I Live in Many Worlds

I'm not one to talk about myself. I will say that I love to read and study languages. I have strong opinions about the things I read. Stick around if you'd like to hear them. :)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power - Ryan North, Erica Henderson

I am in such a comic kick right now. All I want to do is read ALL of the comics! And so I decided to pick up a comic all about Squirrel Girl. I'll admit, I don't know much about the character. I know she has a huge following but I have never heard about her until the release of this comic. And I have to say I'm intrigued.

 

Squirrel Girl is quirky, fun, and slightly bizarre, but that just adds to her charm. It took a while of getting used to, to be honest. The first issue in this volume was just not for me. I felt like the creators were trying too hard in reaching new fans to mix in with the old. I didn't find it funny and the artwork is not my favorite. I understand why you'd want to draw Doreen with the pursed lips and buck teeth (she is supposed to be part squirrel), but when I saw every other character drawn in that style as well, it didn't seem unique at all. Just the way Henderson illustrates, I guess. Anyway, the art style is just not my cup of tea and the whole tone of the first issue left me feeling rather disappointed. I had heard that Squirrel Girl was an amazing character that goes on fun adventures and I just did not see that from the first issue.

 

The second issue started off in much the same way. By this point, I was wondering whether I was going to enjoy this super hero comic at all. However, by the end of the second issue, much to my contentment, the tone and the pace improved dramatically! The plot picked up and became interesting, the characters were authentically funny, and I felt the creators were able to figure out what story they wanted to tell. It became a fun story about Squirrel Girl saving the world from Galactus, who wanted to eat Earth for its life energy. The comic became a story that I found quite entertaining and I am so glad it did.

 

But the end of this first volume, Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl) was an interesting character with her own quirks and way of handling "villains" that I wanted to see more of. I want to see more of Squirrel Girl and Galactus just chilling and talking about life. (Trust me. It's quite a hilarious site to see.) And speaking of Galactus, he's my new best friend! His entire presence in this comic made it that much more enjoyable to me. I love his nonchalant way of speaking and his laid back attitude. Seriously, he's a great character and I hope to see more of him in the future installments.

 

In this particular volume, the first comic where Squirrel Girl makes an appearance is included in the back of the book. It was so interesting seeing where she got her origins from. Seeing the difference in character designs was most fascinating to me. And, although I don't really like the artwork for this comic, I much more prefer the current rendition of Squirrel Girl than her previous one. X3

 

In all, this was a pretty good intro to who Squirrel Girl is as a super hero. This comic takes a while to get going but once it does, it's a fun ride up into space! If you like fun, silly, and bizarre comics, then give this one a read. I'm glad I was finally able to see who Doreen Green a.k.a Squirrel Girl is!

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson

A couple of years back, it seemed everyone was talking about Nimona and how amazing this graphic novel was. Fast forward to today and people still seem to be talking about it. That, to me, is a sign to how brilliant a work of art is. So when I went to the library and saw it on the shelf, I snatched it up so fast! I just couldn't believe I was FINALLY going to read this comic! And, let me tell you, it's just as amazing as everyone says it is.

 

I literally have no complaints about this comic whatsoever! The art, the story, the characters, the setting. Everything! It's all so amazing! Noelle Stevenson did a fantastic job in creating a story where the reader becomes invested in the characters and their struggles. The artwork is matches the tone of the plot perfectly. It's light and cartoony when it needs to be and gets dark and grittier when the tone of the story shifts. The setting is a mixture of medieval and futuristic at the same time. A beautiful blend between fantasy and sci-fi. And the character designs are unique and diverse with each individual. I love the art so much!

 

The story is just as incredible as the artwork! It follows Nimona, a shapshifter, who is a fan of well-know "villain" Ballister Blackheart and joins him in his pursuit of "evil." I will not tell you anymore than that because it's best to go into this story knowing very little. But if you love adventure and a bit of mystery with characters who develop gradually and beautifully, then you will enjoy this graphic novel.

 

As for the characters, they are all so beautiful and amazing and intriguing and I just can't get enough of them! Nimona is a shapeshifter who is spunky, headstrong, funny, and cares so much for the "boss." Ballister Blackheart, the "boss," is a scientist who is a bit on the serious side but learns to care for Nimona throughout the book. Their friendship is one of the sweetest I've read about in any form of fiction. I love how they are willing to risk their lives for each other to see each other succeed. We also have Ambrosius Goldenloin. He works for the "government" and is a type of rival to Blackheart.  But, the more you read the story, the more you'll understand why they bump heads so much. The reasoning just melts the heart.

 

I cannot recommend this books highly enough! Please go out and read this book. It's funny, beautiful, magical, diverse, and a treat to experience. I love how positive it is for girls and boys alike. It teaches that it's okay to be who you are and that being a "monster" is not as bad as some would make it out to be. Such a fantastic message and a good read all around! 

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Lumberjanes Volume 1 -  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis

There have been so many people talking and raving about Lumberjanes. So much so that when I want to the library, I snatched it up so fast! The only thing I knew about this comic was that it was about a bunch of girls who were at a summer camp and how it showed such a positive light on friendship. And, yes, it is about that. But there's also so much more to it!

 

The story is how they are at this camp and there's some bizarre events happening. Events that cannot be explained. The campers, being inquisitive and curious, set out to try and solve the mysteries surrounding Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. It is such a fun and quirky little story about female friendships and the positivity therein! I really loved reading this story. In fact, when I got to the end, I was shocked because it ended so fast and I just wanted more!

 

Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis did a fantastic job writing this comic. They managed to capture what it's like being a young teen, exploring different perspectives and friendships, and how diverse each and every single one of these characters felt was truly a breath of fresh air. Their characters are all different. Different race, skin, sexualities, body types, etc., and it's done respectfully. These traits just happen to be a part of that character. It does not define them. It's just who they are and I think it's such a well-done aspect of the comic. Props to the writers!

 

The artwork is so cute! Brooke Allen is the illustrator and she did such a fantastic job in capturing the feel and tone of the story through the art. It's a bit cartoony and that art style brings out the humor of the book perfectly! I love how each character looks so different from one another and since there are quite a few characters in the comic, it's important for each one to have a very distinct look. The colors are bright and light, the art is smooth, it just fits so well with everything this comic has set out to do.

 

The characters themselves are so fantastic. I love Jo. She's a calm and intelligent individual. April is spunky and tough. Mal and Molly have a beautiful relationship blossoming that I cannot wait to see more of. Ripley is a ball of energy and made me laugh more than one. And Jen, their camp counselor, is so awesome and humorous in her own right. Actually, I feel a bit bad for Jen. She has to deal with so much of the shenanigans that's happening around her. Poor woman can't catch a break. X3 But all the characters. Every single one of them is just unique and beautiful and lovely and I just can't! 

 

Seriously, if you have not yet read Lumberjanes then I highly recommend you do. It's fun, sweet, light, and an all-around good time. If you're looking for a quick fun comic about friendships and mystery then I think this is a good comic to try out! I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. I know I am going to love it~

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Fairyland, #5) by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home - Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente

This is it. The final installment to this incredibly innovative, whimsical series. I've been following September and her crew for a couple of years now and it makes me have so many feelings. Happy, sad, excited, wonderful feelings! I hate that it's coming to an end (and I know she recently wrote a short story afterwards which I will be reading) because I love this series so much, but just as the narrator said, we can always come visit and spend some time together again.

 

I don't even know where to start with this review. It's always been difficult for me to review books I feel so much love and attachment to. Valente is a fantastic story-teller. She has the ability to weave a bizarre tale of magic and wonder around the reader. She gets you, as the reader, involved in her books with writing that leaves you breathless. She never talks down to you. No. She includes you. And I love her for that. I love that she wants you to be a part of the story. Not necessarily as stepping into September's shoes, or lack thereof, but to bring your own shoes and tag along with the characters. This book is no exception. I felt like I went on a very long adventure for years that I was happy to be on. I adored getting to see the characters grow and learn from when they were children to when they became teenagers to becoming young adults. It's incredible how talented of a writer Valente is and I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes next as a writer.

 

Speaking of characters, every single one of them is just as amazing as they are in the first book. September is a lot older, braver, daring, and fearless here. Saturday grows and regresses and grows again! (You should really read the book to understand what I mean.) A-Through-L is still the best Wyverary I have ever read about in fiction ever. I love how sweet and caring and excited he gets about books. (He's one of my favorite characters in this series.) We also see more of Hawthorn, Tambulaine, and Blunderbuss in this book as well. Hawthorn and Tamburlaine is there for a little bit and you can see that they are having their own private adventures~ Blunderbuss plays a key role here and she's just awesome! I mean, she kind of has to be since she's a wombat and all! X3 But seriously, I have no complaints about any of the characters. In fact, Valente even includes portions with September's family! After all, just because you're an adult, doesn't mean you can have your own fun and adventures, right?

 

This story in this book really brings a lot of questions you may have had throughout the series to the forefront. So many elements were explained and answered. There's so many unpredictable events, which just adds on to my love for this entire story! I love it when books aren't easy to decipher. I love not being able to tell when Valente is taking us. You think that one thing is going to happen, and then Valente flips it over and kicks it towards a ring of fire made of ice and you have no idea where you're headed. It's such a fun experience to see yourself, as the reader, wonder what's going on and then be amazed as soon as you see where you have landed! Man, I love this book!

 

I highly highly recommend you check out this entire series. It's whimsical, magical, incredible, fun that you're going to love if you adore fantasy, great characters, and even better writing. With these books, I have discovered and fallen in love with Catherynne Valente as an author and I will continue to read her writing for as long as she creates art. I love the Fairyland series and, I hope, you will, too.

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Fairyland, #4) by Catherynne M. Valente

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following my reviews for some time now that I LOVE Catherynne Valente's Fairyland series. I adore them to bits! Ever since I read the first book in the series a couple of years ago, I couldn't get September and her adventures out of my head. I've gone back to re-read the first three books in the series to prepare myself for the fourth installment. And let me tell you, that is the best decision I could have made in regards to these books because refreshing my memory to what happened in the first three books made my reading experience for the fourth that much more enjoyable.

 

This time, however, we are not following September, Ell, and Saturday in their journey, but a whole new cast of characters. There's Hawthorn, Tamburlaine, Scratch, and Blunderbuss. Two changelings, a gramophone, and a stuffed wombat, respectfully. And we get to see how they stumbled from Fairyland to our world and back again. This story is filled with all the lovely whimsy and magic and adventure as all the other Fairyland books with an added layer of life lessons that all children must read.

 

And when I say "life lessons," I don't mean "please be nice," though that's definitely there. I mean Valente writes a beautiful narrative about a boy who is seen as "bizarre" and "different" and how poorly he is treated for being so, but in the process, Valente makes it clear that there's nothing wrong about sticking out. That there's nothing wrong with not being "normal." That each child (or adult) should embrace themselves for being different. The way Valente portrays this is subtle, too. It's not IN YOUR FACE about this message. She writes in as a mere mention and, as a reader, you take it in and continue on with the story. It's beautiful the way she writes this.

 

Also, I took a lot of what she was saying as how people treat queer kids differently from straight kids and it made my heart soar with happiness, but also pain. It hurts me inside to see when children are treated harshly because they don't fit a mold close-minded adults put before them. Kids should be allowed to be themselves. They should be allowed to be happy. As long as they are not hurting anyone, kids should be allowed to grow into happy, healthy adults being themselves. And Catherynne Valente is allowing children to do that by writing these books.

 

The characters for this book are all so beautiful. I love Hawthorn so much. I saw a lot of my younger self in him. Being a Changeling, he never quite fitted in to our world. The "human" world. He was questioned by every adult for his peculiarities, bullied in school, and treated as an "abnormal." But when he finally returns to Fairyland, he finds his place with people who love him for him and he starts to find his happiness. He's an amazing character who I fell deeply for. Tamburlaine is also a Changeling and she's a sweetheart. She finds solidarity with Hawthorn and begin to form a lovely friendship where neither of them had any before meeting one another. Scratch is Tamburlaine's gramophone with a spring to his step! Or, at least, he would is he had feet. He's cheerful and kind and helps in the best way a gramophone can: by providing music! Blunderbuss is Hawthorn's wombat (it makes sense when you read the book) and she is one of the feistiest characters I have read in a long time. I love how she comes across blunt and a bit mean but she means well and she shows it by being loyal and loving to her band of friends. Basically, all of the characters in this book are incredibly well-rounded and complex, I can't help but love them.

 

This story is great. If you've read all the other books in the series thus far, then I highly recommend you go ahead and pick up this book! Valente actually does something in this book that I did not see coming! I can't tell you because it is a HUGE spoiler but let me just say that I love it when a book is unpredictable. It makes for a much more interesting and entertaining read. So pick up this book and follow Hawthorn, Tamburlaine, and the rest on a journey through Fairyland to assist a King and find the ever allusive Spinster. It's going to be a wild ride~

Audition by Ryū Murakami; Translated by Ralph McCarthy

Audition - Ralph McCarthy, Ryū Murakami

I am not having good luck with Japanese literature this year. 

 

Let me back track. At the beginning of this year, I said that I was going to read more of Japanese literature. I love Japan, Its culture, language, history, and literature have fascinated me since I was five-years-old. But even though I've studied the culture, language, and history, I've fallen behind on its literature. So I wanted to rectify that this year. I want to read through all of Haruki Murakami's works, some classics, and even modern novels that come from Japan. If you recall, at the beginning of January, I picked up Haruki Murakami's first novel and was completely underwhelmed by it. Now with Audition by Ryu Murakami, my second Japanese literature book for this year, I am left disgusted and annoyed that, so far, my reading project has been a bit of a let down.

 

Warning: The review below goes into a bit of graphic detail in order to accurately portray my disgust so be careful if you choose to continue onward. 

 

The writing itself it not bad. I read an English edition so I can't comment on Murakami's own writing. But Ralph McCarthy did an excellent job in translating the novel. It never felt like he was trying to make it into a flowery writing style. It's raw and to the point. I was never confused as to what was going on within the story because of how fluid the writing is. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

 

Everything else I did not like. Throughout most of the book you have the main character, Aoyama, being a complete sexist asshole. He and his friend, Yoshikawa, talked horribly about women. That they're not good for much except sex. That if a woman wants to be an actress, she will mostly likely end up sleeping her way to the top. Ugh. They even talked about wanting to sleep with a lot of women but won't have it if a woman decided to have sex with more than one man. It's a double-standard that's been passed along in our misogynistic society forever now and it really pisses me off. The main character even goes as far to say that any man who doesn't want to be surrounded by a whole bunch of women is either a homosexual or mentally ill. I don't need to tell you how harmful and backwards thinking that statement is.

 

But, wait, it gets worse!

 

Yoshikawa, best friend of Aoyama, is just as horrendous as Aoyama is! Yoshikawa says that no woman would want to date anyone who uses the internet because only "geeks" use it, and that people who have jobs at radio stations are all idiots and would do anything to get their name out there. As if DJs and radio hosts are empty-minded individuals for working on the radio instead of TV. And that jab about people using the internet? Yeah, how's that going for ya, Yoshikawa? I'm aware that this book was written in the 90s but even then saying something like THAT about anyone who uses the internet is downright offensive.

 

And I wish the problems would just end there but there's still more I need to talk about. Like how Murakami decided to describe the sex scenes in his book. Not that I mind have descriptions of sex in the books I read. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is how Murakami chose to describe it. The descriptions were solely focused on Asami's, the main female character, body. He described the "folds" and the "white liquid" without ever touching upon Aoyama whatsoever. After all, he was there... you know. Just writing those scenes the way Murakami did diminished the act all together. It resulted in only objectifying Asami into a sex doll. Not that it's that surprising seeing as how all the other women in the book are written to be shallow, money-hungry, "sluts" who only are looking out for themselves.

 

One more thing I want to add before wrapping up this review and it's the one of the biggest reasons why I HATE this book. At the beginning of the book, Aoyama mentions to Asami that he's surprised she is so normal and demure because usually people who suffer from abuse as a child end up with trauma that leave them mentally unstable. And then that statement is solidify by Asami later on trying to kill him. Because ALL rape/abuse victims are crazy and want to kill all the people they have a relationship with, right? Ugh... These types of comments that forces abuse victims into one group is harmful. It sends the wrong message out to people. With how bad the stigma is around mental illness and rape victims, just saying that anyone who is abused as a child will grow up to be mass murderers is wrong! We don't need anymore of that type of representation in books or in any form of media. Rape victims do suffer trauma, yes, but they do not decide to become killers later on in like to "get back" at their rapists. And I won't sit here, claiming to know everything a rape victim goes through. However, I will also not sit here and let this toxic perception of victims go unchallenged either. They've always been through enough. We don't need to add on to their grief by labeling them as "psychopaths" as well.

 

Also, making said abuse victim dismember animals in a book just to add more "shock" value does not make the book better. Just makes the writer seem desperate and unimaginative in the story. There was no point in dismembering the dog. It did not go with the narrative Murakami was trying to "sell." He said that Asami wanted to "saw off the feet" of the men she was with to resemble her abuser and to "get back" at the men who wronged her. So why go after the dog? It did not fit her "criteria." Clearly, Murakami only added that part in to "disturb" the reader. There was no point to it and it was sloppy.

 

I know I gave away some points to the story but I felt like I had to so I could properly discuss why I hate this book. It's sloppy, misogynistic, harmful, and disgusting. I do not recommend you read this book. I won't say DON'T read it. I am of the belief people can read whatever they want. However, if anything I said disturbs you in any way, then you might want to steer clear. It's a shame that Ryu Murakami wrote a story in this manner. He is clearly not a writer for me and I will not be picking up anymore of his books.

The Summer Palace (Captive Prince Short Stories #2) by C.S. Pacat

The Summer Palace: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 2) - C.S. Pacat

And, finally, the last short story that's currently out for fans to read and devour! The Summer Palace is an epilogue of sorts to Kings Rising and I am LIVING for it! It follows Damen and Laurent after the events that happened in Ios. They both travel to the Summer Palace to rest, talk, and discuss what the future may hold for them.

 

I'm going to say this: If you love the trilogy, then read this short story right now! In my Kings Rising review, I said I felt the book ended abruptly. I felt there should have been more story to wrap things up a bit more smoothly. Well, this short story did that! It gave Damen and Laurent a proper ending and I implore you to read this so you can see what became of them after the "final battle."

 

The writing in this short story is a lot better than it was in the first short story. Where the first story felt rushed and choppy, this one felt like Pacat took her time to flesh out what she wanted Damen and Laurent to feel, to act. There were a couple of typos here and there but nothing too noticeable. I enjoyed the slower pace to this story because I felt it suited the atmosphere of the setting. I love that we got to see a much more domestic side to both of these characters and I love that we got to see Laurent open up and "thank" Damen for everything he's done.

 

I really love this conclusion. A lot. This short story is an excellent addition to the Captive Prince universe and if you're a fan, then you will DEFINITELY enjoy this as well. Give it a read!

 

Now to wait for the other short stories to be released... I hate waiting! X3

Green but for a Season (Captive Prince #2.5) by C.S. Pacat

Green but for a Season: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 1) - C.S. Pacat

And we continue on with the short stories from the Captive Prince trilogy! This short story takes place during book two and follows Jord. It explains how he came to be a part of the Prince's Guard and what he did whilst being Captain. It also touches a tiny bit on his relationship with Aimeric.

 

In short (no pun intended), I liked this story. I liked getting to know Jord a bit more. I also liked seeing him develop further than he was in the books. I will say, however, that I feel that this short story was a bit rushed. I know it's a short story and it's not going to have as much depth as a full length novel. But it just felt choppy in some parts. There was a moment I had to check to make sure that I didn't skip a part because we went from one scene to the next without proper transition. I would have also liked to see Jord and Aimeric's relationship fleshed out more than was in this story, which is what I initially thought this short story was going to be about. I wanted to see their relationship be explored because in the novels, I felt their relationship was hinted to be complex and I just... didn't get that in this story.

 

Still, it's a pretty good read for anyone who is a fan of the trilogy. I think you'd enjoy it even if it's a bit on the short side.

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3) by C.S. Pacat

Kings Rising: Book Three of the Captive Prince Trilogy - C.S. Pacat

Last year, I read the first two books in C.S. Pacat's Captive Prince trilogy and absolutely loved them! I loved them so much, my partner and I bought them as soon as we finished reading them to add to our collections! And it's only now that I am getting around to the third and final book to the trilogy (I know there are short stories that come after the series so I will get to them soon). I have to say I LOVED this book!

 

If you're familiar with the series, then this continues off where the second book ended. It continues Damen and Laurent's struggles of fighting a war with the Regent of Vere. I won't say anything of the plot because this IS wrapping up the story. However, I will say if you loved the first two books then you will love this one immensely.

 

The writing is breathtaking! Pacat's depictions are lovely. I adore the way she described scenery the most. The characters are just as engaging as they were in the first two books. And, yes, Damen is still dumb. I can't believe he wasn't able to figure out Laurent was raped and abused by his uncle. And, no, I don't consider that a spoiler because the hints were HEAVILY implied throughout the ENTIRE trilogy. So anyone with a brain could figure out the abuse Laurent had to endure from his uncle when he was a child. And then there's Damen... man, is he dumb. He really didn't know this entire time... and then he does something ELSE stupid later on that I can't say because that IS a spoiler but... it was just as stupid as not figuring out Laurent's rape. Still, Damen is dumb in a harmless way. In what I mean that he has his heart in the right place... even if he can't use his brain to save his life... LITERALLY!

 

Laurent really made my heart ache in this book. Knowing what we know about his childhood and how much he misses his brother, it pains me to see him trying to protect himself by pushing those away. He's also protecting Damen because he knows what kind of man his uncle is and he doesn't want Damen to have to deal with that. So Laurent does the one thing he knows how to do: Keep him at a distance by being a total ass to him! I swear, I love Laurent. I do. But he can be such a jerk sometimes. Actually, I find it quite hilarious the way he acts and responds with snarky/sassy comments. Laurent and Damen's relationship is such an interesting, wild, sometimes bizarre, ride that I can't help but LOVE it!

 

In short, I love this book. It's fast-paced, fun, steamy, and incredible! My one complaint was how it seemed to just end. The ending, I felt, needed to be dragged out a bit more. BUT! The short story, The Summer Palace, is an epilogue of the trilogy which is why I'm not too upset by Kings Rising stopping almost abruptly. Just keep in mind that you might want to have The Summer Palace nearby if you want to have a full conclusion to the story. 

 

The same warnings apply as to the first two books. So if you've read the first two, you know what you'll be getting in this one. There's sex, violence, adult language, mentions of rape, and murder. If you're okay with reading that then I highly recommend you read this book. These are fun books that you can read in one sitting if you're looking for a steamy mlm politically-run romp.

The Earl and The Fairy, Volume 01 by Mizue Tani

The Earl and The Fairy, Vol. 01 - Ayuko, Mizue Tani

When I was younger, I used to read manga all the time. In fact, it was the only thing I read for many years of my youth. However, getting older, I have fallen out of the habit of reading manga on a regular basis. It has been a very long time since I've read manga and I've been trying to get back into it. So when my partner came home with the first volume of The Earl and the Fairy she borrowed from work, I decided to give it a read. I have to say it's not a bad read.

 

I liked the simplistic feel to the story. You can literally just pick it up and fall into the story quite easily. The story is not convoluted to the point you don't understand what the fairies's roles are or how the myths of these fairies are interwoven into the actual plot of the story. And even though not everything is revealed from the get-go, it's not difficult to follow along with the characters.

 

Speaking of characters, I do feel like they were on the weaker side. The main character, Lydia, falls under a lot of tropes you tend to find in shoujo manga. She's supposed to be "tough" and takes "no nonsense" from the male lead, but she ultimately ends up doing whatever he tells her to do because she's "sweet and naive." The male lead, Edgar, tries to come off as charming and caring but he still manipulates Lydia every chance he gets. Mind you, he DOES acknowledge that what he's doing is wrong, but that still doesn't excuse the behavior. And even though I feel like the characters were not this manga's strongest point, it did leave me feeling that there's room for growth and I do think we shall see that growth in later volumes. I do have hope for that.

 

Lastly, the art wasn't anything special. It's very typical "cutesy" style with Lydia having pretty flowing hair and big eyes, whilst Edgar is all "broody" and "mysterious" and has darker tones to his outfits. I will say the outfits to the characters are very beautiful. It's not a bad art style, it's just a style I've seen before.

 

All-in-all, it was a pretty good read. It's harmless fun with interesting lore that, I'm sure will get explored more along with the characters' growth. I really did like what I read and I'm not opposed to reading the next volume. However, I won't go out of my way to read it right away either. If this sounds like your sort of manga, then go right ahead and pick it up. It's a pretty fast, simple read.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, Valentine De Landro

Bitch Planet is one of those graphic novels everyone seems to recommend. And I can see why! It's about a group of women who are deemed "disobedient" from the male-dominated government and are sent to a distant prison planet called "Bitch Planet" to be "straightened out." There they have to do what they're told if they hope to survive. But the main group of women we follow are definitely not keen on such a notion. Then, obviously, rebellion ensues.

 

I first heard of Bitch Planet through BookTube. When I heard so many people talking about how feminist and inclusive it was, I had to give it a read. And I'm so glad I did! The entire first volume is incredible! The art is gorgeous! It's very colorful when it wants to be and gritty when it has to be. I love the character designs the most! All the women have different body shapes, skin color, and sexual orientations. I love the diversity within these pages and the women portrayed therein.

 

The plot itself is so intriguing. I want to know what our characters are going to do now that they are within this prison. We got to see some background stories for a couple of characters. I love Penny's background story the most. It's tragic, yes, but it helps the reader understand who she is as a person. It helps the reader understand some of the actions she chooses to make. I love her so much. I love ALL the characters so much! Well... except the ones we're supposed to hate... I don't like them as much.

 

And that's all I'm going to say about it! Read this graphic novel! It's fun, engaging, intersectional feminism, daring, and intriguing! However, this is for a very mature audience. There's violence, nudity, sexual content, and gore. But if you're okay with that sort of content, then I highly recommend you pick up this graphic novel. It's filled with a diverse cast of women trying to make it in a world that refuses to allow women to be themselves. It's a fantastic read.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen - Jazz Jennings

I don't often read nonfiction. Not because I don't like reading it. It's just something I don't naturally gravitate towards. I tend to reach for more fantastical worlds as a way to relax from the ever polluting realities of our own world. However, this year I want to do something a little bit different. This year I want to read more nonfiction. I want to educate myself about different cultures and experiences. I've always been a very diverse reader, but I want to do that with my nonfiction reading as well. So when my partner and I saw Jazz Jennings memoir at the library, we both decided we HAD to read it.

 

I really enjoyed reading Jazz Jennings's memoir. She writes in a very conversational tone. Almost as if she is in the room with you, just chatting about her day. It was a very relaxing way of conveying her story and message. I enjoyed reading about all the advocacy work she does and I especially loved learning about how loving and supportive her family was. I am fully aware that for some transgender teens and adults, that's not always the case, but I am so happy that Jazz Jennings has a family that loves, supports, and protects her so she can be herself. To be happy. I thought that was beautiful.

 

That's not to say that her life wasn't without struggle. Being transgender, she encountered difficulties when it came to using the girls' restroom in school or being prohibited from being on any female teams when playing sports. Her family fought long and hard so that Jazz could be treated fairly and equally just like other girls. And in the end, it paid off! What makes this an amazing accomplishment is that they paved the way for other transgender kids to have these same rights without having to go to court and fight for them. (Although, I know that no matter what, there will always be struggles for anyone who is transgender or who is considered "different" in our society. But this is why I believe educating yourself and having an open mind could help us better understand one another, so that there's less hatred and violence. Please treat each other kindly.)

 

All in all, I really liked this book. I think if you know a teen who is transitioning or is thinking about transitioning, this is a great book to introduce them to the idea. Or if you know any adults who has a child or teen that is transitioning, they should read this book so that way they can learn to be understanding of their child and their needs. To support their child in any way they can. Parents, more than anybody else, need to try and understand that their child is their child. No matter what. And parents should love their child unconditionally. Whether their child is male, female, trans, intersex, non-binary, etc., remember to always love your child. The world is cruel enough as it is. Do not add to the hatred by discriminating against your own child. 

 

So I do recommend this book for people to learn from. The only downside to this book is that Jazz Jennings writes from a very privileged perspective and she knows that. She points out throughout the book multiple times that she is fully aware she's lucky to have been blessed with understanding parents and the financial needs to transition. So, a lot of the treatments and experiences she talks about in her book are not something everyone will be able to afford or experience themselves. Nevertheless, I still think there are things in this book everyone can benefit from by reading it. Please give this book a read if you come by it. A little bit of education goes a long way.

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga, #1) by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1 - Kameron Hurley

Where do I even start with this book? I first heard of this book on BookTube. I became intrigued by it because of the gender aspects so when I went to the library, I thought I'd give it a go. Well, the gender aspects are about all I enjoyed from this book.

 

That's not true. I also enjoyed the writing. The writing is actually quite beautiful. It's very easy to envision the world, its inhabitants, the magic system, everything. I quite like what Hurley does with language and how she uses it to fit this unique world.

 

Another thing I liked about this book was how gender was portrayed, You have gender-fluid characters and non-binary characters and characters who were pansexual and all of that was fantastic! I also liked the talk of using the correct pronouns for whatever the person identifies themselves as and to no do so was seen as extremely offensive because, guess what, it IS offensive to do that to anyone. I adore that Hurley made that very clear within her writing. 

 

Continuing with the gender themes, Hurley also reversed the roles between men and women within this society. It is a matriarchal society where the women are seen as superior to men. Now, I personally don't like matriarchies or patriarchies. I think all should be seen as equals regardless of gender. However, I realize Hurley did this as a commentary to our own society where women are seen as weak. I understand the commentary and I do appreciate what she has done here in her book.

 

However, I don't like seeing rape. At all. And the women do, in fact, rape the men. One character in particular, Zezili, is raping her husband constantly. She beats him, carves her initials into his skin to show ownership, and her husband, Anavha, is of the mentality that she does this because she loves him... something abuse victims tend to say of their abusers. And I get it. This happens a lot in our society. So I understand what and why Hurley decided to include this in her novel, but I'm not okay with any type of abuse. So reading that left me very angry, which is the point, I suppose.

 

Oh, but there's still more about this book that left me feeling rather empty. Let's talk about Lilia. She's one of the main characters in this book and she annoyed the hell out of me. She does stupid things for no reason. Basically, her reasoning is along the lines of "because I can." She is selfish and cruel to the point of callous. But the thing is there's no reason for it! She is not supposed to be a horrible character. She just is. And I can't say much more but because of her stupidity, she gets so many innocent characters, who are trying to help her out, killed. She gets them killed because of her selfishness. And what makes it worse, she shows no remorse! As long as she gets her way, she doesn't care who she screws over in the end. But we, as the reader, are supposed to sympathize with her? We're supposed to believe she's a good person? No. I don't think so.

 

The motivations of some of the characters make no sense to me. Going back to Zezili, she is someone that's ruthless. She kills anyone her Empress tells her to. But then she decides she wants to be a hero and save others... what? Where did that come from? Why are you being kind now? I don't get it. I felt like the development for a lot of the characters were not fleshed out enough, which is sad to say since this book is over 500 pages. 

 

But one of my biggest problems this book has is not telling the reader anything. Like, I get it. As an author, you don't want the reader to know everything. But you also need to give the reader enough to go on so that the reader in intrigued enough to keep reading. After 250 pages, I saw so many forced moments the author put their for the "shock value" that I was disappointed. She inserted what she wanted so much without giving reason to it. Most of those moments left me feeling "Why? What was the point to that?" And that's what most of this book is. What was the point? And it's never fully explained. At all.

 

I could go on but I'll stop here. This book had so much potential. Hurley had a lot of great ideas but, ultimately, could not pull off in a cohesive manner. All of it felt too messy and all over the place. I love what she did with gender and sexuality and the world is such a cool concept! But everything else just fell flat for me.

 

If this book intrigues you, go ahead and give it a shot. You might like it more than I did. Just remember there's a lot of gratuitous violence, gore, and rape. Don't read it is any of those themes are harmful towards you. But if you're okay with those themes, then try it out. Hopefully, you like it even if I had a few problems with it.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers: A Novel - Brit Bennett

This book has been going around quite a bit and I became very curious about what The Mothers had to say. So I went to the library, my second home, and picked up a copy. And I must say, it's a pretty good read.

 

The book starts off with Nadia, a seventeen-year-old girl, who just lost her mother to suicide. Grieving, she later becomes involved with the pastor's son, Luke, and they have a secret relationship that results in Nadia becoming pregnant. She goes through many ups and downs whilst trying to figure out what she wants in life. Aubrey, a friend Nadia meets at the town's local church, becomes heavily involves in both Nadia and Luke's lives and all three are shown throughout the novel growing into adulthood whilst trying to discover who they are as people.

 

I really liked this story. The writing was quite beautiful and I enjoyed the way Bennett told the story. Part of the story is told by this elderly group called The Mothers. They are an older generation of women who are at the community church and tell the story from an outsider's perspective, reminiscent to the Greek chorus. I love that writing style and Bennett did an excellent job in using it to engage the reader into her story about these character.

 

Speaking of characters, they are extremely flawed. I don't really think there's any redeemable qualities in any of them. Nadia becomes so grief stricken after losing her mother that she becomes reckless. Reckless to the point she is willing to hurt her father, who is going through his own grieving process, and her best friend. Luke... I don't like Luke. I didn't understand why Nadia was so hung up over him. After he treats he horribly throughout the entire book. He mostly wanted to have sex with her and that's it. Aubrey is the character I like most in this book. She goes through her own problems and have a strained relationship with her mother. The only solace she found being the church. I'm not religious myself so it was interesting seeing how this character was able to embrace her faith enough to comfort her but not obsess over it (as I've seen other characters do in other books). I enjoyed seeing her grow and transform into the woman she became.

 

There's a certain incident that happens later in the book that I cannot talk about in great detail because it's quite a huge spoiler. However, I will say that incident really didn't sit well with me. I know things like that happen all the time in real life and it's not that I have a problem with. I will say the incident is cheating. I don't like when anyone cheats. If you are in a committed relationship with someone, you do NOT cheat. It's wrong. If there's consent between both parties to involve someone else, then that's fine, Polyamorous relationships deserve as much respect as monoamorous ones. However, this was cheating through and through. And THAT is wrong.

 

But don't get me wrong. The cheating itself is not what bugs me. Like I said, it happens all the time. It's how it's dealt with that doesn't sit right with me. It wrapped up too nicely. Everything was just handle too simply. Too cleanly. I know people shouldn't hold grudges and that you should learn to forgive and let go. But for everything to be completely forgiven in the end? There really wasn't any consequences to be had. For something like that to be forgiven and forgotten seemed too unrealistic to me.

 

This is in no way to say that I didn't like the book. I did. Personally, I just felt the ending was wrapped up too quickly for me to fully immerse myself in the narrative. 

 

If you like stories about friendship, community, loss, and faith then you should definitely give this book a try. A bit of a warning though, there's talk of suicide, sexual assault, and rape so keep that in mind if those are things you rather stay clear of. Otherwise, this is a pretty good book about what it's like to live in a small Christian community and how that can influence people therein.

Wind/Pinball: Two Novels by Haruki Murakami; Translated by Ted Goossen

Wind/Pinball: Two novels - Ted Goossen, Haruki Murakami

Being a lover of Japanese literature, and books in general, I've always wanted to give Haruki Murakami's books a try. I've heard nothing but praise for his works so I thought I should give all his works a read. This is a bit of a personal project I've bestowed upon myself: To read at least one Murakami book a month. And, I thought, what better way to start than from the two first novels he's ever written! Well, I have to say that we are not off to a good start.

 

Hear the Wind Sing is his very first novel and it shows. Nothing much happens in this book. It's about an unnamed narrator and his best friend, the Rat, and what they do during a summer the narrator has off from college. But really, all they do is spend it drinking at a bar, talking about women, and that's pretty much it. The narrator has a relationship with a woman who only has nine fingers and their dynamic was... bizarre. I didn't see how that woman found the narrator interesting or how she developed feelings for him. I say this because at the beginning of the book, she detested him. Then, almost over night, she starts to fancy him... what? Why? What did he do in order for her to toss her disdain for him out the window? It made no sense to me. On top of the unbelievable relationship, I was just bored reading it. Nothing really happens in the book. Just a bunch of guys drinking in a bar. I was waiting for something else to happen. Something more interesting. I thought it would happen with the relationship aspect of the book. But no. Nothing. The writing in this first book was also dull. There was no life to it. Basically, Murakami's first novel just wasn't for me.

 

The second novel, Pinball, 1973, was a bit better but not by much. This book takes place several years after the first. The unnamed narrator works for a translation business whilst his friend, the Rat, goes through his own problems with trying to find himself and understand what he wants to do with his life. I'll admit, I liked that aspect of the book quite a bit. At some point in our lives, we all start questioning what we want to do. Who we are. What shall become of us if we don't do something worthwhile. And being able to read and see that side of the Rat was pretty interesting. Also, the writing was a lot more lyrical. There were still plenty of dull patches here and there, but I can tell that Murakami was finding his style a lot more here. So his writing improved a bit! And the translator, Ted Goossen, did a fantastic job in portraying Murakami's meaning well! But that's where my praises end, sadly. The narrator was still so bland that I was still bored when reading about him and his obsession with pinball. Also, there were these twins that intrigued me. I wanted to learn more about them. Like where they came from and what was their purpose for moving in with the main character. But I got none of that. Their sole purpose was to make coffee and have sex with the narrator. That's it. In fact, that's all the women of this book did! The secretary at the translation office only cooked food and cleaned. That's it. The twins made food and had sex. That's it. I knew going in that Murakami tends to be a bit sexist in his novels, but it's so apparent in these two books! So even though I enjoyed this book more... it still wasn't enough to make me fall in love with Murakami as a writer.

 

Now, these are just his first two novels. You can tell they are early works and I know it's his later works that are highly praised so I'm not judging him too harshly. These two weren't for me but I shall continue reading his works to see if he's an author that I will enjoy. I still have hope so in February, I will be reading A Wild Sheep Chase and see how I get on with that one. Hopefully I enjoy it a lot more than his first two novels.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn: A Novel - Jacqueline Woodson

I love Jacqueline Woodson's books. I've read quite a few of them now and I absolutely love them. Another Brooklyn is no exception. What pulled me in to this book the most was it's setting and writing.

 

I grew up near Brooklyn and I always love reading books that take place in New York because it brings me back to a time where I went to these places often. The way Woodson described the tall, red brick buildings brought back so many memories... and that's the main theme of this book: Memories. What we go through in life and how we react, how we remember those events and the impact it makes. Just... so many experiences that make us who we are. I love this book.

 

The writing was especially gorgeous! It's lyrical, almost as if you're reading spoken word poetry. I was transported to Brooklyn, my home. I could envision the streets, the people, the bodegas, everything. How I miss home.

 

The characters were interesting. Each living their own lives and storing their own memories. I loved reading about what they went through and felt for them whenever they had to deal with hardships because of discrimination. How people never wanted to give them a chance at life because these girls were black. It's a heartbreaking tale that racism once again plays a hand in. But the message where we must keep going even if everything seems hopeless, is what makes this book beautiful to me.

 

It's not a happy read. But it's an important one. It's a book I think everyone should read if only to understand what it means to live and to hope and to strive... even if memories remind us of how cruel the world can be.

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