Sunday, August 18, 2019

Giving a J-Novel Club membership a try

I meant it when I said that My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! was going to make me break down and get a J-Novel Club membership. I started one this weekend.

After looking at the chart detailing the benefits of the two different membership levels, I decided to go all-in and start with a monthly Premium membership rather than a monthly regular membership. The Premium membership includes a free credit (technically, reduced price - if you consider the higher monthly cost, it's about $6 for that credit rather than the usual $7) that can be used for one DRM-free J-Novel Club e-book.

The things I've learned so far:
  • Yes, J-Novel Club e-books purchased directly through the J-Novel Club site are indeed DRM-free, even though J-Novel Club e-books sold anywhere else have DRM.
  • Due to illustrations and such, the e-book files are fairly large. I've purchased one so far, and it was 16 MB.
  • That "free" Premium membership credit is not an immediate thing. I was wondering why I had 0 credits on my account and learned that I'll get my credit on the 15th of next month. Annoying.
I'm not sure whether the credit would be immediate if you upgraded to Premium from a regular membership, rather than starting with a Premium membership the way I did. It's implied on the site that it would be. Here's the message I get if I try to buy an e-book through the site with 0 credits on my account:

At any rate, I didn't want to wait a full month to get volume 1 of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, so I bought a credit - I can save my "free" credit for a later volume in the series, maybe.

I'm going to try to be good about monitoring my usage of this membership and ending it once it stops being worth my while. I have at least a couple more series I'd like to try, although not necessarily buy. At the moment I'm reading my purchased e-book using my favorite EPUB reader app on my phone. I won't be able to do that with J-Novel Club e-books I don't buy, so I'll be interested to see what the reading experience is like for those.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

REVIEW: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (manga, vol. 1) by Satoru Yamaguchi, art by Nami Hidaka, translated by Elina Ishikawa-Curran

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is a fantasy romantic comedy series. It's based on a series of light novels. I purchased this volume.


My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! stars Katarina Claes, the rich and spoiled daughter of Duke Claes. Or at least we're told she was spoiled - at the start of the volume, Katarina is 8 years old and has just hit her head, prompting her to remember her past life as a 17-year-old otome game fan from our world. She was somehow reincarnated as the daughter of a duke in a world where magic exists.

As the story progresses, she gradually remembers other important the fact that the world she's living in is actually the world of the otome game she was playing before she died, and that Katarina was a villainess in the game. Not only that, but the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the player achieved a good ending with one of the game's guys, Katarina usually ended up exiled. If the player achieved a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die. She'd also prefer not to be exiled, but if that's going to happen, she figures she needs to learn skills that will help her earn a living.

This first volume deals primarily with the years prior to Katarina turning 15, her age when the otome game officially began. Every male child she meets turns out to be the child version of a romanceable character from the game, and every female child is a character who acts as one of the player's rivals for the romanceable characters' love. As Katarina meets them, she makes friends and does her best to avert the terrible endings she knows lurk in her future.

REVIEW: Manga Classics: Jane Eyre (OEL manga) by Charlotte Brontë, story adaptation by Crystal S. Chan, art by SunNeko Lee

Manga Classics: Jane Eyre is, I think, an OEL manga adaptation of Jane Eyre (as opposed to a translation of a Japanese manga adaptation of Jane Eyre). I got my copy via ILL.


This is my first Manga Classics read. I chose it specifically because I've read the work on which it's based, although it's been a few years. Also, while I didn't love the original Jane Eyre, I didn't hate it either, which is more than I can say for some of the other works adapted for the Manga Classics series.

This seemed to be a pretty faithful adaptation. It began with Jane's childhood - first her aunt's mistreatment of her, and then her life at a school for poor and orphaned children - and then continued on to her time as a governess at the Rochester household and everything that happened after that point.

Monday, August 5, 2019

REVIEW: Ladycastle (graphic novel) written by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Ashley A. Woods (chap. 1) and Becca Farrow (chaps. 2-4)

Ladycastle is a one-shot (as far as I know) fantasy graphic novel. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Princess Aeve has been locked up in a tower for the past six years. She'll only be let out when her father finds a husband for her who hopefully isn't too horrible. Until then, she keeps herself busy with songs, as well as letters to and from the local women, who were all left behind when their husbands, brothers, and sons went adventuring with the king.

One lone man, Sir Riddick, comes back to the castle with news that all the men were killed by a dragon and that a monster-attracting curse was cast upon the village. Merinor, who'd been acting as the local blacksmith while her husband was gone, accepts a sword from a lady in a fountain and becomes the new king. She, Princess Aeve, and Sir Riddick try to prepare everyone to face the monsters that will soon be arriving.

Monday, July 29, 2019

REVIEW: Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report (book) by Fumi Yamamoto, illustrated by Nitaka, translated by Charis Messier

Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report is a steampunkish fantasy mystery Japanese light novel. It's licensed by Cross Infinite World.


Mia is one of the newest Pharmacology students at Royal Academy, a school with four different areas of study: Law, Magic, Medicine, and Pharmacology. Law tends to attract the children of the nobility, Magic requires students to be born with magical abilities, Medicine is difficult to get into, and Pharmacology tends to be looked down upon because it's easier to get into than Medicine.

Mia has one goal: to find a cure for Demon Claw, the disease that resulted in her mother being quarantined when Mia was only six. Demon Claw is spread by touch, can be caught by anyone, and is highly contagious. It upsets Mia that, as far as she knows, hardly any attempts have been made to find a cure for it, while Angel Tears, a disease that appeared at about the same time and that affects only mages, gets all kinds of attention and funding. Angel Tears victims are treated with sympathy and understanding, while Demon Claw victims are shunned.

The best chance Mia can see for accomplishing her goal is the Grand Plan. Each student is required to submit a research proposal in their first year. If it's accepted, they can go forward with that research. If it isn't, they're assigned a research topic and that's that. The only thing students are ever assigned to research is Angel Tears, so Mia has extra incentive to come up with a good Grand Plan. Can she manage to find good teammates, come up with a topic her professor will accept, and somehow overcome the stigma that has prevented Demon Claw from being researched on even the most basic level?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

REVIEW: Secret of the Princess (manga) by Milk Morinaga, translated by Jennifer McKeon

Secret of the Princess is a one-shot yuri (f/f) manga licensed by Seven Seas. I got my copy from a used bookstore.

This review includes slight spoilers.


When she was a child, Miu's mother told her that she needed to be cute all the time, because she could meet her prince at any moment. Now that she's in high school, Miu understands that her mother's attitude is a bit old-fashioned, but that hasn't stopped her from taking her advice to heart. She really wants to meet her prince someday and get married.

However, she's currently attending an all-girls school, so it's unlikely she'll meet her prince anytime in the near future. The person she meets instead: Fujiwara, a popular member of the volleyball club. When Miu witnesses Fujiwara accidentally break the principal's expensive vase, Fujiwara begs her not to tell, saying she'll do anything Miu wants. Miu sees this as an opportunity. She asks Fujiwara to go out with her, explaining that it would be good practice for when she finally meets her prince - she'd already know how to be a great girlfriend. Fujiwara agrees because the activities Miu says they'd be doing - walking home together, eating lunch together, texting each other good night, etc. - sound like exactly the kind of friendship activities she has always felt she's been missing out on, due to the way all the other student put her on a pedestal. But what happens when their fake relationship starts to feel real?

REVIEW: Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An): An Authentic Eighteenth-Century Detective Novel (book) translated by Robert van Gulik

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An) is an eighteenth-century Chinese detective novel written by an anonymous author.


In this book, Judge Dee handles three cases. In the first, two traveling silk merchants stay at a hostel and are later found murdered. The hostel owner is accused of robbing and killing them, although it's immediately clear to Judge Dee that there's more to the case than that. In the second, Judge Dee listens to an old woman's story about her son's death and her daughter-in-law's strange behavior in the period since then. He immediately suspects that the son was poisoned and that his wife had something to do with it. But can he get her to confess? The third case involves a beautiful young bride who may have been poisoned by a jealous scholar.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

REVIEW: Scavenger Hunt (book) by Christopher Pike

Scavenger Hunt is a weird blend of YA horror and SFF. It was originally published in 1989. I read it via interlibrary loan.

This review includes some spoilers.


This book begins with a cryptic scene of a young man running from something, possibly either a demon or a cult. He takes refuge in a church, where he tells the priest his story. Then the book switches over to Carl, a young man living in a nearly dead desert town. His best friend Joe was killed in a freak flood nearly a year ago, and he's basically just been existing since then. The only reason he's at all excited about the scavenger hunt that's about to begin is because Cessy, a sexy newcomer, has asked him to be on her team.

Tracie would have liked to have had Carl on her team, but unfortunately Cessy managed to ask him first. Tracie has had a crush on Carl for a while, but she's shy, and then Joe's death happened, and she and Carl just sort of drifted apart. The scavenger hunt at least gives them one last chance to interact before she leaves for college, although some of their team members make things awkward.

Carl's team consists of Cessy, her brother Davey, and Tom (Carl's brain-injured former football player friend). Tracie's team consists of Paula (Joe's girlfriend, who's been angry since his death), and Rick (Paula's genius younger brother, who's in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy). Both teams get off to a strong start, but it isn't long before they become aware that there's something odd about this scavenger hunt.

REVIEW: Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch (If You've Got a Ringer), Vol. 1 (book) by Tsukikage, illustrated by bob, translated by Alex Kerwin

Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch (If You've Got a Ringer) is a fantasy Japanese light novel series. It's published by Yen On.


Note: Don't read the character data section at the end of the book until you've finished the novel. There are at least a couple major spoilers.

Naotsugu Toudou is a hero summoned from another world (more than likely ours) to defeat the Demon Lord Kranos. Only the hero has the necessary divine protection required to defeat the Demon Lord, but others may accompany and aid him. All heroes start off at the lowest level and have to work their way up from there. Theoretically, the hero's party members should all be high level, but this party is...different.

Limis Al Friedia is a Level 10 elemental mage who can only use fire magic, even though all elemental mages are supposed to be able to use two different elements. Aria Rizas is a Level 20 swordmaster who recently switched to a completely different school of swordsmanship. Also, even though higher level techniques require at least a little magic, Aria has absolutely no magical ability. (It isn't until nearly the end of the book that readers are finally told that the maximum level for humans is probably 100. I don't consider this to be a spoiler, so I'm mentioning it here for context.)

Ares Crown, the priest assigned to be the group's healer, is the only one with any battle experience. In fact, his level is so high that he worries the rest of the group might use him as a crutch, so he lies and says his level is only 3, the last digit of his true level. He somehow has to get everyone in the party leveled up as soon as possible and keep Nao alive long enough to defeat the Demon Lord, no easy task considering that Nao soon becomes convinced that Ares' assistance is unnecessary.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Games I've played in the past month (still A LOT)

I've still been doing way more computer game playing than review writing, although I may be in the process of inching my way out of my reviewing slump. We'll see.

FYI, Steam is in the last few hours of its Summer Sale - I recommend taking advantage of it if any of the games I mention below look good to you.

The games I'll be going over this time around (in alphabetical order):
  • Armello
  • Baba Is You
  • Blush Blush (yes, again) 
  • Cheeky Chooks
  • Chook & Sosig: Walk the Plank
  • Donut County 
  • Nekojishi
  • PickCrafter
  • The Room Three
  • Slime Rancher
  • Unheard

Sunday, June 23, 2019

REVIEW: Komi Can't Communicate (manga, vol. 1) by Tomohito Oda, translated by John Werry

Komi Can't Communicate is a high school comedy series.


Hitohito Tadano has somehow been accepted to Itan Private High School, an elite prep school, despite being average in every way. His primary goal is to blend in and not make any waves.

This becomes difficult after he meets Komi, the cool, distant, and elegant girl who sits next to him in class. Tadano gradually comes to the realization that Komi isn't actually cool and distant, but rather incredibly socially anxious and bad at talking to people. Forgetting his own goals, Tadano becomes determined to help her.

REVIEW: Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter (manga, vol. 1) story by Reia, art by Suki Umemiya, translation by Angela Liu

Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter belongs in what I like to call the "economic fantasy" subgenre. I suspect it's also going to have romance at some point.


The series' unnamed heroine is a young (youngish? one of her coworkers calls her ma'am) office worker at a tax firm who stayed up all night playing her favorite otome game. She has to work late and, on her way home, doesn't pay close enough attention to her surroundings and gets hit by a car. She wakes up in the body of Iris, the villain of her favorite otome, in the middle of a climactic scene that she knows will result in her banishment to a convent. She alters Iris's original choices just enough to prevent this from happening and is instead sent away to the family's fiefdom. Her father (Iris's father) develops a sudden progressive streak and makes her, rather than her older brother, the acting fief lord.

Iris is accompanied by her four most faithful servants, people she once rescued from terrible lives and fates. Her first goal is to inspect the various regions on the fiefdom, particularly the most and least prosperous cities.

REVIEW: Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local (book) by Ryohgo Narita, illustration by Katsumi Enami, translated by Taylor Engel

Baccano! is a Japanese historical action fantasy series. The English translation is published by Yen On.


The year is 1931, and the Flying Pussyfoot, a limited express train bound for New York, has just acquired several groups worth of dangerous passengers, nearly all of whom think they'll easily be able to take over the train for their own ends. There's crybaby bootlegger boss Jacuzzi Splot (best name ever) and his misfit band of delinquents, who plan to steal some secret cargo. There's the Lemures group, a bunch of terrorists determined to take some hostages in order to free their leader, the immortal Huey Laforet. There's murder-loving Ladd Russo, the nephew of the head of the Russo mafia family, his bride-to-be Lua, and his group of fellow killers. There's the mysterious monster known as the Rail Tracer. And then there are a few less dangerous passengers, like the thieves Isaac and Miria.

All of these passengers have their own goals and motivations. Only some of them will make it to New York alive.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

REVIEW: Convenience Store Woman (book) by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

All right, I'm going to try to jump back into this reviewing thing. Let's see how well this goes.

Convenience Store Woman is Japanese literature. I think it's the only one of Murata's works available in English. The only genre I can think of that it fits into is maybe humor, but, due to some stuff that happens at the end, I'd say it isn't so much a comedy as it is a story with occasional moments of humor. It might also be considered women's fiction? I don't know.

This review contains slight spoilers.


Keiko is a non-neurotypical Japanese woman. As a young child, she learned that she didn't view the world the same way as other people. When she saw a dead bird, for example, other children grieved over it while she thought that it would make a nice dinner for her father. When two boys were fighting and someone yelled that they needed to stop, Keiko hit one of the boys over the head with a shovel. It certainly stopped the fight, but it definitely wasn't considered an appropriate solution. As her parents became more and more concerned about Keiko's inappropriate reactions, Keiko tried to become as normal as possible by being quiet, almost never taking any initiative, and imitating the words, actions, and facial expressions of those around her. For the most part, it worked.

When Keiko was 18, she got a part-time job at a convenience store that just opened up. The store's clearly stated rules and guidelines for employees, which covered everything from what to say to customers to what sorts of facial expressions to wear, instantly appealed to her, and she achieved a relatively peaceful life. Unfortunately, Keiko is now 36, still working at the convenience store (with no desire to leave), single (with no desire to be otherwise), and childless (with zero interest in having children). It's becoming increasingly apparent to her that her way of life doesn't fit in with societal expectations. The question is: what, if anything, does she want to do about it?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Games I've played in the last month: adventure, RPGs, sims, and visual novels

I was going to list all of the games in the post title, but there are so many that the length got a little ridiculous.

Anyway, I'm going to try to group these together by genre. The games I'll be covering are: World's Dawn, Stardew Valley, Equilinox, Unavowed, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (again), Blush Blush, Lovers of Aether, and Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.
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