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.