Monday, December 30, 2019

REVIEW: Greenthieves (book) by Alan Dean Foster

Greenthieves is science fiction. As far as I know, it's a standalone. I bought my copy used.


Broderick Manz is an insurance adjuster who's just been assigned to a particularly tricky case. Although the security measures are thorough and should be impregnable, three shipments of expensive pharmaceuticals have somehow been stolen. While he was being given a tour of the security for a fourth pharmaceutical shipment, that was stolen as well. How had the thieves managed to nab the drugs right from under his nose, from a completely sealed and airless room? As he, his beautiful colleague Vyra, his humaniform Moses, and his AI Minder investigate, the case rapidly becomes more than just theft - whoever's doing all of this isn't above committing murder as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

REVIEW: Star Healer (book) by James White

Star Healer is medical science fiction, part of the Sector General series. I bought my copy at a used bookstore.


Senior Physician Conway is giving a bunch of trainees a tour of Sector General, a vast hospital in space, when he encounters his friend, the empathic and physically delicate Doctor Prilicla. Prilicla is acting oddly and encourages Conway to seek out Chief Psychologist O'Mara, who tells him the big news: Prilicla has been promoted to take over Conway's position as head of the ambulance ship Rhabwar, while Conway is being given the opportunity to try for Diagnostician. First, though, Conway is being sent away to the planet Goglesk to rest, think about his options, and observe the situation on Goglesk.

The Gogleskans are friendly but deeply afraid of physical contact, to the point where even doctors must avoid touching patients. Conway tries to figure out what's going on and what he might be able to do to help, but eventually has to go back to Sector General, where he is assigned many more cases, some of which look hopeless, than he's used to dealing with at once. He's sent to work in the Hudlar geriatric ward, and put in charge of a pregnant Protector (a mindlessly violent creature that must constantly be beaten in order to remain healthy, whose fetus is sentient and telepathic until the moment of its birth). He's also put in charge of several Hudlar patients injured in a horrific accident.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Recommendations for Steam's 2019 Winter Sale

It's time for one of my favorite events of the year, Steam's Winter Sale. I like being able to buy goodies that I don't have to find physical space to store. FYI, my game tastes run heavily towards visual novels, casual games with little or no combat, and puzzle games, so those are the sorts of recommendations you can expect to find here.

Surprisingly, it doesn't seem like I've written too many game recommendation posts. There's this one for the 2017 Steam Summer Sale. All those recommendations still stand, especially Stardew Valley, which recently got an update that added a few things and improved what was already an amazing game. There's also my 2018 game recommendations post - those recommendations also still stand.

My top recommendations from those two posts, if you'd rather not click through:
  • Stardew Valley (on sale for $8.99) - This is a farming game that's largely pretty chill. You plant crops, catch fish, get to know villagers, explore the mines and fight monsters, etc. If there's a particular activity you don't like, it's usually pretty easy to work around it. The newest update adds some quality of life upgrades (when you build items like tree tappers, they stack now instead of taking up individual spaces in your inventory), a few fun things like new breeds of cats or dogs you can have around the farm, new fish, and probably other things I haven't come across yet.
  • Plants vs. Zombies (on sale for $1.99) - I haven't actually played this in years, but of all the games on my Steam account, this is maybe the third in terms of number of hours I've put into it. It's a fun little "tower defense" game in which you position plants to protect you against zombies. I'm terrible at stressful games, and even I found this enjoyable.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend (on sale for $2.49) - This dating sim/visual novel looks ridiculous - you're a human at a school for sentient birds, and you have the ability to befriend and date those birds. You're permitted to see them as their human equivalents at the very beginning of the game, and then that's it, you're romancing birds for the rest of the game. It turns out that this is actually a post-apocalyptic mystery/thriller, and it's surprisingly good. I ♥ sweet, sad Nageki.
  • The Rusty Lake games (complete bundle on sale for $5.07) - The best of the bunch are Rusty Lake: Roots and Rusty Lake Paradise. Weird little puzzle games set in an unsettling and strange universe. If you're not sure about taking the plunge, try out the various Cube Escape games, also set in the same universe. They're available for free on Android or iPhone.
  • 428 Shibuya Scramble (on sale for $14.99) - I highly recommend picking this up if you like visual novels. The price is fabulous right now. This is a mystery/thriller/comedy told from multiple POVs. The game requires you to switch between the different POVs in order to progress in the story - sometimes you can move forward in one POV unless a character in another POV has gone to the right location already, for example. The story structure alone makes this one worth checking out.
  • Hidden Folks (on sale for $2.47) - A Where's Waldo style hidden object game. The art and little scenarios are cute.
  • The Blackwell series (on sale for $7.84) - Do you miss old school adventure games? Then you're in luck, because this series will probably be perfect for you. You play as someone with the ability to see ghosts who has teamed up with a ghost. The games get better as the series progresses, although I would generally recommend playing them in order for story continuity purposes.
 What else do I recommend?
  • Donut County (on sale for $6.49) - It's a puzzle game that's probably going to be too easy for some folks to enjoy, but I personally think the humor makes up for it. You play as a racoon controlling a hole in the ground that gets bigger and bigger as it swallows things up.
  • Unavowed (on sale for $10.49) - I haven't actually finished this yet, but I still think it's great. Honestly, anything by Wadjet Eye Games (see the Blackwell series above) is generally going to be good. Compare this to the Blackwell games, and you can see how far the developer has come in terms of creating engaging stories and puzzles and working replayability into games.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (on sale for $19.79) - Uhh, another game I have yet to finish. That said, I've played several episodes of it, and I've found it to be lots of fun. The humor is great, as are the characters. It's stupid, but I always get a little zing of pleasure when I catch one of the characters trying to slip a particularly tricky lie through.
  • Animal Lover (on sale for $2.49) - I reviewed this a couple years ago. It's one of my top favorite visual novels. It takes a while to really get going, but I got really attached to several of the characters once I got past all the introductions and story setup.
  • Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) (on sale for $4.24) - This isn't really a game. It's more a place where you can anonymously write about your problems and fears and get sympathy, advice, and encouragement back from other players. It does have some issues - sometimes the constant stream of problems is difficult to handle, especially if you're the sort that really wants to help people, and there's no way to make a more lasting connection with anyone, since you're limited to one response and the most the person can do in return is send you an in-game sticker as thanks. Still, the very limited setup seems to have left this game with little-to-no trolls, and the community is incredibly kind and thoughtful. 
  • Hashihime of the Old Book Town (on sale for $27.99) - No link to this one, because it's an adults-only game. The truly adult content takes a while to show up but is pretty graphic, FYI. Also, be warned, the first route in particular includes a LOT of suicide. That said, this is a beautiful, weird, and fascinating visual novel. It takes ages to really get going, but keep pushing and you'll be rewarded. This is another one I haven't quite finished yet - I've made it through two of the routes. It's very linear and features almost no choices, which I honestly find relaxing after some visual novels. 
  • Obduction (on sale for $10.49) - Another one I haven't finished yet - this is a pattern with me I know - but I highly recommend it if you're a fan of old school adventure games like the original Myst series. Like those games, the world of Obduction feels strangely dead and empty and, at first at least, it comes across as weirdly tiny. As you play, the areas you can travel to gradually increase until the world becomes dauntingly large. I love this game but, as with the Myst games, I don't seem to be smart enough for all of the puzzles. I got stuck on a few and ended up never coming back to the game. That said, I still highly recommend it, especially at this price.
  • Fran Bow (on sale for $7.49) - A puzzle game in which you're a little girl whose parents were killed and who is now being kept at an asylum. This game is occasionally extremely disturbing, so approach it with caution. Still, the story and puzzles are very well-done. It includes some mini-games, but if those aren't your thing, then no worries, because they aren't required in order to complete the game.

Friday, December 20, 2019

REVIEW: Greenfire (book) by Saranne Dawson

Greenfire is, according to its spine, a "futuristic romance." It's probably more appropriate to call it SFF with romantic aspects.

This review includes major spoilers.


Nazleen is the ruler of the Hamloorian people. Like all Lieges, she is Cerecian: a descendant of Stakezti, a mysterious golden-haired child who had special powers (telepathy, visions of the future, the ability to wield green fire). It was Cerecians who wielded their green fire against the violent Warriors and brought peace to this land. Since then, a female Cerecian Liege has always ruled Hamloor, reluctantly choosing a mate from among the Warriors when it comes time for her to conceive an heir.

Nazleen knows that she will need to choose a mate soon. Her choice will almost certainly be Miklav, the Warrior Chief. He's a Warrior, so she'll never be able to fully trust him, but he seems to be a good man, and he's made some changes to Warrior society that she finds surprising, intriguing, and a little unsettling. However, first she must deal with news that may shift the balance of power more in Miklav's favor: there have been several sightings of aliens, some of whom might be male Cerecians. There have only ever been female Cerecians, and it's uncertain whether these possible male Cerecians are peaceful or as prone to violence as the Warriors.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

REVIEW: Murder in the Crooked House (book) by Soji Shimada, translated by Louise Heal Kawai

Murder in the Crooked House is a Japanese locked room mystery. It's technically the second book in a series (the first was The Tokyo Zodiac Murders), but it works fine as a standalone - the only thing the two books have in common is a Sherlockian detective-type character and his sidekick, and they don't show up until very late in this book.


Kozaburo Hamamoto, a rich businessman, invites several guests to stay at the Ice Floe Mansion, his eccentric creation, during the Christmas of 1983. The mansion consists of a main building with a confusing layout and very slightly sloping floors, as well as a tower modeled after the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Kozaburo's room is at the very top of the tower, reachable by a drawbridge. A couple of his family members, his staff, and his guests are all in various rooms in the main house.

Things are a little awkward and tense right from the start. Eiko, Kozaburo's daughter, flubs a few of the introductions: she completely forgets Ueda, Mr. Kikuoka's chauffeur, and manages to embarrass both Kumi Aikura (Mr. Kikuoka's "secretary," who everyone knows is also his mistress) and Hatsue Kanai (the wife of Michio Kanai, an executive at Mr. Kikuoka's company). Among the guests are also two rivals for Eiko's hand in marriage, Shun Sasaki and Masaki Togai. After one of the guests is murdered in a locked room, the police begin investigating. As in The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, readers are invited to follow the clues, look at various crime scene and building illustrations, and potentially solve the mystery themselves.

REVIEW: Save the Date (book) by Monica Murphy

Save the Date is, I'm pretty sure, a romantic comedy. It's self-published.


Caroline Abbott works at a high end stationary store that sells a lot of wedding-related stuff, like save the date cards, wedding invitations, and thank you cards. She's used to dealing with bridezillas, so her newest customer, Tiffany, doesn't throw her much, but the identity of Tiffany's fiance does. It turns out that Tiffany is getting married to Alex Wilder, Caroline's first crush. The last time they saw each other was when she was 12 and he was 14. He gave her her first kiss and then disappeared.

It's a shock to see Alex again, especially like this. When she was a kid, Caroline never realized that Alex came from a wealthy family. It's a bit strange that he's getting married so quickly, only a month or so after meeting Tiffany, and he doesn't even seem to like her much. But Caroline tries to be professional, do her job, and not ogle Alex, who is definitely no longer the gawky boy he used to be. Then she accidentally discovers that Tiffany is cheating on Alex, and things become even more complicated.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

REVIEW: Sorry for My Familiar (manga, vol. 1) by Tekka Yaguraba, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Sorry for My Familiar is fantasy comedy. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I purchased my copy of volume 1.


Patty, a young devil girl, is too weak to summon a proper animal familiar, so she chooses a human named Norman instead. Norman is a daemon researcher who's absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to do field research in the devil world, so this arrangement works well for him. Unfortunately for Patty, Norman sometimes gets overexcited about all of these fascinating beings he encounters. He also has a somewhat creepy habit of wanting to intensely observe, sketch, and measure everything.

Patty's father is a deadbeat who recently left town in order to escape loan sharks. She's now on a quest to find him, which gives Norman lots of opportunities for research. In this volume, Norman enters a contest for familiars (lots of different familiars to observe, plus the possibility of winning free tickets for the devil world cross-continental railroad), and Norman and Patty attempt to cross the devil world desert.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

REVIEW: Runed (book) by Kendall Grey

Runed is Norse mythology-inspired urban fantasy with comedic elements.


When Loki wakes up naked and encased in ice, the last thing he remembers is Ragnarok. Much has happened since then, because his body is now that of a mortal human woman, he no longer has any of the runes that gave him his powers, and Huginn, one of Odin's ravens, is a ragged chicken. (I will be using male pronouns throughout this review because Loki indicates multiple times throughout the book that he still thinks of himself as a man, right down to his choice of which public bathroom to enter. Speaking of which, content warning: there's some brief transphobia in that scene.)

The person who finds him and takes care of him is Gunnar Magnusson, an archeology grad student who's due to fly back to the US soon. Gunnar doesn't believe that Loki is really a god and is concerned about leaving this obviously confused person behind, but Loki turns out to be pretty resourceful. The end result is a road trip with Loki, Gunnar, Gunnar's rich stoner friend, and Huginn the chicken.

Back from vacation!

I actually got back about a week ago. This was my annual "visit family, binge read manga, and maybe eat out occasionally" vacation. Last year, my dad wasn't able to make it in time to see me, so I was thrilled that, this year, I got to see my entire immediate family. This, combined with some major anxiety related to the friend who was going to help me out by driving me to the airport cancelling on me less than a day before my flight, plus the cold I caught about halfway through my vacation, resulted in me reading way less than I normally do. But I did get through some stuff.

  • Black Butler Vol. 27
  • Blue Exorcist Vols. 1-2
  • Haikyu!! Vols. 1-2
  • Maid-sama! Vols. 1-18 (the entire series)
  • Skip Beat! Vols. 41-42 
  • How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery
I also watched a lot of TV, some of it at the airport and on the plane, and some of it while my dad was home:
  • Aggretsuko (anime TV series) - I saw Season 1 and the Christmas special a while back. I watched episodes 1-4 of Season 2 on the plane and enjoyed it.
  • The King's Avatar (live action TV series) - Netflix finally fixed the English subtitles! They now make sense, for the most part. My dad and I made it almost halfway through the series together, and I watched a little more after he left. There's a revelation in episode 18 or 19 that I was not fond of, but I still plan on finishing the series.
  • Violet Evergarden (anime TV series) - I originally intended to watch this at the airport and am glad I opted to watch it during my vacation instead. I don't like crying in public, and this series would have done it. I'd love to have this in my DVD/Blu-Ray collection, but it doesn't look like it's available. I'm hoping it doesn't become an Aniplex of America release, because, as much as I enjoyed it, I don't want to pay $140+ to own a 13-episode series.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

REVIEW: Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life (nonfiction graphic novel) by Ellen Forney

Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life is a mental health self-help graphic novel. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998. It took her years to get stable, but she managed it. After she published Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me (which I haven't read), comments from readers inspired her to write this book.

I requested this in order to read up on mental health-related graphic novels for work. This was much more text-heavy than I expected - not so much fun to read cover-to-cover, which I needed to do fairly quickly in order to finish it in time to write up some impressions for coworkers. But I'll admit that I got through it more quickly and easily than I probably would have if it had been a more traditional self-help book. The large comic-style text and illustrations were appealing and usually easy to follow.

Forney covered lots of topics: different therapy options, coping tools, dealing with insomnia (or the opposite, hypersomnia), dealing with meds (tips for remembering to take them, traveling with meds, side effects), identifying your warning signs, and the importance of setting up a support system and ways to do it. Although her advice was geared towards folks with bipolar disorder, those with other mood disorders or anxiety could probably also find useful information. As someone who, only this afternoon, had to deal with an anxiety-induced panic attack, I can confidently say that Forney's "put your face in a tub of ice water" trick actually does help.

REVIEW: The Collector (book) by K.R. Alexander

The Collector is Middle Grade horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Although Josie loves her grandmother, she isn't thrilled about moving in with her. She misses Chicago and, since her grandmother doesn't have internet, she can't contact her old friends. However, Josie's mom recently lost her job, and Josie's grandmother has been displaying worrying signs of Alzheimer's, so Josie's mom decides that this move is for the best.

Josie's grandmother has several odd rules. First, Josie and her sister Anna are not allowed to leave any windows open after dark. Second, no dolls are allowed in the house. And third, Josie and Anna are not allowed to enter the woods behind Josie's grandmother's house. Josie's grandmother also keeps talking about someone named Beryl - Beryl is hungry, and wants to take Josie and her sister away. Part of Josie wants to dismiss this as signs of her grandmother's Alzheimer's, but part of her worries that there might be some truth to it, especially after she and Anna have nightmares about a doll and a creepy house in the woods.

But then Josie makes her first friend at school, a girl named Vanessa. Vanessa is kind, cool, and a vegetarian just like Josie. She lives alone with her aunt. Who collects porcelain dolls. And whose house just happens to be located in the woods, and look just like the one in Josie and Anna's nightmares. But surely it's just a coincidence.

REVIEW: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (novella) by P. Djèlí Clark

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is steampunk. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


This novella takes place in Cairo in 1912. Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner, Agent Onsi Youssef, work for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. Their newest case appears, initially, to involve a haunted tram car. However, they soon realize that there's something else going on. Unfortunately, knowing what they're dealing with isn't the same as actually solving the problem, considering the shoestring budget the Ministry has given them. The agents find themselves having to get a bit creative, with the assistance of some local women.

This was decent, and featured a few aspects that made me want to read more by this author. It's steampunk that, for once, isn't set in London. In fact, London didn't even come across as being particularly important - magic first entered this world via the work of a Sudanese man, who used a combination of alchemy and machinery to open a doorway to the world of the djinn. And although the book starred two male agents, women's suffrage was constantly in the background, and women played an important part in dealing with the being in the tram car. The few appearances of "boilerplate eunuchs" (robots) also fascinated me - some appeared to possess this world's version of artificial intelligence.

I'd happily read more stories starring Hamed, the experienced and somewhat grumpy agent, and Onsi, his shinier and more cheerful new partner, although I'd really love to read a full novel set in this world. From what I can tell, there's currently just one other story, "A Dead Djinn in Cairo," which stars Fatma el'Sha'arawi, the one female agent in the Ministry.

REVIEW: If It's for My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord, Vol. 1 (book) by Chirolu, illustrated by Truffle, translated by Matthew Warner

If It's for My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord is a slice-of-life fantasy Japanese light novel series (at least in this first volume - not sure about the rest). It's licensed by J-Novel Club. I purchased my copy.

This review includes spoilers for later books in the series. I haven't experienced those spoilers myself, but they were an important part of my decision whether or not to continue on with the series.


Dale is a skilled 18-year-old adventurer who's been traveling and defeating monsters since he was 15. One day he comes across a little devil child who's had one of her horns broken off, something that would usually be considered a sign that she was a criminal and had been banished from her people. She's so young that Dale can't think of anything she could possibly have done. The devil who was apparently her father or guardian died not far from where Dale found the girl, so Dale, not knowing what else to do and unwilling to kill or abandon her, takes her with him.

He can communicate with her a little, and she's a fast learner. He soon learns that her name is Latina. She doesn't seem to want to talk about her past much, but she takes well to Dale, as well as to Rita and Keith, the couple who run the inn where Dale had been staying up to that point. Dale also takes instantly to Latina, and it isn't long before he decides to become her adoptive father. Meanwhile, Latina learns to help out around the inn, improves her language skills, makes a few friends, and encounters anti-devil prejudice.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

REVIEW: Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster (book) by Joanna Nadin

Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster is a humorous children's book. I purchased my copy.


Penny Dreadful's actual name is Penelope Jones. It's the nickname her dad gave her because she is so often a magnet for disaster.

In the book's first story, Penny decides to become a hairstylist because she learns that hairstylists can charge $15 for a haircut. She would only need to do one and a half haircuts in order to pay her mom back for her last disaster and go to Monkey Madness safari park with her sister. (Penny's math was a little off since she needed almost $26, but whatever.) In the book's second story, Penny finds a dog, decides he's been abandoned, and tries to find a home for him after her mom refuses to let him stay with them. In the book's third story, a School Inspector is scheduled to visit Penny's school, and everyone is supposed to be on their best behavior.

REVIEW: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (manga) by Nagata Kabi, translated by Jocelyne Allen

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an autobiographical manga licensed by Seven Seas. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Content warning for this manga: discussions of cutting, binging, and anorexia, and, if it wasn't obvious from the cover, there's on-page nudity and sex.

This volume begins with the author's first sexual experience, at age 28, in a love hotel with a woman from a lesbian escort agency. Only a few pages in, Nagata interrupts this scene to explain how she got to that point. After high school, nothing seemed to go the way she expected. She dropped out of university after six months, became depressed, developed an eating disorder, and couldn't seem to hold down a part-time job, much less the salaried position that her family expected her to have by that point. She gradually comes to the realization that a lot of her internal pain was the result of wanting love, comfort, and unconditional acceptance from parents (particularly her mother) who seemed unable to really understand her. And yes, the story does eventually get back to the scene in the love hotel, and it is awkward.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

REVIEW: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story (graphic novel) by Debbie Tung

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is an autobiographical graphic novel. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Debbie Tung is an introvert, although she didn't always know that. At the beginning of this graphic novel, when she was still in grad school, she figured she was just weird. As she meets the person she'll eventually marry, finishes grad school, and deals with her first job and a work environment that seems to do nothing but drain her, she gradually figures herself out and becomes more comfortable with and less apologetic about her introversion.

This was a quick and largely relatable read. Her "what it's like to be an introvert" and "books make me happy" comics seemed really familiar, so I'm guessing I've probably seen Tung's comics shared on Booklikes and elsewhere.

Back to visual novels, nervously anticipating vacation time

I wish I could look forward to upcoming travel like a normal person. Instead, I'm worrying about stupid stuff (like how my apartment is horrible and will never be clean enough to leave) and all the possible things that could go wrong (setting up backup plans for backup plans, and worrying about the backup plans I haven't worked out yet). If I could just teleport to my location, everything would be fine. Or, if not fine, at least better.

Anyway, I'm still planning out what manga to read during my vacation. In the meantime, I made the mistake of getting hooked on a longish visual novel that I probably won't be able to finish before I leave and that I won't be able to continue reading at my destination. Ugh.

The visual novel in question is Hashihime of the Old Book Town, an absolutely gorgeous historical SFF time travel story with mystery, horror, and m/m romance elements. If you give it a shot, be warned, it takes several hours to really get going and contains explicit sex scenes (possibly only one per route? which is weird, because that's likely too little for those who like that sort of thing, but too much for those who enjoyed the previous 18 hours of story with zero sex in it). Also, pay attention to those content warnings at the beginning. If you're a gay or trans person who's depressed, experiencing suicidal ideation, etc., I'd recommend staying away from this visual novel. I've only played the first route so far, and it does manage to give the main character and one of his friends, Minakami, a happy ending, but the journey to that point grinds them to bits.

Judging by others' playing time, I have anywhere from 15 to 25 hours to go before I'm done with the whole visual novel. I'm not sure I'll manage it all before going on vacation, so here's hoping I at least figure out a good place to stop. I just started what I think is probably Kawase's route, so I'll see how long that takes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

J-Novel Club update: membership cancelled (for now)

My J-Novel Club reading has slowed down. Also, I'm going to be on vacation during a good chunk of next month. It seemed like a good idea to buy a bunch of J-Novel Club titles and cancel my membership. I figure I'll restart it when I've finished all or most of my final purchases, assuming I've found some good titles I want to continue.

Canceling was really easy - I just clicked a link, and my membership page updated right away to say that it was canceled and would end on the last day of my current membership (tomorrow). I wasn't asked any questions about why I wanted to cancel, and no attempts were made to keep me from canceling. Assuming I don't get charged tomorrow, the whole process was really painless. The only thing I wonder about is whether there's a way to completely remove my current payment method, but I'll worry about that later.

My best finds during my two months as a J-Novel Club member:
  • The Ao Oni series: It's disgusting and gruesome, but also oddly fun and not too badly written/translated. I haven't played the games, and yet I've still liked the books. 
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! series: Okay, so these are not well written/translated at all, but they still managed to be fun.
  • Outbreak Company, Vol. 1: There was some "otaku who doesn't know how to behave around real girls" stuff that made me cringe, but this still showed signs of being the start of a decent series. I could see myself trying the next volume at some point.
 My final purchases:
  • The last (?) Ao Oni volume
  • Apparently It's My Fault That My Husband Has the Head of a Beast, Vol. 1: To be honest, this doesn't sound all that great, but I'm doing my best to read as many light novels with female protagonists as possible.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm, Part 1 Volume 1: A "reborn into a fantasy world" series, but starring a sickly girl who really loves books rather than the usual ordinary guy who all the girls inexplicably love. The premise intrigues me, but the execution doesn't seem great, which is why I only bought the first volume.
  • Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill, Vol. 1: For when I need a "transported to another world" fluff story with (I think?) no romance.
  • Demon King Daimaou, Vol. 1: It looks like it's written in third person POV. I've now read enough Japanese light novels for this, specifically, to be appealing. I hate how many of them are written in first person when they'd be so much better in third.
  • JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World: Will I be able to handle this? I guess I'll find out. I read some of the free excerpt, and it's very explicit in an emotionally distant and ugly sort of way.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 3: I'd have picked up volume 4, too, but I'd like to know first how the author handles continuing the series past what could have been its natural stopping point. Especially considering the fact that the author doesn't seem to be a very skilled storyteller, at all. Still, I enjoyed the series and wanted to read a bit more.
  • Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed Up with a Mythical Sorceress!, Vol. 1: Reviews indicate that it's very heavy-handed with its messages, which some reviewers liked and some didn't. I guess I'll find out which side I'm on.
  • The Combat Baker and Automaton Waitress, Vol. 1: The excerpt seemed rough, but it has an AI as one of its main characters, so I really wanted to read it anyway.

Monday, October 7, 2019

REVIEW: The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms (manga) story and art by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms is a one-shot (?) fantasy slice-of-life BL manga. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment.


This is composed of eight short stories that take place in the same fantasy world. Main characters from some stories occasionally have cameo appearances in other stories. If I had to briefly describe this volume, I'd say it's slice-of-life m/m Hogwarts by way of Zootopia.

I really wanted to love this. Honestly, I expected to love this. It's by the creator of The Girl From the Other Side, a series I've enjoyed so far (I've read the first four volumes), the furries on the cover looked appealing, and I'd heard it was sweet.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

REVIEW: Olivia's Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend (book) by Meredith Costain, illustrated by Danielle McDonald

Olivia's Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend is realistic fiction with a hint of mystery. It's a chapter book intended for children ages 6 to 9.


Olivia has started a diary in honor of moving into her new bedroom, which is in the attic of her family's house. She's now in the perfect spot to keep an eye on her neighborhood's goings on, which is fun but also sad, because she can see the empty house where her best friend Lucy used to live.

But then Olivia notices that someone new has moved into Lucy's old house. There's also a new girl, Matilda, in her class. Is it possible that she and Matilda could become friends?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

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

Ao Oni: Vengeance is the second in a series of books based on the Ao Oni game/games (there are multiple versions, so I'm not sure whether it's correct to call it one game or many). It's licensed by J-Novel Club.


This review assumes you've read the first book, Ao Oni. If you haven't, be aware that I include major spoilers for that book.

Ao Oni: Vengeance takes place only a week after the events of the first book. Shun is the only one who remembers what happened. He has completely stopped going to school, instead choosing to focus on the next version of his game while keeping an eye out for any signs that someone else has been snared by the Jailhouse. He asks Hiroshi to make sure no one else enters the house, but it's already too late: two of their classmates have gone inside and met horrible fates. Takuro, with Takeshi and Mika in tow, goes as well. Hiroshi finds the building's European architecture too interesting to resist (yes, really) and ends up trapped inside the building with all the others.

As in the various versions of the game, the overall setup feels familiar, but there are enough differences to keep it from feeling like a rehash of the first book. Shun and Anna are safe at Shun's home, desperately trying to help the group trapped in the Jailhouse using the knowledge Shun gained from his time there. Meanwhile, the situation in the Jailhouse initially plays out similar to the way it did in the first book, but quickly goes a different route.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

REVIEW: Mr. Monk on the Couch (book) by Lee Goldberg, based on the TV series created by Andy Breckman

Mr. Monk on the Couch is Book 12 in the Mr. Monk mystery series based on the Monk TV series. I bought my copy at a used bookstore.


This book takes place a few months after the final episode of the Monk TV series and is written from Natalie's perspective. Monk investigates a series of murders and meets a group of crime scene cleaners, who he views as kindred spirits, while Natalie feels compelled to learn more about the life and death of a man both Monk and Stottlemeyer say died of natural causes.

The used bookstore I bought this from had a bunch of Mr. Monk mysteries, and, if I remember right, I pretty much grabbed this one at random. I didn't realize it was the twelfth book in the series, and the second book set after the series finale. I'm extremely behind on the series - I can't remember exactly when I stopped watching, but I know I definitely haven't seen any of the episodes in the last two or three seasons.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

REVIEW: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 1 (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 romantic comedy series heavy on the comedy, with fantasy elements. This Japanese light novel series is licensed by J-Novel Club.


When Katarina is 8 years old, she bumps her head and suddenly recalls her past life as a 17-year-old girl in our world. What's more, she realizes that she is now living the life of the villainess in Fortune Lover, the otome game she was playing before she died. To her horror, she realizes that the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the game's protagonist got a good ending, Katarina was usually exiled, and if she got a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die, so she comes up with new strategies to avert her bad endings each time she meets a person she recognizes from the game. What she doesn't realize is that she has managed to change the story enough that all these characters who were originally her enemies or neutral towards her now have begun to care for her.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because I recently read and reviewed the first volume of the manga adaptation of this series. Now that I've read this light novel, I can say that the manga was an even better adaptation than I realized. It managed to cover the events of this entire first novel without feeling rushed or overly confusing.

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. (Edit: The site may not actually work the way I thought it did. I thought members had access to any works on the site for as long as they kept their membership, sort of like Netflix for Japanese light novels. Actually purchasing and downloading specific titles would provide more permanent access. Instead, I think members only have access to the first parts of published works, and the full pre-publication titles as they're still being translated and edited. I suspect I'm going to be spending the next month or two trying out and buying a lot of J-Novel Club books and then cancelling my membership, since I doubt I'll keep up with enough series for the pre-publication access to be worth it.)

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.