Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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This post is going to be a bit different from my usual style and content, as I’ve finally- for those that have been suggesting it for quite some *cough* decided to also write a little on anime. Now this doesn’t mean I’m turning this into an anime site, I’ll still be doing the regular bi-weekly book review posts (excusing times where things get busy and there isn’t any *ahem*). This just means I’ll occasionally be doing an extra post here and there on anime, or something like this one- where it’s mainly a manga review, but I add in some of my thoughts on the anime adaption if I’ve watched it. 

Last year I decided to go outside of my comfort zone with anime and tried out a few shows in the Slice of Life genre (similar to but not quite contemporary for those of you who don’t know). Some went more or less like I was expecting- I was bored out of my mind- but a few others were gems and made me change my mind about Slice of Life in general. Barakamon, not to be confused with Bakuman (am I the only one that did this?), was one of them.

Synopsis:

Barakamon follows the life of a 23-year-old professional calligrapher, Seishuu Handa, after he moves out to the booneys on a small island. The calligraphy bit got me interested, but so did his reason for moving in the first place: as a much needed getaway following a… let’s call it “mishap” with the Exhibit Hall Director at a showing over some publicly dished out criticism.

Exhibit A:

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Naturally this all led to him having some…issues in his work and social life, so he readily agreed to being sent off to the middle of nowhere. But, of course, his hopes of getting some peace and quiet to focus on his work are quickly crushed by one trouble making first grader: Naru.

Exhibit B:

 

My Rating (for both): 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

The hilarious interactions between main characters Handa and little Naru are definitely the selling point of this series. I found myself bursting into laughter every chapter/story at their antics, the many resulting misunderstandings, and Handa’s often immature reactions to Naru’s actions and logic. The characters and humour are part of what made this series so enjoyable for me. Even the side characters that make small appearances had their place and made themselves memorable in some way. 

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In the first volume, along with a handful of villagers, we only meet Naru, a couple of her classmates, the two middle schoolers Miwa and Tama, and high school senior Hiroshi. Things don’t get too in-depth with them seeing as this is the first volume, save for maybe Hiroshi, but there is just enough to get a grasp on each character. I was taken back by how well Yoshino was able to make a cast of characters with such varying ages work. And equally surprised I didn’t find the kids really annoying. Of course the anime goes further than what I’ve read, but I’m seriously looking forward to going through all the craziness again in later volumes (especially the bits when Tama’s secret hobby and future dream come to light).

Then there’s the out-of-nowhere-gut-punching (a.k.a metaphoric life messages that really hit home). They’re nothing incredibly mind blowing, just some words about everyday life and hurtles most (meaning me) have forgotten had such simple answers somewhere along the way. Naru and Hiroshi did this very well through their interactions with each other, often giving insightful advice and encouragement just by being themselves. Coupled with the humour this made it become a solid and unforgettable series for me, which was unexpected considering my strong preference for an overarching plot. 

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Since this story takes place on a remote island, the inhabitants actually speak a different dialect (Kansai dialect). In the manga the translator used an old country sounding accent for all the characters living on the Island to represent this, save city raised Handa of course. While the anime does the same, reading it in the manga was a slightly different experience. This wasn’t a negative thing, just took some getting use to. 

The taste of small town life was another surprising enjoyment, and actually made me want to give it a try sometime. That and of course my introduction to the world of professional calligraphy. Naturally I won’t be taking this as a how-to-guide, but it did get me thinking, and also broaden my world by making me stop and really take it in as an art form. Especially a particular scene in the anime…which I can’t actually show cause it would definitely count as a spoiler. 

(Poor) Non-spoiler substitute: 

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Lastly, I never say much about it in any of my reviews unless I found it mind-blowing, but will say I like the art style. It’s good as far as I’m concerned and easy to follow, but noticeably changes (in a good way) from the first chapter to the last. 

I watched the anime a few months ago, and have only just read the first volume so can’t compare them much without spoilers. But so far the adaptation did a very good job. I’d recommend checking out either one since the anime seems to have done a fairly good job at capturing the essence of the manga, and the characters in it. Both were hilarious, charming, and overall very enjoyable.

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Find it On:

MAL;  Goodreads

Stream/Buy the Anime On:

Crunchyroll;  Funimation

Buy the Manga At:

Indigo/Chapters;  Amazon;  Barnes & Noble;  Right Stuff Anime

 

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My Top 10: Most Surprising Reads of 2017

 

We have finally come to the end of the “My Top 10” series of lists. The finale is a list of the Book/Manga/Series that surprised me most. Whether I ended up liking the book more than I thought possible, was expecting to hate the story and then didn’t, or the story went down a completely unexpected path. They are all listed below in no particular order. 

 

 

Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda

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Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat

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Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura

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Hunger by Roxane Gay

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Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase

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The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson 

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

*This Review is Spoiler-Free*

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Find it on Goodreads

Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Buy it at Book Depository

Buy it at Amazon

 

In this novel we are introduced to main protagonist Salvador (Sal) Silva. He’s always been content and happy with his life as the son of a gay father and as a part of a loving Mexican-American family. Although Sal was adopted by his father Vincente, he was never made to feel excluded or unloved within his family, but lately Sal has begun to become angry, conflicted, and confused about who he truly is. Through Sal, his best-friend Sam, friend Fito, his father and his Mima the author takes us on an exploration of themes revolving around identity, loss, grief, and family.

 

My first Benjamin Alire Sáenz novel was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and unfortunately I had not read any other novels by this author since then. So, I was excited as all heck when I discovered that he would have a new release in 2017 and read it immediately following the release. I promised myself that I would never review Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe because I am incapable of being even remotely critical of that novel. Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s novels (that I have read) are incredible and I am finally able to share that through this review of The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. It’s safe to say that I’m excited for this review….so, let’s get this show on the road.

 

One of the most impacting aspects of Saenz’s novels is family dynamic. He writes so beautifully and truthfully about family and the people we choose to consider family. Sal, Sam, Fito and Vincente end up being their own family unit which you don’t necessarily anticipate going into reading this novel. Sal’s grandmother, affectionately referred to as Mima, is a grandmother to all. She is able to quickly and wholeheartedly embrace someone into her family. She is the epitome of the nurturing, caring matriarchal head of family character and is notorious throughout the story for showing her love through cooking for and feeding her loved ones.

 

I told you that there were only two things you needed to learn in life.

You needed to learn how to forgive.

And you needed to learn how to be happy.

 

Sal being adopted in no way affects his place within his family. He is not ‘othered’, seen as any less significant and/or an integral part of their family unit. Sal’s father is just amazing! Saenz’s does a fantastic job of writing parents that are supportive and role-models for their children. Parents who accept their children for who they are and help to guide their children to develop themselves in positive ways. Unfortunately, all too often in YA fiction the parent(s) and/or parental figures are absent. It is even more devastating because POC parents are very often written as an Antagonist and/or a negative aspect of their child’s life. Maybe because this novel contains own-voice POC representation, the novel in does not fall victim to this trope.

 

Another major theme within this story is loss/grief. Although, death is not the only thing that causes characters in this story to grieve, it is the most prevalent and obvious source. With the exception of some deaths that occur throughout the duration of the novel, not much else happens in terms of plot. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a character driven story….a verrrrry character driven story. If you are looking for a story that is going to have a lot of major plot points, this is not the novel you are looking for.

 

That’s the way it was when you loved someone.

You took them everywhere you went—​whether they were alive or not.

 

I recommend The Inexplicable Logic of My Life to readers looking for a coming-of-age young adult contemporary novel that has a strong focus on family and that explores themes of identity, belonging and grief. If you are sensitive to story lines that include people passing away and having to read through multiple character’s grieving process then I would not recommend that you pick up this novel. I give The Inexplicable Logic of My Life  a rating of 7.5 Unicorns out of a possible 10.

 

 

 

My Top 10: Best Reads of 2017

 

Happy New year!!

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Now, normally people would start off this year with looking towards the future, but when have I ever been normal? So for the first day of 2018, I give you my list of Best Reads in 2017! 

 

1. Half Bad Trilogy by Sally Green

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2. Vagabond Manga Series by Takehiko Inoue

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3. Written in Red Series by Anne Bishop

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4. Juliet takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

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5. The Wallflower Manga Series by Tomoko Hayakawa

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6. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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7. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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8. xxxHolic Manga Series by CLAMP

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9. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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10. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Enjoy your 2018 reading/watching/playing!! 

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**As usual all gifs are from Gify and pictures were taken from Goodreads/Chapters except for: 1. Half Bad; 2. Vagabond6. The Wallflower; 8. xxxHolic; 9. Six of Crows**

My Top 10: Worst Reads of 2017

Here’s a list of the 10 worst books and series that I read during 2017. They are listed below in no particular order, they just all had the dishonor of being the most putrid things I had the displeasure of reading this year. A pretty sucky way to end the year lol, but I wanted to begin 2018 by highlighting the positive reading experiences that I’ve had this year. So, here goes the last Maniacal Book Unicorn book bashing fest for 2017! Yay! 

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Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

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Sweet Pool by Nitro+CHiRAL, Mayu Kurumazaki

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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X by CLAMP

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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The Record of a Fallen Vampire by Kyo Shirodaira

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The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen 

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The Edge of Never by J.A. Redemerski

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The Anita Blake Series by Laurell K. Hamilton

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My Top 10: Most Disappointing Reads of 2017

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Sometimes having high expectations for something is a good thing. This time? Not so much. Here’s my top ten books/series of 2017 that fell short of my expectations, or started out promising but fell short somewhere along the way.

A.K.A: Top Ten that made me a sad unicorn:

1. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

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2. Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP
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I actually wasn’t sure whether to add this to Top Ten Worst Reads instead. It was one of my favourite shows as a kid, and I now enjoy CLAMP’s work. So I was excited for this, but a teacher X middle school student relationship? Nope.

3. Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

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4. Dance of Cloaks by David 
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I was definitely overdoing it on my expectations for this one. Funny thing is I probably would have enjoyed it 10x more if I wasn’t expecting so much. Still thought it was good/okay though.

5. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

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6. Talon by Julie Kagawa
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Overall it was okay, but I was just expecting something different than what I got. 

7. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

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8. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
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My sadness for this one was real. Those hardcovers are so pretty 😢 

9. You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

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10. Wayward: String Theory by Zub, Cummings, Rauch, Bonvillain, & Dillon
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Really not a bad series, I just wasn’t nearly as taken with it as I wanted to be.

 

So what were your most disappointing reads? Did any of my top ten match yours?

P.S. This is just my own personal feelings about the book/series, and doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t like anything about the story or enjoy reading it

Thanks for reading!

The TBR Tag (The TBR Book Tag)

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THANK YOU SO MUCH! I was tagged to do The TBR Tag  by James J. Cudney at the This Is My Truth Now Blog! If you haven’t gotten a chance to read their post for this tag, you can read it here.

 

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Welllll…..I don’t really have a traditional TBR, I think the method that I use most often would be Goodreads’ “Want To Read” shelf, but that honestly isn’t very accurate. Because I don’t reference that list of books very often. A lot of the things I want to read I just “remember” that I’d like to read them in the future. I have all those years of pre-Goodreads reading and TBRs to thank for that lol.

 

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

My TBR is mostly print books as that is my preferred method of reading books.

 

How do you determine which book 
from your TBR to read next?

I’m very much a mood reader. So, I don’t have a system for picking which TBR book I’d like to read next. I don’t utilize a TBR in the typical sense….I just happen to have a bunch of books that I own or that I’ve heard of that I would like to read. But I don’t allow those books to dictate what I will read next or in the next few years. I leave my reading options very open. 

 

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest.

The first book I ever shelved as “Want to Read” on Goodreads is Divided (Darkest Powers #1.5). Divided is a novella from the Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong. 

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A book that you recently added to your TBR.

The most recent addition to my TBR on Goodreads is Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1) . I’m excited to get around to reading this series next year as the third and final (as far as I know) book was published this year.

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A book on your TBR strictly 
because of its beautiful cover.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and the entire Fairyland series as a whole. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I’ll probably never read these books and I recently unhauled them and a few days later put them back on my shelves because they’re too beautiful to part with. So, clearly these books are sticking around for merely their aesthetic merit.  

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A book on your TBR that you 
NEVER plan on actually reading. 

Okay, so I have a love/hate relationship with Abbi Glines’ books and I pretty much hate read her Rosemary Beach series. Since, putting myself through that torturous experience I have gotten a lot better with my “need” to complete a series, regardless of whether I am enjoying it or not. So, the book that is currently shelved as “Want to Read” on Goodreads that I’ll NEVER read is Up in Flames (Rosemary Beach #13).

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An unpublished book on your 
TBR that you’re excited for.
 Pet by C.S. Pacat
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A book on your TBR that basically 
everyone has read except you.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

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A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you. 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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A book on your TBR that you’re just dying to read. 

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

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The number of books on your Goodreads TBR shelf. 

Okay, this number is so ridiculous that I feel an obligation to preface the “big reveal” with an explanation. So, a few months back I got the brilliant idea to scan into Goodreads all the books I owned. I have been wanting to add all the books I own to Goodreads ever since I joined. I have always wanted to have somewhere where I could keep track of the books I own and very easily be able to reference the exact number. Well, little did I realize, until I was over three quarters of the way through scanning all the books with my phone, that Goodreads automatically shelves all the books you’ve scanned into your “Want To Read” Shelf…so yeah we ended up with this number: 1045, as of today.

 

Tag, you're it!!!

Dressed to Read

A Book. A Thought.

The Otaku Judge

Reviews by Savi

A Booknerd Travels

Also, anyone who would like to do this Tag, but hasn’t been officially tagged yet….go for it!