Saturday, December 31, 2022

REVIEW: The Geek Ex-Hitman (manga, vol. 1) by Ko-dai, translated by Giuseppe di Martino

The Geek Ex-Hitman is a comedy series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Marco was once known as "The Oracle of Florence," or "T.O." He was a hitman for the mafia who suddenly disappeared for no apparent reason. What really happened: one of his targets had a Hades Girl Eurydice anime figure that snagged his attention. He canceled all his jobs, went to Japan, and became an otaku.

The mafia didn't take well to this, but they also didn't know his true motives. They figured he was planning on turning on them at some point, so they sent Viviana to take him out. However, Viviana happens to be a secret fujoshi. When Viviana is perceived as dragging her feet over completing her mission to kill Marco, another hitman named Andre is sent. He, too, is sucked into the otaku vortex in his own way.

REVIEW: Fangs (graphic novel) by Sarah Andersen

This is basically a slice-of-life graphic novel about the developing relationship between a werewolf (Jimmy) and a vampire (Elsie). He likes her goth looks, cuddling with her cold body when it's hot out, and the fact that she has zero issues with his ability to turn into a wolf. She likes that she can talk about having killed people without making him flinch (although most of her blood comes from blood banks these days) and that he occasionally lets her bite his neck. They're both not human, so they "get" each other in ways a human partner might not, but they also each have to make some adjustments. For example, she can't wear silver unless she's sure it won't touch him, and he has to remember that she'll burst into flames in direct sunlight, so no opening the curtains in the morning without warning.

I think I first heard about this via Sarah Andersen's tweets of some of the individual comics. I noted it down as something I was interested in seeing more of and then forgot about it until my recent graphic novel binge.

The physical volume is really nice looking - red cover, black-edged pages. I love the artwork. It's very different from her style in "Sarah's Scribbles," more detailed and realistic. Elsie and Jimmy make a good-looking couple.

While it's nice to read through the volume and watch them progress from strangers who are into each other to a cute couple who've decided to live together, I feel like this series was probably best (for me) in the short bursts that Twitter gave me. Reading this all in one go left me with werewolf and vampire questions this wasn't designed to answer. Also, some jokes worked better for me than others. Jimmy displaying dog behavior like running to the door when Elsie mentioned going for a walk was just odd, for example. I did really enjoy the comic in which Jimmy talked to a Chihuahua, though.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

REVIEW: Deadpool: Samurai (manga, vol. 2) by Sanshiro Kasama, art by Hikaru Uesugi, translated by Amanda Haley

Deadpool: Samurai is a Marvel manga. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

This review includes major spoilers.


At the end of the first volume, Deadpool and his new teammates found themselves up against a regenerated version of Thanos. That battle continues in this volume. Then it's time to travel to Mount Fuji in order to find out what Loki's cooking up there and stop him. The specifics of Loki's motive are finally revealed, and it's all just as stupid as you'd expect.

Okay, the first volume was better. Except for Deadpool, just about every Marvel superhero who showed up either behaved out-of-character or like a parody of themselves. Captain America, in particular, made me wince, although Loki was fairly disappointing too. Design-wise the most difficult to handle was Hulk, who was weirdly pretty.

REVIEW: True Beauty (manhwa, vol. 1) by Yaongyi

True Beauty is (I think) a romantic comedy manhwa. It was originally a webtoon. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


In middle school, Jugyeong Lim didn't wear any makeup and only cared about listening to whatever music she liked and watching her favorite cartoons and movies. She and a good-looking guy bonded over music, and she found herself wondering if maybe he was interested in her. Then she learned that he'd started dating one of the pretty girls who bullied her. Depressed, she decided that the problem was that she wasn't good-looking enough, so she dedicated herself to learning how to use makeup. It wasn't easy, but with lots of practice and advice from online strangers, she learned how to transform herself into a flawless beauty, just in time for high school.

Because she begins attending a school that's farther away, she doesn't run into any old classmates and is able to completely reinvent herself as one of the popular and pretty girls. Of course, it's all a lie, but Jugyeong doesn't see a problem with that...until she meets Suho Lee. He's hot, but also a complete jerk. And, horror of horrors, he has discovered her secret. Can she keep him from revealing the truth about her appearance and ruining her high school life?

REVIEW: Midnight Rain (manga) by CTK, translated by Adrienne Beck

Midnight Rain is contemporary BL. I bought my copy brand new.


Content warning for violence, suicidal ideation, and sexual assault.

Every month, for 10 years and 3 months, Ethan has been paying off a debt to local mafia. He has about three more years left, at the rate he's going, but the thought doesn't excite him because he has no idea what sort of life he can even look forward to living. He's at his lowest when Mike, a guy he'd recently met at the neighborhood laundromat, shows up at his doorstep bleeding all over the place.

This isn't the kind of story where much happens - the focus is on Ethan and Mike's developing relationship and their efforts to deal with the baggage they're carrying around, at least enough to let someone else in. Mike is rough around the edges, to put it mildly, and gets into fights as easy as breathing. It probably doesn't help that he has resting tough guy face. On the surface, Ethan is easier to deal with. He's always pleasant, friendly, and welcoming towards Mike, despite the fact that Mike growls at him constantly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

REVIEW: I'm a Terminal Cancer Patient But I'm Fine: Thirty-Eight-Year-Old Author of Erotic Manga Has Colon Cancer (autobiographical graphic novel) by Hilnama, translated by Beni Axia Conrad

Hilnama died on December 12, 2022. I can't claim that that fact didn't affect my reading experience, so I'll just say it upfront. This volume covers the period from her diagnosis in 2019 to an update about her treatment in December 2020.

This is Hilnama's account of being diagnosed with and treated for Stage IV colon cancer. She goes to a doctor because she's experiencing very bad period cramps that don't feel quite like her usual very bad period cramps. The first doctor she sees sends her home, saying there are no abnormalities in her tests (it should be noted that this is the only medical professional in the entire book who's depicted as an animal, a frog - everyone else, except for Hilnama, her husband, and her sister-in-law, who are rabbits, generally looks like a good-looking actor straight out of a popular medical drama). She sees another doctor the next day, who's able to feel something that the CT scan missed and who sends her off for further tests.

REVIEW: Hark! A Vagrant (graphic novel) by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant is a webcomic that often combines humor with historical and literary references. I bought this collection brand new.


I used to love reading this webcomic. It still holds up pretty well in printed form (this hardcover is really nice), although my enjoyment of particular strips tends to vary based on my understanding of the history/literature/other being referenced and the level of silliness. I tend to prefer it when the humor is based more on the thing being referenced than on pure silliness.

Sadly, I don't have the level of historical and literary knowledge necessary to understand all the references. A lot of the historical comics reference Canadian history, which I know pretty much nothing about, but I'm honestly not much better with the European or US history ones either. 

Quite a few of the comics include brief notes from Beaton (as far as I can tell, not the same as her comments on the web versions). I love that this book includes an index with all the people and works being referenced. As far as print versions of webcomics go, this is a really nice volume.

REVIEW: Deadpool: Samurai (manga, vol. 1) by Sanshiro Kasama, art by Hikaru Uesugi, translated by Amanda Haley

Deadpool: Samurai is a Marvel manga. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


The Avengers are apparently having too much trouble keeping up with all the villain activity worldwide, so they decide to start an Avengers team based in Japan, called Samurai Squad. Deadpool is recruited to be part of it. The actual first member of the team, however, is Sakura Spider, a girl who was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained abilities similar to those of Spiderman. In this volume, they attempt to recruit a third member, Neiro Aratabi, an idol who has bonded with a symbiote. So, Japanese Venom to go along with Sakura Spider's Japanese Spiderman.

Loki joins the story to complicate things and add a more formidable villain than "generic obsessed human #X". Initially, I thought his primary goal was to convince Deadpool to join him, but some brief mentions later on made it sound like he was possibly after Thor, who for some reason was maybe in Japan? I don't know.

REVIEW: Sensory: Life on the Spectrum: An Autistic Comics Anthology (nonfiction graphic novel) edited by Bex Ollerton

This anthology was organized by Ollerton for Autism Acceptance Month 2021. It features comics (some very short, some several pages) from a variety of autistic creators. If I understood things correctly, the comics were originally posted online and got a positive response that inspired a Kickstarter for a physical book.

Quite a few of the comics are focused on the authors' emotions - what being autistic feels like to them, how they feel about how neurotypical folks interact with them, etc. Several of the comics talk about masking and autistic burnout, and some of them include tips for other autistic people about managing potentially difficult things like dealing with tasks, sensory overload, holding conversations, etc. There are also a couple comics that cover things like being an autistic POC and dealing with non-suicidal self-injury.

Anthologies are hard to review/rate because it's rare that I gel with everything in them. As is usually the case, I liked some comics more than others, either because of the artwork, or because I could relate to the content more, or because a particular author's overall writing style appealed to me more. 

That said, for something like autism, where experiences can vary so widely, an anthology is probably the best way to go. There's almost certainly something in here that readers can relate to and/or find useful, even if other parts fall flat for whatever reason.

One thing I wish had been done differently: the "want more information" bits at the end include QR codes but no URLs. I really would have preferred URLs. Another thing that would have been nice: some sort of transition between the different comics or other clear indication that a new comic had begun. Even when it was obvious, it was jarring to see vastly different art styles from one page to the next with no other indication that a new comic had begun. Also, sometimes the art styles weren't quite different enough, and I found myself trying to read two authors' comics as though they were one.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

REVIEW: Axe Cop, Vol. 1 (graphic novel) written by Malachai Nicolle, drawn by Ethan Nicolle

Axe Cop is a fantasy action series. I bought my copy of this volume used - it includes a sketch and autograph from Ethan Nicolle.


Axe Cop is a cop who chops bad guys' heads off with his axe. His partner is Flute Cop, who, through various transformations, becomes Dinosaur Soldier, Avocado Soldier, and Uni-Avocado Soldier. In the world of Axe Cop, very smart people sprout unicorn horns that grant wishes, good guys always beat bad guys, and somehow the good guys are easily identifiable despite their tendency to, say, chop people's heads off and eat babies.

The important thing to understand about Axe Cop is that it all originated from the mind of a 5-year-old boy. The series started off as just play-time between Ethan Nicolle (29 at the time) and his younger brother. Ethan turned it into some comic book pages, posted it online, and it took off. Conversations with Malachai helped produce material for additional Axe Cop adventures. Each story and "Ask Axe Cop" strip in this volume includes commentary from Ethan with "behind the scenes" info about the process of translating Malachai's words and ideas into comics.

REVIEW: Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos (autobiographical graphic novel) by Lucy Knisley

This autobiographical graphic novel focuses on the author's experiences with miscarriage and pregnancy. She also writes about her experiences with birth control and ties in some light (and probably Eurocentric) research on the history of childbirth, pregnancy, miscarriages, and more.

My background: I don't have children and don't ever plan to. My sister, meanwhile has had three, and almost hemorrhaged to death after the birth of one of them. I am very firmly pro-choice. I haven't read any of Knisley's other works and avoided this graphic novel for a while because the cover made it look it would present a very fluffy and idealized look at pregnancy and childbirth.

Yeah, the author's experiences were pretty much the opposite of fluffy and idealized. First there were her miscarriages, then horrible morning sickness during her successful pregnancy. Things only got worse after she gave birth and was diagnosed with eclampsia - not a surprise to readers, since she noted her multiple signs of preeclampsia during her descriptions of her pregnancy.

For the author, the little person at the end of all of those experiences was worth it, although she also made sure to not present pregnancy as a state everyone with a uterus wants/should want to experience at some point. 

One thing that comes up a little but is otherwise mostly glossed over: US medical insurance. At one point, the author is sent home from the hospital while she is clearly still too ill, simply because insurance wouldn't cover additional time spent at the hospital since the doctor already signed the release papers and was too busy to stop by and reassess the situation. Which was horrible and utterly believable to anyone who's ever dealt with the US healthcare system, but it got me to thinking about the massive medical debt that the author surely must have racked up that was somehow never mentioned as a concern. That said, at the start of this graphic novel the author wrote that her baby was now four weeks old - maybe not enough time to get slammed with the bills on top of everything else?

Overall I thought this was an excellent read that would have been harrowing and deeply stressful if it hadn't shown from the start that everything was going to turn out okay.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

REVIEW: The Final Girls (live action movie)

The Final Girls is a horror comedy movie. I bought my copy new.

This review includes a slight spoiler.


Max's mother was a struggling actress best-known for her role as one of the murdered camp counselors in the low-budget 1980s slasher movie Camp Bloodbath. Several years after her mother's death in a car accident, Max reluctantly agrees to attend an anniversary screening of the Camp Bloodbath movies. 

When she and several of her friends are trapped in the movie theater by a fire, they attempt to escape via an exit behind the movie screen and accidentally end up in the movie itself. If they want to stand any chance of making it home, they'll have to figure out how to survive until the end of the movie.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 4) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a high school romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


While Charlie stresses over whether, when, and how to tell Nick he loves him, Nick is reading up on eating disorders because he believes Charlie has one and he's trying to figure out how to help.

This volume spent quite a bit of time on Charlie's mental health - his anxiety and problems eating. Things get a lot worse for him before they get better, but I felt like the whole thing was dealt with in a sensitive way and put more of the focus on Charlie's efforts to get better. That said, although I've dealt with anxiety for years, I don't have any personal experience dealing with eating disorders. You can take my opinion with a grain of salt.

If you've ever tried to help someone deal with mental illness or other issues, Nick's struggles will likely feel familiar. He desperately wanted to help Charlie but didn't know how. In this volume, part of his journey involved learning that he couldn't do and be everything for Charlie, and that it wasn't healthy to expect himself to. He was supportive, and he helped Charlie understand that he needed help, but "the power of love" wasn't some fix-all that could take care of everything.

Have I mentioned that I really love Nick's mom, by the way? She's great.

Anyway, I think I liked this volume the most out of all the ones in the series so far. It sounds like the next volume is the last. I'm interested in seeing how Oseman wraps this up.


A bunch of "firsts" pages for Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk (even though they're minor characters, I love that this adult couple gets to be adorable too), character profiles, Charlie and Tao's Instagram photos, a list of mental health resources, and an author's note.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Vol. 3 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Faelicy & Lily, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is a fantasy comedy danmei (m/m) story. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Shen Qingqiu (SQQ) has submitted to Luo Binghe (LBH), which makes him more than a little uncomfortable now that he's finally realized the book he's in has long since become a danmei novel and he's LBH's love interest.

Luckily for SQQ, there are still plenty of hidden storylines and details to save him from having LBH's undivided attention. Unfortunately, one of those hidden storylines involves LBH's father, who's so powerful that even the webnovel's original author never thought up a satisfactory way for LBH to beat him. That's going to be a problem.

REVIEW: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (book) by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a blend of contemporary fiction, humor, and a smidgen of fantasy. I bought my copy new.


Elsa is a smart 7-year-old who's regularly bullied at school and whose best and only friend is her grandmother. Elsa's grandmother is, to put it mildly, a handful. There is always adventure to be had when she's around, and Elsa particularly loves her stories, set in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas.

When Elsa's grandmother dies, Elsa learns that she's left her one last adventure, a series of letters that prompt her to gradually get to know the residents of her apartment building better and find out more about her grandmother's past.

REVIEW: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Season 1 (anime TV series)

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is a fantasy comedy with romantic aspects (but, just to be clear, it is not a romance, so don't expect it to be). It's based on a light novel series. I bought my copy new.


Catarina Claes is a spoiled child who bumps her head and suddenly remembers her past life as a Japanese high school student who'd enjoyed playing an otome game called Fortune Lover...which very much resembled Catarina's current reality. The only problem: in that game, Catarina Claes was the villainess, and just about every ending resulted in her either being exiled or killed. Realizing that she has only a few years to ensure her own survival, Catarina attempts to deal with as many of her future death flags as possible - if she has to have a bad ending, she'd rather be exiled with marketable skills under her belt than killed.

What Catarina doesn't realize is that her decisions have, from the start, deeply affected the story. Instead of being the villainess, she's now unwittingly the character everyone loves. But will even that be enough to help her escape her doom?

REVIEW: Down Periscope (live action movie)

Down Periscope is a 1996 military comedy. I bought my copy used.


Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge is being considered for promotion to submarine captain for the third and final time. He was previously passed over due to his unorthodox methods and a Russian submarine "brushing" incident. Also, he supposedly has a genital tattoo that makes him a bit of a joke.

Rear Admiral Yancy Graham, who dislikes Dodge, reluctantly agrees to allow the results of Dodge's final promotion attempt to be based on the outcome of a war game designed to test the Navy's defenses against an attack from diesel-powered submarines. Dodge is given command of an ancient and rusty diesel-powered sub and a crew consisting entirely of misfits no one else wants.

It's a test he seems doomed to fail, but Dodge is used to working with what he's been given, and his future depends on putting everything he's got into this.

REVIEW: Fantasy Island (live action movie)

Fantasy Island is a 2020 horror prequel adaptation of the original television series. I bought my copy new.


Five people arrive at Fantasy Island, a resort they are told will fulfill their greatest fantasies. Patrick, a former police officer, wants to be a soldier in honor of his hero soldier father. Melanie, a social media influencer, wants revenge on Sloane, her childhood bully. Brothers J.D. and Brax are the guests of honor at a mansion party filled with models. Gwen finds herself traveling back in time to the dinner at which her now ex-boyfriend proposed to her, with the chance to change her answer to "yes."

It's a magical place, but there's more going on than meets the eye, and these fantasies come with a price.

REVIEW: Halloween (live action movie)

Halloween is a 1978 slasher movie. I bought my copy new.


Years ago, little Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death on Halloween. In the movie's present, Michael escapes the mental hospital where he's spent the past 15 years imprisoned and has returned to his neighborhood to continue killing. While a psychiatrist who knows just what Michael is capable of desperately tries to find him before he can kill again, high schooler Laurie settles in for a Halloween night of babysitting, not realizing that a cold-blooded killer is stalking her and her friends.

I went into this expecting I'd get into it just like I did the Scream franchise and want to plow through the whole thing. Instead, this was painful enough that I was left feeling surprised it was ever continued. 

Most of the acting and dialogue was stiff and wooden, with only Jamie Lee Curtis managing to occasionally make her lines sound like something a real person might say. The tense/spooky music was used so heavy-handedly that it came across like the horror movie version of a sitcom's laugh track.

Again, this seems to be one of those areas in which I have unpopular opinions, because I've checked several "Halloween movies ranked worst to best" lists, and somehow this one is always rated as being the best. Is it nostalgia on the part of the people making the lists? I don't know, but rather than giving the franchise another stab (pun intended), I think I'm just going to stop here.

REVIEW: Scream [2022] (live action movie)

Scream is a 2022 slasher movie, the fifth in the Scream movie franchise. I bought my copy brand new.


It has been 25 years since the Woodsboro killings. Woodsboro high schooler Tara Carpenter is home alone when she gets a phone call that turns out to be from the newest Ghostface killer. Although she's badly wounded, she manages to survive, and Sam, her estranged older sister, comes to see her.

In this movie, Mindy and Chad, the twin children of Randy Meeks' sister, are the huge horror fans, and Mindy theorizes that the newest Ghostface killer is following the rules of a "requel," a franchise continuation that draws heavily from the plot of the original. Based on this, Tara's friends figure that the ones most in danger are those who have a direct connection to the original killings. With Tara, the connection lies in a secret her sister Sam has been keeping from her for years.

REVIEW: Office Space (live action movie)

Office Space is a 1999 workplace comedy. I bought my copy new.


Peter is a frustrated and unmotivated employee at Initech. His work friends feel the same way, but they all just keep putting up with their jobs because what else can they do? They still have bills to pay.

Peter's girlfriend (who is almost certainly cheating on him) suggests that he agree to see an occupational hypnotherapist. He goes along with it, but the hypnotherapist dies before the session is finish. Peter is stuck in a state of relaxation, and he's never felt better. His girlfriend breaks up with him, which leaves him free to ask out the waitress he's had a crush on for ages. He pretty much stops going to work, and instead of causing him problems, this somehow makes him look like management material. But that tremendous amount of chill can't last forever, and actions still have consequences. Maybe.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

REVIEW: Escape Room (live action movie)

Escape Room is a 2019 psychological horror movie. I bought my copy new.


Six people receive puzzle boxes that they think were sent to them by people close to them. Inside the boxes are invitations to a very special escape room experience. 

Jason is a cool-headed stock trader. Danny is an escape room enthusiast. Mike is a truck driver. Amanda is an Iraq War veteran with PTSD. Ben is a stockboy at a small grocery store. Zoey is a physics student struggling with anxiety. They're all very different people with a wide range of puzzle-solving experience, and they soon discover that they'll have to work together if they want to make it through the various rooms, each of which is designed to dig into a part of themselves they might have preferred to keep buried.

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Vol. 2 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Faelicy & Lily, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is a fantasy comedy danmei (m/m) story. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


It's now three years after the events that wrapped up volume 1. Based on his knowledge of the original web novel, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ) figures he has another two years to prepare for Luo Binghe's (LBH) return. However, while investigating a mysterious plague, SQQ discovers that LBH has, in fact, somehow come back early. He also understandably feels betrayed by and upset with SQQ. 

Everything is now out of whack - SQQ's preparations, his understanding of the overall story, his ability to predict how LBH will react and what he'll do. But he figures his best chance for survival involves sticking with his original plan as much as possible.

REVIEW: Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession (graphic novel memoir) by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

Murder Book is a memoir in graphic novel form. I bought my copy new.


In this graphic novel, comedian and New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell attempts to do several things:

  • Explore the roots of her true crime obsession (and why others, particularly women, share her obsession)
  • Provide overviews of some of the murder stories (Zodiac killer, Ted Bundy, etc.) that got her interested in true crime
  • Look at the history of the true crime genre, loosely organized by format, including books, movies, TV series, and podcasts. This also touches on true crime-adjacent stuff like crime dramas and police procedurals

One thing she isn't interested in spending much time on is addressing the problematic aspects of true crime obsession, in part because she seems to think that, if she recognizes it as problematic, she'd have to back off from it (page 294 - I'm aware she's at least partly joking, but still). Instead, she very briefly highlights the ways in which true crime storytelling has progressed in the way both victims and perpetrators are written about.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

REVIEW: Scream 4 (live action movie)

Scream 4 is a slasher horror movie. I bought my copy new.


This installment in the Scream franchise returns to Woodsboro. Sidney Prescott is now the author of a self-help book - her book tour has taken her to Woodsboro for a signing. Dewey is now Woodsboro's sheriff, and Gale is his wife. Gale is trying to leave her journalism career behind and write fiction, but she has no ideas and no clue where to start. Her general dissatisfaction with her current life is made worse by the knowledge that one of Dewey's officers is very clearly interested in him.

Anyway, not long after Sidney arrives in Woodsboro, a couple girls are murdered, and the police learn that the Ghostface Killer called two other girls with the victims' phones. One of the girls who got a call happens to be Sidney's cousin. Sidney, too, is drawn into the investigation by the discovery that the killer somehow put evidence in the trunk of her rental car.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 3) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a high school romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Nick has now come out to his mom, which went well. However, coming out isn't a "one and done" thing. What will happen when other people in his life find out? Charlie, for his part, is still scarred from the bullying he suffered after he was outed to the whole school, and he's worried that Nick might experience something similar.

Charlie, Nick, several of their classmates, and students they know at Higgs (Truham's counterpart for girls) all go on a Paris trip together in this volume. It turns into a giant relationship turning point for several people - not only does Charlie and Nick's relationship deepen, but things finally progress between Elle and Tao. Even the teachers overseeing the trip have a few moments together.

REVIEW: The Girl Who Kept Winter (book) by Giao Chi

The Girl Who Kept Winter is a Vietnamese martial arts story with fantasy, comedy, and romance. I bought my copy brand new.


Luu Dong Tu is the eldest daughter of the Luu family, which runs a well-respected dojo. She's a skilled martial artist in her own right, but unfortunately she's engaged to marry Vinh Phuc, the magistrate's spoiled son. Shortly before their wedding, Dong Tu and several other martial artists from the Luu family were sent to guard a delivery being made in a neighboring district. Something horrible happened during that mission, and although Dong Tu eventually made it back to her own wedding, she died of poison before it could take place.

Dong Tu had been poisoned by an encounter with Obsidian, one of the Monstrous Eighteen. With some assistance, she was able to resist his poison long enough to make it back to her wedding and ensure her family wasn't accused of going back on its word, but the poison that infuses Obsidian's entire body has no cure. Which doesn't stop him from seemingly raising Dong Tu from the dead.

And so begins this story of deadly poisons, martial arts battles, long-lost brothers, people with weird powers, jealous women, ridiculous matchmakers, and that one guy who thinks he's all that.

REVIEW: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun: The Complete Series (anime TV series)

Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is a supernatural school series. I bought my copy brand new.


Yashiro Nene is a young romantic who decides to try summoning a ghost at her school that supposedly grants wishes. What she ends up with is Hanako-kun, a ghost who admits to her that he can't make her crush fall in love with her. Nene isn't willing to give up, though, and accidentally gets herself bound to Hanako-kun as his servant.

Through her association with Hanako-kun, Nene gradually learns more about her school's various supernatural "Wonders" and how they function. Unfortunately, a Wonder with a painful connection to Hanako-kun seems to be trying to upset the balance of things at the school.

REVIEW: Death Becomes Her (live action movie)

Death Becomes Her is a 1992 black comedy fantasy movie. I bought my copy new.


Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) and Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) are childhood rivals/frenemies who never outgrew their rivalry. When Helen becomes engaged to Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a famous plastic surgeon, she decides to put him to the test by introducing him to Madeline before their marriage - Madeline always managed to seduce guys away from her, so if his feelings are genuine, theoretically he won't be swayed. What Helen didn't count on was that Ernest is a big fan of Madeline's acting career. Despite his assurances, he ends up married to Madeline instead of Helen. 

Seven years later, Helen is obese and completely obsessed with Madeline. Seven years after that, she has somehow slimmed down and become the author of a highly successful book called Forever Young. She flaunts her success and beauty in Madeline's face, and it works, because Madeline is now painfully aware of every little way in which her looks and allure are abandoning her. Ernest, now an alcoholic reconstructive mortician, is miserable as Madeline's husband and finds himself drawn to Helen. 

While Helen tries to charm Ernest into a plan to kill Madeline, Madeline visits Lisle Von Rhuman, a mysterious and beautiful woman who claims to have a rejuvenation potion. She sells it to Madeline and sends her off with a warning to take care of her body. And so begins the next stage of Madeline and Helen's vicious and obsessive competition with one another.

REVIEW: Black Friday (live action movie)

Black Friday is a 2021 horror comedy. I bought my copy new.


Ken, Chris, Marnie, Brian, Archie, Ruth, Emmett, Anita, and Bircher are all employees at We Love Toys who have to work on Thanksgiving. For Ken, that means missing Thanksgiving dinner with his daughters, who he dropped off at their mother's house. 

What none of the employees initially realize is that a parasitic organism has landed on Earth and begun taking over people, including shoppers waiting to get into We Love Toys for Black Friday. The first employee to be attacked is Chris. The store manager, Jonathan, and Chris's coworkers think he went nuts and attacked an innocent person, but it isn't long before they realize that there's something really horrible going on.

REVIEW: Us (live action movie)

Us is a 2019 horror movie. I bought my copy new.


In 1986, young Adelaide's parents took her to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. While there, she wandered away, entered a funhouse, and saw her own doppelganger in the house of mirrors. The experience so terrified her that she was mute and withdrawn for a while after.

In the present, Adelaide, her husband Gabe, and their children Zora and Jason go on vacation and spend time at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with some friends and their twin daughters. Adelaide is on edge, and that evening she finally tells Gabe about her childhood experience. She's trying to convince Gabe that they need to leave when Jason notices a family standing in their driveway. A short while later, the family finds a way into the house and reveals that they are their doppelgangers.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

REVIEW: Paradise Hills (live action movie)

Paradise Hills is a dystopian SFF movie. I bought my copy new.


The movie starts with socialite Uma's wedding to wealthy Son, who later comments on how much more obedient she now is. Then the movie flashes back to two months prior, when Uma first wakes up on an island called Paradise. Paradise is something like a treatment center for rebellious young girls. Although they initially appear to have free will and can choose to accept or reject the changes Paradise is trying to make in them, Uma gradually realizes that there's something more sinister going on. She and several of her new friends attempt to escape.

REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman (live action movie)

BlacKkKlansman is based on Ron Stallworth's memoir Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, which I read back in 2018. I bought my copy used.


When Ron Stallworth becomes the first Black cop in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he starts off in the Records room before being given his first undercover assignment, attending a rally where civil rights leader Kwame Ture is speaking. While there, he meets Patrice, the president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College.

After that, Ron is assigned to the Intelligence division. He calls the local chapter of the KKK and pretends to be a white man who's interested in joining and would like more information. Unfortunately, he accidentally uses his own name, and now the Klan members want to meet him. He manages to get permission to work with a coworker of his, Flip Zimmerman ("Chuck" in the original memoir), to somehow make it work - he'll be the phone voice of white Ron Stallworth, while Flip will be the in-person white Ron Stallworth.

So begins Ron's efforts to juggle multiple sides of his life. He begins seeing Patrice, who doesn't know that he's a police officer, occasionally deals with racist cops, and works with Flip to get in deeper with the KKK and monitor their plans.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

REVIEW: Scream 3 (live action movie)

Scream 3 is a slasher horror movie. I bought my copy new.


Sidney Prescott now lives out in the middle of nowhere, spending as little time with other people as possible. Even her work (crisis hotline) is remote, and she doesn't use her real name with her coworkers. Meanwhile, Cotton Weary is milking his 15 minutes of fame as much as possible and now has his own talk show. He also has a cameo appearance in the newest Stab movie. When he gets a "wrong number" call from a random woman who says she recognizes his voice and is a fan of his, he initially soaks up the attention and ego boost, until the caller reveals themselves to be a new killer using voice changing technology. Whoever it is wants to know where Sidney Prescott is, or they'll kill Cotton's girlfriend.

So yeah, the newest twist on the Scream franchise is that the killer is using voice changing technology to make themselves sound like other people. Phone calls can't be trusted, although lots of people don't find that out until it's too late. Sidney is eventually drawn out of hiding and into the race to find and stop the killer, who is now targeting people involved in the newest Stab movie.

REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (live action movie)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a supernatural movie with comedic elements. I bought my copy new.


When single mom Callie Spengler learns that her father has died and left her everything, all she hopes for is enough to pay the rent. Her dad was never really in her life, so there's no grief at the news. Unfortunately for her, the "everything" he left her is a moldering old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a lot of weird junk, and a lot of debt. 

Callie's son and daughter aren't exactly thrilled to be living in something that looks like a murder house. Trevor tries to make the best of it by getting a job near his new crush, Lucky, and fixing up his grandfather's old car. Phoebe, meanwhile, is an awkward and nerdy girl who comes into her own when she realizes that her grandfather was a scientist. With a little help from something that seems to be the ghost of her grandfather, she puts some of his old equipment back together and finds her first ghost, along with her new friend Podcast.

However, it turns out that Egon Spengler was living out in the middle of nowhere for a reason, and it's up to Phoebe to somehow finish his plans and help save the world.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

REVIEW: Cat's Cafe (graphic novel)

Cat's Cafe
is a gently humorous slice-of-life graphic novel.


In this full-color collection, Cat runs a cafe that's intended as an emotional refuge for the other animals in the area. Rabbit is Cat's anxious new assistant. Penguin is a regular at the cafe, and utterly addicted to coffee, and Kiwi is Penguin's friend. Armadillo seems grumpy but is actually more grumpy-nice. Axolotl is cool. Snake is lonely and appreciates when others include them. Gator is an artist with imposter syndrome who's nursing a crush on Cat. Hyena has depression but tries to hide it. And so on...

I believe this started off as a webtoon. Most of the comics in this volume are 4-6 panels, and the whole thing functions as an emotionally gentle warm fuzzy blanket. Some of the characters are struggling a bit more than others, but everyone is supportive in their own way. I was reminded, a little, of Winnie the Pooh, although this was more direct about its mental health aspects.

As I was reading this, I repeatedly got the urge to show various pages to people in my life. There's something for just about everyone, whether you're here for the coffee, the emotionally supportive pep talks, or the coffee shop moments. Although this was overall a very gentle collection, there are a few strips that may hit a bit harder depending on your own experiences - the one on page 130 made me wish for a happier moment for Hyena immediately afterward.

I enjoyed this. The artwork was cute and the topics were relatable. There's another collection, called One Cup at a Time, that I plan to read at some point as well.

REVIEW: Shutter Island (live action movie)

Shutter Island is a historical psychological thriller based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. I bought my copy new.


This takes place in 1954. U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule travel to Shutter Island, the site of the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. They've been sent there to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a woman who ended up at Ashecliffe after drowning her three children.

Teddy has an additional goal: finding Andrew Laeddis, who he suspects is an unreported extra patient at the hospital. Laeddis was responsible for Teddy's wife's death in a fire, and although he swears to Chuck that he isn't planning to kill Laeddis if he can manage to find him, it seems doubtful that he's telling the truth.

Various details, as well as the somewhat "off" behavior of several of the hospital staff and patients, lead Teddy to believe that the head of the hospital, psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, is hiding things, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it all. But in a place like Shutter Island, is there anyone, even himself, that he can really trust?

REVIEW: The Girl I Was (book) by Jeneva Rose

The Girl I Was would probably best be referred to as "women's fiction" with a side of fantasy due to its time travel elements. I bought my copy brand new at Book Bonanza 2022.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Content warning: parent death.

This begins with Alexis having an absolutely awful day. She gets called to HR, and instead of the promotion she's expecting, she's laid off. She's reluctant to tell Andrew, her long-time boyfriend, because he was so excited for her when she got the job, but he can tell that something's wrong and gets justifiably frustrated and upset when she tells him that it's none of his business (they live together, so I was as baffled and frustrated as Andrew was). They fight, and Alexis discovers that Andrew had planned to propose to her this evening. Now, unfortunately, they're breaking up.

Miserable, Alexis attempts to drink herself into oblivion. She decides that the root of all her problems is her college self, who never put effort into anything because "Everything happens for a reason" and "In the end, everything will be all right. If it's not, then it's not the end." She finishes off her evening with a bottle of vodka that she and her college friends once got from some woman who told them to drink it in an emergency - "Drink to forget. Drink to repeat." Because that's not weird at all.

And when Alexis wakes up with a terrible hangover, she eventually realizes that she has somehow been transported back to college in 2002. She figures this is a chance to make things right, but then realizes that she's still her present-day self. If she wants to fix things, she's going to have to convince her 2002 self to make some changes. Unfortunately, her 2002 self is convinced that she's the one who needs fixing.

REVIEW: A Study in Emerald (graphic novel) story and words by Neil Gaiman, art and adaptation script by Rafael Albuquerque

A Study in Emerald is a Lovecraftian take on A Study in Scarlet. I checked this out from my library.


This starts similarly to the original A Study in Scarlet, but with some Lovecraftian details even in the beginning. For example, this time the victim's blood is green. You'd think that would be one of the baffling parts of the investigation, but not here. It's definitely an alternate universe take on Sherlock Holmes.

I checked this out from my library after running some circulation reports and realizing that no one had checked this out yet. I decided I might as well be the first person.

A Study in Scarlet is one of my least favorite of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Granted, I haven't read all or even most of them, so that's not really saying much. This graphic novel took the very basics of the original story and then went in a completely different direction. I can't say too much without spoiling things, but I enjoyed the result. I was reminded of Gaiman's Murder Mysteries, which also had more folded into it than the premise might lead one to expect.


Includes some early character designs and sketches.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

REVIEW: I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You (graphic novel) by Yumi Sakugawa

I call I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You a graphic novel, but it's probably more accurate to call it a picture book for adults. I bought my copy new.


This book is a confession of friend-love from a gray, one-eyed being to a faceless white being. It's a very quick read, more the kind of thing you might give as a gift to someone than something you'd read for its story or characters. 

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, yes, it's great to see something that recognizes friendship as a relationship that can be as deep and affecting as a romantic relationship. On the other hand, it gets kind of weird at a few points and ends on a note that doesn't entirely feel healthy. Although I said this feels like the kind of thing you might give someone as a gift, the recipient might feel more than a little creeped out after reading it.

REVIEW: Scream 2 (live action movie)

Scream 2 is a horror movie. I bought my copy new.


Sidney Prescott is now in college, trying to live a normal life despite the immense popularity of the new Stab movie, based on Gale Weathers' popular true crime book about the murders the occurred in the first Scream movie (yes, Stab is essentially Scream with different actors). Unfortunately, the movie seems to be inspiring horrible people to call Sidney and pretend to be the original killer. She deals with it as best she can, but then a sorority girl is murdered by an actual copycat killer. Also a couple moviegoers - it occurs to me that there was never any attempt to explain that.

As Sidney and others try to figure out the new killer's identity, the body count rises.

REVIEW: Clue: The Movie (live action movie)

Clue: The Movie is a mystery comedy based on a board game. I think I bought my copy brand new.


Six people are invited to a house party by someone who is blackmailing them all. Each person is assigned a name in order to protect their real identity: there's Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, and Mr. Green. As each of them arrives, they're greeted by Wadsworth, the butler. The house has two other staff members, a cook and a maid. The last person to arrive is Mr. Boddy, the man blackmailing all the guests.

Shortly after his arrival, Mr. Boddy is killed. The evening snowballs as more people are found dead, and the clock's ticking because the police will soon be arriving. Can the guests figure out who the murderer is?

REVIEW: Bananya: The Kitty Who Lives in a Banana (anime TV series)

Bananya is a slice-of-life fantasy series. I bought my copy new.


The only one who says recognizable words in this series is the narrator, who acts as though he is studying strange and gentle creatures in their natural habitat and inviting viewers to join him. The cats just meow (or, to be more accurate, say "nya" in both the Japanese and English dub versions, because that's what Japanese cats do).

Each episode introduces different cats who live in bananas and shows snippets of their daily lives and behaviors. There is Bananya, whose greatest wish is to become a trendy chocolate-covered banana. There's also Tabby Bananya, Bananyako (the only confirmed female cat who lives in a banana, bringing to mind shows like The Smurfs), Black Bananya, Long-Haired Bananya, and more.

I've seen Bananya merchandise and thought it was cute. I've wanted to try this show for a while. It's cute, easy and quick to watch, completely stress-free, and will probably not make much of an impact on your thoughts. But if you've had a bad day and need something cute and stress-free, it may just hit the spot. I used it for some self-soothing after a biopsy.

I don't really feel strongly about any of the cats, but if I had to pick a favorite, it might be Mackerel Tabby Bananya, because he's shy. Honestly, though, most of the Bananya cats don't make a huge impression on their own. They're all just...nice.

Although this show definitely seems like something that younger kids in Japan could watch, I'm not sure how well it would work for English-speaking younger kids. It's not that it would be bad for them so much as some of the jokes don't come across nearly as well in the English dub. 

Not really a must-see, but also not bad. Get the Bananya merchandise that looks cutest to you, and then get this if you have cash to spare and want something short (39 minutes total) and soothing to watch.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

REVIEW: Men (live action movie)

Men is a 2022 horror film. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes spoilers.


Harper Marlowe has traveled to the village of Cotson to emotionally recuperate after her soon-to-be ex-husband's death. In flashbacks, viewers see that James, her husband, attempted to emotionally manipulate her into staying with him by threatening to commit suicide if she left. However, it's unclear whether his death was suicide or just an accident.

Initially, Cotson seems like a lovely and perfect place to heal. It becomes much less appealing after Harper has a frightening encounter with a filthy and naked man. Soon, every man (and boy) Harper meets behaves menacingly to her in one way or another, until finally the nightmare comes to a very personal head.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 2) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a high school romance graphic novel series. Although the primary relationship is between two boys, there are several other relationships in the background that occasionally get some page-time and might feature more prominently later on, such as one involving a lesbian couple and a potential relationship between a boy and a trans girl.

This review includes slight spoilers.


This picks up a little after the events of volume 1. Charlie is convinced that he has now ruined the friendship between him and Nick by kissing Nick. Nick, meanwhile, instantly regretted bailing on Charlie but is also still overwhelmed by a confusing jumble of feelings. He decides to go to Charlie's and talk to him, only for the two of them to admit that they really like each other and kiss again. They decide to become a couple but keep it between themselves for now, because Nick isn't really comfortable with the idea of coming out yet and hasn't even settled on what label applies to him, although "bisexual" sounds more appropriate than "gay."

The rest of the volume is devoted to Nick and Charlie spending time with each other and just generally being really bad at hiding their feelings for each other. As it turns out, however, there are people blind enough to see them making heart eyes at each other and not realize that they're in a relationship. Tao, one of Charlie's friends, is worried that Nick will end up hurting Charlie the way Ben did. Charlie, meanwhile, doesn't mind keeping his and Nick's relationship private, but he's not wild about spending time with some of Nick's friends.

REVIEW: Mimic (live action movie)

Mimic is a 1997 sci-fi horror movie. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


New York City has spent the past couple years battling a deadly disease that particularly affects children and that is spread by cockroaches. Since no one has been able to develop a cure or vaccine for the disease, Dr. Peter Mann, deputy director of the CDC, asks entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler to help him eradicate the disease at its source. Susan has genetically engineered an insect called "the Judas breed," which is uniquely designed to kill cockroaches. She releases these insects in the city, where they successfully accomplish their task. They've been designed to be infertile and die within a few months, so as to not cause any new problems.

Three years later, Susan and Peter are a married couple. When Susan's insect hunters find what appears to be a juvenile "Judas breed," she realizes that her creation has somehow survived. As she, Peter, and a reluctant police officer attempt to find the insects' breeding site, a shoe shiner named Manny searches for Chuy, the young autistic boy he's raising.

REVIEW: The Addams Family (live action movie)

The Addams Family is a supernatural black comedy movie originally released in 1991. It's based on a cartoon created by Charles Addams and a 1964 TV series. I think I bought my copy brand new.


Tully Alford, the Addams family's lawyer, pays them a visit in the hope that they'll provide him with the funds he needs in order to pay off his loan shark, Abigail Craven. It doesn't work out, but the visit and his realization that Abigail's son, Gordon, strongly resembles Gomez Addams's brother, Fester, does give him an idea. He convinces Abigail, who's also a con artist, to have Gordon pretend to be Gomez's long-lost brother, returned from the Bermuda Triangle, so that he can figure out the secret to getting into the Addams family vault.

Gordon is initially horrified by the Addams family and its weird and sometimes terrifying quirks, but he gradually grows to like them. Unfortunately, that means he must somehow choose between his mother and the Addams family, with the knowledge that, if the Addams family discovers he isn't who he says he is, they may cast him out.

REVIEW: Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes (book) by Scott Cathorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley

Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes is the first book in a horror mystery series that I believe is aimed at a younger YA audience. I bought it brand new, as part of a trilogy boxed set.


It's been 10 years since Charlie left Hurricane, Utah, the site of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, her father's restaurant. Now 17, Charlie has returned for a dedication ceremony arranged in honor of Michael, a friend of hers who was kidnapped and likely killed all those years ago. The visit will reunite her with her former best friends: Marla, Jessica, Lamar, Carlton, and John. Although Michael wasn't the only child to go missing, his disappearance was the one that hit Charlie and her group of friends the hardest.

While Charlie's there, she decides to explore some of the forgotten recesses of her childhood, visiting the nearly undisturbed remains of her and her father's home, as well as what's left of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. Charlie and her friends initially think the restaurant has been torn down, but then they discover that it was simply walled up. What's more, it's still accessible, as long as they're willing to take the risk of being discovered by the local security guard. 

REVIEW: Klara and the Sun (book) by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun is a blend of literary fiction and sci-fi. I bought my copy brand new.


Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. At the beginning of this book, she lives in a store where she generally stands in one place for hours or days at a time. Every once in a while, certain AFs are assigned to the store's most prime spot, the window, where they not only have the best access to sunlight (AFs are solar-powered) but also the best chance of catching a customer's eye.

Although Klara isn't the newest AF model, she's special in her own way, more empathetic and curious than many of the other AFs in the store. One day, she catches the eye of a sick little girl named Josie, who promises to come back and take her home with her. Although she's warned not to put her faith in the promises of children, Josie does eventually come back for her, and Klara enters the next phase of her existence, learning how to be the best possible AF for Josie.

Klara gradually learns about Josie and her relationships with others, including her mother, father, and childhood best friend, Rick. Josie's health is fragile from the start, but Klara is hopeful that she can somehow find a way to help her.

REVIEW: The New Girl (book) by Jesse Q. Sutanto

The New Girl is a YA thriller/mystery. I bought my copy brand new.


Content warning: drug use, a scene with eyeball-related gore, and possibly other stuff I've forgotten.

Lia Setiawan is Draycott Academy's newest student, there on a track scholarship. Although her fellow students, with their designer clothes (and designer drugs), might as well come from a different planet, Lia is determined to do her best. Unfortunately, there's an established pecking order on the track team, and Lia's presence disturbs it, earning her an instant enemy. It's not all bad, though: she also gains a few friends and somehow manages to catch the eye of super-hot Danny.

Her future at Draycott is put in jeopardy by Mr. Werner, her English Lit teacher. She strongly suspects that he's allowing students (like her track team nemesis, Mandy) to pay for good grades, and for some unknown reason he seems determined to fail her. If she can't keep her grades up, she can't stay on the track team, and she can't keep her track scholarship. Something's gotta give.

As the situation goes from bad to worse, Lia scrambles to keep everyone from finding out what she's done and desperately tries to find a solution that doesn't involve flushing her own future down the toilet. Even if she manages to figure something out, will she be able to live with herself afterward?