Golden Kamuy, Vol. 1 by Satoru Noda

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I actually never heard of, or seen this series before reading it. It’s just one from the (always) giant pile of random books I recently picked without reading the synopsis from the library. And I have to say I’m glad I decided to pick up so many unheard of books this time around, because I’ve found a few gems I know I’d never have picked up to read if I’d know what it was about before hand.

Synopsis: A recent war veteran dubbed Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto finds himself dishonourably discharged, and desperately searching the wild mountains of Hokkaido for gold in postwar gold rush 1904. Of course he finds nothing, except an old man with an interesting story: a ruthless man murdered a group of Ainu (Japanese First Nations), stole their giant pile of gold, and was caught and imprisoned. Of course once the secrete of the large gold mine got out, with all the people-government and otherwise- wanting a piece, escape became impossible. So what did this man do? In the hopes his friends with find them, he tattooed cryptic instructions of where he left the gold on all his prison mates with the promise to share with them. They stage a prison break, and succeed.

Now of course Sugimoto doesn’t believe a word, until a bear attack and dead body later, when he gets to see the unique tattoos himself. While protecting this body from said bear, help comes from an unexpected ally, an Ainu girl who’s father was a victim of the murdering thief. The two form an unlikely bond while surviving the bear attack and begin working together to hunt down the prisoners. One for the gold, the other for revenge.

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pgs 61-62

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns

This was a very different story from what I’m used to reading, so I was surprised to find myself liking it so much. Despite the historical setting and mystery (two things I enjoy, just not together), the story line and where it’s heading were more than enough to make me change my mind. Things get a bit graphic here and there once they start hunting down prisoners, but things never felt needlessly gruesome. I gave it such a high rating for it’s uniqueness. The story may be similar to others, but incorporates a fair amount of original ideas- like the multitude of referenced info about Ainu people I loved learning. 

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I can’t say much about the setting since I know next to nothing about 1904 Japan, but I enjoyed the learning experience, especially when they took to the wilds. Noda gives tons of descriptions which made things feel more realistic. As for the characters, with the exception of one, I have no complaints. Sugimoto is a wonderfully complex ex-soldier who is decidedly unapologetic about taking lives if he’s threatened. Yet he’s also an intelligent, compassionate, and very capable fighter who shows hints of the recklessness and emotional instability born of surviving the horrors of war.

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Even one of the inmates and the hints of future antagonists, each having their own unique personalities, were fascinating to read/watch. Which all made the lack that is Asirpa, the young Ainu girl who becomes Sugimoto’s partner, pretty confusing. Though she’s clearly very intelligent and can hold her own in a fight, I found her fading to the background among Sugimoto and minor characters. I was pretty disappointed with her, but to be fair this is only the first volume. We get quite a bit of Sugimoto’s background, and learn about his motives and personality, so it’s my guess Asirpa, as the secondary main character, will be fleshed out as a character in a later volume.

Regardless this was a great read and I’m really looking forward to checking out the next volume. I actually have no idea who to recommend this to, seeing as how I would have never in my life picked this up. So I guess if anything I’ve said about his series in my review interests you, please give it a try! Thanks for reading =)downloadg.jpg 

 

 

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The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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To be completely honest I had actually completely forgotten I had this book in my collection. I was doing a major bookshelf dusting and was on the shelf holding my graphic novels when BAM! I got to this cover and was unnervingly surprised. I lovingly…and possibly a little creepily…consider all my books “my children”, so to come across one I barely remember receiving as a gift was quite the shock. So of course considering I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately (hence the recent overabundance of manga/comic reviews lol), but am almost always up for a bit of horror I decided to give this neglected volume some much needed love. 

Synopsis: I like to put things in my own words, but the opening first few pages honestly sum things up quite perfectly so I can’t help but just quote it (Pgs 1-2 of The Beauty):

Two years ago , a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm. This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before. This was a disease that people actually wanted. “Victims” of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus. Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed. It became known as the beauty. The beauty quickly became a fad. Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.

The only downside appeared to be a slight fever, but that didn’t seem to slow many people down. Now, over half the population has the beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it. Anti-beauty cells have popped up around the nation. The majority teach preservation, reminding everyone that the beauty is still a disease. A few, however, have taken a more aggressive approach to stopping the spread of the beauty…

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Image from Pg 3. of The Beauty

Rating: 9.5/10 Unicorn Horns!

A page after such an intriguing introduction to the modern world setting of The Beauty, we meet detectives Foster and Vaughn of the local city’s Beauty Task Force as they respond to the possible anti-beauty murder of a young woman. Only once they arrive at the scene it’s clear things aren’t as they appear as the young woman, by all appearances, looked instead to have spontaneously combust while traveling on the train. Things are quickly complicated even further when the case is quickly pulled from them by the Center for Disease Control by “Federal mandate”. This leads both detectives Foster and Vaughn (an unwilling carrier of ‘the beauty’) to look into the buried secrets behind the mysterious STD and those seeming to keep this horrific secret from the general public.  

Honestly…I don’t have much negative things to say about the first installment of what looks to be a very promising adult series. The story had a really good flow to it and was riddled with action, thriller, conspiracies, and a great diverse group of characters. One thing I loved was the bits of real life socially controversial thoughts and ideas about beauty woven in here and there. The art was visually appealing, and though I can’t say the main characters were personally among my favorites they were very well created and felt pretty genuine. The only reason it’s not a 10/10 is purely because of personal reasons. I would recommend this to just about every story loving adult, but warn about explicit violence, language, and a couple nude and censored sexually explicit scenes. This was an amazing start to a series with such a unique idea I couldn’t praise it enough!

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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While at work one day about six months back I was desperately searching the Toronto Public Library e-catalogue for a novel to read. Absolutely nothing that I was interested in reading was available at the time which forced me to browse the selection of graphic novels that were on the site. I initially was not interested in reading a digital copy of a graphic novel because I had assumed it would be difficult to decipher the text. It actually was not a horrible reading experience and since then I have read a few other digital comics. 

After their father is killed, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode move to the family estate, Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts with their mother Nina. The Lovecraft family are still on edge after the brutal murder of Rendell, but have dull comfort in the fact that one of his killers, Sam is in prison. Now with miles between the place of such a tragic family disaster they attempt to adjust to life in Lovecraft with the help of Rendell’s younger brother Duncan. The youngest of the Lovecraft siblings, Bode comes across a key that unlocks a Ghost Door which separates the soul of the person who “walks” through from their body. Using the key Bode is able to explore Keyhouse undetected. In the nature of all good fiction the story is not easy sailing from then on and the family soon has much more to worry about than just healing and moving forward.

I had heard good things about these comics around the time of its initial release and I intended to read them, just not at that time because I didn’t want my expectations to be unrealistically high. I am so glad that I made that decision and by the time I did begin the series I had forgotten what it would be about. It is a wise decision to go into reading these graphic novels not knowing much about the premise so that you are able to discover and be captivated by all the going-ons in Keyhouse. The story is incredibly intriguing and entertaining. You are initially sprung into the story with violence and as the story progresses you are able to overcome the initial shock/gore and develop an actual connection to the characters. Too often in a horror story, whether that be a novel or comic, the characters can feel under developed as the author chooses to focus on the scare tactics that they employ to entertain the reader. In Locke & Key the characters are fleshed out and they continue to evolve as the story, and the series as a whole, unfolds. 

In addition to the well executed storyline this graphic novel has exceptional artwork. Gabriel Rodríguez’s illustrations in this series is mind-blowing and his art style lends itself so well to the story. The illustrations themselves add an element of darkness and mystery to the story and facilitate the more grim elements of the plot so very well. I absolutely recommend this graphic novel to all comic lovers who are able to enjoy stories that have elements of horror. What Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez have been able top create within the pages of this graphic novel is truly great and has absolutely become one of my favorite “darker” graphic novels. I give Locke and Key a well deserved 7.25 Unicorn Horns out of a possible 10 when I consider that this review is supposed to be only on Volume 1 and not the subsequent books as well. 

Wayward: String Theory, Vol. 1 by Zub, Cummings, Rauch, Bonvillain, & Dillon

*This Review Is Spoiler Free*

Wayward_Vol1-1

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Hey mom…I’ve been seeing invisible glowing lines in the air that lead me to important places or terrifying supernatural shit

I picked this one up by random…okay, no, that’s a lie. I picked this up and decided to review it purely because it has a ton of kitties on the cover accompanied by a chick looking like she’s ready to kick-ass. Other than that I knew nothing about this series going into it. So never expected to find that this story is almost like a Japanese comic (manga) in American comic form. 6.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

Synopsis: This story, largely translated from Japanese, begins with main character Rori Lane moving from her father in Ireland to start over with her mother in Japan. On her way home from giving her new settings in Tokyo a quick tour she gets surrounded by a clan of cats, attacked by kappa (monsters/demons from Japanese Folklore), and saved by a strange cat-like girl. This of course, along with the strange red threads only she can see, leaves her beyond confused. As she obeys her urge to follow these threads before a dark threat descends over the city, she’s lead to dive further into her strange new power, and unveil the “patterns” to the puzzle of ‘what the heck is going on?’. These patterns often lead her to a variety of new people. All with strange powers of their own.

wayward_chapter1.pngpgs. 4-5 of Wayward, Vol. 1

Overall I enjoyed this story and liked all the characters- Rori, Shirai (Rori’s first friend who has strange powers of his own and must eat living spirits in order to survive), the strange-cat-girl named Ayane, and others we meet later on. Though I have to admit, the dialogue/character interactions felt off here and there. I also can’t say the story always flowed well, as there were some odd transitions and things that didn’t quite add up or felt choppy/rushed. Either way this urban fantasy is set in a different country from what I’m use to (outside of most manga/anime I’ve read/seen), and riddled with Japanese Folklore which makes it very unique in many ways, and stands out from the crowd (there are notes in the back of the book providing snippets of background information). 

The pictures on the other hand were beautiful and I LOVED all the pretty colours. According to the forward at the beginning of this volume the scenes of Tokyo, the high school Rori attends, the city’s people, and the overall feel of Japan were truthful depictions of the country as opposed to an Americanized and glorified view. I’ve never been to Japan so can’t really comment, but will say that it was pretty cool seeing a realistic depiction of Japan in comic format (again outside of some manga/anime). 

Though the execution of the story wasn’t the best the overall idea is very intriguing, and with the way the 1st volume ended I get the feeling things will get better. Much better. I can honestly say I am looking forward to more. This wasn’t a favorite, but I’d still recommend this to most urban fantasy, folklore (especially from Japan), and superpower fans.

A Silent Voice By Yoshitoki Oima

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Bullying, miscommunication, and atonement. This is by far one of my all time favorite manga series: 10/10 Unicorn Horns! I’d been a little hesitant to review this series, but this is such a powerful story. With the movie now out (depending on your region) I decided to finally review the manga that I found so incredibly moving. So in my unashamed attempt to convince you that “you need this series in your life“, here’s a link to the beautiful, short, spoiler free trailer of the movie- I CANNOT WAIT to see- on YouTube, and of my review:

A Silent Voice- Official Trailer

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Synopsis: In the first volume A Silent Voice (a.k.a Koe no Katachi), before jumping ahead 6 years, surrounds young and very adventurous elementary student Shoya. Jumping off bridges, play fighting, getting into trouble, Shoya is a typical crazy daredevil whose friends join him in his everyday “battle against boredom”. While trying to think of the next great adventure they get a new transfer student, a young girl named Shoko Nishimiya. Being new isn’t what catches Shoya’s attention, it’s the way she introduces herself- using a pen and notebook. Nishimiya is hearing impaired. This of course leads to a ton of curiosity from classmates. Unfortunately this lighthearted curiosity quickly begins to take a turn for the worse as misunderstandings build into a frustration that results in deeply scaring both Nishimiya and Shoya.   

Koe no Katachi

It is narrated from the point of view of Shoya, the one responsible for instigating the bullying and harassment that eventually forced Nishimiya to transfer schools. And that, the POV, is something that I found so incredible about this series. To be completely honest, as someone who has been on the receiving end, I may have never picked this up if I had known it would be from the point of view of the bully, but after some internal struggling I came to really like the 17yr old Shoya in spite of everything. 

This story manages to bring up a ton of important themes, strong emotions, and issues- depression, self-loathing, shame, a bit of social anxiety, etc.- but more than that I think this story is also about unheard voices. The rest of the story really starts when six years after the so very incredibly infuriating events in elementary Shoya, using the same sign language he scorned, reaches out to Nishimiya, making a tentative attempt to apologize for what he did. This leads to an emotional journey that had a real impact on me, where characters struggle to develop the ability to truly listen and to make their voices heard.

Through the diverse group of characters, personality wise, that come to surround Shoya and Nishimiya you get to see a side of each person’s painfully real and unique voice, as well as dive into the issues with human communication/ miscommunication and of bullying- primarily dealing with the aftermath of it. There wasn’t a single character, major and minor alike, that felt out of place or unrealistic in their emotions. I recommend this all-feels-train of a series to just about everyone.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

Oscar Wao

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I bought this novel quite a while before actually getting around to reading it, which admittedly is something that occurs quite often in my reading life. I was at work and my manager had just bought The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and I mentioned to him that I owned it as well. We talked about all the positive and negative responses to the novel that we had heard/read and then decided that we would both read the novel and see how we both liked it. I did not know anything in terms of plot for this novel, essentially all I knew was that the main character was an overweight Dominican American fantasy nerd, the book contained quite a bit of Spanish, and that there were footnotes throughout the novel. If there was one thing I did distinctly remember, it was all the complaining and griping people did about the inclusion of footnotes! 

The first portion of the story is centered around Oscar, the next section is focused on his sister Lola, the third is dedicated to his mother Belicia (‘Beli’), and the final segment of the novel circles back to Oscar. I think it is important to mention that the novel focuses a lot on Oscar’s entire family and their individual experiences. There are many reviews that I have read of this novel that point out that the title mislead them into a false understanding that the novel was mainly about Oscar and that it in someway negatively impacted their reading experience. I also assumed that Oscar would be the only “main” character; however, that in no way affected my overall enjoyment of the novel. Diaz is able to begin and end the story with Oscar in a way that creates a “circle of content” that allows for everything between the ‘Oscar’ portions to be enclosed in the circle and directly related to Oscar. The reader is able to see how the events of the past directly affect the present. You are also able to see how Beli’s experience growing up as an orphan in Trujilio dictated Dominican Republic affected her and her children years after. The affects of other-ing, marginalization, racism, and sexism (among many other things) are incredibly prevalent throughout the novel, and are so beautifully and seamlessly woven into the story in a way that is so honest and truthful that it is easy to forget that this is a work of fiction.

Well…onto the footnotes and the inclusion of Spanish and Spanish influenced slang! The thought of footnotes and a language that is not English in an “English” novel may be off-putting to some, but I feel that it was actually incredibly important to the story. The footnotes about Rafael Trujilio are necessary for those who may not know who he is, what he did and how that drastically affect-ed/s Dominican people. In regards to the “Spanish issue”, I don’t see how one can be reading a novel about a Dominican American person and be surprised to find the language contained within, it just seems ludicrous to me! That’s about all the finger energy I am going to expel on those points because I could go on forever about this.

I would wholeheartedly recommend The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to any lover of Contemporary Fiction. Also, for those who like Historical Fiction, I think that there are elements to this novel that they would enjoy and appreciate. Oscar is a loveable and relatable character who loves some very nerdtastic things that are fun to read about. This novel is relatable as a whole, this is especially true for those who are the descendants of immigrants who lived in places of political unrest. If you are feel that you can read this novel without being put off by footnotes, the possibility of needing to search for a translation to understand a sentence, and reading about a family, then definitely give this novel a try. I give The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 8-out of-10 Unicorn Horns!

The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski

*This review is spoiler free*

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Camryn Bennett is a young woman that is unsatisfied with her life. In an attempt to find herself, Camryn leaves on a bus, with no specific destination in mind. Camryn encounters Andrew Parrish on one of the Greyhound busses along her trip and through an unbelieving series of events the two end up going on a road trip together.

I don’t even know what to say about this novel! The premise itself is not that engrossing and doesn’t pull you in right away. You go into reading this novel knowing that there is a person who is displeased with the direction their life is taking. Now, generally you would expect for the reasons or circumstances that caused the displeasure of the characters life to be revealed, well this book definitely does not deliver the answer to that question…or at least not in a way that makes sense. Oh, no wait…I guess it does make sense if your entire identity is wrapped up in someone else…then that person ceases to exist so you feel lost…but then you find a new human to develop your identity around while the story tries to act like you’ve developed any semblance of self or figured out what the hell you want out of life-except the new human and to travel-well, if you think about it that way then I guess The Edge of Never does make sense. I’m a firm believer in the whole concept of “If you can identify that there is a problem, then think of a solution”, but I fully well understand that that process can take time, especially when it comes to matters of self, identity, purpose etc etc etc. So of course it will take time in a novel to come to some solution to the whole “quarter life crisis” that Camryn was experiencing, but I got to the end of the novel and kept shaking my head and wondering to myself…how did we get here? Because there is nothing but absolute Unicorn FECES from beginning to end in regards to conflict resolution of the overall story arc.  

This novel is intended to be a romance, or so I have come to believe, but it displays an incredibly unhealthy relationship. This novel is not on Fifty Shades of Grey – or it’s New Adult equivalent, Beautiful Disaster – level, but it’s up there! The levels of misogyny that permeated almost all of the initial stages of Cameron and Andrew’s relationship was pungent. Then there’s the matter of the blatant stalking that occurred and the incredibly sad fact that because Andrew was attractive the reader is expected to not identify that it is stalking. Also, having that act be told from the perspective of Andrew doesn’t alleviate the unhealthy behavior and it  should not be written off as, or woven into, a supposed sense of concern. Well, we could go on to discuss ownership of a person, isolation, slut-shaming, abuse of power, and many more things that are jacked up about this novel…but, I’m going to call it quits here.

I have expressed in previous reviews that I don’t want to bash a particular novel because the Author puts in a lot of time and effort to create and bring the story to life. I also don’t think that J. A. Redmerski is a horrible human being just because I noticed and pointed out some things about this novel that are problematic and that perpetuate negative standards, ideas and representations of a romantic relationship. I have a serious concern when the ending, “explanations”, and “reasons” for someone’s behavior negates the red-flags that should have been flying high throughout the novel. Due to the problematic aspects, unlikable characters, unrealistic story, inconsistent storyline and character behaviors, predictability, lack of character development, and not strong writing I give The Edge of Never  a rating of 2-out of-10 Unicorn Horns.