Friday, July 31, 2020

REVIEW: Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! (manga, vol. 1) by Yuu Toyota, translated by Taylor Engel

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!
is a workplace BL manga, a combination of fantasy and comedy. It's published by Square Enix Manga.

This review includes slight spoilers.


When Adachi hit age 30, for some reason his virginity suddenly gave him the ability to read the minds of anyone he touched. Hearing other people's thoughts tends to make his life uncomfortable and awkward, and even his attempt to pay someone to help him lose his virginity goes awry. When he arrives at his office job and sees the always perfect and handsome Kurosawa, a coworker who was hired at about the same time as him, he figures he'll just take a peek at Kurosawa's thoughts to make himself feel better. Surely a guy like that secretly has a bad personality.

Except it turns out that Kurosawa actually has a huge crush on Adachi, and suddenly Adachi has no idea how to act around him. After all, they're both guys, and Kurosawa's thoughts are kind of pervy. What if he acts on them? And even if he doesn't, should Adachi avoid him? Is spending time with him, knowing what he's thinking, like leading him on? And what if Adachi is maybe interested in him too?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

REVIEW: Network Effect (book) by Martha Wells

Network Effect
is the fifth work in Wells' Murderbot Diaries series, and the first full-length novel. It is science fiction.


Murderbot is still trying to figure out what it wants, so in the meantime it's working for Preservation. Its most recent job involves acting as security for a survey expedition that includes several familiar characters and a couple new ones. Although the expedition does hit a snag, it's not until everyone's on their way back to Preservation space that things go really wrong. The ship gets attacked, by another ship that Murderbot eventually realizes is ART.

Which is weird and upsetting for Murderbot, but it just gets worse from there. Something horrible has happened to ART and its crew, and it's up to Murderbot to figure everything out and somehow save itself and Amena, Mensah's teen daughter.

REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express (audiobook) by Agatha Christie, narrated by Dan Stevens

Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery. I checked it out via one of the library Overdrive collections I have access to.


Poirot rides the Orient Express with wide variety of other passengers, from a Russian princess to an American woman who won't stop talking. At one point during the trip, Poirot learns that the train has stopped and a murder has occurred. The victim is a passenger he had found viscerally unpleasant, Mr. Ratchett. As Poirot investigates, he discovers many clues, none of which make sense.

REVIEW: The Shining (audiobook) by Stephen King, read by Campbell Scott

The Shining
is horror, originally published in 1977. I checked this out via one of the library Overdrive collections I have access to.


Jack Torrance takes a position as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel mostly because he doesn't have any other choice. He's a recovering alcoholic with anger issues who was fired from his previous position as a teacher for beating a student. The caretaker position will give him and his wife (Wendy) and 5-year-old son (Danny) a place to stay while he finishes writing his play and figures out what his next step is going to be.

Although Wendy is no longer considering a divorce, she still has trust issues where Jack is concerned. When he was drunk, Jack once broke Danny's arm, and a part of Wendy has never forgiven him for it and worries that he'll do something like it again. For his part, Danny loves both of his parents and wants them to stay together and love each other. Danny happens to be psychic, so he's more aware of his parents' thoughts and feelings than the average 5-year-old. He's also the first member of the family to notice that the Overlook Hotel is very, very haunted. But ghosts are just scary pictures. They can't actually hurt the living...right?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

REVIEW: Crimson-Shell (manga) by Jun Mochizuki, translated by Tomo Kimura

Crimson-Shell is a fantasy one-shot. I bought my copy used.


Just thinking about summarizing this exhausts me, but here I go. In this world there are people called Black Roses. They have the ability to control deadly thorns and can poison others and bend them to their will. The Black Roses are led by even more powerful people known as Jet Roses. All Black and Jet Roses must feed off of human life force in order to survive, and all of them eventually rot and die.

Claudia is the only Crimson Rose known to exist. She has some of the same powers as Black Roses but none of the drawbacks. In fact, she may actually be immortal and unchanging. Xeno, a member of the Red Rose, a group dedicated  to hunting down and destroying Black Roses, helped Claudia figure out how to control her power, and ever since then she has idolized him. Unfortunately, the Red Roses may have a traitor in their midst, and there's a possibility that Xeno is connected somehow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

REVIEW: Dream House (live action movie)

Dream House
is a 2011 thriller.


Will Atenton has just quit his job in the city in order to move to a new house and spend more time with his wife and two little girls. However, it isn't long before he wonders whether the move was a mistake. It turns out that the previous resident killed his wife and two children in the house, and it's now a creepy hangout for local teens. Will's wife and daughters keep spotting someone creeping around outside, which becomes especially worrisome after he learns that the man who used to live there is still alive and walking around free.

Monday, July 13, 2020

REVIEW: Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (e-short story) by Martha Wells

"Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory" is a sci-fi short story in the Murderbot Diaries series. It should be read after Exit Strategy.


Dr. Ayda Mensah attempts to do her work and pretend she's fine after the events of Exit Strategy.

First, I want to say thank you to the person who let me know about this story and where to go to read it. I'm sure going straight from Exit Strategy to Network Effect would have worked out fine, but the really nice thing about this story is that it's the first time we get to see Murderbot from someone else's POV.

And yeah, not everyone on Preservation is happy about the idea of a rogue SecUnit hanging around, and I wonder what other SecUnits would do if they didn't have functioning governor modules anymore and could just do whatever they wanted. They probably wouldn't all be like Murderbot, happily watching serials in between (and sometimes during) efforts to save humans from dying.

Since Murderbot spends so much time assuring readers that everyone is justifiably terrified of rogue SecUnits, I got a kick out of Mensah actually finding Murderbot to be a very comforting presence. She knows she has to find other ways of working through her emotions (like actually visiting a mental health professional, which she'd been resisting), but for now, right after a traumatic incident, it's nice to have SecUnit watching out for her and being intimidating when anyone scares her.

All right, on to Network Effect...

REVIEW: Exit Strategy (novella) by Martha Wells

Exit Strategy
is the fourth work in the sci-fi Murderbot Diaries series. I bought it brand new.


Murderbot now has the evidence it wanted to give to Dr. Mensah. Unfortunately, its actions on Milu inadvertently put Dr. Mensah in danger. She's now missing and likely being held hostage by GrayCris, because GrayCris thinks Murderbot went to Milu on her orders. Oops. In order to help her, Murderbot must work together with Dr. Mensah's team and hope that this won't lead to its eventual betrayal and capture.

As usual, I wish Tor had released all of these novellas in a single volume. I'm glad I read this right after Rogue Protocol, so I didn't lose any of that story's momentum. Although Murderbot didn't dwell on the final events as much as I thought it might, at least not in a way that intruded on its thoughts too much, it was definitely helpful that all of that was fresh in my mind while I read this.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

REVIEW: Rogue Protocol (novella) by Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol
is the third entry in the Murderbot Diaries series. I bought it brand new.


Murderbot is on its own again and now has a plan to help Dr. Mensah take down GrayCris Corporation and hopefully go back to Preservation, where she will be safe and Murderbot can stop worrying about her. Some time ago, GrayCris set up a terraform facility at Milu that somehow failed. Since GrayCris Corporation's standard operations include lying, murdering, and stealing, Murderbot figures that the terraform facility was just a cover and is now heading to Milu to get proof. As usual, its work is complicated by the need to protect humans in dangerous situations.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

REVIEW: Spy x Family (manga, vol. 1) by Tatsuya Endo, translated by Casey Loe

Spy x Family
is an action comedy series. It's licensed by VIZ. I bought my copy brand new.


The spy known as Twilight has been given his most difficult mission yet: get close to the leader of the National Unity Party, Donovan Desmond. Desmond's only public appearances are at the elite private school his son attends, so Twilight (now Loid Forger) has seven days to somehow acquire both a child and a wife.

The child is easy - all he has to do is find a terrible orphanage and get the brightest kid they have. A wife is harder, but he manages to find one of those as well. What Twilight/Loid doesn't realize is that his new wife, Yor, is an assassin (who needed a boyfriend in order to reassure her beloved brother) and his new child, Anya, is a telepath (who thinks her new parents are the coolest).

REVIEW: Artificial Condition (novella) by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition
is the second work in Wells' Murderbot Diaries series. It's science fiction. I bought it brand new from a bookstore that held a virtual "meet the author" event - one thing I hope sticks around after the pandemic is virtual events like that one, which make it possible even for folks who live multiple states or countries away to easily attend.


Artificial Condition picks up right where All Systems Red left off. Murderbot is now all on its own, with no real plans beyond not getting caught and spending as much time as possible watching as much media as possible. However, there is one question it wants answered, and in order to do that it will have to travel to RaviHyral Mining Facility Q Station, the place where it once went rogue and killed a bunch of humans.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

REVIEW: Kevin (book) by Paul Kupperberg

is a novel in the Archie Comics universe. It looks like some folks have tagged it as YA, but I'd call it more Middle Grade. I'm pretty sure I found this on a used bookstore bargain shelf.

This review contains spoilers.


Content warning: Bullying, attempted suicide.

Kevin Keller is well-liked in high school, but it wasn't always that way. While helping Veronica and Jughead with the preparations for Riverdale High's upcoming prom, Kevin tells the story of his middle school prom. Back then, he was chubby and had braces and bad skin. Because his dad was in the Army, his family was always moving, and bullies always seemed to view him as a target. But at least at Medford Middle School he had a small group of friends: the Geek Squad, composed of him, Leon, Nicky, and Samantha (aka Sammie).

As the Medford Middle School prom approached, Kevin found himself dealing with lots of stress and confusing feelings. In order to get to hang out more with the popular and handsome Timmy (who Kevin didn't realize was his first crush), Kevin agreed to go to the prom with Sammie as friends, not realizing that she might take it more seriously. And then there was Elliott, the school's biggest bully, threatening to beat him up the first chance he got. Dealing with Elliott got Kevin thinking more about Luke, another one of Elliott's victims - and unlike Kevin, he seemed to be all alone, with no Geek Squad of his own to keep him company.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 1 (book) by Dojyomaru, art by Fuyuyuki, translated by Sean McCann

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
is yet another isekai (transported to another world) light novel. In terms of its print history, it's a bit weird: it's licensed by J-Novel Club, which released the electronic versions, but printed by Seven Seas Entertainment. It's larger than volumes printed by J-Novel Club. I'm not sure why Seven Seas Entertainment handled the print release of the series, since J-Novel Club put out print editions of several of their other titles. Maybe this was one of their first series to be released in paper format and they didn't have that side of things worked out yet?


Souma Kazuya (referred to as Souma from here on out because the other characters misunderstood and thought that was his given name) has only ever wanted to be the best civil servant he could be and live a quiet and stable life. His grandfather told him to build a family and then protect them no matter what, so that had become part of his goal as well.

Then he somehow ends up transported into another world, where he is told he's a hero who has been summoned "to lead the change of an era." The country is facing food shortages and is in a precarious political position, and there's a Demon King causing problems. Rather than be a more traditional hero and train to fight the Demon King, Souma decides to stick to his strengths and work on various plans and improvements designed to deal with the food shortage. The king is so impressed by his practicality and level-headedness that he abdicates the throne to him and promises him his daughter Liscia's hand in marriage. And so begins Souma's work to save the kingdom.