Ghost Hunt, Volume 11 by Shiho Inada and Fuyumi Ono

Ghost Hunt, Volume 11

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

All right, story time.

When I read scary things, I like to set the mood for it. I like being creeped out. I enjoy being a little scared. So, for this book, I got a station on Pandora playing (Spooky Symphonies for those who care) and I turned out the lights in my room so I could only use the flashlight on my phone for light. Quickly, I settled into the rhythm the last volume left off with, finding my heart beating faster and faster. And then some bodies fell out of the attic in the book and I remembered that my closet has a passage into the attic and I was moving to turn that light on.

After that, it was easy sailing. I can’t say much more since this volume picks up at the end of the last one, so saying too much of the plot would spoil things. Let’s just say that the scary momentum wasn’t carried forward. It changed itself in a way that was more unsettling than scary. Because you had to take a step back and question, “Wait, I don’t remember these characters? Where did they come from?” all while the characters in the story are acting like it’s completely normal.

However, to buffer that change, you have more discoveries about Naru’s and Mai’s abilities. Which throws everything from the past volumes into circumspect since you have to rethink all that you learned thus far.

It makes me really excited for the last book. Which I can read any time now since they never translated it into English, but I found a translation done by someone online for it.

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America

(Caidyn)

3/5

Ron Powers’ story is such a compelling one. In this book, he tackles explaining the current state of mental health in America and showing us his own experiences with his sons. Both of his sons, Kevin and Dean, have battled against schizophrenia from the time they were young adults.

Schizophrenia manifests in young adults, and some people see that as a part of synaptic pruning. Sorry to get all technical, but synaptic pruning occurs in neural development when our brains are still developing, but also when they’re adults. We’re born with more neurons than we actually will need, so when we become young adults, our brains start getting rid of (aka pruning) the neurons where connections were never formed. Some think that this pruning causes the brains to add in extra things, which are the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia can be a devastating disorder for people, although there is some hope. If you have more positive symptoms, which means it’s likely a dopamine imbalance, it’s easier to treat. The earlier it’s caught, the better treatment outcomes can be. Involving the family is great and teaching them is even better.

However, how can we have treatment if there’s no one to provide treatment? It’s a difficult disorder to work with, then add in the stigma of it and the preconceived notions and it’s even harder.

Ron Powers tries to tackle these problems by explaining how we got here. And, really, that we’re no different than earlier generations. However, I think it was out of place to try and address them as a whole. His story about his sons was far more compelling than that of the history of schizophrenia and the treatment of any mental disorder in America. At times, it felt awkwardly placed, this history. It would have been more compelling to have contemporary views, with minimal historical explanations, integrated into his sons’ stories.

It’s a very good and compelling book. There were times when I had to take a deep breath because it was so sad. One survived his battle, the other did not. And that by itself says a lot. If you read it, try the audiobook. Powers narrates it, and he also reads essays or plays music that his sons made, which makes the story even more touching. It’s one thing to abstractly read articles (scholarly or not) and another to really realize these stories are realities.

The Accidental Cannibal by Dale Rutter

The Accidental Cannibal

(Caidyn)

1/5

DNF at 20% and I received this book from the author for an honest review.

I think it says something that I DNFed the same book at the same spot. To sum it up, my original issues were to do with pacing, writing, and setting. The pacing was off because it felt so rushed with no build to the story. Then, the writing was awkward on many levels. The original I read was set back in 1000CE England, after William the Conquerer. But it was in the vernacular. And also had a lot of grammatical issues.

Dale came back to me after doing a major rehaul of this book and so I agreed to read it again.

Sadly, I have the same issues as before.

The pacing was so awkward. Instead of a slow build of the story and discovery, the discovery happened by about 15%. Then, it was all random stuff. I don’t get why half the things happened that did and the whole plot of the book — aka the discovery of the fact that he was a cannibal — should take longer. Far longer. He changed things, but not very much. The same things happened as in the first version I read, so it felt like I was reading basically the same book.

Dale changed the setting from England to a dystopian. Yet it was still in 1071CE, which means that the writing should still be not in the modern vernacular. I wanted it to feel like I was in the past, albeit a dystopian past. But it didn’t. It was just like a contemporary novel.

The writing was the only improvement. He changed a lot of the grammatical issues that bothered me, so I was pretty happy about that. It read so much easier, despite the issues I had. There’s a good story buried in here, I know, but it just didn’t show through for me. Pacing and setting still needed revision.

Blue is the Warmest Color

(Chantel)

Quick Note: I couldn’t talk about the graphic novel without talking about the film, so I’m considering this a review of both. 

Another quick note: In the film, the character known as Clementine in the graphic novel is called Adele. If I use the name Adele I’ll be referring to the film version of the character only just as Clementine will refer to the graphic novel version only. 

Graphic Novel – 4.5/5

Film – 5/5

A little less than a month ago I watched Blue is the Warmest Color on Netflix and I’ve been dying to talk about it. If you’ve never heard of the film or graphic novel, I’ll give you a brief overview before diving into my behemoth of a review.

The story follows a 15-year-old girl named Clementine and after a moment where she makes eye contact with a blue haired girl in the street, she suddenly starts to question her sexuality and the two eventually start a relationship.

That’s the bare bones of the story and if that one sentence summary interested you at all, then this is for you. If you would prefer a three-hour movie where not one word of English is spoken, then I’d suggest the film. If not, the graphic novel is for you. Or both! I went with both.

I saw the film first, and after finishing it I knew I had to get my hands on the graphic novel because these characters were absolutely compelling to me. I was sucked into their relationship from the moment they cross the street and make eye contact, a scene that is basically taken shot for shot from the graphic novel.

At first, I was hesitant to watch the movie because I’d heard about the multiple explicit sex scenes and the idea of that made me uncomfortable. When I watched the movie, the only thing that bothered me was that the first scene went on far too long. To the point where it was comical. If this is your hang up as well, don’t let it stop you, because the movie is really well done. The graphic novel has an explicit sex scene as well, but it feels right and the relationship between Clementine and Emma has been building. It doesn’t feel inauthentic or pornographic which is a huge criticism of the film. I understand that criticism of the film. For me, I found the sex scenes to be the least interesting parts of the film. The film holds up well on its own and would be just as good without them.

The relationship between these two characters is a huge part of both the graphic novel and the film, and their relationship spans quite a long time. Several years in fact. In the graphic novel, it’s explicitly stated that their relationship starts when Clementine is 16-17 years old and continues until she is 30 years old. In the film, it’s not as clear. However, their entire relationship isn’t covered. We only get bits and pieces, the highlight reel if you will. The graphic novel is about 150 pages, and while the film is three hours long, that’s right three hours. The two don’t meet or speak until about an hour into the film.

In the graphic novel, I found them to be quite immature. I get the feeling this might have been intentional. Young love is exciting and you don’t really think about the consequences of your actions. Even though you are incredibly happy and in love, you might not have any clue what you are doing. When their relationship starts out, Emma has a girlfriend. This is a plot point in the book and ignored in the film. It was very interesting to see how their relationship changed as we went through 13 years of their relationship. They changed as people and as a result, they discovered they were two very different people. I think this story is an excellent examination of a relationship and it’s definitely one that I encourage others to read.

The story isn’t just about their relationship, however, it’s about Clementine discovering her sexuality. This happens very similarly in the book and film. She sees Emma when crossing a street, makes eye contact with her, and then starts having dreams of this mysterious blue-haired girl. From that moment on, she struggles with her identity and sexuality. There are a lot of things that don’t work out for her and there’s a lot of homophobia. More than I was expecting. As an American, I always see Europe (the story takes place in France) as more open than our country is. Unfortunately, nobody escapes homophobia and it’s unfortunate. Nobody is alone in their struggle for belonging. In addition to the homophobia, there’s a lot of self-loathing which was hard to read about, but again it’s not a struggle anyone goes through alone.

All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend the graphic novel and the film. The graphic novel has gorgeous art in it and a compelling story of a young love. The film takes the same story and tweaks things a bit, but in the end, it’s an examination of two young women who enter a relationship and while they are in love aren’t prepared for how difficult it can be.


 

Now, there’s one last thing that I’d like to talk about and this is getting into MAJOR SPOILERS for both the film and the graphic novel. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

 


There is one distinct difference between the graphic novel and the film, honestly, I was taken aback by it.

At the beginning of the graphic novel, we find out Clementine has died. This doesn’t happen in the film and I honestly prefer the film version. In the film, Adele cheats on Emma (this happens in the graphic novel as well) and their relationship is over. Emma ends up in a relationship with another woman and moves on with her life while Adele struggles to move on. They have one last conversation where they both admit they still are attracted to each other and have feelings for each other, but nothing happens, and they have one last encounter at Emma’s art exhibit and then Adele walks away. With the implication that she’s finally ready to move on with her life.

Here’s the thing, when I finished watching the film, I got the sense that these two were incompatible. They had an exciting romance when they were young, and as they got older they realized how truly different they were and that they needed different things from a partner. That happens in life. Finding one person to spend your life with isn’t always a reality. Sometimes relationships end because things aren’t working out. It’s not a happy ending or a story we like watching, but it happens. I think the graphic novel’s biggest flaw was Clementine dying. At the end of the film, the relationship might not have worked out, but Adele has a future ahead of her and a chance at love. That’s taken away in the graphic novel through self-destruction. I felt the film had a more positive message and that’s ultimately why I preferred it.

This doesn’t diminish how much I enjoyed the graphic novel by any means, but the film impacted me more by the time the credits rolled. Which is why I rate it higher, despite its flaws. Perhaps it’s because films are the medium closer to my heart, but either way, the story of these two young women is powerful. Whether you watch the movie or read the graphic novel, I highly recommend both to anyone.

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Tony & Susan

(Caidyn)

1.5/5

DNF at pg. 33

Usually, I don’t review books that I don’t get at least 15% into. If I put them on my currently reading shelf, I’ll quietly take it off. The only time I rate or review is when I have a severe problem with something about the book. And, the thing is, the problem I have with this book isn’t that severe.

I saw the movie first. When I watched the Oscar’s and saw the clips they used for Nocturnal Animals, I had to watch it. I’m a bit of a glutton for horror. What impressed me most about the movie was how quiet it was and how it kept my attention the whole time. There was an undercurrent of tension the whole time where I wanted to know what would happen. How would things be resolved? Yet, nothing happened at the same time. Things didn’t change or happen and, in the end, it was a decent movie with a great director who knew how to spin a tale.

So, I decided to read the book the movie was based on.

It’s told from two very different perspectives. Susan gets a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward. He wants her to read it before he has it published. Then, the other point of view is that of Tony, the father in the story Susan’s reading.

Let’s just say, if you like The Road, you’ll probably like this. Sadly, I didn’t like that book. I found it boring and I hated the writing style to it. There was no connection to the characters. That’s how I felt with this book. Not only does Wright just not use commas, quotations, etc when he writes in Susan’s perspective, but he doesn’t explain anything. Who’s Martha? Oh, a chapter later you find out that she’s a cat. Who’s Henry and Dorothy? Maybe her kids? I don’t know still. Names are thrown out, concepts thrown out, without being fully explored. You get the sense that Susan’s unhappy with her life and thinks her second husband could be cheating on her, but it’s never followed up.

I found Tony’s story, both in the book and the movie, far more compelling. (The movie also used the same actor for Tony and Edward, which was a great choice.) However, having seen the movie and realizing how close the book stuck to the movie, I knew it wasn’t going to end with me happy.

In the end, I was left feeling completely disconnected from a story that, given the subject matter I know it tackles, should have drawn me in. At least with the movie there was music and great acting to bring it to life.

New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America by Mary Farrell Bednarowski

New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

You’re probably wondering: “Caidyn, why are you reading this?”

Well, let me tell you. It’s called summer classes. This was one of my assigned textbooks for a class. I had to read this in six days, or a chapter per day. Fun, right?

Bednarowski’s book covers six different religions, which you can see on the cover. She pairs each of the religions together, one that has older roots in America and the other that’s newer. Mormonism is paired with Unification Church. Christian Science with Scientology. Theosophy with New Age. It’s all very logically done, too. Mormons and Unificationists put a focus on the physical world; Christian Science and Scientology focus on the spiritual world or a world beyond us; Theosophy and New Age look to blend the physical and the spiritual worlds together.

I came into this with a passing knowledge of three of the six religions. I’ve heard at least something about Mormonism, Scientology, and New Age. The religion I was actually brought up in is a part of New Thought, which is an outgrowth of New Age (and, therefore, Theosophy). The other ones, I knew nothing about.

As I said, this book is very logical. Besides the introduction and epilogue, there are four chapters that topic different topics in each of these religions. God, humanity, death, and ethical considerations. It’s broken down into those pairs, then compared as a whole to see the common themes in the six religions, even if they have very different ways of expressing it.

One of my biggest problems is how it was structured. I love the pairings, but I think it would have been smarter to structure it not by themes but by the religions. One chapter on Mormonism, one on Scientology, one on Theosophy, etc. It was hard to keep track of all the information when I was simply trying to keep the key concepts of the religions straight since they delved into topics I was unsure on.

However, I learned a whole hell of a lot and it was extremely readable for an academic book. (Bednarowski kept calling the book “this study”, and it didn’t really read like a typical academic work.) If you have an interest in any of these religions or new religious movements from America, I’d recommend it.

Read for: New Religious Movements

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Since We Fell

(Caidyn)

2.5/5

 

Guys, I have a dilemma with this book. This is the second Lehane novel I’ve read, my first being Shutter Island. Practically everyone seems to like Lehane, but this book…. it’s not the top of his work. It’s barely cohesive and never when it counts.

Fundamentally, there are two stories to this novel, both circling around Rachel Childs. Rachel had a horrible upbringing with a mother who held something over her head with the claim of trying to protect her. What was she holding over her? Her father’s name. That’s because he abandoned her when she was three, far too young to remember much of him. And that’s the first story. Her search for her father. Along with this story is her burgeoning agoraphobia, something I’ll discuss more.

The second story technically starts at the beginning of the book, but you don’t pick it up until later. Her marriage and how it unravels quickly. And then, after it unravels, how it just gets even worse. I can’t discuss much more without spoilers.

What I can say is that those two stories don’t come together. They would have been better as separate stories in different books, not in one. I liked the stories, though. They were both very well written and well handled, but they should have been separate or severely cut down. Both of the stories are compelling, but they don’t add up or link together, especially into the second story that I consider the main one.

Now, I’m going to discuss Rachel’s agoraphobia. It could get spoiler-y, so I apologize.

Throughout the first story, Rachel develops severe agoraphobia that carries into the second one. One of the various threads in the second story is her husband trying to help her work through it. Then, that whole thing implodes and it ends up with Rachel having to go through it on her own. All of a sudden, she’s going out of the house and driving and traveling long distances on her own. It simply felt like Rachel suddenly was fine and got over things very quickly with the degree of impairment she had. I’m no expert on agoraphobia, but I know enough to realize it all happened very suddenly.

So, this was a good book that I did like, but simply didn’t cohesively work. There are other, better, Lehane novels out there. It just didn’t feel like he was on top of his game, despite the good writing.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods (American Gods, #1)

(Caidyn)

5/5

Listening to the full-cast audiobook was probably the best choice I ever made. This is one of my favorite books. Hands down. I won’t add any more to the conversation, nor can I talk about the show since I don’t get Starz. (sob)

The audiobook is amazing. It’s the author’s preferred text, so you’re getting the experience he wanted to give all along. Then, you get a full cast reading to you. Which is wonderful. Gaiman reads as well every so often and if you’ve never had him reading to you, it’s a treat. He’s a wonderful storyteller and even better.

For those afraid of this book, it is weird. It’s fucking weird on so many levels. But, it’s about gods. What do you expect? Gods are weird. Religions are weird. It’s only to be expected. If you can get past the weirdness, it’s a great book. Mystery, horror, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, romance. This book has it all.

Mystery, horror, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, romance. This book has it all. Perhaps it’s not a perfect book, but it’s so damn close and captivating that I had to give it five stars. I think that this is the only Neil Gaiman book that I’ve absolutely adored, and it’s definitely the only five-star book by him.

There are three main characters to this. Shadow, an ex-convict; Laura, Shadow’s wife; and Mr. Wednesday, Shadow’s employer. The story is Shadow’s discovery of identity. And, along the way, you meet some gods. Get into a war between the old and new ones. Have a few mysteries and a romance. Some weird acid trip like journeys. (Which is why Bryan Fuller is the perfect person to adapt this. If you’re in doubt, watch Hannibal and you’ll see what I mean.)

There’s no real plot to the book. Sure, there is something. I can tell you that it’s the battle of the gods, but that just doesn’t encompass the whole thing, you know? It makes me feel like I’m leaving out so much because that’s just the rough plot.

It’s one of those books that you finish and want to reread right away because you want to experience it again. There’s so much to it that you miss.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)

(Caidyn)

2.5/5

YA isn’t my go-to genre, but I’ve heard so many good things about this book that I had to give it a try. And, what I found, is that this isn’t a “great” book. It’s mainly good. At times, it’s great. At other times, it really sucks. So, this is going to be a good mix of good and bad opinions of this.

Let’s start with Lada. The main character. She’s a female version of Vlad the Impaler. I’m all for making “what if” stories. What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl? How would that change things? Super interesting. My biggest thing is that… Lada sucked. I expected her to do this to me:

I expected to be terrified of her and also weirdly rooting for her. Sort of like Jorg from The Prince of Thorns. Utterly scared, never would want to meet her in my life, yet rooting for her to get her way.

However, this is what I was actually like towards Lada:

She annoyed the hell out of me. I have no issue with characters who are utterly insane and crazy and also strong, but her weaknesses were so annoying. Like, yes, I get it. You have rather severe gender dysphoria (more on that in a second). I don’t need to be reminded every single damn time some guy shows an interest in you on some level or you realize again that you are a woman.

Gender dysphoria is typically seen as a problem that transgender individuals have. It’s marked by severe discomfort with the incongruity between your biological sex and gender identity. I am not saying that Lada is transgender. Applying a modern concept to the past where that just wasn’t a social construct is pointless and idiotic. It was done so well that it bothered me, so props to White there. Not a lot of cispeople can write gender dysphoria well.

Yet, it distracted me from the story. Every time she freaked out about being a woman, it just brought me out and I had to set it down because it bothered me. It added a lot to her character, but it was so awkwardly handled. Written beautifully, but awkwardly handled. All of a sudden, she stopped being so dysphoric without any reason why it was resolved.

Second on my list of grievances, it was distinctly YA. Aka, love triangles. And weird ones, too.

There are two love triangles in this.

I liked both of them, however… needed? Were they truly needed for the story in the long run? I’ll have to wait for the sequel to find that out, but it annoyed me since I don’t particularly need love triangles in my life.

Third, this book is all exposition. So, 37% of it is literally setting the stage for later things. Then, when you look at the book in the long-run, it’s setting the stage for the sequel. That is not plot. A plot is a distinct story for the book, not literally setting the stage for the ending. Good books hold both and this did at times, but it was so long and winding that I couldn’t keep a grasp on it.

As I said, I’m going to read the sequel. This book and the characters have a lot of promise to them. The ending interests me since I do want to see how the series progresses. However, this wasn’t a strong start in my opinion. Many people will disagree with me, I know, but it could have been a lot better. Too much hype and too little follow through.

Release by Patrick Ness

Release book cover

(Chantel)

4/5 – Note: Release has only been released in the UK and will be released in the US on September 19, 2017. If you’d like the UK version it’s available now at Book Depository.

Let me get one thing out of the way really quick, I’ve read two of Patrick Ness’s novels already, A Monster Calls and More Than This and those two books alone have made him one of my favorite authors. A Monster Calls had me weeping and More Than This was one of the best books I read last year. I don’t have a formal review on it, but seriously, go check it out.

Obviously, I was excited when I heard he was coming out with a new book this year and I even preordered it through Book Depository because if you want to read this book and you live in the US, you have to buy it from the UK or wait until September when it’s released here. I wasn’t going to wait five months, and the UK cover (see above) is absolutely gorgeous compared to the US cover.

Now, when I heard the concept for this novel, I was immediately in. It’s a day in the life of a gay teenager named Adam Thorn. Patrick Ness took inspiration from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Forever by Judy Blume. I have not read either book, but another of my favorite books/movies is called The Hours by Michael Cunningham which heavily features inspiration from Mrs. Dalloway as well as a fictional portrayal of Virginia Woolf. Needless to say, I felt like this book was written for me.

I was partly correct. The parts that involved Adam’s day were amazing and hooked me from the beginning. I could’ve read this book in one day if I had the motivation. I actually finished this book, reading a little over two hundred pages in one day. I adored Adam as a character the way I adored Seth from More Than This, and he didn’t disappoint with the side characters. Adam’s best friend Angela was hilarious, his brother Marty was surprisingly complex, and his boyfriend Linus was adorable and sweet. The way he went from flashbacks to present day was brilliant writing as it not only showed how spacey Adam was as a character but it gave us history without being clunky.

There was so much to like about this book and Patrick Ness really did a great job of telling a story of a gay teenager with strictly religious parents and his struggle with all of the relationships in his life. All in one day. We don’t get answers on how life is going to go when this day is over, but things aren’t figured out in a day. You take it one day at a time and that’s so real.

Another thing I’d like to hit on is Patrick Ness doesn’t shy away from sex in his books. There are multiple scenes of sex that Adam has had through his teenage years and that is so important. Sex, in general, is something to normalize especially in YA, but it’s so rare to read about gay characters having sex and it’s important to normalize as well. Especially when it’s safe sex.

Okay, now that I’ve raved about this book I had one huge problem with it. Interweaved with Adam’s day is the journey of the ghost of a girl who was murdered, roaming around town trying to figure out why she died and how she died. There was beautiful writing in these passages, but they ruined the pace of the book for me and I didn’t get it. It took me out of the story every time, and I just wanted to skip over the passages whenever they came up. The book would’ve been a five-star book without them, but because they hindered the pace I have to drop it down to a four-star book.

That being said, I’d still highly recommend picking this up now or in September, whichever tickles your fancy, because I think Adam’s story by itself is worth a read.