Friday, February 24, 2017

Comic Book Conglomeration: February 2017


Surprisingly, I completed three novels and started a fourth this past month, which is... kind of a record lately. And I still managed to read a lot of comic books and manga. I've been working my way through a few series, so I'll keep the ones I've already highlighted brief. Here's what I read starting at the end of January and through this week of February.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan by Nagaru Tanigawa
I read more of volumes of these two series this month, and I'm almost finished with both. (I'm just waiting for the last few volumes to come in at the library.) I still adore them, and the story arcs never cease to amuse me. There are a lot of Haruhi arcs that I don't recognize from the anime, which is exciting because that might mean they could make a season three. (Please?) Nagato is as adorable as ever, and I can hardly contain myself while reading. I'm not allowed to read these in public because of how embarrassing I act about the events.

Marvel Universe Doctor Strange by Marvel Comics
I put this comic book on hold from the library f o r e v e r ago, before the Doctor Strange movie even came out. (I know. Wow.) Still, it was enjoyable and quirky. Doctor Strange teams up with a lot of heroes to get stuff done, so it was fun to see him interact with Spider-Man and the Hulk as well as Captain America. It's not the best comic, but it's still good. It can be confusing though, so sometimes I had no idea what was happening.

Loki Agent of Asgard, Vol. 2 and 3 by Al Ewing
The second volume of Loki: Agent of Asgard disappointed me. Everything I loved about volume one was gone, and it felt... boring and sad. A lot of the events branched off from other Marvel comics I hadn't read, so some of it was hard to follow. (The downside of comics, I suppose.) Volume 3, however, was much better and made me feel more confident about the series as a whole. There were a lot of elements mixed in that I loved (like Hot Loki is back and we were introduced to Female Loki, who was fun). Plus, the conclusion to the arc was solid and amazing. Go Team Loki!?

DC Super Hero Girls, Vol. 2 by Shea Fontana
So, I heard that DC Super Hero Girls was a show and now a comic, and I had to give it a chance. And by golly, I'm glad I did. This comic was so fun and had soooo many things I loved. Unfortunately, I read volume 2 instead of 1 (how did that happen?), so now I have to go back and read the first volume. Still, it's a great series for a younger generation of girls to be introduced to the female superheroes of DC Comics. Seriously, DC, you did good with this one. Keep it up.

Barakamon, Vol. 10-11 by Satsuki Yoshino
Barakamon is one of my favorite manga/anime ever. It's definitely in my top five--scratch that, top three, right alongside Library Wars and Haruhi. It's adorable and ornery and just stinking fun. There are crazy kids, calligraphy art, and wild island adventures. Plus, an entire cast of characters that are unique and endearing. I've been waiting months to read the latest volumes, and I can't wait to read more in the future. This is another series I am not allowed to read in public due to my embarrassing reactions. It's so freaking cute.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
Easily one of my most anticipated reads of the year, Wires and Nerve returned me to the Lunar Chronicles world and swept me away once more. There are so many things I loved about this graphic novel, and I am so freaking glad that Marissa Meyer ventured into this book format. I loved the illustrations, the characters, and the story line, especially since it follows Iko but also inter-laces with the adventures of the other beloved Lunar Chronicles characters. (Also, I totally ship Iko and Kinney. I'm stoked to see how that turns out because right now, it's flipping hilarious.) The Pinocchio vibes from Iko's story line are splendid. I can't wait for volume two. (What, I have to wait an entire year? No!) Reading Wires and Nerve was like coming home but also stepping off on a new adventure. It was more than I could ever have hoped for.


What comics have you read lately? Any recommendations?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of a number of books being published this year that I want to read. So far, four of those books have been published (with the fifth coming out on Tuesday!) and I've only finished one. Yeah, I know. Ouch.

(In my defense, I did start Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, but I gave up because it was somehow... worse than Divergent. Annnnd I'm currently reading Empress of a Thousand Skies and have been promised to receive Caraval soon. So I'm getting there.)

The book I did finish was Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, and let me tell you, it was a whirlwind. An enchanting, bizarre, and complex whirlwind. And I still can't decide how I feel about it.


Synopsis

When Liesl's younger sister K├Ąthe is taken by the goblins, it's up to Liesl to journey to the Underground and convince the Goblin King to let her sister go. But that request comes at a price--Liesl's hand in marriage, a life for a life. To marry the Goblin King initially means giving up her life in the world above forever, but Liesl learns that staying in the Underground means to give up much more. 

My Thoughts

When it comes to Wintersong, I'm torn. On one side, the book was beautiful. The descriptions were rich and swoon-worthy, the plot was compelling, and the characters were unique, intriguing. Yet at times, I felt disappointed, not bored exactly but... apathetic about the events. And the ending was a letdown. To make it easier, I'm going to list what I liked and didn't like about Wintersong.

What I Liked

"Goblin Market" references
I took a Women's Writers course in college, and we read several of Christina Rossetti's poems. I loved "Goblin Market," so it was delightful to see how that inspired parts of this story. The references at the beginning to the poem and the two sisters were perfect to go with the Goblin King tale. I loved how much folklore and legend and other Rossetti poems were wrapped into this story, which, in my opinion, brought it to life.

The Underground
The Underground was a dark, enchanting place. I loved reading about all the corridors and passages, all the secrets hidden in its depths, all the creatures that scurried among its labyrinth. The chapel, however, was my favorite place. The way it was described was incredible.

The Goblin King
Okay, I admit it: I was swept away by the Goblin King. He was alluring. I was desperate to figure him out and learn his story. He, more than anything, kept me interested in the book's events. I needed answers. Plus, the descriptions of him were captivating.

Liesl
Liesl is an interesting protagonist. I like her connection to music and that she isn't your typical main character. She isn't beautiful or perfect. She makes mistakes, she's considered plain to the point of being easily forgettable, and she is relateable. Her connection to music, her desperate need to write and play and perform reminds me of my own dreams of writing. I think she is a strong, durable character worth getting to know.

The music
The references to music throughout the novel was amazing. I've read other books that are supposed to music-themed, but they don't do justice to how Wintersong incorporated music in every aspect of the book. You could feel the characters thriving and breathing off music. This only reinforced the staggering importance of music to Liesl's life. I loved it.

References to God
While I know this book is supposed to be set in a time period where most people have been taught from The Bible, I appreciated how often this book referenced God and mentioned His mercy and grace. It was refreshing to read a book where it contains references but isn't overbearing.



What I Disliked

The Underground
I felt that there was a lot more to explore with The Underground and its secrets. The book focused so heavily on the characters and their relationship that the setting didn't get to flourish as much as I would have liked. I wanted more about the world, the goblins (and changelings), and the labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Also, the pacing of events once Liesl got to the Underground slowed down a lot. It was still interesting, but it wasn't as action-y or adventure-y as I was expecting.

The Goblin King
While I felt enchanted by the Goblin King most of the time, there were moments where I really disliked him. I thought he was annoying or selfish or rude. I just couldn't stand him at times, and I really don't know why Liesl was so turned on by his "wolfish" nature/version. Like, does every alluring man have to be considered "devilish" in fiction these days? (I know, I know. He's the Goblin King. He's not going to be a good little boy. But still. A lot of books these days are focused on an unhealthy relationship between a girl and a "bad" boy. I'm just tired of it.)

Liesl
While I can appreciate that Liesl seemed more normal than most YA protagonists, it was a little annoying how focused she was on her plainness. Like I didn't need to read ten times that she felt herself so plain and boring and why ever would the Goblin King choose her? Like... girl! Get some self-esteem already. You have the freaking Goblin King as your husband, obviously you aren't as bad you think. People in general are just oblivious to a lot, especially normal beauty.  I also found myself disappointed that Kathe and Josef were pushed to the back burner of the story fairly quickly. Sibling relationships (especially strong sister relationships) are one of my favorite aspects in literature, so I was disappointed that Liesl's relationship with her siblings, especially Kathe, wasn't as big of a focus in the latter half of the book. I mean, she gives up literally everything for her sister and then... there isn't much more with their relationship. (Yeah, it's there in glimpses, but still. It was not enough for a book with a synopsis heavily focused on a girl getting her sister back.)

Sex
In YA books, I can handle one or two sex scenes, especially since most of the time they're pretty mild or fade from the moment. (You know, they usually hint at what happened without going into detail.) But this book... whoa, baby. This book didn't slow down. There are several detailed sex scenes, and frankly, it got uncomfortable. Half the time I couldn't tell what was even happening (Did they do it? Were they just kissing?), and during the other half, I was just reading fast to get through it. I think it wouldn't have been as big as a problem if this book had been marketed as an adult fantasy. I think it would have been perfect for the adult genre instead of YA, which would have allowed for more to slip by without worry. But I am worried. I suppose a mature sixteen or seventeen year old could probably handle this (if they're comfortable with it), but I would not want a twelve year old or thirteen year old to pick this book up at the library. It was too much for that. It also could have allowed for Liesl to be a little older. I'm not sure how old she is supposed to be, I was thinking probably between 16-19 due to it being YA, but she never felt like a 16 year old. She felt older. And I think it would have benefited for her to be older, more mature, etc. if it had been an adult book instead.

The ending
I didn't like the ending. It doesn't end in the typical way, I suppose, but at the same time, I didn't like it. It didn't make sense to me. It didn't help me understand their relationship and what a marriage should mean. And I was just disappointed that it ended so easily and nicely. For a book that's all about sacrifice, it didn't seem like Liesl had to sacrifice much.

Overall

Wintersong is an enchanting re-telling that brings together multiple sources and ideas into a coherent, gorgeous story. I've never seen Labyrinth (I know, shame, right?), so I can't judge whether fans of that story will enjoy Wintersong or if they should steer clear. If you're comfortable with some sex scenes and you're interested in an alluring romance story with a sprinkle of fantasy and darkness, Wintersong might be for you. But...

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.


~I borrowed Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones from my local library and chose to review the book of my own freewill. All opinions expressed are my own.~

Friday, February 10, 2017

Book Review: Roseblood by A.G. Howard

For a while now, I've wanted to sign up for a monthly subscription box. I always thought it would be fun to receive a surprise in the mail. So I decided to sign up for a montly book box from Owl Crate. (Because what other type of subscription box would I choose?) The January box's theme was Classic Remix, and it contained a lot of awesome stuff. (You can see my unboxing photo over on Instagram, as well as other bookish photos.) The book, however, was Roseblood by A.G. Howard, a Phantom of the Opera inspired story.

I had absolutely no idea this book was coming out. I don't know how it slipped my radar because it's Phantom of the Opera themed! I mean, really, Phantom is my favorite musical, my favorite "movie monster," and the only black and white film I've seen with a live organist. Anyways, I was super excited to receive it, and I wasted no time diving into the story. It's dark and spooky and all sorts of intriguing. It's not my favorite book ever, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Plus, that cover is so gorgeous.

Synopsis
Rune Germain has a musical affliction: whenever she uses her gorgeous opera voice, she gets sick or, worse, passes out. Her mother sends her to a French arts school called Roseblood that's located in a refurbished opera house that is rumored to be connected to the Phantom of the Opera legend. Once there, she encounters the Phantom, a violinist who soothes her affliction, and the dark secrets of the opera house and her own cursed gift. 

My Thoughts
When I first picked up this book, I was a little wary. I've been disappointed in a lot of classic retellings lately. They either don't live up to my (high) expectations or they contort the original story so much I can hardly identify the aspects that made it become a classic. But I wanted to give this a story a chance. It's not often that a Phantom of the Opera retelling is published, so I was excited for a change of pace.

The story itself is intriguing. A musical curse, rumors of a phantom, a spooky opera house... all of these elements were excellent for telling this tale. The setting also helped secure the atmosphere for the story, reminiscent of the darker themes of Phantom. The spooky opera house along with the graveyard were perfect to reflect the enthralling horror classic.

As for the characters, Roseblood has a wide cast. I didn't expect to like some of Rune's new friends so much, but I did. I thought they were going to be pretty one-dimensional side characters, but they proved their worth time and time again. The teachers at the school were more developed than I was expecting as well, and I liked a lot of the twists that came with them. The Phantom was definitely wretched, yet I still felt for him after learning the truth of his story (poor baby). As for Thorn, oh gosh! How do I explain this? I adored Thorn. He had just the perfect blend of tragic backstory and personal vendetta and heart-wrenching soul, I could barely handle myself. I love that we got to see his story just as much as Rune's. It was a pleasant (and heart-ripping) surprise.

Rune, however, wasn't my favorite character. I didn't feel that connected with her. I wanted more to her story (and her romance with Thorn). I felt a lot of the beginning went super fast without explanation. (It was like they expected readers to have read the book blurb, which doesn't always happen.) I wish that the parts where she learns to control her voice with Thorn had been given more care and time to flourish. It went so fast, I had a hard time sensing their relationship's growth. And I think the modern setting threw me off as I read. I didn't hate Rune, but I didn't particularly care for her either; I pretty much only cared about Thorn and the Phantom. (Who's actually surprised though?)

The only other issue I had was with the pacing of the book. Like I said, I felt the beginning was rushed and there was lot I had to catch up on as I read. Also, I wished some elements and setting details had been described earlier on to make the events flow better.

Overall though, this story was spooky and intriguing. It had at the right amount of Phantom touches and also new ideas and twists that were phenomenal and set it apart from the same-old retellings. I thoroughly enjoyed Roseblood, and I would definitely recommend this to fans of Phantom of the Opera, whether they like the original book, the musical, or the 1920s black and white film.


If you've read Roseblood, let me know what you thought. Or tell me what your favorite classic retelling is!

I bought Roseblood through the Owl Crate subscription box program and chose to review the book of my own free will. All opinions are my own. (And yes, I did listen to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack while I wrote this review!)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Assassin's Daughter Cover Reveal


Hello, friends! Today is a very big day!


My fellow Fangirl Initiative writer, Jameson C. Smith, is releasing a book in February called The Assassin's Daughter. And as a special build-up for the release, I'm helping her reveal the cover. I've never done a cover reveal before, so this is super exciting! Are you excited?


Here's a quick blurb for The Assassin's Daughter:
For most of her life, Katira has trained to take on the role of assassin. While it’s far from the life she would have chosen, the law known as the Inheritance Proclamation dictates that she must follow in her father’s profession. At seventeen, she’ll be expected to use her training on a real assignment any day. 
When new information about an old fugitive brings questions about Kat’s past to light, she must make a choice: Prove her loyalties to the Tederan Order and their laws, or become a fugitive to search after answers she may never find.
Exciting right? In addition to the blurb, here's an extra-special quote from the story that is only available on this blog.


Oooh, intriguing. I like when characters are strong and can prove it. In addition, Jameson is hosting her own sneak peek of the first chapter on her blog. So check it out!

Now for the cover reveal. Are you ready?


Are you sure????


Without further ado, I present to you the cover for The Assassin's Daughter:


Ta-da! Isn't marvelous? The color scheme is great. I know I'm intrigued, especially because of those purple arrows.

Remember, more fun stuff is happening over on Jameson's blog, including more quote graphics on several other blogs and a sneak peek of the first chapter! You should check it out. Mark your calendars for February 14th when The Assassin's Daughter releases digitally, and the paperback version will release soon after. It's going to be a very big day!