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

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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 contentiously 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!

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

*This Review Is Spoiler Free*

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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.

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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.   

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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.

Zeros by Scott Westerfeld

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I can’t say I love all his books, but I will say I am definitely a fan of Scott Westersfeld. So I was genuinely excited about his new series Zeroes…well new at the time seeing as this was published late in 2015. Aside from the author the premise seemed pretty interesting as well so, like with many of his books, I added it to my collection.

Zeroes is YA about a group of diverse teenagers born with special, and somewhat unique/original abilities. The story bounces from each of  six main character’s POVs, but starts off with just two, Ethan and Kelsey. Ethan (code name Scam) has just come from a date and using his unique ability- he thinks of something he wants, walks up to a person, and a foreign voice comes out of his mouth with enough intimate knowledge about the person to charm them into just about anything- tries to get himself a ride home. Unfortunately for him his ability appears to have a somewhat dark side, and ends up getting him into a very complicated situation where he’s forced to call up his old friends (Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, and Bellweather A.K.A Glorious Leader) each with there own special ability. 

Kelsey (A.K.A. Mob), a mysterious girl with the ability to feel the pulse an flow of a crowd and influence it, pulling or pushing them along with her moods, is mainly focused on just enjoying this crowd riding feeling at parties. Though all this fun comes to a screeching halt the night she crosses paths with Ethan and finds her father in deep trouble.

I honestly can’t tell if I really liked this group of characters or not. Watching them as they learning to use and control their abilities was pretty compelling, and I found myself anticipating the moments when they learned new aspects of their gifts, questioned their abilities, and revealed snippets of their childhood struggle with what they were and could do. But other than a few moments here and there, I can’t really say I loved any of them. The flow of the story and the diversity (race, economic background, gender, physical abilities, and overall personality) of the characters kept things interesting enough that even with less liked characters I didn’t feel the usual need to skip right over someones POV. The story line wasn’t action-around-every-corner interesting, but had a really nice flow going for it, balancing action with character insight and development.

Overall this was a good start to an interesting series. 7/10 Unicorn Horns

Half Bad by Sally Green

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When I first picked up this book I knew nothing about it, all I cared about was the gorgeous hardcover look. The series was a gift from a friend who also had no idea what this series was about, but knew I’d love it just for it’s look (a blatant case of judging a book by it’s cover but in this case? I care not lol). After admiring it’s beauty on my shelves for almost a year, I finally admitted to myself that the many, many books I’ve collected and not read deserved more than just outward admiration. It was long past time to get to know my books on a more personal level and love them for what’s on the inside as well (yes I’m aware I’m speaking of my books as the living beings they are =p). So Half Bad by Sally Green is one of the many I’ve got lined up on my to-read-this-year list. 

Though I really enjoyed going into this story with absolutely no expectations or having any idea what it was about, for all those who aren’t up for spending time and money on a book they may have no interest in- Half Bad is set in the U.K. and is about a young boy named Nathan. Nathan, our main protagonist, is a witch, more specifically a half White and half Black witch. This very rare fact in the world of unseen magic users is something that brings Nathan a lot of trouble and a lot of pain- “a lot” being an understatement here. The story starts off with Nathan thinking of ways to “survive” the mental and emotional burden of being locked in a cage every night, and his jailer’s physical and psychological abuse. After we’re introduced to Nathan and his current circumstances, the story goes back to his family and how he came to be in a cage in the first place. 

I have to say I love this story. It’s not the best or most original out there, some things could have been done better, and many things were (to be completely honest) very predictable. Even so, I still loved this story. I loved the contrast- more like prejudiced and abusive discrimination- between Black and White witches despite them having very unoriginal powers. Despite some mild annoyances and repetitive behaviours/thoughts, I really liked Nathan. He has his good qualities of course, and I liked the fact that he’s a diverse character (has a learning disability he struggles with throughout the series). He is also angry with the world, distrustful of people, and makes some stupid choices. Even so I really liked him, and would say his anger is more than justified. I also loved or liked most of the other characters who come into play- most of his family, a handful I can’t name, and even his jailer I found myself liking (couldn’t help being interested in her personality). With few exceptions (three to be exact) I found most characters enjoyable.  

I’m on the 3rd book and, even despite my avid hatred of love-triangles and near-enough-to-it-insta-love (not actual inst-love since the romance happened over time, but quick and serious enough to feel a bit off), I still really enjoy this series as a whole. I genuinely liked the whole idea where White (supposedly good) witches and Black (supposedly bad) witches where quickly revealed to have equally good/bad personalities. It’s a pretty good read if you don’t expect an amazing and epic tale. The first book started off amazingly well, but did start to drop off a bit towards the end. If it wasn’t for that I’d rate this book 9/10, but deserves an honest 8/10 Unicorn Horns overall

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows the title character, Cameron who lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Ever since then Cameron has been living with her Grandmother and Aunt. That is until her Aunt sends her to some Camp that will “cure” Cameron of the “sin” of being attracted to other girls. The thing is that when Cameron had first heard the news that her parents had died, her initial reaction was relief because then her parents would never know that earlier that day she had been kissing another girl. Cameron has lived her life denying herself, of herself.

Oh the great stars, this novel had me all twisted and feeling all of the feels while I was reading it. Granted most of these feelings were from a place of anger, frustration, sadness and fear. The book is so incredibly honest and that honesty is what is able to so masterfully convey the exploration of ones identity, the denial of who you truly are, and the turbulent task of figuring out exactly ‘who’ that is. 

One thing to note is that this story is set in the late 20th century and thus the discourse around homosexuality was just pretty much ALL negative. There weren’t any resources for children and teens who lived in small towns to explore themselves in a safe and non-threatening environment. There was no internet to be able to reach out to others and to discover allies. There weren’t many people voluntarily coming-out in such places and more often than not, it was downright dangerous to be outed. People were publicly bigoted, homophobic asshats and there weren’t many people who felt this behavior was wrong and in fact it was very strongly encouraged. Teens who were Queer were very publicly ostracized for simply trying to exist as who they are. So, it is no surprise that while Cameron is at the Camp we get to read about the experiences of other teens who have had negative experiences and interactions with others regarding their sexuality. It’s horrifying to read, yet allows you to be grateful for how far we as a society have come, but it painstakingly highlights how much farther we have to go, especially when you think about Gender-Queer equality. 

It’s difficult for me to talk about this book without turning into a bubbling cesspool of rage. That it is one of the reasons that I have always been incredibly hesitant to review this novel. The greatest reason for this hesitation is the fact that I adore the book so much and can never find the right words, correct plot points, or the best characters to talk about to highlight how magnificent this novel is. Although my review is more of a gushfest than anything else, I will say that the book is actually well written. The characters are well written and thought out. Although sometimes painful to read, the situations and confrontations that occur in this book are believable and the characters’ reactions are genuine. 

I loved reading Cameron’s story and it is an important one that I wish more readers will read. The novel is so much more than a coming-out novel in the traditional sense, and deals with more complex nuances of being queer and/or trying to figure out your feelings as a teen and being able to stand up for yourself whenever you figure it out. I recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially readers who like Contemporary novels. I give The Miseducation of Cameron Post a well deserved 8-out of-10 Unicorn Horns! KUDOS EMILY M. DANFORTH! I TIP MY HAT TO YOU!

Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 by Inio Asano

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10/10 Unicorn Horns. Goodnight Punpun, also known as Oyasami Punpun, is something I’d only gotten interested in because of the hilariously odd sounding title. Within the first few pages I figured I’d drop this very odd and nonsensical series…after one more page. But one more page became one more chapter, and one more chapter eventually become one more volume. Somehow I quickly devoured the first 2-in-1 omnibus volume, and was reaching for the second. I’m not even completely sure what makes me give it such a high rating.

Synopsis: Goodnight Punpun is something that comes off as an odd comedy at first, but eventually snowballs into a rather heavy read despite all the comic relief. It’s 3rd person narration begins with the main character Punpun in middle school. On the surface Punpun seems like a typical, albeit sensitive, kid, but is tying to cope with domestic abuse and all the complicated emotions that go with it. As the story goes on it occasionally branches off into the stories of side characters as they deal with past trauma, financial difficulties, insecurities, life choices, romance and the ups and (primarily) downs of life, but remains focused on Punpun up through high school (this is an on-going series with the 3rd volume ending with Punpun at 18 years old).  

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Goodnight Punpun is really strange. The host of strange things from imaginary figures to wacky facial expression and randomly blurted out comments is at times confusing, especially since I can’t always tell whether I’m meant to take it seriously. Punpun is annoying at times. His dysfunctional family infuriates me. There are triggers pretty much everywhere for readers who have experienced abuse/depression of any kind. Yet, I kept reading. Despite my many criticisms in the beginning, I am amazed with how this story was constructed.

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This was a downright grim and pretty messed up coming of age story, but is also about some of the most negative and conflicting aspects of being human. The emotional, social, and even psychological struggles and questioning these characters experience are things I’d say most people can relate to. It delves into all this on a psychological level expressed not just through the character’s conflicting actions, thoughts, and dialogue, but also through a lot of symbolism, metaphor and imagery. The abundant comedy in this manga- exaggerated drawings, ridiculous situations, nonsensical images and dialogue- contrasts with heavy emotional scenes and the troubling thoughts of the main character.

People are free…That’s why they insist on teaching you cooperation and ethics when you’re young. But the world is set up to force people to fight, cheat and steal as a default. Trying to live with that contradiction is torture…

I’d recommend this to any adult or older teen regardless of genre preferences, but warn off those who would be bothered by sexually explicit content as this story doesn’t shy away from it. This is a complete 13 volume series, but the English publication is currently on-going (the last volume is set to be released September 19th, 2017).