, so it takes another 13 years for him to drag himself out of bed. After he finally gets up, he demands that a female human scholar be brought before him, so that he can torture her for her knowledge of other humans.

The human his minions find for him is a secretary. She came willingly and has, in fact, been planning world domination for a while now. Not long after being brought before Satan, she negotiates herself from "human slave" to "paid employee with a conveniently nebulous position in the demon world's new organizational chart." As she completely reworks the Demon Lord's army to her own specifications, the Demon Lord is left wondering what happened and how he can somehow keep himself from becoming a mere figurehead.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

REVIEW: The Gamekeeper's Lady (book) by Ann Lethbridge

The Gamekeeper's Lady is a Harlequin Historical Regency romance. It's the first book in Lethbridge's "Rakes in Disgrace" series. I got it at a used bookstore that has long since closed down.


Lord Robert Mountford has a bad habit of hopping into bed with flirtatious married women, but he steers clear of innocent virgins. Unfortunately, one catches him alone and, mistaking him for his twin brother, falsely accuses him of trying to kiss her. He refuses to marry her and is ostracized by everyone he knows. Even his own father kicks him out.

Three years later, Robert has managed to land a position as an assistant gamekeeper at Wynchwood estate, hiding his true identity as best he can. Frederica Bracewell, the young lady of the house, may prove to be his undoing. Sparks fly between the two of them as Robert helps Frederica with her secret project, drawing local wildlife and adding to her art portfolio so that she can eventually run away to Italy and become an artist.