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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden | Blabber

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Fantasy
333 pages
Released Jan 10, 2017
Read April 6-17th, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber

This book felt cold.

Overall I liked it, but it definitely took me some time to get into.

Because I’ve decided that giving synopses is not my strong point, here is the Goodreads Synopsis:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale feels cold. It takes place during winter, and reading it feels like you’re there, laying across the top of the oven with Vasilisa and her family while the snow blusters outside. Like you have found the one spot of warmness in a world of ice.

This book sets a very atmospheric tone, and I think that was my favorite part about it. The world was so rich and lush, and the creatures of Russian folklore were integrated in a way that felt natural. The writing was whimsical, and it felt like reading a fairy tale at times.

I also really liked the characters, whether I actually liked them or not. Each character was made the way they were for a reason, and even though some of them I grew to dislike, it made sense that they were there, and why they acted the way they did. Vasilisa, the main character, was my favorite. She was so headstrong and determined, and resisted the pulls of the local traditional values that would have limited her lot in life. At the same time, she acts this way, especially in the later part of the book, because she values her family. It’s a neat dynamic and I liked it.

The plot also is pretty neat – the slow introductions of organized religion into an area permeated by folklore and superstitious belief was interesting to read about, and seeing characters whose main belief systems on either side of the spectrum come to terms with those who believed the opposite was compelling. And while aspects of organized religion were shown in an unflattering way at times, the book never actually bashed the religion itself. I feel it was handled really well. Often when religion is essentially an antagonist in the story, the religion itself is portrayed as this thing that corrupts and those who believe it are silly. But not in this one. In this book, it’s shown that the people and their human error are the cause of misfortune. That their interpretations of what they believe to be right are the cause of strife, not the religious system itself. I found that really refreshing, and I really appreciated that it was portrayed that way.

So, the thing that kept me from loving this book was the pacing. For the first two hundred pages or so, the plot progression was really slow, and I had a hard time latching onto the story. Considering the book is just over 300 pages long, being lukewarm to it for the first two thirds isn’t great. After those 200 pages though, I finished it really quickly and really liked it.

Really other than the pacing, I had no complaints. This book was solidly good, and I’m glad I made the effort to get to a part where I could fall into the story more easily. The second book is out, and I feel like once my buying ban is over, it’ll be up there at the top of my list of books to get. Now that I know what to expect as far as pacing, I’m thinking I’ll like it even more.

3.75/5 stars

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Posted by on 04/21/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch | Mini-blabber

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Science Fiction
342 pages
Released July 26, 2016
Read April 1-11th, 2019
Spoiler-free mini-blabber

What if your life was different?

Dark Matter follows a man named Jason, who is married to his wife Daniella and has a son. He works as a professor at the local college and is pretty satisfied with his life, but can’t help wondering, what if. What if he’d made different choices, what if he hadn’t quit his research to pursuit raising a family. Everyone has these kinds of thoughts now and again.

How do your choices lead you to where you are?

Then one day, Jason, when walking home at night, is attacked and the last thing he hears before he loses consciousness is ‘Are you happy with your life?‘. When he wakes up, he goes home to find his wife isn’t his wife, his house isn’t how he left it, and his son was never born.


And that’s all I’m going to tell you of the synopsis. Anything more I think would take away from your enjoyment of the book.

This book was really addictive. The writing was compelling enough to keep the plot moving at a rather fast pace, and the plot progression itself was pretty neat. The main character Jason, I came to feel for, as he navigated through the events that unfolded. I also really liked Daniella, and how intuitive she was when it came to her husband.

The thing that kept the book from being five stars is that it was a bit predictable. Sure I didn’t predict the exact ending, but I kind of had an inkling that something like it might happen mid-way through the book, and that inkling only grew stronger as the book continued. Even with guessing it though, it was played out really well, and the ending, well… I feel like writing a book like this, having the events happen that happened, and following the laws you set up within the story itself, it’s hard to write a perfect ending. But Blake Crouch I think picked one that suited the story well. Was it perfect? No, but like I said, I don’t know how you could make it perfect, considering.

I’m finding it really hard to talk more in-depth about what I liked. I feel like anything more I say about the plot will be a spoiler, and it’s best to go into it with as little information as possible.

Just know that I did really enjoy this, and I feel like it would make an excellent movie. A movie, mind you. Usually when I read a book I’m more of an advocate for a miniseries or something, but I think the thrilling pace and plot of this one would definitely be more suited for a movie. Do you hear me Hollywood? Get on it. I’ll be the first in line to buy a ticket.

Very good book.

4/5 stars

 

 
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Posted by on 04/20/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | Blabber

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

YA Contemporary
459 pages
Paperback
Read April 2-4, 2019
Minorly spoilery blabber

Whether I end up liking or disliking a YA book, I tend to always fly through them. This one was no exception. I buzzed through this book in two and a half days. An adult fantasy of similar size would at least take a week, maybe more. So already, this book has that going for it.

I knew that this book is basically one of the most hyped in the online book community, and reading the synopsis, I can see why. The character is very relatable – young woman going to college, unsure of herself, writes fanfiction, is generally nerdy. I understand how this book could be the love of so many people. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype for me.

I didn’t hate it, I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

So, overview of the book: As mentioned, it follows a young woman, Cath, as she goes to college with her twin sister Wren. Cath is basically a homebody who wants nothing to change and Wren is dying for the opposite. As the book goes, Cath meets her roommate, a boy, has some family drama and writes fanfiction.

My opinions: The thing that kept me from rating this book higher was Cath herself. She has social anxiety and likes things to be just as they are. Now, I’m not knocking social anxiety by any means. It occasionally flares up for me, a lot of my friends have it to an extent, etc. It’s not the anxiety that makes me dislike Cath so much. It’s how she deals with it.

Basically any time a character would act in a way that made Cath anxious or unhappy, like her sister rooming with someone else instead of her, yada yada, Cath would become controlling. She would berate the other person for doing something that she was uncomfortable doing herself. She would basically give them a guilt trip of ‘How dare you not be anxious/upset/angry about this when I am’ and it really bugged me. I mean if she’s anxious, fine, but guilting other people for not being anxious is a no-no. My above example is just one of many times she did this, and by the end, I didn’t really like her at all because of it.

Also, she wrote this fanfiction throughout the book, which at first was great. I wrote fanfiction when I was a teen too, and it was neat to get back into the mindset of planning one, participating in a fandom, etc. But then it got a bit dull: the fanfiction was written in the book – like pages and pages were literally the fic she was writing, and it was for a book that was made up in the Fangirl universe. I didn’t understand the point of it, really. I know there is a book called ‘Carry On’ also by the author that is set in the world the made up book is about, but from reading the fanfiction in the first book, I really have no interest in it. It didn’t grip me at all, and I was skimming those sections by the end, because shocker, they had nothing to do with the plot. I mean sure, I could see inklings of themes matching the ‘real world’ situation but they weren’t strong enough to warrant so much filler.

Another thing I disliked in the book is the overall message of ‘therapy/medication is a joke’, which I didn’t appreciate. The main character as mentioned has social anxiety, and her dad I’m pretty sure is bipolar, though I don’t think they label him as such. But throughout the book, Cath in particular kept mentioning how ‘they were in therapy when they were little and it sucked’ and now the whole family is against the idea. The dad in particular, from some of his behaviors throughout the book, should have been in therapy. Cath mentioned in passing how he’d randomly stop taking his meds and everyone seemed to be fine with that. Like ‘oh, Dad’s being Dad again’, not ‘He’s probably on a restricted substance and going cold turkey is a bad idea’. Like, none of it was even mentioned in a way that could suggest it’s something you shouldn’t do without medical supervision, and it really, really bugged me.

I did mention above though that I did like this book overall. I did. The main things I liked where the side characters: Levi, Reagan and Wren. All three of them were really cool, and honestly a lot more patient with Cath’s habit of trying to guilt or control the actions of others than I would have been. Levi, the love interest in the book, is a sweet pea. He’s so soft and pleasant. Reagan seems like a person I could relate to a lot more than Cath was, and Wren just seemed like a teenage girl who wanted to break out of her shell. Mind you she ended up going a bit too far, but that was called out and dealt with, the one thing that the family did health-wise correctly in my opinion. Goodness.

I also liked the plot and premise, though I think the ending fell a bit flat and there were weird side-plots that resolved in unsatisfying ways. But the overall story was pretty good. I just wish the main character would have been a bit more uh… well, a bit less controlling about everything that was going on throughout it.

Now that I’ve written everything out, it’s definitely clear that all the things I liked about the book were counteracted by the things I disliked. It’s basically even. The fast pace I was able to read it in really helped bump it from ‘neutral’ to ‘I liked it’ territory though. So a three star review from me it is.

3/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 04/13/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James |Blabber

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy, #1)

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Dark Star Trilogy, Book 1
Read Feb 18 – March 19
Released Feb 5th, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber
This is one of the most divisive books I’ve ever read.

Every review I’ve seen on it has either been 4/5 stars or 1/2 stars. I have seen maybe one or two 3 star, middle of the road kind of reviews.

Unfortunately I was in the 1/2 star camp. I didn’t like this book.

I buddy read this book with Katy @BookbinderWay and she ended up really enjoying it, I think she gave it 4 stars. Whatever she saw in it though, I obviously didn’t see, which is a shame. I wanted to like this book, I did. This was an anticipated release and I bought very quickly after it came out. And if you’ve been following my blog at all, I wrote a post recently about DNFing books, discussing time wasted versus money wasted. In the post I didn’t name what book I was talking about. Take a guess, though. Guess.

I didn’t end up DNFing this book, I finished it, but honestly I don’t know if it was worth it. In retrospect, the money I spent on the book was basically paying for the unpleasant time I had reading it, so there’s another point to my discussion in that post. Anyways, onto my thoughts:

The first thing I noticed about the book was the writing. It was written like you were sitting around a campfire, listening to someone tell you an ancient tale. And it worked for me… for a bit. But soon it became difficult to tell who was saying what, what was a side thought and what was spoken aloud, what was important and what wasn’t. There was no emphasis on things over other things. I couldn’t tell if a tangent a character went on would be important information for later, or if it was just, well, them going on a tangent.

The plot meandered and while I typically don’t mind a meandering plot, the whole synopsis of the book, the ‘find the boy, big mystery’ plot, took a backseat. The stakes were supposedly high but because the earlier mentioned lack of emphasis, I couldn’t gather why. It’s like the author was like ‘this is the big thing that’s gonna happen but we’ll just make it of equal focus to everything else that’s going on’. It made the reading experience difficult and muddled. I also didn’t end up caring about any of the characters. I hated Tracker, the main character. I didn’t like The Leopard, I didn’t like really anyone except Sadogo.

I think the thing I disliked the most about this book – what really kept me from getting invested, is how unnecessarily sexually violent everything was. Rapes here, rapes there, threatened rapes, actual rapes, people literally dying from rapes. Comments about penises doing penis things left and right, people assaulting each other sexually and nobody finding it abnormal. I mean… it was gross. I was uncomfortable, and it kept me from like.. enjoying the story because every other page someone would threaten to ravage someone else’s ass or something. None of it was even relevant to the plot – I felt like it was just in there to be shocking for its own sake.

So, about half way through the book, I wrote the post I mentioned earlier, and I decided to pick the book up on audio. That did help. Hearing this book that felt like an oral tale told, well, orally, helped. The narrator did a fantastic job – he actually put emphasis into things and spoke side-thoughts so they sounded like side thoughts. I could actually tell what was important and what wasn’t. So at that point, I could somewhat get passed all the problems I had been having and actually focus on the plot of the story. Unfortunately though, while everything was more clear, the plot still fell flat for me.

So – while I very much didn’t like this book over all, there were some good things about it. The world that James crafted is really neat. The creatures he mentions are fascinating, the cultures are really neat, the lore he based everything off of is fascinating, and I wanna read more things inspired by it. And just experiencing the world and its various magical elements was really, really cool.

But unfortunately, the setting wasn’t enough to save the book for me. The premise was good, the world was great… but the characters, violence, and meandering really ruined it for me.

If you’re in the mindset to read something containing all that, I can see how you’d love the book. It felt like I was reading an epic like Gilgamesh or something at points. But, for me, it did not click. I did not like it, which is such a bummer.

I haven’t decided if I’m gonna unhaul the book or if I’m gonna wait a few years and reread it. We’ll see.

1.5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/24/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics by Hiromu Arawaka

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel ComicsFullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics by Hiromu Arakawa

Manga
Read March 15-16th
Fantasy
128 pages
Released in English March 12th, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber

This was so nice.

I had no idea this collection of four panels was coming out until I walked past it in the bookstore – it wasn’t even in the manga section. I froze and picked it up immediately.

This book is a collection of all the Fullmetal Alchemist four-panels – at the back of each of the 27 volumes of manga, there’s a small section of fun comics that the author made. They’re humorous, don’t really play into the plot (but do reference it, so they’ll be spoilery if you haven’t finished the series), and when I read them, I loved them. So that’s what I thought I would be getting when I picked this up.

Turns out, it was way more than that. It started with the manga four-panels – a title at the top would tell which volume it was from. And then after that, there were four-panels that were included in the original FMA anime DVD collection. I didn’t even know they contained four-panels. And then it went into comics from the FMA Brotherhood DVD collection. After that, it threw in all the comics that had appeared in Shonen Jump issues and various other medias, and finally it included a few comics that were never published anywhere.

So… I expected one thing and I got that and so much more. It. Was. Fantastic. I already knew I was going to like rereading all the four-panels – it had been a few years since I read the series so while most of them struck a chord of memory for me, some of them I had forgotten completely. And they’re funny – I laughed out loud multiple times. When I got to the DVD collection comics and beyond, it was a mix of new material and nostalgia. I had never seen the comics before obviously, but the contents of them hovered around the content of the DVDs, so having seen both anime series multiple times, it was very enjoyable to read extra material about them.

So overall, I loved this. I can see myself rereading it multiple times in the future, and I do believe it’s gained a spot in my ‘favorite books’ list. And man, it really, really made me want to reread the series. Maybe that’ll happen this year. It’s been years.

Rating 5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/17/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Goblin Slayer vol 1 by Kumo Kagyu

Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (Goblin Slayer Manga, #1)Goblin Slayer volume 1 by Kumo Kagyu
Art by Kousuke Kurose
Character Design by Noboru Kannatuki

Manga
Read March 15
Rated M
Fantasy
176 pages
Spoiler-free Blabber

Goblin Slayer is visceral and vicious.

And I loved it.

Goblin Slayer is one of a trend I’ve seen recently: manga and anime that basically seem like a D&D campaign. Not that I’m complaining, mind you – I’m digging quite a few of them right now. This one in particular though is the most intense, the most violent. Trigger warning for blood, gore, and rape.

Goblin Slayer follows the story of a young priestess who is set on becoming an adventurer – one who fulfills jobs, usually hunting and killing various creatures or finding various artifacts for money. The story opens with her getting her first job – hunting a band of goblins that have stolen some young women from the nearby town. She goes in with a band adventurers, also brand new. What she experiences in the goblin cave is far worse than she had anticipated, and then Goblin Slayer shows up. That’s his name, the guy in the armor on the cover. He, unlike the priestess, is not a rookie.

So as mentioned above, multiple trigger warnings for this – even moreso for the anime (which is also really good and I really recommend. But the anime is even more visceral than the manga, believe it or not). This manga does not shy away from the danger these characters are putting themselves in, nor does it hand wave any of the brutality the goblins are capable of. This first volume is a good set up of the world the characters are living in, and even starts to touch into the back story of the enigma known as Goblin Slayer. Having seen farther in the anime than I’ve read in the manga at this point, I know the character development and world building is only going to get better from here.

There were a few things in the manga that were a welcome surprise though – insights into goblin thought patterns, background info on characters. I really liked it all. While an overarching plot has not really taken hold in this first volume, the ending of it hints at one, and it makes me want to buy the second volume yesterday. I really like the art in this too – the characters are well-designed and I never had an issue remembering who someone was.

I think my only complaint about this is it gets a bit fan-servicey at times. Boobs when they’re not relevant, butts when they’re not relevant. You get the gist. It didn’t occur often enough though to really take away from my enjoyment of the manga, but it did happen often enough that I noticed it. So hopefully it’ll stay at the level it’s currently at or decrease. I feel like an increase in meaningless boobs wouldn’t really benefit anything.

And to reiterate what I listed at the top: this manga is rated M, so be prepared for M rated content, because man, it does not shy away from it. If you’re willing to go into it knowing this though, and you tend to like fantasy and d&d, you’ll probably like this. I really did.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/16/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain | Blabber

Anthony Bourdain's Hungry GhostsAnthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Vanesa Del Rey, Mateus Santolouco, Leonardo Manco

Graphic Novel/Cookbook
Read March 1st, 2019
Hardback
Spoiler-free blabber

Hungry Ghosts is not what I expected it to be, then again, going into it I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I had never read a graphic novel cookbook combination before.

This book came out October of last year, and it had been on my radar ever since. I really like Anthony Bourdain’s work, and with recent events, it made me want to read it even more. So, when I saw it in the store, sitting there going ‘Emily here I am!’ I had to pick it up.

The basic premise of this book is a group of people are having a fancy dinner when they begin an ancient samurai game of nerves – light a bunch of candles, tell a scary story, and then blow out a candle. Each person in the group does this until all the candles are extinguished. Samurai would do this feat of nerve with the expectation that speaking about the spirits and demons would draw them near, and the darker it got, the more likely it would be for the speaker to become possessed.

Each story that a person tells plays out as a chapter, so you get a bunch of mini stories with the overarching popping in and out around it. The art in this was really neat – the illustrators did a really good job. It’s a much darker, heavier style than I’m used to, but it fit for the content of the thing and I really enjoyed it. Each story was illustrated in a different way too, which was really cool. It was also really neat getting to see all of these monsters and myths of Japanese folklore played out. Some of them I had heard of, others I had not. Each story surrounded hunger somehow (hence the title) which lent to a sense of cohesiveness.

Overall I really liked the structure and the content of the book. I think the one thing that kept me from loving it was lack of depth. And I know that it might not be fair, judging a graphic novel for depth, but at the same time, there are definitely other graphics I’ve read that do have that depth within a single trade issue. This one felt like we were only scratching the surface of what could have been really thorough looks at all these monsters, and because of that I had a hard time getting really invested. The ending was also rather abrupt and I finished the story with a feeling of ‘Wait, that’s it?’. At the same time though, the abruptness and the quick stories of each creature was probably what was desired by the authors and artists – scary stories are scary stories, and a lot of them originated from small snippets of tales like these ones. The structure was probably set up that way to feel like it was going back to the roots.

The recipes at the end are fun too, though I think I’d only be able to feasibly make one of them, the risotto. All of the others are way above my cooking skills. I liked them though and if anyone wants to come over and make them for me, be my guest.

So, do I recommend this? That depends. If you’re looking for something to become totally invested in, probably not. But! If you’re interested in Japanese myth, don’t mind a quick-paced campfire-esque telling of stories, and really want to see some neat art, then definitely. This book was a really neat thing, and I enjoyed it.

3/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/09/2019 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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