Monthly Highlights – March

Well…this Wrap-Up style post is going up quite far into the month of April. I didn’t want to miss out on doing one for the month of March, so I decided it’s better late than never! Let’s do this!

So, here are my selections for the four categories I chose for this Monthly Highlights post!

Best Artwork/Illustrations 

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Title & Author: I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

Series: I Hate Fairyland

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 8/10 Unicorn Horns

Synopsis:  “An Adventure Time/Alice in Wonderland-style epic that smashes its cute little face against grown-up, Tank Girl/Deadpool-esque violent madness. Follow Gert, a forty year old woman stuck in a six year old’s body who has been trapped in the magical world of Fairyland for nearly thirty years. Join her and her giant battle-axe on a delightfully blood-soaked journey to see who will survive the girl who HATES FAIRYLAND.”  Goodreads

Most Underrated Read 

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Title & Author: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

Series: Mysteries of Cove

Genre: Fantasy – Steampunk

Rating: 8/10 Unicorn Horns

Synopsis:Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word.

Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.” –Goodreads

 

Most Interesting Powers/Magic System  

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Title & Author: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

Series: Zeroes

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 7/10 Unicorn Horns

Synopsis: Don’t call them heroes.

But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart. They can do stuff ordinary people can’t.

Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.

Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series.” –Goodreads 

 

Worst Overall Read  

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Title & Author: The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerski

Series: The Edge of Never

Genre: Romance

Rating: 2/10 Unicorn Horns

Synopsis: Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett had always been one to think out-of-the-box, who knew she wanted something more in life than following the same repetitive patterns and growing old with the same repetitive life story. And she thought that her life was going in the right direction until everything fell apart.

Determined not to dwell on the negative and push forward, Camryn is set to move in with her best friend and plans to start a new job. But after an unexpected night at the hottest club in downtown North Carolina, she makes the ultimate decision to leave the only life she’s ever known, far behind.

With a purse, a cell phone and a small bag with a few necessities, Camryn, with absolutely no direction or purpose boards a Greyhound bus alone and sets out to find herself. What she finds is a guy named Andrew Parrish, someone not so very different from her and who harbors his own dark secrets. But Camryn swore never to let down her walls again. And she vowed never to fall in love.

But with Andrew, Camryn finds herself doing a lot of things she never thought she’d do. He shows her what it’s really like to live out-of-the-box and to give in to her deepest, darkest desires. On their sporadic road-trip he becomes the center of her exciting and daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imagined possible. But will Andrew’s dark secret push them inseparably together, or tear them completely apart?” –Goodreads

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How I Got Into Reading Manga and Watching Anime

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Art by: randyadr

For the first time I’ve decided to do a purely anime related post! I’ll still be primarily talking and blogging about books and novels, but I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for some time now. I only recently (as in a few years) got into anime so figured I didn’t know enough to comment on anything.

After reading so many enjoyable and insightful posts from fellow bloggers like Michel@ Raistlin0903Zbourie, Karandi@ 100 Word Anime, Anime_girls_NYC, and in different ways by all my supportive followers, I’ve been motivated enough to finally give it a try. P.S. Any words in blue have links attached.

Now on to the post! I’d like to start with:

What is anime?

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Art by Animalunleashed

I have come across various definitions that get into “anime” needing to fit a certain criteria in order to be “real anime”, but I’m not even going to pretend to understand all that well enough to get into any of it. I’m just going with the most basic definition. Anime, from what I understand, is short for “animation”, but when used in this context it exclusively refers to animated material originating from Japan. 

How/Why Did I Start Anime?

I grew up watching many of the same anime shows as other 90’s kids: Dragon Ball Z , Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptor Sakura. But had no idea what anime was. In fact I spent years thinking anime was…it pains me to admit this… “some weird thing to be scoffed at”, and had no interest in.

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I sincerely apologize to all anime lovers/watchers and of course to Anime!

I was thankfully educated by an old friend and closet anime lover, and learned the truth: I had unknowingly been interested in anime all along lol. Now I’ll do something I generally opt to avoid like the plague, I’ll get a little bit personal:

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I’ve always been into reading (like that scene from Matilda I was that kid that would be carting home a wagon full of books from the library). I had some other hobbies/interests, but spent most of my free time between books and binge watching the latest TV show. With the exception of when I went off to school this remained true until around mid-March in 2014.

I won’t get too into it, but unfortunately I got sick. I had a bunch of inexplicable symptoms and did a ton of tests, but for about a year doctors couldn’t figure it out. For one, I had a lot of trouble focusing on anything, and worst of all I couldn’t write or read more than a few sentences without getting really dizzy. If I pushed things (which considering my love of books I did quite a bit of at first lol), I lost the ability to make sense of any of the words, along with getting a horrible migraine. At first doctors thought it was stress, then possibly MS, then about a year later they thought they found a brain aneurysm. Of course saying this was not the best of times for me is an understatement.

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But lucky for me I remembered the old conversation I had with Closet-anime-fan. So I decided, with nothing better to do since I wasn’t actively going to school and could barely handle most tasks, I’d start on some of the most popular anime series; shows I’d caught glimpses of as a kid, but hadn’t gotten the chance to watch them: Naruto, InuYasha, and Bleach, in that order

To be honest it was a bit of a rough start. I couldn’t understand why Naruto was so popular, but desperately needed something to take my mind off of everything (regular TV shows/movies just weren’t doing it anymore) so kept going. An entire 20-something episodes in my eyes were open. Once I finished those three I immediately went on to other top shonen (young male) shows:

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Art byAxelVera96

Needless to say, I was awed. Similar to how I was when I’d come across a mind blowing book series, I found myself wondering, “how did I not know about such amazingness before!? I quickly fell in lust, and moved on to shojo/shoujo (young girl) anime shows:

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Ouran Host Club: art by mixed-blessing; The Wallflower: washue; Fruits Basket: kuro-mai; Skip Beat!: alexielart

I watched a bunch of random shows before getting a bit tired of the young adult atmosphere, and eventually coming across something called seinen and josei (adult male/female) anime shows: 

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Samurai Shamploo: drodilla; Darker Than Black: talesvf; Black Lagoon: Hallucination-Walker; NANA: Alicechan

I was shocked to learn anime had so many different genres/stories, and could be so dark/psychological and thought-provoking. I pretty much became an addict for the first year, haha. 

What is Manga and How/Why Did I Start Reading It?

Manga, again in the most basic terms from my understanding, is basically Japanese comics. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but they differ from North American comics in both how they are published, and in the fact that they are always (with the exception of special editions/pages) published without colour in black and white.

manga_collage_by_amuntquart-d5p10e0.jpgby amuntquart

Of course, it was anime that had gotten me into manga in the first place. It ended up much like when I had started anime and had yet another shameful thought (it seems I’ve had many of these): “I’ll never watch subbed!” Then I ran out of most of the dubbed shows I had a high interest in watching, tentatively switched to subbed, and once again had my eyes opened. For manga, despite my early reservations, I ran out of patience for waiting on so many anime shows that had been dropped to possibly be picked up again by another company. So to start I went on Bookoutlet, found a couple cheap manga and bought them, because of course it never crossed my mind to just go to the library. 

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I wasn’t a big fan of either, namely Your & My Secret, but more importantly not only did the big difference in how to read it go well, but I found I could actually get through it without feeling sick. At this time my mysterious illness had been really improving, but I still couldn’t get through half a book before feeling too sick to continue so I was really hesitate to start. Thankfully my first attempts went well, and I found I could get through a few volumes before I had to call it quits. Soon enough, just like with the anime, I became a manga reading addict for almost a year lol.

I notice I’ve been kinda/pretty vague on details, but will say I eventually I got the good news of the brain aneurysm being a misdiagnosis! Yeah! As things got better I gradually started reading more and more manga at a time. Then slowly and gradually got back into reading regular novels. As you could probably tell from all the novel reviews and posts, I’ve been much better since and will be going back to school later this year or next!

So that is my story on how I started manga/anime, and ultimately how they both helped me deal with all that crazy life stuff. I’ll eventually get around to doing a post on my top favorite anime shows and movies. Thanks for reading! Now on to more anime!

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Changing my book buying habits! 

I love books and the written word, that’s pretty much a given, but a very very long time ago I developed the compulsion to own all the books. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it is a very slight one. Years upon years ago when I started working in my mid-teens I developed a habit of making physical and online visits to book retailers every two weeks, like clockwork…well a clock that coincided perfectly with payday. I’d trot into Chapters/Indigo, the biggest book retailer in Canada, giddy as can be and outfitted in my comfy, practical sneakers because I KNEW I was going to be in the store for hours. I perused  almost every row and picked up numerous books, not only those I wanted to buy during that visit but also to compile lists of books that I would buy at a later date. I occasionally still find these lists in random places when I visit my mother’s house.

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I have absolutely no problem with how I used to approach book buying, which was to spend all my spare money on books. After all the bills, essential savings, groceries, and miscellaneous things were financially taken care of  I spent ALL my leftover money on books e-v-e-r-y paycheck! Now in theory there is absolutely nothing wrong with this and  I would still be practicing this behaviour to this day with absolutely no qualms. But as life would have it, about a year and a half ago I had to drastically revamp my approach to buying/acquiring books because I had to begin intense savings for some upcoming life events. Initially I was petrified and devastated at the thought of not being able to buy books whenever I pleased, having to figure out a way to change the way that I had been buying books for so many years, and having less money at my disposal to spend on books. After some much needed mourning and internal tears for all my children (books, mangas, comics, graphic novels) that wouldn’t be able to have any new friends, siblings or cousins anytime soon…I began the torturous journey! 

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1. Willpower

I was well aware of the fact that I had absolutely no willpower when it came to denying myself of buying books. So I thought that that should be where I started, developing some much needed willpower to make this work. After about two month of denying myself of all things I perceived to be a temptation-visits to book stores, promotional emails from book sellers, recommendations from Booktube and Goodreads, upcoming new releases-and vehemently ignoring the gaps for sequels on my shelves…I deluded myself into believing that I was “cured” and had developed willpower. What I had actually done was given myself a false sense of having a strong will, because denial of something does not equate to having given myself any of the tools I would need to actually change my age old habits when I returned to the “tempting” situations listed above. So, of course as soon as I returned I caved and spent money that was not intended for book shopping. Safe to say my attempt at honing and developing the elusive skill “willpower” was a bust.

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2. Identifying my weak spots and patterns of overspending

a) I like books that I purchase/acquire to be in perfect condition.

b) I’m a sucker for reward systems.

c) I’m also a sucker for promotions where you receive additional (5x or 10x) points on aforementioned rewards system.

d) I like to be able to easily and quickly return/exchange merchandise. 

My supposed failure made me feel like garbage, but it helped me to realize that I was approaching this process wrong. Instead of trying to outright stop buying books for a set period of time or trying to not spend money on books when I “shouldn’t” be…I would need to find a better way of getting away with buying books without breaking the bank, so to speak. For as long as I can remember I have preferred to buy books from Chapters/Indigo because of habits a) through d), which are listed above. I wasn’t ready to change that about myself, ESPECIALLY not having my books be in as good of condition as possible. Another weak spot for me is that I absolutely love the reward points system at Chapters/Indigo and have been collecting points on their PlumRewards program since 2011 and before that I had an iRewards card with them too. Critically assessing my previous book purchasing habits I was able to be absolutely honest with myself about the fact that I just didn’t want to save money on books by the more obvious methods such as buying books at thrift stores, used book stores or remaindered online book stores (where it is expensive to return items that were not in satisfactory condition when I received them).

3. Getting Creative

There are a few different things that I have done that have worked for me for over a year now that allow me to buy books from my preferred retailer and that leave me guilt free. The first great thing is effectively utilizing gift cards and maximizing on the potential that they can provide. Chapters/Indigo allows you in-store to start a gift card with any amount. What I chose to do was initially put $10 on a gift card and add money to it in store whenever I have some money to spare. I then allow it to accumulate so that when there is an amazing deal or a good promotion that I would like to take advantage of I can do so without having to come up with the money on the spot or be tempted to spend money that I shouldn’t be spending on books. Another great advantage is that most book retailers (even those that sell mainly remaindered books i.e. BookOutlet) allow you to purchase giftcards online in increments as small as $5. You can buy these for yourself to use at a later time when there is something that you “must have”. You can also request that relatives, friends, and co-workers give you a gift card for holidays, gift exchanges, special occasions and birthdays. Then just accumulate them for times when you want to purchase books. Those have been the two most effective things that I have adopted into my book buying routine in regards to reducing the financial strain of purchasing books.

Another great approach that I have taken to book buying is prioritizing the items that I want to buy. Many book retailers provide their patrons the option on their website to create wish lists and/or gift lists. In there I organize the books I want by novels, mangas, and graphic novels. I also have lists set up for when the next rewards program promotion will occur and lists for sequels and new releases.

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I love the fact that I am able to still buy books while being on an incredibly tight and restraining budget. I found out the ways that work best for me and that’s an amazing feeling. So much of my identity since childhood has revolved around books and reading. I’ve always been known as the Unicorn who always has a new book in their hoof and I think I would be miserable if I hadn’t found an efficient way to be able to continue to buy books. Unfortunately, for me, I won’t be able to return to my previous habits anytime in the near future, but at least I don’t have to feel too deprived. I hope this post will also be helpful to anyone who may be trying to change their book purchasing habits. If you are not one of us poor souls, enjoy buying books at your hearts content and as long as you are not causing any harm to yourself or others with your book buying addiction…just tell all the nay-sayers to go unicorn themselves lol. Happy Reading! 

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