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review 2017-07-18 03:27
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku (book) story by Muya Agami and cosMo@BousouP, art by Yuunagi
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku - Yunagi,cosMo@BousouP,Muya Agami

You have no idea how excited I was to learn that 1) a Vocaloid light novel existed and 2) it was available in English. I ordered a copy for myself a few weeks after finding out about it.

A few years ago I was really into Vocaloid (singing synthesizer software). I wasn’t interested in using it myself, just in listening to other people’s songs and reading about the various Vocaloid and UTAUloid avatars. I gradually found a few Vocaloid/UTAUloid tuners I particularly liked (kyaami is my top favorite) and developed a few Vocaloid/UTAUloid preferences (Kaito was probably my first favorite Vocaloid, and Ritsu continues to be my favorite UTAUloid).

I went into this book with an okay background knowledge of Vocaloid in general and Hatsune Miku in particular. Also, I was familiar with the song the book was based on (here's one version on YouTube), enough to know that the book probably wouldn’t have a happy ending.

The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku stars Shinosato Asano, an ordinary university student who spends his days going to class and doing tedious work at a robotics lab and his nights working as a bartender at a nightclub. He’s shocked when the professor in charge of his research lab singles him out to do a field test of a very special new android named Hatsune Miku. The professor wants a student like Asano, who’s responsible, can keep a secret, and doesn’t know too much about artificial intelligence, to see how well Miku can pass for human out in the real world. He’s not supposed to tell anyone, not even his family members, what Miku really is, and he has to make sure Miku goes back to the professor for regular data collection and weekly maintenance.

Miku’s speech and behavior is a little odd and stilted at first, but it rapidly improves. Asano introduces her to everyone as his very intelligent cousin from England (in order to explain why a 16-year-old girl whose Japanese is still a bit rough is suddenly attending university classes), takes her on a tour of the university, and invites her out to lunch. Lunch becomes their regular activity together, and Asano gradually incorporates activities relating to music once he realizes that Miku particularly enjoys it. He starts to realize, to his dismay, that he might be falling for her. What will happen once the field test is over?

I really wanted to love this. I’m generally drawn to android-human romances, and I was already looking forward to the Vocaloid aspects. Miku has never been my top favorite Vocaloid, but she had a lot of cute moments in the book, and I really felt for her. The way the author used Vocaloid-related details in the story was absolutely wonderful. The realization that Asano’s over-the-top love of green onions was a reference to the way Miku is often depicted holding green onions was nice, but there was one revelation further on in the book that I thought was particularly clever and unexpected.

That said, the romance was utterly terrible. It wasn’t so much Asano’s blandness - as much as I disliked how boring he was, it wasn’t unexpected. I did find myself wishing that Asano had more ideas about what to do with Miku than constantly taking her out to eat. I mean, right from the start he was told that she couldn’t eat much, and yet almost all of their outings involved food. It didn’t have to be anything special or expensive - they could have gone for a walk in a park, or gone out grocery shopping, or watched a movie. Pretty much anything they might have done would have been a new experience for Miku and would have provided the professor with more data.

I had two main problems with the romance. First, the way Miku based so many of the things she liked on things that Asano liked. For example, I don’t think she was able to taste food, and yet she’d tell Asano that a particular food tasted good because he liked it and therefore it must taste good. Asano just accepted these statements and was happy about them, but they bothered me - it was one of the reasons why I liked Miku’s budding love of music, because it seemed more purely hers than anything else she’d said she liked.

Second, it gradually became clear that Asano wasn’t so much a nice guy as he was a “nice” guy. His reactions and feelings were more important than hers. Later on in the book, for example, there were strong indications that something was wrong with Miku, to the point that it affected her physically. Rather than noticing this and worrying about her, Asano instead focused on how he felt when he held her and her statement that she wanted the two of them to be together forever. When something drastic either happened to Miku or was done to her, all Asano could think about was how much it hurt him that Miku no longer behaved as warmly towards him as she used to. His first instinct was to abandon the field test rather than investigate what had happened to her and why.

It did eventually dawn on the idiot that he was being a selfish jerk, but it took much, much longer than it should have. I was left feeling like Miku would have been better off leaving Asano in her dust and going on to become a massively popular superstar. Considering what was done to her during the course of the story, maybe leaving all of humanity behind wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

Asano continued to be useless as the sci-fi suspense storyline became more prominent, and pretty much the only reason he was able to get anywhere was because his two friends, Aika and Juuhachi, weren’t as utterly useless as he was. The various sci-fi developments near the end of the book were pretty bonkers, and the big climactic scene was way too over-the-top and ended up feeling silly rather than dramatic or tragically romantic. Although the Vocaloid fan in me did love the bit with the mysterious file.

One last thing: although the writing/translation wasn't terrible, it wasn't great either. I noticed that the author tended to be a bit repetitive. A character would do or say something and then Asano would tell readers what that character had done or said, even though the text had just described it. Once I started noticing this, I realized it happened a lot.

If you’re a huge Vocaloid fan, this might be worth giving a shot. Like I said, the way Vocaloid details were incorporated was wonderful. Everyone else would probably be better off trying something like CLAMP's Chobits or maybe even William Gibson’s Idoru (not romance, and I don’t recall the AI having much of a speaking role, but Rei Toei is practically another incarnation of Hatsune Miku).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-07-17 00:12
Bittersweet Darkness - Nina Croft
This is the third book in The Order series. Although it tells the story of a different couple, it would be advisable if you read the previous books before venturing into this instalment. In doing so, you will gain background information on the supporting cast featured in this instalment and learn about the inside operations of The Order of Shadow Accords.
 
I read the firsts two books awhile back. I received this book for review but never got around to reading it before now. I thought I would have problems getting into the story due the time I took to pick up this book. Fortunately, this was not the case.  As I delved into the story, I remembered events from the previous books, which made it easy for me to be immersed in the book.
 
My Perspective
 
The Story.
If you love fast-paced, suspenseful action packed and sexy paranormal stories, then you will love this book.  Based on my experience with the previous books in the series, I had high expectations for this instalment. I was not disappointed.  This is not your typical paranormal romance. Yes, you will encounter the usual supernatural beings you find in this genre, but it so much more than that. It is a story of betrayal, redemption, second chances, forgiveness, healing and love.
 
This story introduces readers to a world where some supernatural beings, who make up the Order of Shadow Accords, are trying to create a world where they can co-exist with humans. However, other beings are not so keen on the idea and are willing to use any method possible to prevent the Order from achieving its goal. The Order is the police for the supernatural world, who metes out punishment to those beings who bring attention to themselves.
 
The suspenseful thread involves a group of people trying to bring down The Order by targeting the Christian Roth, a billionaire vampire one of the head honchos of The Order. This aspect of the story was entertaining and captivating.  I liked that it did not overshadow the romance between Faith and Ash. In fact, both threads blended well to make for an exciting read.
 
The romance is not typical of what I generally see in this genre. This was not a case of the hero claiming the heroine as his from the moment he lays eyes on her. This was a case of instant attraction, which slowly grew into love.  It also had its share of obstacles from both parties and external sources.
 
The Main Characters.
 
If you are a fan of heroines who are tough, self-reliant, sassy and tenacious then you will love Faith.  She is human and does not believe there are supernatural beings walking the earth.  When approached by a mysterious group to help them in their quest to take down Christian Roth. She thought it ludicrous and not intended to accept their offer. However, due to circumstances beyond her control, she ended up working for this mysterious group.
 
 She has difficulty accepting the truth, even with the
evidence presented to her.  She saw things as being black and white. You are either good or evil, there is no in between.   This belief stemmed from an incident, which happened in her past to which she is yet to receive closure. However, she would soon come to realise that things were not as simple as she was led to believe.
 
When I met Ash in the previous book, I did not like him. I thought he was evil; after all, he is a demon. Well, in this instalment I discovered that there was more to him than I originally thought. He had a caring side which, he demonstrated by his actions towards his daughter, (who by the way hates him) and Faith. He had been on a quest for revenge, but his love for his daughter took precedence.  He knew what it meant to be in love, but he thought those feelings were dead and buried, until that moment when Faith brought it back to life.
 
I loved how protective he was of Faith, even when he believed she had betrayed him and the other members of The Order.  Watching him care her when she experienced here headaches was heart-warming and sweet. His reaction when he thought he was going to lose her was heart-breaking. I felt his pain throughout the ordeal. Who would believe the demon of lust had it in him to care about anyone but himself. 
 
Conclusion
I appreciated how things worked out in the end as it relates to Ash’s relationship with his daughter and Faith. I was glad to see Faith finally getting the closure she craved in regards to the incident from her past. The ending was appropriate and nicely done.  I do hope that the author will continue the series as there are characters who I would love to see them get their stories.
 
Recommendation
Fans of paranormal romance and strong sexy characters will enjoy Bittersweet Darkness.
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review 2017-07-16 09:16
Some are Eventual
Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales - Stephen King

This is a very well put together collection. What I mean is, almost a third in, it was good, but not awesome. Too much male perspective, maybe. But then it kept getting better an better, and I finished it very satisfied. Not as good as "Nightmares and Dreamscapes", but better than "Skeleton Crew" in my love vs meh stories ratio.

Autopsy Room Four: Weird mix between humorous and harrowing. Likely most of the laughs were out of sheer adrenaline.

The Man in The Black Suit: Childhood nightmare. That dialogue was... *shudder*

All that you love will be carried away: Dreary. Reminded me of Road-work, and his Bachman's writing.

The Death of Jack Hamilston: I guess this one goes in the same bunch with "The Fifth Quarter", but even more "The Wedding Gig". Not my thing.

In the Deathroom: Lots of testosterone on this one too, but it was awesome.

 

It occurred to Fletcher that in the end there might only be one way to tell the thugs from the patriots: when they saw their own death rising in your eyes like water, patriots made speeches. The thugs, on the other hand, gave you the number of their Swiss bank account and offered to put you on-line.

 

And that great line. I'm sure I've read it before, but I can't remember where.

The Little Sisters of Eluria: Bitter-sweet spoiler. Another reminder that I have to get this saga once and for all. And a big time *Ick!*

Everything is Eventual: So disturbing, to read what the young guy says, but to also read between the lines, waiting for the other shoe to drop for him too. "Firestarter" world?

Theory of Pets: I almost bursted something laughing. Then it turn on you. Loved it.

Road Virus Heads North: Revisited themes.

Lunch at the Gotham Café: It misleads you very nicely. It was great.

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What it is in French: Jesus! (yeah, terrible irony). This one was the best and most disturbing for me.

1408: King going Lovecraftian on you.

Riding the Bullet: Starts disturbing, gets harrowing, ends... bittersweet?

Luckey Quarter: That was depressing. I also kept wondering if she was an addict.

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review 2017-07-14 00:53
ARC Review: M4M by Rick R. Reed
M4M - Rick R. Reed

This book is told in three parts/novellas and span about 10 years of Ethan's life.

We start off with VGL Male Seeks Same, in which Ethan, in his early 40s, has lost hope of ever finding someone to build a life with. He's tired of the bar scene and his empty bed. When he overhears a younger colleague at his job talking about a website to meet other men, he's intrigued and signs up. At first, he doesn't get any bites, but when he changes his profile picture to that of a fabulous hunky silver fox, his profile gets a ton of responses. Including one from a hot guy named Brian. 

This story really drove home the point that looks can and do fade and what matters are the personalities and compatibility of two people in a relationship, as well as the fact that many people on dating sites will focus more on looks and less so on the actual person behind the profile. And that lies have a way of catching up with you. 

I quite liked this - 4 stars.

In NEGUB2, Ethan goes for a routine HIV test and is told that it came back positive. Knowing he hasn't had sex with anyone but Brian recently, Ethan is immediately convinced that Brian has to have infected him. He stops responding to emails and texts and avoids his boyfriend while he grapples with his new reality. Needing an outlet, Ethan starts a blog "Off To See The Wizard Of Poz", in which he shares his fears and muses on what the future will hold. I really liked the blogposts that were included for this, but I hated Ethan for jumping to conclusions and the utter lack of trust he displays in Brian. It frustrated me that he would immediately suspect Brian of infecting him, and it took the advice of a co-worker for Ethan to pull his head out of his ass and talk to Brian. Still, considering that this novella kept me glued to the pages, I give it 4 stars also.

In the third novella, Status Updates, we catch up with Ethan 8 years later. And the moment I found out what had to happen for this novella to take shape, I was mad. I understood why the author did what he did, but I hated it nonetheless. Sure, it brings Ethan's story full circle, and it was beautifully written and really brought out the author's ability to write realistic emotions, which is why it's getting the 5 stars it deserves, but I was so upset at Ethan being alone again that I actually cried. Ethan's grief was heartbreaking. 

I thought that the entire trilogy was very realistically written. The character of Ethan was beautifully done, and while I didn't always agree with his actions and reactions, he did feel real to me. He could be that guy I saw the other day at the grocery story, looking a little sad, while filling his basket with groceries for one. 

It's not a grand romance, but there is love inside, real love, and loss, too. And it begs the question - is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-06-22 18:00
Review: "Rock N Soul" by Lauren Sattersby
Rock N Soul - Lauren Sattersby

 

~ 5 stars ~

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