Sunday, December 31, 2023

REVIEW: Adulthood Is a Myth (graphic novel) by Sarah Andersen

Adulthood Is a Myth is a collection of Andersen's humorous comics about her experiences. I bought my copy new.


I don't have much to say about this. It wasn't groundbreaking or anything, but it was amusing and generally relatable, especially if you're a socially awkward introvert who has trouble adulting. 

I somehow like Andersen's scraggly gremlin self-portraits even more now that I've realized Andersen is also the person behind Fangs. The artistic styles are so completely different.

REVIEW: The Silence of the Lambs (book) by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1988 thriller. I checked my copy out from the library.


Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, is sent to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter - Hannibal the Cannibal. There are indications that Dr. Lecter's unique position - he's a brilliant psychiatrist who's also a serial killer - might give him helpful insight into the murders committed by the serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill. 

This is one of many books I should have reviewed sooner after I finished it, but I've been in a reviewing slump for a while and it didn't happen.

I haven't seen the movie adaptation, and this was my first time reading this book. At some point, possibly due to Hannibal Lecter's enduring popularity, I came to the conclusion that Hannibal was a prominent character in the story. Imagine my surprise when he only made an occasional appearance. That said, he was such a vivid character that I understand his popularity. For much of the book, I only knew how dangerous Hannibal was due to his reputation and what everyone kept telling Starling (I need to see about reading Red Dragon) - his interactions with Starling still managed to be riveting. I was pretty much glued to the book when it started to look like he'd get a chance to spring into action (the stupidity of certain characters was mind-boggling).

Overall, this caught and kept my attention, even though certain aspects (the language, technology, etc.) were dated enough that trying to process some of it took more effort than I expected. The details of the investigation were intriguing, and everything moved at a nice pace.

REVIEW: Kiki's Delivery Service (book) by Eiko Kadono, translated by Emily Balistrieri, illustrations by Yuta Onoda

Kiki's Delivery Service is a Japanese children's fantasy novel. I bought my copy new.


Witches exist in the world of this book, but there aren't a lot of them, and magical knowledge and powers are starting to fade away with each generation. The only magic Kiki is capable of is flying on her broom. She also has Jiji, one of the black cats that all young witches are raised with.

Kiki is about to turn thirteen, the age at which young witches strike off on their own and find a new town to call home for a year. Although her mother advises her to not choose a big city, Kiki wants more excitement and ends up settling in Koriko. It's daunting at first - no one seems to be very interested in having a witch live in their town - but Kiki manages to carve out a place for herself by starting a delivery service. Her first customer, Mrs. Osono, helps by giving her a place to stay.

Throughout the rest of her first year, Kiki meets new people, delivers everything from a painting to a giant belly band, and gains more confidence in her abilities.

REVIEW: Rosebud (novella) by Paul Cornell

Rosebud is a science fiction novella. I bought my copy new.


Five sentient digital beings form the crew of a small survey ship that has been sent out by the Company to explore and report its findings back to the Company. They encounter a mysterious black sphere that they know they must report. However, something seems to be happening to their perceptions of time and reality.

This got on my radar due to its sentient digital beings. It initially comes across like a very quirky read - as digital beings, the crew members can present themselves pretty much however they'd like, so one of them is a foul-mouthed balloon, another is a ball of hands, and yet another one is a swarm of wasps. As readers learn about them, their situation, and their relationship to the Company, it becomes apparent that there's some self-editing going on, revealing darker undercurrents. 

I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending. It felt like is was aiming for "happy" but presented from the viewpoint of the character with the least to be happy about.

REVIEW: Ava's Demon, Book One: Reborn (graphic novel) by Michelle Fus

Ava's Demon is an SFF graphic novel series (originally a webcomic). I bought my copy of this volume new.


Ava's entire life has been ruled and ruined by the demon in her mind who occasionally controls her actions. She only had one friend, Maggie, and the being destroyed that relationship as well. Now Maggie doesn't want anything to do with her, and when a weird young man tells Maggie that she has to leave the planet with him for her safety, Ava ends up coming along. Things go from bad to worse, and the three of them end up crashing on another planet. In order to save her own life, Ava finally agrees to make a pact with her demon, who says she used to be a queen named Wrathia Bellarmina. Her homeland was destroyed by Titan, and the only plan she could come up with involved cursed wine that would allow her and the most powerful warriors in her empire to die and attach their souls to other hopefully more powerful beings and eventually take back their homeland.

Ava has been a disappointment to Wrathia, up to this point. The pact changes things. But do the warriors Wrathia is looking for really want the same things she does? It's unclear, and she's unaware that several of the people around Ava are likely exactly the ones she's looking for. One of them is with Maggie and is reluctantly helping her with her constant quest for romance with the cutest guy in her vicinity. Another is with a young doctor named Gil...who is unfortunately a devout new member of Titan's army.

REVIEW: Outback Hearts (book) by Susan Stoker

Outback Hearts is a contemporary romance. I checked my copy out from the library.


Sam becomes a reality TV show contestant, not realizing that it's going to be Bachelor-style. The contestants are all flown to the Australian Outback, where they're told that they'll be competing for the affections of Al, a rancher from Texas. To prove they have what it takes to be his wife, they do things like catch pigs, muck out stables, and more.

Although Sam thinks Al is attractive, she isn't in the mood for the kind of catty tactics most of the other contestants resort to. She figures it was probably an accident that she was chosen for the show and she'll get kicked off relatively early, so she's determined to do things her own way, even if the show's producer seems determined to do whatever he has to in order to get a drama-filled show.

Meanwhile, Al, who actually goes by Alex (the producer tweaks everybody's name to fit his vision for the show), is, unbeknownst to the contestants, given access to video of what the contestants are doing when he isn't around. He likes "Sammi" but quickly learns that this show isn't geared towards him choosing the person he really wants, but rather the person who'd make for the best TV.

REVIEW: The Horizon (manhwa, vol. 1) by JH

The Horizon is a war (possibly post-apocalyptic) comic. I bought my copy of this volume new.


The Horizon takes place during the aftermath of some kind of massacre (the Webtoon page says it was an apocalyptic event). A young boy is the sole survivor of some kind of event that kills his mother and pretty much everyone else in the city. With nothing else to do, he walks and eventually finds an abandoned school bus to sleep in. A girl his age also finds the bus, and the two of them become sudden traveling companions as more violence breaks out around them. Eventually they come across a third person, a grown man who seems to only be capable of screaming like a crow. Although the girl is fine with him following along, the boy can't help but be frightened and wary of the man.

REVIEW: In the Shadow of the Throne (graphic novel) by Kate Sheridan, art by Gaia Cardinali

In the Shadow of the Throne is a fantasy graphic novel with a hint of m/m romance. I bought my copy new.


Jordan is tired of always being his younger siblings' default babysitter, so he's excited to finally be on his own when his family's trip to a museum results in him somehow being transported to a fantasy world via a painting. In this new world, he trains as a knight and helps a young elven prince deal with a dark magic threat against his kingdom that is somehow connected to the queen's past.

The story was very basic and rushed. It made zero sense to me that a barely trained wannabe knight was sent after a trained assassin with the prince in tow and no one else. There wasn't a lot of time to flesh everything out, and even the light romantic elements felt like a bit much considering that Jordan and Astel didn't get along for a large chunk of the volume. 

Although I liked the monster design, for the most part the artwork wasn't to my taste. There were too many issues with anatomy and perspective.

REVIEW: Starter Villain (book) by John Scalzi

Starter Villain is a mix of humor and fantasy. I bought my copy new.


Charlie is a divorced former business reporter who is, at best, barely scraping by as a substitute teacher. The best thing in his life right now is his cat, Hera. When his estranged uncle, Jake, dies of pancreatic cancer, the only reason Charlie is aware of it is because Jake was a billionaire, and even boring billionaires get mentioned in the news when they die.

The news is barely a blip in Charlie's crumbling life, until Mathilda Morrison, Jake's former assistant, shows up on Charlie's doorstep with Jake's last request, that Charlie represent him at his memorial service. It seems like a relatively simple thing and comes with a reward that Charlie can't refuse, so he agrees...and eventually learns that his uncle was involved in a lot more than just parking garages. Showing up at Jake's memorial service puts a target on Charlie's back. Fortunately for Charlie, he's just inherited Uncle Jake's entire supervillain empire, complete with talented employees like Morrison, spy cats and dolphins, and a volcano lair.

REVIEW: One of Us Is Next (book) by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Next is a YA thriller/mystery. I bought my copy new. This review includes slight spoilers unrelated to the final twists.


Just in case it isn't obvious, you shouldn't read this book, or even this review, unless you're comfortable with the possibility of getting major spoilers for the first book in the series, One of Us Is Lying. You've been warned.

It's been a year since the events of the first book, and although Simon copycats have occasionally popped up, none of them have stuck around for long - it's hard to be as devious as Simon was, and as well-informed about everyone's secrets. When Bayview High students suddenly get texts from yet another Simon copycat telling them that they're going to be playing Truth or Dare, everyone figures it'll fizzle out like the other times. The anonymous texter picks Phoebe as their first victim, and she ignores them...only for one of her most hurtful secrets to be revealed to everyone when she misses the deadline to play along.

Who is this person, and what's their goal? Those questions are on everyone's minds as the game goes from hurtful and/or dangerous to deadly.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

REVIEW: Lessons in Chemistry (book) by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry is historical women's fiction. I bought my copy new.


Content warning: sexual assault.

This starts in 1952 and ends in the early 1960s. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist whose primary research interest is abiogenesis. Unfortunately, her lab at Hasting Research Institute never gets much in the way of proper funding, attention, or supplies, and her first encounter with Calvin Evans, the Institute's rockstar chemist, is when she steals a box of beakers from his lab after he mistakes her for a secretary. Calvin eventually tracks her down and the two of them fall in love over discussions about chemistry, although Elizabeth steadfastly refuses to get married.

What follows is the story of how Elizabeth went from that in the 1950s to being a single mother starring in a wildly popular cooking show by 1961.

REVIEW: Bad Kids (book) by Zijin Chen, translated by Michelle Deeter

Bad Kids is a Chinese thriller. I bought my copy new.


Zhang Dongsheng, a teacher, arranges what he thinks is the perfect murder. Acting like a dutiful son-in-law, he takes his wife's parents to a nature park at a time when it's mostly deserted and pushes them off the mountain to their deaths. He'll claim it's an accident caused by his father-in-law's health condition, and since there are no witnesses, no one will be the wiser.

However, there are witnesses: three children who accidentally catch the whole thing on video. Thirteen-year-old Chaoyang and his new friends, two runaway orphans named Ding Hao and Pupu, initially think they should turn the footage in to the police. However, if they do that then Ding Hao and Pupu will be forced to go back to the orphanage where they were mistreated and nine-year-old Pupu was sexually abused. Chaoyang had briefly been letting the two orphans stay at his house while his mother was away at work, but the situation can't continue, so the kids hatch a plan to blackmail Zhang Dongsheng, who they believe must be rich because of the kind of car he drives (his wife and in-laws were rich, not him). They'll use the money they get from him to pay for food and a place to stay.

As the situation becomes more complicated, both Zhang Dongsheng and the kids have things to hide.

REVIEW: The Imperial Uncle (book) by Da Feng Gua Guo, translated by E. Danglars

The Imperial Uncle is a historical-ish danmei (Chinese m/m) novel. I bought my copy new.


First: each character has multiple names, and I'm not sure which, if any, are more appropriate to use in my review. For Prince Huai/Jing Weiyi/Chengjun, I'm generally opting for Chengjun except when his title feels like a better option. For Liu Tongyi/Ransi, I'm opting for Liu Tongyi, and for Yun Yu/Suiya, I'm opting for Yun Yu.

Prince Huai, uncle to the young emperor, Qizhe, is deeply loyal but knows that his loyalty will always be doubted due to the actions and reputation of his late father. Even knowing that it could lead to his downfall, he decides to act as a spy, collecting information on conspirators against Qizhe while acting like he's going along with their uprising.

Things are coming to a head now, and the conspirators are preparing to make Chengjun the new emperor. As Chengjun works to simultaneously help Qizhe while avoiding getting caught in the trap of his own making, he finds himself pondering his relationships and future and wondering if there will ever be anyone willing to stand by his side. For a long time, Chengjun has been in love with Liu Tongyi, a virtuous official whose reputation is as spotless as Chengjun's isn't. Is it even possible for anything to come of those feelings, or would Chengjun be better off focusing on Yun Yu, the man everyone seems to already think is one of his lovers? Yun Yu is one of the conspirators against Qizhe, simultaneously Chengjun's closest friend and the person he's preparing to betray, and who may therefore lose his life during the attempted uprising. It seems as though there's nothing but loneliness and tragedy in Chengjun's future...

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 Sphinx 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?