Tuesday, May 24, 2022

REVIEW: Gintama (live action movie)

Gintama is a live action movie adaptation of the manga, which is largely a comedy but which also has some dramatic moments. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

This takes place in an alternate Edo-period Japan in which aliens have invaded the country and taken control, outlawing swords. This technically starts in a cafe, where Shinpachi first meets Gintama, a former samurai. However, that's just a fake beginning: the real beginning is a quest to capture a beetle (Kagura just wants one, while Gintama hopes to sell it for a profit). And the actual for-real beginning is when Gintama learns about a serial killer, and a dangerous sword. The killer may have murdered a friend of Gintama and his group, so they go after him in an effort to find out the truth and stop him from killing again.

REVIEW: Stardust (book) by Neil Gaiman

Stardust is fantasy. I bought my copy new.

Review:

This begins with the story of an ordinary young man who wants to gain his Heart's Desire, spends some time at a mysterious market that only happens every nine years, and ends up accidentally fathering a son with the probably-not-human slave of a witch. 

When that son, Tristran, turns 17, he's head over heels in love with Victoria, the most beautiful girl in his town. She, not realizing he'd take it seriously, sets him an impossible task to win her heart: bring her back the star they both saw fall. And so begins Tristran's journey away from his ordinary village, into a world where witches, unicorns, and magic exist, and where fallen stars take the form of young women. 

Multiple characters' stories end up intertwined: a witch seeking the fallen star so that she can harvest her heart for its power to grant youth; several brothers competing for their late father's throne; and of course Tristran.

Monday, May 23, 2022

REVIEW: Pacific Rim: Uprising (live action movie)

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a sci-fi action movie. I bought my copy new.

Review:

Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place 10 years after the first Pacific Rim movie. Parts of the world have recovered from the past kaiju attacks, while other parts are still in ruins. Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost, who sacrificed himself to save the world in the first movie, is living as a thief in Santa Monica, California, one of the still-ruined parts of the world. Jaeger parts fetch the best prices, but they're also heavily guarded - he and another thief, Amara Namani, are caught and put in jail. Jake's adoptive sister, Mako, gives him a choice: he can either go to prison for a very long time, or he can reenlist in the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) and help train young cadets, including Amara. Jake reluctantly agrees to reenlist.

Amara is a huge Jaeger enthusiast and excited to be given a chance to pilot one, but first she'll have to learn to trust and work together with other people. Unfortunately, there isn't much time, as as the PPDC finds itself up against an upgraded threat to humanity.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" (live action movie)

Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder is a crime thriller based on a play written by Frederick Knott. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Margot Wendice is married to Tony Wendice, a retired English tennis player, and has been having an affair with Mark Halliday, an American crime fiction writer. Neither Margot nor Mark realizes that Tony knows about their affair, and Tony has now set in motion plans to murder Margot for her fortune.

It should be the perfect murder: Tony plans to use Mark himself as his alibi and has blackmailed a former acquaintance of his into agreeing to be Margot's murderer. Things don't go quite as planned, but Tony's a quick thinker and figures out a way to take Margot down regardless. Or so he thinks...

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

REVIEW: Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars (book) by Nick James

Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars is YA science fiction. It's not an ARC, but I did pick it up at a conference for free ages ago.

Review:

This alternates between first-person chapters from Jesse's POV and third-person chapters focused on Cassius. There's a lot to the world-building, and I'm probably forgetting large chunks of it, but basically this is set on a devastated Earth that's horrifically hot and kind of toxic. There are two main political factions: the Skyship dwellers who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere, and the corrupt Surface government that controls the "Chosen Cities," oases protected from the results of the chemical bombings that made so much of the rest of the planet nearly unlivable. Both groups are after one thing: Pearls, mysterious little orbs that fall from space and can power entire cities or ships.

Jesse is a young Skyshipper on what should have been a simple Surface mission to retrieve a Pearl. Instead, he accidentally crosses paths with Cassius, a young Pearl hunter for the Surface government. The encounter changes both of their lives, awakening powers that neither one of them understands.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

REVIEW: My Boyfriend is a Monster #5: I Date Dead People (graphic novel) by Ann Kerns, illustrated by Janina Görrissen

I Date Dead People is the fifth entry in the "My Boyfriend is a Monster" graphic novel series. I got it as an ARC at a conference at least 10 years ago.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Nora's family has recently moved into a beautiful old house previously Eleanor Hays, a famous author. Although her younger siblings make some odd comments and several items go missing, Nora doesn't realize there's anything odd about her new home until she's home alone one evening and meets a ghost. It initially scares her, but Tom, the ghost, doesn't seem all that bad - he returns the stuff he took and just asks that Nora's family not remove the house's grandfather clock. However, he's not the only ghost haunting the house, and a couple of the others aren't nearly so nice.

REVIEW: A Confusion of Princes (book) by Garth Nix

A Confusion of Princes is YA science fiction. My memories say I bought it new from a bargain bin, while my records say I bought it used.

Review:

When Khemri was only a year old, he was taken from his parents in order to be turned into a Prince Candidate, a being faster, stronger, and smarter than ordinary humans. He spent the next few years of his life getting his body enhanced and improved, and the next few years after that learning how special he was. On his seventeenth birthday, he officially became a Prince, was assigned his Master of Assassins, and was nearly killed by another Prince.

That's when he realized that, in a universe populated by millions of other Princes, 1) he wasn't really all that special and 2) he was in constant danger of being assassinated. Granted, being assassinated isn't necessarily the end when you're a Prince. As long as a Prince is connected to the Imperial Mind when they die, there's a good chance they'll come back to life (in an unharmed and slightly different body).

All Khemri wants is a fancy spaceship and some free time to enjoy himself and all the benefits of being a Prince. Instead, he finds himself caught up in a larger scheme that forces him to constantly work hard and deal with actual danger. 

REVIEW: Our Kingdom (manga, vol. 2) by Naduki Koujima, translated by Sachiko Sato

Our Kingdom is a contemporary-set BL manga. I bought this particular volume used.

Review:

Akira and Rei are now a couple, although Akira still seems to think Rei's frequent kisses are more due to his being half-foreign than anything. There's still no indication that the adults around them realize what's going on between them, or maybe they just don't care.

Yuji, Akira's father's younger brother, arrives at the beginning of this volume and immediately takes to Akira, much to Rei's annoyance. Akira understandably wants to spend time with his uncle, and Rei is massively jealous. When Yuji has a chance to spend some time alone with Akira, he offers to take Akira home with him, thereby leaving Rei the sole Takatou family heir. Akira refuses - although he firmly believes that Rei will (and should) be chosen to take over the family name, all he wants is to be together with Rei.

Later in the volume, there's more drama as Raoul makes another appearance and Akira starts to doubt Rei's feelings, wondering if he's only around because Akira reminds him of Akira's father.

REVIEW: Rurouni Kenshin "Three in One" Omnibus (manga, vol. 1) by Nobuhiro Watsuki, translated by Kenichiro Yagi

Rurouni Kenshin is a historical action series. I bought this volume used.

Review:

Kaoru is on the hunt for Hitokiri Battousai, the infamous assassin who opposed the Tokugawa shogunate and killed countless men before vanishing after the start of the Meiji era, when she meets a humble rurouni named Himura Kenshin. She tells Kenshin that she's trying to clear the name of her family dojo - Hitokiri Battousai claims to use her family's sword-fighting style when he commits murder, and this lie is ruining the dojo's reputation. Kenshin happens to know that "Hitokiri Battousai" is lying about more than just that...because he's the real Hitokiri Battousai, determined to live out the rest of his days without killing anyone else.

This omnibus volume includes volumes 1-3 of the series, introducing Kaoru, Yahiko, Sanosuke, and Megumi. It ends with Kenshin, Sanosuke, and Yahiko beginning a mission to rescue Megumi from Takeda Kanryu, which will involve going up against Shinomori Aoshi and his followers, the Oniwabanshu.

REVIEW: Our Kingdom (manga, vol. 1) by Naduki Koujima, translated by Sachiko Sato

Our Kingdom is a contemporary-set BL manga. I bought this particular volume new in order to fill in some blanks I had from getting a couple of the volumes used. I now regret this.

Review:

After his parents died in a car accident 5 years ago, Akira Nonaka was raised by his grandmother. However, she, too, has now died, and it's at her funeral that he learns that his father's family name used to be Takatou and that he isn't the only member of his family left. He agrees to go see them and learns that the Takatou family is rich and influential. 

His grandmother on his father's side declares that he and Rei, the cousin he never knew he had, are now the Takatou family heirs. Akira wants no part of this and attempts to go home but is stopped by Rei, who for some reason badly wants him to stay. Akira reluctantly agrees and finds himself swamped in tutoring sessions designed to help him not be an embarrassment to the Takatou family. As if that weren't enough, Rei's behavior is bewildering - he's weirdly physically affectionate, and Akira wonders if this is just how foreigners act (Rei is half Japanese). He couldn't possibly be serious, after all.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

REVIEW: Final Girls (book) by Riley Sager

Final Girls is a thriller. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Ten years ago, Quincy and several of her college friends took a trip to Pine Cottage. Only Quincy made it out alive. Although she has very few memories of what happened there, she remembers her first meeting with the stranger who killed all of her friends and almost got her too. She also remembers running for her life until she was saved by Coop, a young cop. She considers her lack of memories about everything else to be a blessing.

Now Quincy has an almost-fiance named Jeff and a popular baking blog. Things aren't perfect, but she's doing okay...until she learns that Lisa Milner has committed suicide. Lisa, Sam, and Quincy are part of a group the press has dubbed the "Final Girls," young women who each survived horror movie-like massacres. Lisa was the first and reached out to Quincy after Pine Cottage with offers of advice and support. Quincy only ever spoke to Lisa on the phone, and that was a while ago, but it seems unthinkable that she'd have killed herself. While Quincy is still trying to process the news, she's approached by a familiar-looking woman: Samantha Boyd, the "Final Girl" who dealt with her gruesome experience by disappearing. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

REVIEW: Owen (book) by Melody Anne

Owen is contemporary romantic suspense. It's the third book in the author's Undercover Billionaire series.

Review:

Once upon a time, Eden and Owen were childhood sweethearts who planned to spend their whole lives together. Then one day Owen vanished without a word. Ten years later he came back and, despite herself, Eden was drawn to him and they ended up in bed again, only for her to discover that her dad had been dying of a heart attack and trying to call her while she was with Owen.

It's now 6 months later, and Eden's still walking around like an open wound. She works for a law office that's investigating whether the recent fires in the area were an inside job, and the top arson suspect immediately jumps out at her: Owen. He's one of the firefighters who's been battling the fires, and despite the grief, anger, and guilt that Owen's presence churns up, everything in Eden rebels against the idea that he could be the one behind those fires. Still, she has a job to do.

Meanwhile, there's definitely an arsonist running around, and he has his sights set on Owen. If he can't get to the man directly, hurting him indirectly via Eden, the woman he loves, is certainly an option.

REVIEW: Ossan Idol! (manga, vol. 1) by Ichika Kino, original story by Mochiko Mochida, translated by Milagres Fernandes

Ossan Idol! is, I guess, a slice-of-life idol series. It's licensed by Tokyopop. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Miroku Osaki is a 36-year old, fat, unemployed shut-in. He had a sales job at a health food company 10 years ago, but he was let go due to "unsatisfactory performance," which everyone knew was really code for "a fat salesperson makes our company look bad." He's finally starting to come out of his shell, though. He decides he wants to try dancing and joins a gym, where he meets Yoichi Kisaragi, the director of an entertainment company. Yoichi supports and encourages him, and before long Miroku is fit, attractive, and turning heads. However, he has no clue how charismatic he's become - all he knows is that he enjoys dancing, singing, and cheering people up. This volume follows his first steps towards becoming a middle-aged idol.

REVIEW: The Feng Shui Detective (book) by Nury Vittachi

The Feng Shui Detective is the first book in Nury Vittachi's Feng Shui Detective mystery series. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Mr. Wong is a feng shui consultant in Hong Kong who occasionally uses his skills for more than just interior decoration. In this particular book, he finds himself looking into multiple odd cases, including an apparent kidnapping, a ghost at a dentist's office, and a young lady who various psychic readings indicate that she will soon die.

The publisher's description makes it sound like that last case is Wong's primary focus throughout the book, but it actually takes quite a while before he becomes directly involved (unless I zoned out and missed something, which is honestly possible). One of the biggest issues I had with this book was the way it meandered, despite several supposedly time-sensitive issues.

REVIEW: Home Before Dark (book) by Riley Sager

Home Before Dark is a combination of horror, thriller, and mystery. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

When Maggie Holt was five, she and her parents spent 20 days in Baneberry Hall before they suddenly left the place and never went back. Maggie's father wrote a book about their experience, House of Horrors, that has haunted her her whole life, coloring her relationships and memories. Maggie can't remember her time at Baneberry Hall, doesn't personally believe in ghosts, and is convinced that her father lied about the haunting because their family needed money. However, neither of her parents would ever give her a straight answer about what really happened there.

When her father dies of cancer, Maggie discovers that one of the things he's left her is Baneberry Hall, which she hadn't realized he still owned. Maggie plans to renovate the place and sell it after figuring out as much of the truth as she can.

REVIEW: Through the Woods (graphic novel) stories by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a graphic novel collection of short horror stories. I checked it out from the library.

I tried to avoid spoilers, but there are mentions here and there of things that could be considered spoiler-ish.

Review:

This collection includes "Our Neighbor's House," "A Lady's Hands Are Cold," "His Face All Red," "My Friend Janna," "The Nesting Place," and a linked introduction and conclusion story.

I had previously read "His Face All Red" online and absolutely loved it, so I was looking forward to reading this collection. It did not disappoint. Every entry is delightfully creepy and makes effective use of color and text placement. It's not the best collection if you want your horror to end with answers and everything tied up, but if you like chilling moments and general creepiness, I'd say give this a shot. I wouldn't say this volume was gory at all, although there's blood, disturbing moments, and body horror that often particularly focuses on teeth.

I don't think there's a single story I disliked, although my most favorite of the bunch was probably "His Face All Red," and my least favorite was probably "A Lady's Hands Are Cold" or possibly "My Friend Janna."

Sunday, March 13, 2022

REVIEW: The Kiss Quotient (e-book) by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient is contemporary romance. I checked it out via OverDrive.

Review:

Stella is an econometrician with Asperger's who'd rather spend her weekends at work than go on dates. However, her mother keeps setting her up with people and making noises about wanting grandchildren, so Stella tries to accommodate her. A comment from a coworker prompts her to decide that the solution to her problem (getting and keeping a satisfactory guy) is for her to become better at sex, so she does some research, finds a well-rated escort service, and sets up an appointment with Michael, figuring that it'd be best for her to learn from a professional. 

One day a week, Michael has sex with women in order to pay his mom's medical bills. Neither his family nor his friends know what he's doing, and he wants to keep it that way. Stella is a surprise, though - he finds himself genuinely attracted to her and baffled at her request for instruction on being better at sex. He figures he can at least show her a good time and soon finds himself throwing his usual "no repeat appointments" rule out the window.

REVIEW: Jackaby (book) by William Ritter

Jackaby is a YA paranormal historical mystery. It's apparently the first in a series, although I didn't know that while I was reading it. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Just before Abigail Rook is supposed to start her university education, she takes the money her parents set aside for tuition, hastily packs a bag, and answers an advertisement for an "exciting opportunity" that she thinks will lead to a dinosaur fossil-finding adventure. Instead, the expedition is a failure. While attempting to get back to her family in England, Abigail instead accidentally ends up on a ship bound for America, so she decides to give this "adventure" thing a second shot.

She has no work lined up, no plan, and hardly any money, so when she sees an ad for an "investigative services assistant," she decides to apply. Her new employer turns out to be the same strange man she met upon first arriving in America: Mr. R.F. Jackaby. 

Jackaby has the ability to see things others can't - there's a whole supernatural side to the world that only he's aware of. Abigail isn't entirely sure how much to believe him, but it's a paying job that seems to offer the excitement she craves. Jackaby, for his part, needs a new assistant after his last one got turned into a duck. Jackaby's first case, after meeting Abigail, involves the murder of a man who, despite having been torn open, doesn't seem to have left behind as much blood as he should have. There are indications that at least one more person will soon die in that same building. Who or what is doing the killing, and can Jackaby and Abigail stop them?

REVIEW: Warriors: Into the Wild (book) by Erin Hunter

Into the Wild is the first book in Erin Hunter's Middle Grade fantasy series, Warriors. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Rusty, a young indoor-outdoor cat (sorry, kittypet), finds himself drawn to a feral cat colony called ThunderClan. He gives up his kittypet life and joins them as an Apprentice under the new name "Firepaw." As he tries to prove himself as more than just a kittypet, he learns more about clan politics. In particular, ShadowClan is causing trouble, apparently invading and taking over neighboring clan territory.

Maybe it's because I waited so long to finally write my review, but it doesn't seem like much happened in this book. Firepaw was taken into ThunderClan and learned better hunting skills while getting a peek at the edges of clan politics. Clan leaders have the ability to talk to "StarClan" (basically, visions and prophecies), and there are "medicine cats" who can treat injuries and illnesses with herbs and other things. Firepaw's actions result in a wounded cat being taken in to ThunderClan who might turn out to be an enemy, but Firepaw eventually figures out (after many hints) that there's more serious trouble brewing within the clan itself.

REVIEW: Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Book 1: The Capture (book) by Kathryn Lasky

The Capture is the first book in Kathryn Lasky's Middle Grade (or younger YA?) fantasy series, Guardians of Ga'Hoole. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Soren is a young Barn Owl living with his parents and two siblings, his older brother Kludd and his younger sister Eglantine. There have been disturbing reports of owlets going missing recently, but it's not something Soren is particularly worried about...until his parents leave on a long hunting flight and Soren suddenly finds himself pushed out of his nest. He can't fly and is completely defenseless. Before anyone is able to help him, he's snatched away by an owl who takes him to St. Aggie's, an owl orphanage. 

Soren knows that he isn't really an orphan, but none of the adults at St. Aggie's seem to care, and things get worse from there. Each owlet is referred to by a number rather than their real name, everyone is made to undergo something called a "sleep march," and questions are forbidden. Soren clings to his sense of self with the help of a new friend, an Elf Owl named Gylfie, and the two of them work together to find a way out of St. Aggie's and back to their families.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

REVIEW: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (nonfiction audiobook) by Joshua Foer, narrated by Mike Chamberlain

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is nonfiction. I listened to the audiobook via OverDrive.

Review:

Because the title of this book has apparently confused some people: this is not about Einstein. The title is referring to the memorization technique Foer learned, which involves populating a "memory palace" with bizarre and therefore memorable imagery that one has in some way linked to the less memorable information one wants to memorize.

I listened to the audiobook, so apologies if I have some of the details wrong. If I remember right, this book begins with Foer sitting in on a memory competition for an article he was writing. After the event, he spoke to one of the participants, who told him that, with enough training in the right techniques, anyone could become a memory champion. Foer was initially unconvinced but willing to give it a shot.

This book's overall framework is Foer's own memory journey from "regular guy" to competitor in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship, but along the way he writes about the history of memorization techniques, the science of memory and learning, the world of memory championship competitors, why supposedly photographic memories don't exist, and more.

REVIEW: A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World's Most Misunderstood Bird (nonfiction book) written and illustrated by Rosemary Mosco

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World's Most Misunderstood Bird is nonfiction with a nice dose of humor. I bought it brand new.

Review:

In this short and entertaining read, Mosco writes about pigeons: their relationship to humans, their history, their anatomy and behavior, the various breeds of domesticated pigeons, the sorts of patterns and colors you might spot among feral pigeons, and how to help pigeons (stringfoot, spotting lost pets among feral pigeons, catching an injured pigeon, etc.). The book wraps up with a chapter on the sorts of animals you might begin to spot once you've become comfortable watching pigeons/doves.

REVIEW: Two Can Keep a Secret (e-book) by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret is a YA mystery/thriller. I checked it out via OverDrive.

Review:

When their mother ends up in rehab, Ellery and her twin brother, Ezra, head off to the small town of Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother, who they barely know anything about. On their way to her house, they discover the body of a beloved local teacher, apparently killed in a hit-and-run accident.

This isn't Echo Ridge's first time dealing with tragedy. When Ellery and Ezra's mother was 17, her twin sister disappeared. A few years ago, a homecoming queen was murdered. Now this teacher is dead, and there are signs that someone's out to kill another homecoming queen.

This alternates between two POVs, Ellery's and Malcolm's. Malcolm's older brother was the boyfriend of the homecoming queen who was murdered, and the prime suspect at the time. The killer's possible reappearance puts the spotlight back on Malcolm and his older brother. Ellery, meanwhile, is a true crime fanatic whose obsession with murder is rooted in her curiosity about her mother's missing twin, who her mother refuses to talk about. 

I don't really have a lot to say about this book. Overall, I do think that McManus' One of Us Is Lying was better - the premise was more solid and intriguing, whereas this book was messier. However, Two Can Keep a Secret's characters worked better for me. True, there was no one as great as One of Us Is Lying's Addy, but there was also no one who really irked me. Malcolm and Ellery were attracted to each other, because of course they were, but I don't recall them being too annoying about it.

The ending was a bit unsatisfying, but the last line was chilling enough to almost make up for it.

REVIEW: Countdown (live action movie)

Countdown is a horror movie. I watched it on Netflix.

Review:

Warning: although the movie is light on sexual violence, there's a moment when one of the doctors tries to kiss Quinn against her will.

Quinn, a young nurse, downloads an app called Countdown that a patient told her about. It supposedly tells you when you're going to die, and her patient swears it killed his girlfriend and will soon kill him as well. After her patient skips his upcoming surgery only to die in a hospital stairwell, Quinn begins to worry that what he told her about the app is real. As her countdown approaches zero, she sees and experiences terrifying things. Can she figure out how to break free from the app's grip before it manages to kill her too?

Sunday, January 30, 2022

REVIEW: The Savior's Book Cafe Story in Another World (manga, vol. 1) based on the novels by Kyouka Izumi, story by Oumiya, art by Reiko Sakurada

The Savior's Book Cafe Story in Another World is yet another isekai fantasy manga based on a light novel series. It's licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy new.

Review:

When Tsukina is approached by a floating orb claiming to be God, who tells her that she's been summoned to another world in order to be its savior, she says no thanks. God is somewhat taken aback, since everyone else seemed thrilled to be summoned and couldn't wait to start their new lives. However, all those other people were starry-eyed teenagers, and Tsukina is a single thirty-something with a stable job and a quiet life that she enjoys. She has no desire to fight monsters and face danger.

God tells her that this summoning in nonnegotiable, but if she'd prefer, she could live a quiet life and just be on standby in case another savior needs help. Tsukina reluctantly agrees but gets God to grant her a bunch of wishes so that she'll be as comfortable in her new world as possible.

And so begins Tsukina's life as the owner of a little book cafe in the middle of nowhere, whose first (and mostly only) customer, Il (the author's awkward shortening of his full name, Soeil), a bookish knight.

REVIEW: Others See Us (book) by William Sleator

Other See Us is YA SFF. Technically, I'd argue that it's YA SFF horror. I checked it out from the library. 

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

The thing that most excites Jared about his summer vacation is that he'll finally get the chance to see his beautiful cousin Annelise again. However, not long before the big family cookout, Jared accidentally crashes his bike and falls into a swamp filled with toxic muck. He manages to get it all washed off, but suddenly he finds himself hearing weird voices, almost like he can hear others' thoughts. There's far more tension in his family than he ever realized, and he has no idea what to think about it all.

But soon he has other problems keeping him occupied. His secret journal has gone missing, which means that someone now knows all about his huge crush on Annelise. Whoever took it knew the security code to his family's cottage, and since the thief wasn't either of his parents, it seems likely that there's another mind reader in his family, someone else who was exposed to the toxic swamp water.

REVIEW: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (book) by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is Middle Grade humorous realistic fiction. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Dwight is generally agreed to be the biggest weirdo in his school's sixth grade. He says and does random weird stuff and is generally embarrassing for folks like Tommy, who sits with him at lunch, to be around. However, he recently made his own Origami Yoda (based on a design he invented himself), and although it's weird that he keeps telling people to ask Origami Yoda for advice, the advice is often surprisingly helpful.

Tommy has assembled these case files in an effort to figure out the answer to the question: Is Origami Yoda real, or isn't he? Each entry is an example of a time Origami Yoda gave someone advice and how it turned out, with commentary from Harvey (who doesn't believe Origami Yoda is real) and Tommy, along with doodles created by Tommy's friend Kellen.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

REVIEW: Chasing Lincoln's Killer (nonfiction audiobook) by James L. Swanson, read by Will Patton

Chasing Lincoln's Killer is YA nonfiction. I checked it out through OverDrive.

Review:

Chasing Lincoln's Killer follows John Wilkes Booth from his decision to assassinate Lincoln (with some mentions of an earlier attempt to kidnap him), to his attempts to evade authorities afterward and eventual death. Contrary to what the title implies, more of the book's time is spent on the assassination (and his accomplices' efforts) than on the pursuit, probably because blood, gore, and death were deemed more interesting than a couple guys becoming increasingly rank as they attempted to escape to Virginia.

REVIEW: Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (nonfiction audiobook) by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, read by the authors

Thanks for the Feedback is nonfiction. I checked it out on OverDrive.

Review:

I listened to this audiobook while working on other things, so I unfortunately can't give a very good overview of how it's structured. If I remember right, the authors started by laying out their definition of "feedback," which is broader than you might expect. Telling someone the ways in which they could improve the presentation they just practiced counts as feedback. So does telling them that they did great and are going to do just fine during the real thing (encouragement rather than advice). And that person who honked at you during your morning commute because you were zoned out and didn't notice the light had changed to green was also giving you feedback.

REVIEW: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong, Vol. 1 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, illustrated by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi), translated by Faelicy and Lily

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is, at least in this first volume, a fantasy comedy that was originally serialized online, in Chinese. As the series progresses, it gains more serious elements and m/m romance. According to the little genre guide in the back of this volume, it would be considered part of both the danmei (Chinese BL) and xianxia genres. It's licensed by Seven Seas - I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes a few spoilers, mostly because I couldn't help indulging my urge to write about the series as a whole and not just this one volume.

Review:

Proud Immortal Demon Way is an incredibly long online serial, a "stallion" novel about Luo Binghe (referred to as LBH from here on out), a humble young cultivation disciple who is mistreated by Shen Qingqui (SQQ), the Lord of Qing Jing Peak, until he eventually awakens to his demonic powers, gathers up a massive harem, and kills everyone who formerly mistreated him. Shen Yuan has just spent 20 days plowing through Proud Immortal Demon Way when he suddenly dies and wakes up in the body of SQQ.

Shen Yuan had lots of complaints about Proud Immortal Demon Way and was known for being a massive anti-fan. As SQQ, he is told by System, a voice only he can hear, that he's being given the opportunity to "transform a stupid work into a magnificent, high-quality, first-rate classic" (14). It's a chance to finally address the original work's inconsistencies, plot holes, and various details that are brought up only to never be mentioned again. Unfortunately, the original SQQ was a scum villain who betrayed his sect and eventually had his arms and legs chopped off by LBH, the protagonist with invincible plot armor. If SQQ dies the same way now, Shen Yuan is dead as well. His first instinct is to suck up to LBH as hard as he can, but OOC (out of character) behavior is forbidden until he can fulfill some initial requirements. 

SQQ somehow has to survive long enough to unlock additional abilities, earn various types types of points (B-points, awarded for being a badass, are the most prominent, but System adds other at will) so that he can afford to break rules or screw up here and there, and somehow still accomplish whichever story events System decides are vital to the book's existence while transforming Proud Immortal Demon Way into a "better" story.

REVIEW: Where the Crawdads Sing (book) by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is a "coming of age" story with mystery elements. I bought my copy used.

Review:

In 1952, when Kya is only six years old, she watches her mother walk away from their home and never come back. Over the next few years, her siblings all do the same, unwilling to deal with their abusive drunk of a father anymore, until finally only Kya is left. She figures out a way to live with her father and learn from him, but eventually even he disappears. The most reliable thing in her life becomes the North Carolina marsh in which she lives.

The story alternates between showing Kya's survival, growth, and desperate loneliness over the years, and the discovery, in 1969, of the body of Chase Andrews and the ensuing police investigation.

REVIEW: The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine (book) by Diane Stanley

The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine is a Middle Grade mystery/fantasy. I checked my copy out from the library.

Review:

Franny's family moves a lot, so she's constantly the new kid at school. Her sister has a gift for zeroing in on the latest fads at their new schools and using those to seamlessly fit in, but Franny just has her love of reading.

Franny's newest school doesn't initially seem to be any different from her previous ones, but then she starts to notice odd things happening to a lot of the students. For instance, all of a sudden everyone is into jelly worms. A while after that, kids start spontaneously acting like snakes. Then there's an epidemic of intense headaches. It's bizarre and difficult to believe, but the only connection Franny can find between these incidents is that they're always similar to something in the newest Chillers book releases by I.M. Fine. With the help of her new friend, Beamer, she attempts to figure out what's going on and put a stop to it before someone gets seriously hurt.

Friday, January 21, 2022

REVIEW: My Happy Marriage, Vol. 1 (book) by Akumi Agitogi, translated by Kiki Piatkowska

My Happy Marriage is fantasy romance with a historical-ish setting. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

In this fantasy reimagining of the Meiji/Taisho era, there are beings known as Grotesqueries that can only be seen and fought by those with Spirit-Sight, known as the Gifted. Miyo Saimori was born to a Gifted mother and father, which should have guaranteed her a comfortable noblewoman's life. However, she never demonstrated any ability to use Spirit-Sight, nor any other Gift. After her mother died, Miyo's father neglected her and married the woman he'd preferred over Miyo's mother. Her daughter turned out to be Gifted, so it wasn't long before Miyo became less than a servant in her own home.

Miyo's only ray of hope was that she might one day marry Kouji, her childhood friend, but even that wasn't to be. When her father tells her that Kouji will marry her stepsister, Kaya, while she will be betrothed to Kiyoka Kudou and sent to his household immediately, it's all Miyo can do not to cry. The Kudou family is powerful, but Kiyoka is known for being so cold and terrible that he has thus far scared all his potential brides away within days of their arriving at his household. Unlike them, Miyo will have no home to return to if she leaves.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

REVIEW: The White Cat's Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King's Lap, Vol. 1 (book) by Kureha, illustrated by Yamigo, translated by David Evelyn

The White Cat's Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King's Lap is an isekai fantasy series that will almost certainly have stronger romance elements later on. It's licensed by J-Novel Club. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Nineteen-year-old Ruri has spent her entire life desperately trying to get away from her "friend" Asahi, but no matter what she does or where she goes, Asahi's always there. Something about that girl draws people in, and then Ruri has to deal with their jealousy as Asahi cheerfully misinterprets their bullying as "playfulness."

Then one day Asahi, Ruri, and a couple (?) of Asahi's fans find themselves suddenly transported to the kingdom of Nadasha, where they are told that one of them is the savior known as the Priestess Princess. For various reasons, Asahi is instantly declared the Priestess Princess, and her jealous supporters conspire against Ruri and get her exiled. Fortunately, Ruri finds a safe haven and learns that she's something called a "Beloved," a person whose powerful mana appeals to spirits and makes them want to help her.

Ruri's primary goals are to somehow go back home and stay far away from Asahi so that she can, for the first time ever, have real friends and a peaceful life.