Sunday, September 15, 2019

J-Novel Club membership, nearly one month later

It's two days before my next billing date, and I think I'm going to let it go for another month and then reevaluate.

I misunderstood several things about what the membership would mean. It doesn't give you temporary access to J-Novel Club's entire backlist - the only things you can immediately read with your membership are the previews even non-paying members can read, and the pre-pubs (newest volumes, prior to completion, which I assume means they have more typos and awkward writing), which non-paying members don't have access to. And the Premium membership does not automatically give you a credit to buy one of J-Novel Club's e-books. I'm supposed to get my first "free" Premium membership credit today, actually, and I haven't received it yet. According to their forums, the credits are manually applied to Premium membership accounts (seriously? they don't automate this?), so the time when they show up varies. If I don't see mine by sometime tomorrow morning, I'll be contacting them about that, and I'll downgrade next month's membership.

So basically, the five J-Novel Club books that I've read in the past month were all books that I paid for, on top of my Premium membership fee. They were DRM-free, unlike the Kobo or Amazon options. Assuming that credit gets applied to my account sometime in the next few hours, the price per e-book this month has been about $6.82, cheaper than other options. (If that credit doesn't get applied the way it should be, it was actually about $8.19 per book.)

I made a list of all the J-Novel Club titles that looked even vaguely appealing, and the final total was about 22. I don't know if I'll make it through the whole list, but I'd for sure like to buy the remaining Ao Oni and My Next Life as a Villainess volumes. Beyond that, I haven't decided.

Edit: The credit has been applied to my account!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

REVIEW: This Is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens and What Helps (nonfiction book) by Faith G. Harper

This Is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens and What Helps is a self help book published by Microcosm Publishing. I got my copy through interlibrary loan. If I remember right, I requested it because I saw it in a Humble Bundle but wasn't interested in buying the bundle.

Review:

In this very short book (63 pages), Faith Harper briefly covers what anxiety is, how to tell if you have it, immediate and long-term methods for dealing with it, and how to help a friend dealing with it. I read it because I have anxiety and have spent most of my life "dealing" with it by either arranging things so that I can avoid my known triggers or somehow powering through the panic. But sometimes my triggers are unavoidable or unpredictable, and sometimes I'm not able to power through.

Friday, September 13, 2019

REVIEW: Ao Oni (e-book) by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Karin Suzuragi, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson

Ao Oni is a horror Japanese light novel based on version 3.0 of the Ao Oni horror game. This book is licensed by J-Novel Club.

Review:

Content warning for the book: suicidal ideation, gory descriptions of severed body parts, on-page bullying.

Shun, Hiroshi, Takuro, Mika, Anna, and Takeshi are all students at the same middle school. Takuro is one of the most popular kids at school. He's also a bully who may have been involved in a past student death and who is currently tormenting Shun. The few bright spots in Shun's life are the computer game he's creating in his spare time, his friend Hiroshi, who's smart and doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him, and Anna, the class president and one of the few people who's friendly towards him and encourages him. Mika and Takeshi are Takuro's friends (or, more accurately, his lackeys), although they're not usually involved in the worst of the bullying. Takeshi is a coward, and Mika secretly wishes her emotionally distant parents would spend more time with her.

One evening, Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika cart some boxes over to an old mansion that Takuro's father supposedly bought. The mansion, now nicknamed the Jailhouse, was supposedly last inhabited 20 years ago by a young couple and their daughter, who used a wheelchair. Shun, Hiroshi, and Anna all end up going inside with Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika, and the six kids suddenly find themselves trapped in what appears to be a haunted house. If they can't figure out how to escape, they may all end up as food for the giant blue monster that roams the halls.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

REVIEW: Days Gone Bad (book) by Eric R. Asher

Days Gone Bad is urban fantasy, the first book in Eric R. Asher's self-published Vesik series.

This review includes slight spoilers.

Review:

Damian Valdis Vesik is a necromancer in St. Louis. His shop, Death's Door, provides spell-craft supplies, crystals, and other artifacts that sorcerers and Wiccans might be interested in. His sister, Sam, is a vampire - as far as I could figure out, Damian met his teacher, Zola, in the aftermath of his sister being attacked. Since then, he's also acquired several fairy lodgers and their annoyingly bitey cu sith puppies.

The book starts with a wedding invitation. Sam's ex-boyfriend is getting married, and she's pissed. Damian isn't 100% sure about her self-control, so, in order to appease her, he offers to attend the wedding and somehow make it horrible. Meanwhile, Zola is back, with news that there's something worrisome going on involving demons.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

REVIEW: The King's Avatar, Season 1 (donghua TV series)

The King's Avatar is a Chinese animated series (donghua) focused on fictional Chinese esports - based on what I've read, it might be more accurate to call it an online series rather than a TV series. It's currently available to watch legally and for free, with English subtitles, on Tencent Video's Youtube channel. Here's a nice link to the whole playlist.

I consulted the wiki for this series for pretty much all of the names. If the names I use in this post don't match up with Tencent's subtitling, that's why.

Review:

Ye Xiu is a 25-year-old professional esports player in China, possibly the best player in the history of the MMORPG Glory. The guy who manages his team, "Excellent Era," forces him to resign as both Excellent Era's team captain and as a professional Glory player for reasons (to me, it appeared as though he was being forced to resign because his team hadn't been doing well lately and the new guy they'd lined up was more receptive to whatever the corporate folks wanted - Wikipedia tells me he was forced to resign because he didn't want to participate in any corporate sponsorship deals).

Glory is Ye Xiu's life. He's been a pro for 9 years and has been playing the game for 10. What's more, he's spent all his money helping former pros over the years. The early esports scene was particularly exploitative, encouraging young gamers to sign terrible contracts that left them with nothing once they were unable to continue playing at a professional level. And now Ye Xiu has found himself in a similar situation. With no other options, he heads to the first Internet cafe he comes across and manages to get himself a job as a night supervisor, which has the added benefit of giving him access to good gaming computers and a place to sleep. Since he was forced to give up One Autumn Leaf, the avatar he'd had for 10 years, he now devotes himself to leveling up and properly equipping his new avatar, Lord Grim.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

REVIEW: Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World (book) by Mamare Touno, illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara, translated by Taylor Engel

Log Horizon is a fantasy Japanese light novel series. It's licensed by Yen Press and published under their Yen On imprint.

Review:

The basic premise of the series: right after the release of a new expansion pack, all players currently logged on to the MMORPG game Elder Tales woke up to find themselves living in the bodies of their avatars, trapped in what appeared to be a blend of the Elder Tales world and the real world.

This first volume introduces Shiroe, an Enchanter who's an incredibly gifted strategist, Naotsugu, a Guardian with a bad habit of talking about panties, and Akatsuki, an Assassin who's really into roleplaying her character, right down to referring to Shiroe as her liege. The three of them figure out how to use their magical and fighting abilities, learn the rules of this new world, encounter player killers, and go on a quest to rescue a young girl named Serara from a town that has turned hellish ever since the Catastrophe that resulted in everybody getting trapped in the game.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

REVIEW: A Prince on Paper (book) by Alyssa Cole

A Prince on Paper is contemporary romance, the third book in Cole's Reluctant Royals series.

Review:

Although you could potentially start the series with this book and manage okay, I'd recommend that folks at least read A Princess in Theory, which introduces Nya Jerami, the main character of this book, and shows readers the events that resulted in Nya's father being put in prison. I skipped A Duke by Default, Book 2, which, from what I could tell, resulted in me missing out on the introduction of Johan von Braustein, the hero of this book, but didn't otherwise interfere with my ability to understand what was going on.

Okay, so this book stars Nya, a shy royal who's trying to break away from her father's lingering toxic influence. Living in New York City for a while hasn't really accomplished much - she dated a bit but still feels like her same awkward self. She's now heading back to Thesolo for Ledi and Prince Thabiso's wedding, only to find herself face-to-face with Johan von Braustein, the sexy, womanizing step-prince of Liechtienbourg, the same guy that the character in the royalty-themed otome game she's currently playing in based on. As she spends time with him, she gradually realizes that the person the media sees is very different from the person he actually is in private.

I'm trying to review this after having finished it a couple months ago, and it's dawning on me how much of the story was focused on Nya and Johan just getting to know each other and become comfortable with each other, because I'm looking over my notes I can't figure out what else, if anything to add to my summary. I mean, Johan was also dealing with a Liechtienbourgian referendum to abolish the monarchy, and there was a fake engagement between him and Nya. And also some stuff related to Johan's suddenly strained relationship with his younger sibling, who was the reason why he constantly got himself into the tabloids - if they were speculating about him and who he was with, they weren't focused on Lukas.

REVIEW: Log Horizon: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Log Horizon is a fantasy series. It's 50 episodes long and licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Review:

Shiroe and a bunch of other Elder Tales players logged on in order to experience the release of the game's newest expansion pack. However, something strange happened, and now everyone is trapped in the bodies of their game avatars, in a world that is a weird blend of the real world and the Elder Tales world. Everyone has to relearn how things work - for example, no one can die (you just wake up in the Cathedral of the last town you visited or at the nearest dungeon respawn point), the gates used in the game to quickly travel between towns don't work for some reason, and even the most delicious-looking meal tastes like soggy plain crackers, while all drinks taste like water.

Shiroe is an Elder Scrolls player whose avatar is a half-Alv Enchanter. Although his level is high, his class means that he can't win battles on his own - he works best in parties, providing support, coming up with battle strategies, and monitoring the flow of the battle as a whole. It isn't long before he teams up with two friends of his from the game: Naotsugu, a Guardian, and Akatsuki, an Assassin. Together, they attempt to figure this new world out, try to figure out what caused the Catastrophe in the first place and whether there's a way to undo it, and do what they can to create a functional, livable, and possibly even enjoyable new society.

REVIEW: Outbreak Company: The Power of Moe, Vol. 1 (book) by Ichiro Sakaki, illustrated by Yuugen, translated by Kevin Steinbach

Outbreak Company: The Power of Moe is a fantasy series. It's licensed by J-Novel Club.

Review:

Shinichi has spent the past year holed up in his room in his parents' place, doing nothing but playing games and reading manga. His parents are otaku themselves (his dad writes light novels and his mom used to be an artist for erotic games), but even they've had enough. They tell him he either needs to go back to school or get a job, or they'll wipe all his game accounts and his hard drive. Shinichi opts to go job hunting and stumbles across something that seems tailor made for him: a position at a company called Amutech. The job pays well, and the only requirement seems to be that applicants must be otaku.

When Shinichi suddenly wakes up in another world, he learns that there may be more to this job than he thought. A year ago, the Japanese government learned of a portal that had opened up in Aokigahara Forest. It led to another world, one with magic, elves, lizardpeople, and dragons. The Japanese government sees an opportunity to establish a foothold in this new world before any other governments in our world are even aware of it. It's initially difficult to find something in our world that's small enough to be brought through the portal and that the Eldant Empire would even want or understand, but it turns out that otaku culture may be the answer the government is looking for. They want Shinichi to spread otaku culture throughout the Eldant Empire. (Why didn't the hire someone who's actually in the business of marketing and distributing manga and anime, you ask? Well, supposedly they'd prefer someone like Shinichi, who's less likely to be missed, although I personally didn't buy that his parents wouldn't go looking for him after a while.)

REVIEW: By Book or By Crook (book) by Eva Gates

By Book or By Crook is a cozy mystery. I bought my copy used.

Review:

I finished this back in June, so some details are fuzzy.

Lucy previously worked at the Harvard Library and is now a new librarian at Bodie Island's public library, which is housed inside a lighthouse. There are a few folks who aren't thrilled that she got the job, but for the most part Lucy loves her new position. She's particularly excited about the Jane Austen first editions the library currently has on loan. That excitement turns to dismay and horror as one of the first editions goes missing and the chairman of the library board is found murdered.

Friday, August 30, 2019

REVIEW: Aoharu x Machinegun: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Aoharu x Machinegun is a 13-episode action/sports/comedy series. It's licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Review:

Hotaru is a tomboy high school student with a strong sense of justice. A misunderstanding prompts her to engage in an airsoft (shooting sport that uses plastic pellets instead of real bullets) duel against Matsuoka, one of the hosts at a host club. Matsuoka, who has no idea Hotaru is a girl, sees her as a diamond in the rough - although she knows nothing about airsoft and has never used a gun before, she has good instincts and a ferocious bloodlust. He asks her to join his airsoft team, Toy Gun Gun, as a way to repay the damage she caused during their duel.

Hotaru is a miserable shot and has a lot to learn about teamwork, but it isn't long before she comes to love airsoft. However, it's going to take more than a love of the sport to win against Hoshishiro, a team that's brought Toy Gun Gun (and Matsuoka in particular) to its knees more than once.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

REVIEW: Generation Zero: We Are the Future (graphic novel, vol. 1) written by Fred Van Lente, art by Francis Portela, Derek Charm, and Diego Bernard

Generation Zero: We Are the Future is a superhero graphic novel. It's published by Valiant. I got my copy via interlibrary loan

Review:

Keisha Sherman desperately wants to find out the truth about what happened to her boyfriend, Stephen. He supposedly got drunk and died in a car crash, but she knows he wasn't the kind of guy to do that - he didn't drink, do drugs, or smoke. Since her dad, the local Sheriff, won't listen and thinks she's just in denial, Keisha turns to the only people she can think of: Generation Zero. She makes a desperate plea for their help...and they answer.

This was another graphic novel I requested via ILL after finding out about it while doing some research for a grant proposal. It was a 2017 Virginia Library Association Diversity Award Honor Book.

I can't recall the last time I read a Valiant series. Honestly, looking through their list of titles, it's possible I've never read a Valiant series. I certainly haven't read any of the Harbringer comics, which are apparently related to the Generation Zero comics somehow.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

REVIEW: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 2 (e-book) by Satoru Yamaguchi, illustrations by Nami Hidaka, translated by Shirley Yeung

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is a comedy with fantasy and romantic elements, although this particular entry in the series is a bit more serious than the previous one, and a bit heavier on the fantasy. This Japanese light novel series is licensed by J-Novel Club.

Review:

This volume covers, I'm pretty sure, Katarina's entire first year at the Academy of Magic, which is also the entirety of the otome game that Katarina played when she was a 17-year-old girl living in our world. She finally meets Maria Campbell, the commoner who can use Light magic, who happens to be the otome game's protagonist, and is convinced that Jeord, Alan, Keith, and/or Nicol will fall in love with her. After all, Maria's so sweet, beautiful, and kind, who wouldn't fall in love with her? Katarina is so focused on avoiding Maria-related Catastrophic Bad Ends that she doesn't notice some disturbing and possibly deadly developments at the school.

REVIEW: The Prince (book) by Jillian Dodd

The Prince is the first book in Dodd's self-published Spy Girl series. I'd call it a New Adult spy romance.

Review:

The 18-year-old protagonist, X, is one of the top students at Blackwood Academy, a boarding school for young spies. She's given her first mission before she even graduates: keep Lorenzo Giovanni Baptiste Vallenta, the Crown Prince of Montrovia, alive. Her new identity: Huntley, a 20-year-old socialite who has just learned that she has a 21-year-old brother named Ari (also a spy, but with a slightly different mission) and a billionaire father. Their "father" has just died, and it's common knowledge that they both stand to inherit billions as long as they spend the next six months getting to know each other.

Although aspects of her situation don't quite add up, Huntley rapidly gets down to business, befriending those closest to the Prince and enjoying the money, cars, clothes, and house supposedly left to her and Ari by their father. The Prince needs all the help he can get - his security is riddled with holes, mostly due to his own love of women and parties, and there are multiple people in his life who might have reason to kill him.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Oh dear... - The King's Avatar on Netflix

I just noticed that the live action TV series version of The King's Avatar was on Netflix and decided to give it a shot. I've seen clips of the animated TV series and thought that looked pretty slick, although I wasn't quite sure what it was about. Apparently esports?

Anyway, I'm 17 minutes into the first episode of the live action series, and I doubt I'll make it past this first episode. I don't know who did the subtitling, but they did an abysmal job. I thought maybe it was my lack of knowledge of esports showing, but even the bits of dialogue that weren't directly related to gaming contained errors, awkward phrasing, and just plain garbled English.

Yeesh. I know Netflix can do better than this. Did no one on-staff look things over before pushing this out into their catalog?
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