Monday, February 1, 2021

Manga Review: Imawa No Kuni No Alice (Alice In Borderlands)

Title: Imawa No Kuni No Alice (Alice in Borderlands) 
Author: Haro Aso 
Volumes: 18
Chapters: 87
Status: Completed 
Tags: Action, Shonen, Horror 




Summary:

"To be released from the dull routine, escapism, 8th grade disease, peter pan syndrome, it doesn't matter what you call it...It doesn't mater where. Have you ever wanted to go somewhere else? An unknown place" 

And so begins the story of Arisu Ryouhei who, while hanging out with his friends Chota and Karube, notices a flash of light that transports him into the "borderlands." A barren land whose citizens are forced into life or death games based on strength, brains and just a pinch of luck. 

Wdebo's Review: As I have noted numerous times before on this blog I am a sucker for the a good horror story so when I saw the Alice in Borderlands Netflix series I voraciously engulfed it in a few days. Unfortunately, the series ended on a large cliff ending. However, as an impatient person who noticed there was a completed manga it was based on, I knew I had to finish the manga to fill in all of the holes from the show. 

For those (like me) who were scouring the internet trying to figure out where to start in the manga after finishing the Netflix series, I would highly suggest just starting from the first chapter. There are some scenes that are shown in the show as well as many series of events, character utilization and games that are different so you would just get the best understanding of the story by starting from the very beginning. 

I love a good survival game story which we can just blame on my old Battle Royale obsession. Alice in Borderlands thoroughly fulfills that quota. It presents many games and deaths which is sometimes all you need to read after a long hard day of work. I loved the set up of every single game. There were so many loopholes and twists to guess and work out strategies for. Arisu's logic thorough every game was very interesting to see laid out and I just throughly enjoyed reading how he figures out all of the games. 

The characters are interesting as well. You really start cheering for all of them. Additionally, certain situations really surprised me when I realized how expendable some of the characters were. I definitely thought some people would not have been killed off that quickly. 

I also feel like the story helped to tie up all of its strings with a very satisfying conclusion. 

All in all, a highly enjoyable manga for those who love a good survival game story with highly colorful characters to both hate and cheer on. 

Grade: A-

Wdebo :) 

Book Review: Once And For All By: Sarah Dessen

"It was like I'd waited all my life to have something like this, and I knew even then, at the start, that it would be hard, so hard to lose. The big stuff always is" (93)

Book Title: Once and For All 
Author: Sarah Dessen
Paperback
Amount of Pages: 357
Release Date: June 6, 2017 
Publisher: Penguin 
From: Bought 
I was not paid for this review




Summary (From the back of the book): Louna has seen every sort of wedding, from informal on the beach to elegant in historic mansions, all because of her mother's wedding planning business. And working these events every summer means she has also seen every kind of outcome to that "perfect" day.

Maybe that's why she's deeply cynical about happily ever after endings. Or is there something else that has caused her to lock away her heart? When handsome, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose enters her life, Louna doesn't want to take him seriously. He is sure he can change; Louna is betting that he can't. But Ambrose knows that Louna is the girl he's always been waiting for-the question is, can he convince her to feel the same? 

Wdebo's Review: I, like many others in this community, grew up reading Sarah Dessen novels and falling in love with the simple, sweet love stories they present. Once and For All is no different. 

The story's structure runs as a typical romance YA novel with hints of previous trauma from a lost relationship hurt in a topical way. Due to what happened to her, it is understandable why Louna struggles to open herself up to another relationship and I enjoy seeing her growth into accepting more love from those around her. However, the way the topic was handled only seemed to scratch the surface. There was a lot of potential for it to be deeper but it just never reached it yet. However, since this novel is more about Louna and Ambrose's connection it makes sense that it was only surface level but it would have added much more depth to the story. 

Additionally, it may just be because I am older now and have been on way more first dates to count but the concept of having a player fall head over heels in love with you is just too unbelievable. However, maybe to enjoy the story more I just needed to tap into my innocent romantic high school side and not read it from my slightly jaded adult point of view. Heh 

Cafe Cover Chit Chat: Aww cute cover that really ties the wedding theme together (B+) 

All in all, a sweet, cheesy story. Another Sarah Dessen novel to check out if you're a fan of her work. 

Grade: B

Wdebo :) 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Book Review: The Summer Sail By: Wendy Francis

 "A sail away to a tropical island. Yes, it was just the thing she needed.
She hoped her roommates would say yes" 

Book Title: The Summer Sail
Author: Wendy Francis
Paperback
Amount of Pages: 294 
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
From: Publisher 
I was not paid for this review 




Summary (From the back of the book)
Three best friends reunite for a summer vacation they will never forget - but not for the reasons they expect. 

When Abby decides to renew her wedding vows for her twentieth anniversary on a cruise to Bermuda, she invites her best friends and former college roommates, Caroline and Lee to join her. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to an idyllic week of lounging by the pool, sipping cocktails, and reminiscing. 

If only it were that easy...

Caroline, a magazine editor, wonders when and if her longtime boyfriend, Javier, will propose. If he doesn't get his act together on the cruise, she may just leave him. Lee, a single mom, desperately wants to win back the affections of her daughter, Lacey, who has returned home from her freshman year of college as a bit of a monster. And happily married hosts Abby and Sam are hiding a major secret from everyone, including their twin sons, Chris and Ryan. 

As tensions flare and the fairy-tale ceremony threatens to unravel, three women will discover if their bond of friendship can sustain them in life's uncharted waters. 

Wdebo's Review: Sometimes you just need one of those summer reads especially now when the season is quickly changing from Fall to Winter. This novel was light, fast and fun - a great book to bring to the beach and just laze around and flip through the pages. Though there were some hiccups during the story, it was definitely a nice and quick read. 

I was thoroughly impressed by the friendships that were presented in the stories. The bond the roommates shared that had spanned for many decades is truly enviable. It made me wish that I have those sorts of strong relationships when I get older as well. 

While the relationships between the characters were great I found certain characterizations to be lacking. Some of the characters were written in a more stereotypical light especially in terms of the children. It definitely was written from the point of view of an older person who is trying to act younger without much conviction so it turned pretty cringey at times in terms of tone and mannerisms. Additionally, each roommates story was wrapped up too perfectly. Everything seemed to fall into place a bit too well and was slightly too idealistic for me. 

However, I do have to commend the fact that the story was written about three best friends who are all in different stages of life and relationships. It's rare to see that celebrated all at once but it is important since not all of us are in the same stages of life even if we are the same age and that is totally fine. 

Cafe Cover Chat: I find the cover to be cute - definitely makes you want to be on a sunny cruise. (B) 

All in all, a fun and quick little read - perfect to bring as a beachside companion. 

Grade: B

Wdebo :) 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Book Review: The Lost History of Dreams By: Kris Waldherr

 "'In speaking of love, we speak of intangible things. Like ghosts.' Her tone turned uneasy. 'Thus, that which we love haunts us with possibilites, with denied yearnings like a ghost. The closer we approach, the more they elude.'" 

Book Title: The Lost History of Dreams 
Author: Kris Waldherr 
HARDBACK
Amount: 320 
Release Date: April 9, 2019 
From: Publisher
I was not paid for this review 






Summary (From the Back of the Book): When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is found dead in his bath one morning, the task of burying his body falls on his estranged cousin, historian turned post-mortem photographer Robert Highstead. The chapel stipulated in De Bonne's will, a stained-glass folly set on the Shropshire moors, was built over a decade earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada, and has since remained closed to all outsiders-especially the rabid, cultlike fans of De Bonne's last book, The Lost History of Dreams. 

Only Ada's grief-stricken niece, Isabelle, holds the key-but she refuses to unlock the glass chapel unless Robert agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record the real story behind her aunt's ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

Sweeping and darkly atmospheric, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between past and present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death. 

Wdebo's Review: This book has been sitting on my shelf for the past year and I was unfortunately only able to get to it now just due to how my last year of grad school was going. When I finally picked it up I found that it definitely took a bit to get into the story. The details of everyone's stories just got quickly thrown in without much background to help pillow it. However, as the story went on more and more ends started to get tied up and was much easier to follow. However, I felt that even though the ending explained a lot of the mystery surrounding certain people it was just not as satisfying as I was hoping for because it felt so rushed. 

For example, Robert's ability to daguerreotype the dead was randomly brought in to show how he was able to bring his dead wife to life but the past of that was never really expanded on. It just seemed like a big topic that was randomly brought out and ignored. I really wish the amount of details and fluff would have been cut down to allow the true important points to develop properly. 

Out of all of the stories that were told I did love Ada and Hugh's the most. Something about it just drew me in more so than all of the other ones. I think it might be the fact it was told in a deliberate story telling aspect that truly made it more enjoyable the other ones. I do have to also note the fact she was able to blend different story telling voices into one was very impressive. 

Cafe Cover Chat: Pretty average cover that is not enticing (C) 

All in all, although this was not the most exciting nor polished story there were some admirable qualities and moments that shined through. 

Grade: C+

Wdebo :) 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Book Review: Bunny By: Mona Awad

 "Kira pats my back, the handle of the bloodied ax still in her little fist.
'Welcome to Workshop, Bunny'" 

Book Title: Bunny
Author: Mona Awad
PAPERBACK
Amount of Pages: 305
Release Date: June 11, 2019
From: Bookstore





Summary (From the back of the book): A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, Samantha Heather Mackey is utterly repelled by the rest of her graduate fiction writing cohort at New England's elite Warren University: a clique of unbearably saccharine yet sinister rich girls who call each other "Bunny" and seem to move and speak as one. 

But everything changes when Samatha receives an invitation to the Bunnies' fabled "Smut Salon" and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door - ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samatha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies' world and begins to take part in their monstrous experiments, the edges of realities begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the bunnies will be brought into deadly collision. 

Wdebo's Review: After seeing so much praise for the book and receiving a glowing recommendation from the girl behind the counter who rung up my book, I was very excited to start it. However, maybe it was because of the heavy buildup I was given but although I enjoyed it, I don't think I did to the degree I was promised.   

The whole book was pretty much like some sort of weird fever dream. It starts out slow and slightly pretentious with its unnecessarily flowery and sometimes difficult to follow speech. Suddenly it bops you on the forehead with its introduction of the Bunnies' activities and starts jerking you back and forth with wild fantasies and situations. I do have to state that the conclusion was not something I saw coming. I appreciated it because that does not happen to me often. It was still enjoyable even though I shut the book thinking "what the fuck just happened?"

The characters themselves were not too memorable, all slight caricatures of themselves. But maybe that's the point? A satire of these stock characters we consistency see within literature. The throng of mean girls who are so unattainable it is presented in a supernatural light. An awkward, bumbling and at times antisocial protagonist who brings to light all of the insecurities inside of ourselves. And finally a dark, brooding girl who acts distant but is essentially very needy. Samatha herself is not the most likable protagonist but the journey she takes us through was, in a word, fascinating. 

Cafe Cover Chit Chat: I like the simplicity of the cover and its contrasting colors. Also a fan of the font - it's soft and sharp all at once. (B+) 

All in all, an at times confusing but others deliciously fun read. Don't go into it with any expectations but just enjoy the ride it ends up taking you on. 

Grade: B+

Wdebo :) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

4 Years Later...

 Hi All! (if anyone is still reading this dead blog haha) 

It's been a while since I last wrote anything on here. Life has been pretty hectic the last few years. I moved from the suburbs of Oregon to NYC and after some rigorous coursework became an optometrist. It's crazy to think I am now legally allowed to examine people's eyes and give medical advice - especially when I often still feel like the awkward high school girl who would walk down her hallways reading random YA novel, not paying any attention to her surroundings. 

During this time I neglected my love of reading instead switching it for the flashy world of television and reading review articles of ocular disease. My 2020 resolution was to start picking up reading again and re-enjoying the activity. I never realized how difficult it could be to get back into reading when the last few years just encompassed watching colorful images on a wide screen and not having to filter the words through my imagination to create the picture. 

I finished my first novel yesterday for the first time in 4 years and I just felt strangely so accomplished but excited to get back into reading and hungrily devour any book I can. 

I can't wait to dive back into the literary world and see everything I have missed out on these last 4 years.

Hope to see y'all around.

Wdebo 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: 100 Days of Cake By: Shari Goldhagen

"No idea where I'm going, but I pedal so fast to get there that it hurts"
(139) 

Book Title: 100 Days of Cake
Author: Shari Goldhagen
HARDBACK
Amount of Pages: 339
Publisher: Atheneum Books For Young Readers
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Geared Towards: Teens
From: Library




Summary (From Front Flap): Every other senior at Coral Cove High School might be mapping out every facet of their future, but Molly Bryne just wants to spend the rest of the summer (maybe the rest of her life) watching Golden Girls reruns hanging out with her cute coworker at FishTopia. Some days, the are the only things that get her out of bed.

You see, for the past year, Molly's been struggling with depression, above and beyond industry-standard teen angst. Crushing on her therapist isn't helping, and neither is her mom, who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure her-as if icing alone can magically make her rejoin the swim team or care about the SATs. Ummm, no, not going to happen.

But when Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a lame country diner, her already crummy life starts to fall even more out of her control, and soon she has to figure out what-if anything-is worth fighting for. 

Wdebo's Review: I do have to admit that I mainly only started to read this book because of the cover. It's so pretty and eye-catching. However, the book just did not reach the same caliber that the cover had presented which left me feeling very disappointed.

I was interested in seeing how the book would tackle such a heavy topic such as depression. The novel did show some of the highs and lows of the disease but I just could not connect with the protagonist at all which I really wanted to especially given the topic. However, there was something so hard for me to like about her and other characters. As for Molly's best friend, Elle, she was just not a likable character either. She was basically a walking tree-hugging, vegan stereotype. Additionally, for someone who identified as a feminist she was always slut shamming Molly's sister, V. Going as far as saying that her dress warrants her with STDs and how she is everything wrong with America. She does get better towards the end of the novel, but still not a character I particularly cared for. As for Alex, he was painted as a true swoon-worthy love interest, from the constant longing to the sensitive, beautiful musician. Though he wasn't a bad character, it just felt very trite. I did however like the character of Molly's mom she is trying whatever she can to try and help her daughter which includes baking 100 cakes in 100 days.

I thought the concept of the 100 cakes was very interesting. It did make the book much better and I liked seeing how the book progressed as the different days with the different cakes as their chapter headings. However, for the writing, I was not satisfied with how events would suddenly occur but not really have a buildup, except for the thing with Dr. B which was one of the few moments that made me feel for Molly. The writing itself wasn't too intriguing in the beginning but towards the last 50 or so pages, a lot of events occurred and that was when my interest was piqued for the story. Additionally, I really have to complain about the amount of pop culture references added into it. I'm not sure if the author did so to try and appeal to a younger audience since she started out as an adult novel writer or if she wanted to make it seem more grounded in the present, but it just really did not work and made it seem like it was trying to hard.

Cafe Cover Chit Chat: As stated above, I really like this cover. The cake is so eye-catching compared to the background and the whole color and font scheme of the over is lovely (A) 

All in all, definitely not a book I particularly liked reading. Though there were a few good moments in the story, it took me so much longer to finish than it should have.

Grade: C+

Wdebo :)