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review 2019-12-27 20:56
5 Out Of 5 STARS⇢ The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
The Familiar Dark - Amy Engel

 

SYNOPSIS FROM AUTHORS WEBSITE 

A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.

Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

 

A BookisObsessioFavorite

 

THE KEY POINTS OF THE STORY⇣

 

 

⬥OZARK MOUNTAINS

⬥MURDER OF TWO TWELVE-YEAR-OLD GIRLS

⬥A MOTHER TRYING TO DO RIGHT BY HER DAUGHTERS MEMORY

⬥LIFE IN THE HOLLAR

⬥TWISTED & A LITTLE TWISTY

 

STATS⇣

 

BOOK COVER⇢ It doesn't do the book justice

SETTING⇢ Missouri Ozarks

SOURCE⇢ I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

eBOOK LENGTH⇢ 256 Pages

 

MY THOUGHTS⇣

 

What makes a murder mystery a favorite?  This is a question I've asked myself quite a few times since I started reading this genre.  Seriously, there's not a lot to love about murder. Near as I can come up with...is a book that really affects you in some way, whether it be fear, loathing or one you just can't get out of your head.  This book is kind of all three of those, and then some.  I also still think about the Roanoke Girls by this same Author.  I've rated both 5 stars and they both totally deserve it.  Deeply affecting.

 

I've read a couple of other books that deal with the area of Central to the Eastern United States Mountainous ranges (Winters Bone & The Weight of This World).  But, The Familiar Dark has been the best one of all three so far.  This book hooked me from the start, I felt like I was on this quest with Eve to solve the murder of her daughter and her daughter's friend.  Experiencing everything she experiences, from the lows to the even lower's and even the few highs. 

 

The beginning of this gutted me and the middle had me transfixed and the end left me gasping and in tears...such a gut-wrenching story. That is not just superbly written but is also perfectly plotted.  I highly recommend.

 

MY RATING 5 STARS | GRADE A+

 

BREAKDOWN⇣

Plot⇢ 5/5

Characters⇢ 5/5

The Feels⇢ 5/5

Pacing⇢ 5/5

Addictiveness⇢ 5/5

Theme or Tone⇢ 5/5

Flow (Writing Style)⇢ 5/5

Backdrop (World Building)⇢ 5/5

Originality⇢ 5/5

Ending⇢ 5/5

 

 

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review 2019-09-02 02:02
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World (book) by Mamare Touno, illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara, translated by Taylor Engel
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World - Mamare Touno

The basic premise of the series: right after the release of a new expansion pack, all players currently logged on to the MMORPG game Elder Tales woke up to find themselves living in the bodies of their avatars, trapped in what appeared to be a blend of the Elder Tales world and the real world.

This first volume introduces Shiroe, an Enchanter who's an incredibly gifted strategist, Naotsugu, a Guardian with a bad habit of talking about panties, and Akatsuki, an Assassin who's really into roleplaying her character, right down to referring to Shiroe as her liege. The three of them figure out how to use their magical and fighting abilities, learn the rules of this new world, encounter player killers, and go on a quest to rescue a young girl named Serara from a town that has turned hellish ever since the Catastrophe that resulted in everybody getting trapped in the game.

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the anime so much that I ordered the first few volumes of the light novel series before I'd even finished it. Based on my feelings about this first volume, that was probably a mistake.

I still love the premise, and that Touno opted to focus on the nitty gritty details of rebuilding a functional society rather than on battles and action, although the series certainly still has some of that. And this book provided some interesting details that either weren't included in the anime or that I'd missed. For instance, I loved the class and subclass table. And the detail about abusive players using the game's "friend" function to aid their harassment of other players made me wince because it was such a perfect example of the ways people will take something that was intended to be a helpful feature and figure out how to use it to hurt others.

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this, it was bogged down by its massive amount of detail and bad writing/translation. The writing problems ranged from unnecessarily obvious statements to just plain awkward phrasing. A couple examples:

"Online games are played over the Internet." (15)

They are indeed. I suspect that this painfully obvious statement was the result of some of the translation issues discussed in Clyde Mandelin's "Redundant Translations in Games & Anime."

Later on, Shiroe was referred to as the "Tea Party strategy counselor" (25). The Debauchery Tea Party used to be a well-known party filled with high-level players who took on difficult enemies. It would have been better, and less awkward-sounding, to refer to Shiroe as their strategist, rather than strategy counselor.

I could come up with other examples, but what it basically came down to was that I much preferred the anime's English subtitling to the book's English translation. Still, I soldiered on, hoping for some good additional content that didn't get included in the anime.

From what I could tell, the anime was actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. It inherited the book's pacing problems and initial lack of a decent story, but managed to improve upon the book by cutting down on its panty jokes and level of Elder Tales world details. Yes, the book somehow had even more panty jokes than the anime. And boob jokes, once Marielle was introduced.

I'll continue on, since I already own the next few books, but I doubt I'll end up reading the full series, especially since it looks like nearly all of the currently available light novel content has made it into the anime.

Extras:

A couple color illustrations on a large folded sheet, several black-and-white illustrations throughout, character profile information (Shiroe, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Marielle, Serara), tables listing many of the various Elder Tales main classes and subclasses, and a short afterword written by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-06-23 22:21
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local (book) by Ryohgo Narita, illustration by Katsumi Enami, translated by Taylor Engel
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local - Ryohgo Narita,Katsumi Enami

The year is 1931, and the Flying Pussyfoot, a limited express train bound for New York, has just acquired several groups worth of dangerous passengers, nearly all of whom think they'll easily be able to take over the train for their own ends. There's crybaby bootlegger boss Jacuzzi Splot (best name ever) and his misfit band of delinquents, who plan to steal some secret cargo. There's the Lemures group, a bunch of terrorists determined to take some hostages in order to free their leader, the immortal Huey Laforet. There's murder-loving Ladd Russo, the nephew of the head of the Russo mafia family, his bride-to-be Lua, and his group of fellow killers. There's the mysterious monster known as the Rail Tracer. And then there are a few less dangerous passengers, like the thieves Isaac and Miria.

All of these passengers have their own goals and motivations. Only some of them will make it to New York alive.

First, a disclaimer: I have seen (and enjoyed) the anime, which adapted several books in this series, including this one. I suspect it helped my ability to follow along with the characters and story. Normally, I'd suggest watching the anime prior to attempting these light novels, but the anime has gone out of print and, as far as I know, isn't legally streaming anywhere (to anyone who wonders why I still buy so much anime when streaming is an option, this is why).

As far as reading order goes: Although Narita wrote in his afterword that he planned to keep each volume as self-contained as possible, that doesn't mean the books can be read in any order - definitely read Volume 1 before starting this one, even though only a few characters from the first book make appearances in this one. Also, if you make it past Volume 1 and plan on reading Volume 2, you might as well buy Volume 3 as well, because Volume 2 isn't self-contained. It doesn't end in what I'd call a cliffhanger, but it does leave a good chunk of the story untold. Multiple characters show up, only to disappear again, the details of their fates saved for Volume 3.

In my review of the first volume of this series, I wrote that the writing/translation was bad but that this somehow didn't interfere with my enjoyment. That was sadly not the case with Volume 2. I don't know whether it was actually worse than Volume 1 or whether I was just less in the mood, but there were times when the writing literally ground my reading experience to a halt as I tried to figure out what Narita meant. One example:

"Nice objected to that idea. Since she was talking to Nick, even under the circumstances, she meticulously parsed out casual speech and polite speech to the appropriate listener; Nick received the latter." (147)

It would have been simpler to say that, even though she objected to Nick's idea, she still did so politely. Not only is the phrasing incredibly awkward, I'm not sure that "parsed" is the right word here. "Parceled out" might have been more appropriate.

Here's an example that just made me shake my head:

"Without giving an audible answer to that question, Lua nodded silently." (48)

Can we say "redundant"?

As in Volume 1, the writing was almost completely devoid of descriptions. Nearly all of the book's historical and setting details were limited to pages 61 to 62 - otherwise, it was all character introductions, dialogue, and action, pretty much in that order.

It's a sign of how excellent Ladd Russo's English-language voice actor was that I kept hearing him every time I read Ladd's dialogue. Of all of this book's many characters, Ladd and Jacuzzi probably stood out the most. Jacuzzi was a relatively fun and interesting character, a young man who tended to cry and panic about everything but who nonetheless inspired intense loyalty within his group. Ladd, unfortunately, just came across as an excuse for occasional mindless bone-crunching violence.

Isaac and Miria were a disappointment this time around. They continued their role as the series' comic relief, but instead of being oblivious to the violence around them, they were presented as being well aware of what was going on, but so used to it that they were unfazed. Honestly, it made them seem more creepy and disturbing than, say, a more in-your-face monster like Ladd.

I don't expect the series' writing to improve, but I'm hopeful that I'll like Volume 3 more than this one, because all of the fantasy elements that Narita only hinted at in this volume will actually be on-page in that volume. Also, my favorite character from the anime, Claire, will finally get more than just a few vague mentions.

I'll wrap this up with a couple things that made me go WTF. Was the fingernail thing in the anime? I can't remember, but in the book it made me wince. Fingernails don't work like that - I don't care how you shape or cut them, you're not going to be able to saw through multiple ropes with them, and certainly not quickly enough to do any good. Also, if you did arrange to have one of your nails shaped like a tiny saw, you would constantly regret it as you accidentally cut yourself or other people or even just got the nail caught on cloth or whatever. And then there was the thing under Nice's eye patch, which I know was definitely in the anime, although I'd completely forgotten about it. So much wincing. Just a bad, bad idea.

Extras:

Several color illustrations at the front of the book (with text that will likely only confuse readers who haven't yet read the volume and haven't seen the anime), several black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-24 16:54
Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vol. 4) by Ryoko Kui, translated by Taylor Engel
Delicious in Dungeon, Vol. 4 - Ryoko Kui,Taylor Engel

This starts with Namari and the Tansus' party, along with an ominous reminder that resurrection spells don't always work. Also, there's a bit of fantasy politics: the elves say the dungeon belongs to them and they want it back. Mr. Tansu tells the local lord to stall. Meanwhile, Laios' party has finally caught up to the red dragon.

Although they're woefully outmatched, desperate and risky moves help them win. Unfortunately, Falin has been reduced to mere bones. Marcille uses dark magic to revive her, which may have pissed off an elf (the one from the painting back in volume 2?).

(spoiler show)


This was a fun volume, with lots of action (and, of course, more cooking). I really liked Kui's artwork - not only is this a delicious-looking food manga, the action scenes are clear and easy to follow.

I was really surprised that Laios and the others came across the red dragon so soon. I figured that particular storyline was going to be dragged out for at least another few volumes. It'll be interesting to see where the series goes from here. It bugged me a bit that not a single person from the party asked Marcille why the spell she performed

is considered dark magic and what its drawbacks are. I have a feeling that's going to be extremely important in the next volume or two.

(spoiler show)


I loved the revelation that Senshi has cookware that doubles as high-quality shields and weaponry.

I'm looking forward to continuing this series. I want to see where the elf storyline goes, and I'm sure that the dragon's presence on the fifth floor, an area where it isn't usually found, is important in some way. And hey, the entire party still has to make it out of the dungeon somehow.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-24 16:37
Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vol. 3) by Ryoko Kui, translated by Taylor Engel
Delicious in Dungeon, Vol. 3 - Ryoko Kui,Taylor Engel

This one took me a bit to get my bearings on since I hadn't realized that these guys would appear again and therefore hadn't really mentioned them in my past posts. I believe this volume starts with the same party that the series regulars came across back when they found the treasure insects. They're revived and continue on, only to be killed yet again by fish-men. The series regulars see them, are attacked by a kraken, and make a meal out of kraken parasite meat - kraken, as it turns out, isn't tasty like real squid. They also make a porridge using grain and waterweed collected from fish-men. Then Marcille

uses up all her mana battling an angry Undine. The party comes across an old party member, a female dwarf named Namari. With her help, they eventually defeat and eat the Undine, which restores Marcille's mana. After that, the party wears Giant Frog skins to survive a tentacle choked area.

(spoiler show)


This is still a creative and fascinating series, even if Laios' and Senshi's insistence on figuring out how to eat literally everything they come across in the dungeon is a bit ick. The kraken parasite meal made my skin crawl. (And Laios deserved what he got for eating one of those things raw.)

In this volume, readers learn that Marcille and Falin met in school - Falin was skipping class to read in a real dungeon, which she'd observed enough to learn a lot about (back to the whole "dungeon ecosystem" thing). Marcille, meanwhile, wanted to learn how to create a safe dungeon, a place with all the benefits of a real dungeon (access to goods that can only be grown or found in a dungeon) but without the danger.

As usual, the story got a bit ridiculous, but in ways that made sense. I laughed at the

"okay then, I'll just drink the Undine to fix my problems" part (only these characters would propose drinking or eating the thing that nearly killed them in order to continue on). And the frog suit was silly and gross, but otherwise a believable solution to their paralytic tentacle problem.

 

(spoiler show)

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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