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.