Sunday, March 18, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 2) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a short fantasy series with a few historical elements due to the whole reincarnation thing. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.


Katsuhiko Satomi has arrived at Yukari's house in order to take over the housekeeping duties while his aunt is waiting for her back to heal. Yukari immediately notices that he seems familiar and figures that he knew him in his past life. But who was he? Takamura, the man who may have killed Yumurasaki? Or perhaps someone else?

The question continues to plague Yukari as he is once again transported into the past. This time around, he witnesses new sides to Takamura and Kazuma that make him wonder about everything he's assumed so far. Meanwhile, Satomi and Mahoro struggle against their past selves, who hate each other intensely.

REVIEW: Kakegurui (anime TV series)

This review includes slight spoilers.

Kakegurui is one of those series set at a school designed to be its own little world with its own special set of rules. In this case, that world is focused on gambling.

The school is a private academy whose students all come from rich and privileged families - the children of politicians and businessmen. In their world, valuable skills include knowing when to take risks and being able to tell when your opponent is bluffing. The school has a system where you can gain power through gambling - but if you fail, you can also lose power and essentially become everyone else's slave.

Ryota is one of those failures. He ends up owing a lot of money to Mary, another student, which means he's now basically her pet. He's considering transferring to another school when a new student arrives and shakes everything up. Yumeko is something many of the school's students have never faced before: a compulsive gambler who doesn't really care if she wins or loses, as long as she gets to experience the thrill of taking risks.

REVIEW: The Fold (audiobook) by Peter Clines, narrated by Ray Porter

The Fold is a sci-fi mystery. I bought my copy via Audible.


Mike is a small town English teacher who would prefer to stay a small town English teacher forever. However, an old friend of his has finally found a project that intrigues him enough that he's finally willing to use the abilities he's locked away as much as possible.

Mike is sent to learn as much as he can about the Albuquerque Door project and report his findings back to his friend Reggie, so that an informed decision can be made about whether to renew the project's budget. Mike, with his high IQ and eidetic memory, is uniquely qualified to do this job - he can get up to speed faster than anybody else Reggie might have on staff. And one of the things Mike quickly figures out is that the Albuquerque Door folks are hiding something from him. The Door does exactly what it's supposed to do, allowing people to travel a great distance in just a single step, and the hundreds of tests that have been performed have all gone perfectly. So why is everyone so secretive and so adamant that more tests need to be run?

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand (book, vol. 1) by Makoto Inoue, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Rich Amtower

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand is the first of a series of Fullmetal Alchemist light novels. I bought a used copy a while back.


This volume is composed of two stories. The primary one is "The Land of Sand." The shorter bonus story is "The Phantom of Warehouse 13." Both of these stories were adapted into episodes in the original anime series.

"The Land of Sand":

Edward and Alphonse arrive at the dying former gold mining town of Xenotime and are shocked to learn that two boys who say their names are Edward and Alphonse Elric have been living in Xenotime for a while, researching how to make a Philosopher's Stone in order to revitalize the town. Who are these imposters, and how close are they to finishing their research?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

REVIEW: Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 3) by Haruko Ichikawa, translation by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Land of the Lustrous is SFF manga. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.


In this volume we get a bit more world-building and a new character. Winter is starting, which means less sunlight and therefore less energy for most of the Lustrous. While almost all of them go into hibernation, Kongo-sensei and Antarcticite become everyone's guardians. Antarcticite spends most of the year in a liquid form, but every winter they solidify and gradually grow stronger as temperatures get colder.

Phos is usually the first of the Lustrous to begin hibernation and the last to wake up, but this time around they can't seem to stay asleep, a possible side effect of their new legs. Kongo-sensei assigns Phos to Antarcticite as their new partner. Phos isn't sure they're up to the task, especially after the disastrous incident with the Amethyst twins, and then there's the issue of the talking ice floes that prey on Phos's anxieties.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVIEW: Dragon Sword and Wind Child (book) by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano, illustrations by Miho Satake

Dragon Sword and Wind Child is Japanese fantasy.


Fifteen-year-old Saya is the only survivor of an attack by the army of the God of Light on her village when she was a child. Although she occasionally dreams about the attack, she now lives with her adoptive parents in the village of Hashiba, which has accepted the God of Light and his immortal children, Princess Teruhi and Prince Tsukishiro. Saya has no memories of her birth parents and loves the Light just as much as any other person in Hashiba, so it's a shock when several strangers arrive and tell her that she's a princess of the Children of the Dark. Unlike the immortal Children of the God of Light, the Children of the Goddess of Darkness can die and then be reincarnated, and Saya is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden. Before she has a chance to truly process this, Prince Tsukishiro arrives and takes a sudden interest in her.

Saya is faced with several choices: she can become one of the prince's handmaidens and eventually his bride, knowing that he doesn't really love her; she can kill herself like the Water Maidens before her; or she can somehow find a way to escape. She chooses the third option and discovers both the Dragon Sword, a weapon so powerful it can kill gods, and Chihaya, a Child of the God of Light who is seen as a failure by his siblings because he has always been drawn to the Darkness.

REVIEW: A Princess in Theory (book) by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory is contemporary romance.


Naledi (Ledi) Smith has been on her own for most of her life, bounced around in foster care after her parents were killed in a car crash. Now she's a grad student with multiple jobs and a supposedly upcoming epidemiology internship that she still hasn't been contacted about. The spam emails she keeps getting that say she's betrothed to a Prince Thabiso from some country called Thesolo do not amuse her.

As it turns out, the emails aren't spam. Prince Thabiso has been looking for his betrothed for years. He hopes to find her and either bring her back to Thesolo or finally convince himself that they aren't soulmates the way he'd been told as a child they were. His assistant, Likotsi, tracks her down, but their first meeting doesn't go anything like Thabiso expected it would. Ledi mistakes him for a new waiter named Jamal, and rather than clear up the misunderstanding, Thabiso decides to just go with it. He'll get to see how Ledi behaves around him when she's unaware that he's royalty, and being a waiter can't be that hard, right? (Ha!)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

REVIEW: The Master Key (book) by Masako Togawa, translated by Simon Grove

The Master Key could be called a psychological story, or crime fiction. It's a Japanese novel in translation. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


This is set in Tokyo, at the K Apartments for Ladies. I didn't write down enough of the mentions of exact years to be 100% sure, but the book's "present" is probably the late 1950s.

The K Apartments for Ladies were originally meant to help "Japanese women emancipate themselves" (17). All of the women who live there are unmarried. Men are only allowed into the building if they check in first, after which they're escorted to whichever apartment they plan to visit. All the rents are frozen at wartime levels, so it's a cheap place to live. In the book's present, the entire building is about to be moved four meters in order to make room for a road-widening project. This can supposedly be done without disturbing any of the building's residents, who have all opted to stay inside until the project is finished.

Togawa gives readers glimpses into the particular stories and secrets of several of the building residents. In every instance, the weight of their secrets either begins to overwhelm them as the date of the move nears, or there's a strong possibility that the move will force their secrets into the light. Some of the residents mentioned include: Chikako Ueda, who once worked with a male accomplice to bury a dead child in an unused communal bathroom in the building's basement; Toyoko Munekata, who is supposedly hard at work correcting her late husband's manuscripts; Noriko Ishiyama, who has taken to living like a mouse, existing off of others' scraps; Suwa Yatabe, a violin instructor; and Yoneko Kimura, a retired teacher who spends her days writing letters to every single one of her former students.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Worst of 2017

I tend to hand out lower star ratings much more freely than higher star ratings, so these lists are a bit longer than my "best" lists. I generally stuck with things that I gave 1- or 1.5-star ratings to while constructing these lists, but sometimes I bent those rules a little.

Worst Books (E-books, Paper):
Worst Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
  • "The Monster of the Lighthouse" by Keikichi Osaka (mystery) - This was in a collection called The Ginza Ghost, which I reviewed as a whole.
  • "Aviva and the Aliens" by Shira Glassman (fantasy, comedy) - This was in a collection called Tales from Outer Lands. This particular story was way too goofy for my tastes, although the other one in the collection was decent.
Worst Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):

Again, I'm being lazy and listing entire series when it's possibly just a single volume that I rated low enough for it to count as "worst."
Worst Audiobooks:

None that I can recall, or I never finished them.

Worst Movies:
  • Justice, My Foot! (live action comedy) - I gave this two stars. It had some redeeming qualities, but it wasn't anywhere near what I'd call great.
  • K: Missing Kings (anime fantasy) - Another 2-star movie. Pretty enough, but lacking in substance and a complete story.
Worst TV Series:

None that I can recall, or I never finished them.

Best of 2017

I normally try to post these lists within in the first month of the new year, but this time around life got in the way and I was too stressed out over my cat's health to put the lists together in a timely manner. Better late than never, right?

Here's how this is going to work: I'm starting off with a "Best of 2017" post, followed by a "Worst of 2017" post. There is no minimum number of titles I plan to list - it's quite possible for there to be no "best" or "worst" titles in a particular category in a particular year. For my "best" lists, I generally include things that I've given 4 stars or higher, although it's possible that I might list something with a lower star rating if my feelings about it have improved since I read/watched it. Titles are listed in no particular order, and my "best" lists will probably be shorter than my "worst" because I'm stingier with the higher star ratings than I am with the lower. I'm opting to list rereads/rewatches separately from new-to-me things, where possible.

Best Books (E-books, Paper):
Rereads I'd Recommend:
Best Audiobooks:
Relistens I'd Recommend:
Best Shorter Works (Novellas and Short Stories):
Best Graphic Novels (Manga, etc.):
I'm aware that I'm being lazy here - instead of listing and linking to the particular volumes that got the series put on the list, I'm listing the series as a whole if I considered any of the series' volumes to be particularly good.
Rereads I'd Recommend:
Best Movies:
Sorry, I was terrible about reviewing movies in 2017, especially if I saw them at the movie theater.
  • Hidden Figures (live action biographical drama)
  • Wonder Woman (live action superhero)
Best TV Series:
Rewatches I'd Recommend:

REVIEW: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (graphic novel, vol. 1) written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Three months after finishing my vacation, I'm finally posting my very last post-vacation review. After this, I'll finally write and publish my "best and worst of 2017" post, only two months late.

As usual, this post-vacation review is filled with spoilers. If you'd like a spoiler-tagged version, check out my reviews on LibraryThing, Goodreads, or Booklikes. The gist of my review, though, will be that I liked this overall, even though the art style wasn't really my thing.

REVIEW: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun Limited Edition (anime TV series)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is a comedy series based on a 4-koma manga. I bought the anime on a whim during a sale without bothering to really look it up much. I knew I liked the manga,and I knew, based on a couple complaints I'd seen, that the anime would not resolve the issue of Chiyo's unrequited love for Nozaki. Even though this series has romance in it, it really is best (and significantly less frustrating) to approach it as primarily a comedy.

The basic premise: Chiyo has had a crush on Nozaki since the first time they met. She finally works up the courage to tell him, but he misunderstands and thinks she's trying to tell him that she knows he's a manga artist and she's a fan of his work. He gives her his autograph and ends up inviting her to his house. She does the beta (filling in marked areas with black ink) for him and is shocked to learn that he's the writer and artist of a popular shojo manga.

As the series progresses, Chiyo meets more and more of Nozaki's assistants/friends, learns more about the life of a manga artist, and learns how Nozaki, in particular, does his work. He doesn't really have much of an imagination, so a good chunk of the series is devoted to Nozaki mining real-life situations and people for things he can use in his manga.

REVIEW: I Am Here! (manga, vol. 1) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks

I Am Here! is a romance series. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

This review includes a reference to a revelation that I feel is probably too obvious to count as a spoiler, but, just in case, here's your spoiler warning.


This is actually an omnibus collection of the first three volumes of the series. Hikage Sumino is an eighth grader who'd like nothing more than to have friends like other people do. Unfortunately for her, she's practically invisible. Even when people notice that she's in the room, they soon forget she's there. It isn't just people her own age who don't see her - adults constantly forget she exists too. She's been left behind on field trip days, ignored in restaurants, and even hit by someone on a moped when she tried to help a cat. The only times she seems to truly exist are when she's taking care of the sunflower she's been growing and when she's blogging. She has two regular commenters who encourage her: Black Rabbit and Mega Pig.

When two of the school's most popular boys, Hinata and Teru, talk to her, it starts to look like maybe Hikage can finally have her time in the sun. First, however, she must struggle against her own introversion and low self-esteem, as well as jealous classmates.

REVIEW: Authority (book) by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority is the second book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I got it via interlibrary loan.


Whereas Annihilation took place inside Area X, Authority takes place outside, at Southern Reach. The folks at Southern Reach are charged with studying Area X, putting together expeditions to send into it, and potentially protecting the world against Area X and whatever might come out of it. Unfortunately, Southern Reach is currently a dysfunctional environment at best.

A man who prefers to be called Control but whose real name is something else is sent to Southern Reach to be its new director. Grace, the assistant director, takes an immediate dislike to him, leading to a power struggle that stretches across most of the book. While trying to get Grace to accept his authority, Control, a spy from a family of spies, also attempts to get his bearings. He interviews the twelfth expedition's biologist, learns as much about Area X and Southern Reach as his new employees are willing and able to tell him, and tries to figure out if the previous director was as unstable as the mess in her office made her look, all of which he reports back to his shadowy boss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

REVIEW: Forgotten (live action movie)

Forgotten is a South Korean thriller.


In case the name romanizations in my review don't quite match the subtitles in Netflix, I'll start with this note: I completely forgot to write characters' names down and am using a list of character names I found online to write this review.

All right, so Forgotten stars Jin-seok, a 21-year-old college student (I think?) who has just moved to a new house with his mother, father, and older brother. Jin-seok and his brother, Yoo-seok, have to share a room for a while because their father agreed to store some of the house's previous owner's stuff in the other bedroom. Both brothers are told never to go into the other room, but right from the start Jin-seok keeps hearing strange sounds coming from the room that no one else seems to hear.

Things only get worse when, shortly after the move, Yoo-seok is kidnapped right before Jin-seok's eyes. The entire family waits for any kind of word about Yoo-seok - a ransom request, anything. Nothing at all happens, until nineteen days later Yoo-seok shows up again with no memory of what happened while he was kidnapped. Jin-seok, who has had nightmares for some time and takes medication for his anxiety, finds his fears and paranoia becoming worse after his brother's return.
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