The Over Soul (Shaman King #4) ★★★☆½ (Manga Monday)

oversoul (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Over Soul
Series: Shaman King #4
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

The Patch Tribe have been the overseers for the Shaman Fight for quite some time. Their connection to the Great Spirit allows them to determine if a Shaman is capable of being part of the Shaman Fight. Silva and 9 other Patch overseers are sent to Japan to test various candidates and weed out the failures before hand.

Silva tests Yoh and all Yoh has to do is touch Silva. However, Silva manifests his spirits through totems and his mana (chi) gives them physical form, thus preventing Yoh from simply flinging Amidamaru at him. The test is to determine if Yoh can actually channel his own mana and what strength as a shaman he has. Yoh figures out how to manifest Amidamaru using his sword and is able to land one blow on Silva. Yoh now has a genuine Patch Pager Oracle, which will tell him who to fight, when to fight and any conditions.

Ren Tao also defeats his overseer, but kills the guy. The overseer was a friend of Silva and Silva can’t figure out why Ren is still allowed to continue in the Shaman Fight even though he has demonstrated he is a little psychopathic killer. The rest of the Overseers basically tell Silva to shut up and do what they say.

Yoh has his first fight against a young shaman named Horohoro, who uses a snowboard as his totem. Horohoro has a dream to make all mankind live in harmony with nature and Yoh almost gives up to allow him to proceed. Thankfully, Anna is there and smacks him around and he gets back on track. But now he has his own dream, of living the easy life, and of making Horohoro’s dream come true. The fight is just beginning when the volume ends.

 

My Thoughts:

I dropped this a half star for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, while harmony with nature has been chatted up before, here it felt like a date. I too have a dream. To pave the entire planet. I wish more people WOULD get out into nature, REAL nature, not the fake stuff you have around cities and suburbs. Then maybe all those people would die and everyone else would realize how terrible nature is and how it should be conquered.

Second, the whole Patch tribe and the Great Spirit schtick. There is a 2 page long talk about how the Great Spirit is the supreme being of the entire universe but that it can’t actually foresee the future, blah, blah, blah. It is a bunch of nonsense (in that it really makes no sense and contradicts itself) and is so amorphous that Takei (the manga-ka) can use it as he wishes. Also, the vibes given off by the Patch Overseers is rather tyrannical.

But if you don’t overanalyze things and just let those things drift on by, this was a lot of fun. Yoh is learning new things and picking up new allies, maybe without even realizing it. His Entourage was already started with Anna, Manta and Ryu but now he has made friends with Silva and I’m pretty sure he and Horohoro become good friends. A King needs allies.

The Patch are obviously going to be involved way more than just as Overseers. The whole thing between Silva and the others over the death of his friend showed clearly that the Patch are just as human as any of the shamans. Thus they have their own agendas and schisms. I suspect corruption and collusion at some point in the narrative to help drive the drama.

I think the most amusing part of this volume was when Horohoro finds out that Anna and Yoh are engaged. He starts feeling inferior because he doesn’t even have a girlfriend. It made me laugh because it is SO how a boy would think.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Advertisements

Dust of Dreams (Malazan Book of the Fallen #9) ★☆☆☆½

dustofdreams (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dust of Dreams
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #9
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 950
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The White Faced Bargast, now returned to their ancestral lands, are hemmed in by the lands current sets of clans and misused.The Bargast are now led by Onos Toolan, a resurrected T’lan Imass. He is trying to change their ways but in the face of a hostile land, the Bargast reject Toolan’s leadership, kill him, hobble his wife and drive off his children. Toolan comes back as a T’lan (hence the Dust of Dreams). The Bargast face their enemies but everyone is destroyed when “something” simply freezes them all into little pieces. Toolan hunts down the survivors and kills them all to fulfill his vengeance against the Bargast. In doing so, he ignores a summons by Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters.

The Bonehunters are leaving Lether to head through the Wastes into a kingdom where a piece of the Fallen god is. The Adjunct’s plan is to destroy said piece. They are supposed to meet up with the Bargast (that obviously doesn’t happen) and the Grey Helms, a mercenary branch. The Bonehunters are accompanied by Brys Beddict and his elite guards from Letheri.

A Skykeep of K’chain Che’Malle origin, with the help of a lone surviving human, must find a Shield Anvil and a Mortal Sword if this set of K’Chain want to survive. They get Stormy and Gessler. They meet up with the Bonehunters.

Icarium is now a ghost and haunting a group of people who have found an abandoned Sky Keep. They begin to awaken the Keep, which was created just to destroy the short-tailed K’Chain, the Narruk.

The Narruk, who have a dozen skykeeps from another realm, invade the world of Malaz and end up in the Wastes. It is up to the Bonehunters and everyone else in the area to destroy them. But without the help of the T’lan Imass, the outcome is in doubt.

There is a huge devastating battle at the end and whole armies are destroyed. We don’t know who survives.

 

My Thoughts:

Before I started writing this review, I went and read my original one from 2010, just to see if my perspective on this book had changed. A lot of the time the years give me a new viewpoint and something I used to like I no longer do or something I hated I now enjoy. Unfortunately, the review from 2010 is pretty much exactly the same as what I’ll be writing here.

With this book Erikson has cemented in my mind that he is a real bag of crap. Out of 950 pages, the plot is only forwarded by maybe 200 of those pages. The rest is devoted Erikson spewing out depressing cant and nonsense. Complete and utter nonsense. When somebody does do something good and heroic, Erikson makes sure to piss on it by having other characters destroy the moment with their own regrets and melancholy and depression. Any possible good thing Erikson squats over and craps on with a diarrhea quality.

This is a junk book and once again, while the series starts out so awesomely with Gardens of the Moon, it has descended into a morass of soapbox preaching and what’s worse, extremely BORING soapbox preaching. I no longer recommend this series because of the last 3 books.

This is the level of bloviated writing that destroyed the sales of his Karkanas trilogy (which is stuck at book 2 and looks like it will never get finished). Thankfully, Ian Esslemont seems to be doing a good job of actually writing a real trilogy with a real plot and keeping the world of Malaz alive. I do plan on reading the last book in this series but after that, I’ll just stick to Gardens of the Moon if I ever feel the need to dip my toes into the world of Malaz. It just isn’t fun sticking my head under this faucet of filth.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

Wizard’s First Rule (Sword of Truth #1) ★★☆☆☆

wizardsfirstrule (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Wizard’s First Rule
Series: Sword of Truth #1
Author: Terry Goodkind
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 852
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Richard Cypher, still dealing with his father being brutally murdered, and forbidden from investigating by his elder brother who is about to become the most powerful man in Westland, rescues a young woman from the clutches of four men. Her name is Kahlan.

Kahlan is from the Midlands, a land where magic abounds and that is cutoff from Westland by the Border, a magical construct. But the Border between the Midlands and D’Hara has already fallen and Lord Rahl, lord of D’Hara, has taken over the Midlands. A prophecy says that Kahlan will find the Seeker, the wielder of the Sword of Truth, in the Westlands. This Seeker can only be appointed by the last remaining wizard, a wizard so powerful that he cast a spell that made everyone in the entire world forget his name and his face.

Richard takes Kahlan to his old friend Zed, a rascally old man who has trained Richard throughout the years in woodcraft and various other skills. Richard does something or other that makes it obvious that he is the Seeker Kahlan is looking for, but where will they find an unkown wizard who has the Sword of Truth to give to Richard? Oh wait…

Richard, Kahlan and Zed are on the run, as Lord Rahl is able to send magical creatures across the Border to hunt down Kahlan. Richard has memorized a secret book and Lord Rahl has done some magical stuff with some magical boxes. These boxes will either give Lord Rahl complete power, certain death or the destruction of all living things. Only Richard knows the correct box to pick.

Lord Rahl pulls shenanigans and ends up with everybody at his castle. Everyone is so busy trying to protect everybody else that they give Lord Rahl exactly what he wants. He opens a Box of Orden, only Richard, being such a super smart Seeker, tricked him. Lord Rahl dies and it is revealed that Richard Cypher is actually the son of Lord Rahl and the grandson of the Wizard Zeddicus. Long Live the Good Lord Rahl!

 

My Thoughts:

Awwwww man! This went from a 5star read in ’04, on my Loved side of the 100 books of Bookstooge down to a 2 star! Folks, that is a crushing blow. I am not sure that Life itself is worth continuing. With a blow like that, my confidence is shattered, my ego destroyed and my ham-handed self-righteousness has been shish-kebabed.

Where do I start?

Well, the writing I guess. It was bad. It was clunky. It was choppy. It did not flow. When I read the words I felt like I was in a wagon going over a cobblestone road. Richard did things. Richard said things. Kahlan also did and said things. Zed AND Lord Rahl both said and did things. It felt like watching a marionette show. I have no memory of the writing being this unskilled 14 years ago. Guess I’ve matured in that time. Thank goodness!

The characters. Most of the issues with the various characters stems from the writing skill (or lack thereof) and not because of any inherent flaws in the characters. They are mainly flat without any real individuality. The romance between Richard and Kahlan has all the texture, flavor and excitement of drying cement. Zed, for being a wizard of great strength and age, is as much an idiot as Richard.

The Mord Sith. This was just disturbing this time around. A group of women broken in every single way so that pain is pleasure to them. Lord Rahl then somehow makes them able to control any magic used against them and the Mord Sith can torture the magic user until they are the Mord Sith’s slave. This was gone into in way more detail than was needed and I just felt dirty after reading it.

Everything is resolved because Richard is the golden boy. I usually like a protagonist who is capable and smart and able to handle everything thrown at him. This time though, Richard didn’t work that way for me. He’s so golden King Midas would be envious. It didn’t encourage me, it made me nauseous. It didn’t help that Goodkind uses Richard as a mouth piece and Goodkind blows the trumpet loud and long.

Overall, a very bleh read that really crushed me with how disappointed I was because of my memories.I will be removing this from the Bookstooge in 100 Books list once I find a suitable replacement to go on the “Loved” side. Way to go Goodkind, make MORE work for me almost 15 years after I read your book. You’re a real peach…

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Harpist in the Wind (Riddlemaster #3) ★★★☆ ½

harpistinthewind (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Harpist in the Wind
Series: Riddlemaster #3
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 260
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The shapeshifters from the Sea continue and escalate their battle against humanity. But their fighting makes no sense, as they simply occupy areas where the old Earthmasters cities used to be.

Morgan keeps on running away and Raederle keeps finding him and getting him back on track. It is revealed that the High One’s harpist, who betrayed Morgan, is actually the High One and that he was using Gwych for his own ends. Morgan and Gwych duke it out and Morgan, as the Starbearer, wins.

The Shapeshifters are revealed as the losers in a war between the Earthmasters. The High One is the last Earthmaster and when he dies, they will break loose and rule all creation. The High One has made Morgan his landheir and hopes his power can lock them away again.

Morgan succeeds with the help of all the kings and the queens of the land and he is now the High One, a fully human High One married to a sorceress of Earthmaster descent.

 

My Thoughts:

Honestly, so much happened so quickly that if you didn’t read every single sentence huge things would change in an eyeblink. Take Deth the Harpist. He’ supposedly dead and then he shows up as a Wizard and it all takes place in a sentence or as an aside.

Morgan was just as stubborn as the first book and I don’t realy like when a character is fighting against what they know is right “just because”. And then when he seals up the Shapeshifters so he doesn’t have to kill them, that was the exact same problem that the original High One had, for at one point they’ll break loose AGAIN and start the cycle all over. You don’t hold a threat in a pen, you destroy it.

Most likely the least enjoyable McKillip I’ve re-read so far. I wasn’t quite so confused as last time but my goodness, I wasn’t enthralled just kind of whirling along hoping to stay conscious until the end. Definitely would NOT recommend this for a first timer of McKillip. If I ever do another re-read of her stuff, I’m going to try to remember to skip this trilogy.

★★★☆ ½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Lizard Man (Shaman King #3) ★★★★☆ (Manga Monday)

lizardman (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Lizard Man
Series: Shaman King #3
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Wooden Sword Ryu and gang continue to look for their happy place. They find an abandoned bowling alley where Ryu sees Anna and falls in love. When he finds out she is Yoh’s fiance, everything comes crashing down for him as Yoh was the one who cut off Ryu’s pompadour AND broke his sword. This leaves Ryu open to be possessed by a bandit ghost that Amidamaru killed 600 years ago.

After lots of blathering, Yoh lets the ghost, one Tokagero, possess him to see what trust is all about. Tokagero has a change of heart and lets Ryu go. Ryu and gang clean up the inn where Yoh is staying as payment and Ryu’s latent shaman powers are released. Unfortunately, without a spirit OR a trainer, he’s left on his own. He asks the stars for a sign and a comet suddenly appears blazing across the sky.

The comet is one of a pair that herald the start of the fight for the title of Shaman King. We get a shot across the world of various shamans gazing at the comet and the book ends with Ren Tao claiming that he will be the Shaman King no matter what.

 

My Thoughts:

This volume relied almost completely on the Friendship trope in manga. Yoh and Amidamaru are as strong as they are because of their friends and even Ryu has friends to help him out. Once the nasty bad Tokagero realizes just how lonely he was, suddenly he’s alright once someone shows him some friendship. In one sense it was eye-rollingly corny but at the same time you can see the truth behind the trope. Friendships have allowed people throughout history to go beyond themselves and to do things they didn’t think they could. The flipside to that is that no one can hurt you more than a friend can.

Ryu moves up from a bit character to someone with shaman capabilities which means he is now part of The Team. It is fun to watch as people move into Yoh’s orbit without him even trying.

I also have to say that after reading this volume and still enjoying it so much that I’m going to be reading a volume every week and putting out a Manga Monday post each week for at least this month. Just so you know so you can avoid them or pay particular attention, depending on which way your interests lay.

Finally, that cover. That is just plain ridiculous and yet it captures the essence of the story told. Ridiculous AND funny at the same time.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Pickwick Papers ★★★★★★

pickwickpapers (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Pickwick Papers
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 6 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 943
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Samuel Pickwick, gentleman bachelor and amateur scientist, has formed a small group of like minded men and they all decide to go exploring the Countryside of England to expand their knowledge of their Great Country.

As such, the 4 Gentlemen, Mr Pickwick, Mr Snodgrass, Mr Tuddle and Mr Tuppman, set out to see what they can see. Along the way Mr Pickwick picks up a servant by the name of Sam Weller, the company meets an honorable countryman by the name of Mr Wardle, the 2 younger gentlemen of the group fall in love and marry the niece and daughter of Mr Wardle, Mr Tuppman is disappointed in love with Mr Wardle’s spinster sister Miss Rachel. Mr Pickwick becomes embroiled in breach of promise suit with his landlady due to the machinations of the dastardly duo Dodson & Fogg, attorneys at law and ends up spending 3 months in debtors’ prison for refusing to pay the fine, as it would all go to the lawyers instead of the landlady. Pickwick and Weller have multiple runins with their lowclass counterparts, Jingle and Trotter and are made fools of several times over. Sam Weller’s father comes into the story with his own adventures of his second wife, a widow who owns a tavern and is a strict adherent to the sect of Preacher Stiggleton, who preaches teetotally while cooling drinking pineapple rum punch by the hogshead.

These are but a part of the adventures the Pickwick Club has over the course of 2 years and at the end of the book everything turns out for the best. Marriages and children abound, bad characters reform, love and generosity overcome all hardships and obstacles and Mr Pickwick retires to a city house with Sam and his wife Mary to keep him in order.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, yes, I did give this 6 stars. I know circumstances played a part, ie, several dnf’s had my reading expectations abysmally low. But even without that, this was just a fantastic book.

It started a little rough and in a rather formal vein but that was for the first chapter only. Then it turned into Dickens’ more relatable style. I’m a Dickens’ fan through and through.

This was an interesting little plot-less book. I say little because even though the “official” page count is over 900 pages, when I used Calibre’s page count plugin, this was barely over 600 pages. I suspect the pictures and chapters each had their own breaks which artificially inflated the page count.

I think humor was the most prevalent of the emotions that Dickens was trying to call forth and my goodness, he did a grand job. Sam Weller, Pickwick’s man servant was a font of pugnacious, pugalistic one liners and retorts that had me in stitches. He was also a bit more knowledgeable about the world at large than his master and thus was able to guide him safely through some troubled waters.

Romance, pathos, politics, social justice’ing of the day (Dickens was dead set against the whole idea of Debtors Prison. But to be fair, he actually had solid reasons, not just vapid, idiotic, baseless, pointless and generally useless ideas like the sjw’s of today), hijinks and lots and lots of drinking.

Through it all, Pickwick navigates the adventures as best he can and we can cheer him on, groan with him, laugh with him (and Sam Weller) and generally love every second spent reading this book. I’m also giving this the Best Book of the Year tag.

★★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Kung Fu Master (Shaman King #2) ★★★★☆ (Manga Monday)

kungfumaster (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kung Fu Master
Series: Shaman King #2
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 20
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh survives his battle with Ren but ends up in a coma for 3 days in the hospital. He has flashbacks to when his grandfather was training him and we the audience learn all about The Shaman King. Yoh wakes up and a girl named Anna walks into his room, abuses Manta, claims she is Yoh’s fiance and then states that’ll she be training Yoh over the summer. Fast forward 3 months, school is starting and Yoh and Manta think things have settled down, only to find that Anna has transferred to their class. Those poor guys.

Ryu, ie, Pompadour Man, and his gang of hooligans finally find their happy place, only to have it taken over by Ren. Ren’s big sister Jun shows up and promises him she’ll get him Amidamaru. She sets up a battle between her and her corpse ghost and Yoh and Amidamaru. The Tao’s had a super skilled martial artist killed and Jun has been using him, one Lee Bailong [think Bruce Lee]. Bailong beats the crap out of Yoh and Anna just watches to see if Yoh is strong enough to eventually be the Shaman King. Manta goes and confronts Wooden Sword Ryu, beats the crap out of him with a dictionary and steals his wooden sword. This allow Amidamaru to defeat Bailong.

Unfortunately, an uncontrolled Bailong goes full spirit berserk and starts trying to kill Yoh, even though Yoh just set him free from Jun’s control. Anna, who can control any ghost in existance, calls forth Bailong’s old Master and he integrates with Yoh. Old Master/Yoh have a good chat with Bailong while beating him senseless for being such a stupid student.

Everyone comes to their senses and its all happy smiles and thumps on the shoulder. Bailong wants to perfect his martial art and so goes along with Jun so he can continue to use his body. Yoh learns his limits and realizes he has to get a whole lot better if he hopes to become the Shaman King.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very good blend of humor, kick butt fighting scenes and info dumping. I have to admit, when Yoh was flashbacking to his 4year old self and he asks if Jesus was a Shaman King, I could only picture a “Ninja Jesus” complete with throwing stars and katana.

The introduction of Anna is a good choice, as at this point she’s tougher than Yoh and can make him do the stuff he needs to, unlike Manta. Poor Manta. Anna beats on him like a ragdoll. Yet he shows his devotion to Yoh by getting the wooden sword from Ryu.

Poor Ryu. He has the worlds most awesome pompadour and it just keeps getting cut off. He’s definitely going to be a “punk with a heart of gold” kind of character.

The fight scene with Lee Bailong was just right. That is the nice thing about earlier books in a shonen fighting manga like this, everyone isn’t ridiculously overpowered yet so the battles can’t stretch out for multiple volumes. We also learn a lot about the various types of shamans and that not everybody is going to be like Yoh.

One thing I found very interesting, and I might really be reading too much into it, is that both Anna, as Yoh’s family appointed fiance, and Jun, as Ren’s older sister, don’t want to be the top Shaman themselves. At this point, both of the females are stronger than the male characters but they evince zero interest. I’m going to just say that the simplest explanation fits and let it go at that.

Happy so far with this. Much more enjoyable than Oh My Goddess and I suspect that having a goal for the series, for Yoh to become the Shaman King, helps keep the manga-ka focused.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)