Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide Vol 1 by Mone Sorai: Review

Genre: Travel, Romance, Slice of life, LGBTQ+, graphic novel, manga

Category: Older Teens, General fiction

Representation: asian gay men protagonists, queer (wlw) trans woman supporting character, wlw gender nonconforming/masc/butch cis woman, most characters are Asian/poc

Content Warnings: None except maybe internalized homophobia?

Publisher & publication dates: April 20th 2021 by LOVE x LOVE (Tokyo Pop)

Book links: Goodreads✈️Amazon

Rating: 5/5

Summary

Super serious Asahi Suzumura and laidback, easygoing Mitsuki Sayama might seem like an odd couple, but they made a deal; they’ll vacation around the world and when they get back to Japan, they’ll get married.

As they travel from country to country, the different people, cultures and cuisine they encounter begin to bring them closer together. After all they’re not just learning about the world, but about themselves too.

Review

Omg! I did a sappho-and-her-friend of this manga. Reading the summary I assumed for some reason they were just friends and were going to marry other people lol. When I started reading it I thought “this is kinda gay lol” and “they are so close and don’t mind holding hands and stuff,” until they straight up said “I love you” and “Let’s get married!”

I’m so dumb but I was pleasantly surprised by the queerness.

The summary on the back cover is more straightforward and accurate.

This manga has a diverse cast (in terms of gender, race, sexuality etc.) and full of travel and food and culture. I loved every moment of it, it felt like I was watching a travel vlog of a couple travelling the world. It was so wholesome and their relationship was realistically complex and loving.

I loved all the food!! It was drawn so deliciously and the characters enjoyed it with such gusto! The main characters have been in a long term relationship which was refreshing to read as opposed to most romances which focus on the beginning stages of a relationship. The heart of the story is the relationship between Asahi and Mitsuki who despite loving each other deeply Asahi is anxious about being a gay couple due to how it seen in Japanese society and tries hides their relationship, while easy going Mitsuki wants to get married and openly tell everyone that they are dating. The conflict is both relatable and heartbreaking and the reader really roots for them to learn to understand each other and gain confidence in their relationship and identity.

While there was no deep exploration of the countries they travelled to given it was mostly visiting tourist spots and trying local delicacies the story was so fun and the art was wonderful! The artist put so much effort and care into drawing the various locations in great detail.

I’d love to see it in a colour or as an anime!

Overall

I highly recommend Our not so Lonely Planet a lovely slice of life manga about a couple travelling the world. The amount of love the mangaka put into the manga shines from the pages and I’m so glad I had an opportunity to read it! I look forward to the rest of the series!

Rating:✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️/5

I received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review from netgalley

I also recommend checking out the mangaka’s Instagram (her art is so pretty!)

Cheer Up! by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise : Review

Genre: Contemporary, slice of life, romance, graphic novel, LGBTQ+

Category: YA/ Young Adult, OK for all ages

Representation: trans bi-racial (possibly latinx) girl protagonist, queer (sapphic) girl protagonist, several major supporting characters are people of colour (specifics not mentioned/unclear), trans/non-binary supporting character, several minor supporting characters are people of colour

Content warning: transphobia, harassment,

Publisher & publication date: August 10th 2021 by Oni Press

Booklinks: Goodreads📣Amazon📣Bookdepository

Rating:4.5/5

Summary

A sweet, queer teen romance perfect for fans of Fence and Check, Please!

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

Review

Cheer Up! is a super sweet comic with lovely clean art, diverse characters and empathetic storytelling. The character development and plot was very realistic and relatively low stakes but deeply personal and moving. If you’ve read my other graphic novel reviews, yes this made me cry as well because it was so heartwarming. (I’m a softy leave me alone) There was a lot of important discussions in this comic such as about transphobia (both overt and unintentional, and how people can be well meaning in their efforts to support trans people but can actually be tokenizing them), about respecting boundaries, insecurities and second chances. At times it felt a bit forced but it had a lot of heart and added to the story overall. The comic is pretty short and well focused so a lot of the less essential things like cheer practice, bonding and studying was done via montage. While I understand how this is necessary to keep the story interesting and keep the plot moving it felt at time like a lot of the character and relationship development happened ‘off-stage’ and it was more told than shown. So while the development was great and the friendships were realistically messy, complex and loving, it sometimes didn’t feel satisfying.

Overall

Cheer Up! is a wonderful graphic novel full over diversity and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Highly recommend it!

Rating:📣📣📣📣/5

I received an e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Wine and Dinegeon: Demo Reaction

Recently while perusing Gayming I stumbled upon an article about Wine and Dinegeon, a pixel art game pitched as Zelda meets Frasier. I was immediately intrigued because the dungeon crawl aspect mixed with food reminded me of Delicious in Dungeon (a typical cooking manga but in a D&D setting, i. e. the intersection of all my interests).

Unlike my initial impression it wasn’t much like Delicious in Dungeon lol. The Frasier comparison is more accurate since the storyline is that you are throwing a dinner party but you need to collect the ingredients from cellar which has unfortunately been overun with monsters or horrors de vours. Aside from the puns which I love, I kind of hoped we’d be using monster parts for the cooking.

Another aspect of the game is rpg elements where you can romance your dinner guests. This was also one of the main draws of the game for me since the protagonist is nonbinary and can romance men, women and enby guests alike. Since this was a demo there was very little interaction with the characters but it seems very promising, all if them seem to have rather distinct lore and interesting personalities.

Gameplay

The art was pleasing, the characters were unique, the movements and animation was smooth and the sound design was great for the most part. The only thing that irked me was that different characters had different fonts for their dialogue and the dialogue sound was a bit grating. The other sound effects and music was really pleasant and kind of nostalgic. I also kind of wish the art for the characters icons were more stylistically consistent.

The actual monster hunting/dungeon crawl aspect was really fun! It took me forever to go to the dungeon in the start because I couldn’t see door which was on the left wall 😅 which is more my fault than anything.

The lives are also cheese icons which is adorable but a bit confusing. I thought it might be my inventory until I was getting killed by monsters. A more standard indicator of life like hearts or a hp bar would make the gameplay smoother.

Overall

Wine and Dinegeon looks really promising and I can’t wait to play the completed version. The dialogue/humor can be a bit cringe but I hope they lean even harder into the puns and food monsters. Personally I’m hoping they’ll add a journal where descriptions of the monsters get added as you kill them because I want to learn all the fun lore and punny names of the monsters.

If you want to play the demo yourself you can find it on the developer’s website. There is also a trailer and a game play demon on their YouTube channel

Website 🍷 Youtube 🍷 Twitter 🍷 Instagram

Tainted Love Anthology, edited by Azzurra Nox & Erica Ruhe: Review

Genre: Fantasy, paranormal, romance, contemporary, horror

Category: General fiction/ adult (contains graphic violence and descriptions of sexual acts)

Representation: bisexual characters, sapphic/lesbian characters, South East Asian characters (one story is set in Malaysia), trans character

Content warning: violence, murder, gore, body horror, cannibalism, torture, physical assault, adultery, hitting a romantic partner, gun violence, alcohol abuse. bullying, drug use, animal death, killing torture of animals, rape/sexual assault, homophobia, abuse, depression, threats of suicide, references to self harm, (maybe misgendering a trans character. It was done more out of being unsure rather than maliciously misgendering them)

Publisher & publication date: February 16th 2021 by Twisted Wing Productions

Booklinks: Goodreads🖤Amazon

Rating: 3/5

Summary

When love goes wrong, it can be a killer.

An artist soon discovers how dangerous it is to paint her muse.

A young boy finds out how deadly a birthday wish can be.

A young woman plagued by nightmares will find out what they really mean with deadly consequences.

A woman visits her sister only to discover of her new macabre hobby.

These and many other stories make up the twisted world of Tainted Love, a collection that exalts and explores the many ways love can go wrong, may it be romantic relationships, friendships, or familial bonds, sometimes, love can become deadly or scary. Here you have fourteen chilling tales of love and the wounds it leaves, sometimes metaphorical sometimes literal. Love kills, and these authors expertly wield the knife in this anthology that you don’t want to miss!

Review

Tainted Love anthology was a fun read and I’d recommend checking it out if you want to read some horror short stories by women. It contains a lot of gore and several possibly triggering content so please be aware of the content warnings before reading it yourself. The book itself contained trigger warnings which I appreciated.

I chose to review the short stories individually as well as the anthology as a whole since I really enjoyed some stories and found others to be boring.

When the Mask Drops by Hillary Lyon

It was really short and kind of underwhelming. I the writing was beautiful but a bit too thick and flowery for my taste.

Rating: 2/5

Vanitas by Azzurra Nox & Erica Ruhe

The beginning was slow and the middle was kind of dull but the ending really made up for it. The foreshadowing was great and the end was suspenseful and twisty.

Rating: 3/5

The Wait by Kathleen Halecki

Nice and short. The POV is strange, a sort of omniscient cinematic view

Rating: 3/5

They Want to Talk by Rachel Bolton

Good. I enjoyed the modern setting and the growing sense of anxiety and dread. It had a nice monster and is very creepy.

Rating: 3/5

Chronic Chills by Hudson Wilding

Beautifully written but the story was anticlimactic and felt oddly incomplete. Nothing horror-esque or even supernatural was confirmed only alluded to. Nothing much felt like it happened at all in the end despite the author creating a wonderful sense of suspense. Disappointing.

Rating: 3/5

Make a (Death Wish) by Melissa Burkley

Well written and wonderfully executed. The ending was surprising but retrospectively very well set up. Greatly enjoyed it and found it pleasantly unnerving and beautifully tragic.

Rating: 5/5

The Flagship by Pheobe Jane Johnson

Interesting, creative and well written. I question however how well it fits into the theme of the anthology.

Rating: 4/5

Of Guys and Dolls by Stella B. James

Excellent! I loved every moment of this story. It was filled with suspense which swelled to the climax. Well executed and surprising end.

Rating: 5/5

Unfinished Business by Joni Chng

Very interesting and has a great urban legend vibe. I loved the Malaysian setting and all the complex characters. Very spooky, very ghostly, very surprising twisty plot.

Rating: 5/5

Sleep by Marie Anderson

More psychological than supernatural horror but was one of the only stories that made me feel very uncomfortable and genuinely disturbed. Truly terrifying implications and reminiscent of reading about real life serial killers.

Rating: 4/5

Hunter’s Moon by Marnie Azzarelli

I loved the Hunter’s Moon. It was well written and interesting.

Rating: 4/5

Unborn by Alexandra Bay

This was well written and really interesting with nightmarish imagery.

Rating: 3/5

Prey by Erin Lee

The story itself was fine but it felt a bit messy with the multiple povs and constant head hopping. Maybe if it was more focused it would be more enjoyable. A lot of it felt redundant, like the mother’s pov in the beginning.

Rating: 2/5

My Lady Bathory by Mandy Burkhead

The story and setting is interesting but there was something lacking in the execution. It is longer than some of the other stories and could have been more developed. It felt a bit meandering in the beginning and then a bit gratuitous with the horror/gore elements. It felt more edgy than grim dark to be honest. The handling of the trans character felt a bit clumsy? (Not bad but felt off, maybe refer to own voice reviewers for their opinion on this) The ending felt a bit deus ex machina.

Rating: 2/5

Overall

The anthology is good read but there were some stories I enjoyed more than others. I found a few stories a bit vague and confusing but that is likely intentional and due to their length. I’d recommend this if you are in the mood for horror short stories by women but I wouldn’t think you need to go out of your way to check this out.

Rating: 🖤🖤🖤/5

I received in e-arc from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Man from the Sky: Book 1 of the Hard Science Fiction Western Series, “Providence 71” by Navin Weeraratne: A Long Rant Review

Genre: Sci-fiction, western

Category: Adult/ General fiction

Content warning: death, violence, murder, gore, animal abuse, homophobic and transphobic comments, badly written

Representation: Maybe there were people of color?

Publisher & publication date: October 5th 2019 via Kindle (self-published)

Booklinks: Goodreads🐛Amazon🐛My Review of Zeelam by Navin Weerartne a.k.a “Zeelam by Navin Weeraratne is a misery to read: Rant Review”

Rating: 1.5/5

Summary

A scientist has sold out the human race.

A settler-scientist hires a bounty hunter to help find her sister – feared murdered by intelligent, insect-like creatures. Clues lead then to the boomtown of Ashridge, where a senior researcher has disappeared. As it emerges that all as not right, a deep conspiracy is discovered. One that those involved will stop at nothing to protect.

Hunted by the authorities, plagued by the “bugs,” and even airship pirates, they must uncover the conspiracy. Will that bring the main perpetrator to justice, or start a bidding war for her research – and with it, the fate of the planet?

Review

I had low expectations but I am still disappointed.

Much like “The Man from the Sky” by Navin Weeraratne my review will be disordered, repetitive and somewhat incoherent with random scientific jargon tossed in for good measure. I tried to make this review balanced and in-depth but I kept getting annoyed and ended up listing all the things that annoyed me about it. Warning! This is a long spoiler-filled rant review, please enjoy.

This was meant to be a second chance since I didn’t like Zeelam much. I thought a sci-fi western with monsters would be more my speed. And while this was much more enjoyable it was still not great in a technical sense.

The writing itself was competent and easy to read for the most part. What I disliked was the author’s writing “choices.” He had a frankly immature guy humor that I found rather mean spirited and unfunny. A couple times he made sexist, homophobic and transphobic jokes- while I don’t think it was his intention it was still irksome and unpleasant to read.

This novella could have gone through a couple more rounds of structural editing. You know what’s worse than telling instead of showing? Doing both telling and showing! The author very clearly establishes an even or character or plot point in one chapter but then proceeds to show the same events in a later chapter! It was such a slog to read the same event from different perspectives without actually learning anything new. For example (mild spoilers) in the first chapter Alex says she is looking for her sister who went missing. It was clear and well established! But then in subsequent chapters the author writes about her sister going missing (from her pov) and then in a following chapter writes about when Alex hears the news of her sister going missing and deciding to go look for her! What was the point of that besides page filler? It might have been slightly better if the chapters were in chronological order.

While more of a personal preference I disliked that the chapters weren’t in chronological order. There was a lot if redundant and repetitive information and some things could have been edited out. Not to mention, it makes it hard to follow exactly when an event is happening in relation to the events in the other chapters.

One thing I liked was the mixed media approach where emails and novel extracts were used for exposition and world building. Reminded me of Foundation and I found it expanded the world and scope of the story as well as made otherwise boring exposition engaging.

While I understand that this is the first part in a series I still would expect a complete and coherent story. So many things were set up and never paid off! Story lines were left hanging! It wasn’t even a cliff hanger but incomplete??? The main plot that was set up at the beginning (i. e. Alex wanting to find her missing sister and the missing scientist) were never really resolved? It would be too generous to say it was foreshadowing since it was more dangling loose threads. Fuck sake, it seriously feels like the author just split a single book up and took no effort to make each novella a complete satisfying work. The climax felt like something dramatic that just happened and mostly disconnected with the main plot. There was no rising tension of the story! There was no coherent storytelling- only a tenuously connected series of scenes.

The plot and the story itself are rather basic. Other than the setting and ‘science’ there isn’t anything new or inovative about the story or characters. A lot of the story felt very familiar? In fact I kept getting an eerily deja-vu feeling as if I had already read similar scenes in other stories? The book felt like a quilt of moments and scenes taken from other works and clumsily stitched together.

🐛

The author also had some writing quirks which were just annoying. He insisted on having multiple perspectives which lead to repetition of information and a hard to follow chronology of events. Even then, with his omniscient pov he barely even stuck to the perspective in the title of the chapter, often choosing to tell the story from a random minor character or head hoping. He would also refer to characters by random descriptions like ‘one eyed man’ or ‘dating coach’ for an entire chapter even if their name is mentioned? They in one chapter he would refer to the character as ‘Boy’ as if it was his name? Was it his name???? Why was it capitalized?

The author also had a weird habit of randomly marking scene breaks in a chapter even if the scene continued from the same place after the break rather than starting a new scene? It was like he was using it like a break for a commercial in a tv show which bizzare in a novel when reading and you see a scene break where there is no change in scene or time or pov. Personally I’d recommend the author learning to write one perspective well rather than try to write multiple perspectives poorly. He has a lot of amateurish writing habits he needa to grow out of.

There was also sexist, homophobic, transphobic and at time ableist undertow in the story. I don’t know why but the almost casual, unintentionally way it was soaked into the story was unpleasant. It reminded me why I avoid sff by straight white men. All the characters except maybe one is coded white with very white names. One cyborg was coded Black and I’m only guessing that because they had dread locs but they might in fact be white. There was also homophobic and transphobic jokes made around this character which was somewhat uncomfortable. It is possible there were other people of color with white names that I might have assumed to be white because there was very little description to suggest otherwise.

It’s odd how white the cast of characters are considering it is a space western set in the future and lots of cowboys were Black and Latinx. Maybe in the future only white people were allowed to travel to new planet colonies or only western cultures were taken to new planets. Either one has a lot of racist undertones that were probably unintentional and the author didn’t think about or want to unpack.

🐛

The “science” was iffy at best and distracting when it was so obviously incoherent. I don’t mind vague/basically magic ‘science’ in sci fi and while including real world concepts and inspiration can be interesting but it is glaringly obvious when its is misunderstood by the author. I prefer to think he is simply inept in conveying his scientific inspiration because otherwise his frankly obnoxious attempts to use real science to give his world depth fail spectacularly.

The author seems pretty chuffed with himself for putting real science into his sci-fi novel but I personally found it obnoxious and pretentious. I love science and I loved how he referenced various microbial phenomenon like living under extreme conditions or how some microbes metabolize radioactive material.

I was also low key triggered every time he said graphene. While I understand he meant the material was some kind of graphene composite it felt like he used it as a hand wave explanation for why a material or structure was strong or bullet proof. Frankly if he used vibranium or crystals or fairy dust in the same it would make little difference.

He was also inconsistent in the way the properties of the GrApHeNe materials were used. The bug chitin which was graphene based was used by people for armor yet the bug themselves used iron armor because their chitin wasn’t strong enough. So why wouldn’t the soldiers use chitin instead of using iron armor?

In another occasion it was stated the bugs’ chitin shells get fossilized but their bones do not because they are more edible??? It is completely contradictory to what was made clear earlier in the novel where it was stated the bugs bones were super strong since it is based on graphene matrix (which is in place of the osteoid matrix human bones have). So why would they be digested? Are the lifeforms very good at breaking down the graphene composite of the bones but unable to break down the graphene composite of the chitin shells? An while rare soft tissue can also be fossilized so why can’t the bugs’ bones be fossilized? I am aware I put more thought into it that the author but these inconsistencies bothered me so much while reading. I’m not even going to touch how while a graphene composite material would be ‘strong’ it would not have the same hardness or rigidity that is required of a endoskeleton that our own calcium-phosphate mineral based bones have. What I am wondering is if these bugs are floppy boned? Did the author actually mean they had a diamond based bone matrix???

Also it’s laughable how the author named the bugs with hard graphene based exoskeletons “antracoderms” which means carbon-skinned. Sir! Everything is carbon skinned! Human skin is carbon skinned! Especially since there was a whole spiel about how calling them ‘bone’ skinned or ‘plate’ skinned would be incorrect? Surely saying graphene skinned or diamond skinned would be more technically accurate than carbon skinned.

The author clearly confuses graphene and graphite and their properties. He also had no clear idea how small nanoscale objects are? Sir, nanobots like those that were described in the novel are very unlikely. Unless they were made by some sort of biological fabrication, you are trying to suggest machines that are smaller than a human cell (so lets say the size of a virus) can do anything suggested it could do in the novel. If, even hypothetically creating a CPU so small, manufacturing billions of tiny robots on any large scale is not economical. What makes it clearer that the author does not know how small the nano-scale is, a weapon was described as being nano-serrated as if that would be at all important or impressive? Even the sharpest knife would likely be nano-serrated! Having nano-serrations would not impact the efficacy of a bladed weapon??? It would just be sharp???

Introduction to Nanoscience: Some Basics

I included a diagram to show how small the nanoscale is (approximately 1000-1nm)

The fact that the airships were filled with hydrogen made me want to cry! It was so so dumb! Hydrogen is so incredibly flammable especially if you are using heated coils to heat it up! Maybe it would be fine if it was a closed system with no oxygen but it is not a closed system, because hydrogen escapes the high pressure balloons??????? Which is then replaced by making more hydrogen by electrolyzing water???

I was also irked by how everyone used thorium powered generators for energy generation instead of using the abundant geothermal energy to generate power? I mean, at least for heating houses they could have used geothermal power! And if they can generate electricity they could have ground level green houses using light lamps and use geothermal heat to warm green houses. Plus I’m a little bothered they used tons of soil for their flying greenhouses instead of using hydroponics which would be much lighter.

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The footnotes are annoying and distracting and misused. Not only it is frankly obnoxious to put citations in a fiction novel he rarely followed a proper format. Half the citations were links to Wikipedia pages or Youtube videos or his personal opinions and observations. I included my least favorite footnote which frankly destroyed any remaining respect I had for the story, plus it highlights the tone of jokes in this novel.

My conversation with a friend after reading the above section, sending her a screenshot and complaining about how painful it is to read.

Overall

I don’t recommend The Man from the Sky, unless that is, you enjoy suffering and reading poorly written books for ‘fun’.

The fact that this is meant to be “hard science fiction” is a bigger joke than any of the humour attempted in the novel which was either gross, lame or offensive. I hope before his next attempt at “hard” sci-fi Weeraratne gets someone with at least a basic understanding of chemistry or biology to proof read his work.

If I even attempt to read another one of this authors books please slap me upside the head and tell me “NO”. Save me from myself.

Rating:🐛/5

I do however recommend reading my review of Zeelam which is equally ranty.

Booklinks: Goodreads🐛Amazon🐛My Review of Zeelam by Navin Weerartne a.k.a “Zeelam by Navin Weeraratne is a misery to read: Rant Review”

A Monstrous Love by Magen Cubed: Review

Genre: fantasy, paranormal, romance, horror, erotica, short story collection

Category: Adult/ Erotic Romance (contains 18+ content)

Representation: lesbian/sapphic protagonists

Content warnings: gore, blood, cannibalism,

Publisher & publication date: June 13th 2020 via Kindle

Booklinks: Goodreads ❤️Amazon

Rating:4/5

Summary

This short anthology features four short stories about monstrous women in love. THE HAUNTING OF DIVINIA is an unconventional ghost story; a woman gives herself in every way to the demon she loves in BLOOD AND BREATHTASTE tells the story of a young couple with an unusual hobby; a vampire submissive does her best to please her human domme in HUNGER IN BONDAGE. Ghosts, cannibals, demons, vampires, leather, and blood in four short stories about monstrous women in love.

Review

A Monstrous Love was incredibly fun and I read it all in one sitting (it was only 24 pages). Personally I found some stories more enjoyable than others; Blood and Breath was definitely my favorite since I have a weakness for demons but The Haunting of Divinia was underwhelming and the ending was a bit confusing. I felt, considering on how short the stories were the author spent too much time setting the scene before actually getting to the meat of the story (pun intended). The writing was lovely and descriptive but not breathtakingly beautiful or quotable. The story was fun and addictive but not life changing or deeply moving.

Quality and story wise this is a 3/5 read but on a purely enjoyment sense this was 5/5 for me so rating wise I split the difference.

Overall

I’m not sure if I recommend this collection. I didn’t mind paying $0.99 for 25 pages since I enjoyed Leather and Lace by the author and loved the prospect of lesbian erotica with monsters. If you want some paranormal lesbian erotica with monstrous women definitly pick this up! But if the idea doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, you’re not missing much.

Rating:❤️❤️❤️❤️/5

Booklinks: Goodreads ❤️Amazon

Magen Cube is releasing her debut m/m monster hunter paranormal romance novel Leather and Lace on Feburary 2021.

Orient, Vol. 1 by Shinobu Ohtaka: Review

Genre: Shonen, fantasy, action, adventure, graphic novel, manga

Category: Shonen, Teen (+13)

Content warning: Blood, violence, murder, death, gore, fantasy discrimination, slavery

Publisher & publication date: April 7th 2020 by Kodansha Comics Digital-First!

Booklinks: Goodreads ⛏️ Amazon

Rating: 2.5/5

Summary

Musashi and Kojiro promised as children that when they grow up they will be Bushi, warriors who fight demons, after hearing stories about the Bushi from Kojiro’s father who descends from Bushi. At present the demons are seen as benevolent gods but Musashi knows the truth, that they are monsters from another world who are enslaving humanity. Ten years later Kojiro has given up on his dream but Musashi is still determined to be a Bushi and save humanity from the demons. This dream however is something he can’t tell anyone but Kojiro as their village worship the demons and think Bushi are terrible villians. On the day Musashi begins his job to mine minerals which are given to the demons as offerings he discovers the truth about their world…

Review

I was super excited about reading the Orient since I was a big fan of Shinobu Ohtaka’s earlier series Magi. However I was a bit underwhelmed by this first volume.

The story and the setting are great and very creative but so far it seems like a very typical Shonen manga and it’s probably a fine read if you are like Shonen manga. It’s not bad in any means! It is fast paced, the art and action is wonderful but the story and the characters themselves are a bit generic.

Maybe this is due to the weekly serialization format where something exciting has to happen every chapter because the lots of things happen but the actual story and characters develop very little. They protagonists seem to have a moment of growth or realization every chapter but its the same conflict over and over which becomes repetitive and frustrating. Albeit, the events of the first novel mostly happen over the course of a day so its not surprising but surely a slower pace would make it feel more natural. As of right now, the characters seem to be wishy washy over the same internal struggle which they seem to overcome pages previously. Maybe if I was reading it a chapter a week it would be fine but since I read the whole volume in one sitting it felt both rapid and slow moving. Like lights flashing in your eyes, there is a lot of things seem to happen but at the same time nothing is really happening.

That being said, I didn’t have a bad time. While reading it I was having a blast but as soon as it was over I felt disappointed. The demons were so creative and epic and so cosmically massive to comprehend. I felt a similar mix of fatigue in the end of the Magi series where the antagonists were pulling apart times and space and existence at the seams. I wish the earlier parts of the story had smaller enemies and more personal conflicts. The enemies and stakes seemed too large too fast. The characters were so out of their depth that you never for a moment think they’ll succeed to it was more frustrating than tense to read. I kind of wish they fought a demon god and met the other Bushi a few volumes later rather than within the first few chapters. Or at least have the story in the present take place over weeks rather than a couple days so it doesn’t feel so rushed and messy.

Overall

I would probably recommend if you are a big fan of Shonen manga and just want to read something new or if you are a big fan of Shinobu Ohtaka’s previous works. It reminds me a lot of the later chapters of Magi.

Rating: ⛏️⛏️⛏️/5

I received an arc from netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, Ted Goossen (Translator), Chip Kidd (Illustrator): Review

Genre: Supernatural, fabulism/magical realism, horror, short story, Japanese literature

Category: General fiction, all ages but might be too much for very young children.

Content warnings: violence, mild gore, physical abuse, animal death, references to death of a parent (off page)

Publisher & publication date: December 2nd 2014 by Harvill Secker

Booklinks: Goodreads📚 Bookshop.Org📚 Amazon

Rating:3/5

Summary

Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96 page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.

Review

The Strange Library is more than a story but a reading experience. I read the hard cover version of the book (lent to me by my friend) and it was absolutely gorgeous. The book is designed to resemble a library book with library date stamps, and illustrations and diagrams (think old anatomy and animal illustrations) taken from actual library books which are (sometimes tangentially) relevant to the story. It really added to the experience and the atmosphere giving the book a surreal and nostalgic feeling.

The story as a story was weird. It’s the first and only Murakami book I’ve read so I don’t know if it is typical of his writing (I’ve heard it’s a bit surrealist). It felt like a dream, following dream logic where things happen just because and you don’t even question the sheep man feeding you doughnuts. The ending was bizarre and sudden. While the reading experience was fun and immersive the story on its own was underwhelming.

Overall

I would recommend buying it if you want it for the aesthetic value and to look pretty on your bookshelf rather than for the story itself. The illustrations were amazing and the book itself is gorgeous. Probably worth it for Chip Kidd’s work! It goes so well with the story but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the story much.

Chip Kidd is fantastic! I highly recommend his talks about graphic design and his process on how he designed various book covers.

Rating: 📚📚📚/5

Leather and Lace (Southern Gothic Series, #1) by Magen Cubed: Review

Genre: Fantasy, paranormal, romance, LGBTQ+

Category: Adult/ General fiction, contains some 18+ sexual content/ erotica

Representation: Gay Lantinx protagonist, bisexual protagonist (mlm), several supporting characters are POC, gay supporting character, anxiety representation, protagonist experienced poverty/homelessness and did sex work/prostitution in the past

Content warnings: Murder, violence, physical assault, gore, blood, cannibalism(?), anxiety, panic attacks, abusive/neglectful parents (in the past),

Publisher & publication date: February 16, 2021 (self published via Kindle)

Booklinks: Goodreads 😈 Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Pitch: A Supernatural-esque monster hunter series about a gay Lantinx human hunter and bisexual vampire. It’s filled with angst, unrequited love and pinning and a slow burn friends to lovers.

I highly recommend it if you are a supernatural fan and are into the whole monster of the week type stories.

Summary

Dorian Villeneuve is an unlucky vampire from the slums of Devil’s Row. He makes ends meet for himself and his emotional support Chihuahua by working sleazy bars and nightclubs, doing what it takes to get by. Cash Leroy is a monster hunter from East Texas with a golden voice and an unrivaled devotion to Stevie Nicks. Hunting does not leave time for friends, let alone love.

When their paths cross during a bloody run-in with the vampire mob, Cash upends Dorian’s life—and takes Dorian under his wing to teach how to hunt monsters.

The unlikely pair become partners, and soon, best friends. However, their deepening bond grows complicated when Dorian falls in love with Cash. Their friendship is too important to throw away over an interspecies attraction, especially in a career that is already nasty, brutish, and short.

And things become even more complicated when Cash finds himself returning the vampire’s affections.

When an unusually deadly case lands in the hunters’ laps, their ill-fated affair takes a backseat. A pair of man-eating weredeer are on the loose taking victims’ hearts. With the pressure on to end the killing spree, Dorian and Cash must set aside their feelings and hunt down the blood-thirsty deer.

Can Dorian and Cash’s friendship survive this monstrous romance, or will they lose their hearts in the process?

Review

I finished reading Leather and Lace so quickly I’m distraught. It was so much fun but it was over so quick!

Leather and Lace is a wild, grab you by the collar and pull you along into adventure kind of fun. Dorian and Cash were so great! The book focused more on their relationship and personal stuff rather than the monster hunting. The monster hunting and fighting and investigation was central to the story but I wished there was more of it to be honest. Or maybe I just want to the book to be longer.


The story had a lot of depth and heart and was filled with love and pain. You can tell how much the author loves her character and the world she has created. The writing while pleasant and easy to read was just okay. It’s not especially quotable or beautifully written and was a bit awkward at times. Some phrases/descriptions were repeated often which I found a bit distracting.. The story was fun and exciting and addictive and made me feel emotions but on a technical, literary basis it felt lacking. I hate to be a snob but something about it felt underwhelming in a technical sense; like the way things were structured and how information was doled out. The story almost read like a very detailed screenplay for a movie or tv series with its omniscient pov. It felt awkward to read at times; especially with the unmarked changed in pov and shifting chronology between chapters. It wasn’t bad but I personally found it a bit confusing.


Then again, for what Leather and Lace is, for what it’s meant to be I think it is wonderful and definitely worth the read. It’s kind of like Supernatural mixed with a gay romance novel with complex characters and relationships. Reading Leather and Lace also made me listen to Stevie Nicks for the first time ever since I had no idea what the characters were talking about lol.

Overall

Leather and Lace was a really fun and satisfying reading experience. The characters and their complicated feelings were painfully real and relatable. Plus it really gives you the warm fuzzies at the end which was nice.

Rating: 😈😈😈😈/5

I received an e-arc on netgalley in exchange for an honest review

YJ delivery food market: Chinese Supermarket in Colombo Review(?)

Random post I know but I have no idea where else to post this.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering a new supermarket selling imported groceries. While shops in Colombo selling American brand name sweets, fancy ingredients and pastas (usually from the middle east) isn’t that hard to come by in Colombo. These are usually not really affordable for me and aren’t really worth the premium price. However I do have a weakness for East Asian markets and ingredients. Until now these shops have been beyond walking distance being concentrated in and near the Kollupitiya market.

I was excited when Tang Dynasty opened up on Galle Road but when we tried to go there last time the door was chained shut. 😭😭 An absolute tragedy!

Walking home, heart heavy with disappointment I convinced my mother to check the chinese supermarket we’d seen during a previous walk but wasn’t opened at the time.

Luckily YJ delivery food market was open!! It seems to be primarily a delivery service and the shop is relatively small but it has a good selection of products and well curated for the space. Plus it’s super convenient and has the labels in English and are priced marked! Which means the whole shopping experience is much easier compared to the chinese shops in the Kollupitiya market.

Aside from the sauces, dried spices, dried mushrooms, grain and noodles there were some snacks and drinks and vegetables and eggs. It had a very nice corner shop vibe. The shop lady there was super helpful and patient since there was a bit of a communication barrier. But she asked me to show pictures of what I wanted and figured out what I wanted. (and she had a cute cat keeping her company at the cash register)

I got some sauces, chilli oil, instant noodles, juices and frozen dumplings. We had the dumplings and chili oil for dinner! It was so delicious and nostalgic I wanted to cry. I havent had lao gan ma since university and it’s as delicious as I remember. True happiness. 😭😭

The location is super convenient and it’s more than enough for my needs ingredients wise so I’m pretty happy. Hopefully it will last for awhile! 🤞

Sorry for the poor picture quality but it was late and I was taking the picture secretly 😂

It’s located on Vajira road closer to the Galle road side than duplication road side. Definitely worth visiting.