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.