July Wrap-Up

Happy August, everyone! In a stunning turn of events, I wrote a full review for almost everything I read last month – which totals at six manga volumes, two graphic novels, one biography, and four novels – so instead of my usual summary-mini-review-link, I thought it might be time to try out a new format for my wrap-ups… Let me know what you think!😁

Ghost Hunt, Volumes 10-12 by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada. The final three volumes in the Ghost Hunt series, which is based on the Akuryou series of novels by Fuyumi Ono… I decided to re-read these after re-watching the entire anime, as they were the only part of the storyline that sadly never got adapted… 😢 (And I will confess that as they’re also the only volumes I don’t own, I ended up reading fan-translations online – volume 12 never came out in English, and 10 & 11 were released around the time the publisher went out of business, and are therefore super-rare, so my hunt for decently-priced second-hand copies must go on). Of course, it was just as amazing as the first time I read it! Definitely one of my all-time favourite manga series!Ghost Hunt: The Nightmare Dwelling by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada. The three-volume manga version of the sequel to the original Ghost HuntAkuryou series. I had no idea this even existed until I randomly decided to re-read the end of the original series, and accidentally clicked on Mangafox’s entry for this series instead. Naturally, I was overjoyed! The series is set a few months after Ghost Hunt‘s ending, and plot-wise, it wasn’t my favourite Ghost Hunt storyline (that prize goes to The Bloodstained Labyrinth), but it was still fantastic, and the art seems to be even better than in the old books… Plus, it was just really lovely to be spending more time with this wonderful set of characters… ☺️

  

  

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou. A biography in graphic novel form, which is partly the story of its own making, partly the life of Bertrand Russell, and partly a debate over the philosophical nature of logic (or something). The way this book was structured was very interesting, the art (by Alecos Papadatos) was excellent and evocative, and I really enjoyed the early chapters about Russell’s childhood, but as the book went on, every aspect of it became more and more concerned with the question of logic, and philosophical arguments that I either found so obvious that they were hardly worth saying, or else completely incomprehensible. This book would probably be of more interest to somebody who is more thoroughly versed in either philosophy or mathematics (or both, ideally), but I found that its stronger points were just not strong enough to make me care about the rest…

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Summer Holidays ~🎶

This Friday my family and I will be heading off on our annual trip to Skye. I’m looking forward to escaping from the heat and humidity of Cambridge for a while, and (I confess) to having a break from work – but most of all, I’m excited for peace and quiet, and lots and lots of time to read books. ☺️ For the sake of not taking up too much car space, I won’t be taking more than a couple of physical books, but with them and my kindle, I hope that I’ll have enough to keep me going… Here’s what I’m currently planning on reading:

1) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. I’ve been reading this along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, but I still have a lot of catching up to do, and long car trips are perfect for at least the listening part of the process, so I’ll definitely be bringing this book along. 😊

2) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The second book in The Conquerors Saga (which started with And I Darken), which is going to be released on Thursday. Obviously, I haven’t got a copy of this book at the moment, but I do have a credit saved up at the moment from my book-buying ban (/restriction), and I’m planning on using it for this book, which I’m super-excited to pick up as soon as I can. Barring unexpected circumstances, I’ll head into town on Thursday to purchase a copy…

3) There really are a lot of Evil Spirits! by Fuyumi Ono. The second book in the Akuryou series, which hasn’t officially been released in English, though fan-translations are available online. Recently, I’ve been re-reading/re-watching/finally reading the sequel to to Ghost Hunt manga and anime, and since I’m enjoying it so much, I thought I’d also pick up some of the novels it was based on… I read the first one quite a while back (though I may decide to re-read it; they’re only short, after all), so I intend to start again from volume two this time.

As for the rest, I’m still undecided, but there are a few books on my kindle at the moment that I might give a go… They include: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, or perhaps the second and third books in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (which I started during the Anti-Bullying Readathon in 2015 and loved)… Or I might cave in and finally buy A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir; it will likely depend a lot on my mood. 🤔 However, as has become the usual when I post one of these TBRsI will be trying to do a proper review of everything I read on my trip, so whatever I decide to read, expect to be hearing about it! 😆

Creatures of the Night Book Tag

This tag was originally created by Katytastic, and I wasn’t tagged to do it, but I thought it looked fun anyway – and since it’s Halloween, now feel like the perfect time to be celebrating some of my favourite supernatural creatures~ 😀 For those who don’t know, for this tag I’ll be picking (one of) my favourite books that feature each different type of creature (though I won’t always be telling you which character is the creature in question, for spoilery reasons). Enjoy!

[I tag: Chloë from SSJTimeLord and Her Books, and Panda from Panda’s Books.]

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On1) Vampire – Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

A new favourite book of mine, which I am now taking every opportunity to mention. There are a few vampires that appear in this book, but the most important of them is Baz, the main character’s roommate, who is constantly (unconvincingly) denying what he is, since acknowledging it will probably result in him getting expelled.

Maggie Stiefvater//Shiver2) Werewolf – The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater.

Probably the best werewolf series I’ve ever read (though I know a lot of people have problems with it ’cause it’s a bit insta-love-y), featuring an unusual twist on werewolf lore, where they actually transform because of the temperature, rather than the phases of the moon. Sam is the most adorable (and least spoilery) werewolf in the cast, but there are plenty more great ones that are introduced later on, too!

Peach-Pit//Zombie-Loan3) Zombie – Zombie-Loan by Peach-Pit.

The main character in this bizarre manga series has the unusual ability to see how close people are to dying when she looks at them without her glasses on – there will be a line around their neck, which gets darker and darker as they get closer to death… And one day she catches a glimpse of two of her schoolmates, and realises that they’re already dead. 😮 Thankfully for me (I’m really not a zombie fan, generally), the zombies in this series aren’t the traditional sort. But they still count!

Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada//Ghost Hunt vol. 14) Ghost – Ghost Hunt by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada.

You can probably tell from the name that this series is about hunting ghosts, and it can be pretty chilling in places. Definitely a ghost story done right. There’s one less antagonistic ghost who shows up on a fairly regular basis, however, who’s one of my favourite characters in the series (and whose identity I will definitely not be revealing here, because spoilers).

Sally Green//Half Bad5) Witch – The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green.

This series is all about a hidden magical society that’s split between “good” White Witches and “bad” Black Witches, who almost never mix except in order to hunt each other. Interestingly, though, the main character Nathan, is half White Witch and half Black Witch, and therefore distrusted by both communities. The characters in this are all really great, but one of my favourite things about the series is its world-building.

Jodi Lynn Anderson//Tiger Lily6) Fairy – Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

I debated choosing the Throne of Glass series for this one, as I haven’t read many fairy books, but then I remembered Peter Pan and his tiny companion Tinker Bell! And although I’ve read the original book, I thought I’d mention Tiger Lily here, as it’s fantastic, and Anderson’s portrayal of Tink is one of the best things about the book. Tinker Bell is the narrator of this re-telling, and it’s really fascinating to see how being a fairy effects her outlook on the events of the story.

Sally Slater//Paladin7) Demon – Paladin by Sally Slater.

A book I only discovered recently, but which was surprisingly enjoyable. The main character in this book is training to be a Paladin – a warrior trained to fight demons. There’s also another character introduced early on in the book whose half-demon lineage plays a huge part in the story.

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork Angel8) Angel – The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.

Most of the characters in Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books are part-angel, and there are even a couple of full-angels that pop up here and there in the series. The Infernal Devices trilogy, though, is my favourite of the lot. 🙂

Brian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 59) Alien – Saga by Brian K. Vaughan.

Saga is an epic space odyssey in graphic novel form, and (since it’s set in another galaxy) pretty much every character in it counts as an alien to us. The reason I’m picking it here, however, is because of the diversity of its cast: There are an astounding number of different species that have shown up over the course of the series so far (and we’re still only five volumes in!). And also because it’s great. Really, really great.

Ransom Riggs//Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children10) Super-powered human – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I haven’t read a huge number of super-power books (or, at least, not ones that don’t qualify their super-powers as some kind of magic), but one interesting one is the Miss Peregrine’s series, which has a cast of “Peculiars” – humans with strange powers such as floating, controlling fire, and so on. At one point we even meet a girl with a huge hole trough her abdomen… 😕

A Beginner’s Guide to Manga

PART 2: SHOUJO

Next we have shoujo, which is manga targeted at a young female audience. The most common characteristic of this genre is romance, and in the West, quite a few romantic manga are mislabelled as shoujo because of this – for example, Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu is actually a shounen. Most shoujo will also feature a young female protagonist, though I believe it is still more common for shoujo to have a male protagonist than it is for shounen to have a female one.

Some titles from this genre that you might recognise are Sailor MoonVampire Knight, and Shugo Chara!, as well as a few of the recommendations that I’ve selected below. In terms of magazines, some of the top-selling ones in Japan are CiaoRibon, and Nakayoshi, but the one that Western audiences will probably be most familiar with is Shoujo Beat – which is actually a North American magazine, and published a selection of popular shoujo manga from various different Japanese magazines.

RECOMMENDATIONS

[Please note that the following recommendations are not necessarily my favourite shoujo manga – but they are series that I think will make good starting-points for people unfamiliar with the genre.]

Bisco Hatori//Ouran High School Host Club vol. 1Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori (LaLa). A reverse-harem romantic comedy about a girl called Haruhi, who’s attending an elite school for the super-rich on a scholarship. One day, while searching for a quiet place to study, she stumbles upon the Host Club – group of attractive male students dedicated to making girls happy (basically with over-the-top flirting) – and is forced to join them in order to pay off a debt after accidentally breaking an expensive vase. This series is surprisingly not as heavy on the romance as you’d think – instead, the main draw of it is the comedy, which plays off Haruhi’s reactions to the boys’ excessive lifestyles and often ridiculous mannerisms, and their reactions to her “commoner” life. I don’t usually go in for Japanese-style comedy, but this series is hilarious.

Natsuki Takaya//Fruits Basket vol. 1Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya (Hana to Yume). This series follows a high school girl called Tohru, who, after being discovered living in a tent on one of her classmates’ property, is taken in by his family and becomes their housekeeper. Once she’s there, however, she soon discovers that the Sohma family is cursed. Whenever they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they turn into animals! This premise could easily have made the series incredibly weird, but it’s actually done really well. Tohru is a great protagonist (though a little dense), and each of the Sohmas has an interesting, and often very sad backstory, which ties into the Chinese Zodiac tales. There’s a reverse-harem aspect to this series, as well, but it’s not nearly so prominent as in Ouran High School Host Club, and the main relationship dynamic is really much more like a love-triangle – between Tohru, her classmate Yuki, and his estranged cousin Kyo.

CLAMP//Cardcaptor Sakura vol. 1Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP (Nakayoshi). A magical-girl series featuring Sakura, an elementary school girl who opens a magical book, and accidentally releases a whole load of spirits that were sealed inside a pack of cards hidden in the book. These spirits are called “Clow Cards”, and the story follows Sakura as she attempts to track them all down and re-seal them. Major themes in this series are friendship, teamwork, and finding one’s place in the world. There’s quite a bit of romance, too, though it’s understated (usually remaining at the “crush” stage), as most of the characters are very young, and the art is lovely. Cardcaptor Sakura is my personal favourite of CLAMP’s numerous series.

Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada//Ghost Hunt vol. 1Ghost Hunt by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada (Nakayoshi). For those who like their stories a bit spookier, this series follows Mai, who becomes involved with an organisation called Shibuya Psychic Research when they come to investigate a supposed haunting at her school. After, she joins the company as an assistant, and throughout the series, they go on a great many ghost-hunting adventures. This manga was adapted from a popular series of light novels, so it’s incredibly well-written. The art is great as well, and there’s a whole cast of wonderful, interesting characters. I personally didn’t find most of the story arcs too scary, but they were definitely very creepy, and some of SPR’s later cases are truly chilling. There’s also a slight romantic element to the series, but it’s not too in-your-face.

Yuki Midorikawa//Natsume's Book of Friends vol. 1Natsume’s Book of Friends by Yuki Midorikawa (LaLa DX). Finally, I bring you something a little different. Natsume’s Book of Friends (also sometimes called Natsume Yuujinchou) follows Natsume, a largely isolated high school boy, who’s spent most of his life moving from relative to relative, none of whom really want him, because his ability to see spirits – and their tendency to be drawn to his power – make him behave strangely. Now living with a new family, and attending a new school, Natsume finds himself in possession of his grandmother’s old “Book of Friends”, in which she kept the names of spirits that she had defeated, so that she could call on them when she needed their help. This series is probably a bit harder to get into than the others that I’ve mentioned, but it’s absolutely worth it. The art (and colours, where they have them) is beautiful, and the story – which focuses on Natusme’s struggle to make human friends, his growing understanding of the spirits around him, and learning to accept kindness – is incredibly touching.

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