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

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

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

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

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!

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

Livingstone by Tomohiro Maekawa | Series blabber

https://i.imgur.com/ANeOkBY.png

Livingstone by Tomohiro Maekawa
Manga, 4 volumes
Urban fantasy
Spoiler-free blabber

This series was a breath of fresh air.

I read this manga series as part of Borrowathon and MangaReadathon (which is still ongoing). My friend lent it to me, meaning there was about a 50-50 chance I’d hate it or love it. Our tastes usually really overlap or do not at all. Luckily, this one was a winner.

This series takes place in a world where at the beginning of the 20th century, a doctor conducted some unethical experiments and found that when one dies under circumstances not ordained by fate, that their body weight changes by 30g at the moment of death, the weight of a human soul stone.

The manga follows two men whose job it is to make sure these soul stones stay on their destined paths, for when the body the stone is in veers off course, it could threaten or even shatter the stone. This means the manga deals with some heavy topics at times – suicide, murder included.

So, the premise alone was really neat. It kinda sounds like reincarnation, but not really. A soul stone is born and its path will lead it through the use of many human bodies. Once its current body dies according to plan, it moves onto the next until the stone itself becomes old enough to die. Of course of if the person its in currently commits a murder or a suicide, that soul stone’s vitality goes down, and if the trauma becomes too much, then the stone is shattered, permanently thrown off its course.

The two main characters – Sakarai and Amano, go around looking for stains, places where souls have veered off course, because locations where something went wrong once will lead to more souls getting sucked in and going off course as well. When they find a soul stone that has altered its path but is still able to be saved, they either help the human its in… or if there’s no hope left for the person but there is for the soul, they kill the human and help the soul along to its next destination.

Seriously, the concept of this series is amazing, I loved it!

Both Sakari and Amano are pretty interesting characters, though I felt that Amano ended up much more fleshed out than Sakarai did. That’s really the one flaw I found with this series – aside from the two main characters, pretty much all the side characters were flat. Some more than others for sure, but none of them really did anything for me.

This series played off a few myths about souls and did so really well. Like, the idea that one suffers jetlag when flying because a plane will take your body but your soul can’t keep up, so you get tired waiting for it to return fully to you. So that’s a good thing to think about with me having two upcoming plane trips. Thanks Livingstone, I’ll be sure to ductape my soul in.

I also feel that this series handled sensitive topics well – suicide was not glorified and it was dealt with in a sympathetic manner, the idea of self-identity was discussed thoroughly – are you your body or your soul? Where do your memories lie? What makes you you?

For a four volume long series, this got quite in depth about philosophy related to the questions above. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quick, well drawn, easy to follow and entertaining – everything you need in a manga. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for something new to pick up.

4/5 stars

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas | Blabber

A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1)A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses, Book 3.1
229 pages
YA/basically new adult fantasy
Read May 17th – June 3rd

Spoilery Blabber

This book suffers from the ‘second book syndrome’ that the actual second book manages to avoid. I suppose it’s not surprising that this super common lull in a series would catch up with this one eventually. On one hand, this is a novella, so it’s unfair to judge it how I would a book. On the other hand, I’ve read other of Maas’s novellas set in already established series and they are way, way, way better than this one.

I’m not saying this was a bad book. It just wasn’t… good. Nothing happened. I felt like I was reading a fanfiction. You know, the ones where the fanfiction author pulls the characters out of the main story arc, sticks them in some unspecified point in the cannon plot and goes, ‘now how about they celebrate a holiday together’. Which is exactly what this book was, except we knew the plot took place after the ending of the third book.

Going into this, I had heard mixed things. Those still solidly on the Feyre/Rhys express seem to love this book. Me, along with those who have been a bit disenchanted at this point, were a bit more let down. For me I think it stems with the fact that this series peaked in book two. Book three was okay, and this one is probably a bit lower down than that.

I feel like if there was a bit more plot then it would have been better, but come book four, the author could just go ‘the winter solstice was last month and Feyre told Rhys that she’s ready for kids’. Because that’s literally the only important plot point in the entire thing. Otherwise, you get to read about shopping and painting and more shopping and how much Amren like jewels. Oh, and a sex scene that uses the word ‘shattered’ to mean ‘orgasm’ for some reason. Multiple times within the same scene. Like why ‘shattered’, all I can picture is the two goin’ at it and then Thanos pops in and snaps his fingers. At least Maas didn’t use the word ‘sheathing’ this time.

My issues with how the sex scenes are written in this book  could beworth a whole different post, so I won’t get into it anymore here I don’t think.

So overall, this book was okay. It wasn’t bad – there wasn’t really anything I disliked about it (except ‘shattered’… shudder) but there wasn’t anything that really drew me in, either.

And I don’t have anything else to say about it because nothing else happened in it.

So here we are.

3/5 stars

 

Inuyasha: The Final Act | Anime Blabber

https://i.imgur.com/k43iS8F.jpg

Today I’m doing a post of a different flavor: an anime blabber. I had stated a few months ago that I was going to start breaking out of the mold a bit concerning what I post about, and this is the first attempt at that.

Inuyasha: The Final Act

  • 26 episodes
  • Continuation of anime series Inuyasha (167 episodes)
  • Historical/Portal Fantasy
  • Rated T+
  • Originally aired in 2009
  • Watched April-May 2018, English dub

Spoil-free blabber
(Though spoilery if you’ve never seen the original Inuyasha)

MyAnimeList Synopsis: InuYasha: The Final Act is a continuation of the anime Inuyasha, which follows Kagome Higurashi, a fifteen-year-old girl whose normal life ends when a demon drags her into a cursed well on the grounds of her family’s Shinto shrine. Instead of hitting the bottom of the well, Kagome ends up 500 years in the past during Japan’s violent Sengoku period with the demon’s true target, a wish-granting jewel called the Shikon Jewel, reborn inside of her. After a battle with a revived demon accidentally causes the sacred jewel to shatter, Kagome enlists the help of a young hybrid dog-demon/human named Inuyasha to help her collect the shards and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Joining Kagome and Inuyasha on their quest are the orphan fox-demon Shippo, the intelligent monk Miroku, and the lethal demon slayer Sango. Together, they must set aside their differences and work together to find the power granting shards spread across feudal Japan and deal with the threats that arise.

Both The Final Act and the original Inuyasha series are based on the manga of the same name. The original series, which spans 167 episodes, ends prematurely, not finishing out the plot of the manga. The Final Act picks up where the original left off and continues the manga plot until the end.

Inuyasha was one of my gateway animes, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I first started watching it when I was 15 years old, back when it was first debuting on Adult Swim back in 2005. It had begun airing originally in 2002 in the US and finished in 2006, so I caught on a bit late but was able to see the finale as it was released. As stated above, it followed a fifteen year old girl and as I was fifteen at the time, I totally loved it.

After the series finished up and I realized it wasn’t going to actually finish out the plot, I hunted down the manga and read the ending of it that way. After that, I never actually went back to watch The Final Act when it aired. So when I watched it now at 27, obviously I needed to buzz through the original seven seasons and four movies of Inuyasha first in preparation. It was totally worth it. It slowed down my reading of books, but it was time very well spent in my opinion.

The Final Act in my opinion had a different feel to it than the original series did. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was there. It didn’t feel as involved, if that makes sense, but very rushed instead. I know that the manga that it was covering per episode was a lot more than the original series had done, so it definitely skimmed over or skipped things in the name of plot progression. Personally, I think it could have done with another large series to finished out the manga – there was enough plot left for sure to do it.

It did cover all the major bases though from what I remember, so overall it was rather enjoyable. Watching it was being a teenager again, minus the whole one episode per week at midnight on Saturdays, thing. I was able to watch it at my own pace whenever convenient, which was nice. The discs themselves (I bought the DVD set) were pretty good quality and had nice art on the front of each. Every time I switched to the next disc though I got a bit sadder, since I knew the end of the series was coming closer.

One of the major things I noticed watching this time around was my opinion of the characters – I was definitely a Kagome fan when I first watched it but this time around, not so much. I didn’t dislike her by any means but a lot of the drama she had to endure was kind of her own doing. She had the romantic rival Kikyo (who I disliked originally but seriously liked this time around) and the whole time I’m shaking my head like ‘why are you doing this to yourself. You can totally just walk away’. So I was a lot less sympathetic towards her romantic endeavors and hang ups. Inuyasha as well irritated me, but at the same time, I could better understand his emotional ties to Kikyo and his difficulty in severing them.

But I have to say… watching this as an adult and having been through a series of relationships, seeing all the romantic relationship dynamics in this show just screamed unhealthy to me. There was obvious border-line cheating via flirtation (which is or isn’t, depending on a couples’ boundaries but obviously half the party involved wasn’t a huge fan in the show), there was a lot of yelling and name calling, and the ‘sit’ commands that Kagome gives Inuyasha, while funny to me as a teen I couldn’t help but see as abusive now, especially when Kagome would give a command out of anger. Occasionally she’d do it to pull Inuyasha out of the way of getting injured… but most of the time she was just pissed at him. Wasn’t a great message and I couldn’t really ignore how uncomfortable it made me. Sooo… can’t say I was really a fan of aaaany of the relationships in the series. I feel like all four of the characters involved in their respective situations needed to do a lot of maturing… except maybe Sango. She seemed pretty good most of the time.

And Sesshomaru was still…. Sesshomaru, haha. Though he was a lot more talkative in this series than he was in the last. It almost felt out of character for him, honestly. But it made a lot of the fanfiction I read as a teen more believable, I suppose. He was in the series a lot more, too – I think he was in 22 or 23 of the 26 total episodes. And as he was and still is my favorite character, I wasn’t complaining. He and Rin being he and Rin was adorable and I lived for any scenes with the two of them together. I feel like those two are one of my favorite non-romantic dynamics I’ve come across. They’re always so cute. Jaken too I took a shine to – though I noticed that literally nobody is nice to him except Rin, which is kinda sad. No wonder the poor little thing is irritable a lot of the time. I feel like Jaken and I could be bros.

The plot in this, while rushed, as pretty good. I feel like Naraku just needed a hug though, honestly. I feel like sooo much could have been avoided if someone had just been like ‘no it’s okay gimme hug come here’. Naraku is probably one of my favorite characters too, but he was almost comically villainous at times, it was amusing. And seeing the plot finalize in the anime like it did in the manga was just so satisfying to see after being a fan of the show for over a decade. I feel like I got closure.

So overall, I enjoyed watching this series, and the time I spent rewatching the original to watch this one too was quite enjoyable.

4/5 stars

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson | Graphic Audio Blabber

Elantris (Elantris, #1)Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Fantasy
622 pages
Graphic Audio format
Listened Jan 12 – Mar 17, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

This blabber specifically pertains to the graphic audio format of the book.

Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s first published work, and seeing as I had never read him before, I figured I’d start at the beginning. I had heard that if you didn’t start there, that when you eventually went back to it, you wouldn’t like it as much as if you had begun there. Apparently Sanderson’s ‘new writer-ness’ shows in this book that he later corrects in other books. Therefore I decided to follow that advice to give myself the biggest chance of liking this book.

Well, I can see why this advice exists. The writing isn’t bad – don’t get me wrong. It’s just a bit rough at times with vocabulary, dialogue and plot devices. It definitely shows a lot of potential but it’s obvious why people suggest starting Sanderson’s work with this novel if his other books are written better.

In addition to that, I listened to the graphic audio of this book. If you haven’t listened to a graphic audio of a book before, it’s a bit different than your typical audiobook. The slogan of the graphic audio company is ‘Like a Movie in Your Mind’ and honestly they pull that off pretty well. There’s your basic narrator, but there’s also a voice for each character, there are sound effects like battles and doors closing and laughing and all sorts of stuff. It really sounds like you’re just watching a movie with your eyes closed. Instead of the narrator saying, “Character said,” and then having the character take over, the character just takes over. The supplemental writing to get into character dialogue is removed so it sounds more movie-like. Also small actions like ‘The door closed’ are removed from the writing to be replaced by the sound of a door closing. It’s really cool and really captivating.

That said, there were a couple of drawbacks, but they were specific to my preferences in audio books:

  • The sound effects made it so listening at a higher speed was impossible. I usually listen between 1.2 and 1.5 times normal speed, but the sounds all mashed together and I couldn’t discern dialogue from narration from background noise. So 1x speed it was.
  • During action scenes, the sounds of swords clashing and people screaming drowned out the narrator. He faded into the background and I had to really concentrate to catch his words. This made listening in the car (where I do most of my listening) difficult, as I’d have the battle scene noises plus driving noises to contend with to hear the narrator. So that’s why it took me so long to listen to – I had to do all my listening outside of commuting to work.

So aside from the technical difficulties I had actually listening to the thing, I really liked this format. And I know they go for ‘movie’ but with this book in particular it sounded more like a video game. In the beginning with the main character Raoden gets put into Elantris, he finds a guide and goes around asking about things – it sounded like a tutorial level of a video game. It was rather neat and it made the experience amusing.

So about the actual book: for the most part I liked it. I think this book lacks characterization, though. I didn’t really care about any of the characters. Sure they had personalities, but they were more told than shown, if that makes sense. Sarene was ‘smart and crafty’ but I knew that because they made a big deal about her faking dumb when ‘she was actually really smart and crafty’. Y’know? Like, it was weird. Raoden’s personality was a bit more fleshed out, but otherwise all the other characters to me were a bit one-dimensional.

The plot overall was pretty neat though – I liked the idea of this mysterious power that had destroyed a city some time ago and the remainder of its citizens reduced to nothing but a festering resemblance of what they used to be. The concept was fascinating and the execution was pretty good too. I tell ya what though, I wasn’t a fan of the action scenes, and I can’t tell you if it was because of the writing or the difficulty I had with listening. They seemed a bit clunky to me. There was a lot of ‘and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened’ coupled with ‘also this plot thing happened just at the right time’ – this last one wouldn’t have been so bad if the narrator wouldn’t have then said stuff like, ‘and it had perfect timing’ or ‘suddenly this happened and it was good because blah de blah’. See what I mean about the writing being clunky?

So, considering all the hype that Sanderson has, this book was okay. I feel like I will like his other works better and maybe I’ll come to appreciate this one more in the long run.

3.5/5 stars