Monday, April 15, 2024

REVIEW: Nyankees (manga, vol. 6) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb D. Cook

Nyankees is an action-comedy series, although that's not particularly evident in this volume. I bought this new.


It's the final volume of Nyankees! Madara's full backstory and connection to Gekka is revealed, and it's pretty dark. Also, Ryuusei gets closure where Gekka is concerned.

This series has been a weird tonal roller coaster, and this last volume mostly abandons comedy in favor of tugging at cat-lover heartstrings. If I could adopt Madara and give him treats and scritches, I totally would - his kittenhood was awful.

Although Ryuusei is left free to make his own choice about the kind of life that makes him happy, this volume definitely has a pro-TNR, "being a housecat isn't necessarily bad" message to it. And if you were wondering about the ultimate fate of any of the series' prominent cats, you get to find out about them here - the only one that made me wince a little was the Sphinx cat, who might have been doing fine at that particular moment but who'd definitely need other arrangements once the weather got even slightly chilly.

What the heck was with that "closing credits" style last few pages, with the music and all of the dancing cats? It felt like a reference to something, but I wasn't sure what.


One full-color page that doesn't really count, because it's just the cover art again.

REVIEW: Nyankees (manga, vol. 5) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb D. Cook

Nyankees is a comedy-action manga series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


It's time for the aftermath of the great battle inside the warehouse. Ryuusei finally learns about Madara's connection to Gekka, the male calico he's been searching for. Enraged, Ryuusei tries to fight Madara, even though he can barely move. Unfortunately for him, Madara hasn't run out of dirty tricks yet.

Meh, it was ok. The little snippet of Gekka and Ryuusei's story was kind of disappointing, considering it's the driving force behind everything he's done in the series so far. Gekka came across as just another one of cats Madara messed with just because he felt like it, although the preview of the next volume indicates that there may be more to it than that.

The bulk of this volume took itself seriously, so I appreciated the ridiculous revelation of Madara's final trick. 


A couple full-color pages, some brief translation notes, and a few character design sketches.

REVIEW: Table for Two (book) by Nora Roberts

Table for Two is a collection of two contemporary romance novels previously published in 1985 and 1986. I bought my copy of this volume used.


Table for Two collects two of Nora Roberts' novels - Summer Desserts (originally published in 1985) and Lessons Learned (originally published in 1986). They don't just have an overall theme in common (cooking!) - Summer, the main female character of Summer Desserts, is friends with Carlo, the main male character of Lessons Learned.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

REVIEW: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (manga) adaptation by Stacy King, art by various artists

The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe is one of several entries in the Manga Classics series, which pairs text (usually taken word-for-word, I believe) from classic works with manga-style illustrations.

This didn't work out very well here. These works ("The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado,"The Raven," "The Masque of the Red Death," and "The Fall of the House of Usher") weren't written to act as graphic novel scripts, and shoe-horning them into that role resulted in "adaptations" that were mediocre at best.

The artwork was generally decent - my favorites were probably "The Tell-Tale Heart" (art by Virginia-Nitouhei) and "The Fall of the House of Usher" (art by Linus Liu). "The Masque of the Red Death" (art by Uka Nagao) would probably have been another favorite of mine if it had been in color - the stained glass windows practically begged for it.

All in all, I felt that this did Poe's works a disservice by trying to include too much of the original text - if you're going to adapt something into graphic novel form, you have to be willing to recognize that, at times, it's best to leave out some text and trust the artwork to do the talking.


Full-color cover images for each of the stories, some sketches, and additional information about Poe and a few of the stories.

Monday, April 8, 2024

REVIEW: How I Broke Up With My Colon: Fascinating, Bizarre, and True Health Stories (graphic novel) by Nick Seluk

How I Broke Up With My Colon is a collection of various contributors' medical stories - often experienced firsthand, although occasionally stories they heard from other people - as illustrated by The Awkward Yeti (Nick Seluk).

If you're a fan of horrifying medical stories told in funny ways, I highly recommend reading this. Warning: some of them are very hard to read and can cause secondhand anxiety (or at least they did in me).

The one that made me laugh until I cried: "Pancakes!" I think it was some combination of that poor new nurse having to simultaneously deal with surprising amounts of blood and massive amounts of vomit.

"Epistaxis" gave me flashbacks to my nosebleed from hell incident a few years back. At least I didn't bleed from my eyes, though.

"The Needle" was illustrated in the most anxiety-inducing way and left me feeling absolutely horrified because it could happen to anybody. Yeesh.

The one I didn't believe: "MacGyver Syndrome." I understand that people will do stupid things, but this seemed like the kind of stupid that would cause way more damage, as well as make it difficult (due to the massive amounts of pain) to explain the stupid thing you did to yourself.

REVIEW: Ask Me Anything (book) by Molly E. Lee

Ask Me Anything is a YA romance/social issues book. I bought my copy new.


Amber and Dean are students at an elite but conservative high school. They both love hacking and became friends due to that shared interest, but their friendship never really extended outside of school until an incident at the school's annual "abstinence is best" presentation prompts the principal to order Dean to start "Code Club." Amber ends up being the only person to join, and they spend most meetings practicing their hacking skills with friendly competitions. Then they make a bet that leads to Amber secretly creating an anonymous website called "Ask Me Anything" - she'll thumb her nose at the principal while answering all the sexual health-related student questions that the school refuses to recognize even exist. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

REVIEW: Nyankees (manga, vol. 4) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb D. Cook

Nyankees is a comedy/action manga. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Raiga and Taiga make up, but then Hazuki, the tuxedo cat who riled up Raiga in the past, reappears. Hazuki, on Madara's direction, arranges a trap for all of the cats.

This is one of those WTF volumes. How did Hazuki even open those cat treat tubes? And hey, Sango's back.

The cats take the events of this volume super seriously. The author and any human not. Lol at the woman whose first reaction, upon seeing a Sphinx cat just walking around on the streets, was to take a picture and post it on her social media. Also, she mistook an impending cat battle for a possible impending friendship.

The scene with Mr. Moke was technically pretty dark...until the author briefly interrupted the story to reassure readers that he was, in fact, all right and getting any necessary care.


A couple pages of full-color artwork, and a jam-packed two pages of cats (both feline and human forms) paired with their names, genders, breeds, and gang affiliations.

REVIEW: Nyankees (manga, vol. 3) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb D. Cook

Nyankees is a comedy/action manga series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Three newcomers invade Nekonaki Town, although they don't appear to be working together. There's a Sphinx who creeps out everyone who meets him, a Bengal obsessed with fighting, and a fluffy cat who uses catnip in battle. Taiga's spot as top cat in Nekonaki becomes even more precarious when he faces off against the Bengal, prompting the return of his brother Raiga. Meanwhile, the smoky cat's catnip techniques are super effective.

REVIEW: D&D Dungeon Club: Roll Call (graphic novel) by Molly Knox Ostertag & Xanthe Bouma

D&D Dungeon Club: Roll Call is a graphic novel. I bought my copy new.


Jess (who is half Diné, living alone with her father after her mother left them) has a tough time making friends. She and Olivia, her best (and only) friend, bonded over their mutual love of roleplaying. Jess has created a lone-wolf D&D character named Sir Corius, who goes on solo adventures while Olivia acts as Dungeon Master. 

Jess is happy with the way things are, but Olivia seems intent on shaking things up, going so far as to create a D&D club where anyone could join her and Jess's game. She's also considering running for student council, which would make it tough for her to find the time to continue acting as Jess's DM. Jealousy and hurt feelings abound.

REVIEW: xkcd, Volume 0 (comics collection) by Randall Munroe

xkcd Volume 0 is a collection of comics from the xkcd webcomic, with added notes and doodles. Munroe states upfront that you're not really getting much that you couldn't read for free online - this is definitely intended for xkcd diehards.

It's xkcd, so it's generally at least decent, although I am not smart/nerdy enough to understand a good half of the jokes and references in this volume. Still, there were a few of my favorites, including the kitty graph, and I appreciated the DRM ones (which are, sadly, still applicable).

If you're interested in the history of xkcd and how it got started, Munroe's introduction is worth a read.

REVIEW: The Comeback (book) by Lily Chu

The Comeback is a contemporary romance. I bought my copy new.


Ariadne (Ari) Hui is a lawyer whose primary focus, right now, is making partner at her firm. She works hard, tries to do all the right things, and does her best not to stick out any more than she already does by being visibly Asian. It's not a job that makes her happy, but that doesn't really matter.

Then she comes home one evening to find some random stranger in the apartment she shares with her friend Hana. His name is Choi Jihoon, and it turns out that he's Hana's cousin. He's come from Seoul to Toronto for a few weeks in order to get over a bad breakup - Hana's on a work trip and forgot to mention him. Ari tries to simultaneously be a good hostess and not let him upset her routine and her work. However, he's ridiculously good-looking, and there's a steadily growing attraction between them. Ari finds herself drawn to him and enjoying his company even as she worries he might still be hung up on his ex. Plus, he's leaving soon and she has her career to worry about.

Then Jihoon's secrets blow up in both their faces, and Ari finds herself faced with complications and decisions she never expected. Both Jihoon and Ari have to figure out who they are when they're not doing their jobs, and what they really want enough to fight for.

REVIEW: The Greatest Thing (graphic novel) by Sarah Winifred Searle

The Greatest Thing is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel. I bought my copy new.


In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Winifred is starting her sophomore year of high school alone - her two best friends from freshman year have both transferred to a private school. Luckily, Winifred reconnects with Tilly, a childhood friend of hers who she grew apart from in junior high, and makes a couple new friends, April and Oscar. 

During a sleepover, Winifred, April, and Oscar discover they all have one thing in common: they all secretly hate themselves. They all feel like poor fits for the places in which they've found themselves. April's mom is constantly on her case about the clothes she wears, her father is rude to her friends, and she's struggling with her gender identity and more that she hasn't yet admitted to her friends. Oscar is bisexual, feels like a terrible person because of how things ended with his ex-boyfriend, and is dealing with issues related to his grades and coursework. Winifred, meanwhile, is starting to question her sexuality - she's developing a crush on Oscar, but she also can't stop thinking about a moment when it seemed like Tilly might be interested in her. Unfortunately, Winifred is also dealing with an eating disorder that's gradually getting worse, as well as worries about her weight and how others perceive her.

Winifred discovers that art is a good outlet for her, and she and Oscar, with April's encouragement, produce a comic zine together. 

REVIEW: Manga for Success: Marketing (nonfiction book) by Takashi Yasuda, artwork by Enju Shigematsu

Manga for Success: Marketing is a combination textbook/edutainment-style scenario in manga form. I bought my copy new.


This is now the second entry I've read in the Manga for Success series, which discusses business-related topics with a combination of textbook-ish sections alternating with manga-style scenario sections. Unlike the previous one, this does not say in the introduction that it can be read multiple ways. I thought, at first, that this was an oversight, but now that I've finished it I agree - it's best to just read this one straight through. While the manga-style scenario sections did illustrate concepts discussed in the textbookish section, the manga portions glossed over (or completely skipped) quite a few concepts discussed in the textbook sections. The textbook sections, meanwhile, were packed with enough information that I wouldn't have wanted to read them without the occasional manga scenario interruptions.

This time around, the manga sections starred Marimo, a young woman who's recently been fired from work and dumped by her boyfriend. She goes home to her parents to lick her wounds only to discover that their traditional Japanese confectionery shop, Tamaya, isn't doing very well - almost all of its few customers are elderly regulars. One night, Marimo is approached by two "emissaries from the marketing circle of heaven" (33), Logi and Emo. In order to be allowed back into heaven, they must "save someone's life with the power of marketing" (34). (Direct quotes used, in case you think I'm exaggerating. This gets a bit dramatic.) They help her figure out how to use marketing concepts to get Tamaya new customers without losing their regulars.

Monday, April 1, 2024

REVIEW: You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It's Making the World a Weirder Place (nonfiction book) by Janelle Shane

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You is nonfiction on artificial intelligence. I bought my copy new.


This came out in 2019, after OpenAI released GPT-2 but well before ChatGPT's release. While I'd love to read an updated work by Shane (no amount of checking has made it poof into existence, alas), as far as I could tell this was still a really useful introduction to how artificial intelligence works and what its strengths and weakness are. Shane lays out what AI is and isn't, how it learns, the various ways it can run into trouble, the instances of disconnect between what humans ask AI to do and what it actually does, and more. 

I first became aware of this work after stumbling on some of Shane's hilarious machine learning blog posts on Twitter (way back when Twitter was Twitter). In fact, the title of this book comes from one such post on AI-generated pickup lines. Still, it sat on my TBR pile for years until ChatGPT came out and became a hot enough topic in academia to be mentioned several times during a Q&A session with a library job candidate.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

REVIEW: Carrie (book) by Stephen King

Carrie is horror. I checked my copy out from the library.


Sixteen-year-old Carrie White gets her first period while in the girls' showers at her high school. Her classmates, particularly Christine Hargensen, are cruel about it, making fun of her and pelting her with tampons. Carrie, whose ultra-religious mother never told her about menstruation, thinks she's dying. The whole thing is understandably traumatic for her, and unfortunately it only gets worse. 

King alternates between sections from various characters' viewpoints as the events are occurring and sections from works discussing the "Carrie White" incident after the fact. Readers are aware, well in advance, that Carrie has telekinetic powers that are awakened and significantly boosted after her first period, that things will go badly for her, and that she'll end up killing a lot of people.

REVIEW: Manga for Success: The Psychology of Personal Growth & Better Relationships (nonfiction book) by Toshinori Iwai, scenarios by Hirofumi Hoshi, illustrated by Aki Fukamori

Manga for Success: The Psychology of Personal Growth & Better Relationships is nonfiction combined with fictional manga sections that illustrate the concepts discussed in more depth in the text. I bought my copy new.


Each book in the "Manga for Success" series alternates between textbookish sections and fictional "scenario" section in manga format. In this volume, Yukari is the area manager of a popular bakery chain. She's constantly frustrated by issues at her stores, and her efforts to deal with them just result in her employees becoming equally as frustrated with and angry at her. While cleaning up a warehouse, she discovers a photograph of psychologist Alfred Adler and his wife. Suddenly, the ghost of Alfred Adler appears. In order to thank Yukari for finding the picture, he decides to teach her about Adlerian psychology so that she can gain a forward-thinking perspective, change her life, and improve her relationships with others.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

REVIEW: Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, Vol. 1 (graphic novel) written by CRC Payne, inks by Starbite

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures is a slice-of-life story about Bruce Wayne and his found family (Alfred, the various former Robins, etc.). I bought my copy of this volume new.


It's the daily life of Bruce Wayne and his various "children" (Duke Thomas, Damian Wayne, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, and others I'm forgetting).

My slice-of-life loving heart absolutely adored this. It was fluffy, sweet, and funny. I'm sure there are those who hate that an entire series is devoted to showing the softer side of Gotham's various vigilantes, but I personally loved it and wanted more.

Bruce was the "workaholic but wants to be better" dad. I haven't kept up with DC comics well enough to know most of the other characters, but we got a decent amount of context and information for everyone that I didn't feel lost. 

So good. I wasn't expecting to love this as much as I did.


Character designs by Maria Li, some "process" art, and a multi-page guide telling readers what to try next depending on their favorite Wayne family member and the kind of story they're in the mood for. There's also a brief excerpt from Vixen: NYC Volume 1.

REVIEW: The Impossible Princess (book) by Keira Dominguez

The Impossible Princess is a royal romance set in the fictional country of Sondmark. It's the first in a series. I bought my copy new.


Princess Clara is the youngest of the Queen of Sondmark's children, and she's desperate to get her mother to trust her with real work, something more worthwhile than the minor events with pre-written speeches that are all she's currently allowed to do. Unfortunately, while she was away at college in the United States, she assumed she had a little more freedom to behave as she wished and ended up with the nickname "Party Princess." In order to get past that, she knows she has to behave perfectly.

Which doesn't mean she can't nurse a little crush on Lieutenant Commander Max Andersen of Her Majesty's Royal Navy. When an accident lands the two of them in the tabloids, Clara knows she should do her best to put distance between the two of them, but she can't resist the chance to get to know him a little better. They agree to just be friends, but can they keep to that agreement as the attraction between the two of them grows?

Monday, March 18, 2024

REVIEW: My Androgynous Boyfriend (manga, vol. 3) by Tamekou, translated by Jocelyne Allen

My Androgynous Boyfriend is a slice-of-life manga with romantic and humorous elements. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Kira (Meguru's model friend from volume 1) invites Meguru and Sasame to his house and gets kind of jealous when Meguru spends a lot of time talking to Sasame. After that, Meguru has to learn to sing and gets paired with a voice coach who wants to be an otokoyaku (actresses who play male roles). One of Wako's mangakas gets hooked on Unicorn Boys (the name of Meguru and Sasame's duo) and wants to draw them, which of course pleases Wako. There are also some couple-y chapters featuring Meguru and Wako - the two of them decluttering their home, working from home together, buying a fridge together, as well as a flashback to Meguru and Wako's earliest days as a couple.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

REVIEW: Mister Hockey (book) by Lia Riley

Mister Hockey is a contemporary sports romance. I bought my copy new.


Breezy Angel is a children's librarian and huge fan of hockey in general and Jed West, captain of the Hellions, in particular. Jed ends up agreeing to fill in at a library event in his coach's place and saves Breezy from being publicly humiliated by a wardrobe malfunction. The two of them start seeing more of each other and soon become a couple, but they're both hiding things. In an effort not to be creepy, Breezy hides all of her Jed West memorabilia and allows him to think she's the only one in her family not wildly into hockey. He, meanwhile, has increasing concerns about his health and the potential impact on his hockey career.

REVIEW: The Fake Mate (book) by Lana Ferguson

The Fake Mate is a blend of paranormal and contemporary romance. I bought my copy new.


In the world of this book, wolf shifters exist alongside humans and are generally accepted, although there are some stereotypes about alpha and omega wolves. Mackenzie is an omega wolf shifter who's tired of being set up on bad dates by her well-meaning grandmother. In order to get her grandmother off her back, she makes up a fake boyfriend and finds herself instantly backed into a corner when she's asked for a name and the only one she can think of is Noah Taylor, aka a wolf shifter and the grumpiest cardiologist at Mackenzie's hospital. Mackenzie asks Noah for help making the lie more believable and ends up agreeing to be his fake mate - he's just been outed as an alpha and must somehow combat stereotypes about violent unmated alphas in order to keep his job.

REVIEW: Tender Is the Flesh (book) by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses

Tender Is the Flesh could be considered a blend of horror and speculative fiction. I bought my copy brand new.


Marcos is the son of a butcher whose primary focus, right now, is ensuring that his father, who has dementia, gets the care he needs and is respectfully cremated after his death. In this new world, where an infectious virus has supposedly made all animal meat and products poisonous to humans, it's not an easy goal. Meat for human consumption is supposed to come from genetically modified head, bred to age faster, or from First Generation Pure (FGP) head. Special meat isn't supposed to have a name, but it's not unheard of for deceased people to end up sold on the black market, and Marcos wants to make sure that never happens to his father.

We're given detailed descriptions of what Marcos' job at a meat processing plant is like, as he talks to tanners, breeders, and others his company works with, and gives potential new hires a tour of his plant. He can barely stomach this work anymore, to the point that he secretly stops eating meat altogether, and it nearly pushes him over the edge when a client gifts him an FGP female.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

REVIEW: My Androgynous Boyfriend (manga, vol. 2) by Tamekou, translated by Jocelyne Allen

My Androgynous Boyfriend is a slice-of-life manga. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Meguru visits Wako's parents' home (they love him). Wako tries to convince Meguru to apply to be a Log House resident (something like the show Terrace House?) in order to get an even bigger fanbase. Then Meguru agrees to debut as an androgynous boy duo with equally cute Sasame. There's also a brief flashback to Wako and Meguru's high school days - he thought they were dating while she thought they were just going on a series of photo shoots.

REVIEW: Loading Penguin Hugs: Heartwarming Comics from Chibird (graphic novel) by Jacqueline Chen

Loading Penguin Hugs is a Chibird comics collection featuring comics you may be familiar with from reposts on your social media feeds.

Not much to say about this one - the comics work better as random online encouragement than as a "read in one sitting" thing. Still, the art is cute and the messages are good.

The volume is indexed according to the type of encouragement the comics provide (self-esteem, motivation, working hard, etc.), which I thought was both unusual and nice. 


A couple pages of cute stickers, 18 designs in all. The pages aren't perforated, so you can't easily remove them.

REVIEW: A Story of Seven Lives: The Complete Manga Collection (manga) by Shirakawa Gin, translated by Alexa Frank

The Story of Seven Lives is a blend of drama and some fantasy elements. I bought my copy of this omnibus volume new.


Nanao used to be a house cat, but he's now yet another abandoned stray cat. He spends his days alongside his best friend Machi, a fellow stray, trying to survive just like all of the other strays in their neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, Yoshino, who for some reason has an aversion to cats, runs the Narita Bathhouse with help from her younger brother. The neighborhood the bathhouse is in is known for its feral cat population, which creates some cute moments for tourists to photograph but has negative aspects as well. In the interests of reducing the local feral cat population, people are now forbidden from feeding them unless they're on the neighborhood cat feeding schedule, which all the local shops are part of. To her shock, Yoshino is first up on the schedule, which requires her to face her feelings about cats and her memories of and grief over her husband, who died in an accident shortly after they were married.

This manga is a combination of several things: a "keep your cats inside" PSA, a story about a widow overcoming her grief over the death of her husband and learning to love the cats he loved, and a story about cats dealing with feline politics and trying to figure out how and whether to trust humans.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 5) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a YA high school romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


In this volume, Charlie and Nick are having to confront upcoming changes in their lives. Nick is considering university options and the possibility of a long distance relationship with Charlie. Charlie is still working on his body image issues and his eating disorder, although he's doing much better. As he adjusts to the idea of school life without Nick around everyday, he also finds himself thinking about his and Nick's relationship. He thinks he's ready to take things to the next level, but is Nick?

REVIEW: Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (graphic novel) written by Matt Fraction, art by David Aja (#1-3) and Javier Pulido (#4-5)

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon is a Marvel comics collection. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon collects Hawkeye (2012) #1-5 and Young Avengers Presents (2008) #6.

In this volume, Hawkeye deals with a rent increase, steals from thieves who steal from thieves, and has to do some work to get an incriminating tape back. There's also a flashback to Kate Bishop as Hawkeye trying to prove herself to the real Hawkeye.

I used to read a lot of Mavel and DC comics, but that was decades ago. I haven't even been keeping up with the Marvel movies very well. I don't think I've ever read or watched anything with Kate Bishop in it. Basically, I'm probably not the best person to be reviewing this. That said, I think I picked this up because I read somewhere that that Matt Fraction's writing was good and that this was a decent starting place for Hawkeye comics newbies mostly familiar with the Marvel movie universe.

REVIEW: The Lightning Thief (book) by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief is the first book in Riordan's Middle Grade fantasy series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD attending a school for at-risk students in New York. Percy's first major clue that something weird is going on happens during a school trip, when one of his teachers turns into some kind of monster, attacks him, and he defends himself with a sword that, seconds before, was a pen belonging to another one of his teachers.

When school wraps up, he goes home and thinks he's about to go on a much-needed trip with his mom when he's attacked yet again and barely makes it to the safety of Camp Half-Blood. There, Percy learns that he's a demigod - his father is one of the Greek gods. As Percy learns more about himself and his abilities, he gets caught up in a conflict between Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades and must somehow find and return Zeus's missing master bolt.

REVIEW: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) (nonfiction) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) is nonfiction written by freelance journalist Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This book is about Grafton, NH, the Free Town Project (a libertarian plan to take over an American town and eliminate its government), and New Hamphire's bears.

I believe this book got on my radar via Obsidian's review. In a way that occasionally feels a bit roundabout, Hongoltz-Hetling writes about Grafton, NH's beginnings, how it contained the seeds that allowed the Free Town Project to take root, and how that then exacerbated and exposed Grafton's various issues.

REVIEW: Everything Is Fine (graphic novel, vol. 2) by Mike Birchall

Everything Is Fine is a horror (dystopian?) graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


After the events of volume 1, Maggie has to convince Sam to calm down and then the two of them have to cover up a murder. Luckily, the next door neighbors who ratted Maggie out in the first place, Bob and Linda, are conveniently right there.

I still don't really know what's going on, but I'm pretty thoroughly hooked now. Sam and Maggie's murder coverup probably shouldn't have worked, except this world seems to be operating according to a screwed up set of rules that requires everyone to act a certain way, and Sam and Maggie took advantage of that.

One new thing we know now: whatever is going on, it seems to involve everyone's kids. I thought the kids were all dead, like Poor Winston, but from the sounds of things they're maybe being used as hostages to force the adults to stick to certain types of behavior.


I don't know if this counts as an extra or if it was just the introduction of a new character, but there was a brief sidestory at the end involving a guy whose house is apparently trapped in some kind of bubble. He generally hides inside and leaves his cat, Oscar, to do most of his interacting with the outside world.

Definitely an extra, though: a redone version of a certain scene from volume 2 in which everyone has been given "real" cat heads instead of cartoonish cat heads. There are also a variety of reference illustrations.

Now I'm of wondering if this series' villains are, in fact, actual cats.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

REVIEW: How to Survive Your Murder (book) by Danielle Valentine

How to Survive Your Murder is a YA thriller. I bought my copy new.


Alice's sister Claire was murdered on Halloween, and Alice saw it happen. A year later, she's about to take the stand as a witness in the trial of Claire's killer when she meets a girl who looks exactly like Scream's Sidney Prescott. NotSidney says she's an angel and sends Alice back in time to go after her sister in the cornfield maze where she was murdered, so that she can finally learn the truth about what really happened that night.

This has loads of horror movie references and yet is conspicuously missing any mention of Happy Death Day, a movie with a similar premise. Anyway, this was an impulse purchase that I expected would be mediocre at best. I did not predict how angry it would end up making me.

REVIEW: Deal with the Elf King (book) by Elise Kova

Deal with the Elf King is fantasy romance. I bought my copy new.


Luella has devoted her whole life to becoming her village's healer, until Eldas, the Elf King, arrives and she learns that she's the Human Queen, our world's payment for peace with the elves. Now, with none of the preparation that Human Queens usually receive, Luella must go with Eldas to his lands, which need her life force in order to live and bloom. Her only hope of freedom and returning to her family and village is to find a way to end the cycle of the Human Queens before it's too late.

A couple things attracted me to this book: the gorgeous cover art (Eldas looks very much like Hades in Linda Sejic's Punderworld) and a line I read somewhere in an ad or a review that said this had elements of the Hades and Persephone myth. "Elements of" is definitely more appropriate than saying this is an adaptation of the myth - the only thing the two really have in common is that Eldas, whose powers are linked to death, is essentially king of a dead land (Hades-like) and that Luella's powers are linked to life and growing things (Persephone-like). The seasons in Eldas' land are dependent upon Luella's presence or absence.

REVIEW: Everything Is Fine (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Mike Birchall

Everything Is Fine is a dystopian graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This is the story of a couple living in an ordinary suburban neighborhood. Everyone wears cute animal masks on their heads, but somehow this is ordinary as well. Everything is fine, even though it clearly isn't - everyone's being constantly monitored, "freedom" can only be attained if you sell out your neighbors, and Winston the dog has been dead for a while.

I was hesitant to try this because the art wasn't really to my taste. It's simple and bland, and if you just flip through the volume you might think that people's animal heads are their actual faces, so all facial expressions are uniformly happy and cute in a stale sort of way. It works very well for the story, though, so I'm glad I gave this a shot.

REVIEW: The Stand-In (book) by Lily Chu

The Stand-In is contemporary romance. I bought my copy new.


Gracie is trying to get her mother, who has Alzheimer's, into a better nursing home, but the one she wants for her is more expensive and has a huge waiting list. Gracie's job is a nightmare - she's being subtly harassed by her boss but doesn't feel she can do anything about it because 1) no evidence and 2) she really needs the money. Then she receives a nerve-wracking offer she can't really refuse: get paid handsomely to act as the double of famous Chinese actress Wei Fangli. This puts Gracie in frequent contact with Fangli's best friend, the gorgeous and equally famous actor Sam Yao, who disapproves of this plan but will do whatever is necessary to help Fangli.

REVIEW: Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, Vol. 2: The Silver Sugar Master and the Blue Duke (book) by Miri Mikawa, illustrations by Aki, translated by Nicole Wilder

Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is Japanese fantasy with romantic elements. I bought my copy of this volume new.


Anne is in a bind. She won't survive the winter if she can't save up a decent amount of money right now, but since she didn't attain the status of Silver Sugar Master, it's difficult for her to get many clients or ensure that she's paid what her work is worth. She's barely managing to scrape by, so she's immediately intrigued by news that a duke is offering 1000 cress to any candy crafter, not just Silver Sugar Masters, who can make what he wants. But what if what he wants is impossible?

Saturday, February 24, 2024

REVIEW: The Japanese Yokai Handbook: A Guide to the Spookiest Ghosts, Demons, Monsters and Evil Creatures from Japanese Folklore (nonfiction book) by Masami Kinoshita

The Japanese Yokai Handbook is a guide to various Japanese supernatural beings. Most entries consist of only one page, which has a trading card-style image on it with a rarity level, ratings for scariness, danger, immortality, speed, and intelligence, a couple paragraphs of information, and some brief info, if known, about the yokai's origins, size, place it can be found, and general characteristics. Each chapter focuses on a general type of yokai (scary, mysterious, powerful, weird, cute, simple, sad, kind, evil, and stupid). In between chapters, the author answers some basic questions about yokai and gives brief overviews of locations known for particular yokai.

Either this mostly covered yokai I've never heard of, or the author's depictions were so different from what I've seen in manga or anime that I didn't recognize them. Unfortunately, most of the information was so brief that I didn't feel like I learned very much, although some of the yokai covered were definitely intriguing. There was one modern yokai (first mentioned on internet forums in the 21st century), Kunekune, although its information was just as brief as all the rest.

One of my biggest issues with this book was that it was riddled with typos - misspellings, grammatical errors, and even partial sentences. Pages 34-35 had a particularly confusing example. Page 34 ends at the end of the last sentence of its sole paragraph. Page 35 begins with the last two words of a sentence that doesn't exist on page 34. 

This is definitely written for younger audiences (one of the questions the author addresses is "There are scary stories of ghosts at school. Are those yokai?"), but they might be even more frustrated and confused with the errors in the text than I was.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

REVIEW: City Under One Roof (book) by Iris Yamashita

City Under One Roof is a mystery. I bought my copy new.


When a couple body parts are found near Point Mettier, Alaska, Cara Kennedy is hopeful that there might be some connection to the disappearance and death of her husband and young son. She arrives at the town just before a terrible snowstorm cuts it off from everything - although, truth be told, it's a fairly isolated place even at the best of times. You can only get there via a tunnel so narrow it only allows one-way access (the direction changes on a schedule, when the weather permits it), and everyone lives in one enormous building. It's the kind of environment where everyone knows everyone's business, and outsiders are kept at an arm's length.

You don't willingly live in a place like this without good reason, and most of the residents have big secrets in their pasts. Did one of them commit murder in order to keep their secrets hidden? And, if so, what's the connection to the murder of Cara's husband and son?

REVIEW: Unordinary (graphic novel, vol. 1) by uru-chan

Unordinary is an SFF graphic novel series originally published on Webtoon. I bought my copy of this volume new.


John is a Zero, the only person without superpowers at his school. He spends his days trying to avoid bullies, and his only friend is Sera, an extremely powerful girl who used to be at the top of the school's food chain but who, for some reason, completely quit caring about being the best at everything after an encounter with John. When John isn't able to avoid his bullies, Sera is usually able to step in and either help or deescalate things. Unfortunately, the two of them are separated when it's discovered that Sera has a copy of Unordinary, a banned book about a person with superpowers in a world of Zeroes who uses his superpowers to defend those weaker than him. 

Their separation puts a huge strain on John, who no longer has anyone around to watch his back. As he tries to deal with bullies determined to beat him to a pulp, cracks start to appear in his facade. What he doesn't realize is that one of his classmates, Arlo, has begun to suspect that he isn't who he says he is.

REVIEW: Disquiet (novella) by Julia Leigh

I've seen Disquiet labeled as gothic fiction. I'd call it an understated domestic drama, if you can consider a woman literally carting her baby's corpse around everywhere "understated." I checked my copy out from the library.


Olivia married her husband and left her family against her mother's wishes. Now, more than a decade later, she's back with a broken arm and two children in tow. Unfortunately, it's not exactly the best time to be coming back to the family. Olivia's brother Marcus and his wife Sophie arrive home shortly after Olivia does, but not with the happy, healthy baby they expected. Sophie isn't handling her stillborn baby well, and for some reason the doctors thought it was a good idea to let her take the baby's corpse home with her. The idea is that she'll get some time with it before the funeral, at which point it will be buried and life will go on. Sure.

I don't understand what I was supposed to get out of this, besides the fact that no one in this family could properly communicate with each other. I'd have cheered at the ending, except that everything that happened then should have happened way earlier. Preferably before the baby's corpse started decomposing.

Overall, this was a frustrating and weird read about people who generally made my skin crawl, and not in an entertaining or even terribly interesting way.

REVIEW: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (book) by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is YA mystery. I bought my copy new.


Five years ago, pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell disappeared. A short while later, his alibi in tatters, Sal Singh, her boyfriend, confessed to killing her and then killed himself. Although it was never proven in a court of law, everyone in town accepted that Sal was the murderer.

Everyone except Pip. Now that she's a high school senior herself, Pip plans to use her senior capstone project to investigate the truth behind Andie's disappearance and apparent murder. The Sal she knew was a nice guy - she's never been able to accept that he might have killed his girlfriend, and it's always bothered her that the entire town so readily accepted this narrative. She convinces Ravi, Sal's brother, to help her, and the two of them begin picking at the various threads of the original investigation, trying to find things that the police missed. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

REVIEW: Cells at Work! Baby (manga, vol. 4) by Yasuhiro Fukuda, based on Cells at Work! by Akane Shimizu, translated by Dean Leininger

Cells at Work! Baby is an edutainment manga. I bought my copy of this volume new.


It's the final volume of Cells at Work! Baby, which means it's time for the moment readers of this series likely saw coming since F's informational box changed in volume 2, or possibly even as early as volume 1 and the start of pulmonary circulation. But first, we have food allergies.

Although it's not that funny from the outside (I have a niece who has had eczema due to food allergies pretty much her entire life), I got a kick out of watching the regulatory T cell try to get everyone's attention as they were freaking out over the apparent invasion of a bunch of monster chickens.

The rest of the volume, dealing with RBC and F's relationship (more entertainment than education, here) and F's disappearance, was surprisingly emotional even though I was expecting it for a while. Yes, the edutainment manga made me tear up a bit.

I still need to complete all of the original Cells at Work!, but I felt that this spinoff found the perfect place to end things. Overall, I really enjoyed Cells at Work! Baby.


A short interview with Dr. Shirai, the medical advisor for the Japanese editions of volumes 3 and 4.

REVIEW: Cells at Work! Baby (manga, vol. 3) by Yasuhiro Fukuda, based on Cells at Work! by Akane Shimizu, translated by Dean Leininger

Cells at Work! Baby is an edutainment manga. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This volume covers the reabsorption of primary urine in the kidneys, diaper rash (injury + platelet involvement and immune system response), IgG from mom no longer functioning and then disappearing (baby begins making its own), first baby food, and some flashback stories to when F first met Red Blood Cell (RBC).

As usual, there is advice for parents in the informational boxes. I continued to get a chuckle out of the baby's cells wondering about the mysterious being (parents!) who must be watching out for the body they're in, since there are times that things turn out okay when there's very little the cells can do for the body they're in themselves.

The body all these cells are in is growing up, and we're seeing it in how the cells function. Everyone is learning to do their jobs better and more efficiently. The help provided by the mother's cells (IgG delivered to the fetus via the placenta) is starting to fade away, but it's okay, because everyone's been preparing for this time without realizing it.

I love the "nice lady from the placenta" character and how she's basically a mom stand-in. Yeah, there are elements to anthropomorphized cells that are kind of weird, but I have to admit that my heart squeezed a little when F and Nice Lady did an "in the air pinky swear" (because the mom's blood and baby's blood can't mix).

REVIEW: Cells at Work! Baby (manga, vol. 2) by Yasuhiro Fukuda, based on Cells at Work! by Akane Shimizu, translated by Dean Leininger

Cells at Work! Baby is an edutainment manga. I bought my copy of this volume new.


In this volume the baby deals with its first bump, gets its first vaccination, gets the RS virus, has constipation, and almost suffocates, presumably in its crib. We meet Killer T Cell, some rectal muscle cells, and Red Blood Cell (RBC) gets into a fight with F.

Once again, I don't know enough to say how accurate the information is or how good the advice for parents is.

Platelets are in this volume, and they're even tinier than they were in the original series. 

The author comments on this themselves, but wow, there are a lot of terrified immune cells in this series. White Blood Cell was a dedicated and frightening killer in the original Cells at Work! - here, White Blood Cell does his job while constantly terrified he's going to die. Killer T Cell acts like a big shot when in reality he doesn't 100% know what he's doing and worries that this will be obvious if he's ordered to do something.

The weirdest part of the volume was the section devoted to constipation, which includes RBC drooling in happiness at witnessing stools (represented as a pile of garbage bags) get expelled and several of the cells talking about how good it feels when feces are expelled.

REVIEW: Cells at Work! Baby (manga, vol. 1) by Yasuhiro Fukuda, based on Cells at Work! by Akane Shimizu, translated by Dean Leininger

Cells at Work! Baby is an edutainment manga. I bought my copy new.


As with the original Cells at Work! series, this stars anthropomorphized cells. This time we're inside the body of a baby. The volume begins shortly before its birth - its red blood cells receive oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. The main protagonist is a regular red blood cell (we'll call her RBC). A red blood cell bearing hemoglobin-f (called F from here on out) watches out for RBC - while the fetus is still in the womb, F is better at carrying oxygen, and he's presented as RBC's older, more competent brother/coworker. One of the mother's cells is represented by a nice lady wearing gloves and a mask, who only interacts with the fetus's cells via the placenta and never touches them.

After the baby's birth, we get the start of pulmonary circulation, baby's first meal (breast milk), and baby's first risk of infection.

REVIEW: Goodbye, Eri (manga) by Tatsuki Fujimoto, translated by Amanda Haley

Goodbye, Eri is a one-shot manga by the creator of Chainsaw Man. The genre? Well, I'd say that's up to the reader to decide.

I bought my copy of this volume new.


On his twelfth birthday, Yuta is given a smartphone. His mother's request is that he film her as much as he can - she's dying of some sort of illness, and the video recordings will give him a way to see her again. We see a bunch of snippets of his video - his parents end up gifting him a computer as well, as his smartphone runs out of room for all that footage - but then his mother has one final request: she wants Yuta to film her until her dying breath. It's a request that Yuta can't/won't fulfill, and his decisions afterward result in him being ostracized by most of his classmates. Except one - Eri is fascinated with Yuta's documentary of his mother and becomes determined to help him make an even better movie that, rather than provoking everyone's disgust and/or outrage, will bring everyone to tears. 

REVIEW: Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (autobiographical graphic novel) by Kate Beaton

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is an autobiographical graphic novel about the period in Kate Beaton's life when she was working to get her student loans paid off. I bought my copy of this volume new.


This volume starts when Kate Beaton is 21. She's just graduated from university and has student loans to pay off. She's from Cape Breton, an area of Canada without a lot in the way of jobs. Faced with student loans and a family that isn't well off enough to give her a safety net, Beaton opts to do what so many around her have done and get a job in the oil sands. She figures she'll work there for a few years, pay off her student loans, and then get a (less well paying) job she genuinely loves using her degree.

REVIEW: Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, Vol. 1: The Silver Sugar Master and the Obsidian Fairy (book) by Miri Mikawa, illustrations by Aki, translated by Nicole Wilder

Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is a fantasy (fantasy romance?) Japanese light novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Anne Halford is the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Silver Sugar Master - her mother, who died less than a month ago. Silver Sugar Masters are people who can craft beautiful, intricate candies out of silver sugar refined from sugar apples. It's believed that, once upon a time, fairies ate silver sugar candy to extend their lifespans. It doesn't work that way for humans, but a human who consumes expertly crafted silver sugar candy often finds that they become luckier.

The only way to become a Silver Sugar Master is to compete at the annual Royal Candy Fair. Anne is determined to participate and win, but in order to get there on time she'll have to take a dangerous route. She'll need help, so despite a lifetime of her mother's teachings that fairies should be treated as equals, Anne is going to buy herself the services of a warrior fairy as a bodyguard.

The fairy she finds is Challe Fenn Challe. As is the case with all enslaved fairies, when he was captured, one of his wings was removed. Anne can technically control him with this wing, although she'd much prefer that he help her willingly. Joining Anne and Challe are Jonas, his fairy Cathy, and Mithril Lid Pod, a fairy who feels indebted to Anne.

REVIEW: Emotions Explained with Buff Dudes (graphic novel) by Andrew Tsyaston

Emotions Explained with Buff Dudes is an Owlturd Comix collection. I've seen a good portion of the comics in this collection online already, but this volume still made me laugh a lot. It's a combination, I think, of the relatability of the topics, the fantastic facial expressions, and the subversion of various cliched inspirational messages.

REVIEW: Unbound by Shadows (book) by Avalon Griffin

Unbound by Shadows is a fantasy romance. I bought my copy new.


Selene has spent her whole life acting as the peacemaker for those in her life - watching out for her younger siblings when their workaholic father was gone and their mother was drunk, bending over backwards to help her boyfriend with his music career, etc. With her boyfriend having just proposed that they take a "break" from each other while he goes on tour, Selene thinks she'll have a relaxing weekend to herself. That's interrupted by her sister, Cass, deciding that they needed to go on a sudden roadtrip to Rubgy, Tennessee. Selene, as usual, is unable to say no. The trip turns into more than she bargained for when she's suddenly transported to another world, Aurelia.

She's told that the only way she'll be able to go home is if she and a demon bodyguard, Samael, visit a vampire named Zaybris, and ask him for the magical stone he has that's capable of transporting her back home (Zaybris owes Thema, the queen who found Selene, a favor). What Thema doesn't tell Selene is that this plan is actually intended to help Thema find her missing sister, Queen Lilith of the Goblyns. Samael's plan is to use the stone to get himself back to the Underworld, the home he was taken from as a child. However things turn out for Thema and Samael, there are no plans to get Selene back to her own world.

As Selene and Samael travel together, they find themselves drawn to each other, and Samael realizes that Selene is his mate. But what about his plans to go back to the Underworld, a place humans only enter after they die? And what will Selene do when she finds out the truth behind Thema and Samael's plans?

Monday, January 1, 2024

REVIEW: System Collapse (book) by Martha Wells

System Collapse is science fiction, part of Wells' Murderbot Diaries series. I bought my copy new.


This takes place immediately following the events in Network Effect - as others have said, I highly recommend reading or rereading Network Effect just before digging into this book, because there's a lot that probably won't make sense otherwise. In a way, System Collapse feels like bonus content for Network Effect.

Murderbot, ART's crew, and the Preservation humans are still on the planet and having to deal with occasional "alien contamination" complications, but everyone's biggest concern is making sure that the colonists have the knowledge and opportunity to decide for themselves what their next steps are. This means somehow keeping the Barish-Estranza folks from convincing them to sign their rights away and become indentured slaves.