Friday, 29 March 2019

Gollancz Preview Evening 2019

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to one of my favourite events of the year....the Gollancz Preview Evening! I love this event because they're always a lot of fun, I love chatting to all my fellow bookish people...and you know, pizza. Sorry, I'm weak to cheese. 

Anyway, we heard about a lot of books that night, from Gollancz and from a couple of other imprints, and I want to talk to you about the ones that caught my attention! The ones I'm excited for, the ones that piqued my interest and sound right up my street, and the ones I think you guys will be interested in too! 

First up we have Angel Mage by Garth Nix, it's out in October. You've probably all heard about this via Twitter, I think a lot of people are as excited for this as I am! I was so excited to hear more about it and what the inspiration of it was! This is Nix's first adult fantasy novel and oh my god, I need it now! It turns out he wrote it because he wanted to write something he wanted to read himself, and it's inspired by Dumas and the Three Musketeers, but with angels and angelic magic, icons used to summon angels and it's got a gender equal world! Sounds awesome right!? I do love the Musketeers, and I'm so intrigued by the magic and angels aspect for this! 

Next up is Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphreys, which is out in May! This is the first in a trilogy and I did manage to grab an arc of this so keep an eye out for my review! The author for this is apparently well known for his historical books, and this is his first historical fantasy. You're all aware I'm a history nerd, and this sounded so up my street!  I didn't quite catch the inspiration but I believe it was Aztec or Incan so...of course I needed it! We have a world were immortals exist but you only find out you're immortal when you die, there are going to be three heroes and there's three kingdoms, along with a fourth one that's planning to take over the other three. 

Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard is also out in May and is a Red Queen novella collection! It's going to have 3 brand new novellas along with Steel Scars and Queen Song that were released in Cruel Crown. It's also going to include journal entries, maps, flags and bonus scenes! 

At this point, we were treated to a video from Joe Abercrombie to tell us all about his new book A Little Hatred which is out in September. This video is the funniest thing I have seen in a long time, and honestly...all Gollancz need to do is put it up on their site, GoodReads, YouTube, Twitter...everywhere and let Joe sell his book himself. He went full on extra AF for this video, and he obviously had fun creating it. We're talking lying in front of a fire on a rug, peeking between leaves and bannister bars, and I lost it completely watching the video. Gollancz could have warned me I'd be laughing so hard I'd cry! Anyway, according to Joe, you can read this one without having read his other books, but you may see some familiar faces if you're familiar with the other books! 

The Sky Weaver by Kristin Ciccarelli is the next standalone set in the Last Namsara world and it's going to be hitting shelves in November! This one is Safire's tale, she's a soldier for Firgaards King, and we also have her enemy Eris. Eris is a deadly pirate known as Death Dancer because she can give enemies the slip by slipping between worlds. Both of them are searching for Asha, The Last Namsara and it's set on the high seas as well as a world between worlds! It is a standalone, so you can read it without having read the other two books but I'd recommend reading them in publication order to get the full experience! 

Starsight is coming in December, and it's the sequel to Brandon Sanderson's Skyward. We'll be finding out what happened to Spensa after the events of Skyward, and for those of you who don't know, it's about Spensa who wants to be a pilot and fight against the aliens but her dad was a traitor and so she can't get in to flight school. Luckily she comes across an ancient ship that has a soul. 

Next is one of my most anticipated reads of the year, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo! This is out in October and it's Leigh's first adult novel! We got a video from Leigh telling us about the inspiration for this book and it's made me even more intrigued than I already was! Ninth House is about secret societies and the occult, and a world that's one step from our own. Galaxy aka Alex ends up at Yale, a place she doesn't think she belongs due to her past involving a murder and some other shady activities, but she was offered a second chance in order to turn her life around. But she soon gets drawn in to the occult dealings of the Secret Societies of Yale....and then the murder happens. No-one suspects the secret societies but Alex things there's more to it. 

Leigh told us that the book is inspired by her college years and a mausoleum and cemetery that she saw when she was picking up her mail one day. It was a tomb of Book and Snake, one of the oldest societies at Yale and Leigh thought what if secret societies were repositories of ancient occult magic...and here we are! The other thing you guys might find interesting? Leigh said she'd see us in the fall. *prepares mountain of books to be signed* 

Last up is yet another of my most anticipated reads, Sanctuary by V.V. James! This is out in August and I'm so excited for it, I can't wait! Vic is one of my favourite authors, she's such a lovely person and I completely and utterly loved her Darkest Gifts trilogy, it's completely brilliant! I remember reading the arc for Gilded Cage and being completely sucked in and blown away and so devastated when the trilogy came to an end! We got an original, intriguing and slightly twisted from our own, world. Plus we had two of my favourite characters, Gavar and Silyen. Morally grey and the kind of characters you so badly want to do the right thing and not turn out to be completely evil! 

Ever since I heard chatter of her new book...I knew I was going to love it. It's been described as Big Little Lies but with Witches. I don't know what Big Little Lies is but I'm so here for witches and Vics writing! We have a small town rocked by the death of its star quarterback. It appears to be an accident but...Harper, his ex-girlfriend, was there, and she's the daughter of a witch. She also has an accusation about him that no-one believes. Who did it? Why? Was it magic? Because every town only has one witch...

We have witches and it's set in New England so Vic headed to Salem to do some research, among other places and I was so here for all the information she had for us! She even had pictures and video so we could see what it was like in Salem and how it embraces it's past with witches now, when previously the people of Salem refused to talk about it. I've always wanted to go and check out Salem, so I was loving getting a closer look at it, and all the history tidbits Vic had to share with us. 

She also shared with us that the book is rooted in the real world and our issues, as well as her job. It turns out she was in the US soon after Trumps election, during the women's marches. She was inspired by that, the Lana del Ray headline about hexing Trump, and the Brett Kavanaugh Case. Contemporary American society, with issues that affect us all, like the Me Too movement and believe women and so on and the question of is an accusation enough? Along with the politically relevant world building, it's also fundamentally about a Witch Trial, with Harper being accused because her mother is a witch. Magic is seen as real but it's trivialised in this world, so did it actually kill the boy? 

Vic said that she wanted to put courage in to the book. Courage to speak your truth and stand up and so on, as well as exploring what happens when herd mentality takes over and people empower each other to do things they wouldn't normally do or which aren't acceptable in society usually. I ran long, but I was already excited for this book, and I got even more excited hearing all about the research and what's in the book! 

I also have to mention that we got to watch the trailer for Good Omens and now I guess I'm going to have to watch it!? 

I had a brilliant evening, there were plenty of books in the line up that piqued my interest, and that I'm excited to read when they're released! I also got to have a cocktail or two...purely in the interests of helping to vote, you understand. I also managed to grab a couple of books and retain all of my limbs in the frenzy! 

Thank you once again to Stevie for the invitation! I always feel so grateful to be invited to these events, and I had a blast at this one, although I didn't get to talk to many people before having to rush off! 

Which of these upcoming releases are you excited for? 
I linked all the titles to their GoodReads pages to make it super easy for you to add them to your TBR!

Manga: Waiting For Spring 10

Waiting For Spring Vol 10 
Rating: 3/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

With Aya's leg injured, Mitsuki wants nothing more than to see him fully recovered. And to everyone's surprise, Towa wants to help! He uses his grandfather's connections to arrange a group trip to a hot spring that will help Aya heal. Aya is reluctant to go at first, but Mitsuki manages to change his mind. Can Hojo's star player really become friends with the rest of the guys...? 

Towa demonstrates how well he knows Mitsuki and it's not long before, as the synopsis says, everyone heads off to the Hot Spring. Including Aya. What could possibly go wrong? Am I right!? 

I don't particularly like Aya, I'm not going to lie, and I knew he was up to something, so I was side eyeing, and kind of annoyed, by the fact that he manages to get Rui and Ryuji on side with him. Or at least friendly with him, the traitors. Luckily Kyosuke doesn't seem as easily bought and is rightly suspicious. I honestly wasn't sure if Aya was trying to drive a wedge between Towa and his friends or what, at one point. 

After the little interlude at the hot springs, that I will admit, I didn't really see the point to. I mean Aya says it makes him realise he needs to change but...does he really? Things do heat up after that as we start to prepare for the winter cup and Mitsuki slips up with her feelings which had me squealing because finally! 

For the most part though, nothing much happens this volume other than what happens at the end which finally pushes things forward a little bit. I feel like this was a pretty slow volume, and as much as I enjoy this series and can't wait to see how it ends because there are allusions made in this volume that she might pick Aya because of various reasons, and how it's going to be a difficult choice. Although I do feel like the obvious choice is actually Towa because her feelings for him are obvious but whatever. I'm starting to get a little bit impatient with this series, as I feel like a couple of volumes have been on the slow, dragged outside, along with this one. 

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Manga: In/Spectre 9

In/Spectre Vol 9 
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Even the mysterious Kotoko Iwanaga was a high school student once, but could a girl like her ever fit in with regular teenagers? There is one student who thinks she would be a great addition to his club, but can he possibly convince the lone wolf to become a member of an organization? Learn how Manabu Amachi manipulated Kotoko into joining the mystery appreciation club! 
Interestingly we're travelling to the past in this volume and we see Kotoko when she was a first year at high school! Manabu is the president of the Mystery Appreciate Club and they need more members so it doesn't get pressured to shut down, and he wants Kotoko to join because she's somewhat of a celebrity at their school. People are interested in her because of what happened to her and who she is, but she doesn't hang out or talk to anyone so he figures that if she joins, curious people will join too. 
In case you thought it was going to be a slow and boring chapter, never fear. Not only do we get a glimpse of young Kotoko and what school was like for her post her little incident with the yokai, but there's a mystery to be uncovered too and I love how, once again,  everything is presented to us one way and then Kotoko reveals something and changes your entire perception before she completely annihilates poor Manabu's plan and reveals every little detail of his true intentions. It always gives me the urge to applaud when she does it. 
We then head directly in to chilling territory as we learn all about a murderer cutting the head off a corpse with a guillotine because...curiosity. I actually found the history to the guillotine and execution in Japan quite interesting, obviously I know what a guillotine is and what it was used for and who used it, but there was some information I didn't know in here. What was also interesting was Kuro doing all the talking for once....and swiftly revealing why he usually lets Kotoko doing it because saying he was bungling is being polite. 
This particular case had some interesting twists to it, and my perception of characters and what I thought had happened changed several times as I read the chapters. It was nicely wrapped up as we continue the episodic format of the recent volumes, perhaps it wan't the most exciting case, nor creepy, but as usual the storytelling drew me in, along with the urge to figure it out before Kotoko reveals everything! 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Manga: Eden's Zero 2

Eden's Zero Vol 2 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, in exchange for an honest review! 

Shiki, Rebecca, and Happy have gone to the planet Norma in the hopes of getting a bigger ship from an old friend, Professor Weisz. But when they get there, they see outdated technology and an unfamiliar city...and the only sign of the professor is a mysterious young man going by the same name. What's more, he's gotten himself into some trouble with the toughest gang on the planet--and neither side is going down without a fight! 

We have immediate intrigue from the beginning as we meet our narrator, before we head in to some action and it's not long before we see what the opening page meant when it said "time has no meaning". It's an interesting twist, I'll give it that, and I wasn't expecting it. Whether or not it was just a convenience for the volume to give us another character for our crew, or whether it has a larger part to play remains to be seen. 

Throughout this volume we get to know Weisz who is the latest member of our little group, along with a little robot called Pino! They should be interesting additions to the crew, because Weisz is kind of a scumbag, but he's not all bad? You could say. 

There's a nice amount of action as they're running from a gang and then having to stop the gangs evil plan, and there's the time element and then we have to fight some aliens. We finally get to meet the space pirates properly, as our characters come in to contact with Elsie Crimson. I actually quite liked her and I'm kind of hoping that we get to see some more of her! I was a little bit disappointed she didn't join our main group! 

She does provide us with a few more interesting twists, there's some connections to Shiki's grandfather, an interesting tidbit about Mother, we meet Elsie's nemesis Justice who's with the Cosmic Government and hunting her down, and I'm so looking forward to more of that too! Plus the final page leaves us with a hint of a new character that we'll be meeting in volume 3, I assume! 

Volume two has a nice balance of action, intrigue, heartwarming and emotional moments, and plot progression as we gather some new crew members and bring in a few new elements while moving things in to place to head off on our quest. This is presumably the final volume focusing on the world building, and introducing us to the characters before the story really kicks off next volume! 

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Manga: Compulsive Gambler 8

Compulsive Gambler Vol 8 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

A mysterious invitation has brought Yumeko to her second gamble of the student council presidential election: a two-on-two card game with Suzui against yet more members of the Momobami family! Sisters Miyo and Miri come from a branch of the family specializing in poisons of all types. They hold life and death in their hands-sometimes quite literally. And in this game...VERY literally! With Yumeko's life on the line, will Suzui come out on top or perish with her?! 

I feel like I say this every volume, but things heat up this volume and Yumeko actually takes a bit of a backseat to Mary who rushes in to save the day! 

Yumeko is drawn in to a gambling match against Miyo and Miri, presided over by Runa the head of the election committee....and arranged by the Vice President. They're actually related to Yumeko, they're distant relatives but blood relatives all the same. Things immediately take an interesting turn when Suzui decides he wants to join in. If my memory serves me, it's been a while since we saw him bet, and I was proud of him for stepping up! 

Things were already off to a bad start by the fact there was talk of "vote debt" which would add an element of chaos to this election, no doubt. But things didn't seem right to me from the start, not the way Yumeko was acting, or Miyo, but I couldn't figure out what the deal was. Suzuki's narrating was interesting because obviously, he's not the hardened gambler Yumeko is and he doesn't have a clue what she's up to either. 

Meanwhile Mary is facing down the Vice President who wants to help the election?! She seems quite sinister until Mary rips her mask off. She may be the President's twin but she's a lot more....unsure of herself. Not quite timid, but not as forceful or confident as the real President. I found it incredibly interesting that she wants to work with Mary for the election. She's an odd one because she has moments when she seems quite sinister, like forcing Mary to take her offer when she tries to refuse, then at others she seems....weak? 

This volume has plenty of twists, not least the VP wanting to work with Mary, but Yumeko genuinely being poisoned to force Mary to take the offer? I was losing my mind reading this volume! And you know what surprised me the most this volume? Runa is surprisingly reasonable and fair this volume. I kind of...liked her. I was actually on her side as well as Mary and rooting and cheering for the both of them! 

Either way, it's most definitely Mary's time to shine this volume! I love her scary gambling side in this volume as she and Suzui take on a card game with a literal deadly twist. I loved Suzui didn't wimp out or back down, and I loved the trust between he and Mary so you can see how far the friendship/alliance between the three of them has come since volume one. They're all willing to trust each other, and rely on each other which should make Mary's decision all the more interesting! 

Manga: Sword Oratoria 6

Sword Oratoria Vol 6
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Aiz and Hermes Familia have joined forces to eliminate the monster outbreak in the pantry, but an unexpected dead end forces their expedition into uncharted territory. Unusual changes are disrupting the delicate balance of the Dungeon, and Aiz finds herself alone against her nemesis, the red-haired Tamer. Will her recent rank-up give Aiz the edge she needs to fight this battle on her own? And without Aiz's support, what will become of Hermes Familia when disaster strikes...? 

We quickly solve the mystery of what the deal is with the monsters in this turns out it's pantry issues, and we head out on a tense journey to investigate that in uncharted territory. What could possibly go wrong? 

It's not long before we descend in to battle with Aiz's party aka Hermes Familia, taking on a monster before they manage to make it to the pantry, and Aiz finds herself singled out by Levis. Meanwhile her allies in Bete and Lefiya, along with Filvis, are on their way to help her but find themselves facing some battles of their own, although Lefiya also has some internal struggles to overcome. 

There's a nice amount of battling this volume, as well as some drops of intrigue thanks to all this Aria talk. We quickly manage to resolve the mystery of the flower monsters, which I had expected to be dragged out a bit longer although there's still a few questions to be answered. Unfortunately we fall in to despair by the end of the volume, but things may turn around...who knows because we're left on a cliffhanger! 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Review: Spectacle

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Paris, 1887.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself.

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

I love a good historical murder mystery, but I love it even more when it's mixed in with intriguing powers. Spectacle is occasionally gruesome with a delightfully morbid, and therefore fresh female lead. 

The opening of the book had me shook because quite frankly, I recently visited Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral so I was shook to think there was...and possibly still is, a morgue behind it that you could go in to, back in the day, and just look at the bodies?! Mind blowing. I was actually living for the setting and seeing familiar places that I'd visited thrown back to this book allowed me to actually go down in to the Catacombs which is the one thing I didn't get to do! 

But most importantly the first chapter had me hooked! Not just because of the setting, but by the way Nathalie's power worked, and her job and then the final sentence of the chapter, I was like "okaaaaay, I'm gonna need to know what the deal is here!".

I was fascinated by Nathalie as a character for multiple reasons. I was fascinated by her job, she writes the morgue report for a paper, and for her age I was surprised she had such a job. I was fascinated by the fact she's a little bit morbid, but not in a bad way. Besides this whole "going to the morgue to look at bodies" thing appears to have been a genuine past time in Paris back in the day. Which is wild on so many levels. But she's inquisitive and I found her to be really relatable and her reactions to finding out about her power and it's consequences were actually realistic and believable, as was the power itself to be honest. 

Speaking of Nathalie's power, I was fascinated by it because she see's everything in reverse and it's all silent although her power does morph over the course of the book and the visions do change alongside that the more she uses it and so on, but she see's from the killer's perspective as well. Most importantly, however, is the consequence of Nathalie's power. I loved that aspect, because we read so many books that have the characters getting these cool powers and they just have them because, whereas this is an original and fresh take on things. Or at least I thought so. I just loved that the powers are to do with a crazy, genius doctor, and there are consequences to using the powers. Plus considering Nathalie's power, and the plot it makes the particular consequence Nathalie has even more fascinating. 

As for our supporting characters, we have Christophe, who I was so hoping wasn't going to be an ass. Meaning on the one hand I was hoping Nathalie would trust him and open up to him, and on the other I was worried he wasn't what he seemed. I did end up quite liking him, he was an ear to listen to her, he tried his best to protect her and yeah...I started to ship it okay. But then he mentions something and I was like OF COURSE. 

Agnes I really loved, she was the friend Nathalie needed to help her sort through things, and to keep her cheerful and to tell her everything's okay and offer a different perspective on her gift. She was basically just supportive and I liked her a lot better than Simone initially. With Simone, I wasn't too sure of her at first, but I can't tell how much of that is because I was feeling what Nathalie was feeling as it was from her perspective. I did end up really liking Simone by the end though, she was there for Nathalie after the initial hiccup, hell she chased after her when she was chasing a killer! The portrayal of their friendship and their argument and the aftermath of it and the reconciliation etc was another really well done aspect, it was so accurate. Zdrok really does portray some excellent strong female friendships in this book.

Spectacle really did just keep me on my toes. It had so many brilliant elements brought in, and so many twists and turns. I knew this was going to be on the slightly unreal side thanks to Nathalie's power, but I wasn't expecting the introduction of Henard and the Insightfuls and I'm looking forward to that being explored more in the sequel, hopefully! 

The mystery though, is what kept me on my toes the most. It was so twisty, I started to get an idea of what the murder was and I was slowly putting a few pieces together but there were just so many twists that shocked me and that I didn't see coming, like what happened with the killer?! But not only that, before we found out who the killer was there were a few times I was reading like "maybe they're the killer" or "no way don't tell me he's something to do with it!?", from the way it was written or Nathalie perceived something, and the chapter's that ended on cliffhangers didn't help things! I also didn't see what happened after the thing with the killer...I just, it's a wild ride, okay guys? 

Spectacle allowed me to get lost in to the world of 1887 Paris, with the odd creepy interlude thanks to the visions and the incident with the blood jar. I was sucked in to the mystery, and not just the serial killer, but the mystery of Nathalie's aunt and the Insightfuls and trying to figure all of that out. Zdrok has made it very, very hard to put her book down, and I binge read the entire thing in one go, shrieking about plot twists as I went. 

Spectacle also completely broke my heart. To be fair I did have a sense of foreboding and a sense that a certain event was coming because of the way Nathalie felt at one point, and I could picture a montage of that afternoon, but one of the victims had me screeching NOOOOOO because why....just why!? Did we have to!? I know we had to have Nathalie resolve to use her powers but...whyyyyy! Although that did present us with yet another mystery, but this one is left open for the next book unless it was just the killer's crazy talk!  

There were a couple of little things with this that had me rate it down a star. I was sad that Christophe was there as a love interest, seemingly waiting for a subtle side romance to start off because of Nathalie's feelings and the mentions of her feelings for him, but it never did. Of course there's no saying that it won't come in to play in the sequel, as it would seem a little bit pointless otherwise. I do feel like a couple of things could have been fleshed out a bit more, Henard and his experiments for one. I also feel a little like, while the book did intrigue me from the start, the pace was a little slow to start. However, like I said, the mystery aspects did keep me turning the pages. 

As for the ending, it was brilliant! The price of her gift has escalated and I was genuinely shrieking "OMG" out loud and just ended!? I do feel like it was a little bit abrupt, although a good cliffhanger. A load of questions were answered and pretty much everything was resolved, however a few things were left unresolved ready for us to address them in the sequel, and I'm looking forward to it! 

Spectacle is a strong debut, there's a few minor issues but honestly? They're mostly down to me I think! The plot is twisty and has plenty of mystery elements, Nathalie is an intriguing and morbid, yet relatable, main character, and I loved the strong female friendships throughout the book! As well as the way Zdrok pulled you in to Paris at the time of the books setting, and I can't wait to pick up the sequel! 

Manga: Sacrificial Princess 4

Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol 4
Rating: 3/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Confronted with yet another challenge to prove she is worthy to become queen, Sariphi must now entertain the mysterious Duke Galois upon his visit to the palace. But will learning niceties and dance steps be enough to win over the duke, who is rumored to be a fearsome warrior with a burning hatred for all things human? Or has Sariphi been set up to fail her w ay out of the palace and the beast realm for good? 

Sariphi is dwelling on the hatred between humans and beast kind after the events of the previous volume, meanwhile Anubis pretty much fully hates her now and decides to step up his campaign to stop her becoming Queen and get rid of her. 

Her next trial is to host a guest at the palace who's coming to see her as they couldn't make it to her previous get together. Said guest is Duke Galois who hates humans. I can't say I was all that surprised by this development, but I was curious as to how it would play out. 

Sariphi has her work cut out for her, she has to get ready for it all, and we get to meet with a couple of new characters in this volume, obviously. Galois and Joz. We do have a couple of tense moments, but ultimately Sariphi pulls through and the twist wasn't all that much of a surprise as I'd been on to it from close to the start. She once again proves herself worthy with some flowery words and lives to annoy Anubis another day. 

I'm beginning to find this series a little bit repetitive and Sariphi seems to have no problems overcoming each thing that's thrown her way. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Manga: The Case Study of Vanitas 5

The Case Study of Vanitas Vol 5 
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

The Beast of GĂ©vaudan, which once plunged France into terror, has risen again in the nineteenth century. As Vanitas and the others investigate the relationship between the Beast and the vampires, they find their way barred by the paladin Astolfo and Jeanne, the Hellfire Witch. Who is it that laughs in a world blanketed white...? 
We pick up where we left off in the last volume, and thankfully we don't have to wait long for Vanitas to realise what's up and put some pieces together! Unfortunately it's a bit too late and I'm not viewing Noe is a ticking time bomb, waiting for him to go off and do whatever it is that Ruthven is after. 
I have to say, I'm loving Roland as a character, he's doing a little bit of research in to the history between vampires and humans so thanks to him, we get to learn some too! Specifically we get to learn about the incident with the Beast of Gevaudan which involved Ruthven and was the first time the Church actually worked with vampires. Of course...the beast is back for this volume. 
As much as I do like Roland, and appreciate that his beliefs have changed, I do wish he'd be careful before he gets himself in to some hot water. He's really out here, casually threatening Olivier as if it's not a big deal!? 
Volume 5 gives us some more insight in to how vampires work in this series, with the blood drinking and what the rules are, or perhaps it's a recap and my memory is failing me. Either way Noe is having some trouble controlling his want for blood. Presumably all thanks to Ruthven, and Vanitas...he's really not impressed and has a very direct and blunt response to him. I love the two of them working as a team, and I'm really not here for any rift forming between them because of it. So far, Vanitas appears to have let it go, and they're their usual selves pretty quickly. 
I absolutely loved that Dante and Johan tagged along for the case, and I live for Dante and Vanitas' bickering. We also get to meet a new character in the form of Astolfo. Astolfo is the Chasseur assigned to the Beast case, who's looking forward to exterminating it...and the vampires in the region. Astolfo is kind of psycho to be honest, and has killed a load of humans too. 
Alongside all of that we get an intriguing plot twist with Jeanne, she has a connection to the Beast who turns out to be a curse bearer, and I'm intrigued to find out more about their past and their connection. We get to look at it a little bit in this volume but I'd love to delve deeper in to Chloe, in particular. But the twists don't end there because....we appear to have wound back time to the original incident? Or someone's been pulled in to a time bubble? Or the past? I'm not sure. 
Once our characters enter the forest to look for clues, it all goes a little bit horror movie and of course Noe is the first one to wander off and get separated. Disappointed but not surprised. I continue to love Noe and the contrast between he and Vanitas. I continue to love Vanitas who was at his best this volume, winding up Astolfo and looking very smug about it. 
There's a nice amount of action to go with the creepy, horror movie vibe we get at points. Noe is up against the Beast and trying to stop Jeanne from killing it because Vanitas needs to get his hands on a curse bearer, and Vanitas is up against Astolfo with Dante's help. 
Volume 5 starts off with some disconcert before heading in to creepy, horror movie territory with the talk of "the Beast" before leading us steadily in to the action. We end yet another solid volume with our characters separated, Noe is again in some potential danger while Vanitas is having a bit of a romantic moment. The plot is steadily progressing forward, bringing in more intrigue and new plot threads with each volume and I'm excited for this story arc as it's taking an actual historical event and twisting it to the story and I have so many questions I can't wait to have answered!

Manga: Is It Wrong 10

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon Vol 10
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

A monster has spawned on the (supposedly) safe eighteenth floor!Black Goliath falls upon the Under Resort and its unprepared inhabitants. Has it awoken because the gods have dared to trespass in the Dungeon? Bell, Hestia, and their mismatched team of gods and adventurers prepare to fight this unexpected floor boss...! 

We open the volume with out adventurers facing down a Goliath, but of's no ordinary Goliath! Bell soon joins the fight and he gets a heroic moment or two, while Hestia is with Chigusa trying to get more weapons for them all. 

The battle's quite large scale, we have all the adventurers that are there in on it, and it's badass. There's a moment of panic for Bell but you can see how far he's come when he gets back up to his feet and tries again and he doesn't back down at all throughout this volume. He keeps pushing himself and pushing forward...and he gets the ultimate heroic moment! Even Welf gets his own moment and even levels up! I've never been prouder of our characters so far. 

Hermes, however, gets a bit of a spotlight this volume when he drops a bomb on us. I don't want to spoil it but it's to do with Bell and who Bell is related to, and who his grandfather may be and you know, what he is. Yes you read that right....what. It explains SO MUCH if I read and interpreted it correctly. He also says a new era is coming which is pretty ominous. 

This latest volume is about 75% a giant battle and the last part is setting up to bringing in Apollo and the trouble that's going to cause as well as tossing out a casual bomb drop or two to keep us on our toes! 

Monday, 18 March 2019

Manga: High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World 2

High School Prodigies Have it Easy Even in Another World Vol 2
Rating: 3.5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

After starting an economic revolution in the city of Dormundt, the high school prodigies are up to their eyeballs in money and resources. Having also managed to save Li'l Roo from a life of slavery, they take a well-deserved rest. Their break is cut short, however, when "Silver Knight" Inzaghi decides to attack Elm Village, pillage its newfound wealth, and abduct poor Lyrule as a concubine for the feudal lord. All hope seems lost when the best options are to either sacrifice Lyrule's freedom or put the villagers in jeopardy. But if anyone can find a solution, it's the prodigies-they have the power to shake the foundations of any world!
We start the volume with some of our characters feeling a bit down. Aoi is kind of adorable, bless her, she's not very good at anything except for cutting wood and fighting and Kumausa blames itself for the crash. Luckily Tsukasa has just the plan to brighten their spirits and it's not long before they have bigger problems on their plate. 
Of course, the situation with Li'l Roo from the end of last volume comes to a swift and easy resolution as well at the start of this volume. 
This volume sees us getting to grips with the magic of this world and some of it's history thanks to Shinobu. It also see's the village progressing further thanks to Ringo developing aluminium and shovels and I'm quite surprised at how fast we've progressed already in just two volumes! But that has nothing on the end of the volume! 
Things are going pretty well within the first chapter, but it's apparent that something bad is coming from them. We're only on volume 2 and we already have a huge battle to take down the Lord and start a war, all to save Lyrule, like wow. That escalated quickly. It would appear after reading this volume that next volume we're going full revolution, and I have to say this series is certainly twisty and fast paced!

Manga: Aoharu X Machinegun 14

Aoharu X Machinegun Vol 14
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Toy*Gun Gun claims victory in their second match at the TGC! But when Matsuoka is told he must go to the hospital, their win may be short-lived, as their team would fail to meet the three-member requirement without him! Also off his game is the usually invincible Midori, who gets the wind knocked out of him by a vengeful figure from his past during Star White's second match. With both team leaders the worse for wear, will both Toy*Gun Gun and Star White be able to make it through to the next round, let alone the finals?! 

Of course Toy Gun Gun's victory is short lived, what with Matsuoka getting injured and not being able to compete! Luckily just before they have to forfeit Haruki finally decides to show up, like....take your time dude. But the three of them have to go in to their next battle without Matsuoka and try to win for when he comes back! I have to say I was living for Tachibana lowkey bonding with the 11 Dogs brothers at the beginning of this volume! 

TGG's next opponent left me screaming, because I loved Captain Sagara and her two teammates the last time we saw them. They are Wage Slave, and this time round we get to take a look at a hostage match, and switch things up with an urban setting, once again keeping this competition fresh and providing more to intrigue us. It also seems there's some dissension in the ranks of Wage Slave, which meant we got to take a closer look at Sagura, Yukawa and Koumoto's lives, which shed some more light on to the dynamic of their team. 

While this is going on Star White have their next match too, and they're up against Dagger Snake who specialise in hand to hand combat and wow.....they straight up took Midori down and I was shook. I enjoyed switching between both of the matches, it was done to leave you wanting more and excitedly turning the pages. 

Perhaps the most excitement from this volume comes from finally finding out what happened with Midori and Matsuoka when they where on Agartha, and why exactly Midori decided to cut ties with Matsuoka. Holy wow, it had me looking at Midori in another light, I thought he was a bit of an a-hole for how he treated Matsuoka but seeing his reasoning behind it...bless him. He's still a bit...odd at points but he did it with good intentions. I liked getting to see more of the relationship between the two of them, but getting to explore Midori's character and motivations a bit more was a highlight of this volume for me. 

We also have Haruki's dad make an appearance at the competition thanks to his twin Haruka, to watch the match and watch Haruki be team leader. We do get some insight in to their dad which goes some way to letting you understand him a bit, but at least things do get resolved for the better. 

This volume has the usual action and we get to see a few twists and tense moments, but it's also eye opening when it comes to getting to know the characters as we delve in to the background and motivations of multiple characters which adds some intrigue alongside the battle heavy-ness of the volume.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Manga: Your Name. Another Side: Earthbound

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

During the events of your name., Mitsuha and Taki's miraculous encounter forever changed their lives. But they weren't the only ones affected by their body swapping -- Mitsuha's friends and family have their own sides of the story to tell! 

I completely loved Your Name, it surprised me and wasn't at all what I was expecting! Ever since I heard about this spin off, I've been excited to get back to the characters and explore them more than we did in the initial three volumes of the main series! 

We get a brief recap to remind us what happened in the main series and then we dive in to exploring the characters! I loved getting to see what it was like for Taki adjusting to being Mitsuha and being in a girls body which I had been excited for in the main series. It provides plenty of funny instances, like interacting with her friends and telling off some mean girls for the first time. Plus the hilarious "bra issue" he had. We also get to see some more of her sister and the strangeness that she noticed going on with Mitsuha, when Mitsuha was actually Taki. And of course we get to see some more of Mitsuha's friends. 

This volume focuses on Tesshi, for the most part. He's the heir to the contracting business and I really felt for him. Mitsuha and he are quite similar in the family duty and business duty that they have, but while Mitsuha is planning to leave, Tesshi feels like he can't because of the workers. 

I feel like his struggle is quite relatable, and I admired his determination to change things in the town. But I loved getting to delve in to his character more and see how Taki and Mitsuha interacted with him respectively, and how Taki helped him in his own way. It not only expands the characters, but also expands upon the world a little bit and lets you see more of it and brings the town more to life. 

Manga: As Miss Beelzebub Likes 4

As Miss Beelzebub Likes Vol 4 
Rating: 3/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Dantalion and Molech are one odd couple. In fact, they're such opposites, Mullin can't figure out if they actually get along! However, the bonds of friendship are anything but predictable in the underworld. Now if only Belphegor can overcome her bowels of hell and find a way to close the distance with her beloved Azazel! 

As you might imagine from the synopsis we get to spend a lot of time with Dantalion and Molech in this volume, and we get to delve a bit in to their backstory and how the two of them became...acquainted. In a less serious moment, we also go a bit prehistoric thanks to one of Beelzebub's daydreams. 

With this volume we're introduced to a new character, his name is Nisroch, and he's Beelzebub's chef!  We get to explore their relationship, he's kind of like a father or a brother to her, and he's always looking out for her! I can't wait for he and Mullin to meet, it should be hilarious. 

But most importantly, along with the cute and funny moments and getting more in depth with some characters, we get to see Belphegor and Azazel make some progress...right before they end up taking a giant step back! Of course. They're becoming a huge source of frustration for me now! 

Volume 4 is another volume packed with fun, humour and cuteness, with the addition of bringing in a new character to our cast! 

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Manga: For The Kid I Saw In My Dreams

Rating: 3/5
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Senri Nakajou's twin brother was his everything, the one who protected him from their abusive father, the one whose pain he felt as his own. That is, until the day thirteen years ago when Senri's entire family was murdered before his eyes. He couldn't have cared less about his parents, but without his brother, his world ended. Ever since, finding the killer and making him pay has been Senri's only goal...and now-finally-he's caught a glimpse of a clue...! 

The opening of this volume is a little bit chilling as you get to learn all about the murder that sets our main character, Senri, off on his revenge mission. He's quite the little vigilante it has to be said, regardless of what he was really up to with his scheme. There's a nice little twist about he and his twin that was a nice surprise and livened things up a little bit. I'm also wondering if twins may run in the family, but that's me theorising about the murder! 

I liked the smooth switches between the present and the past as we built up a picture of what happened and how he became friends with Enan, and then in the present we see him start to pick up a clue and get his first lead. I will admit, for a good chunk of this volume I did find the past more intriguing than the present. I'm really interested to see if Enan is going to stop him from getting his revenge, or stop him from getting it in the way he wants, based on how she was acting in this volume! 

This first volume is fairly fast paced, and there's a lot to keep you hooked and lots of questions you'll be asking about this volume! I wasn't a fan of the art style, I have to say, and while I do have questions and was fairly hooked in to the mystery aspect of this...I was also a little bit bored by some parts of this volume. 

Manga: Dive

Rating: 3/5
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Tomoki has long been passionate about the blink-of-an-eye performances that take place off the ten-meter diving platform. But as a member of the Mizuki Diving Club, he'll need more than passion when his team's lackluster record leaves them on the outs with their sponsors! With a new coach and a deadline to qualify for the Olympics in one short year, Tomoki and his teammates compete for glory with the fate of their diving club riding on their shoulders!
I don't really read any sports manga to be honest, but I was curious about this one as it's about Diving which I thought was quite an unusual choice! 
In order to stop their diving club being closed one of them will have to qualify for the Olympics and this volume very swiftly lays that out for us, along with meeting a new coach and a new team mate for them! 
Said new coach swiftly starts to whip them in to shape, and our main character is soon aspiring for new heights. Tomo kind of struck me as just going along with the training because he just likes diving and how freeing it is, he didn't initially strike me as competitive and there's nothing wrong with that. But just in this volume we see him get a new drive for the sport, and start to push himself more. 
Youichi, however, is definitely competitive and he seems quite perfect. I'm waiting for his character to snap though, because we do see the pressure he's under, especially as his dad's a coach. I feel like his journey may be just as interesting, if not more so than Tomo's. 
The third of our main characters is Okitsu and his Grandfather was a big deal in the sport, and he gets lured to their diving club. He's used to diving in to the sea, and he loves to make a splash which you're not really supposed to do in diving, to be honest! I'm intrigued by his journey...will he keep doing things his way? Or will he adapt to the competition rules? 
Our three main characters all look set to have interesting journeys, and I haven't decided who, or if, I should root for one in particular! I liked that we got swiftly acquainted with some of the basics of the sport, although it is one that I already had some prior knowledge of! 
There's plenty of drama in this volume, between friend drama as Tomo's friends are jealous of the attention he's getting from the new coach, and meeting a couple of the other divers that our main three will be up against in the future. I have to say, Atsuhiko is super extra and I'm so ready to see more of him! 
This initial volume lets us meet the characters and get a quick and simple crash course in the world of diving. Things get shaken up and we're swiftly on the path to the Olympics, as well as meeting the colourful characters who are going to be seen, presumably, a lot on the way there. The volume does end on a bit of a sad note thanks to some drama and I don't think the drama is going to stop there! Tomo's journey should prove to be an interesting one and I'm intrigued to see how far this series will go!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Manga: The Witch's House - Diary of Ellen

The Witch's House: Diary of Ellen Vol 1 
Rating: 3/5
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Ellen, who has been plagued by sickness her whole life, heavily relies on her mother's care and love. When the bond between them decays in a horrific turn of events, Ellen despairs that she'll never get the love she so desperately craves and thinks she's done for-that is, until she crosses paths with a mysterious black cat. The cat offers her powers and a house to live in, which seems to change Ellen's life for the better. But the new witch soon discovers the gruesome secrets within this ever-changing house... 

First things first, I have not played the game that this is apparently to do with and while I can imagine it'll enrich the game if you play it...I don't think you need to have played the game to read this! 

The dark and grim colour pages definitely drew me in, and the first chapter..well it was pretty messed up! I felt for Ellen, but this one is definitely dark! Alongside that, it's also kind of a huge set up. We get all the backstory on Ellen and her childhood and how she became to be at the House and how she met the demon cat, and how she became a witch. Honestly, I wasn't that in to it, and I did find myself a little bit bored at points, but the sinister overtones, and the creepy air to it along with the sense of foreboding I had kept me reading. Plus I was curious about the cat and what the deal with the house was! 

I did like how the expressions were drawn for the characters, I have to say! The sinister ones and the twisted ones are really excellently done! I also liked the pretty, yet at the same time a little bit sinister, settings. 

This introductory volume is gruesome and dark, but certainly intriguing. It's the beginnings of everything and largely serves to acquaint you with Ellen and her full backstory with the promise of more dark and twisted tales to come. 

Manga: School of Horns 2

School of Horns Vol 2 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Though self-conscious at first about his small horns, Eru has been able to open up his heart to his roommate, Rihito. But now, Eru has caught the attention of Rihito's genius and dangerous cousin, Haruto - who's trying to make Eru his servant?! 

This second volume is the final volume in this little duology, and this is another two volume series that makes me disappointed it's only two! 

Our sweet, naive Eru is under the impression that Haruto is doing everything he's doing to be friends with Rihito...and on some level perhaps he is but at the same time, Eru is in his way. Eru had literally just started to bond with Rihito and get on with him, and Rihito has just started to accept him so of course Haruto making Eru his slave in this volume throws a spanner in the works. 

I was kind of despairing about how all this would get solved, Eru's only plan was to become friends with Haruto and change him...but we all know Eru is bad with people. So it's lucky that we have Reo. Reo is the true MVP of this volume, with the plan to fix it all, involving an escape game. 

I liked getting to see Eru, Rihito and Haruto bond a little as they worked together, and Haruto proving he's capable of not being a jerk for two seconds. Plus we see a more serious side to Rihito. After he joined their little group, Haruto did have me on edge waiting for him to play up again though. 

We also got to see some more of Mone, and it turns out she has a sister. I enjoyed getting some more insight in to her character and her family, as well as her relationship with them. Of course, I'd love to explore all of the characters more, if this series was longer, but for two volumes we do get a nice amount of background to the characters. 

One thing I've really enjoyed across both volumes is getting to see the contrast between Eru and Rihito at the beginning of this story, and then at the end here in the final volume, via a similar scene to what we saw in the first volume. Not only has Eru grown as a character, but so has Rihito. 

This has been a fun little series, with an interesting concept although I'd have liked to explore it more and seen more adventures with the characters. This final volume rounds things out and wraps them up nicely, although I'm sad this is the end of it! However, the story of friendship and self growth has been well told and satisfyingly finished. 
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