Talon by Julie Kagawa

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I’ve been waiting to read this series since the first time I heard the premise. A book about dragons in a modern day setting? Count me in! So of course I dived in the moment I saw the last book in this 5 book series set to publish next year. Overall I enjoyed the read, but unfortunately I have to day I may have over-hyped the series a bit.

Synopsis: Talon is set in modern day California and follows main character Ember Hill as she and her twin brother, Dante, are finally set free to complete the final part of their training to successfully infiltrate human society for a few months in incognito. Ember and Dante must learn about the outside world of dangerous humans, how to act and be one of them, all in order to continue to provide and keep safe their secret society of ancient dragons masquerading as humans (known as Talon). And of course, there is the evil society of dragon hunters of watch out for. But things aren’t what they seem. After Ember comes across a dangerous rogue dragon named Cobalt begins to question everything she’s been taught and been training for her whole life.

Rating: 6.5-out-of-10 Unicorn Horns.

Overall I enjoyed this story and the magical otherworldly aspects. The way the dragons have evolved and adapted over time in order to assimilate into human society is something that has kept me interested enough to keep picking up the next in the series. Normally this is the kind of story I love to pieces; ancient dragons, secretive societies, mysterious-not-what-they-appear characters, and a defiant, strong heroine, but the characters seemed to fall a bit flat. I kept recognizing them in the many other similar Y.A characters I’ve come across, and so found them all a bit too predictable for my liking. The only characters that really stood out to me were a couple antagonists.

Even though the story is interesting, I felt that the characters brought things down for me, that and everything seemed to be heading down an all too predictable road. I’d still recommend this book to teen urban fantasy lovers as the story begins to grow more complex in later installments, but would warn away those looking for stories with unique characters/character driven stories. 

Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

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. 

 

NEW RELEASE: Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Two words: The. Cover. Once again in my complete predictability I picked up a book, without even reading the premise, for no other reason than that I liked the cover. In my defense before buying it and taking it home using one of my now many gift cards, I did notice that there was a guitar on the front. I like guitars. See! I call that progress. Ahem, now to talk about this new shojo-shoujo?- (see, even more progress, now I’ve reviewed two of them. Ha!).

Thankfully my not-so-random manga pick worked out, as this story is was better than I expected considering my usual aversion to shojo. I can’t get too into things, but this is primarily about a high school girl named Nino, two male childhood friends named Momo and Yuzu, lost connections, romance, and the music they share. MUSIC THEME!! Happiness all around! After seeing the anime for NANAYour Lie in April and recently starting up Nodame Cantabile I can say I now have a realllyy strong interest in music themed things. The story begins with 5-year-old best friends Nino and Momo singing through the noise of his parents arguing. The manga shows a few humorous scenes of the inseparable pair together when one day, without a word, Momo moves leaving Nino confused and alone with the pain of the sudden separation. It’s this that leads her to meeting another young boy named Yuzu.

The scenes of how they meet as kids deeply ties into their relationship with music, and I was impressed with how Fukuyama conveyed their thoughts and feelings. I have a few early concerns with Nino’s character, but there is something about the way Fukuyama tells this story that has drawn me in. I liked the premise, the characters, and the art- namely the way panels were arranged for some scenes. I can’t say I got to know the main characters too well yet, but will say I genuinely like them so far, especially Yuzu and the humour he shares with Nino. There is quite a lot left unanswered by the end of the volume so I’m looking out for the next release!

Overall 6.5/10 Unicorn horns!

Romance Read: Say I Love You Vol. 1 by Kanae Hazuki

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7/10 Unicorn Horns

Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki is a fairly popular 17 volume on-going shojo manga series (Yes!! I finally got around to reviewing one! Lol) that surrounds the life of a 16-year-old high school girl named Mei Tachibana. It has gotten a 13 episode anime adaptation by the same name that, so far, follows the manga fairly well, though if memory serves (I recently re-read the first volume, but read the series up to volume 10 or 12 early last year) the anime starts to leave out a fair bit of good information as well as makes changes here and there later on in the series. Even so I’d definitely recommend checking out both (but of course more so the manga, especially since it goes a lot further than the anime did). 

I could say this series is pretty generic in terms of the whole overdone popular boy falls for unpopular girl bit, which isn’t entirely untrue, but I still really enjoyed this series on a whole. This isn’t because the series did so well with developing the main characters relationship, which is actually done quite well, but mainly because of the main character and how she struggles to develop. Mei Tachibana is the typical high school outcast who has no friends and rarely speaks to her fellow classmates, but not for the usual reasons I’ve come across so often. Mei is an outcast primarily by choice. Within the first chapter we find out that due to her negative past experiences she has closed herself off from others and refuses to make any new friends, something she had been adamant about until a rather funny and unexpected encounter with the popular high school playboy Yamato Kurosawa. Of course this encounter leads where you’d expect based on the title and cover page, but what has made this story stand out so much to me is the struggle Mei goes through as Yamato abruptly begins to lead her back into having a social life, and the hard, albeit good, realizations she makes about others and primarily herself along the way. 

As this development doesn’t really start to take off till later volumes I can’t say much about it, only that it was, for me, a real highlight to this series. As for the romance I have to say I really have been enjoying watching the relationship between Yamato and Mei grow. It’s a bit troublesome at some parts in the beginning as Yamato is often pushy at first when it comes to developing their relationship (though never even close to the level of most BL manga lol). Though I wouldn’t call anything he does blatant harassment or abuse, as he backs off the moment Mei becomes upset with his actions (one instance being the exception), and Mei isn’t the type of character that is afraid to tell him to back off, these scenes could be off putting for some. After that their relationship was one of the healthier I’ve come across in books as they slowly learn about each others personalities as well as weaknesses- resulting in some hilarious, emotional, and dramatic moments- and then work together to overcome past and present emotional issues.

One other thing I loved about this book was the author’s note at the end of each volume. This is where the author talks a bit about her own negative experiences with others (primarily bullying) and how that warped her view of the people around her, and her struggles to overcome the trust issues and insecurities that came from those experiences. You can see a lot of the things Hazuki, the author, talks about reflected in the main character Mei, something I believe she has mentioned doing in one of the volumes. That is something that made reading these volumes an even better experience for me, especially with how reluctant I was to pick it up in the first place. Safe to say this was a good start to a very good series. There is a host of other characters Asami, Nakanishi, and a couple others that come in later in the series that all, in one way or another, very relatable in their struggle with various things from crushes, gossip and unrequited love to more serious problems like self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Reading this has actually been pretty enlightening at times and has on numerous occasions hit me on a personal level. So it’s at times offered, indirectly or otherwise, me some pretty great advice through the characters interactions and actions. Though there was a couple other minor things that I did find a bit off putting (for example some of the teasing Mei puts up with in the 1st chapter and the fact no one addressed it), most of it was admittedly realistic in comparison to how high schoolers typically react, and as a whole didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of this series, especially since these scenes were usually part of building the story. 

Updates Going Forward

Hello Everyone! So, as I mentioned in a recent post (I Have Returned!) there will  be a few changes here on Maniacal Book Unicorn going forward and I want to go into further details about those changes in this post.

While I was on hiatus I re-evaluated a few goals that I had set for myself when I first started this blog. There were a couple of things that I had set out to accomplish each month in order to have a wider variety of the types of Book Reviews that I posted. I had met most of the ‘variety’ related tasks I wanted to accomplish with the exception of two…which I will go on to bore you with 🙂

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1. A Romance Book Review each month – I don’t tend to read very much romance related content so this is something that I have to remain conscience of so that there can be more variation in the genres/sub-genres of fiction that I review. So far I have posted a few romance related book reviews, mostly New Adult novels, but it’s something I have to hold myself accountable for.

2. A New Release Book Review each month – I have not been nearly as disciplined with this goal. A good portion of the reviews that are posted here on MBU were not read very recently before writing the review. And in cases where I have recently read the book I am reviewing it’s generally not something that was published within the past 60 days. So, going forward I want to ensure that each month I post one book review of a novel/graphic novel/manga that was published within the 60 days before I post the review.

There is also a couple things that I want to have posted each month that are not book review specific and that are also fairly new ideas that I mulled over while I was gone, and have decided to go ahead with doing. Once again allow me to bore you with aforementioned ‘things’ lol. 

1. A Post that is not a Book Review – Each month I want to make sure that there is something that goes up throughout the month that is  not a book review. I grappled with this idea before I had started this Blog, but I never felt confident/comfortable enough to actually put myself out there like that. Although I am still very nervous and apprehensive about doing this, many a people wiser than I have said that a person must take risks. So in the spirit of taking a leap of faith I will be posting a D.I.Y., sample of writing, discussion post, etc. each month.

2. A ‘Monthly Wrap-Up’ Post – Now that I’ve aired out all that self-doubt lol…I will let you know about this next goal, which I’m actually pretty excited about. Some of my favorite types of posts on book-/reading-centric blogs are those of the ‘Monthly Wrap-Up’ variety, and I want to try my hand at doing one each month as well. The way that I have decided to do this is to feature four picks from what I have read/reviewed that month that best matches four questions from a list of about 20 that I have created. I plan to post the list of questions sometime before I post the first Monthly Wrap-Up this month, I just have a bit of ironing out to do because some of the questions are quite similar at the moment.

Thank you for patiently reading through this post and I look forward to exploring new territory and having new experiences on Maniacal Book Unicorn! Happy Reading! 

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Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 by Inio Asano

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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).