REVIEW: The Starless Sea

The only book I really managed to read cover to cover within the month of February was Erin Morgenstern’s novel, The Starless Sea. Having gone to see her book tour event in Toronto a few months back, I found it was the time to get to this at long last.

This book is so hard to sum up my feelings for. I’ve tried again and again to write this review but the words I need just won’t come to me. I saw myself so much in Zachary and in Dorian and in so many others. The way the story unravels slowly and twists back on itself time and time again, it’s like trying to explain the plot of Inception in a language you don’t even understand. It’s not nearly as complicated when you read it for yourself but to explain it… Yeah, I don’t think I can do that.

The Starless Sea is a love letter, a light in the dark, a saving grace, to anyone who loves to get lost in something away from themselves. It’s a reminder that it’s okay and you’re not alone as well as a reminder of the good things in the world around us, the untold stories that pass us by every single day. This book punches you in the stomach to remind you of reality before patting you on the head and reminding you how wonderful you are.

“Important things hurt sometimes,” is a quote in the book that hit me so hard I was reeling from it and it’s only one of the many, many lines in the book that brought me to tears. And I wouldn’t exactly say that this is a sad book.

The magic of reading radiates from every page of The Starless Sea and I’ve been struggling to find a new book to read ever since I finished it.

I don’t think this review makes any sense whatsoever, but it has been a long time since I book has taken my breath away the way that this one did. I’m not one of those people who ever thinks, “I wish I could go back and read this for the first time” but this book has changed that. I wish I could experience this book for the first time every time I pick it up, because I know I will be picking this up again and trying everything I can to make it come to life around me the way it did when I was reading it this first time.

 

MANGA MONDAY: Candy Colour Paradox #1

I know it’s been a solid week since I’ve posted a review, but I’m hoping to get back on track now that my health is more or less back to normal. I have fallen into something of a reading slump, but there will be more on that come Wednesday. For the time being, let’s get to this week’s manga read!

Today’s selection for Manga Monday is Natsume Isaku’s Candy Colour Paradox, a light-hearted yaoi series about a journalist and a photographer who are forced to work together despite being arch rivals at the magazine.

Considering all of the other yaoi series I’ve read this month, this one feels less thirsty – for lack of a better word – and more like a shoujo romance (despite the two leads being men). I don’t know how else to describe it but it almost feels like a slow burn considering how fast a lot of yaoi titles move. It also wasn’t as dirty or explicit as others I’ve been reading (which isn’t a bad thing) but I’m curious to see if that will change in future volumes.

I really liked the art style. It’s crisp and highly detailed which really adds interest to the story. I don’t want to keep comparing it to other titles, but I felt it had far more detail on all of the characters rather than primarily focusing on the two leads (something that got distracting sometimes in Classmates for sure). Not to mention Kabu and Onoe bicker like school children which gets really funny at times. I had a few issues with choices the translator made regarding speech patterns and slang but also understand why they were made. It was just off in some places and didn’t quite match what I believe Natsume was going for in the original Japanese.

Overall, I liked it enough to read the other three volumes I have, just maybe not right away. Because there is more detail and more plot, it took longer to read than the other series did but again, I liked that about this title. At this point I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good entry read for yaoi manga. A solid 3 out of 5 stars for me.

MANGA MONDAY: Ten Count 1 – 3

Today’s #MangaMonday is coming a bit late due to a minor technical issue with my hydro, but better late than never!

Since I was horribly sick last week, I didn’t have much energy for reading, however I managed to catch up this weekend by reading the first three volumes of Takarai Rihito’s yaoi series, Ten Count. Takarai’s art is so gorgeous, that is what initially drew me to the series but I also can’t help but be intrigued when I find manga that’s shrinkwrapped.

Now, I should mention here that this is not a “boy love” manga. This is 100% NSFW and is rated for Mature Adults with explicit content. I won’t go into much detail about that aspect of the manga, but please understand that minors shouldn’t read this series.

Ten Count follows Shirotani, a corporate secretary, and Kurose, a mental health counsellor, as the two work together to help Shirotani with his OCD and symptomatic germaphobia. However, as the two see each other more and more, their professional relationship begins to turn into something more and neither of them is sure if that’s something they can handle – but for very different reasons.

I like the way the relationship starts in this series, and I do like how in the first volume Kurose isn’t pushy but rather very understanding. Volumes two and three got a little more… intense… I still really enjoyed the next two volumes, however, the explicit scenes felt actually pushy to me. For a yaoi manga, that’s nothing new but I guess I was expecting a slower burn for this series. Regardless of what I was expecting, Takarai is a wonderful artist and author and at the end of each volume she mentions how she is building a more Dom/Sub relationship between Shirotani and Kurose so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

I give these first three volumes an average of 4 out of five stars. And with that dirty cliffhanger at the end of volume three, I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the rest of the series.

MANGA MONDAY: Classmates「complete series review」

This week a week of love, so let’s talk real romance!

For today’s Manga Monday I read the complete three-volume series, Classmates, by Nakamura Asumiko and really enjoyed them. The series follows Hikaru and Rihito’s relationship as it goes from friends to more. Hikaru first notices Rihito when his class is told they need to sing in a musical recital and takes it upon himself to tutor the shy boy. As the two start to grow closer – along with the graduation – things get more complicated and the two need to learn to think of each other as much as they think of themselves.

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Like come on, this art is perfection.

I loved the honesty in this series, the rawness and impulsivity of teenage boys. Hikaru and Rihito get mad over things that don’t make much sense and make up just as quickly as couples do when they’re sixteen. Even the art style, which is rough around the edges and raw in parts, really captures the exact tone of the story at every moment. It’s so hyper-stylized and it’s just stunning from cover to cover. Even the goofy little doodles between chapters that are mostly just Hikaru bothering Rihito are so cute, I fell in love with the two of them right away.

The only take away that I didn’t like was their teacher Hara-sen. He came off a bit overly pervy in my opinion, but the translated jokes where Hikaru called him “Hara-ssment” were so funny I died.

At only three volumes, Nakahara’s series is a good one to pick up and is really full of sweetness and light. Another good starting point for those looking for a good boy-love series.

REVIEW: Seven Days [Monday→Sunday]

To continue on my romance manga binge for the month of February, the series review of the week is Seven Days by Tachibana Venio and Takarai Rihito.

The edition published in English is a complete collection of the original two-volume series that follows upperclassman, Shino Yuzuru, and first-year, Seryo Toji, over their weeklong romance after Yuzuru asks Toji out on an impulsive whim. Toji is the school heartthrob who never has a girlfriend longer than a week, and Yuzuru is…well he’s an idiot in princely dress that the girls break up with once they get a look at his impulsive personality. Despite their flaws, the two boys seem perfect for each other but will they both come to the same conclusion once Sunday comes?

I really enjoyed this manga. It was a fast read and the art is absolutely stunning. Yuzuru made me laugh because of how dense he can be and Toji is a total babe. The story was paced wonderfully and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Reading this reminded me of how much I really enjoy fluffy boy-love manga and how comforting the nonchalance of the background characters is. So Yuzuru might be dating the most popular underclassman in the school? Cool beans. It’s just so nice to read these stories without a hint of homophobia or judgement and just bask in the cute, happy vibes.

Having read this while sick, it was a real pick-me-up and I would recommend to anyone looking for a softer yaoi manga to get into.

REVIEW: The Great Pretender

Having previously read Susannah Cahalan’s memoir, Brain on Fire, I was so excited to hear that she was writing a new book about the mental health system in America.

The Great Pretender is the unravelling of the paper written by David Rosenhan titled “On Being Sane in Insane Places” and examining how it was influenced by as well as influencing in regards to the treatment of people living with mental illness. It examined the case of people posing as patients to “infiltrate” the broken system and prove the point of misdiagnosis as well as the dismissal of those who receive those diagnoses. Winding through history and even looking at the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the modern method of Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) diagnosis.

Reading Cahalan’s previous book, I was familiar with her own experiences with misdiagnosis which I do feel was a key element in her ability to capture all of the elements of this narrative. My own experiences also gave me intense respect for those involved in the study and even for people that continue to speak out on behalf of those who are victims of the broken system that passes itself off as health care for the mentally ill.

I also found the final few chapters regarding fraudulent research and results in scientific papers to be fascinating. Tackling the disproven research from Freud all the way to the Standford Prison Experiment (which was a weird obsession I had in high school and will always find fascinating), it talked about not only creating fictitious results for the sake of being published but also how papers should really be taken with a grain of salt because not many of them age and achieve the same results when replicated.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, psychiatry, history, or even mental health in general. Whether it’s your major or you’re simply curious, Cahalan’s writing style is very accessible and attention-grabbing. Once again, Susannah Cahalan has knocked this one out of the park and I look forward to any and all future books she comes out with.

MANGA MONDAY: Full Moon「complete series review」

This February, I’m planning on exclusively romance manga for my #MangaMonday posts and I thought, what better way to start off this theme than to post about the series that started my obsession.

Full Moon by Tanemura Arina was the first every manga I read start to finish. I was 12 when I first borrowed it from a friend at summer camp and the weeb days began. The series follows Mitsuki, a young girl with a tumour in her throat that keeps her from her dreams of being a pop star. When two shinigami (gods of death) named Meroko and Takuto come to her and let her know she only has one year left, she convinces them to let her live her dream and transform her into a healthy 17-year-old singer so she has the chance.

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Takuto and Mitsuki are legit the cutest ever.

Full Moon is a beautiful story about love and passion and the things we are willing to do to make the world a happier place. Mitsuki is a sweet, innocent, caring little girl who only wants love and happiness but is willing to really work for it. And let’s be real, Takuto was the cutest manga boy I’d ever seen in my life at the time when I was reading and re-reading this series over and over again.

The elements of loss are also vital to this series and Tanemura captures the pain and the grief so beautifully as Mitsuki struggles with her own looming death on the horizon of her success as a pop star. Throw some of the most gorgeous, original artwork I’ve ever seen in my life, and there is nothing more to say about Full Moon.

The series originally ran from 2005 to 2006 and got a really lame anime adaptation (I, personally, love it, but I’m being honest when I say it is not good) so technically it’s an old classic at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was out of print these days but if you’re able to and want a sappy love story that will have you sobbing for the entirety of the last volume, I implore you to find it and read it and then email me immediately to yell about it.