[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 14 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 14
Series: Yotsuba&! #14
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 224
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Work

Yotsuba & Yoga

Yotsuba & Princess

Yotsuba & The Day Before

Yotsuba & Harajuku

Yotsuba & Yoyogi Park

Yotsuba & Lunch

From Wikipedia

After helping Koiwai move a new table upstairs, Jumbo presents Yotsuba with a set of beads; an intense necklace-making session ensues for the trio. Miss Stake invites Fuuka and Yotsuba to join her for a free trial session of yoga; as the older girls struggle, Yotsuba exhibits astonishing flexibility. Yotsuba reads the story of Cinderella; inspired, she ties ribbons to her hair and is infuriated when Koiwai fails to see her fancy long hair. Going next door, Asagi immediately recognizes her as a princess and makes a fancy dress for Yotsuba using plastic trash bags; after she returns home for her bead necklace, Koiwai makes up for his earlier faux pas by asking the self-proclaimed Princess Zapunzel for a dance. The day before their trip to Tokyo, Yotsuba asks her neighbors and friends for places to go; Mother Ayase suggests Ginza, Asagi suggests Shibuya and Shinjuku, Ena suggests Tokyo Tower, and Fuuka suggests Harajuku specifically to eat crepes, which she calls stylish. Torako suggests Daikanyama but then gloomily asserts there are no fun places for kids in Tokyo. To prepare for their trip, Koiwai buys a smartphone and Yotsuba accompanies him to buy a sushi dinner at the market. Jumbo and Yanda visit later that evening to help Koiwai with his new phone and ask Yotsuba where she would like to visit when they arrive in Tokyo. At the train station, Yotsuba helps Koiwai buy a ticket and they board a train to Ikebukuro Station, where they transfer to the JR East Yamanote Line. The pair stop in Harajuku for cotton candy and crepes, and then Koiwai gets a text message from his sister Koharuko suggesting they all meet in Yoyogi Park. At the park, Yotsuba spies on three women dressed as aliens, who she successfully convinces to not destroy the earth. Koharuko reminds Yotsuba they traveled to Tokyo to pick up Koiwai’s new car, a Mini convertible, and takes them to a buffet at a luxury hotel restaurant for lunch. After a filling meal, Yotsuba and Koiwai set off for the highway in their new car.

My Thoughts:

When I read this a year and a half ago, I went into it with the expectations of it being funny. With this re-read of the whole series, I think that “cute” is much more fitting than any humorous description.

The backstory of the following scene is that Yotsuba and her dad have gone to Tokyo to pick up a car from Yotsuba’s aunt and they meet in a park. Yotsuba sees some women dressed up as aliens and stares at them from behind a tree. One of the girls decides it would be fun to chase Yotsuba and she runs back to her dad and aunt, where her aunt tells her that she needs to ask the aliens to not destroy the earth.

There is another volume after this one, but it won’t be coming to american audiences until September of this year. That’s according to Yen Press, the publishers of the english version:

https://yenpress.com/9781975336097/yotsuba-and-vol-15/

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ruby Knight (The Elenium #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Ruby Knight
Series: The Elenium #2
Author: David Eddings
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 338
Words: 122K



Synopsis:

From Fandom.com

Sir Sparhawk and his companions seek the Bhelliom, a powerful magical artifact in the form of a sapphire carved in the shape of a rose, the only object with enough power to cure the rare poison administered to Queen Ehlana. The Bhelliom was last known to have been mounted on the Crown of the Thalasian King Sarak.The characters travel to the house of Count Ghasek whose sister is ill, as her soul was stolen by Azash, an Elder God of Styricum, whose spirit was confined in a clay idol.

Sephrenia and the others manage to cure Lady Belina, though she has been rendered hopelessly mad by destroying the idol which was controlling her power. The Count then tells them about the giant’s mound where King Sarak was buried.After finding King Sarak’s grave they learn that the crown had not been buried with him. They encounter a serf who tells them about the great battle which killed the King and how the Earl of Heid retrieved the fallen King’s crown and cast it into the dark murky waters of Lake Randera.

The search for Bhelliom suffers a set back when Ghwerig, the deformed dwarf troll who originally carved the gem into the shape of a rose, retrieves the Bhelliom first after his own centuries-long search to reclaim his beloved gem.Sparhawk and his companions follow Ghwerig to his secret cave hidden in the mountains of Thalasia. The book ends with Sparhawk and his squire Kurik killing Ghwerig by throwing him into a bottomless chasm, Bhelliom still clutched in his hand. The girl Flute dives into the chasm only to rise out again with the Bhelliom and depositing it into Sparhawk’s hands, thereby revealing her true identity as Aphrael, Child-Goddess of Styricum.

My Thoughts:

Man, I had forgotten that this was a Quest story and so Eddings throws everything but the kitchen sink at the characters to slow the story down. In the first book the cure for the Queen isn’t discovered until the end of the book and here it isn’t actually recovered until the end. Makes me wonder if actually saving the queen is going to happen at the end of book 3? /snark I could really feels Sparhawk’s frustration as one situation after another came up to delay or sidetrack the group.

Unfortunately, Eddings two biggest weaknesses were on full display here. His shallow one line banter between characters and his lazy use of “religion” as a plot crutch. The Elenium religion has as much impact on the lives of the knights as a caffeine free diet cola does on me. It is used so loosely that I can almost feel Eddings skidding around plot corners with it “just because”. The banter is still fun but they’re not genuinely clever like how I remembered.

As much as I seem to be bashing this trilogy, I still enjoyed my time. However, I don’t think I’d be having the same reaction if this was my first time reading this. Teen memories and nostalgia are definitely playing a part in my enjoyment on this read through.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this to 9/10th’s of you, but if you happen to know a teen boy who you’re trying to get into reading, this just might be the hook that catches him.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Till We Have Faces ★★★☆☆

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Title: Till We Have Faces
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 309
Words: 84K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story tells the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Orual, Psyche’s older sister.

It begins as the complaint of Orual as an old woman, who is bitter at the injustice of the gods. She has always been ugly, but after her mother dies and her father the King of Glome remarries, she gains a beautiful half-sister Istra, whom she loves as her own daughter, and who is known throughout the novel by the Greek version of her name, Psyche. Psyche is so beautiful that the people of Glome begin to offer sacrifices to her as to a goddess. The Priest of the goddess Ungit, a powerful figure in the kingdom, then informs the king that various plagues befalling the kingdom are a result of Ungit’s jealousy, so Psyche is sent as a human sacrifice to the unseen “God of the Mountain” at the command of Ungit, the mountain-god’s mother. Orual plans to rescue Psyche but falls ill and is unable to prevent anything.

When she is well again, Orual arranges to go to where Psyche was stranded on the mountain, either to rescue her or to bury what remains of her. She is stunned to find Psyche is alive, free from the shackles in which she had been bound, and furthermore says she does not need to be rescued in any way. Rather, Psyche relates that she lives in a beautiful castle that Orual cannot see, as the God of the Mountain has made her a bride rather than a victim. At one point in the narrative, Orual believes she has a brief vision of this castle, but then it vanishes like a mist. Hearing that Psyche has been commanded by her new god-husband not to look on his face (all their meetings are in the nighttime), Orual is immediately suspicious. She argues that the god must be a monster, or that Psyche has actually started to hallucinate after her abandonment and near-death on the mountain, that there is no such castle at all, and that her husband is actually an outlaw who was hiding on the mountain and takes advantage of her delusions in order to have his way with her. Orual says that because either possibility is one that she cannot abide by, she must disabuse her sister of this illusion.

She returns a second time, bringing Psyche a lamp for her to use while her “husband” sleeps, and when Psyche insists that she will not betray her husband by disobeying his command, Orual threatens both Psyche and herself, stabbing herself in the arm to show she is capable of following through on her threat. Ultimately, reluctantly, Psyche agrees because of the coercion and her love for her sister.

When Psyche disobeys her husband, she is immediately banished from her beautiful castle and forced to wander as an exile. The God of the Mountain appears to Orual, stating that Psyche must now endure hardship at the hand of a force he himself could not fight (likely his mother the goddess Ungit), and that “You too shall be Psyche,” which Orual attempts to interpret for the rest of her life, usually taking it to mean that as Psyche suffers, she must suffer also. She decries the injustice of the gods, saying that if they had shown her a picture of Psyche’s happiness that was easier to believe, she would not have ruined it. From this day forward she vows that she will keep her face veiled at all times.

Eventually, Orual becomes a Queen, and a warrior, diplomat, architect, reformer, politician, legislator, and judge, though all the while remaining alone. She drives herself, through work, to forget her grief and the love she has lost. Psyche is gone, her other family she never cared for, and her beloved tutor, “the Fox,” has died. Her main love interest throughout the novel, Bardia the captain of the royal guard, is married and forever faithful to his wife until his death. To her, the gods remain, as ever, silent, unseen, and merciless.

While Bardia is on his deathbed, Orual decides she can no longer stand the sight of her own kingdom and decides to leave it for the first time to visit neighboring kingdoms. While resting on her journey, she leaves her group at their camp and follows sounds from within a wood, which turn out to be coming from a temple to the goddess Istra (Psyche). There Orual hears a version of Psyche’s myth, which shows her as deliberately ruining her sister’s life out of envy. In response, she writes out her own story, as set forth in the book, to set the record straight. Her hope is that it will be brought to Greece, where she has heard that men are willing to question even the gods.

Part Two

Orual begins the second part of the book stating that her previous accusation that the gods are unjust is wrong. She does not have time to rewrite the whole book because she is very old and of ill health and will likely die before it can be redone, so instead she is adding on to the end.

She relates that since finishing part one of the book, she has experienced a number of dreams and visions, which at first she doubts the truth of except that they also start happening during daytime when she is fully awake. She sees herself being required to perform a number of impossible tasks, like sorting a giant mound of different seeds into separate piles, with no allowance for error, or collecting the golden wool from a flock of murderous rams, or fetching a bowl of water from a spring on a mountain which cannot be climbed and furthermore is covered with poisonous beasts. It is in the midst of this last vision that she is led to a huge chamber in the land of the dead and given the opportunity to read out her complaint in the gods’ hearing. She discovers, however, that instead of reading the book she has written, she reads off a paper that appears in her hand and contains her true feelings, which are indeed less noble than Part One of the book would suggest. Still, rather than being jealous of Psyche, as the story she heard in the temple suggested, she reveals that she was jealous of the gods because they were allowed to enjoy Psyche’s love while she herself was not.

The gods make no reply, but Orual is content, as she sees that the gods’ “answer” was really to make her understand the truth of her own feelings. Then she is led by the ghost of the Fox into a sunlit arena in which she learns the story of what Psyche has been up to: she has herself been assigned the impossible tasks from Orual’s dreams, but was able to complete them with supernatural help. Orual then leaves the arena to enter another verdant field with a clear pool of water and a brilliant sky. There she meets Psyche, who has just returned from her last errand: retrieving a box of beauty from the underworld, which she then gives to Orual, though Orual is hardly conscious of this because at that moment she begins to sense that something else is happening. The God of the Mountain is coming to be with Psyche and judge Orual, but the only thing he says is “You also are Psyche” before the vision ends. The reader is led to understand that this phrase has actually been one of mercy the entire time.

Orual, awoken from the vision, dies shortly thereafter but has just enough time to record her visions and to write that she no longer hates the gods but sees that their very presence is the answer she always needed.

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time 20 years ago I have to admit, I didn’t understand what Lewis was driving at or even trying to accomplish beyond retelling one of his favorite myths. And that is another reason Why I Re-Read Books. Therefore I stand before you today to announce that I completely understand this book now and every detailed nuance is as a flashing neon sign to my vast and experienced intellect.

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

Oh man, yeah, right. * wipes tears of laughter away *

While I enjoyed this and thought Lewis did a masterful job of writing, I don’t understand what he was trying to get across any better than I did all those years ago.

Let me be clear though. That is completely on me. I have about one teaspoon’s worth of artistry in my 165lb frame (which is about a fingernail clipping’s worth) and I have used it up choosing black suspenders and a black bow tie to wear to church. When an author chooses to do something literary, it either passes right over my head (like this) or it comes across as pretentious and I rip the guy a new one. I need the obvious, the hammer over the head, the straight up statement. Allegory is not my thing and I feel like I’m color blind.

I still did enjoy this but I don’t think I’ll ever re-read it again. I will stick to Lewis’ other works where he simply spells out what he’s trying to say.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 13 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 13
Series: Yotsuba&! #13
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 224
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Sticks & Stuff

Yotsuba & Sandbox

Yotsuba & Night

Yotsuba & Souvenirs

Yotsuba & Cleaning

Yotsuba & Grandma

Yotsuba & The Black Ghost

Yotsuba & All Day Long

From Wikipedia

Yotsuba heads over to the Ayase house early in the morning, where she shows off her souvenirs and demonstrates the sleeping bag for Asagi. Because her dad says he is too busy, Yotsuba bullies Fuuka into taking her to the park, where they meet her friend Mii and play in the sandbox, making taiyaki and pudding with sand molds. After her dad puts her to bed, Yotsuba wakes up and explores the dark house before finding her father working. The next morning, Ena helps Yotsuba decorate the house for her grandmother’s visit before Yotsuba and her father meet her grandmother at the train station, who Yotsuba attempts to greet with a headbutt. Once they are home, Yotsuba receives souvenirs from her grandma. In the morning, Yotsuba helps her grandmother clean the street in front of the house and later, they clean the house once her grandmother believes Yotsuba is taking cleaning seriously. Yotsuba and her grandmother practice origami with Ena and run errands together before her grandmother has to leave, which Yotsuba attempts to prevent by hiding her luggage. The next day, Yotsuba is sweeping the street in front of the house when Yanda arrives and helps himself to the grilled onigiri Yotsuba had made with her grandmother; at bedtime, Koiwai transforms into Sleepyman to put Yotsuba to sleep.

My Thoughts:

As I’ve written before (I think), I tend to read these on Saturdays. Twice a month I attend a men’s group from church Saturday mornings and it can get pretty weighty and serious. We’ve been working our way through Titus for the last 6 months and have just gotten halfway through chapter 2. We’re serious about our responsibilities as Christian men and while it is always a good and encouraging time, it can be solemn. This past Saturday was such a time.

So it was an extra delight to read this volume. Yotsuba’s grandmother comes to visit and it is everything you’d expect from a 5year old for their grandma. Delightful, fun, heartwarming and fluffy.

I’ve chosen this particular scene because I love seeing Yotsuba experiencing new things. And I completely understand that “shivery but wanting more” feeling myself. It’s not just restricted to 5year olds, hahahahaa.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Winter’s Heart (The Wheel of Time #9) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Winter’s Heart
Series: The Wheel of Time #9
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 598
Words: 244.5K



Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net & authored by Toral Delvar

After being subjected to the Chair of Remorse, Talene forswears her Black Ajah oaths and re-swears the Three Oaths, as well as one to obey Seaine, Pevara, Yukiri, Doesine and Saerin. She insists Elaida must be Black as the Black always knows what Elaida plans. Although they all doubt it, no one realizes Alviarin is Black. Taim arrives to meet with Elayne. He tells her he has damane and sul’dam for her. He grants her permission to inspect the Black Tower. She is instructed to strip for the first-sister ceremony while Taim is there. The ceremony involves the creation of a bond, in some ways similar to the Warder bond, between her and Aviendha. In the Black Tower, Toveine considers the various factions present and how she might be able to use them to escape. Logain is trying to find men interested in Healing severing. It is announced that Damer, Jahar and Eben are rebels. Rand lays false trails and tells Min he plans to cleanse saidin.

Perrin returns from meeting Masema, who is keen to go to Rand, but not by using the One Power. Perrin learns Faile has been taken by the Shaido. Alliandre tells the Aiel who she is. Galina Heals the prisoners. Alliandre, Faile and Morgase are set to work as Sevanna’s maids and told to spy on her by Therava. Galina enlists them to fetch an Oath Rod in return for aiding their escape. Perrin learns Masema has been meeting with the Seanchan. Masema agrees to help Perrin look for Faile, even accepting the use of Travelling.

Hanlon organizes and foils an attack on Elayne and is named Captain of her bodyguard. Rand Travels to Caemlyn to meet Nynaeve and to arrange the cleansing saidin. Nynaeve teaches the Windfinders and Talaan asks to be a novice. Alivia and two of the damane decide they no longer wish to be damane. The sul’dam refuse to admit they can channel. Min forces Rand to meet with Elayne and Aviendha. He tells all three he loves them and they tell him the same, much to Nynaeve’s disgust. All three of them bond him as their Warder and all are concerned about the pain he feels and that the only emotion they can sense is his love for them. He sleeps with Elayne, much to Birgitte’s displeasure, getting her pregnant according to one of Min’s viewings. Min, Lan and Nynaeve leave with Rand, taking Alivia, angreal and ter’angreal. Merilille returns from meeting the Borderland army and Elayne goes to meet them. She decides to use their presence in Andor to try and unite the factions behind her. On her return, she learns from Norry that there are four small armies approaching from the east.

Harine argues with Cadsuane. Sorilea announces that the last of the captive Aes Sedai, all Red, have sworn fealty to Rand. Corele announces that Damer has Healed Irgain. He is allowed to Heal the other two Aes Sedai stilled by Rand. Alanna collapses and will not wake. Dobraine impresses Cadsuane by telling her that he has sent Darlin and Caraline to Tear, where Darlin is to be Steward.

The Forsaken learn of the decision to cleanse saidin and are told by Moridin to kill Rand to stop him. Tuon arrives in Ebou Dar, regretful over having a damane beaten for a telling of the future she did not like. Mat tries to persuade Aludra to help him make weapons, and to persuade Beslan to be sensible. Mat sees that the Mistress of the Ships has been executed for rebellion. He arranges passage out of Ebou Dar with the circus. He is attacked by the gholam and saved by Noal, who distracts it. He meets Tuon, stopping the dice in his head. She offers to buy him from Tylin and takes a general interest in him, later offering to buy his ashandarei.

Mistress Anan shows him Joline. Mat agrees to help them escape, along with Teslyn, who, he learns, warned Elayne and Nynaeve, just to spite Elaida. Teslyn insists he also free Edesina. Mat sees Domon and Egeanin together. Bethamin is told by a Seeker to befriend Egeanin, in order to spy on her, but Bethamin warns her instead. Domon decides to enlist Mat’s help as he remembers him escaping Trollocs. Tylin tells Mat that she is going with Suroth to see which lands will be hers. He talks Juilin into stealing an a’dam and a damane dress. Setalle tries to hold Joline with it, but both fall to the floor whimpering. Domon accosts him and Mat persuades Egeanin to leave quickly with him, and also to procure for him three sul’dam. He releases Nestelle, a Windfinder who promises to wait before trying to free the others. Mat is forced to tie up Tylin, who has returned unexpectedly. Tuon tries to stop him leaving, but Mat and Noal tie her up. Juilin brings Amathera. Egeanin reveals that Tuon is the Daughter of the Nine Moons when she sees her. Mat says that she is his wife. Selucia arrives and relaxes when Mat promises not to hurt her but to take her with them, which causes Tuon to smile.

In Far Madding, Rand fights Kisman and Rochaid, killing Rochaid. Kisman escapes but is killed by Fain, who wants Rand for himself. Min worries that Rand felt nothing. Isam/Luc is killing people for one of the Forsaken, who hides his own identity. Cadsuane takes Harine, Shalon, various Aes Sedai and the Asha’man Warders to Far Madding. Shalon notices tensions between the groups. It is revealed that within Far Madding is a ter’angreal that mimics a stedding, in that no one can sense the One Power or channel within its bounds. Cadsuane talks to the First Council and Verin mentions the dangers of upsetting anyone with an army as large as the Dragon Reborn’s. Alanna goes to see Rand. He sends her to Haddon Mirk to deal with the Tairen rebels. Verin decides not to poison Cadsuane after learning of her intent to remind Rand that he is human.

Rand learns that the Stone is under siege and that the Seanchan are advancing into Illian. He gets Verin to ask Cadsuane to be his advisor. Nynaeve and Cadsuane are revealed to be carrying channeling wells, a type of ter’angreal that allows them to store a measure of the Power and use it, even in Far Madding. Rand, Nynaeve and Lan go to kill Torval and Gedwyn. They watch them enter their dwelling, and are then lifted in by Nynaeve, using the One Power. Min and Alivia fetch Cadsuane. Inside, Torval and Gedwyn are dead, having been killed by Fain. Fain attacks Rand, who is severely affected by the pain in his side. Toram attacks Lan, but is quickly dealt with. Fain flees. Rand and Lan are arrested by men who were sent to investigate Nynaeve’s use of the Power. Cadsuane intimidates the rulers into releasing Rand by showing them that she can use the Power within Far Madding.

They Travel to a spot outside Shadar Logoth. Rand and Nynaeve link and use the two great sa’angreal. He links the taint to the city using saidar. The others form into groups to try and protect him, taking angreal. Cadsuane maintains a shield around him and Nynaeve, while Elza, Merise and Jahar stay near him for added protection. Damer, Sarene and Corele fight Demandred; Shalon, Verin and Kumira fight Graendal; Eben, Daigian and Beldeine fight Aran’gar, who, they are surprised to discover, can use saidin. Alivia fights Cyndane and Elza kills Dashiva. Moghedien avoids fighting and sees a great black dome form, and when it collapses she is sucked towards it. The taint is shown to be gone, but Kumira and Eben are killed. Damer Heals everyone else.

My Thoughts:

This book was on a one way ticket to 3 stars for the first 85% of the book. Jordan just dicks around and overdescribes everything. When someone walks into a room we get a detailed description of everything they see, from the scenery to the people to the clothes they are wearing to the weather conditions, etc. It felt exactly like what Dickens did in his books, but Jordan is no Dickens and it bored me.

What was worse, Jordan would do this WHILE characters were having conversations. So Egwene would be talking to Elayne and ask a question and then we’d get a paragraph of what Elayne was wearing or what Egwene was feeling and in the freaking middle of all that blather Jordan would insert Elayne’s one sentence answer. I ended up just skimming and looking for quote marks when characters started talking to each other. And that 85% is either setup or nothing. I felt the bloat so bad that I wondered if I needed to take some pepto bismol™.

The last 15% were good enough though to make up for it. Rand is bonded by the 3 women (which was interesting as I had forgotten that Min wasn’t able to channel and so how they included her was interesting just from a “huh, so that’s how they do that” perspective) and the cleansing of Saidin. THAT was a big battle between a bunch of the Forsaken and allies of Rand. While not as intense as the Battle of Dumai Wells (where the Ashaman rescued Rand and beat the snot out of the Aiel), it was good enough to raise this up to 4 stars.

But it brought to mind, once again, just how weak the Forsaken actually are. That leads into how in the world did they do what they did in the last breaking of the world? Whatever, that question just never gets answered.

On a completely different note, I REALLY like this ebook cover. I tried to find a high-res cover but all I could find was this 450×680 version. I even tried using TinEye and came up empty. I just like how it shows Rand using the Key and it’s a good reminder that he’s Aeil. I keep forgetting he’s got red hair even though it is mentioned in almost every book 😀

Rating: 4 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 12 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 12
Series: Yotsuba&! #12
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Torako

Yotsuba & Blue

Yotsuba & Helmet

Yotsuba & Halloween

Yotsuba & Camping (part 1)

Yotsuba & Camping (part 2)

From Wikipedia

A short opening sequence shows Yotsuba drawing Danbo in chalk on the street before noticing migrating geese flying overhead. She welcomes Torako to the Ayase household where she shows off her photographs and learns to tie a bow. After arriving to the flower shop too late to help Jumbo paint a desk, Yotsuba finds a can of blue paint in the shoe rack at home and paints a kitchen table while her dad is working, staining her hands and leaving drips and blue footprints throughout the house. She futilely tries to clean up the mess and is confronted by her dad, who laughs instead of scolding her. Before Mr. Koiwai shows her how to use paint thinner, they go to the grocery to purchase ingredients for mapo tofu and a helmet from the bike shop. On Halloween, Fuuka and Miss Stake dress Yotsuba as a pumpkin, explaining how to ask for candy before also dressing in costume to go trick-or-treating together. Early the next morning, Miura’s mom and Ena’s parents see them off for a camping trip organized by Jumbo and Koiwai. Yotsuba is unpleasantly surprised to learn that Yanda has invited himself along, but ends up laughing at his jokes on the journey. At the campsite, the girls help pitch the tent, rest in a hammock, and cook curry for lunch. For dinner, they grill the meat given as a present by the parents and Yotsuba wakes early the next day, surprised by the sunrise simultaneous with the moonset.

My Thoughts:

You know, I’m starting to recognize why I didn’t do many individual manga reviews back when I was tearing through them. It doesn’t help that there’s not a “plot” per se to this series either. This was another wonderfully cute and fluffy set of vignettes that I thoroughly enjoyed and wish I had the words to show that.

This picture is when Yotsuba and gang are going camping and they are driving. Yotsuba and Ena (the neighbor girl) begin playing the Fancy Lady Game, where they talk like how they imagine fancy ladies talk. While I found the panel with Yotsuba talking about “country bumpkins” to be absolutely hilarious, what I enjoyed was just how the manga-ka captured in just a few panels an aspect of childhood, that ability to be imaginative and create a game out of almost anything. Yes, it is idealized but it is also completely true to life. I really like experiencing that for just a few minutes again.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission


Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 249
Words: 94.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den.[4] The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and also his uncle. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud, which had been previously arranged by their respective fathers. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.

Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon Rev. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns’ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s having a violent temper. Rev. Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.

Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.

Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal. They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweler to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewelery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‘Edwin’; she says he is fortunate it is not ‘Ned,’ for ‘Ned’ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‘Ned’ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.

The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and forcibly bring him back to the city. Rev. Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him, stating that he will produce Neville anytime his presence is required. That night, Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin may be dead. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and shirt pin.

A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Lieutenant Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Lt. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A white-haired and -whiskered stranger calling himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.

Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists, telling her that if she gives him no hope he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.

The next day Rev. Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Lt. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.

Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time, she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called “Princess Puffer.” The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.

Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was how it was unfinished and no matter how much I thought, it would never BE finished. Not a very good mindset to get as much enjoyment from the story, that’s for sure.

This was so on track for being awesome. The characters were everything I wanted in a Dickens novel. The good guys were good, the bad guy was REALLY bad and the girls were brave and fearless. The latecomers were manly and proud and I was really looking forward to seeing them developed.

This had all of the ingredients I could have asked for. Dickens just left them on the counter in the mixing bowl without cooking them. And unfortunately, it wasn’t cookie dough so I couldn’t take a chance and eat it raw.

I will say that this has gotten me interested in other authors who have tried to finish the story. If any of you have a good suggestion, please let me know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 11 ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 11
Series: Yotsuba&! #11
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Udon

Yotsuba & Pizza

Yotsuba & Soap Bubbles

Yotsuba & Harvest of Chestnuts

Yotsuba & Cameras

Yotsuba & Friends

Yotsuba & ….

From Wikipedia

Yotsuba goes to an udon shop without her father’s knowledge, and is allowed to watch udon being made. After getting a pizza menu in the mail, the Koiwais order a couple, though one turns out to be too much for Yotsuba to hold. After an announcement of an upcoming camping trip, Yanda arrives with various bubble-blowing devices, which they play inside, then outside, with. Yotsuba, Fuuka, and Miss Stake (Fuuka’s classmate from chapter 45) go to a shrine to pick chestnuts, and Yotsuba learns about burr covers and bug infestations. Koiwai gives Yotsuba her own camera, which she uses to go around taking pictures of people. Yotsuba meets Miura at her apartment building, and they go to Ena’s. On the way, a dog grabs her teddy bear and shakes it, making it smell like dog, so they wash it and dry it at the Ayases’. As a result, the bear’s ability to speak is broken, so Asagi offers to repair it overnight. Yotsuba spends much of the intervening time sulking about Juralumin’s absence until Yanda finally gets a reaction out of her. She goes to the Ayases’, where she finds Juralumin repaired.

My Thoughts:

I wish I had thought to include that little wiki blurb in my earlier reviews. It’s an awfully nice little thing to have to see what happened in which volume. You’d think after doing this for flipping 21 years I’d have a good handle on writing reviews.

I’m including a picture from the Pizza chapter. Pizza has always been part of my life and even now it is probably my favorite food (possibly tied with chicken potpie or Mr Mac’s specialty mac&cheese). So seeing someone see it for the first time just makes me grin. It also makes me realize just how much behavior that kids have to learn. In the next panel, not included, Yotsuba’s dad has to show her how to eat it with her hands, as she can’t figure out how she’s supposed to eat it with chopsticks, hahaha. Kids are likes sponges and soak up stuff without them realizing or even us realizing what we’re teaching them. Good food for thought.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Diamond Throne (The Elenium #1) ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Diamond Throne
Series: The Elenium #1
Author: David Eddings
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Words: 134K



Synopsis:

From Fandom.com & Me

Sparhawk, a Pandion Knight, has returned to his hometown Cimmura after ten years of exile in Rendor.

He finds his Queen and former pupil, Ehlana, has fallen ill, having been poisoned by Annias, the Primate (an ecclesiastical rank) of Cimmura. Queen Ehlana has been encased in diamond by magic performed by Sephrenia, the Styric tutor of magic to the Pandion Knights. The diamond will keep Queen Ehlana alive for up to 12 months while a cure is found.

To aid him on his quest, Sparhawk takes his childhood friend and fellow Pandion Knight Kalten, his squire Kurik, and Sephrenia. In a show of unity, the other three Church Knight Orders also send their champions to be his companions: Genidian Knight Ulath of Thalesia, Alcione Knight Tynian of Deira, and Cyrinic Knight Bevier of Arcium.

Sparhawk finds out that only Bhelliom, a magical jewel infused with the power of the Troll Gods, can cure Ehlana. With both rings at his command, Sparhawk can now begin to find Bhelliom, while his Pandion comrades drop one by one.

My Thoughts:

This was the first book by Eddings that I read back in the 90’s. As such, it has long held a cherished nostalgia part of my heart. Even this time around I enjoyed it immensely but had to admit, Eddings’ Belgariad is the better series.

Eddings deliberately wrote as tropey as possible. I think on the back of some of his books it claims that he is “experimenting with certain literary styles” or somesuch high faluting nonsense. What it means is that he is writing to see what people will accept. And they accept a lot, let me tell you!

Does that mean this was a bad book? Not a chance. You simply have to accept it for what it is, or if you can’t, pass it over. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to anyone over 30 who hadn’t read any Eddings before though. Check out a certain Elderly Guy who reads Eddings for the first time. It’s not pretty, hahahaa.

After this Elenium trilogy I suspect that I’ll be leaving Eddings in my past. While we can learn from the past, it’s not good to live in the past and I think this book proved that to me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Magician’s Ward (Magic and Malice #2) ★★★★✬


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Magician’s Ward
Series: Magic and Malice #2
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 77K



Synopsis:

Kim is swamped. Between studying magic and learning a whole new life as a monied lady, her life is full, maybe too full! When a particularly inept burglar tries to steal several books from Mairelon’s library, it’s up to Kim and Mairelon to figure out why.

At the same time, several magician’s from Kim’s street life have disappeared and a Russian Magician shows up. When on the track of the thief, Mairelon loses his magic, it’s all up to Kim to deal with the rogue magician, who isn’t a magician at all!

And if that all isn’t enough, Kim has to have her coming out ceremony as a Magician’s Ward, where she realizes she’s in love with Mairelon.

By the end of the book, Kim has stopped the rogue magician, completed her ceremony and gotten Mairelon to propose to her. Now her life as a magician is going to get really busy!

My Thoughts:

If you happen to remember That Book, where I told Romance to get the heck out of my Action Stories, you might have gotten the impression that Bookstooge is a stone cold, heartless killer with no time for the softer things in life. And you would be wrong, dead wrong! (because I’d stone you coldly!) I like romance, in small doses and in its proper place. Jane Austen is the example that made me realize I could like romances.

Anyway, this book is as much a young adult/middle grade romance as a fantasy story. The obstacles that Kim needs to overcome are simplified, the villain appropriately stupid and even Mairelon takes side stage as he loses his magic, thus giving Kim the spotlight from all directions. She shines well too.

I didn’t think the story was quite as “fun” as the first but it felt more satisfying, hence the half-star bump. While I read this way back in 2000 and I have no real review, I remember liking this then and it seems I liked it just as much this time around too. I’m going to call this a Complete Success then.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ps,
Can we all agree that is the worst cover ever and that it should be cast into the Stygian pits?