Thursday, 25 July 2019

Review: The Kingdom

The Kingdom
Rating: 3/5
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human. 

I was incredibly intrigued by the way this book was pitched, and I was very excited to read it if not a little bit wary because the last kind of fantasy, murder mystery book that I read was Four Dead Queens and it was more than a little bit disappointing, it has to be said. While I did enjoy this, and it was easy to breeze through, it's not a book that I'd be likely to read again, and it didn't wow me enough for me to give it more than three stars. 

I was immediately drawn in by the way we jumped from a dead body that was described like a twisted version of Snow White, to a post trial interview set after the whole fiasco that screamed of shadiness. The world was intriguing, it's set in the future and our main setting is a big amusement park. It's basically Disney, but with animal hybrids, mermaids and so on. It's certainly imaginative, and I was so intrigued by it with the way nature and technology seamlessly merged. 

The storytelling was nicely done, it's not solely narrative, the narrative chapters are mixed up with interviews, court transcripts, court documents, CCTV footage, scripts for TV spots and so on that build up the trial and the case, and add a sense of anticipation as you speed towards finding out what really happened and if Ana really did do it or not. The narrative fills in the world building, introduces us to the characters and how everything works and slowly starts to peel back the happy, shiny veneer of the place and reveal the darkness underneath. I loved how the darkness, and sense of things not being entirely right crept in and built up along with the case. The narrative sections also give us some clues, I liked how we'd meet a character in a trial transcript and have one perception of them and then meet them in the narrative and have that perception change, it was nicely done. The narrative builds up a nice sense of foreboding, mentioning things like spots where the wi-fi signal doesn't work and disables their livestream capabilities and so on. I just enjoyed how we initially were shown the sparkling, magical side but then the darkness crept in slowly, growing and getting darker and darker the more you read. 

It was pretty easy to get hooked in thanks to all of that, the darkness being revealed piqued my interest, I liked Ana's relationship with her sisters, Nia was intriguing because you wanted to know what the problem with her was, you start to build up a picture of what happened, or what might have happened...and there's the question of whether or not Ana actually did it. There are clues in favour of her doing it and in favour of things being slightly off with the whole situation. The characters, and their lies and the park and it's shady dealings are all gradually exposed, and it really is like a messed up version of Disneyland. I found the park's morality and morality behind the Fantasists an interesting debate in the book too. I was reading initially like 'wow that's so cool, they're bringing back extinct animals' and so on but the more I read the more I was like ''s cool, but it's not really okay, is it?'. 

As for Ana herself, she does make for an interesting narrative as she's half human and half android, she can't always express things or put names or words to what she wants to think or say. She's very trusting and naive, which isn't surprising when  you consider the fact that she's lived in this sheltered environment and watching her become more aware of the dark side of the park and have that naivety taken away was another thing that I found interesting about her as a character. But while I did empathise with her more than once throughout the book, I also didn't fully connect with her. She ends up constantly following Owen around, and the romance was a little bit too insta-love for my tastes so I couldn't quite enjoy it. I didn't really see how, or why it was necessary, but more importantly Owen wasn't that deep of a character for me. We didn't get much on his background and motivations and I know there needed to be an air of mystery about him but he didn't feel like a fully formed character as I was reading. The same can be said for some of the other Fantasists to be honest, Eve suddenly started to become more important from nowhere but I wasn't all that attached to her and we barely saw the others to the extent that I sometimes forgot who they were. 

The conclusion to the book was partially satisfying, we find out what happened that night, who really killed Owen and what went down which was great. I loved how some things were resolved, and some questions were answered so that things clicked in to place. However, considering how much of the book was spent building up to it, I do feel like it was a little bit rushed. My main issue with this is the fact that while the murder aspect is all wrapped up, the author decided to open up a whole other can of worms right at the end, and things were left very open ended with no sign of a sequel in sight. I think it would have been a lot more chilling if things had gone differently to the way that they did if there's not going to be a sequel. If there's no seems a bit disappointing to set up for one and then not follow through. 

Overall, while I did initially enjoy this and I was hooked by some questions the book raised, and the murder mystery aspect, I felt I couldn't really connect to Ana enough, I felt like some characters weren't fully formed and developed, and I can rarely get behind insta-love. I did enjoy this book but there was something missing from this for me to give it a higher rating and like I said, I doubt I'd re-read it. 

Manga: Boarding School Juliet 6

Boarding School Juliet Vol 6
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Summer vacation is over, and it's the start of a brand-new term at Dahlia Academy. Between flower-viewing picnics, studying for midterm exams, and sneaking in secret dates, Inuzuka's school schedule is more jam-packed than ever. But as he'll soon find out, Inuzuka has a much more important problem on his hands...
His best bud Hasuki might still be in love with him, and the feelings she's been holding in are on the verge of exploding!
Summer vacation is over, the second term has started and they're still having their dates interrupted by everyone else as we've become accustomed to. It was actually quite a nice way to kick off the volume, although due to switching to a new magazine there's a bit of a recap. But there's the general carnage and mayhem brought about by them just trying to have a date, that we know and love. 
Maru is determined to dig up some dirt on Persia and bring her down and he comes so close, yet so far. I'm wondering if the day will come when he becomes a bigger threat than he actually is right now.  Inuzuka...well, sometimes I look at him like, what goes on in your head? He wants to take a couple photo at one point in this volume, and I was reading like 'oh yeah, what could possibly go wrong?!'. But Inuzuka does take his first step on the path becoming a Prefect in this volume, studying for the midterms, and the fact he's actually doing it and studying with Perisa and Hasuki indicates how far his character has come in a short while, and how determined he truly is in his goal. 
I have to say, as much as Char constantly sabotaging their dates is funny, yet frustrating, I so love it when she and Inuzuka team up, it's hilarious, almost as much as their childish bickering. There's just something about them grudgingly getting along with a truce that has me chuckling and I fear the day the two of them team up for good and actually become friends. I think it would be terrifying. 
This volume showcased Inuzuka's continued determination and how he's growing as a character, while giving us plenty to chuckle about, sure it wasn't anything we hadn't seen before when it comes to the sabotaged, interrupted dates, the bickering with Char and everything, but it's amusing enough that it doesn't matter. 
However, despite that, towards the end of the volume we had a new situation thrown up. Hasuki's feelings just won't die apparently, I thought this had been dealt with but apparently not. There's a confrontation, and some words are said within Persia's hearing so we end the volume on a little bit of a cliffhanger. Persia actually voicing how she feels about him was a shocker, and I can't wait to see if this will push their relationship forward a little bit more. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Waiting on Wednesday

It's Wednesday which means it's the perfect time for a Waiting on Wednesday post which quite frankly, I haven't done in forever but I feel like it's necessary to have a resurgence of this feature on my blog because 2019...well. What can I say? This year has so many excellent books upcoming that I want to scream about! 
Starting with a book that I'm lucky enough to be part of the street team for, and I'll link its GoodReads page in its title...

Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh

Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship.

But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail.

From the beginning, the race is filled with twists and turns. One of them is Darius, a fellow racer Astrid meets but isn’t sure she can trust. Though they team up in the race, as Astrid’s memories begin to resurface, she remembers just who he was to her—a scorned foe who may want revenge. Astrid also starts to notice she has powers no Outsider should—which could help her win the race, but also make her a target if anyone finds out. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, Astrid must decide what is more important: risking her life to remember the mysteries of the past, or playing a cutthroat game in order to win her—and her family’s—freedom.

I am so freaking excited for this book okay, the cover is gorgeous...the synopsis sounds amazing..and most importantly, it sounds original! I'm anticipating lots of tension, and danger and being on the edge of my seat as well as an excellent character to root for! It's not out until November though *sulks* but keep an eye on my Twitter because I'll be letting you know when the pre-order campaign is up and it's a good one guys! 

Manga: Hitorijime My Hero 4

Hitorijime My Hero Vol 4
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

It's only been a couple of months since Kousuke's confession, but Masahiro already feels like his wife! With so much joyous romance in his life, Masahiro begins to have doubts that any of it is for certain. Unable to feel grounded, Masahiro struggles to keep steady. From fights with his mom, to running away from home, there's still a lot this street punk needs help figuring out...

Keeping the plot moving forward, and fleshing out the characters a bit more we delve in to Masahiro and his home life a little in this volume. There's a sad flashback at the beginning of the volume that gives us some initial insight and a sense of foreboding, and makes an interesting contrast with the following scene featuring Kousuke's family. The contrast is quite stark and it was a nice way to show you why he spends so much time hanging around their house aside from Kensuke and Kousuke. 

We do get some heartwarming and cute moments as usual, but things do get pretty dark when we start to see more of his mother and what his relationship is like with her. It's not really a great situation and I really empathised with him in this volume. 

I also liked that we got to see more of reluctant friends Hasekura, I live for it to be honest. He's secretly soft and you can't convince me otherwise, although why Masahiro went to him is pretty obvious. He probably thought Hasekura's the only one who would understand and wouldn't bother him about it all. Meaning Kensuke had to get involved because Masahiro wouldn't talk. 

This volume also gives us a little more page time for Natsuo the bartender, and I'm so curious about him. He seems a little mysterious, and I've got my suspicions about him, and I'm sure I'm right because it's heavily hinted so it should be interesting to see how that will play out. 

This volume gives us a huge amount of insight in to Masahiro, and it comes at a nice time in the story. It's after we've seen the romance start, and hit its first bump and it's come during a relatively calm time during their new relationship. Masahiro and his inability to go to Kousuke with the issue is going to be the next bump in their relationship that they need to overcome, I think as they still are getting to grips with each other and how they react to certain situations. I did really feel for Masahiro, and I'm rooting for him because I can see why he reacted the way he did, bless him. There's also some interesting bonus content in this volume! 

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Manga: Noragami 20

Noragami Vol 20
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Now that Yato has promised Hiyori to confront his father, he must find a shinki powerful enough to take the crafter down, while Bishamon, who knows what the crafter looks like, discovers her life is in grave danger. 

The last volume ended on a rather ominous cliffhanger, and I'm sure you'll all agree that it's been torture waiting to see what's going to happen next in this series?! Yato has told the Heavens what he knows and now he has a deadline in which to kill his father but in order to do so he's going to have to find a Shinki to help him. His first port of call being to ask Nana for help but her new guardian isn't thrilled with the idea. 

For me, this is a series that gets better and better, it started out quite simple but then brought in more and more plot threads, deepening the plot more with each volume. This volume however? It's perhaps the most twisty one yet?! It had my heart fully stopping at one point when Yato realised Bishamon was in danger, and then with the way the chapter played out. I was screeching pretty much the entire time I was reading this volume, with a brief little interlude with Ebisu that was the only time I was chill reading this. Kazuma is the main source of all of my screeching and wow...his character is going a little bit dark side in this volume and we've seen him go from being a certain way, the Kazuma that we're used the Kazuma in this volume. He also had a conversation with Hiyori that had her finally coming to terms with her feelings for Yato and I was pretty soul had left my body at this point. 

While we have the angst with Yato and Kazuma, I oddly found myself feeling quite sorry for the Stray, something that I never thought would happen. We got some insight in to her and more background on her life with Yato and his father, and what things wrere like for them. I'm kind of uneasy about Yukine befriending her but intrigued to see where this is going to go. 

There are some amazing twists to this volume in the lead up to the showdown that's inevitably coming our way between Yato and his father, and things get angsty on the romance front. The romance has always kind of been a very subtle thing, but feelings are named in acknowledged in this volume and I feel like after all the building up of the characters, the relationships and the plot...we're hitting the climax of the story. 

The art continues to be wonderfully drawn, and the plot continues to move forward at a wonderful pace giving us action, intrigue and humour! 

Monday, 22 July 2019

Review: Teen Titans Raven!

Teen Titans: Raven
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth's foster mom—and Raven's memory—she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn't easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can't remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she's ready to face what's buried in the past... and the darkness building inside her. 

I'm not super well versed in the Teen Titans universe, not compared to other DC characters but I did watch the show on Netflix and really enjoyed it, and I've been curious about each of the characters! So when I spotted that this was coming out, it was immediately on my TBR...let alone when I realised Kami Garcia was writing it! I have to say...I really, really enjoyed this. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the story and the artwork. 

The art is pleasing to the eye, it's got clean lines and neat character designs. I really liked the way everything was cool toned for the most part, when it came to the colour palette. Purples, blues, blacks and greys...which coincidentally went really nicely with Raven's hair! We basically had more dark, and muted colours rather than bright colours, which I thought fit with Raven as a character remarkably well! However creepy demon Trigon was completely red, which made him stand out all the more in the story as 'other' and not really belonging there. I also liked the touch of the red tinge when she was angry and influenced by him so you could tell it wasn't entirely Raven. Even the speech bubbles matched, Raven's being purple and his red. The thoughts of others where a nice muted grey as well, another clever touch in the storytelling and it gave you the impression of a faint thing heard in passing rather than a loud, shouted thought. 

The final thing I wanted to say about the art was I thought it was interesting how everyone and everything was muted out except for Raven, and occasionally her aunt, Max and Tommy. The only scene anything close to full colour, including the backgrounds, is part of her outing/date with Tommy and when you see her with her friends and I'm wondering if that's because they're happy memories to her. Either way, I liked how the art and the colour choices helped with the storytelling and it was cleverly done to match! There's also some beautiful images of the raven behind her in the mirror with its wings stretched out! 

As for the story itself, we jump straight in with things, and we have mystery from the start with the accident, the swift appearance of the demon, and then we dive in to getting to grips with Raven and her power. She has amnesia so she remembers nothing of it, so she's getting to grips with it all right alongside us, the reader. Meanwhile, there's a dash of the ominous as we have Slade hanging around with his talk of delivering kids for strike teams, which is no doubt going to come in to play later. 

Everything builds up nicely, we meet Raven, learn about her powers, see her become close with others, see a little bit of romance, we've got the mystery with the demon and the ominous graveyard visits to commune with spirits and then everything comes crashing down for the finale as her memories return and we have our questions answered regarding the demon and her powers and so on. 

I enjoyed the cast of characters, there's a nice amount of representation when it came to the cast, LGBTQ characters, Latin and African American characters, which was nice to see. Raven is easy to empathise with her and I actually found myself liking her a lot more in this graphic novel than I did in the TV show, I had a few moments with the show when she bugged me, I have to be honest. But I really enjoyed her character in this and I feel like I understand her a lot better in this. She's an empath and can hear everyone's thoughts even if she doesn't want to and she's struggling with the demon voice popping in and making unpleasant things happen. I liked seeing her open up to Max and Tommy and let them in and allow herself to become close to them, and I think she's a strong character. 

Her foster sister Max is awesome, and she's my new favourite character after Raven! She tried her best to help Raven as much as she could, and look out for her. I ship she and Eman so badly, but she has a secret of her own that she's keeping from everyone and she doesn't want to let him close. That secret being that she's Soulstorm of course, and her mother is the Mother of Souls. All I'm saying is, they have some seriously awesome ghost related powers and I was getting excited at the clues and implications! What I loved most about Raven and Max, was the sisterly bond between the two of them. They really cared about each other and became so close, and then the end kind of wrecked my heart a little bit. The way Max said "you don't have to have the same parents to be sisters" hit me right in the feels and I kind of need more of the two of them, if I'm honest!? 

Tommy is another prominent character in this graphic novel, and in his own words...he's 'unfiltered'. I thought he was quite sweet initially, helping her to find out what her favourite candy bar is and so on. There was one weird moment with him that had me side eyeing him but I kind of pushed aside a little, and went on my merry way. Like it was in the back of my mind but I was choosing to ignore it, I think. Until of course my shady radar started pinging. I'm curious about him, I don't recall him from the show but then I do have a mind like a sieve so who knows. I'm curious as to who and what he is and I'm assuming we might be seeing him again in the future. 

Oh! One other little touch I liked? The use of the Dracula quotes, and while they don't make sense to Raven...if you're familiar with her already you're reading and smiling to yourself because it's so accurate and was so nicely done! 

Everything came to a fantastic conclusion, questions are answered for us although Raven is left heading off to go and try and get some answers from Slade about how to deal with Trigon. I have to say...I need more. I feel like this was a really solid introduction to the Teen Titans universe, and Raven in particular. It smoothly introduces you to her, shows you her powers and what she can do and she was realistically represented, angry and scared because of what was happening to her. I liked the storytelling, the pace as brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story was portrayed on the pag by the artist! Whether or not you're familiar with the Teen Titan universe isn't going to matter if you want to pick this up! 

I'm kind of sad that there won't be a second volume for Raven, but I had assumed Kami was just writing this one story about Raven, I actually didn't realise this would be a series, so imagine my surprise when I reached the end of the volume and saw a sneak preview of Teen Titans: Beast Boy also written by Kami Garcia and coming soon! I loved him in the show okay, so this is going to be excellent! I'm looking forward to seeing Kami and Gabriel team up again and I'm excited that they're presumably going to be doing all the Teen Titans! I'm also going to assume Raven may or may not make an appearance in Beast Boy's volume! 

Manga: Tokyo Tarareba Girls 7

Tokyo Tarareba Girls Vol 7 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

While just starting to rekindle an old flame with Hayasaka-san, Rinko is mortified to have their first date crashed by Key. Will what he has to say condemn Rinko to another angry, drunken night with her friends...or will it strengthen her resolve to make this new relationship work? There's only one thing Rinko is sure of--she's running out of time. 

The last volume left us on quite the cliffhanger and this one doesn't leave us in suspense at all, and I was so excited to see how things would play out as we rejoined the scene straight away. Key fully hijacked Rinko's date, and it was hilariously awkward. He was questioning their intentions, and exposing the time he and Rinko slept together...I know he's trying to protect her but awkward. 

While we see a fair amount of Rinko this volume as she falls in to a comfortable relationship with Hayasaka and revels in a simple, easy relationship free from stress. There's even talk of moving in between them. But the most intriguing part of this volume? We finally get all the background on Key and his wife and everything from his past that we've been curious about since day one! Finally. There's even a surprise in store when it comes to his manager too. 

Honestly, it was a gripping volume for that fact alone, with all the background making some things finally click in to place.  So much about he and his behaviour made sense after reading this volume, not least because of a certain characters speculating that also had some more things clicking in to place and being a nicely timed reveal ready for the end of the volume! The series has progressed nicely, and now as we reach the final couple of volumes, things are continuing at a nice pace and I'm excited to see what's going to happen now with Key! 

Friday, 19 July 2019

Manga: Angels of Death Episode 0 Vol 2

Angels of Death Episode 0 Vol 2 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Having accepted the priest's invitation, Danny starts looking for other "angel" candidates. What he finds is a strange pair of twins who run a furniture store, and their wares are more than a little suspicious... 

As you can tell from the synopsis, Danny is on the hunt for more murderers to populate the basement we've all come to know and....get creeped out by, in the main series. I was slightly worried about how this side series would go, as we obviously only met 4 of the residents of the basement, 5 if you include the Priest, and I did wonder how they'd stretch this out to however many volumes with just the same faces we've already seen. Not that I'm not curious about how Zack and the others came to be there! 

But it turns out I didn't need to worry! Thanks to Cathy, we are lead to meeting the twins who are perhaps the creepiest ones yet? I didn't think anyone could beat Danny and his shudder inducing eye thing, but wow...they are grim. Of course the Priest decides he doesn't need both of them, and only one of them is required which makes them crack more than they already had before, especially with Cathy and Danny needling them and pushing them all the way over the edge. I's unclear whether they'll really join or not as we haven't seen them in the main series! 

After the exciting focus on some new and incredibly gruesome characters, we drift back to focus on Cathy and her psyche, as well as her helper Lucy as we meet a prisoner of Cathy's who's just as twisted as all of the others so far. The thing that gets me about the killers in this series is that they're undeniably twisted...but they believe so strongly in their way of doing things and their reasons for doing things and think they're's actually so chilling. 

This volume introduced us to some new characters and we delved further in to Cathy and how she thinks as well as Lucy and their relationship with each other. There's even some hints dropped that possibly relate to Zack and his coming appearance as well! Interestingly it would seem Cathy isn't quite mentally the Cathy we know from the main series just yet, so it would seem we have a little bit of a journey to go on with her. It has to be said that this volume is also particularly blood soaked and creepy...if not outright gruesome so be warned! 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Manga: Familia Chronicle Episode Lyu 3

Familia Chronicle: Episode Lyu Vol 3
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

After Syr pulls off a winning hand in the V.I.P. room's high-stakes poker game, Lyu demands the release of all the women Terry has collected. However, it seems Terry isn't so keen to honor the rules of his own establishment...Will Lyu and Syr make it out of the Grand Casino alive, let alone with the girls they hope to rescue!?
I know we're only volume three with this spin off series, but I'm just going to say it...I genuinely feel like this is the best out of all of the spin offs this series has offered us so far!? I'm loving it so much, and each volume has been consistently strong, with no weak moments. 
To no-ones surprise, Cervantes doesn't plan to honour the terms he agreed to and rather than freeing the girls he's supposed to, he sets two of his men 'The Black Cat' and 'The Black Fist' on Lyu. Psssh as if that would work. Especially when they aren't the fearsome people she knew back in the day...they're merely imposters. 
In a move of sheer brilliance that had me wanting to applaud, Syr nudges the other captive women in to fighting back while Bell causes chaos as a distraction with the help of poor old Mord. It has to be said...Lyu is such a badass, and she gets a seriously epic showdown in this volume that showcases that fact! 
What I enjoyed about this volume is that it kept up the same pace as the previous two, moving the story along at a fantastic pace without sacrificing the plot or any information we need, and the story arc we've had going on for these three volumes is wrapped up nice and neatly in this volume with no overspill in to the next! Plus we get some little tidbits from the past thrown in once again. It really is a beautifully paced series so far, with a nice mix of action and intrigue! 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Manga: Sword Art Online Hollow Realization 3

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Vol 3
Rating: 3/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

When Kirito, Asuna, Silica, and Premiere are sucked into a world where dark elves and demons abound, the four head to the Forest of the Holy Tree, which has been tainted by demon sorcery.
Kizmel pops up and we pick up right where we left off once again! This time everyone ends up separated as Asuna and Kirito get pulled in to a side quest, with Silica and Premier being pulled in as well albeit initially separately. It was nice to get to see a fair bit of Silica for once as we rarely do more than we do as just part of the ensemble. It was also nice to see Kizmel teaming up with our characters again although I was initially a little bit worried about her and allegiances. 
The main focus of this volume is a side quest involving a demon and a stone curse along with the dark elves, obviously. There's also some super shady goings on involving Genesis and his little buddy Tara. We do speed through the quest a little bit but it's got a nice amount of action before things start to slow down again and there's talk of creating a guild. Plus we have Seven popping in to add something ominous to proceedings because of course something potentially shady is going on. 
The volume starts off quite pacy with a nice amount of action but then slows down while introducing lots of intrigue and a general sense of foreboding as things step up in one regard and we're definitely left wanting more. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Manga: Hinowa Ga Crush 2

Hinowa ga Crush Vol 2
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

In the midst of her first battle, Hinowa takes on the woman who killed her mother, Yomihime. Can Hinowa and her friends survive on the merciless battlefield? Then, a new and crazed general attacks from the Tenrou Nation, and the warfare gets even fiercer... 

We open on to action as we pick up immediately where we left off. It would seem Hinowa and Akame have made themselves an enemy...or more accurately a nemesis who I'm sure we're going to be seeing a lot more of, more so than we did this volume. I feel like she might become the Esdeath of this series! 

Things move quickly in this volume, the battle is over and done with, Hinowa and Hisame prove themselves and swiftly get promoted to the rank of Captain. We have to go and defeat a freak in order to craft a special weapon although I do wish there had been a bit more depth to that part in particular, but it's rushed through and we end up with fancy, strong weapons, and then we meet Kyoukotsu, another Tenrou commander who's way creepier than the last and intent on his new plan. So you could say that this volume is pretty pacy with no dull moments to it. 

We also get some more background on certain characters and their motivations. We have another battle imminent, obviously, but as a little prelude we have a showdown with Kyoukotsu who is categorically at least 99% crazy. He does, however, provide Suzumaru with a chance to take the spotlight for a little while and shine before we leave off the volume waiting for the battle to begin. 

This is an impressively paced second volume that keeps up the momentum of the first and covers a lot of ground while giving us plenty of action, without seeming overly rushed except for that one little plot thread with the quest which I personally feel could have been a little bit longer as I was quite excited for a quest for a couple of chapters before diving back in to the battles! 

Monday, 15 July 2019

Manga: Graineliers 3

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

Carried off to Grainelier headquarters on suspicion of being a harmful seed carrier, Luca finds himself at the mercy of Special Researcher Nicolas. But Nicolas and his ilk are not what they seem, and at the elite Grainelier's behest, Luca passes himself off as a fellow Institute researcher...only to end up cohabiting with Nicolas himself! Meanwhile, Abel, driven to rescue his childhood friend, takes up with Insecte, an anti-Grainelier group. But when a certain incident lands him in a life-or-death situation, Abel might have to focus on saving his own skin first! 

Abel is getting to grips with his new situation and even has to get to grips with a weapon of his own! Rogers is still suspicious of him and suspects him of being a spy and while we spend a leisurely chapter with Abel fitting in and adjusting to everything and so on, we also end up with the difficult choice he's going to have to make...whether or not to go with a seed and if so which one. The odds don't look that great for any of the options he has. 

Things pick up during the next chapter when Abel ends up in a tough situation thanks to some thieves, and it does give him a chance to finally bond with the ever suspicious Rogers, predictable as it was. As you can imagine we get plenty of action from this turn in the story after the initially slow start, and then the mystery is ramped up once we switch over to Luca's POV, and in Abel's POV we have the mysterious man who becomes his bodyguard before we head in to plain 'oh dear' territory. 

Lucas is obviously with Nicolas, who's all kinds of shady and creepy and the mystery around him deepens in this volume. He also seems to know something about the mystery of Luca's father but of course, he won't spill it straight away because he's infuriating like that! Luca ends up posing as one of them in a uniform and everything and he even gets to join Nicolas' team. 

Along with a sprinkle of action, danger and ramped up mystery, we get some more background on why the carrier only squads exist as well as the political climate of the world of this story and the clashes amongst countries so the world gets fleshed out even more. 

While the volume initially started a little slow it built up as we went along, weaving in some more mystery and intrigue, answering some questions we had and giving us some background and adding to the world building as we build up towards an epic showdown in the next volume. Luca is posing as Nicolas' subordinate and is potentially about to have a moral crisis while Abel is trying to protect someone and might have to realise the fact that he can't with his current sills. I feel the story is developing so far at a nice pace, giving us action and building up the plot with a nice balance. 

Friday, 5 July 2019

Manga: Again!! 8

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

The president of Kanan High School's drama club is also its only member: Hanataka. Three years from now, Hanataka is going to be a celebrity famous for her sex appeal, but in high school she's timid, unsociable, shabby-looking, and widely disliked. Kinichiro can't help but be fascinated with her, and convinces Usami to have the ouendan cheer for the drama club's performance at the school festival. It's a new chapter for the ouendan, but is Kinichiro's "help" even welcome? 

I will admit, when everything with the Ouendan was resolved I did wonder how much further this could go, and I wasn't sure where they were going with the focus on Hanataka, amusing as I did find it and her. 

Of course we quickly discover why, you can't change something in the past without everything changing, there's a knock on effect and Hanataka and her drama club are a part of that. Of course our time travellers have to stick their noses in to it all, and so the Ouendan shifts away from focusing on the sports teams a little as they try to help out the drama club. 

If I'm being honest, I feel like this angle/storyline is a bit more interesting than the previous parts of the plot. I loved Hanataka's interactions with Imamura, and her in general she did make me chuckle, and him thinking she was cute was also quite cute. Hiro on the other hand has reached the height of creeper behaviour, time travel really doesn't agree with him. 

I have to say, this volume things take a turn for the weird and slightly ridiculous, with the musical and everything, at the same time you kind of have to laugh at it so I'm actually enjoying this strange turn a lot and I can only begin to imagine the other things that have or will change and need to be fixed! 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Manga: 10 Dance Vol 3

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

As if learning the moves wasn't hard enough, Sugiki needs to master a crucial element if he's to succeed in Latin Ballroom: sex appeal. Suzuki takes a personal approach in teaching him the art of seduction, but what happens when the student learns too well? And Suzuki has problems of his own: With the 10 Dance competition on the horizon, he must raise his Standard rank, or risk losing the chance to compete at all. And just as the pair starts to understand their relationship to each other, a secret from Sugiki's past threatens to undo everything. 

The tension between the two dancers is stepping up right from the beginning, and they finally bond a little bit as they find some common ground. I have to say this volume had me laughing at how blunt it was at some points! 

For the most part though, nothing much really happens in this volume. It's definitely one of the slower ones, more building up towards stuff than anything. We see them bonding, getting closer as they continue to work together, supporting each other and Sugiki is manoeuvring something behind the scenes that I'm sure we'll see come out in the coming volumes. We also get some more depth to the characters as we get more background and insight in to both of them. 

While some things are set up for the next volume and the future of the series, the romance builds up more and more with some tension and then finally a moment that will change the dynamics of their relationship so far as things start to heat up! 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Blog Tour: Soul of the Sword

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

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos. 

If you read my reviews I'm sure you guys are well aware that I completely and utterly loved Shadow of the Fox when it came out. I love Julie Kagawas' books anyway, but the storytelling was rich, the world building was thorough and I was living for all of the Japanese mythology and yokai. Of course it had a fantastic ending that left me wanting more and Soul of the Sword has been one of my most anticipated sequels, I can seriously say that it didn't disappoint me at all, although it did go off in a direction I wasn't entirely expecting! 

Soul of the Sword is not here to play around. We kick off with an intense reveal, and we're immediately tossed straight back in to the world thanks to the cinematic writing that effectively pulls you back in like you'd never been away. There's a delicious amount of background on the Kage aka the Shadow Clan, and the demon sword Kamigoroshi as well as the demon Hakaimono, adding some more threads to the mystery to intrigue you. 

Yumeko is determined to save Tatsumi because she blames herself but I feel like she continues to grow as a character at a nice pace. She's learning more about her feelings, and how she feels about Tatsumi. She's also learning more about her powers and what she can do and she really gets to let loose with them, showing a slightly differing side of herself. Okame is still as snarky and hilarious as ever but we get to see a slightly more vulnerable side to him...I just wish he didn't beat himself up so much about stuff. Daisuke is forever calm and collected and I love him and Reika is the grumpy badass. I just love them together, and the banter and interactions they have, and how loyal they are to Yumeko and determined to protect her and get her to the temple. 

POV wise we get to see Suki again, we obviously get Yumeko's and we get Hakaimono as well as Tatsumi although we don't get to see Tatsumi much this book, obviously. I wasn't really expecting to get Hakaimono's perspective but I kind of liked him? Like sure he's an evil demon, but his narrative was on point with the snark and sarcasm and general bad guy aura he exudes. He's kind of bloodthirsty but he's also badass, I don't know. I guess I just appreciate a good villainous narrative, especially when there's the opportunity for said villain to perhaps become one of the team. 

Like I said, Suki is still floating around as well and she gives us some insights in to the super mysterious Seigetsu and his little yokai pal Taka. I'm honestly not too sure what to make of him to be honest, I was hoping he wasn't shady but I was so untrusting of him. Shout out to him for all the ominous visions because of course I got attached to the character who's apparently going to die. Love that for me. 

While we didn't get to see Tatsumi as much this book we still got some of his past, and when he does make his return and get some interactions with Yumeko they of course pulled at my heart because I just want him to be happy okay. His background and his narrative just punch me in the heart every time. For those of you who love some romance, don't worry though, there's a side ship that pops up and I have to say...I ship it with my whole chest. I wasn't expecting it but I loved it, it added a nice dash of romance to proceedings along with a little bit of dread and angst considering the previously mentioned ominous visions. It's also nicely slotted in via the narratives we do have, with no additional narrative needed and I feel like it helps Yumeko with her own feelings and understanding of emotions. Either way....the new ship had me screeching and it's now my favourite! 

The rich storytelling and writing continues on from the first book, saturated with lush descriptions as well as legends and stories that pull you in and have you clearly envisioning the world and settings. It also gives you a thirst for more of the mythology! While Yumeko and co are held up by the Shadow Clan and there's some intrigue with the in-fighting amongst them, we have a more action and adventure vibe with Hakaimono and Suki. Of course everyone's narratives give us huge doses of mythology, yokai and Yurei nicely woven in and I'm just in love with the storytelling for this book! 

Although I will say, I feel like their talk of ballads and the whole 'anything less than the heroes giving their lives for honour, duty, sacrifice and the glory of the Empire' not being much of a story at all is a warning for how this series is going to end, it hit me with the biggest sense of foreboding. 

The plot once again builds up slowly with huge quest vibes, but these do mostly come from the other POVs than Yumeko for the most part, and Seigetsu provides magic and mystery to Hakaimono's blood and death. While the plot builds up more and more we've got banter, bonding and camaraderie along with imaginative, vivid and magical locations brought to life with the atmospheric and beautiful writing. The storytelling is fantastic, it sets a certain tone for the book and helps to draw you in, embellishing the world as it goes and then towards the end the pace builds up and we've got shock plot twists once again that leave you screaming for the next book! There's also been some very interesting developments for one character, a shadowy figure has been revealed and it all looks a little bit dire! 
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