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 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!

Shaman King, Vol.1: A Shaman in Tokyo by Hiroyuki Takei

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After finishing an epic manga reading binge I was in desperate need for another series to read. While I was at the library where I lived I was struggling to find a series where all the volumes were available to be borrowed and that I would not have to put on hold and have to wait to be able to read. The only series that fit the bill, that was NOT shojo, was the Shaman King series which is a shonen series. I had not really heard much about the manga series prior to borrowing it from the library, but I decided to take a leap of faith because why not…some of my greatest finds have been impulse purchases/borrowing. Also, the covers and spines for each volume are incredibly gorgeous and colorful…which doesn’t hurt the selection process lol!

The series is about a young Shaman named Yoh, who in the first volume is starting at a new school in Tokyo. The first volume mainly focuses on Manta, a fellow student at Shinra Private Junior High. While Manta is taking a shortcut through a local cemetery he happens across Yoh who is wearing his trademark headphones and just chilling in the graveyard. Through a series of events which involve ghosts, supernatural occurrences, and encounters with a “thug” named Ryu, Manta and Yoh become friends. In the series there are various types of Shamans, Yoh is one that is able to connect with ghosts and allow them to possess his body so that they can lend him their powers. In this volume we are introduced to Admidamaru, a 600-year-old samurai ghost and to a fellow Shaman named Ren who has a particularly sinister interest in Yoh and Admidamaru.

I have continued on with the series and can say that this volume is quite slow in comparison to the remainder of the series. So, if you ever do pick this series up don’t quit until you’ve read up to volume 3. That will give you a much better feel for the series as a whole. As I previously mentioned the first volume has a heavy focus on the character Manta, this only lasts for this volume. As you get to the conclusion of this volume the focus shifts to Yoh and continues that way for the rest of the series (…well for as far as I have read a.k.a Vol. 9). The story itself serves as a backdrop to the rest of the series and helps to slowly immerse you into the world of the series. You are able to get a pretty good understanding of how Yoh’s abilities work and  how they are able to be beneficial to both him and the ghosts that he encounters. The reader gets an introduction to the different types of “relationships” that can form between ghosts, shamans, and non-shaman humans (that sounds kinda pervy, but I swear it isn’t lol). The illustrations in the series are not the best I have ever seen, but it’s absolutely far from the worst. The art style is somewhat minimalistic yet is still detailed. The styling of the illustrations makes it incredibly easy to decipher what is happening in faster paced segments of the story, namely battle/fight scenes.

As a whole package (story and art) I enjoyed volume 1 of Shaman King. It serves as a good set-up to the series and gives the reader enough detail to not feel left behind and unprepared for the following volumes. Overall the story was not amazingly entertaining, but that did not bother me at all because the story quickly picks up towards the end and you can easily identify the main focus/purpose of this initial volume in the series. I give Shaman King, Vol. 1: A Shaman in Tokyo a rating of 7 out of 10 Unicorn Horns. Happy Reading! 

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.

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

Tokyo ESP Vol. 1 (Omnibus) by Hajime Segawa

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Someone once said: There are only two ways you can live your life. Either you live your life as if things like miracles don’t ever happen, or you live your life as if perhaps everything is a miracle.

This has turned out to be one of my most anticipated reads this year! Say nothing for all the gorgeous covers, this has been a very interesting story. The anime adaptation by the same name is what first thing to get me onto the manga (which is complete in it’s country of origin Japan, but just started printing 2-1 omnibus editions in English late last year), but as the anime has some odd pacing issues the manga is definitely the better pick. 

Not giving anything beyond the 1st chapter away, Tokyo ESP kicks off with main character Rinka Urashiba, a poverty stricken young teenager, as she wakes up one morning to call her father in a panic- suddenly falling through the floor and household furniture tends to do that to a person. A flashback to the previous day reveals Rinka’s encounter, along with a fellow high school student, with a very strange and mysterious event: A small African Penguin flying through the sky following a school of small, glowing, flying fish, one of which flies right into her. While she puzzles this out with aforementioned school mate, her protective father (a retired police officer and single parent since his wife took off) attempts to run home after receiving Rinka’s panicked message. A  very difficult task when you have every car in the area flying toward you like your a magnet. After witnessing this event and Rinka’s role in putting a stop to it while protecting dozens of nearby citizens, Kyotaro Azuma (the fellow high school student) lends a helping hand in their get away…by using teleportation to whisk them away.

With the mystery and issues that arise from dozens of magical fish flying through the city and gifting ordinary citizens with an array of superhuman abilities, it follows that groups of justice seeking masked vigilantes and super-powered villains would arise. This is a story that caters to superhero lovers as it centers around Rinka, Azuma, and their new friends as she incorporates her father’s morals and fights back against the raising tide of public chaos, and struggles with her own weaknesses in order to protect everything she holds dear. As you could probably already tell this story is a classic that has been told plenty of times, though as the story progresses (and boy does it ever), characters overcome and challenge themselves, mysteries arise and questions are answered, and both antagonist’s and protagonist’s pasts’ are revealed it gathers plenty of originality to keep readers coming back for more (I’ve read up to the fifth 2-in-1 omnibus volume). As for the art…I’m a bit conflicted on it. It’s different from what I’m use to and at times it’s very well done (those front and centered coloured pages in every bind-up are GORGEOUS!!), but it can sometimes drop in quality and become a little disjointed (never to the point the story-line can’t be followed). 

This was a really great find! I’d recommend it to anyone who loves stories with supernatural elements, superheroes, an undercurrent of romance, complex villains, kick-ass heroines (Rinka can hold her own against the best), and themes involving crime and justice.

8/10 Unicorn Horns!

I’m totally fangirling here but just look at all those beautiful covers!!

*Omnibus volumes 1-7 are currently all available in English. The last omnibus (volume 8) is scheduled to be released April 25th, 2017*

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This book is one I’ve considered taking off my favorite self many times, primarily after reading something I know I enjoyed way more, but I never actually manage it. I struggled for quite a while trying to puzzle this out, but after re-reading it I remembered: I love this book. It’s not the type of favorite that stands out, demanding constant attention, and actively battles it out with new arrivals for a top spot. It’s also not one that immediately pops into my mind when I consider a recommendation. This is one of very, very few that subtly and permanently settled into my mind and quietly made itself at home, yet has somehow rarely made itself known. I’m still not even entirely clear on what it is that’s made it a favorite of mine, but I will try my best to explain it.

The Scorpio Races weaves an enchanting story about a young recently orphaned 17 year girl named Puck who, along with old and younger brothers (Gabe and Finn respectively)-a generally private and close knit family- who live on the only island known to occasionally grant wishes, favour the brave, and every year during the Fall…it’s willful ocean parts with dozens of man killing, flesh eating horses. Yup, you read that right: flesh eating horses straight out of the sea. Despite this each November Thisby becomes a thriving tourist destination, not because these foreigners all have a death wish, but because this is the time the people of Thisby, who have lived alongside these carnivorous water creatures (known as capaill uisce) for generations, take these horses and race each other on their backs right next to the sea- the place where they will and have killed many men in a struggle to return to.

It was to these capaill uisce that Puck Connolly lost her parents. Yet due to an unexpected turn of events, Puck is forced to make an insane decision: to not only be the first woman to ever ride in the races, but to also do it on the back of what the capaill uisce often view as food, her normal island horse.

After much pacing and head scratching I finally came to understand what it was about this story that set it apart for me. While of course the original story was part of it. Yes magical flesh eating horses that occasionally lure people out to the sea to drown is actually a well know fairy tale, but I have never come across one that was done quite like this. Much like with Stiefvater’s other series Shiver, she has taken this common fantasy creature and made it her own. All this is a big part of what made me love and favorite the series, that and of course the horses themselves, but it was actually the characters that’s kept it a definitive favorite.

I’m very impressed with how Stiefvater has created the characters, namely Puck, Finn, and primarily Sean Kendrick (the quite 19 year old, 3 time winner of the Scorpio Races) with whom Puck switches POVs with. The amount of body language and carefully put together dialogue that went in to creating Kendrick, who’s silence manages to command power and authority instead of the opposite, has really made this story stand out in my mind. The beautifully realistic and natural way relationships between people and horses alike (Kendrick and his capaill uisce, Corr, among the top), are expressed was another. There was also the communication between all these human (and other) characters (both platonic and otherwise)-a thing Stiefvater accomplishes like nobodies business. Being able to get to the root of the characters, and the snippets of the islanders long standing  and complex relationship with these deadly horses in Scorpio Races is something I really loved.

8.5/10 Overall, with a recommendation to all animal lovers and Y.A. and fantasy lit fans.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

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Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

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I haven’t completed this series yet so this spoiler free review is only my condensed thoughts up to the 9th installment in this 14 book completed series, but after reading just the first two books I was really looking forward to the rest of the series. So basically Kitty and the Midnight Hour is about a young woman on a midnight radio station in Denver named Kitty. In the world Vaughn’s built the knowledge of supernatural beings is public and on Kitty’s show she offers advice to troubled, usually self-proclaimed, supernatural beings of every verity while working to keep her own supernatural identity as a werewolf secret. The main character has award winning bad luck so there are plenty of adventures and events to keep readers interested throughout the series. Most story arcs are completed in a single installment so, thankfully, most of the books are cliffhanger free. Though that doesn’t mean all the loose ends are tied up at the end of each book, as there is often something left unfinished that makes you feel compelled to read the next in the series.

Kitty is a likable character with some obvious flaws (which honestly drive me insane sometimes) and follows a pretty common cliché at first. Yet even with the overdone classic cliché going, her situation is something that wouldn’t be popular if a lot of people didn’t still relate to it in some way.I’d elaborate on what cliché I’m talking about here, but you may not pick up on it till about halfway through the first book so it would technically be a spoiler. You get to meet a lot of other characters throughout this series, some permanent or occasionally reoccurring like Ben and Cormack, and others that only last till the end of a plot. I found the characters overall enjoyable, though I’ve read better. Though some books, to be honest, really weren’t that great, sometimes oddly paced with no developments, others were MUCH better and jam-packed with character and plot progress. I’m still really enjoying this series so far. I found the whole radio show thing very interesting and new. I loved the humour crazy callers brought in in addition to the character’s dialogue =D

Kitty: “So you’re not really a werewolf.”
Caller: “Not yet. But I was meant to be one, I just know it. How do I get a werewolf to attack me?”
Kitty: “Stand in the middle of a forest under a full moon with a raw steak tied to your face, holding a sign that says, ‘Eat me, I’m stupid’?

You’ll have to wait till the second book in the series to have the pack dynamics explained to you and to have a better understanding of Kitty’s pack and the blatant abuse that goes unchecked in it, but like I mentioned character development and plot progress is a thing so stick with it if you like the premise. Overall it’s not the best I’ve ever read but it’s nowhere near bad. Worth a read if nothing else. This review may change later on, as the series really picks up around the 4th book (book 7 was AMAZING), but so far the overall series is 7.5/ Unicorn horns.