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.