Friday, February 8, 2019

Me on Some Manga I've Recently Read

Hi there! I'm still trying to find a balance between the good brain days and the bad ones, as well as regaining my interest in reading the books I have waiting for me. I think I need to mix in more visual stories, more comics, graphic novels, manga, and webcomics. That being said, here are some thoughts on some manga volumes I recently picked up at the library.

Flying Witch Vols 1-4 by Chihiro Ishizuka. Flying Witch follows the story of Makoto, a novice witch who's just packed up all of her belongings, along with her cat familiar Chito, and headed off from Yokohama to rural Aomori (I looked it up, I think it's a 9 hour drive) to freeload with some cousins, including Kei, a young man who's the same age, and his younger sister Chinatsu. It was turned into an anime for the Spring 2016 season (April to June), so I knew what the story was going it. I was mostly reading this to see how it differed from the anime (not that much) and what happened after the anime ended (because it was only 12 episodes long and I don't think there'll be a second season (this happens so much)).

It's a very gentle, easy-going slice of life story. There's a vague overall theme, which is Makoto being a witch and learning how to be a better which, as she's only 15 (even if in the witch world that's a fully-fledged adult). There aren't any enemies or rivals or fights to the death; it's just a slow, countryside tale of a teenage girl and her family and friends out in a rural town. Which sometimes you want to read about. I loved the little bits of witch lore and mythology that would pop up and be so every day, at least to Makoto and over time to Kei, Chinatsu, and their parents. The Harbinger of Spring, a fairy-esque (even though they're the size of an adult human) being who brings spring across the land. A café run by witches and hidden by a glamour spell. Whales flying through the sky. The newspaper person. It's cute and charming and funny and an overall great read. The art style is nice, too. Not too complicated, overloading the page, but also not too sparse. As always, I enjoyed the characters' faces and expressions. Currently, 6 volumes have been translated and published by Vertical Comics, with the 7th out this summer (Volume 8 will be out in Japan this fall).

Behind the Scenes Vols 1-3 by Bisco Hatori. Behind the Scenes is about Ranmaru, a 1st year in college who's come to the big city after growing up surrounded by a rough and boisterous family of fisher folk. He's never felt like he fit in with them, being the quiet one who's constantly pessimistic about everything and always gets seasick on a boat. He figured going away to college, staying with some relatives, would help him find his place. But it's been two months and he's discovered that he hates crowds and doesn't know what to do with his life. Then he stumbles onto a zombie movie shoot and faints from shock. When Ranmaru wakes up, he finds himself at the mercy of the Art Squad and their president, Ryuji Goda. I wanted to give this a read because the premise sounded interested and I was curious as to what Bisco Hatori was working on as I've read one of her previous series, Ouran High School Host Club.

I rather liked the set-up and the first 3 volumes. It's looking like the series is going to be about Ranmaru, him working through his hang-ups and problems and shyness while working with the other members of the Art Squad and helping them work through their own personal problems. Because all the members of the Art Squad has their bits and secrets. Ruka's family situation, Maasa's desperate search for a boyfriend who won't be grossed out by her love of zombies and gore, Tomu's happy-go-lucky attitude and delinquent past, Izumi's easy-going nature and the crowd of girls that wait their turn to maybe date him. And Ryuji, who you don't really learn too much about in the first 3 volumes beyond how passionate he is in the work the club does, how much he pushes them to evolve and push past any issues they might have. Ranmaru is interesting, he's quiet and always panicking about something, but he's great at crafts and creating and noticing the little details that most people miss. Like cracks around a skylight, or someone's notes in their film script, or the next day's weather. He's definitely going to be someone the club will rely on. There are currently 5 volumes translated and published by Viz Media, the 6th will be out in March (in Japan, volume 7 was released last September).

I hope you enjoyed this. I'm slowly going through a list of manga that I've been waiting to appear at my local library, ones I've seen anime adaptations of or are by artist whose work I like, so there might be more posts like this in the future. :)

Friday, January 25, 2019

Me on Bloom

Title: Bloom
Author: Kevin Panetta
Author/illustrator: Savannah Gauncheau
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: First Second Books (Macmillan imprint)

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom... that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Bloom is tender, sweet, and honest. It's a post-high school coming of age graphic novel all about wants and needs, dreams and real life, choices and consequences. It's about two young men, one who doesn't know what he wants and one who needs a little time away from life, and their summer together.

Ari doesn't know what he wants to do, not really. There's what he knows, what he was pushed towards, which is his family's bakery, which he doesn't really want to work at, and there's what he dreams of, which is moving to a bigger city with his friends and bandmates and making it as musicians. He's hoping it'll all work out, but with the bakery struggling and his dad pressuring him to stay, and his friends making serious plans while Ari dreams and hangs around, it's not looking likely. His confusion and uncertainty overwhelm him. He doesn't know where to go, what to do. But he does know that he likes spending time with Hector.

Hector is on a break from culinary school, currently unattached after breaking up with his last boyfriend, and is in town to help clear out his late grandmother's house. He knows what he loves, cooking, baking, spending time in the kitchen making food, but he needed some time away. Time to breathe. So here's this little town, with a bakery looking for help. So in walks Hector, looking to continue doing what he loves.

The story fits so well with the art style and the two-tones colour scheme. I love Savannah Gancheau's art in this book. The exterior scenes so full of things, like the house/bakery backyard with all the pots and plants. The pages covered in baked goods, rolls and cakes and blueberry muffins. The characters' faces! They're all so expressive, smiling or sneering, frowning or shouting or laughing. Especially Ari's annoyed face. Those eyebrows!

Ari and Hector's story isn't easy. It has its ups and downs, its fun times and tense moments. This is a story all about moving on when you don't feel like you're ready, making hard decisions, facing a harsh reality when running a small business, admitting you made a mistake, apologizing and owning up to it when that mistake got people hurt, and moving forward when you're afraid of screwing up again. And it's a story about how the people who care about you will always be there to stand by your side. So, if you're looking for a sweet, realistic story with diverse characters and wonderful art, give this a read. Just don't blame me if you're hungry at the end.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Me on The Cold Is in Her Bones

Title: The Cold Is in Her Bones
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster imprint)

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe. Milla's whole world is her family's farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she's forbidden to share: the village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next. Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

The Cold Is in Her Bones is a tale about girls who never feel like enough, who never feel smart enough or pretty enough or resourceful enough, and what happens when they take the chance to be themselves.

Milla is a girl who just is. There's nothing overly special about her. She lives with her parents and brother on their farm, she does her chores and does what she's told. But it's never enough for her mother, who always seems to scold Milla for not being more than who she is. Her older brother Niklas is seen as perfect, but Milla loves him so her anger towards him never lasts. When a new girl, Iris, comes to the farm, Milla is ecstatic. Finally, a girl her age she can be friends with. But Iris comes with secrets, secrets that have Milla reconsidering the life she's lived, the things her mother pushes on her. Secrets that start a change in Milla.

This book is all about Milla becoming a fully realized young woman. When she leaves to find Iris, to free her, to discover the truth behind the demon and the voices, she's finally given the chance to just be herself. Away from her mother, away from her picking and her scolding and her expectations. This is for those girls who don't feel like enough, because they are enough the way they already are. Sometimes you don't get the words from your parents that you were always hoping you'd here. Sometimes you have to leave the place you once called home in order to find the place you were meant to be. Sometimes family is made up of people you followed and saved along the way, or people who took you in and supported you for a time. It's a curious fairy tale-esque of a story, a tale of regret and hope and finding yourself.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada through NetGalley.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Me on Firestarter

Title: Firestarter
Author: Tara Sim
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (Skyhorse Publishing imprint)

The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world's clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus's cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan--to bring back the lost god of time. As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes--Prague, Austria, India--nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what's most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

Firestarter is the conclusion to a series steeped in adventure, mystery, sorrow, and love. It's all revelation and heartache, running and racing and hurrying against time. Or with time. Or on the path to save time.

As I read this I thought back to when I first read Timekeeper, when it all started so unassumingly with a young man walking into a clock tower and finding someone watching him, and never would I have expected the trilogy to unfold as it did. It expanded the world so much, took Danny and Colton out of England and across the continents to India. And it brought them closer and  closer to trouble, to danger. To what could be the end of everything. There's a lot that conspires against Danny and Colton, both intentionally or not. Everyone has plans of their own, dangerous ones, hopeful ones. Murderous ones.

This book is definitely all about endings, about making that final decision that could end captivity, end a way of life, end lives themselves, and the reason for making that decision. Is it one you make purely for yourself, keeping someone you care about alive while so many others die, or is it one you make to keep the world moving as it should while you lose someone you care about? It's one of the hardest decisions to make, and here, it must be made.

It felt like there was so much happening in this book. Timekeeper was the introduction, Chainbreaker was the uncovering of a dangerous plot, and this was the struggle to keep as many people alive as possible as they moved towards the end. They go so many places, hide and uncover so many secrets, confront so many people, it almost felt too long. But there was so much to wrap up. If you're a fan of the first two books and you were gutted by how Chainbreaker ended, you're really going to want to read this. A great end to a sorrowful, mysterious, emotional series.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Sky Pony Press through Edelweiss.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Me on The Wicked King

Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished. When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

The Wicked King is full of tension, full of schemes and secrets, full of double-crossing and dangerous plots. Jude's struggling to keep her head above water, struggling to keep things in control. But control is hard to come by in the shifting world of Faerie, in the shifting whims of its current High King.

Jude is constantly on her toes, trying to keep everything in order so she can find away to keep Cardan under her control. So she can find a way to keep Oak safe before he's pushed into the role of ruler. But considering this is Faerie, Jude has a lot of players to keep an eye on. Because with Cardan the current king, there are those who would seek to placate him, manipulate him, control him. Dispose of him. Jude is right to suspect almost everyone around her, but there's someone close to her that she's forgotten about.

This book is full of so many secretive, plotting, double-crossing characters that it's hard to like any of them. Even Jude. But that's Faerie. It's a land of magic and wonder, of double-speak and tricks and clever turns of phrase. It's an inhuman land populated by inhuman people. For me personally, I kept having to remember that no character would ever do anything like walk away from the situation. Even Jude. Especially Jude. She wants to much to be a part of a place that she hates and that hates her. There are a lot of twists here, a lot of pieces slowly being revealed and falling into place, a lot of surprises and unexpected revelations. Knowing that, I'm definitely interested in how it will all come together in the last book. Considering these characters, it's hard to imagine a happy ending for anyone. Hopefully it'll be a satisfying ending.

(I received an e-galley of this title from Hachette Book Group Canada through NetGalley.)