Manga/Graphic Novel Review: Natsume’s Book of Friends

Several of my friends are into manga and so I have an extensive to-read list compiled, yet I found this on a whim instead. As Midorikawa mentions in the little asides throughout this book, it is an episodic manga. This made it a nice quick read to pick up on impulse, and not too much of an investment.

As it is episodic, there is no singe plot to really summarise. The main gist is Takashi Natsume seeing strange creatures – yokai – that nobody else can. After inheriting his deceased grandmother’s strange notebook, he discovers that she had the same ability. Due to being such an outcast amidst her village, though, she takes her frustrations out on the yokai. Natsume’s Book of Friends – the book Takashi inherited – is basically a collection of contracts signed by various yokai pledging their ‘devotion’ to her. Owning this book gives Takashi complete power over them, and naturally many of the yokai are eager to take it. Instead, Takashi sets out to return the names of all the yokai. He is accompanied by one yokai who he accidentally freed from a shrine, Nyanko Sensei – who, after being trapped inside a ceramic cat, usually takes the form of a cat. Takashi likes to remind him of this frequently (and Sensei is definitely not amused).

The episodes can each be read as a standalone, though they do connect in some ways. Takashi slowly begins to understand what he’s doing, and the relationship between him and Nyanko Sensei develops somewhat. While most of Takashi’s interactions are with yokai, there is one particular chapter in this novel where he meets another human who he can relate to. There is also a touching chapter – the final in the novel – where Takashi helps a yokai to meet the human that saved her in her past life.

The art is lovely and the relationship between Sensei and Takashi is really amusing. There isn’t a huge amount of character development or depth due to the episodic nature of the novel, but Takashi is likeable and kind. I would definitely recommend it for a quick/light read, and I may have a look for the rest of the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Book Review: Raven’s Peak

I recently signed up to OnlineBookClub and requested this book as my first to review on the site. It’s a paranormal thriller, focusing on a “hunter” who tracks down demons. It begins with an epilogue following another character, who we later learn more about. The protagonist is a young man called Haatim, completely ordinary and unaware of the paranormal activity in the world. Strange circumstances send him and Abigail – the hunter – off to Raven’s Peak together.

The beginning was rather interesting; Haatim was hired by a complete stranger to track down a suspected stalker. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary stalker, and the situation was definitely unique. However, the following plot felt a little slow to me, taking a while to really develop. It’s possible that the intended peak was earlier than I felt, but I personally felt like the main story only really started when the pair arrived at Raven’s Peak. This did not happen until much nearer the end. This meant that the “main” sotry only lasted for a few short chapters. There was a section between Haatim’s stalker mission and the arrival in Raven’s Peak that felt painfully slow and, quite honestly, boring.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t connect with them emotionally. Haatim was given an emotional backstory – as was Abigail, in fact – but I just did not feel anything for them. Their speech felt a bit disjointed and artificial, and they just didn’t feel particularly real to me. It would’ve been nice to develop the characters’ relationships more, both with each other and their own families.

Many books in the paranormal/supernatural genre feel very similar, and this book is sadly included. There was nothing about it that particularly stood out to me. Some of the ideas in the book are very interesting, though. I am intrigued as to how Haatim’s father is connected to the Ninth Circle, and I also want to know what happens in Abigail’s quest for saving Arthur. But this book didn’t fill me with anticipation or excitement to read on. In fact, it barely mentioned the Ninth Circle, and without that being the series title, I’d never have picked up on it.

I also noticed a few typos and grammatical errors, which would be the result of insufficient editing. While a few errors are often found in books, this felt quite amateurish and unfinished.

Overall, the book wasn’t particularly special or exciting, and didn’t feel as fluid as it should. It wasn’t bad, but it was not outstanding. 2.5 stars.

Book Review: Billy and Me

This is a very, very different genre than I usually read. It was romantic and contemporary and kind of cliche and gross. But I will admit that it was written well.

Despite the gooey topics, this book was easy to sit and read through. The writing was good, though some of the speech didn’t feel particularly authentic. My main problem was how cliche this was. A young woman who loves classic literature andworks in a tea shop meets a movie star without realising who he is and falls in love… Yeah, it’s kind of a stereotypical romance. I hate this sort of thing. It’s tacky and just ugh. But there was more to it than just the romance, which was very good. Sophie had her own issues to deal with, stemming from childhood grief and caring for her mother. It even had a really tragic moment toward the end, that didn’t involve the actor – Billy – much at all.

As I mentioned above, the language wasn’t always particularly fluid. It sometimes felt like Fletcher was trying too hard to make it more romantic and emotional. Billy was pretty much ‘perfect’ and extremely romantic, probably extremely unrealistically so. He was likeable, still, just not very realistic.

Sophie herself was a bit… not annoying, but she’s not my favourite protagonist ever. She was trying too hard to be unique and strong and independent and it just irritated me. I get what Fletcher was going for (I think) but I just didn’t love Sophie that much at all.

Like most other contemporary novels (not that I’ve actually read many of them), Sophie’s life comes together perfectly at the end. Well, not quite perfectly, but the ending was sickly sweet. But I’m a bit of a cynic. You might like this more than me.

Despite the genre and gross cutesy lovey stuff, I think this deserves 3.5 stars. The writing was good and I did actually enjoy reading it.

Book Review: The Returners

I have a vague recollection of reading this some time in the past which is kind of ironic considering the topic of the book itself. While I felt a repeated deja vu throughout this book, I can’t seem to remember when I actually would have read it before. I also couldn’t remember much of the main plot, which is pretty weird.

Anyway, the review.

It’s a good book. honestly, the opening paragraph of this review sums the book up quite well – it’s good, but not overly memorable. When you read it, you often think, “this is good” or “cool” or whatever, but a few months later you’ll forget all about it. At least, that’s how I felt.

Gemma Malley is an author I used to love when I was in my preteens, and I’m not sure if that’s why her books feel very adolescent to me, or if it’s because they actually are. Basically, I feel too old for them now. The protagonists are usually “cool” mid-teens, who the reader is supposed to look up to in some way. But I’m older than most characters and actually find their attitudes a bit pathetic and petty.

The story was good but I felt like there were a few loopholes, honestly. The idea of the “Returners” is interesting but not developed enough – who actually ‘controls’ them? Where did they come from? What is their real purpose? I felt like their purpose was a bit wishy-washy. Douglas’s refusal to change his attitude because it “isn’t their role” or whatever just sounded a bit… lame. Like a cop-out, I guess. I really would’ve liked to know more about the Returners and why they actually exist.

It’s only short and this may contribute to it feeling quite young, but it is well written and really enjoyable to read. Will is almost an anti-hero, and as the reader I both loved and hated him. His thoughts and attitudes were quite sporadic and it was sometimes hard to keep up, but that may have been the intention. I did like how we learned things at the same time as Will – we followed him through his own story. It was also really interesting how Will decided to handle the life he’d been forced into.

4 stars.

Book Review: Eden Summer

I keep falling behind on writing my reviews, sorry! I really need to get back on track. I finished this on Tuesday I think? I really enjoyed it, although it isn’t quite worthy of five stars.

I’m going to put in a trigger warning as there are mentions of substance abuse, physical abuse, death, adoption and suicide.

Jess’s best friend has gone missing. Through interviews with the police and Jess’s personal recollections, we begin to build up a picture of Eden’s life before her disappearance. Her sister had recently been killed in a car accident, and her seemingly perfect relationship with Liam was more complicated than anyone realised. Bit by bit, Jess – and we – begin to piece things together and discover where Eden has gone.

The girls are only young – 15 I think? – and very much have the all-consuming passion that young teens feel. As in, every little issue feels huge, and things feel far more serious than they might to an older person. I remember feeling this way. I think it was portrayed so accurately, the way fighting with your best friend feels like the end of the world and a family argument overwhelms you with guilt. It was a bit annoying in some ways, though; no fault of the author, of course, I just get a bit annoyed at kids taking things too seriously. I look back at myself and think how stupid it was to get so caught up in such little issues. So the things that Jess gets so worked up over just seemed a bit trivial to me, like she was exaggerating too much. But as I said, this creates the teenage voice really well in my opinion.

The things that both these girls have gone through are massive, though – Jess was attacked and Eden’s sister killed. That’s pretty hard for a young girl to deal with, and these are not the problems I’m saying are trivial. These are hugely important and emotional issues and I think it’s great to talk about. I love books with these real, albeit sad, events. I think it is so good to discuss all the feelings and situations that follow, and also emphasise how it is not the end of the world if something bad happens. life will continue. Eden says how she feels her sister’s death becoming more distant, more bearable, and how she doesn’t want that to happen. She feels guilty, as if she’s forgetting her and moving on. This is so important. She also thinks about killing herself due to guilt – which I won’t ruin too much – but then realises how she shouldn’t take life for granted. Her sister would’ve given anything to be alive still, and she shouldn’t be throwing that away.

It was a really good read and I found myself wondering what was going to be revealed next. It was well written and perfectly captured the young voice of Jess. If I read this when I was younger, I think I would’ve adored it. I would’ve understood it and connected to Jess more than I did now I’m older. 4 stars, definitely worth a read.

Book Review: Glow

This is just going to be a quick review of the book I finished last week, Glow. I found it and borrowed it from my local library on a whim because it looked interesting, but I was sort of disappointed. Although I love the scientific references throughout the book I just found it a bit boring, honestly. It was meant to be thrilling and gripping… I just didn’t feel that way.

Raf manages to get caught up in some major business involving a new drug, Glow, and a massive corporation called Lacebark. Somehow the mysterious girl he met at a party is also tied up in it, as is the friend of Raf’s who recently went missing.

Somehow Raf also meets all the right people along the way, and gets accepted into helping them with their cause. I found this rather unplausable but that’s just me, I suppose. My main problem was having no investment in Raf as a character, and not feeling any of his relationships with any other characters to any degree whatsoever. He just didn’t feel real enough.

I honestly don’t quite get what even happened. Why was Lacebark killing people? Why was Win working for them? I just got a bit lost in the end. It’s a shame, because I really liked the amount of biological vocabulary scattered throughout – it made me feel like I’m actually learning things in my Psychology A-Level!

2 to 2.5 stars at a push.

Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.

Book Review: Adamant

I can’t remember how I came across this book but I read it on the mobile Kindle app.

It alternates between two narrative voices: Ada and Kay. At first, their two narratives seem completely disconnected but they soon merge together in one single plot.

In this multiverse, there is a sort of political agreement amongst the dozens of different worlds. Ada helps smuggle runaways from other planets onto Earth, while Kay has only just graduated from the Academy and got himself a job at the Alliance. When Ada and her friends break in to the Alliance to steal some bloodrock – an important ingredient for their magic disguise formula – Kay happens to be on duty. He arrests Ada while the others escape. But there are murders happening within the Alliance, and Kay and Ada both realise that they don’t know their friends as well as they thought.

I wasn’t all that keen on Ada as a character, personally, but Kay was okay. (Haha.) Their “budding romance” was a bit strained, I think, and forced into the story too much. The sort of negative connotations around magic was quite interesting, though.

It was quite a good book, with a ton of plot twists and deception. Ada’s trust issues are really not going to be any better after all this! 3 stars.

Book Review: A Note of Madness

Tabitha Suzuma is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.

I didn’t realise this was the first of two books, but it reads fine as a standalone novel anyway. I hadn’t intended to read on, but I just love Suzuma’s writing too much. I’ve reserved the next novel at the library.

I found this quite similar to Hurt in a couple of ways; firstly, the protagonist is a young male who is experiencing something very unpleasant but important to talk about. Instead of rape, as in Hurt, this time the topic is mental health. Flynn’s got the whole world at his feet, but suddenly he’s up all night composing or drowning himself in alcohol and aspirin. Everything feels wrong and he doesn’t know why. His flatmate, Harry, calls Flynn’s brother in to help. He’s a doctor and soon realises Flynn needs proper help. After one incorrect diagnosis and several relapses, Flynn finally feels the world go back to normal.

Although the ending is typically “hopeful” (which you can only expect, really – it’s not gonna be very helpful for kids to read stories where you never recover from your mental illness) it still manages to be realistic rather than overly positive and optimistic. For example, Flynn is offered a couple of amazing experiences in this book, the first of which he is determined to take. But he doesn’t, because his health declines so much. I can tell you how horrible it is when you have your heart set on something but your mental health holds you back… Sometimes you just can’t do it. Flynn’s health gets so bad that his brother takes him away on the eve of his big concert (he’s a music uni student).

There’s also a romance line through this, which I gather will be furthered in the next book. Flynn doesn’t pay much attention to it – doesn’t even notice it – due to his condition, until it’s too late and he’s messed it up. Jennah is an old crush of his, recently parted from her boyfriend for a mysterious “other guy”. Flynn just doesn’t put 2 and 2 together, though, and assumes she could never love him because he’s so hopeless and talentless and depressed. Things really get bad when they argue about it during one of Flynn’s relapses, and she goes missing for the night. I must admit that I immediately feared the worst after what happened in Hurt, but it was eventually resolved. I am very interested in reading how Flynn’s mental illness impacts his relationship in the future.

This is a great topic to address, especially in males. The episodes may be a little exaggerated but then I suppose that is how some people experience it. It’s different for everyone. I really appreciate the age chosen, too, because people often forget that mental illnesses don’t only develop when you’re twelve or thirteen. 5 stars; a fantastic book and a fantastic author.

Book Review: Apple Tree Yard

Who doesn’t like a good thriller novel?

The narrative of this book is quite unique, being recalled as an account from the past. Yvonne, the narrator, often refers to “now” and unknown events that have yet to take place in the story. This definitely builds the suspense a lot.

Yvonne takes us through the development of her extramarrital relationship with the unknown “you” (or “X” as she refers to him in her letters). Later, we will learn the identity of Yvonne’s lover, but throughout the book we are given only speculations about his life that Yvonne theorises to be accurate.

This affair is, I suppose, both shocking and familiar at the same time. Yvonne is a successful, loved wife and mother with a safe home and good career. She loves her husband and her children. Her affair is, in this respect, unexpected and outrageous. But at the same time, as Yvonne summarises at the end of the novel, her “one-off” offence falls perfectly into the typical category of people like her. People who do not cheat on their partners because they don’t love them. Unline “you”, who cheats repeatedly for the excitement of it.

Most of the book is dedicated to the devlopment of the relationship, with other details of Yvonne’s life and comments about the present included here and there. Yvonne is eventually sexually assaulted by a coworker/acquaintance. Amazingly, this event leads to Yvonne being on trial for murder.

The court case is described fantastically, with plenty of detail about all the little things that really set the scene. The narrative throughout the book is also fantastic – it really has the ‘feel’ of a middle-aged woman. 3.5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo