Monday, August 15, 2016

REVIEW: The Mysterious Lady Law (e-novella) by Robert Appleton

The Mysterious Lady Law is a steampunk thriller. It's published by Carina Press and is 31,600 words long.

No read-alikes this time, because I don't feel like it. Also, the very end of my review includes some spoilers.

Review:

This takes place in late 19th century London. Julia works as a waitress and dancer on an airship, while Georgina, her sister, cleans houses. Julia is utterly shocked to come home one evening and find her sister dead. Although Constable Aloysius (Al) Grant gives her as many updates on the case as he's able, there isn't much for him to say. The police keep hitting dead ends.

Just when it looks like Georgy's killer will go free, Lady Harriet Law shows up on Julia's doorstep and offers to take the case pro bono. Julia accepts the offer. After all, Lady Law has a phenomenal success rate, having solved 100% of her 650 cases. It's that same success rate that, in part, inspires Grant's distrust. How does Lady Law come to her conclusions? Why did she offer her services to Julia in particular? And how does the disappearance of Josh, the young assistant of the famed explorer Horace Holly, figure into all of this?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

REVIEW: The Coelura (book) by Anne McCaffrey, illustrated by Ned Dameron

The Coelura is sci-fi with strong romantic elements. It was originally published in 1983.

No read-alikes for this one, sorry.

Review:

Caissa is the body-heir of Baythan, an exceptional hunter and all-around perfect specimen of manhood (no really – much is made of his excellent genetic pattern). Caissa is now old enough that she should start considering bearing her own body-heir, but she isn't happy with the man her father suggests she at least establish a temporary heir-contract with. She has a feeling that his recommendation is tied to an undisclosed clause in his heir-contract with her womb-mother, the haughty and vain High Lady Cinna.

Out of loyalty to her father, Caissa agrees to at least meet the man he recommended, but the meeting leaves her feeling so insulted that she decides to leave the city for a bit to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, she didn't bother to check her fuel first and ends up briefly stranded in the ruins of Yellow Triad City. It's there that she meets a mysterious man named Murell and learns more about coelura, beings able to spin beautiful living cloth that responds to its wearer's mood.

REVIEW: The Stinky Cheese Caper and Other Cases from the ZPD Files (book) by Greg Trine, illustrated by Cory Loftis

Yes, I have read another Zootopia book intended for children in an effort to get a new Zootopia fix. One of these days I'll break down and dive into the fanfic.

After reading the junior novelization, I wasn't expecting much from this. The cover made it sound like it would be composed of four standalone stories (“Four stories in one!”). Since it was only 75 pages long, I figured those stories would have to be extremely simple.

In “The Stinky Cheese Caper,” Judy and Nick investigate the theft of a very expensive and very stinky cheese. In “There's Dirt in Your Eye,” Judy and Nick investigate a report of someone dumping dirt of the Old Outback Bridge. The dirt landed on a boatload of tourists and could have hurt someone. In “No Noise Is Good Noise,” Judy and Nick investigate reports of incredibly loud and horrible music coming from a cafe. All the local shopkeepers feel it's hurting their businesses. Finally, in “The Dig's Up,” Judy and Nick investigate a prison break.

This book takes place several months after the end of the movie. Judy and Nick are partners, assigned mostly to traffic duty or cases that none of the other cops want to work on. Astute readers will guess that the four stories are probably related after finishing the first one. Readers who aren't able to figure out that the stories are connected by the beginning of the second one will probably not enjoy this book because, individually and taken at face value, most of these mysteries are pretty dull.

Monday, August 8, 2016

REVIEW: Another Episode S/0 (book and manga) novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, manga by Hiro Kiyohara, translation by Karen McGillicuddy

Another Episode S/0 consists of a short supernatural mystery novel (novella?) and a manga. It's published by Yen On.

Review:

I was a little wary of this book. I've read or watched every version of Another that's officially been made available in English, starting with the anime, then the original novel, and finally the manga. I noticed I was burning out on the story by the time I got to the manga. Could a sequel novel work for me? Would it be fresh and new enough?

First, I should mention that this book actually collects two different works: Another Episode S, a lengthy story that takes place during the events of Another but isn't directly related to the curse affecting North Yomi's third-year Class 3, and Another Episode 0, a short prequel manga starring Reiko, Koichi's aunt. I'll write about them separately, but my final verdict is that this had some interesting moments but was largely a disappointment.

Warning: Do NOT read this review if you haven't read or watched Another. My review will include major spoilers for that work.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

REVIEW: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (audiobook) by Robin Sloan, narrated by Ari Fliakos

This is another one of those that I should have reviewed sooner after finishing it. It's been a couple weeks, and my memories are fuzzier. Plus, I took a break while listening to the book, so my listening experience was pretty stretched out.

So, what can I say about the story without revealing too much? Clay, desperate for work after losing his Web design job, stumbles across a little place called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It's in a seedy location (next to a strip club), there don't seem to be many customers, and the store itself is a little strange, but Clay needs the money. Besides, he's kind of intrigued. Most of the store's visitors never actually seem to buy anything, but rather check out mysterious volumes from a collection Clay is specifically told not to browse or otherwise look at too closely.

Clay's curiosity gets the better of him, and he starts to investigate. Slowly, at first, making a three-dimensional model of the store in order in order to see if there's a pattern to the checkouts. But then he involves other people and begins to dig more deeply.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

REVIEW: Jurassic Park (live action movie), on DVD

I re-watched this a few months ago and should have reviewed it back then. But I kept putting it off because I wanted to include comments about the extras, but then I dragged my feet and eventually ran into problems. So I'm finally just going ahead and reviewing it.

A synopsis feels a little unnecessary, but I'll include a short one anyway: A billionaire invites several people to his not-yet-open theme park (or is forced to invite them – the lawyer is there because a worker's family is suing and there are now questions being asked about how safe the park really is). Amazingly, the park includes real, live dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the park's tech geek decides to make a little extra money by stealing and selling some of the park's dinosaur embryos. Things go wrong, and a bunch of the dinosaurs accidentally get free, putting the lives of everyone on the island in danger.

REVIEW: Ghostbusters (live action movie) - at the movie theater

I was hesitant about seeing this, for a lot of reasons. I vaguely remembered having seen at least one of the original Ghostbusters movies but didn't have any particular attachment to or love for the franchise. I haven't been wild about the last few hyped movies I've seen, and I was a little worried that this one was getting most of its viewer hype because of the all-female main cast. Also, a lot of the people who were raving about it were also fans of several of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy's other movies. I loathed Bridesmaids, winced a lot during Spy, and just generally didn't want to see a repeat of the sort of humor I saw in those movies. Thankfully, this turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting.

The story: Erin is a professor who's being considered for tenure. Unfortunately, an embarrassing piece of her past, a book on the paranormal that she co-wrote years ago with her best friend Abby, has come back to haunt her. She's worried that she'll be seen as a crackpot, so she tracks Abby down in order to ask her to please stop selling the book. Abby has since teamed up with Jillian Holtzmann, a nutty and brilliant scientist, and Erin accidentally gets all three of them involved in a paranormal investigation at a museum. The team is later joined by Patty, a transit worker who is an absolute fount of historical facts and knowledge, and their new receptionist, Kevin, who is gorgeous but very stupid. The group finds themselves dealing with more and more ghosts, not realizing that all these recent incidents are due to the machinations of a nobody who feels he isn't getting all the recognition and attention he deserves.

REVIEW: Amnesia Labyrinth (manga, vol. 1) story by Nagaru Tanigawa, art by Natsumi Kohane, translation by Nan Rymer

Amnesia Labyrinth is a short mystery series licensed by Seven Seas.

Review:

I'll start by saying that the description on the back of the volume contains several incorrect statements. There is no evidence that Souji's sisters' clingy behavior is anything new. Also, I don't know if Souji and Yukako start dating in the next volume, but Yukako is not Souji's new girlfriend in this one. Now, on to my description.

Souji is a high school student who left his family home some time ago. He had hoped never to return, but sometimes we don't get what we want. At any rate, his three sisters are thrilled he's back. Harumi, his stepsister, is sweet and quiet and clearly has a crush on him. The real problems, though, are Youko and Saki. Youko is Souji's full sister. She possibly has a split personality, and she's certainly a vaguely malevolent presence in the household, glaring daggers at Souji even as she cuddles up to him in a more than sisterly sort of way. Saki is the daughter of Souji's father and Souji's father's mistress. She works as one of the family's maids and, when the other sisters aren't around, sleeps with Souji. And possibly also Kazushi, Souji's older brother. Kazushi, meanwhile, may be lurking somewhere nearby.

At school, Souji instantly comes to the attention of Yukako, the self-proclaimed sole member of the student council's “Intelligence Committee.” It's Yukako who tells Souji of the three murders that occurred at the end of the summer, shortly before he arrived. The school's smartest student was stabbed. After that came the track team's star runner, also stabbed. Then the student council president was pushed in front of a train. Yukako wants to know why the killer chose those particular victims, especially since she had a crush on the student council president. She basically forces Souji to join her, but Souji secretly thinks he knows who was responsible: Youko, his sister.

Friday, August 5, 2016

REVIEW: The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince (book) by Serena Valentino

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince is a prequel to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. My embarrassingly old ARC says it's intended for ages 10 and up, but I decided to tag is as a YA novel.

I opted not to include any read-alikes. Also, be warned, my review includes some spoilers.

Review:

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince takes place primarily before Belle met the Beast or even before the Prince became the Beast. Readers learn that the Prince (who is never given a name) was, in fact, once friends with Gaston. Also, the enchantress that the Prince rejected prior to becoming the Beast was actually his beautiful secretly-a-witch girlfriend, Circe, who had three wicked witch sisters. Circe's curse didn't immediately take effect, but rather gave the Prince time to meet and court another young lady, Princess Tulip Morningstar. Although lots of familiar characters make appearances, the story fans of the movie are familiar with doesn't really start until the last quarter of the book, and even then there are some changes.
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