Monday, April 23, 2018

REVIEW: The Cat Returns

Ghibli Fest 2018 continues with the next movie in its lineup, The Cat Returns. Once again, I decided to turn this into a little event for myself and spring for popcorn and a drink. I attended the first of the English-dubbed showings.

Review:

I knew I'd seen The Cat Returns before, but I couldn't remember what it was about or even whether I'd liked it. Still, cats are always nice, so I figured I'd enjoy at least that much.

Haru is a high school girl who has trouble getting up on time in the morning and is nursing a crush on one of her classmates, a cool-looking guy who's already dating someone else. One day, Haru saves a strange cat just as it's about to get run over and, to her shock, it speaks to her. The cat, Prince Lune, tells her that he has to go but that he'll be back to thank her properly later.

Haru learns that this isn't the first time she's heard a cat talk. When she was a child, she fed a stray kitten who also spoke to her. However, rescuing Prince Lune turns into a much bigger and more annoying event, as Haru keeps getting showered with unwanted gifts designed more for a cat's tastes than a human's. Things go from bad to worse as Haru finds herself accidentally engaged to Prince Lune. The only one who can save her from being forcibly brought to the Cat Kingdom and married off to a cat is the Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, a cat figurine with a soul, and his two friends, Toto and Muta.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

REVIEW: I Am Here! (manga, vol. 2) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks

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

Review:

The first omnibus volume introduced Hikage, Hinata, and Teru. Hikage starts off practically invisible to everyone around her except Hinata and Teru. In the first volume, we learned that Hinata has a crush on Hikage. Hinata's jealous fans - one girl in particular - start bullying Hikage for spending too much time with him. In the end she's able to stand up to them.

Whereas the first omnibus volume was focused more on Hikage and her efforts to make friends, this omnibus volume was focused more on Hinata and Teru and the mystery of Black Rabbit's identity. Hikage is convinced that Hinata is Black Rabbit, a possibility that's initially appealing but then fills her with horror and embarrassment. Black Rabbit is her kindest and most supportive online friend. If Hinata is Black Rabbit, that could mean that her "friend" was really laughing about her behind her back as he was encouraging her to talk to him more. Hinata keeps denying that he's Black Rabbit, but he's clearly hiding something.

Things become even more difficult for Hikage when Teru realizes that he has a crush on Hikage too and the two best friends, Hinata and Teru, ask her to choose between them. While Hikage tries to figure out what to do, the wedge between Hinata and Teru starts to tear their entire class in two.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

REVIEW: Books Can Be Deceiving (book) by Jenn McKinlay

Books Can Be Deceiving is a cozy mystery, the first in a series. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Lindsey used to be an archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale until about six months ago, when she was laid off. She's now the director of the Briar Creek Library. She's just starting to feel more comfortable with small town life and her new position. It helps that one of her employees, Beth, is also her friend from back when they were both getting their library science degrees.

Beth is a children's librarian who's been working on a children's book of her own for several years. Lindsey thinks Beth should show her work to a New York editor who's vacationing in Briar Creek, but Beth is hesitant - her horrible boyfriend, Rick, keeps telling her it isn't good enough and needs a lot more work. Since he's a famous author whose first book won the Caldecott Medal, he'd know, right? When Beth tells Rick about her plans to meet with the editor, things rapidly sour between them. They break up, but the situation only gets worse after Beth hears what the editor has to say. She attempts to go to Rick's island and give him a piece of her mind, only to discover that he's been murdered. Unfortunately, Chief Daniels seems to consider Beth his top suspect.

REVIEW: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (book) by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito is Japanese fantasy.

Review:

The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's thought that the drought will be averted if Chagum is killed, so the Mikado himself has ordered several assassination attempts against him. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, enlists Balsa's help to save him.

While Balsa attempts to hide Chagum and keep him safe from his pursuers, she also seeks out several friends in the hope of figuring out what's going on so that she can somehow both save Chagum's life and prevent the drought.

REVIEW: When Dimple Met Rishi (book) by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi is YA romance.

Review:

Dimple Shah has a plan: she's going to attend Insomnia Con and win the grand prize with her app idea, and then she's going to go to Stanford and become an amazing web developer like her idol, Jenny Lindt. She has no desire to get married, despite her parents' wish that she find herself the Ideal Indian Husband.

Rishi Patel is looking forward to meeting his future wife, Dimple Shah, at Insomnia Con. Both his parents and her parents think it's a good match, and Rishi is a devoted son who genuinely likes the idea of an arranged marriage. He has romantic visions of his marriage working out just as wonderfully as his parents' marriage. Sure, his mom beat his dad with an umbrella when they first met because he'd taken her seat on the bus, but they'd eventually fallen in love. Unfortunately, what Rishi doesn't realize is that no one has told Dimple about him.

Monday, April 9, 2018

REVIEW: The Graveyard Apartment (book) by Mariko Koike, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm

The Graveyard Apartment is Japanese horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

The Central Plaza Mansion apartment seems like too good a deal to pass up. Despite its location in the Tokyo metropolitan area, it's both cheap and spacious. It's also conveniently located near schools, shopping, and public transportation. Its only drawback is that it's surrounded on three sides by an enormous graveyard. Also, there's a very active crematorium nearby.

Almost immediately after Misao, Teppei, and their daughter Tamao move in, the family's pet finch, Pyoko, dies. Pyoko was young and seemed healthy and happy, but Misao and Teppei bury the bird and try to put it out of their minds. Unfortunately, there are other signs that moving into this building might not have been a good idea. Odd things keep showing up on their TV, and more people seem to be moving out of the building than are moving in. And then there's the basement, which somehow has an occasional chilly breeze despite having no windows.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: Tabula Rasa (live action TV series)

Tabula Rasa is a Belgian mystery/thriller series. I feel like it needs major content warnings but, at the same time, the most necessary ones count as huge spoilers. My solution to this problem is going to be to include them in the LibraryThing version of this review, hidden by spoiler tags.

Review:

Seven or eight months prior to the series' present, Annemie (Mie) was in a car accident that left her unable to create new memories. She and her family were forced to move to her parents' old home after Mie forgot that she had something on the stove and set their old place on fire. In theory, Mie's parents' old place should at least be familiar to her, and she and her husband arranged things so that she could live as normal a life as possible - an alarm on the front door to remind her if she forgot to close it, a tracker on her cell phone so she could call family members if she got lost, a panic button, a GPS to help her go places on her own, etc.

However, in the series' present Mie is in a mental institution. She can't remember how she ended up there and her family is forbidden to discuss potentially upsetting topics with her. A police inspector, Wolkers, regularly visits her to ask her questions about Thomas De Geest, a missing man. Mie was the last person to see him alive and may know what happened to him, if only she can unlock her memories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 3) 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.

This review contains spoilers.
 
Review:

In this volume we learn that Kazuma is Yumurasaki's brother. Their mother sold Yumurasaki when she was a child, which allowed Kazuma to survive. When he meets Yumurasaki again years later, she doesn't recognize him, but he recognizes her and decides to devote the rest of his life to protecting her.

In the present, Yukari has decided to try breaking free of his past life by purposely learning more about those around him and allowing himself to grow attached to people. In particular, he'd like to grow closer to Mahoro. Unfortunately, Yukari, Mahoro, and Satomi have all become so bound up in the patterns of their former lives that breaking free might not be possible. Mahoro and Satomi have a habit of blanking out and attacking each other every time they spend more than a few minutes together, and Yukari can't seem to stop being drawn back to the past.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

REVIEW: Ponyo (anime movie)

Normally when I hear about Fathom Events showings I'd like to go to, the closest ones are at least an hour and a half away. Not this time. The movie theater in my town is doing Studio Ghibli Fest, one Studio Ghibli movie a month with three showings (2 English dub, 1 English subtitles). I'm so happy! I'll probably skip Grave of the Fireflies because I don't like crying in public, but I plan on seeing all the rest of them. Spirited Away is a particular favorite of mine, so if my schedule permits, I plan on attending both a dubbed and subbed showing of that one.

This month's movie is Ponyo, and today was the first of three showings, one of the English dub ones. I had not seen it before and wasn't really sure what to expect.

Warning: this review includes spoilers.

Review:

Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives in a little fishing town, finds and rescues Ponyo, a goldfish with a human face. The two quickly become friends, but they can't stay together - Ponyo's father is looking for her and is determined to keep her with him forever. A magical goldfish girl living with a human boy would disturb the balance of nature and potentially threaten all life everywhere.

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.

Review:

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.

Review:

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.

Review:

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.

Review:

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.

Review:

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.
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