Sunday, October 15, 2023

REVIEW: Freaky (live action movie)

Freaky is a slasher horror comedy. I bought my copy new.


A group of teens is killed by the Blissfield Butcher, putting the town in a panic and potentially leading to the cancellation of the homecoming dance (because all of the legends about the Blissfield Butcher indicate that he focuses on homecoming). However, unbeknownst to everyone, things are a little different this time around. When the Butcher attacked Millie, a local teen, he stabbed her with a magical dagger that caused them to switch bodies. Millie is horrified to learn that, if she can't switch them back before 24 hours have passed, the change will be permanent.

REVIEW: Mr. Malcolm's List (live action movie)

Mr. Malcolm's List is a historical romantic comedy based on a book of the same title by Suzanne Allain. I bought my copy new.


Mr. Jeremy Malcolm is the most eligible bachelor of the season - even though he doesn't have a title, he's handsome and has inherited a fortune. In an effort to find a suitable bride, he's been spending a little time with pretty much every eligible young lady, the latest being Julia Thistlewaite. However, Mr. Malcolm has very specific ideas about what he's looking for in a wife, and Julia isn't it - she flutters her eyelashes too much in an attempt to flirt with him, and she knows nothing about current politics.

They only went to the opera once, so Mr. Malcolm doesn't think anything of not calling on Julia again. However, Julia is completely humiliated, especially when an embarrassing caricature of her and Mr. Malcolm starts making the rounds. Bent on revenge, she invites her impoverished friend, Selina Dalton, to stay with her for a while and then convinces her to help her with a scheme. She plans to introduce Selina and Mr. Malcolm, make Selina seem like Mr. Malcolm's perfect wife, and then have Selina humiliate Mr. Malcolm in return by telling him that he doesn't measure up to her list of qualifications.

It's not exactly a solid plan to begin with, and Julia certainly doesn't expect that Selina and Mr. Malcolm would actually fall for each other.

REVIEW: Doom (live action movie)

Doom is a sci-fi action movie based (loosely, I'm guessing) on the Doom game franchise. I checked my copy out from the library.


In the movie's past, a portal was discovered in the Nevada desert that led to an ancient city on Mars. Yes, you read that right. Anyway, in the movie's present, researchers are still investigating this ancient city and send out a distress signal when they're suddenly attacked by monsters of some sort. A squad of eight marines, led by "Sarge" (played by Dwayne Johnson), is sent to retrieve research data, kill the attackers, and rescue any survivors, pretty much in that order.

One member of the squad, called "Reaper," turns out to be the twin brother of one of the researchers, Dr. Samantha Grimm. As the team investigates the facility, they gradually realize what really happened to all the other researchers and what might now be threatening Earth.

REVIEW: Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (anime TV series)

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is a comedy anime. I bought my copy new.


This series relates the real-life experiences of Honda's days as a bookstore employee. It's both humorous and informative, explaining how things work in bookstores as well as dealing more generally with the issue of customer service and the types of customers Honda dealt with.

It wasn't until I started working on this post that I realized that apparently Honda is a woman - in the anime, she is voiced by a male voice actor. I suppose, though, that Honda's gender doesn't really affect the overall story.

This was an impulse purchase. I was curious about it and decided to give it a try, knowing that it probably wasn't going to end up on my "rewatch" list. This is an extremely niche series, both in terms of its comedy and subject matter. I work in a library, so there's potential for overlap between my experiences and Honda's (particularly when it comes to people not always asking for what they really want), but bookstores and libraries really are very different. Their focus is on selling things, for one. Also, aside from a few titles that people are always interested in and things that have temporarily entered the spotlight due to current events or whatever, they're extremely focused on new releases and making room for them.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

REVIEW: Heaven Official's Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu, Vol. 2 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Suika & Pengie, illustrations by ZeldaCW

Heaven Official Blessing is a Chinese danmei (m/m) novel. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Xie Lian, accompanied by Lord Wind Master, is sent to Ghost City by Jun Wu, to look into the whereabouts of a missing heavenly official who put out a distress signal in the area. This puts Xie Lian in Hua Cheng's domain and gives him a chance to finally see Hua Cheng's true form. In the process of protecting another heavenly official, Xie Lian accidentally reveals a dark secret he never intended anyone to learn about.

However, things are not what they seem, and in order to ensure that the truth is revealed, Hua Cheng steps in. After that, we get a lengthy flashback to Xie Lian's younger days, before his first ascension, when he was loved by everyone and rescued a street urchin from falling to his death.

REVIEW: The Corpse on the Dike: A Grijpstra & De Gier Mystery (book) by Janwillem van de Wetering

The Corpse on the Dike is a mystery, the third book in a series. I checked my copy out from the library.


A recluse who lived like a slob despite having a home crammed full of valuable antiques is found dead, shot between the eyes by someone with the skills of a professional marksman. The most likely suspect appears to be the man's lesbian neighbor, who may have been jealous of her beautiful housemate's interest in the man and who also had the skills necessary to pull off the shot.

This book wasn't a good fit for me at all. I don't know where I got the willpower necessary to finish it, but somehow I managed it.

REVIEW: Confessions (book) by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder

Confessions is a Japanese thriller/mystery novel. I bought my copy new.


It's Yuko Moriguchi's last day as a teacher - in the wake of her four-year-old daughter Manami's death and news that Manami's father is dying, Moriguchi has decided to retire. However, before she goes she wants her class to know that she has learned that Manami's death was not a tragic accident, but rather a scheme involving two of her students, and she wants them to know how she has decided to punish her daughter's killers.

The things she says shake her class to its foundations. The two accused students, who everyone recognizes even though Moriguchi only refers to them as A and B, are particularly affected and begin to self-destruct, although each of them does it in their own unique way. 

REVIEW: The Raven Tower (book) by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower is fantasy. I bought my copy new.


In the world of this book, gods are everywhere and can have a direct and visible effect on the world and their worshipers. The words of a god have power - they must be careful what they say and how they say it, because the universe will try to make their words true if necessary, and any god who doesn't have enough power for that will die.

The book is narrated by the Strength and Patience of the Hill, a god who takes the form of a big rock. For the most part, this god is content to watch the world and think about the things going on around it. Although some gods, like its friend the Myriad, are able to take other forms, that thought doesn't interest the Strength and Patience of the Hill, even when other forms would be more convenient than its heavy stone body.

It's through the narrator that readers learn how gods' powers work and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The narrator also lays out the political situation surrounding the various groups of humans important to the story's present. 

Mawat is heir to the Raven's Lease - in exchange for dying when the Raven's physical vessel dies, the Raven's Lease's word is law in Iraden. Mawat is enraged to learn that when the current Raven died, his father supposedly left and did not die as he should have. Unwilling to believe this and convinced that his uncle, Lord Hibal, is behind his father's mysterious disappearance, Mawat has his aide, Eolo, investigate the situation. Unfortunately, the answers Eolo uncovers are more horrifying than any of them could have expected.

REVIEW: The Inheritance Games (book) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games is a YA mystery/thriller. I checked my copy out from the library.


Avery Grambs is a smart teen who's determined to build a better life for herself. That means getting out of high school, winning a scholarship, entering a good actuarial science program, and hopefully starting a well-paying career. And then billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and changes all of Avery's plans in an instant when his will reveals that he left her nearly his entire fortune. The only catch is that she must live in his mansion with the family members who were just disinherited.

Avery has no idea why a billionaire with no connection to her would have left her his fortune, and most of Tobias' surviving family members are understandably less than friendly. However, there are indications that Tobias left answers behind, hidden behind a series of riddles, codes, and secret passages. Unfortunately, the ones best suited to solving the puzzles Tobias left behind are his grandsons, who are definitely keeping secrets from her and have no real reason to help her.

REVIEW: 14 Ways to Die (book) by Vincent Ralph

14 Ways to Die (originally published as Are You Watching? in the UK) is a YA thriller. I bought my copy new.


When Jess was 7, her mother became the Magpie Man's first victim. Since then, he's killed 12 others, and the police are no closer to finding him and giving his victims justice.

Jess, now 17, has a plan. She has applied to be part of a reality show that will involve her life and social media feed constantly being in the public eye. One day a week, it'll all be available live for whoever wants to watch, while the rest of the time she'll have to film her own daily life and provide it to her director to be edited into episodes for her viewing public. Jess is determined to use her time to remind everyone of the Magpie Man and his victims, and hopefully get people thinking about the people in their own lives, one of whom must surely be the killer.

Unfortunately, the Magpie Man is also watching, and he has his own thoughts about what Jess is doing.

REVIEW: The Cousins (book) by Karen M. McManus

The Cousins is a YA thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new.


This book alternates between the past and present, as well as between several POVs. Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins. They hardly know each other, but they're united by family mysteries and drama. Twenty-four years ago, wealthy Mildred Story shocked everyone by suddenly disinheriting all four of her children. The only explanation she gave was a letter sent through her lawyer that said "You know what you did." Mildred has refused to have any contact with her children since then, and she's certainly never contacted her grandchildren.

Until now. Out of the blue, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah have been invited to spend the summer working at one of Mildred's properties, the Gull Cove Resort. None of them particularly want to go there, but their parents, hopeful that Mildred might be softening in her old age, don't give them much of a choice.

The Story family has more secrets than any of the cousins ever realized, and Gull Cove Resort is going to give them an opportunity to find them all out.

REVIEW: The House Across the Lake (book) by Riley Sager

The House Across the Lake is a thriller. It could also be considered horror. I bought my copy new.


Casey Fletcher is a widowed actress whose drinking problem, acquired after her husband's death, has all but ended her career. Her mother has banished her to the family vacation home by Lake Greene, but since that's also where Casey's husband, Len, drowned to death, it's questionable whether she's any better off there than she was when she was in the public eye.

Casey is trying out Len's old binoculars when she sees someone drowning in the lake. Thankfully, she gets there in time to save famous model Katherine Royce's life. Katherine and her husband Tom have recently moved into the house across the lake from Casey's, and Casey finds herself spying on the couple. Gradually, she comes to the conclusion that there's something going on in the Royce household, and when Katherine seemingly disappears, Casey is sure Tom had something to do with it.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

REVIEW: Know Your Station (graphic novel) written by Sarah Gailey, illustrated by Liana Kangas, colored by Rebecca Nalty

Know Your Station is a one-shot science fiction graphic novel. I bought my copy new.


The First Resort is a state-of-the-art refuge for the 1%, a space station that allows them to live the comfortable lives they feel they deserve while the rest of us are left to deal with Earth and the effects climate change have had on it. The best the rest of us can hope for is to be employees on the First Resort, making the 1% feel secure and better about themselves while they nickel and dime us for every aspect of our existence. But hey, it's still better than being back on Earth.

Station Security Liaison Elise is one of First Resort's employees, and she has a problem. Well, many problems, but her biggest one right now is that someone has gruesomely killed CFO Alberto Fairmilk and she has approximately zero training in figuring out who did it. Also, she has a drug problem - she'd really like to get clean, but she absolutely does not have time for withdrawal symptoms right now. Granted, she also doesn't have time to be blissed out on Blue.

REVIEW: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language (nonfiction book) by Gretchen McCulloch

Because Internet is a linguistics nonfiction book. I bought my copy new.


This book looks at the history and evolution of digital communication - the ways various generations (not necessarily talking about ages here, but rather internet generations) have taken the tools already available to them and adapted them to the digital world. According to McCulloch's chapter on the various generations of Internet People, I'm most firmly part of the Full Internet People generation, which got on the internet after a lot of its communication norms were already established. I did a lot of my early internet socialization via AOL Instant Messenger, AOL message boards, Neopets, etc., although I don't think I used the internet as a tool to socialize with people I knew from the physical world as much as the majority of McCulloch's Full Internet People.

McCulloch covers a huge variety of topics in this book, going over things like the various ways people have tried to communicate tone of voice in the digital world, emoji as digital versions of gestural communication, memes, texting, chatting, and more. If there's one criticism I have of this book, it's that it was easy to lose track of where I was in whatever arguments McCulloch was making, because there was just so much to take in.

Monday, September 11, 2023

REVIEW: Heaven Official's Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu, Vol. 1 (book) by Mo Xian Tong Xiu, translated by Suika and Pengie, interior illustrations by ZeldaCW

Heaven Official's Blessing is a Chinese danmei (m/m) novel. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This first volume of the series introduces Xie Lian, the former crown prince of the Kingdom of Xianle. When he first ascended and became a god, he had many worshipers and was loved by his followers. Unfortunately, his caring nature and desire to save the common people turned out to be his downfall, and at the start of this story he has ascended for the third time and is mostly powerless, penniless, and unlucky. Good thing he's pretty much used to it by this point.

In order to pay off his debts, Xie Lian agrees to look into reports of a ghost groom who's been kidnapping and likely killing brides in the Mount Yujun area. He is reluctantly assisted by Nan Feng and Fu Yao, two junior martial officials.

In the second half of the volume, Xie Lian meets a mysterious young man named San Lang and journeys to Banyue Pass to investigate attacks on travelers in the area.

REVIEW: The Meg (live action movie)

The Meg is a sci-fi action movie. I bought my copy new.


The billionaire funding a fancy underwater research facility visits in order to watch the first mission to explore whether the Mariana Trench is actually deeper than previously believed. It is, in fact, deeper, but celebrations are cut short as the mission submersible is attacked by a large unidentified creature, putting the lives of everyone on board at risk.

In order to save the people in the mission submersible, the team enlists the help of former rescue diver Jonas Taylor. Jonas, too, once encountered something like the creature that attacked the mission submersible, although no one believed him at the time. Unfortunately for Jonas and the research team, this rescue mission is only the beginning of their encounters with the "Meg" (megalodon, a prehistoric species of shark believed to be extinct until these characters find it).

REVIEW: Beau Is Afraid (live action movie)

Beau Is Afraid is a weird dark comedy. I bought my copy new.


Beau is a paranoid and anxiety-riddled man who is going to visit is mother tomorrow. Unfortunately, this will involve a plane trip, and there are many, many things that can and do go wrong before he even makes it out the door. Which makes this sound like a relatively normal story, but believe me when I say it isn't. Beau has valid reasons for being afraid, and yet even he could not possibly imagine just how weirdly horrible his situation will become.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

REVIEW: Nothing But Blackened Teeth (novella) by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is horror. I bought my copy new.


Not too long ago, Cat took a break from her university studies to take care of her mental health - it had gotten bad enough that she was feeling suicidal. Now she's on a trip with the people she's closest to: Phillip (a rich white guy Cat was once briefly in a relationship with), Faiz (another guy Cat was once in a relationship with, although they learned they made better friends than lovers), Talia (Faiz's fiancee), and Lin (possibly another guy Cat was once in a relationship with??).

Talia has always dreamed of getting married in a haunted house, and so Phillip has paid for them all to travel to Japan and spend some time in a old Heian mansion supposedly haunted by a bride whose groom died before they could be wed - the bride was buried alive in the house, to keep the house standing while she waited for her groom, and every year after her death they buried a new girl in the house, to keep the bride company. Cat is there because Phillip and Faiz were there for her when she needed them the most, but the tension is palpable - Tina only barely tolerates Cat for Faiz's sake.

As you'd probably guess, getting married in a house haunted by the ghost of a bride who never got to marry her groom isn't a good idea, and things rapidly go south.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

REVIEW: Flirtasaurus (book) by Erin Mallon

Flirtasaurus is a contemporary romantic comedy. I bought my copy new.


Calliope (aka Callie) has been studying to become a paleontologist and has just landed a museum internship that could be her ticket to her first real dig, if she doesn't completely blow it with Dr. Eileen Knowles, the current head of paleontological studies at the museum and the lead excavator on the dig Callie desperately wants to be part of.

Unfortunately, her efforts to become the kind of woman who commands respect in a male-dominated field don't always have the effect she'd like. And romance certainly isn't part of her plans. That doesn't stop her from becoming attracted to Ralph, a sexy, rumbly-voiced astronomer who narrates presentations at the museum's planetarium. And it doesn't stop Ralph from being interested in her right back.

Monday, July 17, 2023

REVIEW: The Lost (book) by Natasha Preston

The Lost is a YA thriller (could possibly be considered YA horror?). I bought my copy new.


Piper and her friend Hazel decide to play amateur detectives and look into some of the recent disappearances of teens in their hometown. Most people have written the disappearances off as runaways, but something doesn't seem right to Piper. 

Unfortunately, the girls let their guard down a bit too much and go off with Caleb and Owen, two good-looking college students from wealthy and well-respected families who also happen to be sadistic kidnappers. Before they can process what's going on, Piper and Hazel end up trapped in a house with several other kidnapped teens. 

Caleb, Owen, and a third person, Matt, randomly select prisoners at various times, sending them to one of six rooms. Five of the rooms contain some form of torture (sound, temperature, light, sleep deprivation, and water), while the sixth one is where two prisoners are forced to fight each other until one has died. All of this is intended for the amusement of Caleb, Owen, and Matt, who are a nasty combination of rich, bored, and horrible.

Somehow, Piper plans to escape (Hazel is firmly in "nah, we're going to die" mode). First, however, she has to survive.

REVIEW: The Last Session: Volume 1, Roll for Initiative (graphic novel) written by Jasmine Walls, art by Dozerdraws

The Last Session is a contemporary-set graphic novel. I bought my copy new.


Lana, Drew, Shen, Walter, and Jay have all been friends since the time they first met at a high school GSA meeting. They started playing Dice & Deathtraps (obviously Dungeons & Dragons) around then. Four years later, they've decided to meet up and finally complete their first campaign, the only one they never finished. It's one last opportunity to get together in person before some big life changes for several of them. It's also an opportunity for them to all meet Cassandra, Jay's girlfriend, in person. Cassandra has heard about their campaigns from Jay and is excited to get to play with them for the first time.

Unfortunately, Cassandra's newbie mistakes rub everyone the wrong way. Her presence changes the group dynamics and makes what was supposed to be a fun final in-person game a frustrating experience. Lana reacts particularly negatively, to the point that Cassandra notices and starts to feel unwelcome. Will their final game end with hurt feelings and strained friendships?

REVIEW: One Love Chigusa (novella) by Soji Shimada

One Love Chigusa is science fiction. I bought my copy new.


This takes place in the relatively near future, 2091. Xie Hoyu, a 25-year-old man, gets into a terrible motorcycle accident that would likely have killed him if it weren't for advancements in modern medical technology and a coincidentally nearby ambulance. Even so, the work done on him was particularly extensive, and he was left with a cyborg body that had more non-organic parts than anyone else in the world. His doctors were reassured that he seemed to be healing and adjusting well. The one difference that Xie initially noticed was a lack of interest in human company.

When it comes time for him to be discharged, however, the differences in his perceptions of the world become more apparent. Human faces, particularly women's faces, now look demonic and distorted with anger. It's so difficult for him to be around others that he begins contemplating suicide, until one day he sees his salvation: a woman whose face and manner are both refreshingly human and exceedingly beautiful. He becomes consumed by a desire to find her again and speak to her.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

REVIEW: Misery (live action movie)

is a horror movie adaptation of Stephen King's book of the same title.


Paul Sheldon is tired of writing his massively popular Misery Chastain books. He'd like to start writing the kinds of things that win awards, so he kills Misery off in his latest book and then starts working on something fresh and new. He's just finished that book and is on his way from a hotel in Colorado to deliver the manuscript in New York when he crashes during a snow storm and is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a nurse who proclaims herself his #1 fan.

Paul has injured both legs, and Annie tells him that the phones will be down for a while due to the storm. In a show of thanks, Paul lets Annie read his newest manuscript, and she's outraged by its profanity, which she thinks is beneath Paul. Things only get worse when she reads his final Misery book and learns that he's killed off her favorite character. Annie forces Paul, trapped in her home by the snow and his injuries, to write a new Misery book that brings her back to life.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

REVIEW: The Cabin (book) by Natasha Preston

The Cabin is a YA thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new.


Mackenzie plans to enjoy her time with her friends at Josh's cabin this weekend, even if Josh himself disgusts her. The group is joined by Josh's brother, Blake, who Josh has mostly lived apart from since their parents got divorced. Mackenzie is prepared for Blake to be just as awful as Josh, but she finds herself actually enjoying his company...enough to sleep with him that night, even though she never does one night stands.

The next morning, everyone wakes up with massive hangovers, only to discover that Josh and his girlfriend Courtney were stabbed to death in the kitchen sometime during the night. They were all drunk, but surely someone should have heard something? 

Unfortunately, since the cabin was locked up and there were no signs of forced entry, the police immediately assume that someone in the group must have committed the murders. Mackenzie refuses to believe that one of her friends could be capable of such a thing, and she's so drawn to Blake that she doesn't believe he could have done it either. But if the killer wasn't one of them, then who was? And what if those around Mackenzie have more secrets than she realizes?

Monday, July 3, 2023

REVIEW: Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (nonfiction book) by Eric Schlaepfer and Windell H. Oskay

Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components is photography-heavy nonfiction. I bought my copy new.


This ended up on my radar while I was looking for nonfiction with a good combination of visuals and info. I don't actually know much about electronic components, so I was somewhat reluctant to take the plunge and get this, but then I spotted it on sale and snatched it up, and I'm glad I did.

This lovely book is organized into six sections: passive components (resistors, capacitors, fuses, etc.), semiconductors (transistors, LED, diodes, etc.), electromechanics (various switches, motors, buzzers, etc.), cables and connectors, retro tech (cathode ray tubes, vacuum tubes, neon lamps, incandescent light bulbs, etc.), and composite devices (circuits boards, microSD cards, LED displays, etc.). The book wraps up with a "making of" section that describes how the various electronic components were prepared and photographed, plus a bit about macro photography.

REVIEW: BadAsstronauts (novella) by Grady Hendrix

BadAsstronauts is humorous sci-fi. I bought my copy new.

This review includes some spoilers.


Melville, South Carolina has produced two astronauts: Walter Reddie, who flunked out of the Shuttle Program, never went to space, and is now a drunk; and Walter's second cousin once removed, Bobby Campbell, Jr., who is doomed to die alone on the International Space Station after ensuring the safe return of his six other crewmates. NASA doesn't have the funds to save him, and the only one making noises about doing anything is Richard Branson, but Walter knows it's just that, noises.

Walter has an idea. If NASA won't save Bobby Campbell, Jr., then he and Melville, South Carolina will. Initially, it seems like a bad joke. Walter's an aging drunk, and astrophysicists aren't exactly growing on trees in Melville. Gradually, however, a movement starts to build around Walter, something so big and powerful that the world can't help but wonder whether the self-proclaimed "Redneck NASA" will manage to save Bobby Campbell, Jr. after all.

REVIEW: The Cellar (book) by Natasha Preston

The Cellar is a YA thriller (or YA horror?). I bought my copy new.


Summer is a 16-year-old who's kidnapped by a man who calls himself Clover. Clover renames her "Lily" and tells her that she is now his family, along with three young women who he has named Poppy, Rose, and Violet. The four of them live in the cellar of Clover's home, entirely dependent upon him. Although his behavior is initially relatively predictable, over the next few months of Summer's captivity he becomes more and more unstable.

Meanwhile, Lewis, Summer's boyfriend, and Summer's friends and family are all looking for her, refusing to give up hope that she might still be alive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

REVIEW: The Devotion of Suspect X (book) by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander

The Devotion of Suspect X is a Japanese mystery novel, the first in Higashino's Detective Galileo series (at least in terms of English language releases). I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Yasuko is a single mother who works in a lunch shop. She used to work at a hostess club but has since left that life behind - along with her abusive ex-husband, Togashi. Unfortunately, Togashi manages to track her down once again, and this time things escalate to the point that Yasuko strangles him to death in an effort to protect herself and Misato, her teen daughter. Yasuko is still grappling with what she's done when her next door neighbor, a math teacher named Ishigami, stops by and calmly offers to help.

Ishigami is a quiet and solitary man whose only interest in life is mathematics...and Yasuko. He had gotten into the habit of stopping by her workplace to buy lunch, just to see her. He has no illusions that she might ever feel the same about him. When he hears the commotion in her apartment, he immediately offers to help. He isn't shocked by what's happened - his only concern is the problem presented by Togashi's death, and Yasuko and Misato's safety. He'll do anything to help them, so he takes care of literally everything, disposing of Togashi's body and laying out exactly what Yasuko and Misato must do in order to deal the police's inevitable suspicion.

The one thing Ishigami doesn't take into account is that the police will involve Yukawa, a physicist who's the only person he's ever met whose intellect is a match for his own.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 5 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xu, translated by Suika & Lianyin Pengie, illustrated by Marina Privalova

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a fantasy danmei (Chinese m/m) series. This is the final volume. I bought my copy new.


Wei Wuxian is freaking out after the events that ended the previous volume and decides to go to Guanyin Temple with Wen Ning in order to put some space between himself and Lan Wangji. Unfortunately, Jin Ling shows up too, and he and Wei Wuxian end up captured, along with Lan Xichen. You would think the characters would be too busy trying not to die for romance to enter anyone's minds, but you would be wrong - everything somehow manages to happen simultaneously. Wei Wuxian demonstrates that he can flirt and fight at the same time.

The first 187 pages of this volume wrap up the main story, while the rest of the volume is composed of eight extra stories, most of which feature both Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji and show either their lives after the main story or scenes from when they were teenagers.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 4 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Suika & Lianyin Pengie, illustrated by Marina Privalova

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a fantasy danmei (Chinese m/m) series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Here we have more flashbacks, this time to the period after the Sunshot Campaign. The Wen Clan has nearly been wiped out, and its remnants are being cruelly mistreated by the Jin Clan. Wei Wuxian, who has calmed down considerably since volume 3, is helping Wen Qing find her beloved little brother Wen Ning and ends up establishing a new home for the remnants of the Wen Clan at the Burial Mounds, the very place where Wen Chao once left him to die.

This volume completes the story of Wei Wuxian's downfall and then jumps back to the present. Wei Wuxian's identity has been revealed and he is believed to be responsible for a horde of fierce corpses. Pretty much everyone except Lan Wangji and some of the junior cultivators wants to kill him. However, some undeniable and shocking truths finally come to light.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

REVIEW: Nyankees (manga, vol. 2) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb D. Cook

Nyankees is a comedy series. I bought this volume new.


Ryuusei finally meets the leader of the Goblin Cat Tails - and it turns out the intel was bad, the leader is a female and not a male calico. Oops. Next up, a lost pet cat joins Taiga's group for safety, at least until his owner can find him. In the meantime, there seems to be a new threat in town, an odd group composed of a Bengal-looking fighter, a Sphynx cat, and a long-haired cat who seems to exist in a perpetual cloud of catnip.

A lot of my issues with the first volume also apply to this volume, although this time around I didn't even particularly like the artwork - too many scenes of the cats battling in non-catlike poses.

I really wasn't a fan of the humor in the first half of this volume, which hinged on the supposed hilarity of Sango, a huge female calico, being depicted as muscle-bound and masculine-looking in her human form. There is, of course, a scene in which she kisses Ryuusei and expresses an interest in him - all the male cats are predictably horrified.

I liked the introduction of the lost pet cat reasonably well, although it's hard to tell if the second half of the volume was gearing up for anything new or just introducing a slightly different quirky group that Ryuusei would then have to battle. 

All in all, this continues to be a mediocre series.


Translation notes (for some reason inserted just before the final chapter rather than at the end of the volume), one full-color illustration, and a vague map of key locations in the series.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 3 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Suika and Lianyin Pengie

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a fantasy danmei (Chinese m/m) series. I bought my copy of this volume new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


If you're expecting this volume to pick up where the previous one left off, you'll be sorely disappointed, because the author starts this off with a 200-page flashback to Wei Wuxian's younger days, before he became known as the Yiling Patriarch, when Jiang Cheng still regarded him as a brother and lots of beloved family members were still alive. 

The Wen Clan of Qishan demands that each of the other clans send at least twenty sect disciples to Qishan to be "educated" by members of the Wen Clan. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian are two of the ones sent by the Jiang Clan. Lan Wangji is sent by the Lan Clan - which Wei Wuxian learns has been devastated by the Wen Clan. The group of sect members ends up at the mercy of Wen Chao, the youngest son of the leader of the Wen Clan, a bully who delights in sending them after yao beasts and then claiming their victories as his own. Things only get worse from there and eventually lead to Wei Wuxian inventing and embracing demonic cultivation.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

REVIEW: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Vol. 2 (book) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, translated by Suika and Pengie

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a fantasy danmei series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji follow the dismembered body's trail to Yi City, where they learn the tragic story of A-Qing, Xiao Xingchen, his friend Song Lan, and Xue Yang. This then leads to Jin Guangyao and, finally, to the discovery of the dismembered body's head.

I definitely preferred the first half of this volume, in Yi City, to the second half. The supernatural aspects were fabulous, and both Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji got to be awesome. Wei Wuxian acting as a confident and calm mentor/babysitter for the younger cultivators was fun. Also, I enjoyed the massive tragedy that was Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan's story, even if I had trouble remembering what any of it had to do with the series' larger story. My heart hurt for pretty much everybody but Xue Yang.

The second half of this book was mostly cultivator politics, which I wasn't nearly as interested in. All I really cared about were the details surrounding the dismembered body.

Not a very informative review, I know, but I wanted to finally get this off my plate so I could move on to the next volume and eventually let myself do the thing I really want to do, which is read Heaven Official's Blessing. Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is okay, but definitely my least favorite of MXTX's works. It just doesn't have enough fun character interaction. I need more than the occasional "Lan Wangji is hilariously drunk and Wei Wuxian is oblivious" scene.


A couple full-color illustrations, a character and name guide, a glossary, and black and white illustrations throughout.

REVIEW: Nothing More to Tell (book) by Karen M. McManus

Nothing More to Tell is a YA mystery. I bought my copy new.


A stupid mistake may have cost Brynn the future in journalism that she'd planned. In an effort to make up for it, she's become an intern with Motive, a true-crime show. She's hopeful that they'll use her idea for a show, investigating the murder of Mr. Larkin, her favorite teacher at Saint Ambrose. 

Four years ago, three Saint Ambrose students, Tripp, Charlotte, and Shane, found Mr. Larkin's body in the woods behind their school. Around the time of the murder, Mr. Larkin was looking into the theft of some money. After his death, the envelope of money was discovered in Charlotte's locker. The fingerprints of Shane, the boy Charlotte had a huge crush on, were found on the rock that killed Mr. Larkin. Things weren't looking good for them, especially Shane, except Tripp's account of events matched theirs. Tripp wasn't a friend of the two other kids at the time, so what motive would he have had to lie?

Brynn is convinced that there's more to the story than the three of them ever shared, and now that she's back at Saint Ambrose she's determined to find out the truth.

REVIEW: The Boxer (manhwa, vol. 1) by JH, translated by WEBTOON

The Boxer is a sports series originally serialized online. I bought my copy of this volume new.


K, a legendary trainer of world champion boxers, has gone to a certain gym in search of his final student. At first, he thinks that person might be Baeksan Ryu, a naturally talented young fighter whose unpredictable and fluid movements allow him to hold his own against larger and more experienced opponents. However, then he sees a group of bullies beating up a boy outside, and something in that boy's empty eyes tells him he's looking at something above and beyond any fighter he's ever trained before. Unlike Baeksan, Yu doesn't feel any sort of need to dominate others or be better than them - he simply exists, and is bored with that existence.

REVIEW: Severance (book) by Ling Ma

Severance post-apocalyptic literary fiction. I bought my copy new. 


In the present, Candace Chen is traveling with a group of other former white collar workers to the Facility, a destination chosen by the group's leader, Bob. Shen Fever has overtaken the world, and most of the fevered are either dead by now or in the process of dying, stuck in meaningless routines until their bodies can no longer manage.

In the past, Candace's parents were Chinese immigrants who were eventually able to bring her over to the US with them as well. After her parents died, Candace lost touch with the rest of her family and lived a rootless life in New York City. She enjoyed photography and, for a while, kept a photo blog called NY Ghost that became her way of documenting Shen Fever's effect on the city. Before that, though, she worked in Bible production, a job she was good at but didn't particularly enjoy.

I'm not sure what to say beyond that. The book explores Candace's memories and past - her relationship with her family, how she got her job, how things began and ended between her and her boyfriend, how things went at work when Shen Fever started taking over, and how things turned out between her and Bob's group.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

REVIEW: There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job (book) by Kikuko Tsumura, translated by Polly Barton

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is Japanese workplace fiction that occasionally hints at fantasy elements. I bought my copy new.


The narrator (who I don't think was ever named, but maybe I missed it) burned out from the work she'd previously been doing for about 14 years, so badly that she no longer even wants to work in the same field. She's been living with her parents and her unemployment insurance has run out, forcing her to seek some form of employment again. She tells Mrs. Masakado at the employment center that she wants an easy job located as close as possible to her home, and Mrs. Masakado finds her the perfect thing: a surveillance job located across the street from her house. Literally all she has to do, all day, is watch video footage of her assigned target, paying special attention to any deliveries he receives or any DVDs from his collection that he interacts with in any way.

It's a weird little job. It's technically easy and close to her home, just like she asked, but she finds that she has enough issues with it and its particular drawbacks that she doesn't want to stick with it when her contract is up. After that, Mrs. Masakado does her best to match her up with the perfect job for her. She takes on a bus advertising job, creating audio advertisements for businesses located along a particular bus route. After that, she works as the writer of interesting notes and messages on cracker packets. Then she switches to a job that involves putting up and switching out various informational posters. Finally, she ends up taking on something advertised as "as easy job in a hut in a big forest." Sounds kind of ominous, right?

Monday, April 24, 2023

REVIEW: Ace and Aro Journeys: A Guide to Embracing Your Asexual or Aromantic Identity (nonfiction book) by The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project

Ace and Aro Journeys is nonfiction. I bought my copy new.


This book covers a lot in a fairly small number of pages. The introduction states that it's intended for all ace and aro people, as well as those who'd like to be allies, but the authors particularly hope to reach people who might not already be involved in online ace and/or aro communities. If you're truly new to information about ace and aro identities, be prepared for lots of flipping to the glossary in the back as the authors use lots of terminology that isn't always defined in-text. (And, er, if you're like me and are having trouble finding a term in the glossary and it begins with either ace or aro, try chopping that part off and looking for the rest of the word. For example, aceflux or aroflux are under F for "flux.")

The first chapter goes over reasons people might identify as aro or ace, as well as the basics of various models and types of attraction and orientation. The next chapter broadly covers ace and aro history, culture, and communities, common symbols used, and representation in media. 

Then the authors lay out the identity development model they use as the framework for the rest of the book: "ignorance," "discovery of terminology," "identity confusion," "exploration and education," "identity acceptance and salience negotiation," "coming out," and "identity integration." To be clear, the authors aren't trying to say that everyone has to go through every part, in that order, and they recognize that some people will need to go through various parts multiple times throughout their lives.

REVIEW: One of Us is Dead (book) by Jeneva Rose

One of Us is Dead is a thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new.


Buckhead is the kind of place where beautiful, rich people smile at each other while giving each other backhanded compliments. Until recently, Shannon was one of the top ladies of Buckhead. However, her now ex-husband has remarried, replacing her with younger, fresher, and prettier Crystal from Texas. Olivia has decided to take full advantage of the shift in power dynamics and is doing her best to take every inch of Shannon's Buckhead political territory while her "friend" is still off licking her wounds. Karen, meanwhile, recognizes what Olivia is doing but is powerless to stop it.

At some point in this story, one of Buckhead's ladies will end up dead. And Jenny, the owner of Glow, the most exclusive salon in town, is there to see it all play out.

REVIEW: False Knees: An Illustrated Guide to Animal Behavior (graphic novel) by Joshua Barkman

False Knees is a collection on humorous cartoons. I bought my copy new.


Another webcomic print collection. It features animals musing about the world and their own existence, or otherwise doing things that realistically drawn animals wouldn't normally do.

To be honest, this comic's humor isn't generally for me. I like the occasional morbid moments, but there's a sameness to the animals philosophizing at each other. There were rarely any strips that made me laugh, although there were definitely a few that managed to surprise me (like the one with the rabbit announcing its plans for the future).

For me, the really appealing thing about this comic is its artwork. I love the colors and linework. It makes me want to get back to some of the creative activities I used to do, like needle felting and drawing.

REVIEW: Vivian Apple at the End of the World (book) by Katie Coyle

Vivian Apple at the End of the World is a combination YA road trip/post-apocalyptic story. My copy was an ARC, a very old ARC.

This review includes slight spoilers.


In this version of the United States, the evangelical Church of America and its leader, Beaton Frick, have become enormously popular. This book begins just before the date when Frick said the Rapture was supposed to happen. 

Vivian Apple isn't a Believer the way her parents are, but she doesn't know what to think when she gets home after a Rapture party and discovers both of her parents gone, with two holes in the roof above their bed. Her parents aren't the only ones who've disappeared - other Believers are gone as well. But only a small number of them, maybe 3000, leading to confusion, panic, and fear. 

At first, Vivian strives for some kind of normalcy. However, "normal" is never going to be the way it once was. The remaining Believers cling to the hope offered by Frick's prediction of a second Rapture, and there's still the issue of the end of the world, which Frick predicted would come several months after the first Rapture. With everything in chaos, Vivian teams up with her friend Harp and Peter, a guy she recently met who has connections to the Church of America, in an effort to find out the truth and hopefully reunite with her parents.

REVIEW: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (nonfiction book) by Randall Munroe

What If? is humorous nonfiction. I checked my copy out from the library.


It's starting to look like Randall Munroe is my go-to author when I'm sick. Many of the What If? scenarios scratch something like a humorous sci-fi itch for me, but without the expectation that I keep track of groups of characters and whatever's going on with them in particular.

My absolute favorite chapter in this volume is "Periodic Wall of Elements," in which Munroe lays out what would happen if someone, somehow, built a periodic table out of bricks, where each brick was made of its corresponding element. However, as with What If? 2, I generally enjoyed any chapter that involved lots of destruction.

I don't really have much to say beyond that. This was technically a reread, but my first time through was in audiobook form. While I recall Wil Wheaton being an enjoyable narrator, the illustrations alone make this better to read in print. 

Oh, one thing I'll add: the chapter "Common Cold" ("If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple weeks, wouldn't the common cold be wiped out?") felt really weird to read after the past few pandemic years and the period of sorta kinda lockdowns (in the U.S., at least).

I have a copy of Munroe's How To waiting on my TBR for the next time I get sick. Hopefully it'll get to sit there until at least 2024.

REVIEW: No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz (nonfiction book) by Victoria Bruce

No Apparent Danger is nonfiction. I checked my copy out from the library.


This book is an account of the November 1985 Nevado Del Ruiz eruption that killed more than 23,000 people and destroyed the city of Armero, as well as an account of the January 1993 Galeras eruption that killed six scientists and three tourists.

While the accounts were interesting (and horrifying), this was initially looking like a 3-star read for me due to what I saw as organizational issues and a lack of focus. Yes, the eruptions both took place in Colombia, and some of the same people, such as Colombian geologist Marta Calvache, came up in conjunction with both of them, but I had trouble keeping track of why they were related enough to base a book on both of them. The Nevado Del Ruiz eruption was horrific and resulted in an enormous loss of life. The eruption in Galeras was much smaller and only killed people because they happened to be in the crater (and, for the most part, not wearing proper safety equipment). I should add that I don't read a lot of nonfiction and tend to have attention span issues with it, so that could definitely have been a factor in my overall feelings.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

REVIEW: The Muse (book) by Emma Scott

The Muse is m/m fantasy romance. I bought my copy new.


Content warning for suicidal thoughts, mentions of past child abuse, and torture.

This is the second book in a series (duology?). I haven't read the first, but this book explains the setup well enough that I was able to follow along just fine. Basically, Ambri is a demon who once served another demon named Casziel. He helped Casziel free himself so that he could become human once more. This understandably caused other demons to question Ambri's loyalties, so at the beginning of this book Ambri is asked to prove himself by pushing a human to commit suicide.

The human Ambri picks is Cole Matheson. Not only does he have slight connections to Casziel (Ambri was a little in love with Casziel and not entirely happy when he opted to become human again), but he's also already feeling pretty depressed and hopeless. Cole is a struggling artist who's having trouble believing in his own talent, since nothing he does seems enough to capture anyone's attention and pay his bills. Ambri approaches him during a particularly low point and, instead of taking the easy route and giving him one last push into darkness, offers to become Cole's muse and patron. He's willing to pay for all of Cole's supplies and allow Cole to sell works depicting him in demon form, in exchange for a portrait of himself in his human form. Ambri was ostracized by his family before he'd even had an official portrait painted, and it's always upset him that his family members' portraits have survived while he isn't even a footnote in history books.

Ambri's demonic colleagues are understandably suspicious of Ambri's actions. Supposedly, Ambri plans to boost Cole's career before sending him crashing down into the abyss. However, as he and Cole get to know each other, the two begin to fall for each other. If Ambri goes through with his plans, he'll be responsible for the downfall of the man he loves. Even if he opts to sacrifice himself for Cole's sake, it may not be enough - there are plenty of demons who'd be more than happy to finish what Ambri started.

Monday, April 10, 2023

REVIEW: The Honjin Murders (book) by Seishi Yokomizo, translated by Louise Heal Kawai

The Honjin Murders is the first of Yokomizo's Detective Kosuke Kindaichi murder mystery books. I bought my copy new.


In the winter of 1937, the wealthy Ichiyanagi family was preparing for the wedding of Kenzo Ichiyanagi, the eldest son of the main Ichiyanami family, and Katsuko Kubo, a teacher at a girls' school. Kenzo's mother was disapproving of Katsuko, who she viewed as nothing more than the daughter of a tenant farmer, but Kenzo was determined to marry her.

Shortly before the wedding, there are rumors of a strange man with only three fingers on his right hand being sighted around town, asking for directions to the Ichiyanagi family's home. For some reason this man visits the Ichiyanagi family home the day of the wedding, delivering a note to Kenzo. That night, strange koto plucking sounds and a possible cry for help are heard, and the rest of the family, fearing an emergency, rushes to the Ichiyanagi annexe house where the newly married couple is staying. What they find is a katana embedded blade-first in the snow and no footprints anywhere. When they get inside, they discover Kenzo and Katsuko slashed to death. A knocked over folding screen is nearby, with a bloody, three-fingered handprint upon it.

Scruffy amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi arrives at the request of Ginzo, the bride's uncle, to help with the investigation, which initially points firmly towards the strange three-fingered man as the most likely person to be the killer.

REVIEW: The Factory (book) by Hiroko Oyamada, translated by David Boyd

The Factory is, I guess, workplace literary fiction. Possibly surreal fantasy? I bought my copy new.


This relatively short work follows three characters: a guy who got laid off from his job working with computers and has taken a job as a temp proofreader at the factory; a woman who gets a temp job at the factory shredding documents; and a moss researcher hired to spearhead the factory's efforts at green-roofing. Each of them are doing what turns out to be meaningless jobs with no accomplishments, but they're being paid decently. As we learn about the three employees, we also learn about three not-quite-normal factory fauna.

REVIEW: The Escape Room (book) by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room is a workplace thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new.


This alternates between chapters in the past, from Sara Hall's perspective, and chapters in the present. Sara's chapters show how she became an employee at Stanhope, a big investment firm. The chapters in the present focus on four Stanhope employees, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam, who have been told to take part in a mandatory team-building exercise, an escape room. They all reluctantly agree to do it because they know their positions at Stanhope are currently precarious, but as they enter an elevator and the lights go out, it's clear that there's something fishy about this assignment. What connection do the employees trapped in the elevator have to Sara Hall, and who's behind their supposed escape room invitation?

Sunday, April 9, 2023

REVIEW: How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say (nonfiction book) by Melissa Caughey

How to Speak Chicken is nonfiction. I bought my copy new.


I'll start by saying that I don't own chickens and am unlikely to ever own chickens. I read this primarily because animal communication interests me, and this looked like it would be a relatively quick and entertaining read.

This has lovely pictures and is certainly a quick read. It doesn't go into a lot of depth on anything - readers just get basic information on animal observation, chicken behavior and communication, and the emotional life of chickens. There are brief profiles of various backyard chicken keepers, and the author frequently mentions birds from her own flock. There's a tiny bit of info about egg development, but otherwise there's very little about chicken biology or development. This book is more about learning to connect with and appreciate chickens as individuals.

Although there's a brief mention that some people deal with aggressive roosters by "[adding them] to the soup pot" (65), it's pretty clear that this book is intended primarily for backyard chicken keepers who likely view their birds as pets. All mentions of specific aggressive birds end with them being rehomed.

One thing I wish the author had done in the backyard chicken keeper profiles was include labeled pictures of all the breeds mentioned as being in the keepers' flocks. True, I could look them up online, but this was otherwise such a well-illustrated book that the lack of breed photos was noticeable.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

REVIEW: Jujutsu Kaisen 0: Feature Film (anime movie)

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a movie prequel to the Jujutsu Kaisen anime TV series. I bought my copy brand new.


Several years ago, an accident took the life of Yuta's childhood friend, a girl named Rika. Since then, he's been followed around by her cursed spirit, which comes out at unpredictable times to destroy anyone and anything that means Yuta harm, whether he wishes it or not. An incident with a group of bullies brings Yuta to the attention of the world of jujutsu sorcerers. Gojo takes Yuta on as one of his students, alongside Maki, Toge, and Panda.

Unfortunately for Yuta, he has also attracted the attention of Geto, a man whose goal is to create a society of only jujutsu sorcerers. Geto plans to take Rika from Yuta and use her massive power to get his way.

REVIEW: Werewolves Within (live action movie)

Werewolves Within is a blend of mystery, horror, and comedy based on the video game of the same name. I bought my copy of this movie new.


Forest ranger Finn Wheeler is newly assigned to the small town of Beaverfield, which is currently divied over a proposal to build a pipeline. Some of the residents welcome the pipeline because they'll be well-paid for it, while others feel that it would mar the area's natural beauty.

As a severe snowstorm blocks the way out and something busts up all of the town's generators, the town is suddenly faced with a killer in its midst. Chachi, a small dog owned by one of the residents, gets taken, and a local man everyone had thought had left with his mistress is discovered dead, partially eaten, and stuffed under his house. As the town devolves into paranoia, the new ranger tries to figure out what's going on.