Sunday, September 12, 2021

REVIEW: Punderworld (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Linda Sejic

Punderworld is a Greek mythology comic serialized on Webtoon. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

Review:

Hades has been lovesick for Persephone for a century or two, but he's always been too shy to do anything about it. Plus, Persephone's mother, Demeter, is well-known for her stony attitude towards any of her daughter's potential suitors. And surely someone like Persephone would never be interested in a guy like Hades, her complete opposite.

Except she's definitely interested. But she doesn't even know who he is, and all her overprotective mother will tell her is that he's some minor god. It seems like the two will never get a chance to really spend some time with each other, until Zeus gets involved and does a little meddling.

REVIEW: Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto (audiobook) by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon, narrated by the authors

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto is nonfiction. I listened to it through OverDrive.

Review:

This book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the New Horizons interplanetary space probe: what it took to get it funded, the work necessary to get the public excited about Pluto and the mission, some of the decision-making processes along the way, and more.

I didn't write it down, but I believe the primary narrator for this was David Grinspoon - Alan Stern also narrated a bit, but only small sections. (Or I mixed up the names and it's actually the reverse.) Although the narration wasn't terrible, and definitely communicated how exciting and nerve-wracking this mission was, I found myself wishing that it had been narrated by someone else. It took me longer than it should have to get through this book, two checkout periods, and my slight dislike of the narration was part of the reason why. Grinspoon's voice didn't quite work for me.

Monday, September 6, 2021

REVIEW: Library Technology Buying Strategies (nonfiction book) edited by Marshall Breeding

Library Technology Buying Strategies is a nonfiction book I read for work-related reasons. I got it via interlibrary loan.

Review:

I read Library Technology Buying Strategies partly to learn more about RFPs (request for proposal) and partly hoping to find tips for evaluating different integrated library systems (ILSs). It provided some of what I was looking for, but not quite in the way I'd hoped, and its organization was odd.

It started with a couple excellent chapters on RFPs - how they're structured, what questions a library needs to answer when writing one, and how to write one, including tips from vendor bid writers. These chapters made me exceedingly glad that I haven't been asked to write an RFP, although they provide excellent information that would make being asked to write one slightly less terrifying (librarytechnology.org, maintained by Marshall Breeding, is mentioned as a source of RFP examples, as well as lots of other library technology infrormation).

The rest of the book is more of a mixed bag. Chapters 3 and 4 cover resource sharing (interlibrary loan, consortial resource sharing) and the technological issues libraries need to consider. Chapters 5 and 6 cover cloud computing solutions (website hosting, server hosting, data storage, SaaS, ASP, PaaS, the pros and cons of cloud computing vs. local systems management, etc.). Chapter 7 covers library services platforms, which are a type of library resource management system that take a different approach than traditional ILSs. Some examples are Ex Libris' Alma, OCLC WorldShare Management Services, Kuali OLE, and Sierra. Breeding also considers SirsiDynix's BLUEcloud suite to be a library services platform, although at the moment it still relies on libraries to be using either SirsiDynix's Horizon or Symphony ILSs. The final chapter covers criteria to consider when purchasing e-book platforms.

REVIEW: Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting and Living a Life in Full Color (graphic novel) story by Julie Dachez, adaptation, illustration, and colors by Mademoiselle Caroline, inspired by and in collaboration with Fabienne Vaslet

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color is, from what I can determine, an at least semi-autobiographical graphic novel. The main character is named Marguerite, but I'm fairly certain her experiences are based on Julie Dachez's own experiences with being diagnosed with Asperger's.

The story takes place somewhere in France. Marguerite is 27, has an office job she doesn't enjoy, and a routine she rarely deviates from. Her happiest time is when she's at home with her cats and little dog. Unfortunately, at work she's considered rude for not making smalltalk with people or going out to lunch with her coworkers. The open office plan makes it impossible for her to concentrate, and Marguerite's preference for loose and comfortable clothing is viewed as unprofessional. Her personal life isn't necessarily peaceful either - her boyfriend Florian wants her to go out with him more, but social situations exhaust her.

Eventually Marguerite is diagnosed with Asperger's and finds it liberating. It reassures her that there's nothing wrong with her - she's just different.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

REVIEW: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.: The Complete Series (anime TV series)

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is a political thriller that feels like a slice-of-life story, or occasionally even like a strange comedy. It was an impulse purchase during a Right Stuf sale. I hadn't heard anything about it and wasn't expecting much from it, so it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be really good.

That said, I spent a good portion of the beginning of the series with no clue what kind of show I was watching. ACCA takes place on an island composed of 13 territories, each with a vastly different culture and way of life. ACCA is an organization that was originally created to protect the kingdom's peace and guard against the threat of a coup d'etat. Jean Otus, a member of ACCA's Inspection Department, travels to each of the 13 territories and attempts to figure out whether there's really a coup brewing in this seemingly peaceful land. What he doesn't initially realize, however, is that his actions are being interpreted by nearly everyone around him as signs that he's involved in the supposed coup.

Was the coup real, or a paranoid bureaucratic fantasy? Was I watching some kind of absurdist comedy or an actual political thriller that just happened to contain frequent snack breaks?

Monday, August 30, 2021

REVIEW: Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale (manga, vol. 1) by Kikori Morino, translated by Adrienne Beck

Giant Spider & Me is a post-apocalyptic slice-of-life story. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

Review:

Twelve-year-old Nagi lives alone in the little house she and her father moved into three years ago. Her father likes to go exploring, but it's been longer than usual since Nagi last heard from him. Still, she tries to stay cheerful, taking care of her garden, making good food, and occasionally going to the nearby village market.

Then one day she encounters an enormous spider. She's scared at first, but it seems friendly, so she feeds it, names it "Asa," and begins trying to learn more about it and communicate with it.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

REVIEW: Play It Cool, Guys (manga, vol. 1) by Kokone Nata, translated by Amanda Haley

Play It Cool, Guys is a slice-of-life comedy series. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

Review:

This full-color manga stars four different "clumsy-cool" guys: Hayate Ichikura (age 20, college student), the "embarrassed and introspective" type; Shun Futami (age 17, high school student), the "bluffing stoic" type; Takayuki Mima (age 27, working adult), the "unaware and unaffected" type; and Souma Shiki (age 19, vocational college student), the "self-accepting positive" type. Each guy is introduced with examples of how they manage to remain cool despite being awkward or clumsy, and each section transitions to the next guy by having the previous one bump into the new one. By the last few chapters, however, their paths start to cross in more significant ways.

REVIEW: My Hero Academia, Season One (anime TV series)

My Hero Academia is a superhero series based on a manga of the same title. I bought my copy of this season brand new.

Review:

In the world of this series, people started mysteriously developing superpowers, called Quirks, some time ago. Now 80% of the world has them, and they're seen as normal.

Izuku Midoriya has looked up to the hero All Might since he was a child and always wanted to be just like him, so it was a huge blow when a doctor told him that he was Quirkless. Now that he's older, it's still his dream to attend U.A. High School, the top school for prospective heroes, but is that even possible for someone without a Quirk? Then one day he encounters All Might, learns his hero's biggest secret, and is gifted powers that could make his dream a reality, if he can ever figure out how to control them.

REVIEW: At War with Yourself (graphic novel) by Samuel C. Williams

At War with Yourself is a nonfiction graphic novel about the author's friend's experiences with PTSD. It was one of my library checkouts.

Review:

Samuel C. Williams is a UK-based illustrator and comic artist who decides, with his friend Matt's permission and approval, to make a graphic novel about Matt's experiences with PTSD. As he and Matt walk, Matt talks about things like his PTSD symptoms, the way his military training has played into some of those symptoms, his triggers, and the way therapy helped him understand what was going on with him and learn practical calming mechanisms. His wife also briefly talks about Matt's sometimes very violent dreams.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

REVIEW: Sunshine Cleaning (live action movie)

Sunshine Cleaning is a 2008 drama. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

In high school, Rose was a popular cheerleader with a handsome boyfriend. Years later, she's a single mom who works for a cleaning service. She tells everyone she's taking real estate classes when in reality she's meeting up with her old high school boyfriend, who's now a married cop. When her son's behavior gets him kicked out of school, she decides to try her hand at crime scene cleaning, because she heard it was lucrative and the money could help her get him into a good private school. She can't do it alone, so she enlists her sister's help.

What starts off as a way to make some cash turns into something more, as both sisters think more deeply about their lives, their relationships, and their memories of their mother.

REVIEW: Sudden Position Guide to Acquisitions (nonfiction book) by Deborah Hathaway, Paul Kelsey, Stacey Marien, and Susan E. Thomas

Sudden Position Guide to Acquisitions is nonfiction. I read it for work-related reasons and got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Don't let this book's slim size fool you - it's an excellent resource, and I can't recommend it highly enough for someone who's either just gotten their first job as an Acquisitions Librarian or who has suddenly had Acquisitions duties added on to their regular duties. I was facing the latter situation when I originally requested this via ILL, and if library administration hadn't suddenly changed their mind and given those duties to someone else, I'd have purchased a copy and kept it on hand as I tried to learn my new job. As it is, I'd like to own a copy simply because it's helpful for understanding work that overlaps somewhat with my own (I'm a cataloger).

Monday, August 16, 2021

REVIEW: The Cat Proposed (manga) by Dento Hayane, translated by Katie Kimura

The Cat Proposed is a fantasy BL one-shot manga. It's licensed by Tokyopop. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes spoilers.

Review: 

Souta is so overworked he's to the point of considering suicide. He snaps out of it, barely, and finds himself taking a detour to listen to a kodan storyteller. As the storyteller transitions to a story about a bakeneko, a type of supernatural cat that can transform into a human, Souta sees the storyteller briefly transform into a bakeneko. He figures it's just exhaustion, until the storyteller, Kihachi, confirms it and says that they're now both bound by bakeneko rules. Souta must agree to become Kihachi's mate and not reveal the existence of bakeneko to other humans, or both he and Kihachi will be killed.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

REVIEW: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (manga, vol. 1) by Motoro Mase, translated by John Werry

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit is dystopian psychological fiction. It's licensed by VIZ. I bought this volume used.

Review:

Content warning for this volume: on-page bullying and rape.

In this version of Japan, there's something called the National Welfare Act. In elementary school, all children are vaccinated against various diseases. Some of the injections include a special nanocapsule that eventually comes to rest in the child's pulmonary artery, where it ruptures on a specified day and time, at some point between their 18th and 24th birthday. No one knows who has a capsule inside them, and the goal is to make citizens value their lives more and increase their productivity. Any citizens who object to this system are immediately injected with a capsule.

Fujimoto has just started working as a messenger, one of the people whose job is to deliver ikigami, death papers. These are given to citizens 24 hours before they're scheduled to die, so that they may better appreciate their last 24 hours. The families they leave behind will be given a bereavement pension, unless they choose to spend their last 24 hours committing crimes, in which case there is no bereavement pension and the family must pay large fines as compensation.

This particular volume features the delivery of two ikigami, one to a man who was bullied so severely when he was in high school that it derailed his entire life, and one to a young singer/guitarist who has lost sight of what's really important to him in his quest to become famous.

REVIEW: Sweet Admiration (book) by Yuuki Kousaka, illustrated by Midori Shena, translated by Andria Cheng

Sweet Admiration is a yaoi novel, basically m/m contemporary romance. My records tell me I bought it brand new, and it looks like it can be purchased for a reasonable price.

This review includes major spoilers.

Review:

Katsuya and Kazuki befriended each other over the course of a summer when they were kids, and they kept in touch after Kazuki went back to the city. While Katsuya considers Kazuki a friend, the person he really can't forget is Shio, Kazuki's older brother. It's now 12 years later, and Katsuya has decided to take a risk and accept a job with a small company Shio helped found in the hope of seeing Shio again.

However, things don't go quite the way he planned. Shio doesn't actually spend much time at the company now, and the company housing Katsuya was promised may have been a lie. Katsuya resigns himself to not seeing Shio, but the question of his housing really needs to be settled, so he confronts the company president about it...and gets assigned to a "company dorm" that's actually Shio's condo. Katsuya isn't sure whether to be happy or horrified. On the one hand, he gets to spend time with his childhood crush. On the other hand, Shio has made it clear that he's only putting up with this arrangement because the company president asked him to.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

REVIEW: Beautiful People (manga anthology) by Mitsukazu Mihara, translated by Haruko Furukawa

Beautiful People is a manga anthology that ranges from fantasy to contemporary drama to apocalyptic fiction. It was originally published by Tokyopop and is now out of print. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Like many anthologies, this had a mixture of so-so, not so great, and good stories. Overall, I'd say the collection was so-so. "Blue Sky" was very good, "Princess White Snow" was decent but a bit off-putting, and "The Lady Stalker" was creepy. The rest of the stories weren't necessarily terrible but didn't really work for me.

Something about Mihara's artwork occasionally reminded me of Paradise Kiss - probably the elaborate clothes. I wasn't really a fan, but again, it wasn't necessarily terrible.

Like I do for most short anthologies, I'll go over the stories one by one.

REVIEW: Sorcerers & Secretaries (OEL manga, vol. 2) by Amy Kim Ganter

Sorcerers & Secretaries is a contemporary romance series. It was originally published by Tokyopop. It looks like the author now goes by Amy Kim Kibuishi.

I bought this volume used. This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Nicole has decided to cut things off with Josh because being with him distracts her from the story she's been writing about Ellon. However, when Josh chases after her and asks for an explanation she finds herself telling him about the story - and then he even reads part of it in her dreamlog and loves it. From that point on, Josh becomes Nicole's writing cheerleader, encouraging her to finish the story so she can submit it to a magazine. He still loves Nicole, but he's determined not to let it show so he doesn't mess things up again. However, things come to a head as Nicole is forced to choose between studying enough to pass the business classes her mom wants her to take and finishing the story in time for the magazine deadline.

REVIEW: Sorcerers & Secretaries (OEL manga, vol. 1) by Amy Kim Ganter

Sorcerers & Secretaries is, I believe, a contemporary romance series with possible fantasy elements. It was originally published by Tokyopop. It looks like the author now goes by Amy Kim Kibuishi.

I bought this volume used.

Review:

Nicole has extremely vivid dreams and daydreams about a lonely sorcerer named Ellon who was betrayed by his familiar and only friend, Sonneth. She writes these vivid dreams into her dreamlog, paying only the most minimal attention necessary to things like her business classes and her friend Susan. At night she works as a secretary.

Josh is a bookstore employee who's gotten all his tips about interacting with women from Riley, a pickup artist who happens to be his roommate. Female customers practically fall over themselves to give Josh their number, which he always deposits in a jar. The person he's really interested in is Nicole, who he was never able to charm. When Nicole enters his store, Josh figures he'll give it another shot, but he doesn't realize that he's competing against Nicole's daydreams about Ellon.

REVIEW: Sword of Destiny: Tales of the Witcher (book) by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French

Sword of Destiny is another anthology of Witcher stories. I'm not really sure about the series chronology, but it was sold in a set with The Last Wish, as though it followed that anthology. Goodreads tells me that starting with The Last Wish and then Sword of Destiny is the best reading order.

Review:

The stories in this Witcher anthology are all on the long side, a change from The Last Wish. Also, there are no efforts that I could recall to transition from one story to the next, although several of the stories do naturally work well in the order in which they're included.

Geralt encounters a mermaid and other sea creatures, dryads, a dragon, and a shapeshifter. He also deals with further complications in his relationship with Yennefer and finds himself face-to-face with a destiny he's not entirely sure he wants anymore but can't avoid.

REVIEW: Sadako-san and Sadako-chan (manga) by Aya Tsutsumi, original concept by Koji Suzuki, translated by Thomas Zimmerman

Sadako-san and Sadako-chan is based on Koji Suzuki's Ring franchise, but this one-shot is actually a comedy. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sadako-san, the ghost from the Ring movies and books, has been summoned to a padlocked closet, the location of her newest victim. Inside the closet is a little girl who says her mother calls her Sadako's reincarnation. Her mother supposedly keeps her locked in the closet because she's "special" (the girl can read minds, which is how she can understand Sadako-san) and only lets her out for short periods when she's home.

The little girl has been called "Sadako's reincarnation" for so long that she can't remember what her real name is, so Sadako-san calls her "Sadako-chan." Sadako-san laments the fact that people don't have CRT TVs or watch videos much anymore, so Sadako-chan proposes that she upload cursed videos and become a streamer. Through these activities, Sadako-san eventually meets Kazuma, a streamer who's a little creeped out by her but also impressed with the number of views she's been getting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

REVIEW: The First Stage of Love (manga anthology) by Kazuhiko Mishima, translated by Melanie Schoen

The First Stage of Love is essentially a manga anthology, since it's composed of multiple stories and no single story dominates. It's published by DMP's Juné imprint, and it looks like it can still be purchased relatively inexpensively. I bought my copy used.

Parts of this review include spoilers.

Review:

Since this is basically composed of a series of unrelated stories, I think it'll work best if I discuss them one at a time. However, I'll say that, overall, I liked this volume quite a bit. The art style wasn't really to my taste - most of the couples looked enough alike that you could have shuffled them up and it wouldn't have been particularly noticeable. But the stories were generally sweet and enjoyable, and no one was cruel or rapey.

REVIEW: Don't Rush Love (manga) by Mio Tennohji, translated by Leona Wong

Don't Rush Love is contemporary-set yaoi manga. Like so many of these volumes I own, it appears to be out of print. It was originally licensed by 801 Media. I bought my copy used.

This review includes major spoilers.

Review:

Morino just transferred to a new school and immediately falls head-over-heels in love with Kusama, a handsome volleyball player who turns out to be his new roommate. However, he also notices the way Kusama looks at Kanzaki-sensei, and since Kusama is out until late every night, he figures the two of them are in a secret relationship.

He eventually learns that Kusama actually has unrequited feelings for Kanzaki-sensei and deals with it by going out every night to have meaningless sex. Unable to bear seeing his crush go out like that, Morino confesses his feelings to Kusama and proposes that Kusama use him instead to forget Kanzaki-sensei. To his surprise, Kusama agrees. However, this arrangement may be more emotionally difficult than either one of them anticipates.

REVIEW: Cute Devil (manga) by Hiro Madarame

Cute Devil is yaoi manga published by Tokyopop's old Blu imprint. It's now out of print and looks to be extremely expensive to buy online. I'm pretty sure I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Akiyoshi has always had a bit of a complex about his effeminate looks, so he can't help but feel a bit sorry for Naruse (called by his given name, Fuuta, by most of the class), who's even prettier than he is. Still, when Naruse asks Akiyoshi to be his friend, he has no intention of saying yes. Which is when Naruse reveals his hidden devilish side. He wants to have sex with Akiyoshi and had initially planned to gradually win him over, but if Akiyoshi won't play along, then Naruse figures he'll just rape him. And so he does.

And that's how things continue. Akiyoshi can't say anything to anyone because Naruse's so good at pretending to be a delicate flower that no one would believe him. Plus, there's the issue that he kind of enjoyed it.

REVIEW: La Esperança (manga, vol. 2) by Chigusa Kawai, translated by Sachiko Sato

La Esperança is a school drama series with light BL romance elements. It was licensed by Digital Manga Publishing and appears to be out of print now. I bought my copy of this volume used.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Ever since meeting Robert, Georges has started to open up a little. He's always been friendly but a little unapproachable. While his friend Henri appreciates the changes he's noticing in Georges, it bothers him that Robert was the one to inspire them. Does Georges really view him, Henri, as a true friend, or would he act just as friendly with anyone else?

Next is a story about Georges meeting a boy named Chris who works for a charity. Robert and others warn Georges that the charity Chris works for is really a front for a group that's up to no good, but Chris seems like such a nice guy that Georges can't bring himself to doubt him.

After that are two stories still set in the same world, but starring, I think, very minor characters from the main story. Erwin accidentally runs into a girl named Cecile, who becomes convinced that he's her soulmate. The volume wraps up with a story about Erwin's friend Joshua, who has an unrequited crush on the dorm Patron.

REVIEW: La Esperança (manga, vol. 1) by Chigusa Kawai, translated by Sachiko Sato

La Esperança is a school drama series with (so far) light BL romance elements. It was licensed by Digital Manga Publishing and appears to be out of print now. I bought my copy used.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Georges is well-liked by everyone at his school. He helps everyone feel at ease, but he also keeps everyone at a distance due to feelings of guilt about the lives his father has ruined. Then a transfer student named Robert arrives and begins shaking everything up. Robert seems determined to dislike Georges, telling him that he knows his purity and perfection are only a mask and that he's going to rip away. Even so, Georges is determined to befriend him, forcing Robert to confront the things about his own past that Georges reminds him of.

Monday, August 2, 2021

REVIEW: A Man and His Cat (manga, vol. 2) by Umi Sakurai, translated by Taylor Engel

A Man and His Cat is a slice-of-life series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

Review:

Fukumaru and Mr. Kanda continue to make an adorable little family, although Fukumaru has some leftover worries that Mr. Kanda might ditch him for a cuter cat. We see a little more of the pet store employee who first helped Mr. Kanda, Mr. Kanda's coworkers, Mr. Kanda's friend Kobayashi, and even some flashbacks to Mr. Kanda's time with his wife. We also learn a little about Mr. Kanda's childhood.

I was not quite in the right mood to read this volume when I first started it. It seemed very aimless in every way to me, and I kept trying to recall whether volume 1 had given me a similar impression. But I continued on, and after a certain point the volume grew on me. I'm still not really a fan of Fukumaru's design, although I suppose that's the point - he's an odd-looking cat for everyone except Mr. Kanda. 

REVIEW: Angels of Death (anime TV series)

Angels of Death is a psychological thriller series based on a game. I watched it on Funimation's streaming service.

Review:

Content warning for this series, beyond all the murderers: child abuse.

Rachel Gardner wakes up in the basement of a strange building with no memory of how she got there. The last thing she can recall is going to see a doctor because she'd witnessed a terrible murder. It isn't long before Zack, a scythe-wielding serial killer, finds her and tries to kill her. However, Zack isn't the only deadly person in the building - and all of them want to kill Rachel. Luckily (I guess), Rachel soon decides that she actually wants to die...but she wants Zack to be the one to kill her, and he won't do it unless she helps him escape.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

REVIEW: Blood of My Blood (book) by Barry Lyga

Blood of My Blood is the last book in Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers trilogy. It's a YA thriller. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review contains major spoilers for the previous book. If you haven't read it and plan to, stop reading right here.

Review:

Blood of My Blood picks up right where Game left off, which means it starts on a nerve-wracking note and just ramps up the tension from there. Howie is bleeding out on the floor of Jazz's home, after potentially accidentally killing Jazz's grandmother. Connie is in Billy's clutches. And Jazz is in a storage unit with a bunch of dead bodies, doomed to die of blood loss, dehydration, or infection if no one finds him.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

REVIEW: The Last Wish (short story anthology) by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by Danusia Stok

The Last Wish appears to be the first work in Sapkowski's Witcher series, although it's technically a collection of short stories. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, someone who has been made to undergo extensive mental and physical conditioning since childhood in preparation for becoming a monster slayer. This book is essentially a collection of short stories detailing some of Geralt's adventures. Many of his encounters read like twisted fairy tales - there are heavily altered versions of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," plus a striga (strzyga), a genie, and more.

Geralt starts off as a loner, traveling from one town to the next in the hope that someone will be willing to pay him to deal with a local monster. Later in the volume he gains a regular traveling companion, a bard named Dandelion.

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, Vol. 3 (book) by Yuka Tachibana, illustrated by Yasuyuki Syuri, translated by Julie Goniwich

The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent is a slice-of-life fantasy series with romantic elements. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment under its Airship imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

This volume takes place a year after the beginning of the series. Sei is still working on becoming comfortable with her status as the Saint (and in fact still thinks that no one is really sure that she's the Saint, because she's a bit dense in that respect), but she's finally ready to start traveling to problem areas with the palace knights. The first place she and the Third Order knights are being sent is Klausner's Domain, which is sometimes referred to as the alchemist's holy land due to its focus on herb production and potion making. The problem: although Sei used Holy Magic in the previous book to dispel the Miasma in the woods near the palace, she still has no idea how she did it. There's no guarantee that she'll be able to help Klausner's Domain.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

REVIEW: Roujin Z (anime movie)

Roujin Z is a 1991 sci-fi anime movie. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Takazawa, an elderly invalid, is cared for by a volunteer nurse named Haruko. However, the program that takes care of Takazawa and many other elderly Japanese is overburdened and unable to support all the people that could use it, so the Ministry of Public Welfare proposes something new: the Z-001, a computerized "smart" hospital bed that can take care of a patient's every need without any input from a human being. Takazawa's family (who we never see) volunteers him to be the first patient in a Z-001.

Haruko is convinced that the Z-001 couldn't possibly replace the kind of care a real nurse could provide. Her worries seem founded when Takazawa somehow transmits a message to her, asking for help. With the aid of a bunch of elderly hackers, Haruko does her best to free her patient.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

REVIEW: Game (book) by Barry Lyga

Game is a YA thriller, the second book in a series. I bought my copy used.

Review:

(I'm starting off with spoilers for the first book. You've been warned.)

In the first book, Jazz was kidnapped by the Impressionist and rescued by his friends. Also, one of Jazz's teachers was killed, and Jazz's dad, the serial killer Billy Dent, escaped from prison and killed the social worker who'd been assigned to Jazz.

Now a cop from the NYPD is at Jazz's door, asking for his help. Neither the NYPD nor the FBI can find a pattern behind the Hat-Dog killings, and they think Jazz, with his unique upbringing and insight into serial killers, might be able to help. Jazz does too, so he eventually agrees to go along. His girlfriend Connie goes with him.

However, there's more going on than Jazz realizes, involving his dad, his own history, and possibly even something worse than his dad.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, Vol. 2 (book) by Yuka Tachibana, illustrated by Yasuyuki Syuri, translated by Julie Goniwich

The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent is an isekai fantasy romance series. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Yuri Drewes, the grand magus who initially summoned Sei and Aira to this world, has awakened from his coma and now wants to perform an Appraisal upon both of them. Sei is less than thrilled - despite her saint-level display of powers in the previous volume, she still hopes to live a quiet and relatively anonymous life. 

Although the results are inconclusive (sort of), several things are now coming to a head. From the start, Prince Kyle never even acknowledged Sei's existence, much less her possible status as the Saint. Since then, Aira's abilities have grown at an amazing rate, but she hasn't done nearly as much that might indicate that she's the Saint as Sei has. Also, while Yuri technically hasn't confirmed that Sei is the Saint, her abilities have intrigued him, and he's not the kind of person to let interesting new magic pass him by. One way or another, Sei will have to further explore her Holy Magic, even if she isn't yet ready to admit that she's the Saint.

REVIEW: Talentless Nana, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Talentless Nana is a sci-fi psychological thriller series. I watched it on Funimation's streaming site.

Review:

In the near future, monsters known as the "Enemies of Humanity" began to appear. People with superpowers also began to appear, and these "Talented" were best able to fight the Enemies of Humanity. In the series' present, Talented children are sent to a deserted island for special schooling and training so that they can one day fight against the Enemies of Humanity.

The current class includes people like Iijima Moguo, a loud bully whose ability is pyrokinesis, and Kori Seiya, a flirty guy whose ability is cryokinesis. However, there are also several students who do their best to hide their abilities, because there are rumors that the Enemies of Humanity made themselves look human and have infiltrated the island.

The class's newest students are Hiiragi Nana, a cheerful girl who can read minds, and Onodera Kyoya, a mysterious loner who refuses to reveal his ability. Nana attempts to befriend Nakajima Nanao, a timid and supposedly Talentless boy. Soon, however, tensions rise as the rumors about invading Enemies of Humanity appear to have some basis in the truth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

REVIEW: How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution (audiobook nonfiction) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, narrated by Joe Hempel

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) is nonfiction. I checked it out via one of my Overdrive accounts.

Review:

In 1959, two Russian geneticists, Dmitry Belyayev and Lyudmila Trut, began a selective breeding experiment to see if they could witness the process leading to domestication. They weren't sure that it would work or, if it did, whether it would happen quickly enough for them to witness the results. Fortunately for them, their experiment was successful, eventually resulting in foxes that displayed some of the same behavioral and morphological features present in dogs, which allowed them to then more closely study how their wild and tame foxes differed from each other in terms of hormone production, vocalizations, etc.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

REVIEW: Girl of Nightmares (book) by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares is the second book in Kendare Blake's Anna duology. It's YA horror/paranormal fiction. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Anna is gone and Cas can't bring himself to move on. She was a ghost when he met her, and he was not only a living person, but also a ghost hunter - there was never any future for the two of them. But that doesn't stop him from thinking about her and missing her.

However, it seems like Anna might not entirely be gone. Cas keeps seeing and hearing her. The problem is that, wherever she is, she's being horribly tortured. Literally everyone tells Cas that he needs to forget about Anna and try to move on, but how can he when he keeps seeing her in so much agony?

REVIEW: Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! (manga, vol. 3) by Yuu Toyota, translated by Taylor Engel

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! is a contemporary-set BL romance manga with fantasy aspects. It's licensed by Square Enix Manga. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Kurosawa is now temporarily living at Adachi's place for the flimsiest of reasons. They get a grand total of one evening and morning alone together before Adachi freaks out and turns it into a sleepover party by inviting Rokkaku over. In general, Adachi is struggling with a lot of confusing feelings. He really wants to be loved as he is, and he knows Kurosawa would do that, but at the same time he's still not sure how he feels about being in a relationship with another guy. If he came across a woman who was as into him as Kurosawa was, would he prefer her simply because of the gender issue? Plus, Kurosawa has a pretty significant jealous streak that could quickly become a problem.

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, Season 1 (anime TV series)

The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent is a fantasy romance anime based on a light novel series of the same title. I watched it on Funimation's streaming site. This first season is 12 episodes long.

Review:

Sei is an exhausted office worker who suddenly finds herself transported to a new world, along with a teen girl named Aira. It turns out that this new world is dealing with some kind of magical miasma that causes monsters to appear, and a saint from another world is occasionally needed to dispel the miasma. But which one of them is the saint: Sei, Aira, or both of them? 

Moments after the summoning spell is complete, Prince Kyle whisks Aira away, having immediately decided that the pretty young girl is definitely the saint. Sei is angry about being ignored and asks to go home, but that isn't an option. Plus, despite Kyle's certainty, there's no guarantee Sei isn't the saint. With nowhere else to go, Sei opts to work at the Medicinal Flora Research Institute, learning to make potions. She gradually makes friends and learns to love this world. But what will happen to this new life of hers if it turns out she's the real saint?

Sunday, June 27, 2021

REVIEW: Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! (manga, vol. 2) by Yuu Toyota, translated by Taylor Engel

Cherry Magic is a BL manga series with fantasy aspects. It's licensed by Square Enix Manga. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

I couldn't find my copy of volume 1 and don't remember exactly what happened at the end, but I think Kurosawa kissed Adachi's forehead and Adachi said he didn't mind, but they didn't go any further than that. Now Adachi is stressing over his interactions with Kurosawa. Kurosawa's behavior seems perfectly normal, but Adachi's telepathy (which Kurosawa still doesn't know about) tells him that Kurosawa is definitely still hoping they can become a couple. Resistance isn't going to be easy - Kurosawa's hot, romantically experienced (if only with women rather than men), great at everything, and a skillful negotiator.

And so the two of them end up on a staff trip at a hot spring resort with the rest of their coworkers, giving Kurosawa lots of opportunities to spend time with Adachi. Unfortunately, the trip only underscores for Adachi just how popular Kurosawa is. All the women at work want to spend time with him. Why is someone like that at all interested in a depressing and thoroughly forgettable guy like him? Adachi's telepathy may give him the ability to peek at other people's thoughts, but it doesn't let him truly understand their hearts.

REVIEW: After Zero (book) by Christina Collins

After Zero is Middle Grade contemporary fiction.

This review contains spoilers.

Review:

Content warnings for this book: mental illness, anxiety, grief, child death.

Up until about 7 months ago, 12-year-old Elise was homeschooled. However, she was always jealous of her friend Mel's stories about school, so she managed to get her mom to enroll her in public school. Unfortunately, the experience didn't go quite the way she'd hoped. Elise now spends each day tallying every word she speaks. Some days her tally is at one or two, but the best days are when she's at zero. She appreciates teachers who don't require her to participate in discussions - it's one of the reasons why she likes Miss Looping's English class, where all she's ever expected to do is write.

It's not that she doesn't ever speak. She talks a little, at home. But she understands that even her home life isn't quite the same as other people's. Her mother keeps secrets from her and doesn't seem to care about her. Elise didn't even know what birthdays were until her friend Mel's 7th birthday. As Elise learns more about her mother and her own past, she struggles to figure out what to do when every word she says has the potential to make things worse.

REVIEW: A Study in Charlotte (book) by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte is a YA mystery, the first in a series (trilogy?). I bought my copy used.

Review:

Content warning for this book: rape, on-page drug use, eating disorder.

Jamie Watson is a descendant of the John Watson who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, and he's spent his whole life fantasizing about meeting Charlotte Holmes, the one descendant of Sherlock Holmes who's his age, and becoming her friend and sidekick. When he gets sent to Sherringford, an American prep school, the one bright spot he clings to is that it's the same school Charlotte attends. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to talk to her, and she doesn't seem at all interested in talking to him. Then a student they both hated is murdered in a way that references a Sherlock Holmes story, and they're the prime suspects.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent (manga, vol. 2) by Yuka Tachibana, art by Fujiazuki, character design by Yasuyuki Syuri

The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent is a fantasy romance series. Or maybe fantasy with romance aspects? The manga is licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sei and Albert spend a day in town together, relaxing and doing a bit of shopping. Considering the amount of time Albert spends holding Sei's hand, it's clearly a date, but it still comes as a shock to her when people later call it that. Why would a guy as handsome and wonderful as Albert possibly be interested in her? After all, Sei was never very popular back in her own world.

After learning more about a gift Albert gave her, Sei becomes interested in the art of enchantment and is given the opportunity to try it. She also finds herself slowly losing her private battle to keep the strength of her saintly abilities a secret - as much as her introduction to this world still bothers her, she also can't bring herself to just do nothing when she sees a situation where her powers might do some good.

REVIEW: Daemon's Angel (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Daemon's Angel is a historical fantasy romance originally published in 1995. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Arina is an angel responsible for greeting mortals upon their death and sending them on their way. After Raida's son dies, Raida becomes determined to damn Arina, the angel she feels took him away before his time. The old woman makes a deal with Belial, a demon, that curses Arina into a form that's nearly human. The curse will be complete when Arina falls in love with Daemon, a hardened warrior with mismatched eyes, and watches him die.

Initially, Arina has amnesia and can't recall her existence as an angel. As she realizes the truth about her "brother" Belial and the curse, however, she becomes determined to somehow save Daemon's life, even if it means allowing him to think that he's been abandoned and rejected once again.

Monday, June 21, 2021

REVIEW: I Swear I Won't Bother You Again!, Vol. 1 (book) by Reina Soratani, illustrated by Haru Harukawa, translated by Kimberly Chan

I Swear I Won't Bother You Again! is... Honestly, I'm not sure. Psychological drama, I guess, with the possibility of romance at some point in the future? It's published by Seven Seas Entertainment's Airship imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

My review includes a few spoilers about the specifics of what Violette's parents did to her, plus some stuff about one of the other characters, because some of it is awful enough that I suspect some readers will appreciate a warning. If you'd prefer not to have any spoilers, I do use spoiler tags when I cross-post to LibraryThing and Goodreads.

Review:

Content warning for this volume: emotional abuse, possibly sexual as well, and a potential love interest who displays manipulative and controlling qualities.

Violette is in prison for a crime she has, out of jealousy, committed against her half-sister Maryjune. She has come a long way and now deeply regrets her actions. She wishes she could go back in time and live a quiet life, bothering no one, but she knows that's impossible. Except suddenly that's exactly what happens - from one moment to the next, time rewinds itself and she finds herself once again being introduced to her father's new wife (his former mistress) and his half-daughter (who was conceived while Violette's mother was still alive).

This time, Violette is determined to make it through the next two years without causing harm. After she graduates, she wants to join a convent and spend the rest of her life quietly atoning for the sins she committed in her other timeline. Her feelings of guilt are too great for her to contemplate any other future. However, it won't be easy to accomplish her goal. While she no longer blames Maryjune for anything or wants to harm her, she can't will away the pain that Maryjune's presence causes her, and she can't change the kind of person she is. Still, she tries hard to do better this time around, and her efforts don't go unnoticed. If she's lucky, maybe it will be enough.

REVIEW: Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (manga) by Nathaniel Hawthorne, story adapted by Crystal S. Chan, art by SunNeko Lee

This is a manga adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. I'm pretty sure I bought my copy used.

Review:

I'll start this by saying that I've never read the original and have no plans to change that.

This is framed as a story discovered by Nathaniel Hawthorne when he worked as a custom officer. Hester Prynne has been jailed by her Puritan community for the crime of adultery. She was married at a young age to an elderly scholar who sent her to Boston two years ago, alone, and there's no denying that her infant daughter, Pearl, has to be some other man's child. However, she refuses to name him, so she stands alone with her mark of shame, a scarlet letter A on her chest.

As she looks upon the crowd, she's shocked to see her husband. After assuming a new name, Roger Chillingworth, he begins his plan to find and torment the father of Hester's child. Meanwhile, Hester spends the next few years raising Pearl and being so unrelentingly helpful, pure, and good that the townspeople gradually begin to see her with new eyes, even as Hester worries that her sin has somehow affected her daughter.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

REVIEW: Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization (book) by Nancy Holder, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, screenplay by Allan Heinberg

Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization is, obviously, a novelization of the 2017 Wonder Woman movie directed by Patty Jenkins. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Diana, princess of the Amazons, has lived her whole life on the island of Themyscira, the only child in a community of female warriors. She yearns to be just as skilled a fighter as her Aunt Antiope, who secretly helps train her against Queen Hippolyta's wishes. One day, years later, that training becomes vital when a plane crashes near Themyscira and Diana saves its pilot.

The bulk of the story takes place during World War I, and Steve Trevor, the pilot Diana rescues, is an American spy desperately trying to take information back to the British. The Germans have developed a deadly new gas that could wipe out whole cities and towns and that can't be defended against. The more Diana hears about the war, the more convinced she is that the god Ares is behind it all. She decides to leave behind the only life she's ever known in order to join Steve, who she believes can lead her to Ares, and save humanity from the God of War's influence.

Monday, June 14, 2021

REVIEW: Binti: Home (novella) by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti: Home is science fiction, the second work in a trilogy. I previously reviewed Binti, the first novella.

I bought my copy of this book brand new.

Review:

It's been a year since Binti left home and began attending Oomza University. Her studies are going well, but she's having emotional difficulties. She keeps having bursts of increasingly difficult to control anger. She's also suffering from PTSD-related panic attacks. Anything that reminds her of the slaughter on the spaceship that brought her to Oomza Uni can bring them on, including her best friend, the Meduse Okwu, who also happened to be one of the beings who participated in the slaughter.

Binti secretly fears that the changes the Meduse made her undergo have somehow made her unclean. She decides to return home and go on a pilgrimage to help cleanse herself. However, her journey soon takes an unexpected turn and forces her to confront her prejudices and some of the things she thought she knew about herself.

REVIEW: Wings of Fire, Book 1: The Dragonet Prophecy (graphic novel) by Tui T. Sutherland, art by Mike Holmes

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy is the first volume of a graphic novel adaptation of Sutherland's Middle Grade fantasy book of the same title. 

Review:

There is a mysterious prophecy that says five dragonets will be born who are destined to put an end to the war between the dragon tribes. In order to fulfill the prophecy, several eggs are acquired: Mudwing (Clay), Sandwing (Sunny), Nightwing (Starflight), and Seawing (Tsunami). The only egg that doesn't really fit the prophecy is Glory's - she's a Rainwing and they really needed a Skywing. The five dragonets are raised in secret to eventually carry out their role, but they're treated like prisoners and eventually decide to escape in the hope of finding the parents they were stolen from. Unfortunately, that's when Scarlet, Queen of the Skywings and one of the many threats to their existence, finds them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

At the halfway point - My 2021 offloading goal is going pretty well

I own lots of physical books and DVDs. I like owning them, but at the same time, I live in an apartment and have limited space. Also, if I ever do end up moving to a new place, that stuff translates into lots of heavy boxes or lots of things I'd have to find a way to whittle down fast.

I've had some vague offloading goals since 2016, but my efforts usually haven't gone well and/or haven't been consistent. In 2016, my offload stack was 5.5 ft. In 2017, it dropped down to a measly 1.4 ft. The next couple years weren't any better: 1.3 ft. and 1.9 ft. I felt amazingly productive when, in 2020, I somehow managed to offload 3.5 ft.

At the beginning of 2021, I decided to try being a little more purposeful about my offloading. I set up a goal of 1 foot per month, but told myself that if I didn't manage it, I wouldn't beat myself up over it. I figured that I'd initially do very well but would have issues meeting my monthly goal by this point in the year. Surprisingly, the project is actually going extremely well.

I've been using LibraryThing to keep track of my offloads, as I've done since 2016. My "1 foot per month" goal makes it easy to figure out whether I'm on track, because I know my number of feet needs to match my current month at some point before the end of the month.

Right now, I'm at 5.9 ft. offloaded, more than I've ever managed. It's been going much better than I expected, although I'll admit that it has definitely affected my reading choices. I concentrate a lot more on books I suspect I'd be comfortable offloading, and I've been getting through more of my manga collection. And it's forced me to be slightly more comfortable with DNFing - I've tried to make myself feel better about those by writing brief DNF reviews that I add to LibraryThing for my own benefit (when Future Me sees the book again and is maybe tempted to rebuy it, for example). A small number of my offloads have been things that, in a perfect world with much more shelf space, I'd have preferred to keep, but so far I haven't actively regretted getting rid of anything. 

Ultimately, I'd like to free up enough space so that I no longer need to keep any books in boxes and can have them all on bookshelves. At my current rate, considering that I still buy new stuff to add to my collection, that's definitely going to take longer than a year or two. But I'm still happy with my progress so far - I can actually see space opening up. Crossing my fingers that I continue to do this well during the second half of the year.

REVIEW: Big Guns Out of Uniform (anthology) by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Liz Carlyle, and Nicole Camden

Big Guns Out of Uniform is a romance anthology - either erotic romance or something very close to it. I'm pretty sure I bought it new.

Review:

I bought this book years ago, back when I was a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan and would read anything of hers I could get my hands on, even though I preferred her paranormals. This was technically a reread, but I only remembered Kenyon's story and the premise of Camden's story. Carlyle's story was a complete blank - absolutely nothing about it was familiar to me.

I recalled this being a so-so read for me, even back when I first read it. My romance reading tastes have changed a lot over the years, so I was curious to see how well this would hold up for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

REVIEW: Kuroko's Basketball, Season 2 (anime TV series)

Kuroko's Basketball is a high school sports anime series. I watched it on Netflix. If you haven't seen Season 1, I highly recommend you do so before reading my review.

This review contains things that could be considered spoilers.

Review:

Season 2 starts with a street ball tournament that introduces viewers to Tatsuya Himuro, Kagami's childhood friend and the person who got him started with playing basketball. Although they were very close friends, Himuro now sees Kagami as his rival and thinks they must abandon their friendship in order to play each other seriously.

Then the series moves on to the Winter Cup preliminaries, beginning with Seirin vs. Josei (no Generation of Miracles characters here, and I literally can't remember a thing about this match). After that, Seirin faces off against several other teams, including Kirisaki Dai'ichi (known for playing dirty), Shutoku (Midorima's team), To'o (Aomine's team), and Yosen (Murasakibara and Himuro's team).

The season also takes a break a few times for things like a flashback to Kiyoshi starting Seirin's basketball team, special training efforts, and a trip to a hot spring.

Monday, May 31, 2021

REVIEW: Woof Woof Story: I Told You to Turn Me Into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir!, Vol. 1 (book) by Inumajin, illustrated by Kochimo, translated by Jennifer O'Donnell

Woof Woof Story: I Told You to Turn Me Into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir! is yet another fantasy isekai series, this time with comedic elements. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Routa is a 29-year-old corporate employee who's been awake and working overtime who knows how long when his body suddenly gives out and he dies. His coworkers either don't notice or don't care. His last wish is to be reborn as the cute pet dog of some wealthy family, able to spend all his time eating and sleeping and never again having to worry about work.

His wish is granted, sort of. When he wakes up, he discovers he's now at a pet store in another world, in the body of a fluffy white puppy. Mary, a cute 14-year-old girl from a wealthy family, adores him instantly and decides to take him home with her. However, Routa gradually realizes that he's a little abnormal for a supposed dog. He's becoming really big, for one thing, and his face is very fierce. He has to concentrate on barking normally rather than growling like some kind of wild beast. Even worse, he seems to have terrifying destructive powers.

If he wants to keep his pampered pet life, Routa somehow has to keep Mary safe while preventing those around him from realizing that he's not just a very large but otherwise perfectly ordinary fluffy white dog.