logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: portal-fantasy
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-06-01 03:07
Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!: Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 3 (book) by Miya Kazuki, illustrated by You Shiina, translated by quof
Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 3 - Miya Kazuki,Karuho Shiina,quof

At the end of the previous volume, Myne passed out due to the Devouring and seemed likely to die. But of course she didn't - in the beginning of this volume, it's revealed that she was taken to the guildmaster to be saved by one of the fragile magical items he collected in order to save his granddaughter, Freida, who also has the Devouring.

It's a good thing that Myne has saved up so much money, because even old and nearly broken magical tools cost a lot, and are typically only available to nobles. And not only that, they don't cure someone with the Devouring, they just temporarily lower the person's mana level enough for them to feel better. If she doesn't sign a contract with a noble and agree to become their slave, Myne likely only has another year at most before the Devouring kills her.

Freida and the guildmaster, who already have connections with nobles, want to corner Myne into working with them. Benno wants Myne (and her lucrative product ideas) to stay with him and the Gilberta Company. Then there's Myne's family and her friend Lutz - if she signs a contract with a noble, she'll likely never see any of them again. So Myne has some tough decisions to make.

In some ways, this was the best volume in the series so far. There were only a few overly detailed "making stuff from our world in a fantasy world" scenes, more emphasis was put on characters' relationships with others (Myne and her family, and Lutz and his), readers finally got a small glimpse of the wider world and its politics, and there was forward movement in the Devouring aspect of the plot.

Unfortunately, the story had a bad tendency to meander - I had to flip through it to remind myself what happened in between the more important plot points. Lots of planning for Myne's baptism, getting Lutz ready to become an apprentice merchant, more paper-making but bigger, and Myne accidentally inventing yet another new food. I still agree with what I wrote in my review for Volume 1: Part 1 really would have been better condensed into a single volume rather than spread out over three books.

The writing was terrible. That fact was easier to gloss over in the previous two volumes, but in this one the author included a few scenes that should have been very emotional and that were instead ruined by the author's reliance upon what were essentially sound effects to convey characters' emotions. Things like: "Sniff," "Nnn," and "Ngggh." And speaking of sound effects, it seemed like Myne said "Bwuh" way more in this volume than she did in the previous two, and it started to irk me a bit. And this series really should have been written in the third person. The author had to cheat a bit in this volume to get around the limitations of Myne's first person POV, and honestly most of the bonus stories also came across as clumsy attempts to get around the series' POV limitations.

I have a bunch of questions about the world-building - it seemed shakiest where foods were concerned. First there was the whole thing, earlier in the series, about commoners not having access to rice. In this volume it was revealed that

sugar (I'm guessing that the author/translator actually meant "refined sugar") had only just begun to be imported, but even without sugar I would have figured people would have experience with baking cakes using honey. And yet for some reason the cake Myne baked was treated like a revolution, and Leise, a supposedly experience cook and baker, needed Myne's suggestions to figure out how to jazz the recipe up with additional ingredients. At one point, the text referred to pound cake dough (205) rather than batter, which told me that either the author or translator, or possibly both, wasn't a baker.

(spoiler show)


Despite all of these problems, I still plan on reading Part 2 once it's possible for me to get all three books. I look forward to seeing where the author goes with the new developments in the story. But I won't lie, this isn't a well-written series. I've been able to put up with its issues so far, but I'd totally understand if others couldn't.

I haven't seen the anime yet but plan to do so. I strongly suspect that the emotional scenes in this volume will work a lot better in the anime than they did here. I prefer You Shiina's artwork to the screenshots I've seen of the anime, but that's normal - Shiina's illustrations can have a level of detail that just wouldn't work in an animated series.

Extras:

A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and six bonus stories.

The bonus stories aren't really bonus - they continue the main story a bit, but from other characters' POVs. Hence my comment about authorial cheating. The POVs included: Tuuli, Leise, Benno (he lost a bunch of points with me in his short story - I'd thought he was a savvy merchant, but he's looking more and more like a reckless idiot), Mark (J-Novel Club made a mistake and used Benno's chapter's title as Mark's chapter's running head, oops), Lutz, and the guildmaster. You know, I can't recall if the guildmaster has ever been given a name.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-05-26 03:46
Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!: Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 2 (book) by Miya Kazuki, illustrated by You Shiina, translated by quof
Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki,Karuho Shiina,quof

In order for Myne and Lutz to become the official apprentices of Benno, a merchant, they must first create prototypes of the paper Myne told Benno about. Myne soon realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew, even with Lutz's help - the prototypes will require supplies and equipment that will take them ages to make. However, the two of them aren't doing this alone anymore. As Myne learns more about how apprenticeships and the world of merchants works, she comes closer to her ultimate goal, obtaining a book. The hairpin Myne made for Tuuli also makes a reappearance, and turns out to be more profitable than Myne could have imagined.

This volume had most of the same issues the first one had. Certain parts of the story were more detailed than they really needed to be, and the story and overall pacing still suffered a bit from the author's unwillingness to cut out self-indulgent bloat. Myne was still selfish and more emotionally invested in her goal of creating a book than in the human beings around her who cared for her - Urano had lived in this world for a year as Myne, by this point, so this bothered me even more this time around than it did in the first volume.

Even so, I thought this particular volume was a good deal better than the first one. Instead of every one of Myne's ideas getting bogged down by what she, a frail 6-year-old child, could accomplish or talk others into doing for her, this time around Myne had funding and assistance from adults. It was incredibly refreshing not to have to read about, say, Myne's painstaking efforts to either acquire the materials to make a pot or the funds to buy one before she could even begin to try to make paper.

One of the author's weak areas seems to be creating characters with interesting/unique personalities - nearly everyone reminds me of characters I've seen before in other series, and it probably doesn't help that Myne generally isn't interested enough in people to get to know them on more than just a surface level. Still, one thing this volume did do was introduce characters who opened up Myne's world in fun new ways. I'm partial to fantasy merchants, so Benno was a favorite of mine, and I particularly enjoyed his scenes with the guildmaster of the Merchants' Guild. And Lutz, Myne's friend, grew on me a lot.

As far as the author's use of great gobs of detail went, I enjoyed most of the paper-making process and the info Myne learned about the economics of this world but felt that the hairpin stuff bogged the story down. It also felt kind of weird that Myne went from "I'm giving my family part of my pay in an act of filial piety" (when she was paid to make paper) to "I'm paying my family members to do temp work for me" (when she was paid for hairpins).

Myne's illness has added more of a sense of urgency to the series, so I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes. Since I doubt the author plans to kill Myne off anytime soon, at some point nobles are going to be added to the cast of characters. Here's hoping their presence crowds out some of the more annoying additions to the cast. Myne's obsession with books and paper can be a bit much as it is, I really don't need Freida's obsession with money on top of that.

Extras:

A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and two bonus short stories, one from Corinna's POV and one from Myne's mother's POV.

While I was okay with the bonus stories in the first volume, the ones in this one were pretty bad. Corinna's story, in particular, would have been better off in the trash. It was a flashback to Otto's "courtship" of her - meeting her when she was still 6 months away from being legally considered an adult and falling instantly in love with her, and then basically giving up his entire life over the course of two or three days until she was essentially boxed into two options, marrying the youngest son of the guildmaster or marrying Otto. She seemed okay with her final decision, but it didn't paint Otto in a good light. I also very much disliked the part where Corinna (jokingly? I hope?) suggested that Myne could end up marrying Benno if his work makes him too busy to find a wife. Myne is six and Benno is maybe in his twenties. No. Just no. Light novel authors (and manga authors, you know who you are), please stop doing this.

Effa's story was just boring, and the author or translator's attempt at giving her a "voice" was dry and unconvincing. Pretty much the only reason I'd recommend reading either of these two stories is because they contain some character background info that I don't think gets brought up at all in the main story.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-05-23 18:03
Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!: Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 1 (book) by Miya Kazuki, illustrated by You Shiina, translated by quof
Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 1 - Miya Kazuki,Karuho Shiina,quof

Urano is a Japanese college graduate who's absolutely obsessed with books and reading. Both she and her mom are thrilled when she gets a job at a library, but before she even has a chance to start, an earthquake causes Urano's book collection to fall on her and kill her. She wakes up in the body of a sickly 5-year-old child named Myne.

Although Myne's memories tell her that she loves her parents and older sister and they love her back, it's a little difficult for her to connect with them emotionally, since they feel mostly like strangers to her. Still, she tries to adjust to her life as best as possible, arranging things so that both she and her new family's cleanliness is improved and trying to make something resembling Japanese food without any of the proper ingredients, not even rice. The thing that's hardest for her to take, however, is the complete lack of books. The nobility can afford books, but poor commoners like her own family can't. Rather than succumb to despair, however, Myne/Urano (who I will refer to as Myne from here on out, although the real Myne is technically dead) decides that she will somehow make her own books.

As is the case with many, many recent light novels, I like the idea behind this series more than its execution. In the afterword, the author says they (I think the author is female, but I'm not 100% sure) refused to abridge Part 1 into a single volume, which I think was a mistake. I wish Japanese light novel publishers/editors were a bit firmer with their authors - far too many light novels are filled with self-indulgent bloat, and Ascendance of a Bookworm is no exception.

As I learned with My Next Life as a Villainess, though, I can be more forgiving of problems in light novels if aspects of them overlap with my interests. In this instance, the book got points for having a book-loving heroine, and the self-indulgent bloat was mostly focused on Myne's efforts at bookmaking. I was interested to see what she'd come up with next and how she'd manage it, considering that it took her weeks just to work up the strength to walk to the forest on her own.

But was it really necessary to go into that much detail on several of Myne's attempts to make something paper- or book-like? Probably not. Same with Myne's various food-making, cleanliness, and personal hygiene efforts. Literally every idea Myne had involved a long, multi-step process to figure out if this world even had the supplies she needed, if those supplies were accessible in some way to commoners, and then how to get those supplies and use them, considering that Myne's body was so weak that overexerting herself could result in being bedridden with a fever for multiple days.

Myne won me over at the very beginning due to her love of books. She was the sort of person who'd find a way to read whenever she could, and she didn't care about anything except making sure she continued to have access to books and reading time. It didn't bother her if other people thought she was odd. However, this single-minded focus eventually began to wear on me. For one thing, in a world like the one she ended up in, it made Myne seem immensely selfish. Her family was literally dirt poor, and she kept asking for things with barely a thought as to whether they could afford them or spare the time to get them. For another, she'd occasionally have tantrums more appropriate to her physical age than supposed mental age when things didn't go her way. Honestly, Tuuli, Myne's 6 or 7 year old sister, usually came across as more mature than Myne, whose mind was supposedly that of a college graduate.

Like many recent light novels, this was unfortunately written primarily in the first person. The author knew enough about POV to realize that different first person narrators would have different sets of knowledge (there were a couple bonus stories written from a couple non-Myne POVs), but not enough to create truly distinct voices (or maybe that was a translation issue?). Also, as with other J-Novel Club books I've read, there were several typos that really should have been caught before this made it to print - a sentence with really odd comma usage, a stray "1" at the end of a sentence, incorrect words like "first" instead of "fist," etc.

Despite my issues with this book, I'm glad I have the next one and can continue on. The end of the volume introduced a few characters and a shift in the storyline that I'm very interested in seeing play out. Although I'm sure that Myne will continue to be more focused on books than anything else, it looks like the series may add some economic aspects, similar to Spice & Wolf and Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter. And since that may mean more appearances by one of my favorite characters in this book, a traveling merchant turned soldier named Otto (whose level of devotion to his wife makes him this series' version of Maes Hughes), I'm looking forward to it even more.

I really wish this had been the more tightly written novel it could have been, but so far this is decent.

Extras:

A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and two bonus short stories, one from Lutz's POV and one prequel from Urano's friend Shuu's POV.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-08-31 20:00
Outbreak Company: The Power of Moe, Vol. 1 (book) by Ichiro Sakaki, illustrated by Yuugen, translated by Kevin Steinbach
Outbreak Company: Volume 1 - Ichirou Sakaki

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.)

Right, so this wasn't initially on my list of J-Novel Club titles to try while my membership is still active. The cover and description made it seem particularly geared towards a male audience, the sort that loves adorable maids who cutely stumble their way through their jobs, flashing their panties. I gave it a shot after seeing it mentioned in a forum post written by someone looking for light novel recommendations that would be more appealing to female audiences, or at least not actively unappealing to them. Supposedly, this was a surprisingly appealing series that got better as it became more serious.

The bulk of this book did not fill me with confidence. Shinichi was a stereotypical "nice guy" socially awkward otaku. There were lots of scenes that showed that he could act like a decent, non-slimy guy, but then something would happen and it was like a switch was flipped. He'd practically vibrate with excitement over being in the presence of an actual flesh-and-blood maid, or completely lose it because he was in the same room as a pair of large breasts (Shinichi kept saying they were Japanese F cup, US DD, but confusingly Minori's breasts in the illustrations were nowhere near that size).

The scene that irked me the most was when Shinichi was introduced to Empress Petralka an Eldant III. He'd been told to be as quiet and respectful as possible, but when he saw her this is what happened: "'IS THAT REALLY AN ARCHETYPAL LITTLE-GIRL CHARACTER?!' I shouted, jumping up and clenching both my fists." (63) The guy was an idiot who kept treating the world around him as though it were some kind of otaku paradise he'd been dropped into and could go all fanboy over without any consequences. He even viewed his interactions with others in terms of manga/anime tropes. The cute female characters wanted to be with him, so clearly some sort of love triangle/harem situation was brewing. When they started to be nicer and friendlier towards each other it was a possible sign of a yuri (f/f) relationship. When Counselor Garius, a handsome man with silver hair that went to his waist, showed signs of beginning to respect and maybe even like Shinichi, Shinichi's mind immediately jumped to "oh no, is he falling for me? because I don't swing that way."

I wouldn't mind all of this quite so much if there was more evidence that the author planned to subvert Shinichi's expectations and set him up as an unreliable narrator. Unfortunately, Petralka and Myusel's behavior around Shinichi really did look like the beginnings of a possible love triangle, and even Minori, Shinichi's bodyguard, seemed to think that it was possible that Garius was developing romantic feelings for him (although if Minori was really a fujoshi, her opinion couldn't necessarily be trusted either).

Things did take a more interesting turn in the last 15 or so pages, though. Shinichi viewed Petralka's apparent jealousy of Myusel (man, I hate that name, it makes me think of Mucinex) as something not really worth worrying too much about, and only started to become more concerned when Minori forced him to look at the situation as it actually was: Myusel, a half-elf, was discriminated against by the Eldant Empire's more dominant group, humans, and Petralka, the Eldant Empire's human Empress, very openly disliked her and was about to fire her. The likelihood that this would turn out well for Myusel was very low, no matter how much Shinichi liked her (in fact, him liking her seemed to make things worse). His inability to see the seriousness of the situation until it was almost too late could have left Myusel a homeless outcast, or even dead.

On the one hand, I had issues with the protagonist, and the stereotypical love triangle apparently brewing between him, the loli Empress Petralka, and the adorably clumsy and submissive Myusel irked me. And I really could have done without the passages on the appeal of breasts/chests of various sizes - the part where Shinichi tried to pacify Petralka, who was sensitive about her childlike appearance (she was actually 16), by going on and on about the appeal of flat chests/small breasts made my skin crawl. Petralka was an actual person Shinichi was talking to, not a character in one of his games, and he basically told her that her small chest was perfectly fine and attractive because, hey, lots of people are into lolicon. Man, I feel gross even just typing that.

On the other hand, I liked the author's focus on the practical aspects of spreading Japanese pop culture in a completely different world. Shinichi had to consider the issue of electricity - since the Eldant Empire didn't have any, his best bet was to put off anime and games for now and focus on print media. Language differences were also an issue. Special magic rings helped Shinichi understand spoken words and be understood, but those rings couldn't translate words on a page. Also, only nobles possessed them, and Shinichi wanted otaku culture to be available to all, not just the Eldant Empire nobility. Which then brought him up against the issue of this world's class system, and what the task the Japanese government had given him might accomplish on a wider scale, beyond getting a few real fantasy world humans and elves to love Spice & Wolf or whatever. The sociological aspects of this series could be really interesting.

But I'm going to need more than 20 or so pages of content directly focused on the practical aspects of Shinichi's job and a lot less "look at those boobs! look at that elf! wow, that girl over there is so moe!" for this series to really work for me. It also bugged me that most of the on-page action was devoted to the stuff I didn't like, while most of the more serious/practical issues stuff was relegated to the narrative (which gave the unfortunate impression that Shinichi was basing most of what he knew about the Eldant Empire on conjecture, overlaid upon what his vast knowledge of anime and manga told him about how a world like this should function).

Reviews for the second volume indicate that it's an improvement upon the first, and continues on with some of the series' more serious aspects. There's a possibility that I'll read on, but for now I think I'll check out another title on my list of J-Novel Club works to try.

Extras:

Black and white illustrations, a few color illustrations, and a fairly lengthy translator's notes section. I really liked the translator's notes, which included a few Japanese cultural details I hadn't known about but realized I'd noticed in various anime and manga series over the years.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-06 04:33
Rich portal fantasy with a dreamy pace
Blue Window - Adina Gewirtz

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley

 

I'm not too sure how to review this one. On the one hand, it's very well written, has many strong points, and is generally enjoyable. On the other, it consistently put me to sleep every night and took about 5x longer to read than my usual pace, so . . . I guess it's good fantasy, and most definitively does not follow the contemporary thriller-pacing that we're seeing more of in YA and MG books. Recommended for young readers who enjoy the classics of kid lit, rather than reluctant readers or those who prefer fast-paced stories.

 

This is a portal fantasy, in which five siblings ranging from early to late elementary age tumble through a window into another world where they discover powers. The third-person narrative lends itself to exploring the world from each character's perspective, allowing for insightful character writing and meaningful personality development, but also feels distant. The journey-of-discovery format means the pace is dreamy and meandering, although there is a clear goal that ties it all together (get home again). There is dark/violent/disturbing content, which may push the edges of younger children's comfort level, but is in line with content from many children's classics. Lots of descriptive writing creates a detailed high fantasy world with some interesting philosophical underpinnings.

 

In summary, there's lots to like here, but for me personally, it just didn't quite come together. Maybe I was just overtired. Again, I'd recommend this for young readers (and other fans) of dense, fantasy doorstoppers and classic storytelling. Rated 5 for quality, 3 for personal taste.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?