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.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories is a fantasy romance short story anthology. This particular volume is licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy new.

Review:

This is an anthology of short stories featuring characters from the Alice in the Country of Hearts otome game franchise. I just did a quick search, and it looks like one of the games used to be available for iOS and Android, but then the company that produced it, Quinrose, went bankrupt. That game is no longer available, and I'm guessing that means that all the other ones will never be available either. As an otome game fan, that makes me sad, but at the same time I've read so many of these manga spinoffs that I doubt I'm missing too much. 

Newbies to the franchise should absolutely not start with this volume. Although it does organize the stories by game (Alice in the Country of Hearts, Alice in the Country of Clover, and Alice in the Country of Joker) and briefly explains the overall premise of each one, it still assumes a lot of basic knowledge. It looks like all the manga may be out of print now, but if you can, I'd recommend checking out the original series, just called Alice in the Country of Hearts, from a library and starting there.

For those who are familiar with the franchise, this volume will work best for fans of Blood, Joker, the twins, Pierce, Boris, and Gray. There's also a very short Ace story in here, but it's pretty pointless (and kind of weird, a mixture of Ace in love with Alice but Alice also having a brief flash of being killed by him). Although the volume is organized by game, I'm opting to organize by character in my review.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 4) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Julia Kwon Gombos

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy historical romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Soah has regained some of her memories about Mui and Habaek, but she also remembers Habaek reuniting with Nakbin, so she pretends not to know Mui and agrees to marry Dong-young. However, Mui/Habaek can't quite bring himself to stay away, and Tae-eul-jin-in brings things to a head by forcing him to have a flashback to his last days with Nakbin.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 3) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Julia Kwon Gombos

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy historical romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Soah is confused and disappointed at the discovery that Habaek does not have a tattoo on his chest like Mui, which seems to her like a good indication that they're not the same person, no matter what her suspicions tell her. She is further thrown by the revelation that Nakbin may still be alive. If Habaek has Nakbin, what use does he have for a fake bride like Soah?

In the end, Habaek makes the choice for Soah and sends her back to her family with her memories erased. Will Soah somehow find happiness with people who never expected to see her again, or will she somehow remember Habaek and return to him?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

REVIEW: So Pretty It Hurts (book) by Kate White

So Pretty It Hurts
is the 6th book in Kate White's Bailey Weggins mystery series. 

Review:

Content warning: lots of detailed discussions about weight, anorexia, and eating disorders.

Bailey Weggins is a true crime writer and journalist for Buzz, a celebrity gossip magazine. Her love life is currently a bit uncertain - she loves her boyfriend, Beau, but suspects he only agreed to a committed relationship because he thought he'd lose her otherwise - so she deals with it by escaping to a house party in the country. Sparks fly between several of the guests, culminating in the shocking death of Devon Barr, an extremely thin supermodel. Bailey immediately suspects that an eating disorder played a part in Devon's death, but additional events cause her to wonder if Devon's death was helped along by one of the other guests.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

REVIEW: Mixed Vegetables (manga, vol. 4) by Ayumi Komura, translated by JN Productions

Mixed Vegetables is a romance Japanese manga series. Like a depressing number of the manga volumes I own, it appears to be out of print, although it can at least still be purchased digitally if you're willing to read manga that way. I bought this volume used.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Hanayu agrees to a radish peeling competition against Hayato. If he wins, she has to feed him pastries. If she wins, he'll tell her why he wants to be a pastry chef. Hanayu desperately wants to win, but can she manage it, considering that Hayato's job at the sushi restaurant involves peeling radishes?

Then the story moves on to Saki for the bulk of the volume. He had a crush on his homeroom teacher in high school...who is now Hanayu and Hayato's homeroom teacher, Miss Matsuzaka. Also, he never really got past his crush. However, he can't bring himself to see her, because he's convinced that he's only a bad memory for her, a student who ignored her and did something she considered to be a foolish mistake.

The volume wraps up with a flashback to Hayato's mother's first meeting with Hayato's grandfather.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 2) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Heejeong Haas

Bride of the Water God is a fantasy romance Korean manhwa with mystery aspects. It was/is licensed by Dark Horse Comics but appears to be out of print now. I got my copy of this volume used.

Review:

Mui offers to help Soah go back home, but she refuses, saying that Habaek is deeply in love with her. In reality, she's hiding something that makes going home an impossibility.

Mui's comment that his words are Habaek's words does prompt Soah to begin wondering about the connection between Mui and Habaek. One god tells her that they're really the same person, while another tells her that this is a lie. Who's telling the truth? The only way to find out is to see if Habaek has the same tattoo on his chest that Mui has on his.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

REVIEW: Meridian, Vol. 2: Going to Ground (graphic novel) by Barbara Kesel, art by Steve McNiven, Tom Simmons, Morry Hollowell, etc.

Meridian is a fantasy (SFF?) series. I bought this volume used.

Review:

At the end of the previous volume, Sephie was enslaved and forced to work with the orphaned children trying to earn the right to stay in Akasia, and Jad found out that Sephie fell from her ship and assumed the fall must have killed her.

Sephie gradually gains more control over her powers and begins to understand their limitations. She's able to free herself and heads out in search of people who can help her. Although she's more careful after her experience at Akasia, she does manage to come across a few surprises, including a few people who knew her parents from before she was born. Meanwhile, Meridian's refugees find a new floating island to call home, and Ilhan deals with his new apprentice and a man who seems to have special knowledge of his and Sephie's new powers.

REVIEW: Bride of the Water God (manhwa, vol. 1) by Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Heejeong Haas

Bride of the Water God is a historical romantic fantasy Korean manhwa. It was (is?) licensed by Dark Horse Comics, but it appears to be out of print now and in limbo. I bought this volume used.

Review:

Soah's village is desperate to end a long drought, so they decide to sacrifice her to the Water God, Habaek. Instead of just drowning, Soah wakes up in the land of Suguk, where she learns that Habaek is a child. What she doesn't realize is that the child she sees is only one of Habaek's forms - for some reason, he must spend days as a child but grows into an adult form at night.

I don't know how I feel about this series yet. The story was very slow to get going - all this volume accomplished was introducing several gods I tended to mix up, plus Habaek's mother, the goddess of punishment and torture (how's that for an intimidating mother-in-law?). Also, it appears that there might be a love triangle. Soah initially mistook Huye for Habaek and was relieved that he was good-looking. Also, Habaek might find himself in competition with himself later on in the series, depending on when he finally tells Soah the truth: when Soah first saw him in his adult form, he told her his name was Mui and didn't correct her assumption that he was Habaek's older cousin.

Yeesh, the character relationships are already a bit complicated. At any rate, I own three more volumes and am willing to see where this goes, although the series' out-of-print status makes me hope that it doesn't work for me overall.

The artwork is pretty enough - I particularly like the full-page illustrations. I'm not always a fan of the way the author draws people, though, very long and bony.

Extras:

A couple full-color pages that are so lovely I wish the entire volume could've been in color, plus an amusing/cute 2-page comic-style afterword by the author.

REVIEW: Meridian, Vol. 1: Flying Solo (graphic novel) written by Barbara Kesel; pencilers, Joshua Middleton, George Perez, Steve McNiven

Meridian is a fantasy graphic novel series published by Crossgen Comics. I bought my copy used.

Review:

The ground-level areas of the planet Demetria are toxic, so most people live on floating islands, each of which is governed by a Minister and specializes in a particular industry or type of work. Meridian, whose people specialize in building airships, is one such island. Meridian's Minister is Turos, and teenage Sephie is his heir. Turos' brother, Ilahn, is the Minister of Cadador.

A pair of gods (or something) decide to shake things up on Demetria by imbuing a pair of siblings with great powers: one with the power of destruction and one with the power of creation. They pick Turos and Ilahn, but the strain is too much for Turos and his heart gives out. Upon his death, his power is passed on to Sephie.

Ilahn has always been jealous of Turos and sees this as the perfect opportunity to take over Meridian and remake it as he sees fit. Sephie is initially naive and trusting but eventually realizes that she'll have to stand against her uncle if her people are to survive.

REVIEW: Death of a Songbird (book) by Christine Goff

Death of a Songbird is the second book in Goff's Bird Watcher's Mystery series. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Lark Drummond is a partner in the business that supplies coffee to her luxury hotel, as well as a friend of the owner, Esther, so it's a surprise when she learns that Esther has cancelled all of the hotel's current and future coffee orders. The timing is particularly terrible - the hotel has completely run out of coffee and is currently hosting a birding convention - so Lark heads over to Esther's cafe to figure out what's going on.

She doesn't get a chance to talk to Esther much, but she does witness an argument between Esther and Teresa, the 18-year-old daughter of one of the Mexican coffee growers Esther works with. She decides to save her questions for a better time, and unfortunately never gets a chance to ask them at all. While out bird watching, Lark witnesses someone stab Esther to death.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

REVIEW: Blooming Doll (e-manga) by Seika Kisaragi

Blooming Doll is a one-shot yaoi manga. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle.

This includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Alex Bulford is a rich businessman who recently had to hire a bodyguard, Yuki, due to threats he's been receiving. Alex is initially frustrated with the constraints that Yuki's constant presence puts on him, as well as with Yuki's stiff and emotionless manner, but he starts to warm up to Yuki after learning more about him.

Oh man, this was pretty bad. Characters that didn't make much sense, a "serious" storyline that was made unintentionally amusing due to how badly it was executed, a weak attempt at romance, and three pages of badly drawn sex.

The character anatomy defied logic, and I'm not talking about the sex. There was a panel where the angle made Yuki look like a weird quadraped, and I think a person would either have to be a dancer or have several bones broken for their feet to do what Yuki's did when Alex carried him. Also, the seriousness of the scene in which Yuki's past was revealed was ruined by the ridiculousness of a child holding what appeared to be a gun made for an adult (could he even have pulled the trigger?).

Alex was annoying, and his stupidity really should have gotten him killed. Why would you hire a bodyguard and then ditch them or send them away whenever possible? And then when he finally unbent and allowed Yuki to be in a position to do his job, he still wouldn't allow him to actually do his job and ended up taking a bullet in his place. To make things worse, the story managed to work in some stupid gender stereotyping - Yuki dressed as a woman and pretended to be Alex's date at a party where bodyguards weren't allowed (who'd go to something like that if they needed a bodyguard??), which, visually, made Alex the "strong man protecting his girlfriend" when the action started, instead of "the idiot who wouldn't let his bodyguard do his job."

This was just weak overall, and I can't think of any reasons I'd ever recommend it.

REVIEW: 11:50 (e-manga) by Hatoko Nanayama

11:50 is a one-shot yaoi manga. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle.

Review:

Yoshikawa is at Shinozaki's place, getting drunk and complaining that he can't trust women anymore since his now ex-girlfriend cheated on him, when Shinozaki proposes a solution: if he doesn't want women anymore, why not try men? Specifically, him. 

This is for people who'd like their yaoi with as little plot as possible. It's almost entirely sex or thinking about sex. Hand job by page 3, blow job by page 4, a tiny period during which Yoshikawa is confused when he sees Shinozaki at work the next day (they're coworkers) and Shinozaki tries to brush the whole night off, and then more sex at the end, penetrative this time.

I was not expecting this to get into the sex as fast as it did. And even then, it seemed weirdly tame - there was definitely on-page sex and nudity (censored), although the way a lot of it was staged had me wondering whether the artist wasn't very confident about their anatomy skills. More close-ups than full-body shots, and the characters were always partially clothed. The sound effects did most of the heavy lifting.

I don't generally like stuff that is 100% about the sex - this would have worked better for me overall if there had been some effort to establish Yoshikawa and Shinozaki as characters before dumping them into a sex scene - but I suppose it wasn't bad, for what it was. The characters weren't horrible to each other.

Monday, May 17, 2021

REVIEW: Masquerade and the Nameless Women (book) by Eiji Mikage, translated by Daniel Morales

Masquerade and the Nameless Women is a contemporary Japanese mystery. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

The publisher's description mentions a detail that, for the bulk of the book, I considered a spoiler. Someone who pays a little closer attention to names than I do may feel differently, but I've avoided giving that information in my review because I feel like it could affect a person's reading experience.

Masquerade is a serial killer who targets beautiful women. Before killing them, he cuts off one body part, whatever their most beautiful feature happens to be, and then he cuts off their face.

This latest killing is a puzzle, however. It deviates from Masquerade's signature in several ways, and the victim, Reina Myoko, is a mystery all on her own. There are no pictures of her - not even her father has any. She lived in a run-down place and didn't have a driver's license, and yet she owned an expensive car. She had a fiance as well as a lover. Her father and fiance were unaware of the lover, who insists that she truly loved him and had planned to call things off with her fiance. And Reina seemed to have behaved differently with all three men.

Who was Reina Myoko, and what really happened to her? That's what Yuri Uguisu, one of the cops assigned to this case, is determined to find out. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Currently playing: Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition

I've had Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition on my wishlist for ages, but I always passed it by because it looked way too complicated. However, I noticed it was on sale for the Switch the Nintendo Game Store and finally caved. Hours of gameplay later (I'm in Chapter 4 of Cyber Sleuth right now), and I can confidently say it's very much my kind of thing. 

The difficulty level has issues - I'm playing on Normal, and the vast majority of the enemy Digimon are incredibly easy to beat, but there are a few stronger (boss?) Digimon that have left me scrambling to survive. In one fight, Devimon instantly destroyed my Black Gatomon (which I had around for element balance and because I thought it looked adorable). I only survived that battle because I had one backup Digimon and a large collection of HP items. I imagine that if I upped the game's difficulty level, most fights would be a little more stimulating, but the boss battles would be just about impossible for me.

Which isn't entirely a complaint, because the primary reason I'm playing is to find and Digivolve as many Digimon as I possibly can. The overall weakness of the enemies allows me to do that without much stress. I just wish "I think that Digimon looks cool/cute" correlated more with "that Digimon is strong, fits my overall party balance, and will help me survive." Poor Black Gatomon.

Yes, there are hundreds of Digimon, each with different strengths, abilities, and attributes that need to be kept in mind depending on what part of the game you're in and the difficulty setting you've chosen. That could get pretty complicated...if you decide to set the game to Hard rather than Normal. I like the more casual feel of the Normal difficulty setting.

My feelings might change in the later chapters, but for now I like it. It's relatively forgiving of the fact that I have very little idea what I'm doing (I had to write myself notes about which elements and attributes are strong or weak against each other, the sum total of my Digimon battle strategy knowledge), the story isn't great but is at least mildly interesting, the character designs are nice, and I'm having a lot of fun randomly Digivolving stuff. At some point, when I've filled out my Digimon Field Guide more, I might consult a wiki and attempt to deliberately aim for particular Digimon, but for now it's fun not knowing what I'll be getting. Although I admit that some of the Digimon designs are absolutely horrifying. Most disappointing so far: Nanimon and Gold Numemon. I will never take either of those two into battle because I don't want to see them running behind my game character.

I haven't played any of the Pokemon or Persona games, the other franchises I've seen this compared to, but the comparisons make me think that I should probably try those at some point as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

REVIEW: The Rose and the Black Cat (e-manga, vol. 1) by Kii Yugine

The Rose and the Black Cat appears to be contemporary m/m romance, but it's tough to tell in this first volume. I got it in a Humble Bundle.

Review:

Shun first got into dancing when he was a kid, starting with break dancing and eventually going on to a dance studio when he was 15. He had dreams about becoming a professional dancer, but now that he's an adult working at a karaoke place, he feels like more of a wannabe than anything. He doesn't entirely know how to handle Eisuke, a (terrible, off-key) karaoke regular who seems to genuinely admire his dancing and basic singing skills.

I like the fact that this seems to be aiming for a more realistic, slow-burn kind of romance - in fact, if I hadn't gotten it as part of a yaoi manga bundle, I don't know if I'd have realized that's where this story was going to go. This first volume is really just intended to set the stage. 

The bundle didn't come with any other volumes besides this, and the characters and story didn't really grab me enough for me to want to seek the rest of the series out (plus I don't generally buy much digital manga). The artwork wasn't terrible, but I had a hard time telling the characters apart, and the flashbacks and scenes involving groups of characters took way too much effort to follow.

It seems okay, if a bit confusingly presented, but it's not entirely to my taste. If the bundle had come with more volumes, though, I'd have at least tried the next one.

REVIEW: Dog Tag (e-manga) by Kaiji Idobata

Dog Tag is basically a one-shot yaoi comedy. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle.

Review:

Nate is too much like a useless puppy to be a very good soldier. He joined up primarily because he thought Leon, the Captain, looked cool and he wanted to be like him. Unfortunately, he has such a horrible sense of direction that he tends to get lost during field exercises if the other soldiers don't keep an eye on him. He's now doing his 14th field exercise this year, and he just got lost for the 18th time. Fortunately for him, Leon doesn't mind having to go look for him.

Everything from the title to the cover art had me worried about this one, and one soldier's comment that Leon frequently took Nate on field exercises because "the captain likes walking his dog" had me bracing for awfulness. However, this was surprisingly not rapey. I mean, yes, Nate was pretty stupid. He and Leon were in the middle of having sex when he started wondering what was going on and why. Still, he was fully on board with the whole thing, and this was an alternate universe where the other soldiers either didn't care what Nate and the Captain did when they were alone or just found it amusing.

Overall, this was much better than I was expecting. No real story - the entire setup was designed to get Nate and Leon alone so they could have sex and then Nate could happily follow Leon back - but the artwork was nice, and it was reasonably sweet and not rapey. Yay for that. Just be aware that it's extremely short.

REVIEW: All Hallow's Even (e-manga, vol. 1) by Shuji Suzukake

All Hallow's Even is a supernatural manga. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle.

Review:

Tadao Tsuge is the owner of Cafe Unknown. Yuji Kodama is an employee at the cafe. When they're not serving coffee, however, they occasionally investigate supernatural mysteries and help ghosts cross over. Their latest case involves a mysterious suicide and several attempted suicides. Although the do find a ghost at the location of the incidents, it seems like there may be more going on than meets the eye.

Ehh. This was technically okay, but it read like the first chapter of a longer story, and from what I can tell, it's been a few years and this is all that was ever published. Goodreads tells me it was a web series, but I can't tell if it's legally possible to read more than just this one volume.

The artwork was okay, and I liked the basic dynamic between Tadao (the easygoing one) and Yuji (the prickly one). There were indications they were a couple - Yuji got jealous easily and Tadao thought it was cute - but the focus was definitely more on the supernatural aspects than on their relationship.

It was fine overall...but at this point I wouldn't recommend it simply because it looks like this is all there is. I got it as part of a bundle (that I'm probably going to regret buying, but at least it's all electronic and therefore not taking up any of my precious shelf space), but if I'd paid for it on its own I'd probably have been annoyed, even though it's only a dollar. There's almost no content.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

REVIEW: Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan (manga, vol. 2) by Gaku Kuze, translated by Matt Treyvaud

Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan is a dark workplace comedy series. It's licensed by Kodansha Comics. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Content warning: depression, child abuse (emotional for sure, but also possibly physical?)

Uramichi is back, limping his way through work yet not quite to the point of just giving up. A part of him still finds tiny things to cling to, like the knowledge that his show's young viewers look up to him. Of course, that just makes it more painful when he lets them down.

This volume introduces a few more station staff members: Kikaku Hanbei, who works in Marketing; Amon, the show's producer/writer; and Uebo Saito, who runs the show's website. We also get to see a little more of Daga Mabui, Iketeru's sister, meet Nekota Matahiko, and learn a little more about Uramichi's past.

REVIEW: The Way of the Househusband (anime TV series)

The Way of the Househusband is a slice of life comedy series. Wikipedia says it's an "original net animation," which may be a better way to refer to it than "TV series," since that perhaps sets different kinds of expectations.

Review:

Tatsu is a former yakuza boss who was known as the "Immortal Dragon." He's now happily married and a dedicated househusband, putting the same attitude and energy into grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking that he once put into facing off against other yakuza. In fact, his yakuza life hasn't quite left him behind - he keeps coming across old associates, and the police can't help but figure that he must be up to no good.

REVIEW: Whispering Pines (book) by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Whispering Pines is Middle Grade horror/mystery. It's the first book in a series - the second book is supposed to come out in September 2021.

Review:

Rae's family moves to the town of Whispering Pines for a new start after her father's disappearance. Everyone seems to believe he ran out on them, but Rae knows the truth: he was either abducted by aliens, or the government did something to him when he started indicating that he wanted out of the project he'd been working on for them. Whatever the project was, Rae knows it involved an alien spacecraft. She's determined to keep investigating, even though it cost her friends back at her old home.

Whispering Pines has mysteries of its own, however. The town has a very strict curfew, and her new school has lots of weird rules, like "no chalk allowed," "no wearing garlic," and "no wearing red, not even red lipstick." And everyone seems to think it's normal for kids to go missing every year. Still, this year the number of missing kids is higher than usual and, disturbingly, the ones that have turned up again have all had their eyes taken.

When Rae's first friend at Whispering Pines disappears, she decides to start investigating and eventually teams up with Caden Price, the local "weird kid" whose mother runs a ghost-hunting business. Caden has his own secrets. He can sense people's emotions. He's also the only one who knows what really happened to his older brother Aiden, who disappeared a while back...because he's responsible for what happened to Aiden.

Monday, May 10, 2021

REVIEW: Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan (manga, vol. 1) by Gaku Kuze, translated by Matt Treyvaud

Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan is a dark workplace comedy series. It's licensed by Kodansha Comics. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Omota Uramichi is a 31-year-old kids' show host who used to be a professional gymnast. His filter is almost entirely off. Although he's able to keep a smile plastered on his face while the cameras are rolling, he can't stop himself from making depressing comments about adulthood when the kids on the show remind him that they still have their dreams and whole lives ahead of them, while he just has meaningless workouts, an empty apartment, and a job that's slowly killing him inside.

Uramichi's coworkers include: Daga Iketeru, a handsome 27-year-old singer/actor who can't tell time on an analog clock and has a weakness for juvenile jokes; Tadano Utano, a 32-year-old failed idol singer who's in a dead-end relationship with a failed comedian; Usahara Tobikichi, a 28-year-old who has an unfortunate habit of pissing Uramichi off; and Kumatani Mitsuo, a 28-year-old who seems to somewhat unwillingly be Usahara's friend by virtue of them having been college roommates. 

REVIEW: Evan's Gate (book) by Rhys Bowen

Evan's Gate is the eighth book in Rhys Bowen's Constable Evans Mysteries series. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Evan is in the process of trying to get approval to fix up an old shepherd's cottage for himself and his fiancee, Bronwen, when he gets a call about a missing little girl. Did the child wander off, or was she abducted by her father? While pursuing multiple possibilities, Evan stumbles across the body of another little girl, and possibly a further complication to his ongoing missing child case.

I first started this series many years ago and by all rights should have finished it by now. It's only ten books long, and I've generally enjoyed each book I've read. It's got a nice sense of place, and Evan is generally likeable. But for some reason I only dip my toes into this series once every few years, and I've been doing it all out of order. I've read the first, fifth, and tenth books. It's a bit of shame, since one of the appeals of this series is that Bowen actually allows Evan's life to change from one book to the next, instead of forcing him to wallow in an unending love triangle for all eternity (while I like M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth books, the eternal love triangle is part of the reason why it's been years since I last read one of them).

REVIEW: Erased (anime TV series)

Erased is a mystery/psychological thriller with time travel aspects. I watched it on Netflix.

This review includes spoilers. I don't reveal who the killer is, but I do mention other details that could be considered spoilery.

Review:

Content warning for this series: child abuse, murder, animal cruelty/death (hamsters)

Satoru is a loner who wants to become a manga artist but is currently working as a pizza delivery guy. The only people in his life are his mother, a former journalist, and Airi, an optimistic teenage coworker of his. Satoru has a special skill that no one knows about: occasionally he experiences something he calls "revival," in which he's transported a few minutes backwards in time. When this happens to him, he finds himself instinctively looking for details that are out of place. Sometimes he's able to avert a disaster, and sometimes he's not. In quite a few instances, his actions negatively affect him, so he's not entirely sure why he bothers.

Then one day Satoru's ability helps his mother prevent the attempted kidnapping of a child. Satoru doesn't think anything of it, but his mother's journalistic instincts kick in and she realizes that the kidnapper may be the same person who killed several children at and near Satoru's school when he was little. Unfortunately, her realization leads to her murder. Satoru finds himself on the run, under suspicion of being her killer. "Revival" gives him a chance to make things right, somehow transporting him all the way back to his childhood to stop the killer when he and Satoru first crossed paths.

Monday, May 3, 2021

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, Vol. 1 (book) by Yuka Tachibana, illustrated by Yasuyuki Syuri, translated by Julie Goniwich

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

Review:

Sei comes home after another extremely long day at work, only to find herself suddenly transported to a new world. In that new world, a magical miasma has a tendency to gather near places where people live, producing deadly monsters. Knights and mercenaries are usually able to keep the monsters in check, but every once in a while the miasma produces too many monsters to handle. When that happens, a Saint is often found somewhere in the world, but on rare occasions a summoning ritual must be conducted. That ritual is what brings Sei to this world...as well as a second person, a 15-year-old girl named Aira. 

Moments after the summoning ritual, Prince Kyle swoops in and takes Aira away, declaring her to be the new Saint. Sei, annoyed, asks if she can go home, but it seems that's impossible. With nothing else to fill her time, Sei's amateur interest in herbs soon lands her a job at the Research Institute of Medicinal Flora. She becomes determined to live as normal a life as possible while she keeps an eye out for a way to go home, but her curiosity gets the better of her, and it isn't long before she's making enormous amounts of magical potions and learning magical spells and how to enchant gems. 

REVIEW: How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You (graphic novel) by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is a collection of random comics about cats. I'm pretty sure my copy was given to me.

Review:

I don't read The Oatmeal very much anymore, but I can still recall some of my favorite comics. Most of them are humorous spins on real-world topics, like grammar or pets. The ones I prefer don't generally involve a lot of fart, butt, or bodily fluid jokes, although those aren't necessarily deal-breakers.

Still, this book seemed to rely on butt-licking and farting jokes a lot, and it wasn't all that funny. Yes, we get it, cats lick their butts. I'm somewhat confused about all the farting, because I've lived with cats most of my life and none of them ever noticeably farted that I can recall.

The best comics were the first few before the Bobcats ones, and a few of the later ones, particularly the one with the cat trying very hard to get its owner to pet it (my cat's strategy: to find something that makes noise and then poke it repeatedly until my annoyance makes me leave whatever it is I'm doing and find her). The comic that inspired the book's title is included as a poster - it's part of the subset of this collection that I actually liked, so I appreciated that. Honestly, I think it works better as a poster than it does broken up over several pages.

While the theme of the book seemed perfect for me, overall it didn't really work for me.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

REVIEW: Reborn (book) by Meredith Wild

Reborn is the first book in Wild's Red Ledger series. I guess you'd call it a contemporary romance thriller. It contains Parts 1-3 - from the sounds of things, these were originally published in electronic form as separate novellas.

Review:

Isabel Foster teaches English in Rio de Janeiro. She's in a semi-relationship with Kolt, a guy she likes well enough but doesn't love - her heart still belongs to Tristan, who she hasn't seen since he broke up with her after joining the military.

Tristan has no memory of his life prior to six or so years ago. Work is his entire existence: his boss, Jay, sends him the names of targets, and he kills them. Isabel Foster is his newest target, and he's just about to go through with the job when (while masturbating) she says his name. Granted, "Tristan" is a pretty common name and she could have meant someone else, but something tells him to pause and do a little more checking. Sure enough, he and Isabel seem to have a past. If he can keep her alive and keep his very displeased boss from taking him out as well, Isabel might be the key to unlocking his memories.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

REVIEW: Fugitive Telemetry (novella) by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry is science fiction, technically a sci-fi murder mystery. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

A couple things, first: this takes place after Exit Strategy but before Network Effect. Also, it's a novella rather than another full novel like Network Effect. I was a bit disappointed when I realized that the Murderbot fun would be briefer than I'd hoped/expected.

Anyway, Murderbot has been contracted to assist Preservation Station Security in the investigation of a murder. The victim's identity is unknown, as is the location of the murder - the place where the body was found is not the place where the person was killed. The thing Murderbot really needs to figure out is whether the murder has any connection to GrayCris, and whether this means Dr. Mensah is now in danger.

REVIEW: Cutie and the Beast (manga, vol. 2) by Yuhi Azumi, translated by Angela Liu

Cutie and the Beast is a contemporary romance manga. It's licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

At the end of the first volume, Momoka's parents caught her and Kuga in a loving moment, after Kuga asked Momoka to marry him one day. Momoka's father is understandably displeased with what he views as an adult pro wrestler toying with his starstruck teenage daughter. Kuga becomes determined to win him over and show how serious he is about Momoka.

And that's the bulk of this volume. We get a flashback to Kuga's past, early in his career as a pro wrestler, and Kuga and Momoka go on a date (or at least attempt to), but the largest portion of the volume was devoted to Momoka's dad sternly staring at Kuga and Kuga bringing gifts and doing anything else he could think of to win him over.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

REVIEW: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun (manga, vol. 1) by AidaIro, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is a supernatural comedy (at least in this first volume, and according to my googling). It's licensed by Yen Press. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

Review:

The students at Komome Academy have many rumors about the school's supposed "Seven Mysteries," the seventh of which is Hanako-san of the toilet. It's said that Hanako-san haunts a particular toilet in one of the girls' bathrooms, and if you summon her and give up something precious, she'll grant you one wish.

Nene Yashiro wants Hanako-san to grant her wish to have her crush fall immediately in love with her. She's shocked when she learns that Hanako-san not only truly exists but is actually a boy, Hanako-kun. She adjusts quickly, though, and finds herself getting tired of what she views as Hanako's overly slow and not terribly effective efforts to help her. When she tries to get a bit more magical help from Hanako, however, she ends up biting off more than she can chew and is forced to become Hanako's assistant. Together, they investigate multiple supernatural mysteries, including thieving "faeries" and stairs that act as a doorway into a dangerous other world.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

REVIEW: Tsubasa: Those with Wings (manga, vol. 3) by Natsuki Takaya, translated by Adrienne Beck

Tsubasa: Those with Wings is a sci-fi series by Natsuki Takaya, who's best known in the US as the creator of Fruits Basket. I bought my copy used and, since the series was originally published by Tokyopop and never got a license rescue after the company imploded, used and library checkouts are pretty much the only ways to get it these days.

This review includes spoilers (both the major series ones - go back and read the earlier volumes if you haven't yet - and a few that I consider more minor, a little info on how things turn out for some of the characters).

Review:

Kotobuki and Raimon are still separated, I believe due to the bomb in Raimon's head (if I remember right, it would go off if he went with Kotobuki on her trip to what was left of Japan). Kotobuki has spoken to the last living Japanese person, a neurosurgeon who tells her the true form of the Tsubasa: they were actually genetically engineered bodiless brains. Only two brains were ever successfully created, and one day those brains spontaneously became a boy and a girl, Rikuro and Kayo.

Kayo has been missing for a while, and Rikuro can't function as the Tsubasa without her, but the neurosurgeon should be able to remove the bomb from Raimon's head. Unfortunately, there's one big problem: Raimon has been captured. Colonel Hil Gil plans to use him to awaken Kayo and, with her, the power of the Tsubasa, which he plans to use to grant his own secret wish.

REVIEW: Short Stories by Texas Authors: A Collection of Award-winning Stories, Vol. 3 (short story anthology)

Short Stories by Texas Authors, Vol. 3 is an anthology tied together only by the authors all being from (or living in? since those aren't necessarily the same thing) Texas. Also, the title makes it sound like all the stories have won awards of some sort.

Review:

I received this collection of 23 short stories for free at a library conference I attended several years ago. As far as I can tell, it's not an ARC, although there were enough typos and incorrectly used words and commas throughout to make me doubt this and double-check (yup, not an ARC).

As with most anthologies, some of the stories were good and some were not so good. Some were...pretty bad. Most had a "why I wrote this story" section at the end, which was nice.

There was absolutely nothing tying this anthology together beyond all of the authors being from or living in Texas, and supposedly all of the stories being "award-winning." Which awards? The volume doesn't say, and I highly suspect that the awards some of them won were very small and very local.

I'm primarily a genre fiction reader and went into this expecting it to be entirely literary fiction, so it was a nice surprise that a few of the stories were genre fiction: there was a little SFF and even one contemporary-set noir story.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

REVIEW: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Demon Slayer is a historical-ish dark fantasy action series. I watched it on Netflix.

Review:

Tanjiro is a kind-hearted and gentle young man who is known for his incredibly powerful sense of smell - he even has the ability to smell emotions. Ever since his sickly father died, Tanjiro has taken over the responsibilities of supporting his mother and younger siblings. However, one day he goes out to sell charcoal and gets home later than expected, only to find that nearly his entire family has been murdered by demons, which he hadn't even thought were real. The only "survivor" is his sister Nezuko, but her exposure to demon blood has transformed her into a demon herself. Nezuko appears to be special, however - although most demons are stripped of their humanity and cannot resist eating humans, Nezuko is somehow able to resist her urges and remember that Tanjiro is someone she loves and wants to protect.

In an effort to learn how to transform Nezuko back into a human, Tanjiro becomes a Demon Slayer. His ultimate goal is to find Muzan Kibutsuji, the demon who killed his family, and get him to change Nezuko back and then kill him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Blog update - "Follow by email" service will stop working after July 2021

Blogger put up a notification that the FollowByEmail widget is going away, and the email subscription service will no longer work after July 2021. So, if you've used it to follow my blog, be aware that it's going to stop working soon. I'll remove the widget in the meantime, but I don't know what, if anything I'm going to replace it with. I don't have a lot of followers anyway as far as I know, so it doesn't seem like something I need to worry about much.

I assume my various RSS feeds will continue to work, since I haven't gotten a notification about the "Subscribe to" widget on my page.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Comfort rewatch time

Heaven Official's Blessing has been released on Netflix, and since today has been terrible, I've decided I'll do a comfort rewatch even though I haven't finished the other two shows I'm watching yet. I'm only in the second episode, but so far I can say that, yes, minor changes were made to the subtitles, and it does seem to be for the better. For example, Xiao Ying's dress is now "torn" rather than "broken."

Anyway, my workplace is losing another couple people by the end of the month, and we haven't even replaced any of the other people who have left yet. Honestly, I'm not even sure anymore which positions are considered open and which are just gone. I think this means we'll have five positions open, but I'd be a lot more comfortable if we filled at least seven. There's been a lot of talk lately about all the new things we'll be expected to do, and I have no idea how we'll do any of it and get our regular work done. Possibly our regular work isn't viewed as being very worthwhile, I don't know. For instance, it's been hinted that I may have library instruction work added to my duties, which I'm extremely uncomfortable with. I'm a great cataloger, but I'd be a horrible instruction librarian, and it would make me miserable and anxious to boot.

Here's hoping comfort rewatching helps at least temporarily. On the plus side, we were all asked to submit updated resumes for accreditation purposes, so I have a freshly updated resume if I finally decide it's time for me to move on as well. I know I've tossed the idea around for a few years, but things are especially uncomfortable right now.

Monday, April 5, 2021

REVIEW: In the Study with the Wrench: A Clue Mystery (book) by Diana Peterfreund

In the Study with the Wrench is the second YA Clue mystery by Diana Peterfreund. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

In the previous book, snow and flooding trapped several Blackbrook Academy students in Tudor House, a lovely old building with several secret passageways. The headmaster was murdered, and the murderer was eventually caught and arrested. 

Blackbrook Academy has somehow miraculously managed to remain open, despite massive flood damage and a bunch of students transferring out because their parents are understandably concerned about the recent murder. The school and its new headmaster are now entirely focused on moving past all of this. That means no trouble, no bad press, and no more students leaving.

Unfortunately, Blackbrook happens to have a lot of people with dark secrets, and Rusty Naylor, the head janitor, is one of them. His latest scheme gets him killed, and when his body is finally discovered the big questions are 1) Who killed him? and 2) Can Blackbrook's students convince administration that their standardized tests should at least be untimed?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

REVIEW: My Father is a Unicorn (manga) by Monaka Suzuki, translated by Nova Skipper

My Father is a Unicorn is a one-shot comedy manga. It's licensed by Seven Seas. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Uno Issei's mother comes home one day and announces that she has remarried and that Issei's new stepfather is a unicorn named Masaru. Or, more precisely, a unicorn-pegasus hybrid. Before the conversation is even over, she's asked to go on a sudden business trip, leaving Masaru to take care of and hopefully bond with Issei.

Issei is less than pleased. Masaru is a well-meaning himbo with absolutely no concept of how humans live - his idea of a healthy and delicious dinner involves sauteed hay. He has a human form in addition to his unicorn one, which should keep everyone in the neighborhood from discovering that he's not human, except sometimes he forgets and allows parts of his body to transform while he's out in public. Then there's his weakness for virginal maidens.

Masaru genuinely wants to learn how to be a good stepdad and househusband, but is that something a unicorn can even manage? Well, he'll certainly try his best.

REVIEW: Lupin, Part 1 (live action TV series)

Lupin is a contemporary-set French thriller series. It's streaming on Netflix, and Part 1 is 5 episodes long.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

In the series' present, Assane Diop is a clever and cool-headed thief and master of disguise who takes his inspiration from Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin. Flashbacks gradually reveal his motives. When he was a teen, his father was arrested for the theft of an expensive necklace from his employer, Hubert Pellegrini. While in prison, Assane's father committed suicide...or was it murder? In the present, Assane seeks to find out what really happened to his father and who was responsible.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Heaven Official's Blessing is coming to Netflix!

I just noticed it in the "coming next week" section. Yes, I'll probably be rewatching it, or at least most of it, to see whether the subtitles are better. This is part of the reason why my streaming queues are never-ending.

(Currently watching: Lupin on Netflix and Bungo and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement on Funimation. Lupin is pretty good, even though I can't always follow Assane's various tricks very well. Bungo and Alchemist is not really all that good, but my lack of familiarity with most of the works and authors mentioned may be part of the problem.)

REVIEW: Her Pretty Face (book) by Robyn Harding

Her Pretty Face is a domestic thriller.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Frances Metcalfe is a stay-at-home mom struggling with low self-esteem and loneliness. Her 11-year-old son, Marcus, is difficult and prone to tantrums and acting out. Her husband works long hours at his tech job, so she's left to figure things out on her own, but she has no idea what to do. She doesn't even have another mom friend to turn to, someone who might understand what she's going through, because she can't seem to connect with any of the wealthy and beautiful parents at her son's private school.

But things change when Frances meets Kate. Kate is everything Frances is not, and yet somehow this confident and beautiful woman seems happy to be Frances's friend, to defend her when the other moms look down their noses at her. Marcus and Kate's son, Charles, become friends as well, and it does wonders for Marcus's behavior.

There's a problem, though. Both Kate and Frances are hiding things, and although they've both run away from their pasts, it isn't possible to leave them behind forever. One of them is really Amber Kunik, a woman who, years ago, helped rape, torture, and kill a 15-year-old girl.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

REVIEW: The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes (manga, vol. 1) by Shunsuke Sorato, translated by David Goldberg

The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes is a romantic comedy series. It's licensed by Denpa. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

The translator never really says what "sanpaku eyes" are, although the author afterword indicates that they're eyes that don't sparkle. Googling tells me that they're eyes where you can see white space either above or below the iris. I've seen one anime that I know of that used the term - Log Horizon, in which the main character was said to have sanpaku eyes - and viewers were told that this meant he looked evil. In The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes, it seems to indicate that the main character is intimidating and has an unfortunate case of "resting bitch face."

Anyway, Amane Mizuno may look intimidating and prickly on the outside, but inside she's sweet, pure, and more than a little awkward. She has an enormous crush on Mitsuhide Katou, the guy who sits next to her in class, but she has such a hard time talking to him that just saying "good morning" back when he greets her is a huge accomplishment.

In this volume, readers meet Amane, Katou, Amane's friends (Miyo Takiya and Yui Kawamura), and Amane's older brother. Amane interacts with Katou a bit and attempts to work up the courage to cheer him on during the school sports meet.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

REVIEW: The Cater Street Hangman (audiobook) by Anne Perry, narrated by Davina Porter

The Cater Street Hangman is a historical mystery. I checked it out via Overdrive.

Review:

Cater Street is being stalked by a murderer, and when a maid in the Ellison household is garroted, the tension becomes unbearable. Women have to be careful never to go out alone. Men find themselves wondering if someone they know is the murderer, and wives begin to doubt their own husbands. Inspector Thomas Pitt must somehow navigate upper-class society's secrets to figure out the murder's identity. As he does so, he becomes closer to Charlotte Ellison, who's still nursing a secret crush on her sister's husband.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

REVIEW: My Sister, the Serial Killer (book) by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a psychological thriller. I bought my copy used.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

This is set in Lagos, Nigeria. When Korede's younger sister, Ayoola, calls and asks for her help after killing a man, Korede is more resigned than shocked. The man is Femi, Ayoola's boyfriend, and he's the third person she has killed. Ayoola says that he was angry with her, that she killed him in self-defense. She said that before about the other two, and Korede is no longer sure she believes her. But Ayoola is her sister, so she helps her clean up all traces of blood and dispose of the body.

Ayoola quickly moves on, but Korede can't stop thinking about Femi. She copes by focusing on her job (she's a nurse) and confiding in the one person she knows who won't spill her secrets, a coma patient at her hospital. However, when Ayoola's dangerous beauty threatens to ensnare Tade, a doctor Korede is secretly in love with, Korede must decide how far she's really willing to go to protect her sister.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

REVIEW: Yes, No, or Maybe? (book) by Michi Ichiho, illustrated by Lala Takemiya, translated by Molly Lee

Yes, No, or Maybe? is m/m contemporary romance. It's licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes spoilers. If you'd like to avoid those, check out the cross-posted versions on either Goodreads or Librarything, where I can use spoiler tags.

Review:

Kunieda Kei is a charming and well-liked TV newscaster. He's just as charming off-camera - he's always nice, eats healthy food, never complains, and does his job perfectly. However, he has a secret: it's all a lie. The real Kunieda Kei, the person he is when he gets home, complains about everything, gets mad at his coworkers all the time, dresses like a slob, and loves eating cheap beef bowls.

The only person who knows what his real self is like is his mother, which suits him just fine. His public persona will never draw disapproval or nasty comments from tabloids, the public, or his coworkers, and his professional life will continue on exactly the path he wants. Then he meets Tsuzuki Ushio, a famous stop motion animator, and the carefully constructed separation between his public and private selves begins to crumble. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

REVIEW: The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent (manga, vol. 1) story by Yuka Tachibana, art by Fujiazuki, character design by Yasuyuki Syuri, translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian

The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent is isekai fantasy based on a light novel series with the same title. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sei arrives home one evening after a long day at work only to suddenly find herself transported into a new world where a magical miasma has caused a monster problem. Normally a saint is summoned when the miasma monsters become too bad for normal people to deal with, but for some reason this time two saints appeared, Sei and another woman named Aira. To Sei's annoyance, the eldest prince warmly welcomes Aira and completely ignores her. If that's how it's going to be, she figures they can let her go home. However, that's not possible, so Sei tries to put up with her new life as best she can. Bored, she finds herself drawn to the Medicinal Flora Research Institute, where she's soon given a job.

While at the Research Institute, Sei begins to learn about the various things she can do with medicinal herbs in this world, as well as the ways in which her abilities seem to be different from what other people can do.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

REVIEW: Scumbag System, Season 1 (CGI donghua TV series)

Scumbag System is based on a Chinese BL fantasy web novel I've generally seen translated as The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System. I watched it on Tencent Video's Youtube channel, which I'm fairly certain is official, since Tencent is listed as one of the show's producers.

Review:

The protagonist (Shen Yuan) is a contemporary Chinese guy who's just finished a very long web novel and is looking forward to trashing it in online forums. However, in the middle of typing his comment, he chokes on a meat bun and is transported into the novel.

The novel's villain, Shen Qingque, is the Lord of Qing Jing Peak and master of Luo Binghe, the novel's protagonist. He not only stands by as his other disciples bully and beat Luo Binghe, he also beats Luo Binghe. Binghe eventually masters demonic cultivation and, long story short, hunts down anyone who ever abused him, beats them, and makes any young and attractive women in their lives (their daughters, female childhood friends, etc.) fall in love with him and join his massive harem. Eventually he traps Shen Qingque in a pot and, I think, tortures and/or kills him.

Shen Yuan's problem is that he wasn't reborn as Luo Binghe, the protagonist with invincible plot armor. No, he was reborn as Shen Qingque, and if he can't figure out how to change the story, he's going to end up a broken man trapped inside a pot. Unfortunately for him, the mysterious System that transported him into the novel also has a few rules for him to follow. At least initially, he's not allowed to behave out of character without losing B points, and if his B points drop to zero, he's dead.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

REVIEW: Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Kaguya-sama: Love is War is a romantic comedy series. I watched it on Funimation's streaming service.

Review:

Kaguya is Vice President of the Shuchi'in Academy Student Council. She's a brilliant and wealthy young lady who has been raised since birth to think of all her social interactions and relationships, including love, as power struggles. She's initially amused when she learns that much of her school thinks that she and Shirogane, the Student Council President, are a couple. They're not a couple, but she decides that she wouldn't mind dating him, as long as he asks her first. After all, in romantic relationships, the first person to admit their feelings aloud is at a disadvantage.

Shirogane, the President of the Shuchi'in Academy Student Council, comes from an ordinary family and isn't naturally brilliant, so he maintains his reputation and status at the school by studying every chance he gets. He's pretty sure Kaguya sees him as beneath her but decides that he'd be okay with dating her...if she asked him first. 

Although neither one of them is willing to admit it to themselves, they're both in love with each other. Will they be too stubborn to ever admit it?

REVIEW: Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense is technically a sci-fi series, since it's focused on a pair of teen girls who play a highly advanced VRMMORPG. However, since it mostly takes place in the RPG world, it feels like fantasy. I watched it on Funimation's streaming service.

Some aspects of this review may count as slight spoilers.

Review:

Kaede's never been much of a gamer, but she gives NewWorld Online, a VRMMORPG, a try on the recommendation of Risa, her best friend. Risa can't start yet due to needing to concentrate on her schoolwork, so Kaede does her best to figure things out on her own. She names her avatar Maple and, because she doesn't want to get hurt, puts all of her skill points on defense. Initially, this looks like a bad move - because she has no points on Agility, she can't move fast, and her attacks are weak and limited to trying to hit enemies with her shield or just plain falling on them.

However, with a bit of luck and a tendency to try out wacky things like eating her enemies to death, Maple manages to acquire some amazing skills. Eventually, Risa (called "Sally" in the game) joins her and chooses to play the swashbuckler class. They gradually grow stronger, make friends, and participate in in-game events.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero, Vol. 1 (book) by Aneko Yusagi

The Rising of the Shield Hero is isekai fantasy. It's licensed by One Peace Books. I bought my copy used. Oddly, I can't find any mention of the translator's name on the book. Does One Peace not credit them?

Anyway, this review is chock-full of spoilers. Read at your own risk, or check out the cross-posted versions on Goodreads or LibraryThing, where I have the ability to use spoiler tags. (I opted to hide the whole review on Goodreads, so LibraryThing, where I spoiler tagged just what I considered the most spoilery bits, is probably the better option.)

Review:

Naofumi Iwatani is an otaku college student. His life, up to this point, has been pretty easy - his parents haven't put much pressure on him, and his otaku interests actually managed to keep his brother from becoming a full-blown delinquent. He's in the library one day when he spots a book call The Records of the Four Holy Weapons, which mentions four different heroes: the Sword Hero, Spear Hero, Bow Hero, and Shield Hero. Shortly after finding this book, Naofumi is magically summoned to another world where he is one of those four heroes...the worst and most useless one, the Shield Hero. He can only defend, not attack, and his magical shield won't permit him to carry any additional weapons. He can't even team up with any of the other three heroes, because their weapons cancel each other out.

Because he's so weak and knows even less about this new world than the other heroes, he has trouble getting anyone to join his party, and what help he does receive turns out to be a trap. Is there no one in this horrible world that he can trust? Somehow he has to survive the waves of enemies that he and the other heroes have been summoned to fight, so that he can hopefully figure out a way to return home.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

REVIEW: I'm in Love with the Villainess, Vol. 1 (book) by Inori, illustrated by Hanagata, translated by Jenn Yamazaki

I'm in Love with the Villainess is isekai fantasy with a lesbian main character - don't be like me and go into it expecting it to be f/f romance. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

In her previous life, Rae worked for a company that sucked all the hope and joy out of her life. The only thing she looked forward to was her favorite otome game, Revolution, which she loved enough to write fanfic for. However, rather than being a fan of one of the various romanceable prince characters, Rae's most beloved character was Claire, the villainess. When Rae finds herself suddenly part of the world of Revolution, in the body of the heroine, her top goal becomes to stay by Claire's side, support her, and help her achieve as good of a life as possible. Since Claire's fate in the game is either bankruptcy or death, Rae has her work cut out for her.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

REVIEW: The Carnival of Death (anthology) by L. Ron Hubbard

The Carnival of Death is a collection of two of L. Ron Hubbard's pulp fiction stories ("anthology" might not be the right word, but I couldn't think of a better one). 

Review:

I got this for free at a conference ages ago. It features a foreword by Kevin J. Anderson, two stories by L. Ron Hubbard ("The Carnival of Death" and "The Death Flyer" - both of which are accompanied by black and white illustrations), a brief preview of Hubbard's "Mouthpiece," a glossary of 1930s and 1940s words and expression used in the stories, and a 9-page overview of L. Ron Hubbard's writing life (nothing negative, and not a single mention of Scientology).

Kevin J. Anderson's foreword had nothing but glowing praise for pulp fiction, which I suppose would have been fine if it hadn't been for the implication that pulp fiction of the 1930s and 1940s was better and more enjoyable than most fiction published today. "These tales will return you to a time when fiction was good clean entertainment and the most fun a kid could have on a rainy afternoon or the best thing an adult could enjoy after a long day at work" (x-xi). That kid and adult are almost certainly white and male, and their "good clean entertainment" has a high concentration of violence and death.

I'd probably have disliked "The Carnival of Death" regardless, but Anderson's foreword certainly didn't help.

Monday, March 8, 2021

REVIEW: In the Hall with the Knife: A Clue Mystery (book) by Diana Peterfreund

In the Hall with the Knife is a YA contemporary mystery based on the Clue game franchise. It's the first book in a series. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Blackbrook Academy is an elite prep school in Maine. Its location is remote, and its students are largely rich, brilliant, and dedicated. When a snowstorm and on-campus flooding traps several remaining students, Headmaster Boddy, and Mrs. White in Tudor House, an old mansion that serves as an all-girls dorm, it initially seems like their biggest problems will be boredom and the cold temperatures. Then Orchid McKee stumbles across Headmaster Boddy, a knife buried deep in his chest.

Was it an accident? Suicide? (Obviously not, but at least one student thinks it's a possibility.) Or murder? The last option seems most likely, but if that's the case, who did it? The most comforting theory is that it was a looter, and whoever it was is long gone. Otherwise, the killer had to have been one of them. Everyone at Blackbrook Academy has something that they're hiding, and there's no telling what one of them might have done to protect their secrets.