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...