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Fence (vol 1) by C. S. Pacat | Blabber

Fence Vol. 1Fence by C. S. Pacat
Graphic Novel
112 pages
Issues 1-4
Published July 31st, 2018
Read Aug 7th, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

I feel like I suffered from overblown expectations for this one.

I read Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy earlier this year and absolutely adored it, so going into this one, I guess I was expecting to immediately love it. Unfortunately, my feelings toward this first volume are more mild than I was hoping. Don’t get me wrong – I did like this and I feel like it has a lot of room to become a favorite, but the first trade alone didn’t quite do it for me. And that’s my own fault there.

Fence follows a young man as he enters a school and joins the fencing team with the hopes of winning internationally. The main character is written in a way that didn’t quite have me rooting for him. I tend not to like characters with egos and nothing to back it up, and in the beginning, this one did. It wasn’t huge, not like Kvothe-level or anything, but seeing him not immediately being the best fencer was super, super refreshing. I grew to like the character more as the story progressed and he learned a bit of humility.

The character on the cover of the issue is the main character’s rival, and I found him to be much more amusing. He’s written to be a bit of a jerk, though very skilled. He also has an ego, but it bothered me far less, as he had the years and years of training to back it up, as opposed to have just brazen over-confidence in himself. He could still use a bit of character development, but I’m gonna not say too much more on that, given it’s only been one trade volume.

The remaining cast of characters were all interesting in their own ways, but none of them have really developed too much so far, so I haven’t really decided if I like any of them over others. Reading this trade, with the cast of characters and the tone it set, reminded me a lot of Yuri!!! On Ice and Free! . It had a light-fluffiness to it that was enjoyable to read. So if you’re not into quasi-romance that will eventually end up being actual romance, then this series will likely not float your boat. Because I can see it coming a mile away – the graphic novel is listed as lgbt romance, so I know it’s coming. The hate-to-love trope is strong in this one, man. I feel it in my bones, and I’m looking forward to it. This trope, when written well, is wonderful. When it’s not, it’s really really not. But having read C. S. Pacat’s attempt at the trope before, I know she’ll do a decent job of it, so I’m excited.

So, this first volume was a solid beginning, and it definitely has a lot of potential to become a favorite as the series progresses. But, I think my high expectations made me not love this one as much as I thought I would. I’m still going to continue it, and will buy the second volume when my buying ban is over, so I hope it only gets better from here.

3.75/5 stars

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Posted by on 08/11/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik | Blabber

Spinning SilverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Published July 10th, 2018
Read July 10th – Aug 1st
Fantasy
466 pages
Spoiler-free blabber

Reading Spinning Silver is like walking through an icy forest.

I could almost feel the chill in the air and the subtle fear in the back of everyone’s minds. The atmosphere of this book is both enchanting and unsettling at the same time.

I picked up Spinning Silver on its release date – I’m a huge, long-time fan of Naomi Novik. I first read her Temeraire series when I was in high school (and am in the middle of a reread now) and I picked up her book Uprooted on its release day a year or two ago as well. Everything I’ve read by her, I have loved, and this is no exception. I feel like at this point, she could publish her grocery list and I would read it.

Spinning Silver is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set in a Russia-esque village and nearby town and follows a few different perspectives, one being the daughter of a money lender who frankly is terrible at his job. The daughter, Miryem, starts collecting on her father’s debts and soon cultivates the reputation of being able to turn silver into gold.

This attracts the attention of a Staryk king, one of the creatures who live in a world right along side ours, who run through the woods at night on a silver road that appears and disappears without warning, who attack villages and are obsessed with gold. The king unfortunately takes the words of Miryem’s reputation literally.

The story goes from there, weaving fairy tale with myth with an over-arching sense of otherworldliness. I think my favorite part of the book – and this would honestly book one of my least favorites parts of any other book – is that nothing is really explained. There’s magic, but no defined magic system. The book just says ‘this is the world this book is in, and there’s magic here’ and that’s that. There’s no training, there’s no lore, it just is. And it played really, really well into the feeling of ‘unsettling fairy tale’ the book followed.

So if you’re not one who can easily detached from reality and go with the flow, then this book may not be for you. But if you can suspend your belief and grasp onto the idea that this magical realm exists just because it does, then you’ll likely love this book as I did.

The author did a wonder job of both making the Staryk creatures seem utterly foreign and oddly human at the same time. I think this branches from the fact that names in this world are a sacred thing – the Staryk king’s name is unknown, and the other Staryks who make an appearance do not give up theirs either, but end up adopting names that Miryem gives them out of frustration. It’s an odd dynamic. While the character development for the individual Staryks is a bit lacking, the development for the race of creatures as a whole is a bit more involved. I feel like it’d be hard to develop a character too much if even their name is off limits to use. Again, something I’d normally be irritated by but it kinda just worked for this story, for this setting, for this tone. Color me surprised.

The plot as well just feeds into the mythical tone – Miryem, who has the reputation she’s created for herself, is challenged by the Staryk king to do just what she claims to do, turn silver to gold. And Miryem, ever resourceful, handles the situation to the best of her abilities. I think she’s my favorite character in the story. Out of the six perspectives, I enjoyed reading from hers the most. She’s determined, kind-hearted and morally on a good track. Some of the other characters are not so black-and-white, some are rather gray, but each are still written so you can see where they’re coming from, if not the justification for their actions. Together, they interact, the reader sees their different perspectives and motivations as the story unfolds, and together they push the plot forward. It was a wonderful experience.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved its tone, I loved its plot, I loved the sense of wonder it gave me. I’m going to be thinking about this one for a long time.

5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 08/07/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley | Blabber

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1)Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
Fantasy/Romance
536 pages
Read July 9 – July 18
Spoilery blabber

This book had two things going for it.

One, I picked it up for free when it was having a free day in the Kindle app, so I didn’t have to spend money on it. Two, it definitely succeeded in making me feel very strong emotion.

That emotion was rage. 😀

The ‘romance’ was unhealthy, the characters were walking stereotypes, the plot was predictable, and the tropes present in it were done very poorly.

There. That’s the overarching ‘why I don’t like this’ part of the review. I warn you now, I really didn’t like a single thing about this book. So if you don’t like reading very negative reviews you might wanna back out.


The gist of the story: our main character Finnie, who is oh-so-shockingly super rich, pays a witch to transport her to an alternate universe, swapping places with the other-world-Finnie there. The deal is they’ll stay swapped for one year and then swap back. She arrives to this fantasy land (HAW HAW THAT’S THE NAME OF THE SERIES, GUYS) to find herself immediately married to this beefcake called Frey Drakkar, who is this first-time-in-centuries-born guy who has the power to both summon elves and dragons alike. Turns out her alternate self agreed to the swap to get out of this arrangement. And after I finished the book, I didn’t blame her.

So that’s the plot. Throw in a bunch of sex scenes and tropes and you’ve got yourself this novel.

I figure way most succinct way to give my thoughts on the book is to start with overarching themes and then go plot point by plot point. So bear with me. Also, as I warned above, major spoilers ahead.

  • The very first thing that struck me about the book was the POV writing – the story is told from Finnie’s perspective and obviously she’s a bit overwhelmed at being transported from our world into this other world, but if I had a dollar for the amount of times I read ‘Holy moly’ or ‘Ho boy’, I could pay off my student debt. The government would no longer own my soul, people. I’D BE FREE. I assume the character was at least in her mid-twenties. I don’t quite remember. It might have said her age, but clearly the information slid in one eye and leaked out the other during one of my many fits of rage while reading this book. Regardless, the vocabulary of the main character left much to be desired.
  • Secondly, the homophobia and sexism in this book were unchecked. I feel like the author didn’t intend to write it that way, but it came out very much that way. The fantasy-world Finnie that switched our main character was a lesbian woman, who obviously had no desire to marry a man and bare his kids. Fair enough, right? But this introduced a theme that allowed for a few instances of where the characters essentially said ‘I’m not homophobic, but…‘ and then said or acted in a way that obviously showed differently. Same with the sexism. I’ll get into specifics later on below.
  • Thirdly, my most dreaded trope showed up in this book. The ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope. There is no way to write this well. Like, why would you want a character that fit this? It just makes them into a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and then anything you have them do after that I automatically add on ‘because she was so special‘ in my head to the end of every sentence. Specific instances of this will also be mentioned below.

For overarching themes, the above three are it. Otherwise, my gripes with the book had to do specifically with the characters and how they interacted throughout the story. Frey Drakkar in particular, I really hated. In any other book, an author who wrote this character would have written him as a villain. He’s not a good guy. But somehow, he’s the love interest and every single shitty thing he does is either ignored, forgiven, or supplemented with ‘he only did it because he loved her’. Barf. Finnie is a ding dong herself, but is more of a victim of Frey’s manipulation than anything. Sigh.

Here we go.

At the beginning of the story, right after Finnie is plopped into the fantasy world and married off to Frey, we find out immediately that he hates fantasy-world Finnie. Like, loathes her. Why? Because one night, Fantasy-Finnie drunkenly told Frey she was a lesbian. Therefore, he took it as a personal insult that his bride was not attracted to him. Never mind they both only entered into the marriage under contractual obligation, Fantasy-Finnie being a princess and Frey being the elf-dragon guy. Neither one had feelings for each other before and both grudgingly agreed to enter the union only because they knew an heir would need to be produced, so what does it matter what their sexualities are. It wasn’t like Fantasy-Finnie decided to like women to be spiteful to her would-be husband. Goodness.

Anyway, so day of the wedding, Frey is noticeably pissed right. Finnie is none the wiser, not knowing the sexuality of her other-self yet. So they’re married and immediately Frey drags her from the hall, throws her on a horse and gallops away into the woods, where they ride for hours, before he dumps her at his log cabin, tells her, and I quote, ‘I’ll not thrust my cock where you’d prefer a woman’s mouth to be’ and then disappears for two months.

And Finnie is left there, deer-in-a-headlight.

Now, while I mentioned I didn’t blame Fantasy-Finnie for running because Frey is just such a stand up guy, she’s not a stellar player either. She didn’t tell Finnie that she’d be arriving to immediately get married to Mr. Grumpy, or that she was a princess, or that she’d have obligations, yada yada. She left Finnie very unprepared for any of it (which she actually tries to rectify later, but I’ll get to that).

When Frey finally appears again, two months later, he’s surprised to find that Finnie has adjusted to log cabin life very well, had made friends with everyone in the town, yada yada. And he’s grumpy at her now because she’s not acting morose and depressed at being dumped, as he had expected. As they start to interact, Mr. Grumpy keeps being wowwed that Finnie is acting differently. Eventually he tells her he’ll take his ‘husband’s right’ that evening, whether she wants him to or not. So rape. He tells her he’s going to rape her. And what does she do? She goes ‘Oh I should try to mentally prepare myself.’ What. What.

So Finnie, having deduced at this point that her other self is a lesbian, tells Frey that she’s straight pretty much point blank. That, combined with the way she didn’t devolve into a ball of misery at being abandoned, makes Frey think, ‘Wait no this can’t be the same person, she’s so much better‘.

So he goes to the elves who say ‘yeah no this is other-world Finnie who likes men pretty much’ and Frey then binds her to the fantasy world permanently without telling her so he never has to deal with lesbian Finnie again because he hates her so much. Now, this part of the story was mentioned in the synopsis. So I was expecting it, but the way it was written screamed ‘I’m the bad guy who will eventually become the villain’. But does that actually happen? Nooooo. So now that Frey knows that Finnie is from our world, he tries to reneg on the rape threat during a chapter written from his POV, thinking to himself that he’d never force anyone, that he doesn’t dislike lesbians at all (as long as they’re not being a lesbian in his direction apparently), blah de blah.

So the story progresses, the two actually starting to get along now that Frey has realized that Finnie is straight, and Finnie is jumping on the opportunities not to be essentially in a feud with the man she was forced to marry.

Notice the theme? He’s totally okay with being nasty to people he doesn’t like, including handing out rape threats, and only treats people ‘nicely’ if he feels they’re useful to him. Remember this.

So the two eventually begin banging, despite the fact that he was a complete dick four chapters ago, as Finnie is amazed with how ‘hot’ her husband is and how he makes her ‘breasts swell’ (I swear that’s the actual phrasing in the book). She had told him shortly after the rape threat that she would need to use birth control. She starts using it, which is probably the wisest decision she makes the whole book. Frey, being distracted with how different, and wonderful and more better his ‘wee Finnie’ is than Fantasy-Finnie, doesn’t notice. Does she try to hide it? No. He just doesn’t notice. Remember this.

One of the reasons that Finnie agreed to the swap was because when she was young, her parents died. Fantasy-Finnie still has hers, so seeing her parents again is a big theme in the book. When they meet, her parents are kinda cold to her, thinking she’s Fantasy-Finnie, and only warm up to her after they realize she’s not the same one. Again, the whole ‘this Finnie is just better in all ways’ theme. It goes to the point where Frey, Finnie, and Fantasy-Finnie’s parents agree that Fantasy-Finnie committed high treason by running away and that they’re better off now that she’s gone. Even Fantasy-Finnie’s maids, four of them, who were supposedly her best friends for years and years, do nothing more than ‘oh that’s a shame that she’s gone’. Like… geez, guys.

There were also a few side characters, one of them blatantly sexist mind you, that decides that Finnie is ‘not like other women’ when she goes on Frey’s boat without being afraid. Like… what? And nobody calls him out on it, either. It’s just ‘oh this guy is how he is, but he likes you at least so it’s ok’. Again, ‘not like other girls’, ‘Finnie the special’, ‘Sexism is ok as long as it’s not directed towards Finnie’. Goodness gracious.

So the rest of the book is basically ‘Finnie’s evil extended family wants to control the country so they try to assassinate Finnie a lot’. Basic plot with a predictable ending. If it would have just been this, this book would have gotten a two star rating, maybe two and a half, if the ending would have been really good. But it was more than this. It was this, plus the terrible relationship dynamic that is Frey and Finnie.

I present to you, the (mostly) complete list of how Finnie and Frey are just awful:

  • Frey, as mentioned above, binds Finnie to the fantasy world without telling her
  • He’s constantly telling her how he’ll take her on adventures, lulling her into liking him, but then when she goes on one he thinks ‘she better not get used to this. No more of this after she had my kid’.
  • He’s constantly thinking she won’t be permitted to do go on adventures or do this or that or anything without his say so in the future, yada yada. Does he say any of this out loud? No.
  • Finnie finds out Frey had slept with a castle maid years before the two had gotten married. She gets insanely jealous, despite the fact that she’s mid-twenties and he’s mid-thirties. Like, he has this huge mentioned-over-and-over reputation for being virile, did she expect him to be celibate?
  • They argue over this maid, and Frey tells her that a marriage means he can still sleep around but she can’t and she’ll just have to deal with it. Finnie decides that her first impressions of Frey were right and that he was a jerk (at this point in the story, I’m thinking ‘maybe this will flip and get better, maybe they’ll out him as the villain’)
  • Frey then flaunts the maid in Finnie’s face by having her serve him during a meal they were having together. They don’t talk for a while as a result, but eventually make up with Finnie thinking ‘I’m still not comfortable with Frey being able to sleep around and me not, but whatever I suppose.’
  • At one point, as I mentioned earlier, Fantasy-Finnie tries to correct her earlier actions – she becomes guilty at putting Finnie through everything and contacts the witch to opt for an early switch-back. When the witch comes looking for Finnie, Frey intercepts the message and doesn’t tell Finnie the witch was ever there.
  • The witch is aware of the binding spell – Frey lies and tells her that Finnie knows of it and approves of it to keep the witch from talking to her.
  • They get intelligence from a neighboring land where a traditional activity is ‘The Wife Hunt’ where men literally hunt down women and claim them as their wives via raping them. Frey talks about a woman who was hunted down by the king and is now his bride by force, and says, ‘She’ll need to do some adjusting, but (king) is an honorable man so she’ll be fine’. Participated in Wife Hunt = Honorable Man. Does not compute. At no point is The Wife Hunt relevant to the story, mind you. It’s just a thing that was thrown in as a factoid. Was it done in a way that said ‘This is bad’? Was it ever called out for being bad? Nope.
  • Frey gripes about spending time with Finnie doing things she’s interested in but he is not. They went to a play she wanted to see and the whole time he did nothing but complain.
  • When Frey finally notices that Finnie is taking birth control, becomes enraged that she’s been ‘lying to him’ and he swaps it out for a placebo without telling her. There goes the consent Finnie was giving – at no point was she ok with unprotected sex – she had mentioned it multiple times.
  • Finnie gets pregnant.

At the point where Frey switches out the birth control, I almost quit the book. I was absolutely disgusted. The only thing that kept me reading were the multiple hints that Frey would be outed as a villain. It was the only thing that kept giving me hope. Like, one can’t write a guy like this and go ‘oh no he’s not the villain, he’s the wonderful love interest’, right? RIGHT?!

WRONG APPARENTLY.

Towards the end of the book, the witch manages to circumvent Frey and gets in contact with Finnie. She tells her everything that Frey has done – the binding, the intercepting messages, the birth control. Everything. Finnie gets angry, and calls out Frey in the middle of the court yard, giving him the verbal lashing of his life and I’m there thinking ‘YES THIS IS IT’.

And then he’s shot by an arrow mid-argument and ‘dies’. The city is suddenly under attack, the culmination of the consequences that Frey would have faced are now null and void

Finnie, captured by the enemy and being told that Frey is dead, immediately thinks, ‘I was wrong in my anger’.

‘I was wrong in my anger’. This is a direct quote. I about died. This is the point in the book where I lost all hope that it would get better. I now knew that everything up to this point, all the unhealthiness, all the manipulation, would be spun in a positive way.

It didn’t matter to her anymore that he was a manipulative bastard that forced her to have a child and trapped her there forever. He was dead, so she decided she was wrong to call him out on that stuff.

AND THEN TURNS OUT HE WASN’T REALLY DEAD. EFFING SHOCKER. During the month he was ‘dead’, nobody had ever found a body and nobody ever looked for it. They just thought ‘oh he’s dead’. Nobody ever even questioned it. It was just a plot device used to wave away all the awfulness that Frey is so he and Finnie could have a ‘happy ending’ without having to actually deal with the deceit in their relationship. It was just lazy writing.

So they reunite, Frey tries a half-assed apology, saying ‘I wronged you, but I only did it because I love you so much’ and do you know what Finnie says? She cuts him off and says ‘Oh no don’t apologize, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have said those mean things to you’. And then the witch comes up to Finnie and apologizes for telling her about Frey’s lies and putting doubt in their relationship. At that point I just slammed my head down on the book and sighed.

And that was it. They lived happily ever after.

PS. Also at one point it was thrown in there that Finnie’s pregnancy was going much better than other pregnancies. #Notlikeotherpregnancies.


This book had so much potential. If Frey would have turned into the bad guy, I could have really liked this book. But he didn’t, he was still able to do all lying and manipulation and abuse and then say he did it out of love and then Finnie went ‘Oh all this stuff is ok’.

Do you know what kind of message this sends? It says ‘Abuse is ok as long as the person abusing you tells you they love you’. It’s unhealthy and perpetuates the ‘If he’s mean to you it means he likes you’ awfulness that is still mentioned in the modern dating world. No, if someone is mean to you, they’re an asshole. Nobody who loves someone else will manipulate them. Holy moly. Ho boy. Holy cow.

The only reason I didn’t DNF the book was the writing. Ho boys and holy molys aside, it was written in a way that I could binge, even if I was filling myself with hate-fuel as I did it. So because the writing wasn’t mediocre, it get a half star bump.

Rating: 1.5 stars

 
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Posted by on 07/22/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita | Blabber

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, Vol 1 (Otakoi: Otaku Can't Fall in Love?!)Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita
2 volumes (so far, in English)
Manga – Romance/Slice of Life
Read July 3 & July 8, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber for volumes 1 and 2

It’s been a long time since I found myself so taken by a manga series.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading some good ones lately (see Demon Diary, my most recent blabber) but this one really has stolen my heart. This series follows two working adults, mid-twenties, who are huge nerds and because they would better understand each other’s nerdiness than someone who isn’t one, they decide to date each other. That’s it. That’s the whole premise. And holy cow did I unexpectedly love this.

The characters in this, to me, are very relatable. The four shown on the two covers here are the main characters and they way they interact reminds me a lot of my friend group. There’s the manga nerd, the video game nerd, the cosplayer, the closet nerd – seeing them all portrayed in a positive way was nice to see and watching them interact with each other while just… being themselves.. was adorably wonderful. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, Vol 2 (Otakoi: Otaku Can't Fall in Love?!)

I think what I love about this series the most is the simplicity of it. Normally I’d be railing it for not having a huge plot, but it kinda works in this case. It’s just four people interacting on a daily basis, trying to navigate the minefield of the early stages of a relationship, as this series has the relationship I mentioned get established fairly quickly and then follows the progression of it. There’s no drama at the beginning, there’s no love triangle, there aren’t any super dramatic teenage misinterpretations. It’s just simple and refreshing.

Though, not to say that this series doesn’t deal with actual relationship issues – while one of the couples is new and exploring the first steps, the other has been together for years and years, so we get to read their interactions as well. It’s a nice balance, going from a couple who are still a bit uncertain with each other to one who is very comfortable and content. It’s a good dynamic and I enjoyed it.

AND HOLY COW, EVERYONE COMMUNICATES LIKE NORMAL ADULTS. There’s no ‘wait I can explain’ or dramatic running away upon seeing someone in a questionable yet explainable situation, none of that. Honestly there was an opportunity for that, and when I ran into it, I bit my lip, hoping hoping that the trope wouldn’t pop up. And what do you know, it didn’t. The characters remained calm and talked to each other. I was over the moon, it was so wonderful.

And finally, the comedy in this series is just fantastic. It’s slid in there subtly and tends to be of a nerdy nature. I was laughing so hard while reading this book. The situations the characters found themselves in sometimes were funny, sure, but the characters themselves were funny as well. They were constantly joking around with each other. Most of the jokes I was able to pick up on, but the few that I didn’t get due to cultural difference the author would put little footnotes at the bottom of the page with a mini explanation so I didn’t feel left out or like something got passed me – it was nice. Otherwise, I particularly appreciated the sense of humor of Narumi, the pink haired woman on the cover. She was just so amusing and I loved reading from her perspective.

I honestly don’t have much negative to say about this book. The only thing I can think of is that I wish the new relationship would progress a bit faster than it has. I need more material to ship with man, GIMME. I hope that the English release of volume 3 (coming out in October) will fulfill my wishes. I HOPE.

Overall, as you’ve probably realized at this point, love this series. Both volumes out so far are winners and I’m excitedly awaiting the next one.

Rating: 5/5 stars each

 
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Posted by on 07/17/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review, Uncategorized

 

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Demon Diary by Lee Chi-Hyong and Kara | Series blabber

Demon Diary, Volume 01Demon Diary by Lee Chi-Hyong and Kara
Manhwa – Fantasy
Seven volumes
Read June 18 – 21, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

This is the fluffiest thing I’ve ever read about demons.

And it was rather enjoyable. The series begins when the main character Raenef, pictured to the left here, is put into the position of Demon Lord after the previous one dies. From the sound of the premise, this sounds like a good opener for a coming of age, serious, character-driven story.

Well… not really. I mean it is, but it’s not really serious, and the character development gives way a bit for a wave of comedy instead. Raenef is a young kid – fifteen or so – when given this title. And by no means was he prepared for it. He’s still childish, light-hearted, and all around goofy. So the plot basically revolves around Raenef being himself during his training and his advisor, Eclipse, growing ever more exasperated trying to get him in line.

It’s adorable and endearing and I love the bond of friendship that grows between the two. I like seeing male friendships that are healthy and dynamic and don’t revolve around constantly jabbing each other or shared interest in a woman or… anything like that. I just like seeing two men get along on principle and not be afraid to actually show that they like each other.

The cast of characters that are slowly introduced are rather amusing as well – some align more with Eclipse’s seriousness and others are very much like Raenef, which is why they seem to gravitate towards him. They’re funny and cute, and they improve the flesh of the story in a good way.

The only thing I can complain about in this series is the ending. No spoilers, promise. But. The ending of the ‘plot’ concluded earlier than the end of the series, and the final bit was basically a plot device trope used to extend the writing a bit more. It had nothing to do with the plot, was overused, and was not done super well. Also, I feel like the story could have gone on for ten volumes more. There would have had to been a second arc in the story to do it, but it could have easily been done. The world that was built was rather big, but only a small part of it was explored, leaving much plot and character development to be desired.

But aside from the end section, which was not my favorite, the plot and characters that I did get to read in this world were pretty great. I just… wish there would have been more. The comedic aspects of the series kept me entertained and laughing, and both Raenef and Eclipse are wonderful characters to read about. If you’re looking for a short-ish manhwa series to dive into, I recommend this one.

Overall series rating: 4.25/5 stars

Individual volume ratings:
One: 4/5 | Two: 4/5 | Three: 5/5 | Four: 5/5 | Five: 4/5 | Six: 5/5 | Seven: 3/5

 
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Posted by on 07/15/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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The Tawny Man Trilogy | Series Blabber

The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Fantasy
Read Sept 17 2017 – June 15, 2018
Books 7-9 in the Realm of the Elderlings world

Spoilery blabber, also spoilers for the Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies.

I finished these books almost a month ago and it’s taken me this long to collect my thoughts on them. Robin Hobb is a master at taking your emotions and twisting them into knots.

This trilogy was a culmination about everything I loved from the previous two series in the overarching one. It broke my heart and mended it and broke it and mended it so many times. Over and over, I found myself agonizing and then rejoicing just a few chapters later. Ugh, I’m not going to be over this one for a long time. This is the reason why it took me so long to be able to write something that actually sounded semi-coherent.

The first book begins with Fitz being summoned out of his secluded life to retrieve Prince Dutiful, who has been whisked away by the Piebalds. One of my favorite parts of this series occurred before that, when the Fool came to retrieve Fitz in the first place – the two stayed at Fitz’s home for a while before departing, and the care free easiness the two displayed for each other, the deepness of their bond, was wonderful to read about. I’d read an entire series of the Fool just being around Fitz. (If you can’t tell, the Fool is my favorite character. He’s my little bean.)

Once the main plot picks up, new characters are introduced, old ones are reintroduced, and a sense of nostalgia takes hold. I didn’t realize how much I missed reading about Fitz, The Fool, Kettricken and everyone else until I was able to do so again.

Out of the three, I think the first book is my least favorite. I’m not saying it was bad by any means – it still got 5 stars from me – I just loved the other two all the more. The first book was largely a set-up book in my mind. The errand that Fitz departs on to retrieve Dutiful was a bit aggravating to me, and the reasoning behind Dutiful’s disappearance in the first place had me grinding my teeth. Dutiful’s absolute obsession with the woman-cat left a bad impression about him for me. I can understand why he did it, but the teenage trope of ‘I know exactly what I’m doing, I don’t care if you’re older and wiser’ bugged me. It bugged me when Fitz was a teenager in the original trilogy and it bugged me now. The rest of the characters and the plot made up for it though, and the fact that Dutiful himself quickly learns his lesson and then is much better at squashing out that ideology in himself afterward than Fitz ever was really helped as well.

The second book is probably my favorite, and that’s because The Fool gets so much screen time. I love reading about his character, his motivations and learning about his past. Each persona he takes on as well, is a joy to read about. When Fitz discovered that one of The Fool’s personas was Amber, a woman who had basically declared her love for Fitz by carving Paragon’s face to look like him, Fitz took it as a personal insult, which… really annoyed me.

Fitz is the type of character that I love but I can easily be annoyed by at the same time. And it’s not that his character is badly or inconsistently written, it’s that he has this poor impulse control when it comes to jumping to conclusions. He gets petty in a way that irritates me because I know he can do better. It’s like he’s acting in a way that is below him, and it’s aggravating that he doesn’t take time to just stop and think ‘hey maybe this wasn’t about deceiving me at all and people are allowed to have parts of themselves they don’t tell me about’. But nope, Fitz is a bit self-centered, and that flaw in his character is both what makes him feel real and what makes him a butt head sometimes.

The Fool however, is wonderful in this one. He recognizes this flaw in Fitz and calls him out on it. It’s just so wonderful to read, The Fool sticking up for himself and his actions. It causes a bit of strife between the two, but it also allows Fitz to realize what I said above, that The Fool doesn’t owe him every aspect of himself. It’s so refreshing to see two characters in a complex disagreement come to terms with it.

And that ending, man. The ending of Golden Fool, where Fitz called The Fool ‘Beloved’, just melted me. The Fool’s reaction, covering his mouth briefly with his hand, as if he wasn’t sure if he was hiding a smile or trying to keep himself from crying… just. Sigh, The Fool is my favorite. I loved that scene. I think this scene is that one that made Golden Fool my favorite in the trilogy.

And the final book in the series, Fool’s Fate, is the one that really sent me on a roller coaster of emotion. The amount of times that this book had me near (or actually reaching) tears, and then turned around and went ‘no it’s okay, be happy’ only to rip that happiness out from under me again was insane. I feel like this is one of the most solid endings to a trilogy that I’ve read in a long time. Everything wrapped up nicely – not everything happily mind you – but nicely enough that I felt rather satisfied with the ending. It left me knowing most of the characters were in more or less a good place, but that the next trilogy concerning them (which I’m totally looking forward to) could easily take that all away from them again.

I’m even weirdly okay with Molly coming back into the picture and being with Fitz. For a long time, I wasn’t. Burrich and Fitz were going back and forth about her when they were on Icefyre’s island and I’m sitting there going ‘Nobody is asking what she wants, dammit’. And then when she finally shows up, she calls Fitz out on that – I really love Robin Hobb for this. I’ve read too many books where the love interest is just like ‘I’ll wait to see who claims me’ instead of actually forming an opinion and even getting offended over the idea of two people deciding who will get them. I like adult Molly in this series – she’s very opinionated, strong-minded and has her family’s best interest at heart. I feel like I’ll like her just as much in the next trilogy that she’s in.

Overall, this trilogy was just amazing. Any irritation I had with it turned out to be included in the plot and was at a point called out and corrected. I adored it. I cannot wait until the next series.

5/5 stars each


Side note: I learned two things reading this. 1 – I need to start using tabs while reading if I intend to review. There was so much material I feel like I’ve forgotten the details of and therefore couldn’t mention. 2 – books like this basically need a buddy reader. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much enjoyment out of them if I couldn’t yap at Zezee about them all the time (so thanks friendo :D).

Happy reading!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on 07/14/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski | Blabber

House of LeavesHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
709 pages
Paperback
Horror
Read Jan 5 – June 26, 2018
(Minor) Spoilery Blabber

This book turned into a matter of ego for me.

I had built it up in my head for so long beforehand that when I finally did get to it and ended up having difficulty with it, I decided that I couldn’t abandon it. I had to finish it – my brain wouldn’t let me not.

Commence me taking six months to read this book.

I want to begin with, I didn’t hate this book. There were aspects about it that I really liked. The entire concept, for instance: the found-footage-esque story style about a family who moves into a house that is much, much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It’s disturbing, unsettling, and made for some good creepypasta material. In fact, the whole books tries to give you that impression – that originally this manuscript was ‘found in bits and pieces’ across the internet with some die-hard cult fans and was brought together to make this book, along with foot notes and editors’ notes and all sorts of things in it. As a concept, this is an awesome book.

However, in practice, this book was meandering, slow-moving, and full of information that I ended up skimming over or skipping altogether. The main ‘book’ in the book is The Navidson Record, which contains description of all the videos that Navidson – the man who moved into the house with his family – took while he was there and was exploring within the confines of his home, along with foot notes, interviews with professors and researches who had come across this mysterious Navidson record on the internet, and references to the huge-ass appendix at the back that contains photos and poems and documentation and all sort of stuff. I feel like if this book would have just been this, I would have liked it more, honestly.

Wrapped around this book is another set of writing by a man who found this book hidden at his neighbor’s house after he had passed away. This layer shows what amounts to our main character roving through the book and adding appendixes, and notes and leaving comments – the font is different for this character, so it’s obvious when you’re reading his writing and when you’re reading The Navidson Record.

I hated this perspective so much. I found it so boring and pointless. When it would come to a four-page long footnote this guy would leave, after reading the first two hundred pages and finding nothing particularly interesting in them during that time, I had started skimming, keeping my eye out for creepy words. Because occasionally creepy things did happen to this guy, but they were few and far between and honestly I didn’t care about who he was sleeping with, because he talked about that a lot.

And on top of that, there’s another level of writing, one done by the mysterious editors who put together the book, after our main character had finished his writing and the manuscript, now full of dumb stuff in my opinion, was found again. This part I was indifferent to. There wasn’t really any value added, aside from… editing, which was nice. You could tell there’d be spelling corrections and reference corrections throughout the book. At least they didn’t rave and rant about stuff for pages on end.

So overall, I didn’t like just the amount of ‘stuff’ included in this book. At first, for probably the first two hundred and fifty pages, I read every word – every page, every footnote, every appendix reference, every editor note – everything. I kept thinking there would be something hidden in the jumble that would be important later in the book, that it all meant something. And as I progressed, and as I got more and more irritated with the passages by our lovely main character, I kinda stopped. There are only so many foot notes of 100-name lists of authors of a book referenced in The Navidson Record you can read before starting to think it’s getting a bit repetitive.

And low and behold, I finished the book, and none of it mattered. Nothing was referenced, nothing tied in.

Now, the occasional meandering plot I can deal with if there is an end goal and all the things you meander to come to fruition. But don’t tell me about what you’re having for breakfast and what you think of your new fling’s butt tattoo for three damned pages if it’s not relevant to the book. Because hey, main character again, oversharing. It got to the point where it was a struggle to read, that I found myself actually irritated when sections like that came around.

I understand why the meandering was there – it was showing the slow decline of the men’s psyche – both Navidson’s and our main character’s. (whose name I honestly forgot and don’t care to look up. That’s how much of an impact he had on me). The crazier sounding the passages got, the more unsettled you were supposed to feel reading the book. Keywords: Supposed to.

I did get that unsettling feeling from The Navidson Record itself, but this layer thrown on top of it would completely kill it every time it became the focus again, so this book was… engulfing kinda.

That being said, there were passages in this book both in the Navidson Record and the layer above it that did cause a bit of frisson. The writing, when it wanted to be, was amazing. It gave shivers and actually had me feeling a bit paranoid in my own house. It was really cool that while being irritated at the character passage, something could happen and suddenly I was staring at my doorway to my living room like it was going to widen into a gaping maw and suck me in.

Hence, I didn’t hate this book. Aspects I love did exist. I did mention that.

Unfortunately, while the Navidson Record was full of those, the finder’s layer above it only had a few of those passages, not nearly enough to make up for the utter slag it was. When I finished the book, I was in the living room with my husband – I slammed the book shut, held it up in the air and just yelled, you know, the one you let out after a  frustrating situation you’ve been in for some time has finally passed. It was such a satisfying feeling, finishing the book, after struggling with it so much. I’m glad I didn’t dnf it, because looking back on it now I appreciate The Navidson Record contained within it even more than I did while actually reading it.

That section of the book is truly a work of art. I loved it.

And then it was covered in a slimy layer of footnotes by our main guy, Mr. Butt Tattoo.

If you’ve been thinking about reading this book, you should give it a go. It’s honestly, at its main core, a good book. Just know you’ll have a bit of trudging to do. I personally will never read it again, but I know parts of it will be in my memory for years. The level of creepy that this book made me feel at times was amazing.

2.75/5 stars

 
7 Comments

Posted by on 07/07/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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