Books to read when life sucks.

A friend of mine recently not-so-recently asked me to recommend a pick-me-up book, since she was feeling a little down about life, the universe and everything, and, after a little thought, I was able to rattle off a whole bunch of suggestions – then she specified that she didn’t want to read any fantasy, which stumped me a little (Doesn’t everyone want to read fantasy? All the time? Okay, so that might just be me. 😛 ). But I eventually managed to come up with a couple of what I thought were good suggestions.

But since I’d already done all that thinking about it, I thought I might as well share some of my suggestions with you guys, since – let’s face it – everyone has off days/weeks/months/years now and then. So, without further ado, here are some books that make the world suck a little bit less!

Stella Gibbons//Cold Comfort Farm1) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A hilarious parody of late eighteenth / early nineteenth century agricultural novels (e.g. books by D.H. Lawrence or Thomas Hardy), in which Flora Poste becomes an orphan at the age of nineteen, and, in order to support herself, descends on her distant relatives in order to begin a career in parasitism. 😉

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On2) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Simon Snow, a mage, returns to Watford School of Magicks for his last year of education, and in hopes of saving the world – and manages to fall in love along the way. Especially recommended to anyone who likes to read or write fanfiction, because of its connection to Fangirl (which is also a great pick-me-up read, but if I let myself put multiple books by the same author on these lists, then this one would basically just be a Rainbow Rowell bibliography… 😳 ).

Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark//Backward Compatible3) Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark. A love story between two gamers, who meet when they end up in competition for the last copy (at the midnight launch) of a game that they both want. Very cute and fluffy. This book (and, again, Fangirl) was my antidote to The Fault in Our Stars, which should tell you quite a bit about how happy it made me. 😀

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman//Good Omens4) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. For those whose tastes run slightly darker, here’s a comedy about the apocalypse, which mainly follows Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon, neither of whom are particularly dedicated to their jobs; and Adam, the Antichrist (who has a pet hellhound called Dog). In my personal opinion, Good Omens is the best thing that either author have ever written (that I’ve read).

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 15) Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita. Last but by no means least is an adorable manga about a man who takes in his grandfather’s illegitimate six-year-old daughter, and how the two of them come together as a family. I’ve only read the first two volumes of this series, but I already love it! XD And Rin (the aforementioned six-year-old) is quite possibly the cutest kid I’ve ever come across in literature.

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August & September Haul

I didn’t post a book haul in August, not because I suddenly developed a modicum of self-control, but for the exact opposite reason: I bought so many books that I couldn’t bring myself to look at them all together and not feel a bit embarrassed. 😳 I am comforted, however, by the fact that I’ve already read almost all of these, so that’s something…

Anyway, I bought most of these in the lead-up to the Booktubeathon, after which I put myself on a strict book-buying ban – which I managed to keep to (mostly), even if I’ve taken myself off it now. 🙂 Here’s what I bought:

August & September Haul1) My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises by Fredrik Backman. I’d had my eye on this for a while, but what made me finally decide to buy it is the fact that it’s signed! I don’t really know what it’s about, except grandmothers, and possibly also superheroes.

2) Loveless, Volumes 11-12 by Yun Kouga. The latest two volumes in the Loveless series, which is about magic and murder and catboys, and is a lot of fun, though a little on the weird side. Fun fact: I read these not long after I bought them, and (somehow) only realised afterwards that I still haven’t read volume 9 or 10. 😳

3) Vampire Knight, Volume 11 by Matsuri Hino. The next volume I needed to read in the Vampire Knight series, which follows a girl whose duty is to keep the peace between the human and vampire students at her school.

4) Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. The sequel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls books, which I read a couple of years ago and loved. I wanted to read this as soon as I realised it was going to be a thing, but I’ve been waiting for it to be released in paperback…

5) Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. The fifth book in the Temeraire series, which I mainly picked up because I spotted it in the edition that I’ve been trying to collect. The books have all been re-released recently with new covers, so it’s getting increasingly difficult to find these editions…

6) Bunny Drop, Volumes 1-2 by Yumi Unita. The beginning of the Bunny Drop series, which I finally decided to read after about the third time watching the anime. A really cute story about a man who ends up raising his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter.

7) Fables, the Deluxe Edition: Book 1 by Bill Willingham. I bought book 2 of this series sometime this summer, so I picked this up when I was in London, since it was on special offer, and I wanted to – if not complete, then at least fill in the gap in my collection.

8) Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton. A collection of hilarious short comics from the webcomic of the same name. I bought this, and the next 3 books, using the Booktubeathon 100 books discount.

9) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. A cute graphic novel about a supervillain and his sidekick, Nimona. I’d been on the fence about buying this for a while, but I’m really glad that I did!

10) In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang. Another cute graphic novel about a girl who plays MMORPGs.

11) Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. A collection of short horror stories in graphic novel format. Truly chilling – I will probably be re-reading this when Halloween rolls around. 🙂

12) Adventure Time Volume 1 by Ryan North. I picked this up at Oxfam since I enjoyed the Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake comic so much, but I will probably be library-ing the rest of the series… Still, a fun read, if you’re a fan of the Adventure Time cartoons.

13) The Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton. I saw this on buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones, and I couldn’t pass it up, even though I don’t usually read picture books. The tale of a warrior princess and her flatulent pony – by the same author as Hark! A Vagrant!

14) Night Owls by Jenn Bennett. A contemporary romance that I picked up on a whim, as the other half of that buy-one-get-one-half-price offer I just mentioned. And I’m super-glad that I did. This is probably one of my favourite books of the year so far. 😀 (Also called, in some places The Anatomical Shape of a Heart.)

15) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas. The fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, which I picked up on release day because I’ve been so excited to read it for such a long time. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was still pretty good! And now, of course, I just need to read book five~ 😉

16) Amulet Volumes 1-3 by Kazu Kibuishi. A graphic novel series about a brother and sister who find a doorway to another world in their house. I’d heard a lot of good things about this series, so when the first three volumes showed up at Oxfam, it didn’t take much to convince me to buy them…

17) A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. Another one from Oxfam, though this one I’ve heard absolutely nothing about. It appears to be a fantasy novel, though, and sounds really, really intriguing. I hope to be reading this very soon.

A Beginner’s Guide to Manga

PART 3: SEINEN & JOSEI

Last up are seinen and josei, which I’ve combined into one post, since they’re the two genres that I’m least familiar with. Seinen, at least, however, is fairly well-represented in the West: Some popular examples are AkiraBerserk, HellsingBattle Royale, and Chobits, amongst many, many others. The themes of the genre are actually often quite similar to those used in shounen manga, but one easy way to tell the difference between shounen and seinen (at least, when looking at the untranslated manga), is to check whether the Japanese characters contain furigana (small kana characters that denote the correct pronunciation of kanji), as it is usually not used in writing that is intended for older audiences. Seinen also tends to be more explicit than shounen, and often contains darker, or more complex themes.

Josei is a less prolific genre, and has a broad target demographic – readers are as likely to be teenage girls as they are to be middle-aged women (a bit like Twilight, I suppose 😉 ). Like shoujo, josei stories are often relationship-centric, but because it’s aimed at an older audience, the material is often more explicit and less romanticised, and doesn’t shy away from dark themes such as infidelity and rape. A few josei series that you might have heard of are Paradise Kiss07-Ghost, and Karneval.

RECOMMENDATIONS

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

SEINEN

Shirow Miwa//Dogs vol. 1Dogs by Shirow Miwa (Ultra Jump). A dystopian series about a genetically-modified man called Heine, with a bloodthirsty split-personality called “the Dog”, who takes over when Heine is in violent or stressful situations. Heine and the three other main characters (Naoto, an amnesiac swordswoman, Badou, a private investigator, and Mihai, a retired assassin) are all searching for a way into “the Below”, this world’s sinister underground, in hopes of finding reasons for the things they’ve been through. Action-packed and incredibly violent, this series isn’t going to be for everyone. It is, however, an incredibly interesting story, full of mystery and intrigue, and which only gets darker as it goes on.

Takako Shimura//Wandering Son vol. 1Wandering Son by Takako Shimura (Comic Beam). A series that follows a middle-schooler called Shuichi, who was born a boy, but wants to be a girl, and his/her friendship with Yoshino, a classmate in the exact opposite situation. Obviously, major themes in this series include transsexualism and gender identity, but as the series goes on, puberty also begins to play a big part. The art is beautiful, too, but the real draw of this series is the characters, who are both realistic and relatable in the way that they deal with the challenges that face them.

JOSEI

Yun Kouga//Loveless vol. 12Loveless by Yun Kouga (Monthly Comic Zero Sum). A fairly well-known series following a young boy called Ritsuka, who, after the sudden death of his older brother, finds that he’s inherited a “Fighter” – a university student called Soubi – and is consequently pulled into a hidden world of Fighters and Sacrifices, where he begins to find some hints as to what actually happened to his brother. This series can be a little hard to follow at times, but it’s definitely worth pushing through the confusing parts. The characters and their development are both great, and the art is very atmospheric. The story also contains some surprisingly dark themes, including abuse, memory loss, and dysfunctional relationships.

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 1Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita (Feel Young).This series follows a man called Daikichi, who decides to take in and raise his grandfather’s six-year-old illegitimate daughter. The plot follows their lives together, and how Daikichi adjusts to the various challenges of parenthood… but despite its apparent lack of direction, it’s actually a really cute story. The art is beautiful, and the characters – who are really the focal point of the series – are wonderfully realistic.

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | SHOUNEN | SHOUJO | SEINEN & JOSEI ]

 

August Wrap Up

Another month over, another load of books to tell you about~ and this was a really great reading month for me! Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 4 graphic novels, 8 manga volumes, and 2 short stories, and 1 (amazing) picture book – and I even discovered a new favourite! 😀

Booktubeathon started before I managed to finish anything else, so the first eight books I read were all part of the challenge! I’ve already written mini-reviews for each of these, so I won’t say much about them here, but you can see my ratings and ramblings by clicking on the covers below:

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 1 Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead Winston Graham//Ross Poldark
Kate Beaton//Hark! A Vagrant Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang//In Real Life

Emily Carroll//Through the WoodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll. A collection of scary short stories, in graphic novel form! First off, the illustrations for this book were amazing, with just the right blend of beauty and creepiness, and I don’t think this book would’ve been half so good without them. In terms of the story, I (thankfully) didn’t find them too scary myself, but I did still really enjoy them, and they were definitely chilling. People who scare easily might want to avoid this book!5 starsNoelle Stevenson//NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson. A graphic novel that follows the adventures of Lord Ballister Blackheart, supervillain, and his new shape-shifting sidekick, Nimona. I really loved this! The characters were all really interesting, the story was surprisingly deep, and the art style was incredibly cute. I just wish there was more of it! 😦4 starsShigeru Mizuki//Onward Towards Our Noble DeathsOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A semi-autobiographical manga series, which tells the story of a company of Japanese soldiers stationed in Papua New Guinea during the World War II. After miraculously surviving a suicide charge, they’re told that they must perform another, since their deaths have already been reported. I wasn’t initially all that into this book, since there are a lot of characters, and it’s quite difficult to keep track of them all (despite the character list at the beginning of the book). But after I’d identified the most important characters, I found myself really enjoying it. Which is not to say that this is an enjoyable story – it really, really isn’t – but it is powerful, and very well-told. The art is really great as well, and the contrast between the realistic backgrounds and the cartoony character design is incredibly striking.4 starsYun Kouga//Loveless vol. 11Yun Kouga//Loveless vol. 12Loveless Volumes 11-12 by Yun Kouga. A manga series that follows a young amnesiac boy called Ritsuka, who – after coming to school one day to find his brother’s charred corpse at his desk – becomes involved with the mysterious Soubi, and gets dragged into the strange hidden world of Fighters and Sacrifices. It sounds intriguing, right? And much darker than you’d expect, judging by the cutesy artwork! Obviously, a lot has happened since the beginning of the series, but it’s still weird and wonderful, and I’m still loving it. I was a little lost at the beginning of volume 11, since it’s been a while since I last picked up this series (and I’m also pretty sure that I’ve skipped a couple of volumes somewhere along the line, so that will need to be rectified soon), but I managed to get back into it relatively quickly, and overall, it was a really fun read. 🙂4 starsRyuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 1Ryuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 2Sasameke by Ryuji Gotsubo. Another manga series, this time about boy called Rakuichi, a high school football player who’s recently returned home from Italy, having sworn off football for good – only to be dragged kicking and screaming into his new school’s football club. I had high hopes for this series – I read the first (bind up) volume of it several years ago, & I remember loving it – and first volume (which I re-read, as I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that had happened) started off pretty well. But unfortunately it just got worse and worse as it went on… The characters were all either unremarkable or unlikeable and the storytelling was all over the place. I did like the art style, but it really wasn’t enough to make up for the sheer stupidity of the rest of the book. If you like sports manga, or football, then I’d advise you not waste your time on Sasameke, and just read Whistle! instead. Or Area no Kishi. Or Giant Killing. Or, really, any other number of far superior football manga – there are a lot of them out there.2 starsYumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 2Bunny Drop Volume 2 by Yumi Unita. The continuing adventures of Rin and Daikichi! This time featuring such exciting events as: Getting Rin ready for elementary school! The search for Rin’s mother! And Daikichi starting his new job! 😉 All jokes aside, this series continues to be adorable and charming, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting hold of the next few volumes!5 starsMatsuri Hino//Vampire Knight vol. 11Vampire Knight Volume 11 by Matsuri Hino. This series follows a student called Yuuki Cross, a prefect at the prestigous Cross Academy, whose duty is to keep the peace between the Day Class and the Night Class – who are all secretly vampires! At this point in the series, Yuuki is adjusting to life outside the Academy, and is still torn between her feelings for the pureblood vampire Kaname and the vampire hunter Zero. Vampire Knight is clearly trying very hard to break my heart with all it’s love-triangle drama, and it’s doing a very good job of it! I’m still firmly on Team Kaname, but Yuuki’s struggle over her feelings for Zero are super-painful (in a good way!) to read about!4 starsPatrick Ness//Monsters of MenMonsters of Men by Patrick Ness. The third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy… Now I just have to get my hands on those novellas! Because I really, really want more of this universe. Obviously there’s not much that I can say about the events of this book, because of spoilers, but it was basically the perfect ending for this series. So many feelings! Such drama! And a surprising new protagonist, whose viewpoint was really interesting, too. Highly, highly recommended! 😀5 starsJuan Tomás Ávila Laurel//By Night the Mountain BurnsBy Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. A story that recalls the narrator’s childhood on a small, impoverished island in Equatorial Guinea, which was apparently based on the author’s own experiences growing up on Annobón Island. The book is written in an almost stream-of-consciousness style, which I found a bit frustrating, as it meant that the narrator never stayed on point for very long – and, in fact, I found it difficult to tell what the focus of this story really was: At several points, it seemed like there was going to be some kind of dramatic revelation about his mysterious grandfather, but it never materialised… That said, I did enjoy this book; the writing was beautiful and the setting was very interesting, as was the narrator’s outlook on the events of the book… If you were at all intrigued by my Teaser Tuesday post for this book, then it’s probably worth giving it a try. 🙂3 starsGeorge R.R. Martin & John J. Miller//Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand by George R.R. Martin & John J. Miller. The seventh book in the mosaic Wild Cards series, which I picked up for the Library Scavenger Hunt this month. Consequently, I’ve already written a mini-review for this book, so I won’t say too much about it here – only that I really enjoyed it, & I’m looking forward to reading more of this series! 😀4 starsJames Joyce//The Cats of CopenhagenThe Cats of Copenhagen by James Joyce. A short, playful letter that Joyce sent to his grandson in 1936, about how there are no cats in Copenhagen. I picked this up while I was at Waterstones, & read through the whole thing (it was really short) – and it was incredibly cute! The illustrations (by Casey Sorrow) were great, too, and managed to make me chuckle a few times, but I don’t have much to say about it otherwise…3 starsKate Beaton//The Princess & the PonyThe Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton. A children’s picture book about an tiny princess who wants a proper warrior’s horse for her birthday. What she gets instead is a roly-poly little pony, with an unfortunate flatulence problem… 😛 I don’t often read books targeted at small children, but this one caught my interest because it’s by the same author/artist as Hark! A Vagrant, so I decided to pick it up anyway – and I’m really glad I did! It’s one of the cutest books I’ve read in years, with a charming story, and beautiful illustrations. Definitely recommended. 🙂5 starsKatie McGarry//Nowhere But HereNowhere But Here by Katie McGarry. The first book in the Thunder Road series, which centres around a motorcycle club: This story follows Oz, a teenage boy who’s grown up around the club and is hoping to join it, and Emily, the biological daughter of the club’s leader, who comes to town unexpectedly when she hears about her grandmother’s funeral. Naturally, what follows involves romance, and way more secrets than are good for any family… I remember when I was reading the first few chapters that my initial thought was how refreshing it was to be reading a Katie McGarry book where the heroine seemed to have a normal, loving, supportive (immediate) family. Then things progressed, and I realised just how mistaken that impression was. But regardless, I really enjoyed this book. Oz and Emily were both great characters to read about (and there were a lot of really great side-characters, too!), and I found Oz’s motorcycle club lifestyle interesting, if not particularly healthy… All in all, it was a great start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to reading more.4 starsJenn Bennett//Night OwlsNight Owls by Jenn Bennett. Called The Anatomical Shape of a Heart in the US, this book follows Bex – a teenager who wants to become a medical illustrator – and Jack – a notorious graffiti artist – who meet on the night bus. The story was both cute and touching, with some surprisingly dark moments; the characters were great, and their relationship was really fun to read about; and as the icing on the cake, the writing was brilliantly witty and engaging. I read this in two sittings, but it would’ve been one if only I’d started reading a little earlier in the day – I found it very difficult to put it down!5+ stars

Booktubeathon: Update 1 & Mini-Review

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 1JUST FINISHED: Bunny Drop Volume 1 by Yumi Unita.

I knew exactly what I was expecting going into this book, since I’ve already seen (and loved) the anime of it, and anime & manga adaptations tend to be pretty faithful. And it definitely lived up to my expectations! Bunny Drop is an adorable series about a thirty-year-old man (Daikichi) who finds out that his grandfather has an illegitimate love child – an incredibly cute little girl called Rin – and, because of circumstances, ends up taking her in after his grandfather dies.

This first volume mainly covers Daikichi’s initial trouble adjusting to being responsible for Rin (and particularly his difficulty balancing work and parenthood, and finding a daycare that’s good for both of them), and Rin coming to terms with her father’s death. As with most slice-of-life series, it’s not really about anything except their everyday lives, so it’s difficult to explain the appeal of it, but for me at least, it’s definitely the characters – and both Rin and Daikichi are a delight to read about. And, of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the art is lovely!5 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Off to bed now, since I have work tomorrow morning~ 🙂

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 196
Challenges Completed: 3

BOOKTUBEATHON TIME!

Tomorrow is the start of the 2015 Booktubeathon, which I’m super-excited about, as you can probably tell from the capslock title~ 😛 Last year’s Booktubeathon (before I even started this blog) was my first ever readathon, and I had so much fun that I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since… And it’s finally here!

So, first of all, here are some handy informational links:

The readathon will be going on from 3rd – 9th August, and there’s no official sign-up, so it’s never too late to join in! And all the challenges are non-mandatory, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t complete them, or if there’s one that you just don’t want to do. I really enjoy them, however, so I’ve made a tentative TBR with each of the challenges in mind, which is as follows:

 Morgan Matson//Second Chance Summer1) Read a book with blue on the cover.

The book I’ve chosen for this challenge is Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I find Morgan Matson’s writing style to be quite quick to read, so hopefully this won’t take me too long.

Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead2) Read a book by an author who shares the first letter of your surname.

An author with an S-W surname would be a task to find, unless I wanted to read something by one of my relatives (which I don’t; they’re all dry, academic volumes on subjects I know next to nothing about). So I’ve decided to stick with “S”, and pick Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick, which is the novella he wrote for World Book Day this year, so it’s very short.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince3) Read someone else’s favourite book.

I asked my friend Chloë about this challenge, and her favourite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which works out quite well for me. I’ve already read it a couple of times, but it’s quite short – so it’s a good choice for a readathon – and I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a little while anyway, in preparation for the film… 🙂

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 14) Read the last book you acquired.

The last book I got my hands on is Bunny Drop Volume 1 by Yumi Unita, which I bought when I was in London yesterday. I’ve also ordered a few graphic novels from the Book Depository, however (using the Booktubathon discount code!), so if they arrive today, then I’ll be reading one of them instead – probably Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

5) Finish a book without letting go of it.

As I’ve got two very short books on my TBR already, I’ll be combining this challenge with one of the earlier ones, and reading either Killing the Dead or The Little Prince. Whichever is shorter (probably Killing the Dead).

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses6) Read a book that you really want to read.

What I choose for this challenge will depend largely on my mood at the time, but at the moment, I’m leaning towards reading A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas, simply because I’ve been dying to read it since I bought it, and other priorities keep getting in the way… 😡

Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything7) Read seven books in total.

Winston Graham//Ross PoldarkSince I’ve only got five books on my TBR so far, I’ll be picking a couple more to finish up this challenge (that is, if my new graphic novels don’t arrive before the end of the week). And my most likely choices are: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, which is another one like A Court of Thorns & Roses, where I just don’t understand why I haven’t read it yet; and Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, a historical romance/social novel that I’ve been wanting to read since I finished watching the TV series~ 😛

I’m planning on writing mini-reviews for each of the books that I read, and I haven’t heard if there are going to be blog/video challenges in addition to the reading challenges this year, but if there are, then I will likely be posting some of them, too. So if all goes well, they you will be hearing from me a lot over the next few days! 😀