Forest Mage by Robin Hobb | Blabber

Forest Mage (Soldier Son, #2)Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
Book 2 of the Soldier Son trilogy
718 pages
Fantasy
Spoiler-free blabber for this book
Spoilers for book 1

This book was such a roller coaster.

Two months ago, I wrote a blabber about Shaman’s Crossing, which is the first book in this series. That book, I gave a full five stars to after some retrospection. My impulse was a 4.25, but when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I bumped it to a 5. It’s still there and I’m happy with that rating. My thoughts of that book honestly are… pretty simple compared to this one. This book made me feel so much more.

So first of all, as per usual, I buddy-read this with Zezee @Zezeewithbooks, and we both ended up having some pretty complex emotions about this thing.

This book picks up pretty quickly after the first book ends. From my perception, there might have been a few days or maybe a week or so between them, but the scene is more or less the same as it was at the end of the first book: The academy has just gotten through a wave of the Speck plague and is in recovery. One of my favorite things about book one was the academy aspect. I really liked the dialogue on how political alliance among the old and new nobles infiltrated into how the students at the academy treated each other. So at the beginning of this book, with the plague having wiped out many people on both sides, those alliances have kind of crumbled, and a ‘we must stick together’ mindset has set in, especially among those at the academy, if not those holding political positions.

What I wasn’t expecting though, was the plot to veer away from that setting so quickly, away from the academy and in a totally different direction. First thing, is Nevare is affected by the plague in a different way than everyone else. Instead of wasting away to a skeleton of himself, he gains weight. A lot of it. This happens pretty early on and is also hinted at towards the end of the first book. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, but it becomes a central plot point and acts as a catalyst for a lot of the things that happen to Nevare further along in the book.

And I gotta tell ya, people in this book are mean to him. Like, horrendously so. He’s ridiculed by friends and family both, and society as a whole comes to see him as less. During this emotional torture, some additional things happen to Nevare that honestly border on torture porn. And at the time of reading it, it seems senseless, because he’s so passive in reacting to it. At this point in the book, both me and Zezee honestly weren’t having a great time. It was difficult to read, because Nevare, who honestly was a bit of a jerk in book one, really gets the short end of the stick, and I came to really feel for the guy. His jerky habits definitely lessen, though occasionally you can see little hints that he’s still working through his personal issues regarding them. I really liked that about this book: as passive as Nevare was, his characterization is really consistent. He grows and develops as a character, but he does so believably.

As the book progressed, we got a broader picture as to why everything was happening, and it made all the depressing things that happened make more sense, at least to the point where it no longer felt like the author was torturing the characters for no reason.

Speaking of the progression, I really liked the pacing in this. At no point did the book drag, and the speed at which we received information about the new location Nevare was in and all the unseen forces at play made for a compelling read. I really like how the magic evolved and how Nevare became more and more entwined with it.

I think my one complaint about the book that was sustained throughout the thing was the abrupt change in cast. All of the characters introduced and developed during the academy part of the book basically disappeared once Nevare ended up elsewhere. I mean, all new characters were introduced and developed but man I liked the ones we had, wah. I’m hoping they come back in book three! The few characters that did stick around, I really liked. Spink and Epiny – I love their relationship and their utter trust and honesty with each other. They’re so wholesome, communicative and healthy and it’s just such a breath of fresh air. Meaning…. I’m very worried about them come book three, as Robin Hobb tends not to let anyone have a completely happy ending. Auugh.

So overall plot-wise, while this book was definitely depressing to read, it advanced in a way that made sense for the lore set up in the world, and I overall enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the character development, particularly in Nevare, and I really liked the pacing.

With the way that book two ended, I feel like book three could take another 180 in regard to the plot, just like this book did compared to the first. I honestly can’t even guess as to where it’s gonna go or how it’s gonna end, but man I am ready for it.

4.25 stars

Thoughts on Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon Episode 1

Yashahime can be found on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Youtube

Happy October 3rd, Yashahime release day!

Spoilers for Inuyasha and Yashahime episode 1

Back when this sequel was announced in May, I made a post about it, basically detailing my waffling on how I felt about it. Since that post, I’ve come to mostly look forward to it. So I’ve been counting down the days, lemme tell you. So here are my thoughts, now that I’ve watched episode one:

Weirdly, the biggest emotions I’m feeling right now are dread mixed with sadness. The first episode isn’t sad at all, mind you. On the contrary, it’s got some good comedy in it and I really liked it, but I just have a feeling something bad is going to happen.

So this episode opens on Towa sitting in a feudal lord’s castle, being grilled about where she came from. It flashes from there back and forth to shortly after Kagome returns to the feudal era. A lot of the episode is actually spent there, and we see them fighting the Root Head demon from the trailer. It was really nice to see all the characters again – the whole main cast pretty much. It’s immediately noticeable that everyone has grown and matured. Things that would have been a dramatic argument in the original show were discussed calmly three years later in this sequel. It was just so nice to see the character growth.

I was expecting this episode to set up the main plot for the series, but I suppose it’ll take more than twenty minutes of show time to do that: other than flashing forward to Towa, Setsuna and Moroha together, it hasn’t (yet) explained how it got to that point. That is why I feel so much dread.

From the trailer to the movie posters, there are two people in particular who haven’t made an appearance while Towa, Setsuna and Moroha are doing their thing: Kagome and Rin. Both of them, while in the episode during the fight with the Root Head demon, haven’t been hinted at at all during the later time setting. It’s… unsettling.

Mind you, we only saw the three girls during the later time period, so it’s not guaranteed any of the other characters will be later in the show, but the lack of them being featured on the posters and images and stuff makes me worry.

So the Root Head demon – it’s obvious while ‘defeated’ in the first episode isn’t actually so. And honestly, the set up for how it got there was pretty nice. It wasn’t just ‘it showed up one day’, but actually had a reason that made sense why it was there and why it was in Kaede’s village in particular. So as said, this Root Head demon I don’t think is quite done, and I feel like it’s going to be the catalyst for… whatever happens for all the characters.

I don’t like it. It makes me feel so nervous, augh.

As mentioned earlier, this episode has some good comedy. Moroha is definitely Inuyasha and Kagome’s daughter, to put it plainly. She’s such a great combination of them that it’s hilarious just to see her being herself. Setsuna you can tell is a bit stoic like her father, which is also funny in its own way. Towa’s interactions with the feudal lord are pretty funny. Towa, unlike Kagome in the original series, is actually concerned about preserving the timeline. Her facial expressions when being confronted with a book brought back from modern time is great, and so is the one when she sees Kagome’s old bicycle seat, which was found in a river.

That part honestly made me gasp a bit, and lends to my worry about Kagome: why was her bike seat in a river? It looked old, and like it had been there for a while. It showed that clip, and I went ‘oh no. Oh no, this is gonna make me sad, isn’t it’.

We don’t get to find out what happened in episode one though, they’re gonna make us wait. It’s gonna be tortuous and it’s gonna make me cry. It’s gonna, it’s gonna.

So overall: I really enjoyed this episode. They set up some good hooks for future plot points, and I really liked the back-and-forth setting way of telling what’s happened so far. The episode was definitely worth the wait, and I am excited (I also dread) to see more.

If you watched this, do tell me your thoughts. As far as I know, none of my friends are watching so I have nobody to talk about it with.

 

Reamde by Neal Stephenson | Blabber

ReamdeReamde by Neal Stephenson
Thriller/Science fiction
1044 pages
Read June 20-Aug 23, 2020
Spoiler-free blabber

I can’t say I’ve read a 1000 page book and been entertained the whole time before.

But for some reason, obviously to the credit of the author, this book, which comes in at 1044 pages, kept me interested the whole way through. At no point did it lag, nor did the pacing slow down, for me at least.

Neal Stephenson’s Reamde is definitely a thriller, and while it’s also classified as science fiction, I’d say barely just, if you squint. It involves a video game that doesn’t exist, but otherwise, it seems very current-technology-era, maybe even a bit dated from it being written in 2011. So don’t be scared off by the categorization of ‘science fiction’ if that’s not something you typically read.

This books follows a small set of main characters – a middle aged draft-dodger who’s become wealthy and successful by inventing the video game mentioned above, his adopted, computer-wizard niece from Eritrea, some Russian mafia guys, some Chinese hackers, some British government agents, and some middle-eastern terrorists. I gotta tell ya, this plot is all over the place, but it just flows so well.

The beginnings of it at least, start when a computer virus – Reamde – made by the Chinese hackers ransom locks some files wanted by the Russian mafia while inside a resort owned by the video game creator. And it just goes from there. Honestly I can’t even begin to go farther into the plot because it really just goes everywhere.

So plot-wise, for being a 1000 pages, it was pretty fast-paced. As said, it didn’t lag or anything, and while it did definitely get a bit convoluted, at no point did it cross into jump the shark territory. The continuity and segues into new plot points were really good and kept me coming back.

The thing I did have a problem with, the thing that kept me from loving this book, was the vocabulary. Like… when I first started reading this book, I thought it was written in the 80s, going by the language the author was using. There were dated, offensive terms for black people, for homosexual people, and for special needs people that haven’t been used in a way that was ‘accepted’ in normal society for a loooong time. Like, they were sprinkled throughout the book, spoken by characters as if they were normal, characters not written to be racist or homophobic or anything like that. They were also in the narration itself at times. So I was reading this and I thought, ‘this is probably an old book, product of its time’. But nope, it was published in 2011. So like.. while I really liked the story, the vocabulary really made me hate it at the same time. I don’t know if the author feels that the terms are ‘normal’, or maybe this was originally drafted in the 80s or what, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I have no idea how it got passed the editor, to be honest.

The thing that confused me the most about the weird vocabulary was it was combined with a very diverse cast of characters, all of whom were fleshed out and fairly well developed. It was just a weird dichotomy, seeing a really nice cast combined with the rocky vocabulary. I don’t know. It was… bizarre. I don’t remember this vocabulary being in other books I’ve read by Stephenson, so I have no idea what was going on.

So yeah overall: really neat, windy plot, good characters, great pacing. Vocabulary? Don’t pick this up if you don’t wanna be subjected to it. It can definitely be offensive.

3.75 stars

 

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa | Blabber

Pestilence (The Four Horsemen, #1)Pestilence by Laura Thalassa
Read July 21-24, 2020
Romance/Fantasy/Apocalyptic
381 pages
Spoilery blabber

So, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it, either. It’s also been weirdly on my mind since I finished it, enough so that it’s compelling me to write a review a month later. So props to it, it’s stuck in my brain.

Pestilence is a biblical apocalyptic romance novel, set during the reign of the four horsemen. Pestilence, shown on the cover, arrives with his brothers and begins spreading, well, pestilence. And I gotta tell ya, I need to point out its inaccuracies right away: In the book everyone is taking care to avoid getting sick. Obviously now we have a real life example to show that hey no, people are stupid. (I kid – it’s not a negative to the book at all. If anything, the writer is just trying to portray ideal humans, which I respect.)

Anyways.

The plot of the book starts when Sara, the main character, tries to kill him to save humanity, fully expecting to die in the process. Only she doesn’t and she doesn’t. Pestilence, instead of killing her, takes her prisoner and boom, romance.

Again, I kid. One thing I did like about this was how long it took for the romance to develop. It was slow, it wasn’t ‘I know you hate me but I’ma jump your bones anyways’ or anything like that. Honestly though I think it should have been slower. Like across several books. There is the whole moral ‘he’s committing genocide’ thing which would usually be a deal breaker, but apparently the romance happened because ‘he felt bad about it’. I mean, I could see it happening eventually, but I feel like it needed a lot more nuance.

And that’s my main issue with this book, was this plot line where Sara was trying to convince him to stop killing humanity and he wouldn’t because reasons. I’ll get to this more later, as it culminates at the end of the book in a way I really didn’t care for.

But for overall plot, this book was entertaining enough if you focused on the romance, but a bit slow otherwise as far as ‘progression of the apocalypse’ goes. It felt a bit stagnant at times, broken apart only by romance scenes. I mean I get this is the point of the book – the romance – so I’m not judging too harshly here, but I guess with this huge premise set up to put the romance in, I wanted a bit more depth.

Characters: I rather liked Sara, for the most part. I do think she let her guard down around Pestilence too quickly though. Like I said I feel like the romance should have taken longer to develop, especially with the premise. Pestilence was alright. He was the stereotypical ‘beautiful born yesterday man meat’. He wasn’t a bad character per say, he just didn’t have too much to him.

So with the above, my overall enjoyment of this book was about a three stars. Like I enjoyed it, didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It was very middle of the road for me.

Until the ending, which is what dropped the book down in rating for me.

As mentioned above, spoilers.

The ending was very anti-climatic. I mentioned earlier the plot line where Sara was trying to convince Pestilence to stop killing humanity. Well, that was true – she was constantly trying to get him to stop (but also banging him so really, her words held no sway for a while).

The main reason he wouldn’t from what he said was that he was divinely ordained to do it, or whatever his words were. Long story short it was ‘I cannot stop as it is divine will’. Which to me, implied something bad would happen if he disobeyed. The book repeated this reasoning over and over and over again, and created a sense of unease, because let’s be real this is a romance and I knew eventually he’d drop it, and with this foreboding, I felt like something big was gonna go down. As the book progressed, he did admit feeling bad about killing humanity but that was all the remorse he ever showed.

Here’s the kicker: Eventually, Sara was like ‘eff it, he’s really not gonna stop’ and tries to leave him, because she, after 300-odd pages, realizes she’s not gonna change him. He follows her and basically locks her up so she stops running away. I had to stop and think about this section for a bit, because bam, sudden abusive plot line out of nowhere. Like what?

So Sara just broods in her captivity for a few chapters and eventually Pestilence lets her out because he’s still not happy, because she’s still mad at him for killing humanity (shocker). And then he’s like ‘I’ve decided to stop killing humanity, don’t worry’.

And that’s it. No divine retribution. No big biblical climax because one of the four horsemen decided to just stop his mission. No interference. No consequences to Pestilence for stopping killing humanity. Nothing.

And then they live happily ever after for ten years until the hook for book two shows up.

I mean.

I mean.

If he could have stopped this whole time with no consequence, why didn’t Sara call him out on that? She basically is like ‘sweet’ and just rolls with it. She doesn’t strike me as a dumb character, nor is she written like one. But for some reason, she doesn’t seem to notice or care that there was seemingly nothing stopping him from not killing people earlier. That this ‘divine mission’ was just him being stubborn, and not the threat of a righteous strike-down, as heavily hinted in the book earlier.

It just left a sour taste in my mouth, is all.

And it dropped my enjoyment of this book from ‘I liked it’ to ‘I didn’t quite like it’. Still didn’t hate it, mind you. But that ending was like a wet paper bag with an old sandwich in it.

2.5 stars

 

Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb | Blabber

 

Shaman's Crossing (Soldier Son, #1)Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb
Book 1 of the Solider Son trilogy
577 pages
Fantasy
Spoiler-free blabber

After finishing Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings world I was left pining for it. For the characters, the world, the plot, the sheer depth of it all. After letting it sit for a bit, I picked this up, hoping it would fill the void. And I gotta say, I think it has.

Shaman’s Crossing is not an Elderlings book, first off, and it doesn’t pretend to be one. It starts from the ground up, crafting an all new world, characters, magic systems, and political strife. Shaman’s Crossing is a wholly different book, but to me, I could still see the Robin Hobb-y-ness of it all, and I quickly became smitten with the thing.

This book follows Nevare, a second son of a second son, destined to  a soldier, as he grows and learns that the world around him is not what he had anticipated. The story begins with Nevare as a child, where he lives with his father, a soldier-turned-lord, on the frontier of quote unquote “civilized” society and the unclaimed lands, populated with magical people known as the Plainsmen. Nevare as a child is innocent to the existing prejudices and political pressure existing in his world. He gets hints of it here and there but being a child, he’s not fully comprehending what he’s seeing. As the reader, you can fully grasp what’s going on while Nevare cannot, and it creates a sense of unease.

As the book continues, Nevare grows older, and social roles are cemented into his head. The social system in this book is very patriarchal, and Nevare just flows along with it. At first, once he was grown, I found him frustrating with how ingrained this patriarchy was in his head. Robin Hobb being Robin Hobb though obviously wasn’t gonna let that lie: she’s the queen of character development after all.

Nevare finds himself placed in a military academy and immediately his mental schemas of how the world works and who fills what roles are challenged. He finds himself constantly realizing that yes, he’s a bit of a dick, and no, people don’t fit into these stereotypical boxes like he thought they did. With every chapter, Nevare’s expectations of the world crack just a bit more, and it was really great seeing him mentally process all of the new interactions and people he met that didn’t quite fit in his interpretation of his country.

The magic system(s?) too, are really cool. Shamanic in origin, they deal with spirits, spirit worlds and how they can entwine the physical realm, influence it, and even force it to change. Robin Hobb blended the metaphysical with the physical in a way that was enthralling, and tied it in with the social norms of the world so well.

It plays on one’s reluctance to admit to anything supernatural, it plays with established religion versus spiritualism, it plays with feelings of religious doubt, it plays with seeing proof before one’s very eyes and still not wanting to admit that one is wrong.

It plays with people’s reaction to the inevitable, when they see it happening and choose to ignore or disbelieve it. Funny how fiction imitates life.

For a first book in a brand new series, it touches on a lot: prejudice and racism, sexism, patriarchy, fatphobia, colonialism, occultism, spiritualism, bullying, classism, and a lot more.

The story as well is compelling. It was as rich as a Robin Hobb book normally is, and was just as inviting. Even though I mentioned I had frustrations with the main character, I also cared about him too. As the plot played out, I found myself worrying for him, even when I wasn’t actively reading the book. The side characters were well put together, and each brought something new and unique into Nevare’s world.

Originally I rated this books a 4.25. And honestly I’ve been sitting on this rating for a while, thinking about whether or not it was the right call. I buddy read this with Zezee @Zezeewithbooks, and she gave it a full 5 I believe. I finished this book probably last month or so, and having sat with it and thought on it, and having found myself being brought back to it over and over again across the past few weeks, I think I agree with her, actually. This book was definitely a five stars. The initial experience was great, but the after-effects, the way it stuck in my mind, made it even better.

I’m starting the second one here imminently, and wanted to get my thoughts out before they melded together with this next book’s. So here we are, and once again, Robin Hobb has swept me off my feet.

5 stars

Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits by Waco Ioka, vols 1 & 2 | Blabber

Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, Vol. 1 (Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, #1)Kakuriyo vols 1 and 2 by Waco Ioka
Manga – Fantasy
200 pages each
Read May 22, 2020
Spoiler-free blabber

Kakuriyo was a whimsical get-away. 

Honestly I picked this up knowing nothing about it. I saw it on sale on Rightstuf and decided to grab the first couple volumes. Turns out, it was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This manga follows a young Japanese woman named Aoi Tsubaki, who inherited her grandfather’s ability to see spirits – creatures from Japanese legend. Yokai, ogres, kappas, you name it. Whenever she sees them, she gives them food to ward them off, as spirits tend to eat humans once they realize they’ve been seen. So in addition to the Japanese folklore aspect, you get almost a food-romance theme as well. And by ‘food-romance’ I mean that food is glorified in this book. Even simple meals are made to seem like they’d be delicious.

The plot picks up when Aoi sees a masked yokai, lamenting his hunger. She gives him her lunch, but when she goes to walk away, the yokai grabs her and transports her to Kakuriyo: the spirit world, where it turns out he runs an inn for spirits and suddenly demands that she marry him to pay a debt incurred by her grandfather. Her reaction to that is basically ‘lol yeah right’. And the story goes from there.

Obviously I’m not too far into the series – there are five or six books out so far, and I’m only covering the first two here, but these two have definitely made me a fan. As I said before, this series is whimsical, and it really reminded me of Spirited Away, but in a darker, more gritty kind of way. I wouldn’t call this a horror, it’s nowhere near, but it definitely gives you glimpses and sharp reminders that Aoi is not among humans, and sometimes she forgets that. Every time she starts to get comfortable, she says or does something and a yokai’s face just changes, or she’s suddenly thrown into a dangerous situation. It’s unnerving, as the yokai are written in a highly human way. It kind of lulls you into a false sense of security, and then they distinctly act inhuman, and it throws you off. I loved it.

I have a feeling that this will eventually turn into a romance. It’s being published by Shojo Beat after all, but that’s not too present in the first two volumes, at least. As I mentioned above, the yokai wants her to be his bride but she’s not having it, and insists on working off her debt at the inn instead. But I can see the beginning inklings that this’ll turn into a romance, and I can totally see it.

Another thing that I wasn’t expecting was how funny this was. I laughed out loud multiple times throughout the two volumes. Aoi trying to center herself in this new world caused a few entertaining situations, and the Odanna, the spirit who brought her there, causes a few himself. He’s quiet and reserved and seems indifferent, but occasionally he’ll say something that just throws Aoi off-kilter in a hilarious way. I really enjoyed it.

So overall I really enjoyed this. I liked the characters, the plot was entertaining, and I really loved the world. Again, it just had this… unworldly feel to it, and I thought it was great. I’m definitely going to catch up on this one as soon as I’m able.

4 and 4.5 stars, respectively

 

Scribbley thoughts while reading Pride and Prejudice | Blabber

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Published 1813
Read Jan 12 – Feb 11, 2020
Classic
432 pages
Major spoilers ahead

I read Pride and Prejudice! And because everyone and their mom has read and reviewed this book already, there’s no point in me putting forth another ‘review’ as nothing I can say hasn’t been said already.

Therefore instead of a comprehensive review, I’m gonna give you a play-by-play insight into my thoughts while reading – nothing meant to be taken seriously, as honestly it’s gonna be all over the place.

I was buddy reading this with my two friends, one of which had already read the book fully and was doing a reread. Because of that, I didn’t have to worry about spoilers, particularly towards the end of the book, if she hadn’t read the parts I was at yet. Basically what I did was take a picture of the page, scribble on the pic a bit, and then sent it to her. That’s what you’ll see here.

And like I said:

Major spoilers ahead


I didn’t actually start taking pictures and writing on them until midway through the book. It started right when Darcy originally proposed to Elizabeth. I hope you enjoy. I found myself rather enjoying this kind of reaction-ing, so I might keep it up? We’ll see!

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed.

Hotel Africa vol 1 by Hee Jung Park | Blabber

Hotel Africa, Volume 1Hotel Africa vol 1 by Hee Jung Park
Manhwa – Slice of Life/Drama
215 pages
Published 5/2006
Read 9/2019
Spoiler-free blabber

Hotel Africa is a hidden gem.

I picked this manhwa up because one of my best friends has a tendency of buying a bunch of obscure stuff, and then throwing 20 or so volumes of it at me at a time to read when she’s finished with it. This was among them – I had never heard of it before, and she didn’t tell me her opinion of it before lending it to me. I didn’t even read the back before I began, so I was going in totally blind.

Man, did I end up falling in love with this.

This volume follows two timelines, both focused around the main character: Elvis. Elvis in one timeline is a young man, just trying to live his life like the rest of us. He lives with two room mates, both of which also have their struggles. In the other timeline, Elvis is four years old, living with his mother at Hotel Africa, a hotel his mother and grandmother started up in the middle of the desert in Utah. Each chapter of the manwha switches back and forth between the two timelines, and each time, it goes into a new character’s story.

This series is definitely character-driven. If you go into this looking for a rip-roaring plot, you will be disappointed, but if you go in with the desire to learn about the human condition, you might find yourself in the right place.

Hotel Africa explores a lot of topics – it delves into the characters that show up at the hotel, why they chose that hotel out in the middle of nowhere, and the circumstances that brought them there. Each hotel guest’s story is different. Some are just passing through, on their way to start a new life, some are stuck in their pasts and have gone traveling to find their present, and some show up out of nowhere and never leave.

Elvis himself interacts with these guests, and you see their human struggles through the eyes of a toddler, who at the time may or may not actually grasp what is going on with his new friends. As an adult in the other timeline, you can see Elvis has grown up to be a very empathetic person as a result of being raised around people in all sorts of situations.

I really liked how real the situations felt. Not going into detail for spoilers sake, more than one of the people who showed up at the hotel were going through things that were very close to my heart, others were going through things that I’ve never experienced, but the author was able to convey their feelings in a way so sharp and clear that I felt like I had.

As said, this is a character-driven story, so it moves at a sedated pace. Each hotel guest’s story is self-contained for the most part, allowing us multiple glimpses into situations and struggles across a spectrum of life stages. It was very poignant, and very well written.

Overall, I adored this. On the first read through, I’ve rated it very high, but I feel upon a reread, upon letting these stories really sink in, that this could end up being a 5 star favorite. I plan on getting myself a copy of this and rereading it, along with volume 2, which I believe is the only other volume in the series(?).

But this one, man. If you want something that’ll pull at your heart and make you feel slightly sad without being able to put your finger on why, this is the one.

4.5 stars

O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol 1 by Mari Okada | Blabber

O Maidens in Your Savage Season 1

O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol 1 by Mari Okada
Nao Emoto, Illustrator
Sawa Matsueda Savage, Translator

Manga
Slice-of-Life/Comedy
208 pages
Rating: OT (16+)
Read Sept 1, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber

Of the 76 books I’ve read this year, this is the third one to get a solid five stars from me. I absolutely adored this manga. It was funny, it was cringe-levels of relatable, it was cute. It was great.

This manga follows a group of high school girls in a literature club. Part of the activities of this club include reading passages from books out loud to each other. The manga opens on them doing just that… but they’re reading a sex scene. Immediately the awkward tone hits as you see these girls’ inner thoughts circulate, taking in exactly what they’re hearing. It. Is. Hilarious.

Now as the synopsis states, this manga follows this group of girls as they start to become aware of and think about sex in that way that we all did when we had no idea what all it entailed, how to go about it, or how to even look at someone of the opposite (or same, or any) gender and think of them in that way. Keeping the subject matter in mind, in this manga you’ll see mild nudity and some awkward scenes surrounding it, but nothing explicit. This is rated OT after all, not M.

Reading this just really hit home. They’re all struggling in their own way to take this whole new thought process and incorporate it into their own established world construct – the idea that these thoughts exist, the idea that they have them, the idea that others have them – childhood friends, parents, strangers. Seeing how each girl goes about this process is absolutely adorable and cringey and hilarious, but most of all, it’s completely relatable. I think the author did a fantastic job of capturing how a bunch of naive teenage girls with minimal information might react to this huge change in mindset. Some take it in stride, others have a much harder time doing so.

Now I’ve mentioned a few times that I thought this was funny. But I’m not kidding – I laughed out loud (like actually laughed out loud) multiple times during this single volume. The author takes this subject and makes it both lighthearted and endearing, but is also able to convey how entirely awkward these girls feel when thinking about how their childhood friend might think of boobs, or how their classmates might be or are sexually active already.

Each of the characters, while trying to confide in each other through all of this, also find that awkward, so you see them struggle internally with what they feel they can share and what they don’t want to. It’s a very real situation that I’m sure most of us have been through at one point or another. It explores the vulnerability ones feels during this stage in a way that makes the reader just really relate to what they’re going through. And these attempted half-confessions to each other result in some very funny situations. It was definitely entertaining.

So overall – I highly recommend this manga. As I’ve said, it’s funny, it’s relatable, it’s endearing, and my gosh did it send me back to fifteen year old me’s poor little brain when it had no idea what was going on.

Absolutely fantastic manga – volume 1 has become an all-time favorite, and I plan on getting volumes 2 and 3 here quickly, as they’re out as this post goes up. 4 and 5 aren’t far behind either. This has also been adapted to an anime that’s currently debuting right now, and while I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve heard it’s just as fantastic as the manga, and I plan on watching it, too.

5 stars

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang | Blabber

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
The Poppy War – Book 1
Fantasy
530 pages
Read May 2 – June 1, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber

The Poppy War had a reputation that preceded it.

I had heard more than once before going into this book that it was going to be brutal, graphic, and full of triggering themes. And it was. But honestly, I feel like it wasn’t nearly as intense as I had been expecting. There were definitely difficult situations in the book, and there were descriptions that kinda curdled my stomach, but I feel like I was lead to believe that there would be more than there was, considering the events the book is based off of.

Alternatively, I could just be so desensitized to today’s society and world events that I read all the awful stuff and went, ‘huh’. Either way, I’m not saying this as a good thing or a bad thing about the book, but to me at least, the warnings of graphic content were a bit overblown. It’s definitely there, but it’s more sprinkled than I expected. So take that as you will.

Okay so, this book.

This book follows Rin, a war orphan who takes an exam to enter a prestigious military academy in a country at the brink of war. The book itself is inspired by the events of The Rape of Nanjing, which happened during the second Sino-Japanese War that occurred 1937-1945, where Japanese troops invaded the Chinese capital of Nanjing and mass murdered and raped the citizens there. The plot of this book follows those events closely – you can see how each culture was mirrored into the fictional cultures making up the different nations in the story.

The book itself is well written – the descriptions of military tactics and troop movements and strategy are well thought out and easy to imagine as you read. The main character Rin is multi-faceted, which I was really happy to see. Her morals are all over the place, and there was no clear ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There was just war and necessity. It felt realistic, her actions, her thoughts, and her reactions, considering her age, how she was raised, trained, and how she interprets the world.

The side characters also have multiple layers to them. The brave commander that has no concept of how to lose and cannot process it, the cocky classmate that mentally adjusts when faced with actual warfare, the oddball teacher with eccentric tendencies and whose bravery or lack thereof could be interpreted many ways. It was really cool, seeing all these characters introduced and developed within the first book alone.

The magic system itself is also pretty awesome, and it was really cool that depending on the person’s perspective, that it could be used in different ways. Some characters used the magic by force, and others let it flow through them. The differences caused an interesting conflict in points of the story, and it was really fascinating to read, almost like two different flavors of the same religion battling with each other.

I think the only thing that kept me from loving it was that I couldn’t read it for long periods of time. And that might be an unfair judgement, but I did find myself only being able to pick it up for a chapter or a few pages at a time. I don’t know what it was about it that caused it, but there you go.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m excitedly awaiting book two, which should be out this summer.

4/5 stars