Saturday, February 27, 2021

REVIEW: Royal Bastards (book) by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards is YA fantasy. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Tilla is the bastard child of Lord Kent. Although she tries to act like it doesn't bother her, part of her misses the days when her father seemed to genuinely care for her. Now she spends most of her time with her half-brother Jax, a stable hand, and wonders when her father plans to cast her aside for good.

On the night of Princess Lyriana's arrival at Castle Waverly, Tilla, the Princess, Jax, Miles (another bastard, one of the few in the area close to Tilla's age), and Zell (a visiting Zitochi bastard) witness a horrible crime. Suddenly they're on the run from everyone, including their own family members, and nowhere is safe.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Heaven Official's Blessing rewatch completed

I enjoyed the Hua Cheng and Xie Lian bits even more the second time around, but the Banyue portion was such a drag I accidentally skipped part of it and the only thing I regretted was that I didn't get to see San Lang's reaction to learning what Xie Lian's pseudonym used to be. Episode 12 made everything better, though - hurray for fanservice (in the more general meaning of the word).

I'm now 42% of the way through the utterly massive webnovel this series is based on (Goodreads says it's over 2000 pages), and while there's a lot I want to see get adapted, I really hope the animation improves the pacing.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Heaven Official's Blessing rewatch, first 6 episodes

Yes, I just finished this series and am already rewatching it. What can I say, it's enjoyable and I'm in need of a comfort rewatch. This is going to be a tough week at work, with people asking my department to perform miracles with hair straighteners when we could have just followed the directions of the disaster recovery we paid for me to take (this is on me, too: I am apparently a complete failure at convincing anyone to do anything that doesn't involve MARC data).

Those depressing thoughts aside: I'm enjoying this show even more the second time around, because I don't have to simultaneously concentrate quite so much on the subs (which I still think are terrible - even the first episode contains something like "Your dress is broken" rather than "Your dress is torn") and visuals.

Some notes:

  • One of Xie Lian's assistants is horrified when he learns that Xie Lian only has one bed and that he and San Lang must therefore have shared a bed. San Lang, meanwhile, is on the sidelines looking incredibly smug.
  • I think poor Ling Wen is the primary person keeping heaven functional. While all the other deities are bickering amongst themselves, she's the one keeping things organized and getting stuff done.
  • If you put Xie Lian's assistants and their generals in a room together, I might be able to tell them apart. Separately, however, I can never remember who's who.
  • I'm not sure if he does it due to a flash of jealousy or if it's just that San Lang doesn't feel like trying to get along with anyone who isn't Xie Lian, but I enjoy his attempts to rile up Xie Lian's assistants.
  • I've now finished Book 2 of the novel, the long plague flashback and Hua Cheng's first interactions with Xie Lian, and several of the quickie flashback scenes in the animation now make a lot more sense. Like, that particular umbrella has a lot more significance than I realized. Also, San Lang might have been lying about the origin of Hua Cheng's name ("Crimson Rain Sought Flower") - another explanation seems to be that young Hua Cheng used to pick flowers for one of Xie Lian's statues on a daily basis.

I still have the Banyue stuff to rewatch, and I'm still not wild about it, but at least I have a few more San Lang and Xie Lian cute scene rewatches to look forward to. Based on what I've read of the novel, I've been trying to guess what Season 2 will be like, and I'm thinking it'll start with the gambling stuff (which is going to be great fun to see on-screen) and then move into a long series of flashback episodes that will be made somewhat bearable with Xie Lian and young Hua Cheng scenes. But ugh, I'm not looking forward to seeing Xie Lian suffer and angst over what to do about Yong'an's drought and the ensuing plague. It's too much like all the angst and suffering that eventually sucked out all my enjoyment of one of the author's other series, Mo Dao Zu Shi.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

REVIEW: The Iron Witch (book) by Karen Mahoney

The Iron Witch is YA urban fantasy. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


When she was seven years old, wood elves tried to steal Donna Underwood away. Her father died saving her, and her mother's mind was broken. Donna herself was gravely injured, but the Maker, a member of a secret society of alchemists, saved her by infusing her injured hands and arms with a mixture of iron and silver. The swirls of metal give her greater physical strength (which is inconvenient when she loses her temper - she's now homeschooled for this reason) and mark her as a freak, so she wears gloves whenever possible.

When her best friend Navin accidentally learns that the fey exist, Donna's worst fear is that he'll shun her for her strange arms. It never occurs to her that the wood elves might try to use Navin against her somehow. After Navin is kidnapped, Donna attempts to save him with the help of Xan, a handsome and mysterious boy who has at least as many secrets as she does.

REVIEW: Wolves and the River of Stone (book) by Eric R. Asher

Wolves and the River of Stone is the second book in Eric R. Asher's Vesik series. It's urban fantasy.


This is one of my Book Bonanza 2019 purchases. I read it way back in 2019 and should have reviewed it back then, but didn't - I was in the midst of a very long reviewing slump, so there were a lot of things I finished but never reviewed. My intention was to reread it and review it properly before offloading it, but I've found that I have zero desire to reread it, and I couldn't even get through the audio version (partly due to my dislike of the narrator - I know Asher loves him, he said so in a BB19 panel, but something about his voice makes every line he says sound like he takes nothing seriously, which makes me dislike Damian even more than I already do). So I'll just do the best I can with what I remember, which isn't much.

In this particular book, Zola, Damian's mentor, has been kidnapped by Philip, her former lover, so of course Damian has to try to free her and deal with Philip and his demons. Werewolves are added to the mix, as is a love interest for Damian. 

I'd initially wondered if Asher had planned to pair Damian up with Ashley, the Wiccan priestess who shared his morbid and gross sense of humor, but instead Asher paired Damian up with Nixie, the water witch I'd barely paid any attention to in the first book. Damian's drooling over Nixie was so over-the-top that I spent a good chunk of the book wondering whether Nixie was using her siren powers to control him somehow, but no, the "romance" was just that badly written.

From what I recall, this book was a tiny bit better than the first. I still didn't like Damian much, but at least this time around he didn't make pigeons explode for giggles. Overall, though, Asher's style doesn't seem to work for me. I can only hope that it's just his urban fantasy I have issues with - I own one other book by him that I haven't yet read, a steampunk fantasy called Steamborn, and I'd like it to work better for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

REVIEW: Heaven Official's Blessing, Season 1 (donghua TV series)

Heaven Official's Blessing is a Chinese animated (donghua) fantasy series. It's based on a novel of the same name.


Xie Lian was the Crown Prince of the Xian Le kingdom about 800 years ago. He ascended to heaven at a young age, only to get kicked out, ascend another time, get kicked out again, and then ascend a third time about the time this series starts. He's now pretty much a joke among the other heaven officials (deities?), and no one in the mortal realm even builds temples for him anymore.

Since his third ascension causes a bunch of damage in heaven, Xie Lian is instructed to go to the mortal realm to investigate rumors of a supposed ghost groom who's been stealing away a bunch of brides. Because he has no mana anymore, he's given two assistants (who'd really rather be elsewhere and don't even like each other very much). During the course of his investigation, he crosses paths with Hua Cheng, a Devastation level demon (ghost? can't recall) who makes all of heaven shiver in fear...and yet for some reason Hua Cheng seems surprisingly gentle towards Xie Lian.

In later episodes, Xie Lian attempts to gain followers by building a temple for himself and travels to a desert city to investigate disappearances of merchant caravans.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

REVIEW: Kuroko's Basketball, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Kuroko's Basketball is a sports anime. I watched it on Netflix.


Every young basketball player knows about them: the Generation of Miracles. They were five basketball prodigies on the same middle school team. However, although they got the most attention and glory, there was a quiet sixth member of their team who they all respected and acknowledged: Tetsuya Kuroko.

Kuroko is now in high school, and his new team is initially excited to have him. If he was on that team, he must be good, right? Except that he seems to be pretty terrible. His athletic ability is average at best, and he can't score. He has almost no presence, to the point where people often don't even realize he's there...and that turns out to be his secret weapon. He's a shadow - he helps the team as a whole, particularly its strongest player, score by slipping in unnoticed and passing the ball at crucial moments. In this new team, the light to Kuroko's shadow is Kagami, a talented player who spent his middle school years in the US.

In this first season, Kuroko and his new team face off against three different members of the Generation of Miracles: Kise (a handsome player who learns quickly and can copy any technique he sees as long as he's physically capable of it), Midorima (a stern player whose life is ruled by horoscopes and who believes that perfect shots are everything), and Aomine (the ace of the Generation of Miracles, a player whose style is quick, instinctive, and agile). The final episodes of the season pit Kise against Aomine.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

REVIEW: Winter's Orbit (book) by Everina Maxwell

Winter's Orbit is somewhere on the spectrum between sci-fi romance and sci-fi with romantic aspects. I bought my copy brand new.


Prince Kiem is shocked and dismayed when the Emperor tells him that he'll be marrying Count Jainan, the representative from one of the Empire's vassal planets, Thea, tomorrow. While Kiem does think Jainan's attractive, he's well aware that Jainan's previous political marriage was, by all accounts, picture perfect and happy, up until Taam was killed in an accident almost a month ago. Jainan has barely had any time to grieve, and now he has to marry some stranger.

Delaying the marriage is impossible. Unification Day is coming up soon, and by that time the Auditor must confirm all of the Empire's representatives and witness the treaty, or the Empire's place in the Resolution will be in danger. Trade agreements and continued peace rely on Kiem and Jainan playing their parts properly. Unfortunately, there's an additional wrinkle: Taam's death may not have been an accident.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

REVIEW: Tsubasa: Those with Wings (manga, vol. 2) by Natsuki Takaya, translated by Adrienne Beck

Tsubasa: Those with Wings is a short SFF manga series with romantic elements. It was originally licensed by Tokyopop and is no longer in print. I bought my copy used.


Kotobuki has finally found a decent job helping out at an orphanage. Since she's an orphan herself, it's even work that she truly cares about. However, Raimon's father and others are trying to get the orphanage shut down, and no one seems to care because orphans are "nameless" and viewed as barely even human by a lot of people. 

Kotobuki finally learns more about the hold that the military has on Raimon and becomes determined to help him. However, that will definitely require the power of the Tsubasa, and potential clues to its location are all located in dangerous places, such as a cursed forest and an island that may no longer exist.

REVIEW: Tsubasa: Those with Wings (manga, vol. 1) by Natsuki Takaya, translated by Kinami Watabe

Tsubasa: Those with Wings is technically sci-fi, but it feels like fantasy. It was originally licensed by Tokyopop and is now out of print.

This review includes slight spoilers.


This takes place in the 22nd century, after repeated wars have polluted the land and oceans. The only people who live comfortably are the wealthy, politicians, and the military - everyone else is forced to scrape by with nearly nothing, and crime is rampant.

Kotobuki is an orphan who turned to thievery because her lack of parents gave her even fewer options than most. She isn't a very good thief, but she's nimble, and somehow she catches the eye of Raimon, an officer in the army. He never puts much effort into capturing her, but one day he tells her that he'll finally go after her seriously, and he'll make her his when he catches her. It turns out he was serious - some time later, he catches up to Kotobuki and tells her that he quit the military so that he could be with her.

While Kotobuki tries to sort through her feelings for Raimon, the two of them go on a journey to find a job for Kotobuki that she can actually keep, and to find news about Tsubasa, a mythical thing that is supposedly hidden in the ground and can grant wishes.

Friday, February 5, 2021

REVIEW: Aviary Attorney (game)

Aviary Attorney is a visual novel with adventure game elements.


This game is divided into four Acts. Your choices in Act 3 determine which of the three different Act 4 variations you play.

The setting is 1840s France, with animal people. In Act 1, defense attorney Jayjay Falcon and his sidekick, Sparrowson, are asked to defend a wealthy young cat who has been accused of killing one of her guests, a frog. She was found standing over the body, her paws red with blood. In later acts, Falcon finds himself dealing with tricky villains and dangerous French politics.

REVIEW: Shugo Chara! (manga, vol. 1) by Peach-Pit, translated by June Kato

Shugo Chara! is a magical girl series. It was originally licensed by Del Rey but is now published by Kodansha USA. My copy of this first volume is used, the Del Rey release.


Amu transfers to a new school only to find that she has the exact same problems there as she did at her old one: everyone mistakes her for being a "cool girl" and finds her to be too unapproachable to talk to. She doesn't talk much, and when she does, she has a tendency to act cold, but in reality she's just shy and really wishes that she could be cute, open, and friendly. Her wish grants her three "character eggs." When the first one hatches, she discovers that they contains tiny people who have the power to change her character (to someone who speaks her mind, is more athletic, more artistic, etc.).

Her new eggs capture the interest of several people: the Guardians of Seiyo Elementary and a mysterious boy named Ikuto. The Guardians and Ikuto are all looking for something called the "Embryo," which is capable of granting a person's wish. Tadase Hotori, the "King's chair" for the Guardians, has a wish he'd like to see granted, and Amu decides she wants to help him because she has a crush on him (although it's unrequited - he says he's in love with someone else). However, Ikuto also has a wish he wants to see granted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

REVIEW: A Question of Magic (book) by E.D. Baker

A Question of Magic is Middle Grade fantasy.


Serafina is a happy 14-year-old whose greatest wish is to one day marry Alek, her handsome and wonderful boyfriend. However, that dream may prove impossible. When Serafina receives a letter from a great aunt she didn't know she had, she goes to visit the woman and soon finds herself caught up in terrible magic. She has now become the next Baba Yaga, cursed to truthfully answer questions (only one per person, the first question they ask her). Each question physically ages her, and she has no control over what sorts of questions she answers or the kind of answers she gives. Can she somehow find a way to break the curse and return to her old life with Alek?

Monday, February 1, 2021

REVIEW: The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (manga, vol. 2) by Ririko Tsujita, translated by Ray Yoshimoto

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko is a school manga with romance elements (although so far nothing conclusive involving the main character). It was originally licensed by Tokyopop and is now out of print. I believe I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Once again, this series is pretty episodic. In the first chapter, Kanoko has transferred to a new school where a "cutesy" girl and an "all-natural" girl appear to be engaged in a battle over Minami, one of the guys in their class. In the second chapter, Kanoko has transferred to yet another new school. This time her attention is caught by a pair of guys - one sees himself as the class star while the other is just as good at a lot of the same things but refuses to even try to steal the spotlight. In the third chapter, Kanoko opts to be on the sidelines of a movie set - someone on set appears to be trying to hurt one or more of the actresses, and Kanoko is intrigued by the mystery. In the fourth chapter, Kanoko has transferred to another new school, where she watches the drama unfold between a girl who lives in her own romantic fantasy world and a cranky guy who lives in his older brother's shadow.

The volume ends with Tsujita's debut story, "The Moon to the East, the Sun to the West." Yoko is naturally expressionless, which leads a lot of people to misunderstand her - everyone except her childhood friend and boyfriend, Daikichi. He's loved Yoko for years, and Yoko has become accustomed to having him around, so it surprises her when he stops by one evening to tell her that he'll be moving away soon and wants to break up. Why was he crying when he said that, and how does Yoko really feel about this situation?