Sunday, September 25, 2022

REVIEW: The Other World's Books Depend on the Bean Counter (manga, vol. 1) by Kazuki Irodori, original story by Yatsuki Wakatsu, character design by Kikka Ohashi, translated by Emma Shumacker

The Other World's Books Depend on the Bean Counter is a fantasy manga series based on a light novel series. It's basically m/m isekai. I bought my copy of this first volume brand new.

Review:

Kondou Seiichirou is an overworked accountant who's heading home one evening when he hears a girl crying out for help. He rushes to her, only to get pulled along with her into a new world where she's expected and wanted and he's...an unexpected extra. The girl, Shiraishi Yua, is named the next Holy Maiden, a girl destined to save the kingdom from a deadly miasma. Kondou is asked what he'd like to do, and he requests an accounting job.

It doesn't take long for Kondou to start digging in places he isn't wanted, attracting some powerful enemies. He notices something fishy going on in the kingdom's accounting books and makes it his personal mission to clean things up and ensure that the country is financially stable enough to weather the hardships he's sure the miasma will soon cause. In the process, he overworks himself to the same degree he was overworked back in his own world, and tries to make up for it with "nutritional tonics." Thankfully, at least one of the people keeping a close eye on him is willing to help him out when he suddenly ends up in trouble.

REVIEW: Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (CGI animated movie)

Oblivion Island is a CGI-animated Japanese fantasy movie for children. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Haruka's mother died when she was little. Her most precious keepsake is a mirror her mother gave her. She swore she'd always take good care of it, but as she grew older she eventually realized she'd lost track of it. She goes looking for it and spots a fox-like creature she recognizes as a being her mother once told her about - they take once-beloved items from neglectful owners. She follows the being, named Teo, and makes him promise to help her find her mirror. However, the mirror has been claimed by the most powerful being on Oblivion Island, so it won't be easy for Haruka and Teo to get it back.

REVIEW: A Taste of Gold and Iron (book) by Alexandra Rowland

A Taste of Gold and Iron is essentially a m/m fantasy romance, although the marketing probably made it look more like fantasy with romantic aspects. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

This takes place in the Ottoman Empire-inspired fantasy country of Araşt. It's a matriarchal society ruled by the House Mahisti. The current sultan is Zeliha, Kadou's sister, who has just had a baby, a little girl named Eyne. Kadou loves his sister and niece deeply. He's also reassured that their existence means it's slightly less likely that he might ever have to take the throne himself. Kadou is prone to anxiety and panic attacks (concepts that don't exist in this world, so he views it all as "cowardice"), and the thing that terrifies him the most is the degree to which other people's lives depend upon his behavior. He knows that would only grow worse if he gained more power.

Unfortunately, Siranos, Eyne's body-father, can't comprehend someone in Kadou's position having so little ambition, so he's constantly suspicious that Kadou might try to overthrow Zeliha. Luckily, Zeliha knows her brother well and brushes off Siranos' concerns. However, things go very badly during a hunt and a couple of Kadou's kahyalar (basically bodyguards, but potentially with more political power?) end up dead or injured. Kadou blames himself - his anxiety about Siranos put them on edge, and as a result they misread the situation and treated Siranos as an enemy when they should not have. 

Zeliha spares the life of Tadek, Kadou's favorite kahyalar and occasional lover, but demotes him. She also temporarily bans Kadou from court, telling him to look into incidents involving counterfeit money in order to occupy his time and eventually give her an excuse to publicly forgive him. She also assigns him a new bodyguard, Evemer, who seems to dislike Kadou on sight.

REVIEW: What We Do In the Shadows (live action movie)

What We Do In the Shadows is a horror comedy mockumentary movie. It was the start of the overall What We Do In the Shadows franchise.

Review:

This mockumentary focuses on a group of vampire housemates: Viago von Dorna Schmarten Scheden Heimburg, who moved to New Zealand in pursuit of a human woman he fell in love with, who ended up marrying someone else; Vladislav the Poker, a formerly powerful tyrant who fell out of favor when he battled "The Beast" and lost; Deacon Brucke, who sees himself as a "young rebel"; and Petyr, an 8,000-year-old Nosferatu-like vampire who generally keeps to himself.

The mockumentary also follows several other characters: Jackie, Deacon's human familiar who cleans up after the group and finds human victims for them; Nick, a human victim who Petyr turns into a vampire; and Stu, Nick's human best friend who becomes a favorite of the group of vampires and introduces them to modern technology. There was also a local pack of werewolves that the vampires occasionally encountered.

REVIEW: Speed (live action movie)

Speed is a 1994 action thriller movie. I bought my copy new.

Review:

Jack Traven and Harry Temple are LAPD SWAT officers who start this movie off by outsmarting a mysterious bomber and saving an elevator full of people. The incident leaves Harry with a wounded leg, and everyone thinks that the bomber died. However, a short while later, Jack witnesses a mass transit bus explode and receives a call from the same bomber who targeted the elevator. The bomber tells him that a similar bomb has been rigged on another bus. Once the bus reaches 50 mph, the bomb will be armed and will go off when the bus slows down to under 50 mph. None of the passengers can leave, or the bomber will immediately blow the bus up.

Jack manages to get onto the bus and does his best to follow the bomber's instructions while trying to figure out the bomber's identity and somehow rescue the passengers.

REVIEW: Channel Zero, Season 1: Candle Cove (live action TV series)

Channel Zero is a horror anthology series that aired on Syfy. I bought my copy of this first season used.

Review:

Mike Painter is a child psychologist who hasn't been back to his hometown in years, not since his twin brother became one of the victims of a serial killer targeting children. Most of the victims were discovered in a forest, missing their teeth. Mike's brother Eddie was the only child never found.

After some kind of psychotic break forces Mike to take some time away from his wife and young daughter, he decides to go back to his hometown and face the memories he tried to leave behind. His relationship with his mother is awkward, and tensions rise between him and a few other local residents when his arrival seemingly prompts the killer from 1988 to reappear. People think Mike and/or his family may have something to do with the killings, but Mike insists that the true thing linking them all together is a children's TV show called Candle Cove. It only aired during the killings in 1988, and for some reason local children are starting to see it on TV again.

Friday, September 23, 2022

REVIEW: Scream (live action movie)

Scream is a 1996 horror slasher movie. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sidney Prescott is well-known in her small town for being the daughter of a woman who was raped and brutally murdered a year prior. It was Sidney's testimony that put Cotton Weary behind bars, but there are some, like reporter Gale Weathers, who argue that Sidney was mistaken. Gale believes that Weary was Sidney's mother's lover but not her murderer.

Now that a new murderer is on the prowl, Sidney can't help but be reminded about the past. A local teen and her boyfriend are both murdered, and the girl's whole school is abuzz with theories about who did it. All anyone knows is that the murderer was dressed in black and wearing a white Scream mask. When Sidney herself gets a call from the murderer, she begins to doubt all her relationships? Could someone she knows actually be the killer?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

REVIEW: Chainsaw Man (manga, vol. 1) by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Chainsaw Man is a combination of action, dark comedy, and fantasy. I bought this first volume brand new.

Review:

When Denji was a kid, his father committed suicide, leaving behind an enormous debt, which yakuza then expected Denji to pay back. On his own, Denji probably would have died. However, he happened upon a wounded devil that looked like a little dog with a chainsaw sprouting out of its face. He offered it his blood in exchange for a contract, and that's how Denji's friendship with Pochita began. 

Even with Pochita's help, however, Denji occasionally had to resort to selling his own body parts in order to make the payments yakuza demanded from him. And eventually even that wasn't enough - the yakuza attempted to make their own contract with a devil and became zombies as a result, reducing both Denji and Pochita to pieces tossed into a dumpster. With the last of his strength, Pochita made another contract with Denji, becoming his heart in exchange for getting to hear more of Denji's dreams.

The first person to encounter the newly changed Denji is Makima, a public safety devil hunter. She agrees to add him to a public safety devil hunting squad, but only if he never quits. If he does, she'll kill him. Denji is just happy that someone is finally being slightly nice to him. It helps that that someone is a pretty woman.

REVIEW: A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad's an Alcoholic (nonfiction manga) story and art by Mariko Kikuchi

Content warnings for alcoholism, abusive relationships, suicide.

A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad's an Alcoholic is Mariko Kikuchi's manga memoir of growing up with an alcoholic father and eventually watching him die of cancer. Her mom was in a cult and basically just enabled her husband's alcoholism until she eventually committed suicide. 

For a short while after her mother's death, her father seemed to improve - he came home sober more often. When Mariko occasionally got frustrated with him, she repressed her feelings, telling herself that she could put up with anything as long as he stayed sober. However, even that didn't last. As she entered high school, Mariko realized that her friends thought her dad was funny, so she tried coping by turning him into a joke. It was something she continued to make use of when she made her debut as a manga artist.

Review: A Reliable Wife (book) by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife is a historical mystery/suspense. I checked it out from the library.

Review:

Ralph Truitt places an ad for a "reliable wife" in a Chicago paper, hoping to finally have someone around who could ease his loneliness. He expects Catherine Land to be a plain woman. Instead, she turns out to be beautiful, and very much not the person in the picture she sent. He knows she's hiding something, but he doesn't feel like he can send her away when it's so cold out (his home is in an isolated area in Wisconsin). When he injures himself and she helps care for him, he decides that he'll allow her to stay and be his wife, even if she wasn't the woman he expected and likely has ulterior motives.

Catherine does, in fact, have ulterior motives. She has brought a bottle of arsenic with her and, after her marriage to Ralph, intends to slowly kill him and inherit everything he has. Except she starts to actually like Ralph, and suddenly it becomes difficult to hold onto her original plan. All she has to do is ask for something and he gives it to her - is it really necessary to kill him?

Ralph has his own plans. He wants Catherine to help him convince his now-adult son to come back home. However, that won't be easy to manage, nor will it necessarily be the best thing for Ralph and his dreams of a family.

REVIEW: My Happy Marriage (manga, vol. 1) original concept by Akumi Agitogi, art by Rito Kohsaka, character design by Tsukiho Tsukioka

My Happy Marriage is a historical fantasy romance manga based on a light novel series. I bought my copy of the first volume brand new.

Review:

Miyo Saimori should have been raised as the beloved eldest daughter of the noble Saimori family. Instead, since she wasn't born with her mother's Gift, her father neglected her after her mother's death and allowed his new wife to treat her as though she were less than a servant. When Kaya, his daughter by his new wife, turned out to be Gifted, it sealed Miyo's fate. The best she could hope for was the possibility that her father might allow her to marry Koji, her childhood friend.

Unfortunately, he instead arranges for Kaya to marry Koji. Miyo is sent to Kiyoka Kudo to be his bride. The Kudo family is wealthy and powerful, so normally this would be good news, except Kiyoka is known for being so cold and harsh towards his prospective brides that they've all left within three days of arriving at his home. However, Miyo has nowhere else to go. Whatever Kiyoka says or does, she'll have to bear it. Luckily for her, he's not as horrible as the stories about him and made him seem.

REVIEW: The Kaiju Preservation Society (book) by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society is humorous sci-fi. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Jamie Gray is confident that he's going to ace his six-month performance evaluation for füdmüd, a food delivery app. Too bad his CEO's a massive jerk and he never stood a chance. Six months later, he's one of the company's delivery drivers, scraping by with no benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. When he's offered a job by an old acquaintance, Tom, he jumps at it, even though all Tom can tell him is that it's an "animal rights organization," very hush-hush, and he'll be expected to lift things.

Sometime later, Jamie learns that his new employer is the Kaiju Preservation Society. Their job involves traveling to another Earth via a portal and studying and generally keeping an eye on the giant monsters (kaiju) that call that world home. Certain circumstances can cause the barrier between their world and ours to thin, so the KPS both protects our world from the kaiju and the kaiju from us.

Some very unusual circumstances result in a pregnant kaiju nesting on one of those thin spots. For various reasons, this wouldn't normally be a problem, except someone on our side of the barrier has plans for her.

REVIEW: Happy Death Day (live action movie)

Happy Death Day is a horror comedy. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

It's Groundhog Day, but with murder! Tree is a self-centered, horrible, drunken disaster of a sorority girl who wakes up on the morning of her birthday in some random guy's dorm room. She does her walk of shame back to her sorority house, trades barbs with her roommate, goes to a sorority meeting, and heads out to a party in the evening. She's then killed by someone in a creepy baby mask (the school mascot is the Baby).

She immediately wakes up in the random guy's dorm again. Was it a bad dream or has her day somehow reset herself? The first option seems more likely, but as the day goes on and Tree keeps seeing eerily familiar moments, she wonders if it wouldn't be a better idea to change her evening up a bit, just to be safe. Except the killer in the Baby mask somehow manages to find her again.

So begins Tree's quest to identify her killer and somehow survive to see the day after her birthday. 

REVIEW: The Cabin in the Woods (live action movie)

The Cabin in the Woods is a horror comedy. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

A group of five college friends decide to spend the weekend at a remote cabin in the woods owned by a cousin of one of the group members. What they don't realize is that it's all a set-up: their every move is being watched by a group that's locked them into a cliched horror movie-like experience that's designed to kill them. The only question is how they'll all die.

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (live action movie)

The Birds is a 1963 thriller/horror movie based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Melanie Daniels meets Mitch Brenner while at a pet shop in San Francisco. She's there to buy a Mynah bird, while he's there to get a pair of lovebirds for his younger sister. He pretends to mistake Melanie for a shop employee and eventually leaves without buying anything. Melanie, both intrigued and annoyed by handsome Mitch, buys a couple lovebirds and ends up taking them to his mother's home in Bodega Bay, where he goes every weekend.

Out of nowhere, Melanie is attacked by a seagull, which she and Mitch assume is an isolated incident. However, as incidents of odd bird behavior mount, it all becomes more ominous, until finally someone is discovered dead, apparently killed by birds. With no idea what's causing the attacks or how to stop them, Mitch, his mother, his sister, and Melanie try their best to survive and wait whatever it is out.

Friday, September 2, 2022

REVIEW: They'll Never Catch Us (book) by Jessica Goodman

They'll Never Catch Us is technically marketed as a YA thriller, but it might be more accurate to call it a YA family drama/mystery.

Review:

Stella and Ellie Steckler were incredibly close when they were little. They had to be: their parents had their own concerns (their mom was an alcoholic and their dad suffered from depression), so there were times when it felt like they could only rely on each other. Stella, the older sister, remembers the bad times a little more clearly than Ellie, and as they get older and their parents aim for a more normal and stable life, it's Stella who reacts by turning inside herself and becoming harder and more focused while Ellie is more social. They both get into cross country running, although Stella's better and has a good chance at getting a college scholarship.

Until she doesn't. An incident involving another cross country runner results in Stella losing her chance at the scholarship and gaining a reputation for being violent and angry. Ellie and Stella begin to grow apart. Stella starts to view Ellie as competition, while Ellie's still struggling to get out of Stella's shadow.

Mila Keene, a new girl at their school, is a cross country star who's a threat to both of their scholarship chances. Despite that, they both find themselves opening up to her in unexpected ways...and then suddenly Mila disappears, and people start talking. Did she just run away? Or did an angry and violent Stella kill her to remove some of the competition? Or is this a sign that the person who killed several female cross country runners ten years ago and was never caught is now back and killing again?

Sunday, August 21, 2022

REVIEW: Ready or Not (live action movie)

Ready or Not is a horror comedy. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Grace grew up in foster care. The one thing she wants most is a family of her own, so she's both thrilled and worried when her boyfriend Alex Le Domas asks her to marry him. It seems like several members of Alex's family hate her, and she's worried they may be judging her because she doesn't come from wealth like Alex. The Le Domas family is part of a gaming empire that spans several generations.

Alex tells her that it's a Le Domas tradition for newcomers to the family to play a game at midnight after their wedding. She'll only have to do it once, and after that she'll be accepted into the family. Unfortunately, when it comes time to pick the game she has to play, Grace draws the worst possible card: Hide and Seek. Although she doesn't know it at first, she's now in a race for her life, as the rest of the Le Domas family tries to find and kill her before dawn.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

REVIEW: ISAN: International Sensory Assassin Network (book) by Mary Ting

ISAN is YA sci-fi romance. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

After her mother's death, Ava ended up in foster care, and then juvenile detention. Her life might have continued on a downward spiral if it weren't for Russ's arrival. He selected her to join ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network), a secretive organization that supposedly helps the world by quietly assassinating particular people. Not that Ava knows much about the reasons behind her assignments. She does as she's told because she doesn't really have any other choices - ISAN is her only home now, and she can't leave except for brief recreational outings in which she and the others on her team are always closely watched. 

Ava and her team complete regular "mental missions," virtual reality practice missions in which the girls accustom themselves to fighting and killing, achieving particular goals within time limits, and, most importantly, learning how to use their HelixB77 serum-enhanced senses and abilities. The serum makes them stronger, faster, and more fearless. It also gives certain girls, Ava included, special abilities - Ava can see a map of her surroundings in her head and, occasionally, dots that tell her where certain things and people are located.

Ava's world is thrown into disarray when she's somehow contacted by a guy who calls himself Sniper. She's intrigued by him (honestly, she's intrigued by anyone male who either is or might potentially be attractive) but also wary, because no one from the outside world is supposed to be able to contact anyone in ISAN or vice versa. When she finally meets Sniper, she's left with more questions than answers. He claims that they used to know each other, but if that's true, why doesn't she remember him?

REVIEW: Phase of Fate (book) by CoraLee June

Phase of Fate is urban fantasy with a strong potential for paranormal romance. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

In the world of this series, werewolves bond with prodigies and keep them safe. Halle comes from a long line of prodigies, although it skipped her father and seems to have skipped her as well. Halle's sister Mona, however, is a gifted violinist bonded to Jax. Halle loves her sister, although part of her wishes she didn't have to constantly live in her shadow. Mona is scheduled to go to Australia when the unimaginable happens: Jax, the werewolf who should have been her lifelong guardian, suddenly turns feral and kills her, right in front of Halle. 

A year later, Halle is still a mess, the prodigy-werewolf system is on rocky ground, and more feral bonded werewolves have turned up. Halle and her family have gone from having a close relationship with werewolves to barely speaking to them, and when Halle unwillingly finds herself bonded to a werewolf named Theo, her first reaction is fear that he, too, might turn feral and kill her the way Jax killed her sister. However, Theo is somehow spared from whatever it is that's turning bonded werewolves feral, and suddenly everyone wants to study Halle and whatever it is that makes her bond to Theo different.

REVIEW: Passing Strange (novella) by Ellen Klages

Passing Strange is a lesbian historical fantasy novella. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

The back of the book says this is the story of six women, but in reality only three of them are very prominent. The story begins at the end: Helen Young has received bad news from her doctor and knows she doesn't have long. It's time for her to keep a promise she made decades ago, so she retrieves a very special pastel painting from its hiding spot and prepares to sell it.

The story jumps back in time to San Francisco in 1940. Loretta Haskel is an artist who paints pulp magazine covers in order to pay her bills. She's married, but her husband left ages ago and she's perfectly happy without him. She found her place in the city's LGBT community and a circle of supportive friends (which includes Helen, who's also her lawyer).

One evening Helen and Haskel go to Mona's, a lesbian bar, and Haskel finds herself entranced by a singer called "Spike"...who happens to be a young woman she recently met, named Emily. Emily is in need of a place to stay, and Haskel has room.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

REVIEW: Barbarian Alien (book) by Ruby Dixon

Barbarian Alien is the second book in Dixon's Ice Planet Barbarians erotic romance (or erotica?) series. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

This starts near the end of the first book and features a different couple, Liz and Raahosh. Raahosh knows immediately that Liz is his mate but does his best to hide the way his khui (a worm-like alien symbiont) responds to her. When it comes time for the humans to either accept a khui of their own or die from the planet's effect on them, Raahosh takes the opportunity to both ensure that Liz accepts a khui and to kidnap her, taking her to a cave only he knows about so that he has a better chance of convincing her to accept him as his mate without others' interference.

Liz is understandably angry about this at first, especially as her new khui makes it impossible for her not to lust after Raahosh. Granted, she'd been somewhat interested in him all along, but he was also surly and she would've appreciated the chance to choose who she had sex with. Eventually, though, she begins to thaw towards Raahosh. However, what sort of future will they be able to have now that he's broken one of his people's laws and endangered a precious female?

Sunday, August 7, 2022

REVIEW: The Girl With All the Gifts (book) by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/zombie novel. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Content warning for this book: descriptions of dismembered kids, people and at least one cat being eaten while still alive, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell for the two men who will come to take her to class - one to aim a gun at her and one to tighten her restraints. It's the only life Melanie and her classmates have ever known. Their teachers change regularly, and some are better than others - Melanie most looks forward to Miss Justineau, because her classes are always interesting and wonderful. She reads the children stories and teaches them Greek mythology.

One day, however, Melanie's entire world changes, and suddenly she, Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, and Private Gallagher are out in the wider world, fighting for their lives and trying to make it to safety. Miss Justineau wants to keep Melanie safe, while Dr. Caldwell has other plans. Gradually, Melanie learns more about herself and the world she lives in.

REVIEW: Edge of Tomorrow (live action movie)

Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi movie. It's an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel All You Need Is Kill.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

Major William Cage is a military public relations officer with zero combat experience who suddenly finds himself shoved onto the front lines of humanity's war against the Mimics, alien beings who've been slaughtering humans pretty much since they first appeared. He lasts only a few minutes into the battle before dying. Then, for some reason, he wakes up at the beginning of what turns out to be a repeating time loop. His only clue as to what's going on is Sergeant Rita Vrataski, known as "the Angel of Verdun" due to her unheard-of Mimic kill count at the Battle of Verdun.

It seems that one of the reasons why Vrataski was so successful in Verdun was because she'd also experienced time loops. With Vrataski's help, Cage learns what causes the time loops and how to use them to more effectively fight the Mimics. However, there's one thing that Cage has to do in order to save humanity that even Vrataski couldn't manage: find and kill the Omega Mimic.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

REVIEW: Star Trek (live action movie)

Star Trek is a 2009 science fiction movie, essentially a reboot of the original series. I bought my copy brand new.

I don't go into too many details, but the latter half of my review technically includes spoilers.

Review:

James T. Kirk is just about to be born when the Federation starship USS Kelvin is suddenly attacked by a Romulan ship. As the ship's acting captain, Kirk's father sacrifices his own life to give more people a chance to evacuate. 

Years later, Kirk is a roguish Starfleet cadet who finds himself at odds with a young Spock. When the Romulan ship that killed Kirk's father suddenly reappears, Kirk and Spock must learn to work together in order to keep it from destroying everything they love.

Or at least that's as much as I can say without going into too many spoilers. There's not actually a whole lot to the story.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

REVIEW: Lock the Doors (book) by Vincent Ralph

Lock the Doors is technically a YA thriller, but I think it'd appeal to adult readers of thrillers who are willing to take a chance on something with teen protagonists. I bought my copy of this book brand new.

Review:

Tom's blended family has just moved into their dream home, and Tom is still adjusting to...everything. Jay, his stepdad, seems like a genuinely nice guy, but his mom was in enough abusive relationships prior to him that part of Tom still expects things to fall apart if he gets too invested. He struggles with anxiety and OCD, and when he notices the odd little holes outside his and his stepsister's doors, everyone else dismisses his worries as probably nothing. But he swears they look like drill holes for locks. But they're on the outsides of the doors, so who were they meant to lock in? What happened in this house before Tom and his family moved in?

He gets a chance to start answering his questions when he meets Amy, a new classmate of his and a member of the family that just moved in across the street. Amazingly, Amy and her family were the ones who lived in Tom's house prior to them moving in - who moves out of a place only to move into another one right across the street? Granted, it's a bigger house, but Tom can't stop himself from digging for info, and it doesn't hurt that something in Amy reminds him of himself, sad and kind of broken. However, Amy keeps telling him that she's fine and that nothing happened in the house. Could he be seeing shadows that only exist in his own mind?

REVIEW: Mr. 365 (book) by Ruth Clampett

Mr. 365 is a contemporary romance. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sophia has always wanted to create documentaries focused on topics that matter, but she quickly learned that she wasn't going to be able to pay her bills that way, so she eventually ended up doing cooking shows. She has since moved on to reality TV and is still adjusting to the change. The first show she's assigned is focused on people who love a particular holiday so much that they basically live it 24/7. She's initially told that Will is completely on board to take part in the show, but in reality he takes a bit of convincing. Will decides Sophia is honest when she says she'll present him in a sensitive way, so he agrees to do the show. It also doesn't hurt that he and Sophia are attracted to each other.

Will loves Christmas, so much so that his house is elaborately decorated for it, and he's gotten special effects friends of his in the movie industry to help him out. Sophia finds herself falling for Will more and more as she learns about him and the motivations behind his house and the charity work he does that's connected to it. However, what neither Sophia nor Will realize is that Sophia's boss has very different plans for the show than what Sophia laid out for Will.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a coming-of-age/gay romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of the first volume brand new.

Review:

Charlie and Nick both attend the Truham Grammar School for Boys. Charlie was outed as being gay last year and had to deal with a lot of bullying, but that has since tapered off. Now he has a secret sort-of relationship (kissing in out of the way places) with Ben, who's still in the closet. Meanwhile, assigned seating has placed Charlie and Nick next to each other in class. Nick is a rugby player, but despite jock stereotypes, he's actually a really nice guy. He invites Charlie to come play rugby, and as the two boys get to know each other better, Charlie realizes to his horror that he's starting to fall for the almost certainly straight Nick. However, Nick is coming to some realizations of his own...

Saturday, July 16, 2022

REVIEW: Disturbia (live action movie)

Disturbia is a 2007 thriller. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Kale isn't handling things well after his father dies in a car accident. He ends up under house arrest, with an ankle monitor and proximity sensor, after hitting a teacher during a confrontation in which the teacher baited him by bringing up his father.

Kale's mother, upset that he seems to be trying to treat house arrest like some kind of extended vacation from school, revokes his access to TV, games, and anything else he might have used to pass the time. With nothing else to do, Kale starts watching his neighbors. On the more pleasant side of things, he spots a new neighbor named Ashley who he hopes to get to know better. However, he also spots another neighbor, Robert Turner, who he begins to suspect might be a serial killer.

REVIEW: Umma (live action movie)

Umma is a 2022 horror movie. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Amanda and her daughter Chris live a quite life on an American farm off the grid, producing honey that a friend of theirs in town then sells for them. There are a lot of things about her past that Amanda never told her daughter, and when Amanda's uncle arrives from Korea with her mother's ashes and most precious possessions, everything starts coming to a head. Amanda is forced to face her past, her painful relationship with her mother, and her complicated feelings about Chris's wishes for her own future.

REVIEW: Mr. Malcolm's List (book) by Suzanne Allain

Mr. Malcolm's List is a Regency romance. Possibly a Regency romantic comedy? I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Mr. Jeremy Malcolm, second son of the Earl of Kilbourne, is a much sought after bachelor, but no one seems to be able to catch his eye for long. When his best friend, Lord Cassidy (known to friends and family as "Cassie"), asks him why he rejected his sister Julia, Malcolm admits that he has a list of qualifications for his future wife, and Julia didn't meet all of them. Plus, her attempts to flutter her eyelashes at him flirtatiously just looked odd.

Although Mr. Malcolm only escorted Julia to the opera once, she took his rejection hard, and Cassie's news that he has a list of qualifications that she failed to meet leaves her seething. Julia, schemer that she is, comes up with a plan: she'll invite her friend Selina for a visit, set things up so that Selina meets all of Mr. Malcolm's requirements, and then have Selina crush him with a list of her own requirements that he doesn't meet.

Selina, a vicar's daughter, hopes that visiting her friend Julia in London will allow her to make a good enough match that she'll be able to sponsor her younger brothers and sisters. She wants nothing to do with Julia's plan once she hears about it, but she doesn't really have much of a choice. Also, she figures it's unlikely that an arrogant-sounding man like Mr. Malcolm would fall for her, so she's surprised when she meets him and he doesn't seem anything like the person Julia described. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

REVIEW: I Want to Be a Wall (manga, vol. 1) by Honami Shirono

I Want to Be a Wall is, so far, a slice-of-life manga dealing with LGBT+ issues. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Yuriko and Gakurouta have just gotten married when this manga begins.

Yuriko is an asexual woman who loves reading about fictional characters' romances, particularly in "boys' love" (BL, m/m) manga and novels, but who has spent a large portion of her life feeling like she doesn't really fit in because she's never been in love and doesn't even really want it to happen to her. 

Gakurouta is a gay man who has always been extremely close to his childhood friend, Sousuke. Ten years ago, he realized that he'd fallen in love with his friend...who was very popular with the ladies and gave no indication of any interest in men. He's since tried to fall out of love with Sousuke, but it didn't work, and he has now resigned himself to forever nursing a one-sided love.

Yuriko and Gakurouta know the sides of each other that won't allow them to fit in with regular society, but otherwise they know very little about each other. This first volume shows them gradually adjusting to their new married life and figuring out what that relationship means for them.

REVIEW: The Obsession (book) by Jesse W. Sutanto

The Obsession is a YA thriller. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Content warning for this book: stalking, abuse, suicide, drug use, and murder.

Logan hasn't been doing well since the love of his life, Sophie, overdosed on drugs and died. Sure, people used to say she was leading him on, and his mother was horrified by the file of photos and information about Sophie she'd found on his computer, but they didn't know what it was like when he and Sophie were alone. They'd clearly been soulmates, and now he has no one...until he runs into Delilah. She looks so much like Sophie, and he's sure that Delilah is a gift the universe has sent to him. He just has to be careful and patient until she realizes that they're meant to be together.

Things have been tough for Delilah since her dad died in an accident at work. Her mom started dating a police officer named Brandon who seemed perfect at first, but it's since become clear that he's an abusive monster. When Delilah meets Logan, she's instantly drawn in by his good looks, charm, kindness, and interest in so many of the same things she's interested in. But when circumstances free Delilah and her mom from Brandon, Delilah realizes that Logan is yet another trap, one she might never be able to get away from. He knows things about her that could ruin her future...but he doesn't quite know everything about her.

Monday, July 11, 2022

REVIEW: Sin & Chocolate (book) by K.F. Breene

Sin & Chocolate is fantasy/paranormal romance. I got my copy for free in my Book Bonanza 2022 attendee bag.

Review:

Alexis is a magical citizen eking out a living in the dual-society zone, where she and her wards can escape the notice of more powerful and dangerous magical folks and be tolerated by non-magical folks. Her teen wards are Daisy, a non-magical girl who'd spent time in the worst parts of the foster care system, and Mordecai, a werewolf whose immune system treats his need to shapeshift like an enemy, leaving him perpetually weak, unable to shift, and likely to die at a young age.

When Alexis is almost run over by a hot magical guy in an expensive car, she suddenly finds her careful anonymity threatened. Although she doesn't know it at first, the hot magical guy is Kieran, Demigod and the heir of Valens, the Demigod in charge of San Francisco. Alexis's power may be the key to freeing Kieran's mother's soul, and he's not about to let her out of his sight.

REVIEW: Asylum (book) by Madeleine Roux

Asylum is YA horror. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford is excited to spend his summer taking part in the New Hampshire College Prep program - he'll finally be around people who care about their particular academic interests as much as he does about his.

Students in the program will all be staying at the Brookline Dorm, which used to be a psychiatric hospital. Dan and two new friends of his, Abby and Jordan, slip into one of the closed off areas one night and discover abandoned equipment, photographs, old patient files, and more. Dan has always had issues with weird blank spots in his memory, but he suddenly finds the problem getting worse. He has visions of being one of the patients at the hospital, and he feels an odd connection to the hospital's warden. Abby, too, discovers that she has an unexpected connection to this place.

It's all just creepy and unsettling, until the murders start. Is one of the students the killer, or is it one of the former patients, somehow back and getting revenge for the horrific things they experienced at the hospital?

REVIEW: Good Girls Die First (book) by Kathryn Foxfield

Good Girls Die First is YA horror. I bought it brand new.

Review:

Ava and nine other teens are invited to the abandoned amusement park on Portgrave Pier. Ava's invitation indicates that whoever invited them knows her darkest secret, the one she'd rather not admit even to herself. She figures that the others are also hiding things, although of course no one wants to admit it.

When the group discovers that they're trapped on the island, they find themselves stuck playing a deadly game. They'll be repeatedly confronted with the ugliest parts of themselves until they either break or become the last one left alive.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

REVIEW: Seven Dirty Secrets (book) by Natalie D. Richards

Seven Dirty Secrets is a YA thriller. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Content warning for this book: domestic abuse.

On her eighteenth birthday, Cleo discovers that someone has left an invitation to a scavenger hunt on her sink while she was showering. Which is super creepy, but initially she thinks her best friend Hope or her brother Connor left it. No such luck. As she works her way through the scavenger hunt to find the next clues, it becomes increasingly clear that whoever set this game up knew a lot about Cleo's relationship with her boyfriend, Declan, who drowned during a trip he, Cleo, and their friends took a year ago. And whoever it is doesn't plan to stop this game until all the secrets from that trip are out in the open.

REVIEW: Heroine Complex (book) by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Complex is urban fantasy. It could also be considered superhero fiction. I bought my copy used.

Review:

A few years ago, demons tried to invade Earth via interdimensional portals. They failed, and for some reason several humans ended up with superpowers as a result. Aveda Jupiter (real name: Annie Chang) is one of them, and she's now San Francisco's most beloved and hardest working superhero, battling the much weaker demons that occasionally turn up. Evie Tanaka is her childhood friend and personal assistant. She's used to dealing with Aveda's tantrums and is, in fact, an expert at making sure Aveda's public persona remains perfect. Evie always keeps her emotions in control, even when work is stressful or Bea (her younger sister, who she's been raising since their parents died) acts particularly rebellious. Because she knows if she slips up, she might accidentally kill someone.

Most of the superpowers people got after the demons came were relatively weak. Aveda, for example, got telekinesis, but she can only just barely move things. Evie's power, on the other hand, is much more dramatic and terrifying: she can light things on fire. 

When Aveda injures herself, she convinces a reluctant Evie to pose as her for an event, during which Evie accidentally reveals her superpower. Now Evie's stuck pretending to be Aveda for a while longer, even though she'd much rather fade into the background and let Aveda have the spotlight.

REVIEW: Death by Sudoku (book) by Kaye Morgan

Death by Sudoku is a cozy mystery. I bought my copy used.

Review:

Liza is a recently divorced (or separated? can't remember) former public relations specialist who now creates Sudoku puzzles for her hometown paper. She's off to take part in a Sudoku competition when she encounters Derrick, a minor celebrity who knew her during her public relations days. It's a bit awkward for Liza at first, because she tries to keep her Sudoku and Hollywood public relations selves separate (Sudoku isn't exactly glamorous or cool), but Derrick is also taking part in the competition, so she enjoys the chance to reconnect with him. 

Later on, Derrick mentions something about an apparent code he noticed in a particular paper's Sudoku puzzles. Not long after that, Liza comes across his dead body. Was he really on to something with his theories about the Sudoku puzzles and, if so, can Liza figure out who the culprit is in time?

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (live action movie)

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a 1960 thriller based on a novel by Robert Bloch. I haven't read the novel, and this was my first time watching the movie. I bought my copy of this brand new.

Review:

Marion Crane, a real estate secretary, has a secret relationship with her boyfriend Sam. She wants to get married, but he's too concerned about his debts and general lack of money...so when Marion is handed an envelope with $40,000 at work and told to immediately deposit it at the bank, she instead decides at the spur-of-the-moment to steal the money for her and Sam.

Increasingly concerned about the amount of attention she's getting from a cop, Marion ends up at the Bates Motel off the main highway. The proprietor, Norman Bates, seems a little odd and awkward, but Marion feels sympathetic towards him when she overhears Norman's mother berating her for wanting to allow Marion over for dinner. Now that she's had some time to think, Marion is reconsidering her decision to steal the money. Unfortunately, the Bates Motel was the wrong place to stop for the night.

REVIEW: Meet Cute (book) by Helena Hunting

Meet Cute is a contemporary romance. I bought my copy used.

Review: 

Content warning for this book: parent death in car crash.

Kailyn is a trust lawyer who's been a huge fan of the show It's My Life since she was a teen (I pictured it in my head as being like The Wonder Years, although maybe it's more Dawson's Creek based on the Monday crying meme). Daxton Hughes is an entertainment lawyer who used to play the main character in It's My Life when he was a teen. The two of them first met in law school, when Kailyn accidentally walked into Dax's Frisbee game and then fangirled all over him. They were friendly rivals during law school, with definite potential for romance, until Dax betrayed Kailyn by turning in one of her assignments for her late. 

Or at least that's how Kailyn recalls things. Dax doesn't seem to remember any of that, at least not judging by his reaction to her when they meet again after Kailyn is hired to set up a trust for Dax's younger sister, Emme. Kailyn figures it won't be a problem...except that 6 months later Dax and Emme's parents die in a car crash, and Dax is unexpectedly named Emme's legal guardian. Linda, their aunt, doesn't react well to this news. When she sues for custody, Kailyn is appointed Emme's conservator.

As Dax and Kailyn spend more time together, Kailyn gradually begins to thaw towards Dax and discovers she has a soft spot for Emme as well. Which creates a problem for her - Kailyn's been promised a partnership at her firm if she can convince Dax to work there, but her firm also has a rule against relationships at work. Plus, how will Dax react when he finds out about the partnership agreement Kailyn has with her boss? Then there's still the custody battle with Linda.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

REVIEW: Snatch (live action movie)

Snatch is a crime movie with black comedy elements. I bought my copy new.

Review:

A jewel thief named Franky Four Fingers steals a massive diamond, only to end up dead when he attempts to take a detour to satisfy his gambling addiction. The stories of multiple characters intertwine before the diamond finally ends up in someone's hands: there's Turkish, a boxing promoter, and his pal Tommy; an Irish gypsy named Mickey; a couple small-time crooks accompanied by their getaway driver and a dog; and more, all of them with their own goals and motivations.

REVIEW: House at the End of the Street (live action movie)

House at the End of the Street is a psychological thriller. I bought my copy brand new. 

Review:

Sarah, a divorced mother, moves into a gorgeous new home with her teenage daughter Elissa. The two have a rocky relationship, and it gets rockier when Elissa meets Ryan Jacobson, their college-aged neighbor. The Jacobson house is the reason why Sarah and Elissa can afford to live in their new home: several years ago, Carrie Anne Jacobson killed her and Ryan's parents and disappeared into the forest surrounding their home, thus driving down all the area property values (a much bigger concern for local homeowners than the fact that two people they presumably knew were brutally murdered).

Carrie Anne hasn't been seen since and is assumed to be dead. Ryan survived because he was living with his aunt at the time, but now he's back and is reluctant to sell his family's home. Elissa finds herself intrigued by Ryan, who is polite, sad, and withdrawn but seems to be equally intrigued by her. Unfortunately, Ryan is keeping some dangerous secrets.

REVIEW: Garm Wars: The Last Druid (live action movie)

Garm Wars: The Last Druid is a sci-fi movie. I bought my copy brand new.

Review:

Okay, let's see if I can come up with a halfway decent description for this... This takes place on a world in which eight tribes, collectively known as the Garm, were created by the goddess Danaan. For unknown reasons, Danaan abandoned her creations, who then proceeded to fight against each other. In the movie's present, only three tribes still exist: Columba (who rules over the skies), Briga (who rules over the land), and Kumtak (barely managing to survive as slaves among the Briga).

Wydd is a Kumtak elder who finds Nascien, the last surviving Druid, and becomes determined to go to the land of the Druids and learn why the Garm exist and why Danaan left them. He, Nascien, and a Gula (a sacred dog that looks like a basset hound) attempt to escape, resulting in a battle between Briga and Columba forces. Two surviving soldiers, a Briga named Skellig and a Columba named Khara, reluctantly agree to help Wydd and Nascien in their quest.

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.