Friday, December 9, 2016

Booklikes issues

I don't know that many people who read this blog also followed me via Booklikes, but I figured I'd talk about it a bit here just in case. Booklikes has been having serious problems for the past year or so. If you recall, I wrote a post back in May about it possibly having been sold. This was later denied by a Booklikes employee, although no one from Booklikes ever contacted The Hundert to ask them to issue a correction about the bit that said one of the site's founders had sold it, so who knows what's really going on. What it comes down to is that the site has been working like crap, or not at all, for months. Also, neither I nor any of the other users I've spoken to have had any contact with a Booklikes employee since sometime in July 2016 - no one responds to emails, Facebook posts, Twitter comments, posts in Booklikes discussion groups, or anything else.

The site was down for me a day or two ago, and it's down for me again today. I had hoped to continue using it until at least the end of the year, so that I could finish up my yearly reading challenge, but it's looking like that might not be possible.

I'm still considering what to do. I've removed the Booklikes widget from this blog because the site is down so often now that it's basically useless. I have no plans to close my Booklikes account or delete my Booklikes blog (if I even could, what with the site being down), but I might not be updating it anymore. It's sad, because in the past few years I've been posting there more than here. I loved the community, chatted with a lot of great people, discovered lots of new books, and got hooked on loose-leaf tea.

I think I'll probably start posting on Goodreads again. I still have issues with the mindset of those in charge of the site, and I hate that at least one of the people I got to know via Booklikes is banned from GR and doesn't even have the option of going back, but it's the only book site I can think of with even halfway decent social features, and it's the best way I know of to keep in touch with the majority of the folks I got to know via Booklikes.

That said, I'm probably going to use GR differently than I used to. Back when I first got started with it, it was my personal reading catalog as well as a place to mirror my reviews. Now, however, LibraryThing has taken over that role, and I think it does a better job than GR. No one but me (with very rare exceptions) can change my data, my cover image choices, etc., and I actually get to edit my own data instead of having to make do with something that isn't quite correct. Instead of being my primary catalog, GR is just going to be a place where I can interact with other readers. That means it doesn't matter if my data isn't quite right or if I haven't posted everything I've reviewed over there. I doubt I'll be importing all the reviews I've written in the past three or so years, for example.

So, that's basically it. Even if Booklikes magically comes back online by tomorrow, I'm to the point where I don't trust that it will still be there the day after that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

REVIEW: Attack on Titan: The Movie, Part 1 (live action movie)

Attack on Titan: The Movie is a live action adaptation of a post-apocalyptic manga series.

This review includes spoilers.

Review:

If you're on the fence about whether to watch this or not, you can add me to the “not” column. This movie is terrible. I'm no longer even the slightest bit tempted to get Part 2.

I haven't really been able to get into the original Attack on Titan manga, but the franchise as a whole interests me and I loved the anime. One thing fans of this series need to know is that this movie isn't the same as the manga or the show. Humanity is still living inside three concentric walls, a huge titan still knocks a hole into the outer wall, lots of people get eaten, and the whole storyline about plugging the hole in the wall still exists. However, many important details have been changed or completely dropped from the story.

Eren, Mikasa, and Armin are still friends at the start of the movie. Armin enjoys inventing things, even though advanced technologies are forbidden (never mind that several groups of people travel in armored cars later in the movie). Eren and Mikasa appear to like each other, but Eren is too busy dreaming about visiting the world outside the walls and being angry that humanity is trapped to do much more than show off and give Mikasa his scarf. Not one bit of Mikasa's original backstory is evident, and Eren's parents apparently died a while back.

Monday, December 5, 2016

REVIEW: A Silent Voice (manga, vols. 3-7) by Yoshitoki Oima, translated by Steven LeCroy

I'm so torn on this series. I use star ratings on other sites, and every single volume left me questioning which rating I should go with.

I feel like this series would spark some great conversations, but parts of it are incredibly unpleasant to read. And I understand that parts are supposed to be unpleasant to read, but it just got to be so much. I also feel like most normal people would have just gone their separate ways and made new friends rather than try to untangle the horrifically snarled knots that these characters kept picking at. The final volume was pretty good, but there was so much awfulness to get through before that. Not surprising, I guess, considering that this series deals with both bullying and suicidal thoughts, but somehow I thought that the first volume would be the worst of it. It wasn't.

This post contains major spoilers.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

REVIEW: Natsume's Book of Friends (manga, vols. 9-10) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen

This is one of those series I'd have read more of, if my vacation had been a few days longer. I had a pretty large stack of them. I started reading them in an effort to deal with my post-election funk, and the overall gentleness of the series brought me to tears.

I wish I knew how many more volumes I'd have to read it make it past the point at which the anime stopped. Or at least the point at which Season 4 stopped – I recently learned that there's a Season 5 now. I'd love to see some completely new-to-me moments in this series, although I should add that seeing the anime first has in no way lessened my enjoyment of the manga.

Warning: this post includes spoilers.

REVIEW: Rurouni Kenshin, Part 1: Origins (live action movie)

Rurouni Kenshin, Part 1: Origins is a live action adaptation of the Rurouni Kenshin manga. Although it says "Part 1," rest assured, it doesn't end in a cliffhanger.

Review:

I'll start this review off by answering a question: Do I plan on buying and watching Part 2? The answer is “yes.”

Okay, now for the details. As far as my Rurouni Kenshin background goes, I've read the entire manga, although long enough ago that I've forgotten a lot, I've seen the first season of the original TV series and most of the second season, and I've read one related light novel. I'm definitely a fan of this franchise, but I had concerns about how well it might work as a live action movie. Happily, I thought it worked out pretty well.

The characters and general story were all faithful to the original. Of them all, I most enjoyed Kenshin. Other than a few moments during the last big battle with Jin'e, I felt that Takeru Satoh did a wonderful job portraying him. The box art image of Emi Takei as Kaoru worried me because she was only recognizable as the character by a process of elimination (I knew the woman in the corner was definitely Megumi). However, in the movie itself she was great and really brought the character to life, although I had forgotten how ridiculously and sometimes painfully naive Kaoru could be. Seriously, fighting Jin'e with a wooden sword? Yu Aoi as Megumi, Yosuke Eguchi as Saito, and Munetaka Aoki as Sanosuke were also pretty good, although they didn't fit my mental images of the original characters as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

REVIEW: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vols. 1-3) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

I didn't know much about this series, going into it. I had heard some complaints that the romance never went anywhere in the anime adaptation, so I expected it to be a romantic comedy. I was surprised, but not displeased, to discover that it was actually far more focused on humor than anything. If I had had more volumes of this available during my vacation, I'd definitely have read them. Now I have to decide if I want to continue this series via purchases or have it be one of those series I catch up on once a year, whenever I take a vacation.

Just as I've done in the past for my big vacation manga binges, I'm going to include all the volumes I read in one post. Each volume will include a synopsis and short review. This post is technically spoiler-filled, but I don't know that any of it would really ruin the volumes for anybody, since the visuals are such a big part of the humor. Still, consider yourself warned.

Friday, November 25, 2016

REVIEW: Kobato (manga, vol. 6) by CLAMP, translated by William Flanagan

This post includes lots of spoilers (the description included).

Kobato meets with Okiura without telling anyone, but Fujimoto finds her anyway and overhears her telling Okiura that she believes Fujimoto hates her. That isn't true, of course, but that doesn't stop Kobato from fulfilling Sayaka's wish, to be free of Okiura's father, in the belief that Fujimoto would be happiest if Sayaka were happy. Fulfilling the wish leads to Kobato's death, but that's okay, because she gets reincarnated. Her new incarnation remembers Fujimoto and all the people in her past life, so she heads to them, even knowing that they probably won't remember her. What she doesn't realize is that Ginsei made a wish for Fujimoto to remember her, and so the two love birds are reunited (never mind that Kobato is 16 or so and Fujimoto is maybe in his late 30s). Suishou, the angel who helped Kobato live a little longer, is still within her until at least her next life, but after that the angel will be reunited with Iorogi.

REVIEW: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (manga, vol. 1) by Nami Sano, translated by Adrienne Beck

Sakamoto, a new and popular student, coolly and calmly deals with jealous bullies, a wasp, a kid who keeps getting bullied for his lunch money, a scheming girl who wants to make him her boyfriend, and a guy who uses him and other students as his slaves. There's also an extra story called “Broad Shoulders” that I think is unrelated to this series, but it's hard to tell because the main character looked an awful lot like Sakamoto. At any rate, the kid in that story was being bullied for his shoulder pads for some bizarre reason.

I found out about this series via a review somewhere, and I was really excited about it. I figured it would be humorous and weird. Instead, the humor generally fell flat, and the whole thing was weird in an uncanny valley sort of way. The characters looked just “off” enough that I was too busy being creeped out to enjoy this much. I really wasn't a fan of the artwork, which was a little too stiff for my tastes.

REVIEW: Chi's Sweet Home (manga, vol. 12) by Konami Kanata, translated by Ed Chavez

This post contains lots of spoilers (right down to the description).

The Yamadas are going to France, and they have a difficult decision to make: should they notify Chi's original owner that they have her, or should they just continue on as they have been? The decision is basically made for them when they find Chi's mom, hurt after being hit by a car (don't worry, she's fine). Although Yohei is resistant, the Yamadas eventually give Chi up to her original owner. What they didn't count on was that Chi would miss them enough to try to go find them.

I probably wouldn't have minded if this series had gone on to be as massive as Skip Beat! or Naruto, so I was a little sad to have reached this final volume. My expectations were also maybe a bit too high. In the end, I felt this volume was a little too rushed and pushed some of its emotional buttons a bit too hard.

REVIEW: Attack on Titan: Junior High (manga, vol. 1) by Saki Nakagawa, based on Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, translated by William Flanagan

In this Attack on Titan parody series, all the Attack on Titan characters are junior high students – including the titans. Eren still hates the titans with his entire being, but his reasons are now ridiculous and viewed by his fellow students as racist. Annie, meanwhile, loathes Eren because his ridiculous reason for hating the titans has now made it impossible for her to openly say what her favorite food is, for fear that she will be mocked.

Eren hears about the Survey Club, a secret club that works to learn the titans' weaknesses, and instantly wants to join. However, since the Survey Club is supposed to be a secret, he still has to join an official club and ends up in the Wall Cleanup Club. On the plus side, at least the Wall Cleanup Club has cool vertical maneuvering gear.

Armin enters the picture when he's forced to attend school in order to give his class a chance of winning special ramen. Later, all the first years battle against the upperclassmen. The losers will be forced to go to the school's folk dance with the titans.

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers (manga) by QuinRose, art by Kei Shichiri, translated by Angela Liu

In the Country of Hearts, Alice thought of Dee and Dum as rambunctious little brothers. In the Country of Clover, however, they spend most of their time in their adult forms, and Alice is confused and embarrassed by her budding feelings for them. She's also worried that, at some point, they'll want her to choose between them. She likes them both equally and doesn't know how she could possibly do that.

The twins are fairly low on my list of favorite lover interests for Alice, for a lot of reasons. One, I'm not a fan of relationships involving a main character and twins – it comes too close to twincest, which I also dislike. Two, the twins are gleefully violent. Yes, a lot of the Wonderland guys are violent, but they don't all revel in that violence quite as much as the twins. And three, the twins are usually very child-like, even in their adult forms. I'd argue that it's actually a little worse in their adult forms, because the disconnect between their appearance and their behavior is so jarring.

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Ryo Kazuki, translated by Angela Liu

This post includes spoilers.

In this Alice in the Country of Clover one-shot, Alice finds herself torn between dreams of home, in which her sister is disappointed in her for staying in Wonderland, and her budding feelings for Elliot. On the one hand, the violence Elliot is capable of when carrying out his work for the Hatter family scares her. On the other hand, she loves the side of him that's protective, goofy, and sweet. She doesn't know if he feels the same for her or if he's like her tutor back in the real world, just humoring her.

Elliot has always been pretty low on my list of favorite love interests for Alice, and this volume didn't change my mind. Her attraction to him in the franchise seems to mostly be based on her fascination with his rabbit ears. His personality, ranging from childish and joyful when with Alice and cold-blooded when working for Blood, has never really appealed to me. For some reason, even Dee and Dum, who are the most similar in personality to Elliot, appeal to me more.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vacation reading summary

I didn't get through as many books during my vacation as I had during past vacations, but I knew in advance that that was probably going to happen. I still took notes on everything, though, so here's what I should hopefully be posting about soon:
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers (one-shot)
  • Attack on Titan: Junior High (vol. 1)
  • Chi's Sweet Home (vol. 12 - Finished!) 
  • Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (vol. 1)
  • Kobato (vol. 6 - Finished!)
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (vols. 1-3)
  • Natsume's Book of Friends (vols. 9-10)
  • A Silent Voice (vols. 3-7 - Finished!)
  • Skip Beat! (vols. 35-36)
That makes 18 volumes total, with 3 series finished up. Skip Beat!, Natsume's Book of Friends, and Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun were the best of the bunch. The worst was probably Attack on Titan: Junior High and Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto.

Manga wasn't the only thing I read. I also got through a few pages of Helen S. Wright's A Matter of Oaths and all of M.C.A. Hogarth's Mindtouch. I think I can safely say that Mindtouch has achieved the status of "comfort read" for me, although I still wish that Hogarth had ended it at a different point.

REVIEW: Mr. Holmes (live action movie)

Mr. Holmes is drama with mystery elements.

Review:

In the movie's present, Sherlock Holmes is 93 and World War II has recently ended. He has just returned from a trip to Japan to acquire jelly made from the prickly ash plant, which he hopes will help his rapidly failing memory. While tending his bees and living a generally quiet life, Holmes strikes up a friendship with Roger, his housekeeper's inquisitive and intelligent young son. It is Roger who helps Holmes remember more details about his last case, the one that prompted him to retire to the countryside.

Viewers get glimpses of Holmes's trip to Japan (his memory so bad that he wrote his host's name on one of his sleeve cuffs so that he wouldn't embarrass himself) and also his final case. In that case, Holmes investigated a woman whose husband was worried she was being used. She'd had two miscarriages, and the only thing that seemed to help her grief was the music lessons her husband encouraged her to take. However, she became obsessed with the music and seemed to think it allowed her to communicate with her dead children. Watson's version of the case indicated that it ended successfully, but Holmes knows that can't possibly be true. If it were, why would he have quit being a detective afterward?

REVIEW: Battle Creek, Season 1 (live action TV series)

Okay, time to try to write reviews again. I'll start off with Battle Creek. After I got home from vacation, I couldn't concentrate enough to read anything except Twitter and current news articles, so I binge-watched this instead. It's a comedy-drama mystery show. It's been canceled, so these 13 episodes are all viewers get.

Review:

The Battle Creek, Michigan police department is an under-funded joke, limping along with broken or non-existent equipment. Detective Russ Agnew hopes for help and improvements, but FBI Special Agent Milt Chamberlain isn't what he had in mind. Milt is friendly, well-liked, and backed by FBI manpower and technology. Russ doesn't trust him and resents how instantly good he seems to be at everything. He knows there must be a story behind Milt's apparent demotion to Battle Creek. He's determined to find out as much as he can, and outdo Milt while he's at it.
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