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review 2018-08-06 07:16
Go For It, Nakamura! (one-shot manga) story and art by Syundei, translation by Amber Tamosaitis
Go For It, Nakamura! - SYUNDEI

Go For It, Nakamura! is comedy with gay high school romance elements. I want to emphasize, however, that it isn't a romance. If the series ever gets another volume (maybe it already has, just not in English?), I could see it becoming a romance, but this particular volume is not.

Nakamura is an awkward, introverted, and occasionally uncomfortably intense 16-year old. He adores his pet octopus, Icchan. He has no friends and practises conversations in his head all the time but has difficulty actually having them in real life. He also happens to be gay. He has an enormous crush on his popular and outgoing classmate, Hirose, and his goal is to 1) actually talk to him and 2) become friends with him.

I picked this up on a whim. Happily, this turned out to be a good decision. For the most part, I loved this volume.

I don't handle secondhand embarrassment well and found myself having to take breaks several times while reading this. Nakamura was painfully awkward in ways that, yes, were played for humor but were also often realistic enough that awkward and/or introverted readers could probably find something to relate to. One particular horrible moment Nakamura remembered exactly matched a horrible memory from my own middle school years. Seeing it on-page was a bit horrifying.

I rooted for Nakamura, but I also had issues with him. I disliked how completely focused he was on Hirose. He had zero friends, and yet when his efforts to talk to and impress Hirose led to him meeting and talking to Hirose's friends, he never once considered them to be potential friends. Instead, he viewed anyone who was even vaguely close to Hirose as rivals and possible sources of information about Hirose. He also didn't seem to realize that a lot of the things he was doing to try to get to know Hirose better were kind of creepy, like eavesdropping on Hirose's conversations to find out what sorts of things he liked.

Chapter 2 contained one of my least favorite moments, a single panel in which Nakamura had a sudden tentacle rape fantasy about Hirose. And Chapter 4 was a little weird, introducing a fujoshi artist who developed a crush on Nakamura. I'm still not sure whether she was aware that Nakamura liked Hirose, although I don't see how she could've missed it considering the nature of Nakamura's request.

Aside from those things, however, I really enjoyed this volume. The artwork was well-done and reminded me a lot of Rumiko Takahashi. And the humor usually worked for me, despite my secondhand embarrassment issues. It was focused on Nakamura's awkwardness and his efforts to accomplish something where his secret crush was concerned, but it didn't feel, to me, like Syundei was being overly cruel to Nakamura or making fun of him for being gay. (Be warned, however, that there are a couple instances of homophobia. At one point, for example, Nakamura's teacher laughed at the idea of two boys dating.)

The last couple chapters had some surprisingly serious moments, as Nakamura began to lose hope that he'd ever truly connect with Hirose and become his friend. He compared himself to his effortlessly cool teacher, who Hirose certainly idolized and, Nakamura feared, possibly had a crush on, and found himself focusing on all the ways he fell short.

The ending was sweet. I considered it reasonably satisfying, although some readers might not feel the same. Syundei gave Nakamura a bit of happiness but left plenty of room for the story to be continued.

Although the romance fan in me might have liked something more, I think it would have felt rushed and weird - not to mention there'd still be the issue of Nakamura's potentially unhealthy level of focus on Hirose, and what that would mean for any sort of romantic relationship between them. One interesting thing: This may be the only work I've ever read where the closeted main character is still closeted by the end, but not unhappy.

(spoiler show)


Extras:

A couple full-color pages, character profiles for Nakamura and Hirose, and a 2-page comic-style afterword by the author. In the afterword, Syundei talks a little about each chapter's creation - I wonder if the "tentacle rape" panel would have made it in if Syundei had known the series was going to continue?

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 4.5 and 5 stars for this. I don't really know that it deserves 5 stars, considering its problems, but I've found myself going back and rereading parts of it several times since I finished it. I decided that's worth bumping my rating up.

 

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

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review 2018-07-27 08:05
Gathering Courage (memoir) by T.A. McMullin
Gathering Courage: A Life Changing Journey Through Adoption, Adversity, and a Reading Disability - Ross McMullin

Award-winning Gathering Courage author, T. A. "Terry" McMullin, knows as well as anyone that hard times are a part of the journey of life.  Gathering Courage is about Terry's journey, who was born in an orphanage, then adopted, and made a foster child by her parents. Because Terry struggled with reading, comprehension, and spelling, she was placed in a foster home at the age of nine.  Terry was failing in school and no one knew how to help her. From deep within, Terry developed an internal desire to excel, no matter the obstacle, no matter the situation. Pushing adversity, rejection, and a reading disability aside, Terry gathered the courage to enroll in college. While attending college, Terry taught herself how to read and study while working nights and weekends to pay her tuition and living expenses.  Because of dyslexia, Terry worked much harder than most students. For ten years, she remained diligent and focused on the goal of achieving a college education and a teaching certificate. Step by step and class by class, Terry succeeded, and walked across the stage to receive a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Texas A&M University. Terry's life transformed from a broken-hearted child who could barely make out words in elementary school to a successful teacher who encourages young people to work hard and achieve their greatest aspirations.

Gathering Courage is an inspiring life-changing journey not only to be read but also to be passed on as an encouragement to others. What started as a thought, then words on a napkin, set the dream in motion to form sentences on paper. The dream grew and the formation of a book developed into a purpose, a mission - "To Make Life Better."
Amazon.com
 
 
 
As a child, author Terry "T.A." McMullin discovered she had dyslexia. A school administrator suggested to McMullin's parents that she be taken out of the home and placed in a foster home as part of the therapy for her reading disability. There wasn't much argument given to this plan, as Terry had a pretty rocky home life as is.
 
Terry's very existence was the result of a relationship her then 25 year old biological mother was having with a 24 year old already-married man. She was not wanted by either of them. She was adopted pretty early on in life, but over time began to feel rejected by her adoptive parents. Preferential treatment was given to her younger brother Oliver, the only biological child in a home of adopted ones. Time and again, Terry's adoptive parents proved themselves verbally cruel, untrustworthy and self-centered. As part of her so-called dyslexia therapy, Terry was temporarily placed with a family on a farm. The family themselves were not so bad, but Terry suffered a sexual assault from a next door neighbor before being returned to her adoptive parents.
 
 
Though she may have had little encouragement at home, Terry found happiness within her involvement in her school's 4H program. The 4H club provided opportunity to attend events hosted by Texas A & M University. While at one of these events, Terry meets a professor from the university's Animal Sciences department, who is taken with her and encourages her to apply to A & M's science program. Though initially nervous to entertain such dreams (because of her dyslexia), Terry decides to take the leap. Prior to applying to A & M, Terry takes remedial math courses at a local junior college. Once accepted to A & M, over the course of a number of years, Terry goes on to obtain two degrees from the university: a Bachelor's in Agricultural Science and a Master's in Education. Out of school, Terry went on to have jobs teaching science and special education classes as well as courses for the visually impaired. She also developed curriculum used by both civilian and military schools across the country.
 
There's a straightforwardness to the writing style that moves along at a lovely cozy pace. There's also the relatability factor. Though readers may not always entirely connect with Terry's specific combination of struggles, there IS something here that I imagine most any reader can nod to or think on at least on some level. Her story is a testament to the power of having positive influences / people in one's life, how a simple kind word... just the display of someone having faith in you... can sometimes be enough to move mountains.
 
 
"Words of affirmation have the power to break chains and heal many wounds. Gentle words spoken so tenderly are hidden deep inside of my being and are some of the best gifts I have received." ~T.A. McMullin
 
above: inscription McMullin added to the copy I was sent
 
 
 
Additionally, McMullin uses her story to urge readers to move through life with "an attitude of gratitude" as some like to call it... Remind yourself of all the little successes that add up within each day rather than beating yourself up over the occassion setbacks or perceived failures. 
 
McMullin's way of telling her story, as well as certain details of her life she relates, reminded me a bit of the life and books of Temple Grandin. Similarly inspiring, that's for sure!
 
McMullin supplements the text with illustrations of her own feather sketches as well as full color, relevant photos pulled from either her own collection or those of friends. 
 
 
FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 
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review 2018-07-25 10:39
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions from the Horse Farm by Cara Whitney
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions From The Horse Farm - Cara Whitney

Horses nuzzle their way into our hearts and have a way of teaching us a lot about ourselves, about life, and even about God. Just ask horse enthusiast Cara Whitney, wife of comedian and actor Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy).

Through years spent working with these majestic animals—Cara Whitney has learned countless spiritual lessons that have brought her closer to God.

In 100 heartfelt devotions with stunning photography, you'll

  • *Learn about being flexible in your faith from a gangly legged colt.
  • *Discover the secret to overcoming temptation through a horse's "sneak and eat" game.
  • *From a pony with a sweet tooth, find out why we should be glad God doesn’t answer yes   to all of our prayers.
  • *Be reminded that you are priceless to God from a one-eyed quarter horse named Roanie.  

Unbridled Faith is the perfect daily devotional for horse lovers.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Cara Whitney, wife of comedian Dan Whitney (aka "Larry The Cable Guy") puts together a very beautifully designed, gift-worthy book to which Dan Whitney provides the foreword. "Larry The Cable Guy wrote the forward to a devotional?!" you might be asking with just a dash of skepticism, I imagine. Well, Dan Whitney is here to explain.

 

Though he might not be immediately known for his faith professionally, he is actually the son of a preacher and went on to have his own education provided primarily through Christian based primary schools and colleges. He also explains that wife Cara came to her faith via a straightforward, rather pragmatic, maybe even slightly agnostic approach. This devotional she has now crafted is the culmination of years of dedicated theological study and regular introspection while working on the Whitney horse farm. 

 

p163 image Unbridled Faith

 

Whitney writes very much in the vein of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, each devotion a quick 2 page read with a prayer prompt at the end of each one. One of my favorite prayer prompts in this book: "Lord, help me to amplify the good in my life and control my emotions." Certainly something that spoke to me!

 

Another line that struck me, "God will bring the right scriptures, worship songs, and people into our lives when He knows we need them most. When we are lonely or in deep grief, He will send us his love in creative, diverse ways --- through nature, an email, or a movie scene." This was the case for me last year, months after losing my mother unexpectedly to a heart attack. That, combined with additional hits before and after that day, (making late 2016-2017 one of the worst periods of my life) ... I was spiritually exhausted after trying to keep myself emotionally strong, pushing back my emotions, putting all my energy into blocking out anything but daily obligations and work. Over time I found myself feeling more and more separated from the core of my soul. I didn't know if I myself was going to make it to the end of the year. On one of the hardest days of all, the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crows mysteriously found its way into my noggin. That and Hilary Scott's "Thy Will"... I didn't even know she had solo work out there (apart from her band Lady Antebellum, of whom I'm a big fan).. but again, this song somehow found me. With the help of these songs, I allowed myself to finally cry out all that was pent up and then began to rebuild from the inside out. 

 

end panel of Unbridled Faith

 

While the photography in Unbridled Faith is undeniably GOREGOUS,  and the sentiments are comforting, the devotional pieces themselves, as far as topics covered, are pretty standard fare (for the devotional genre as a whole, that is). Whitney offers her own horse-themed spin on things of course, but doesn't really touch upon any new territory.

 

 

Some of the transitions felt a little clunky, such as the salt one, talking about how horses crave salt and then the next line talking about salt being currency in Christ's time. It just flowed oddly to me. But I did have a giggle (though I don't think it was intended humorously) at the line, "It's your salty side God loves most." LOL Well, I don't know about THAT, but I'll take it, I guess! 

 

p173 image Unbridled Faith

 

Much of what was offered here, while as sweet and feel-good as one would expect, struck me as rehashings of topics you've likely read in a number of other books of this style. Furthermore, at times her thoughts struck me as a tinge judgmental of "non-believers", though she claims to feel called to evangelism.

 

In Devotion 61, she writes, "It's sad to believe, but there are Christians out there who think that it is their job to evaluate the holiness of other people." In Devotion 63: "Horses aren't the only ones who suffer from unfair perceptions. Sometimes people's perceptions of us are hard to overcome."

 

You don't say. 

 

But I have to admit, I did enjoy her sense of humor at times:

 

"The next time your horse creates manure, remind yourself your animal is keeping you humble."

 

"Although my patient neighbors may disagree with my musical tastes, in my opinion all donkeys have perfect pitch."

 

Note to readers:  this book contains spoilers for the children's classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

 

p37 image from Unbridled Faith

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

 

 

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url 2018-07-20 22:16
Yin and Yang Balance
Conscious Parenting: Mindful Living Course for Parents - Nataša Pantović Nuit
Art of 4 Elements - Nataša Pantović Nuit
Tree of Life - Nataša Pantović Nuit
A-Ma Alchemy of Love - Nataša Pantović Nuit
Mindful Being - Nataša Pantović Nuit
Conscious Creativity: Mindfulness Meditations - Nataša Pantović Nuit
Spiritual Symbols: With their Meanings (Alchemy of love mindfulness training) (Volume 8) - Nataša Pantović Nuit

Conscious Living

The Humanity / Gaia’s Unconsciousness is Unavoidable Part of our Family Lives by Nuit, the Author of A-Ma

Yin and Yang Balance in Ancient China

 

Gaia’s environment is at all times either positively or negatively charged.

Following the quantum physic logic, these states change randomly but in a typical cycle are randomly distributed within the 50% - 50% ration. This greatly puzzled our ancestors and , for example, while researching this phenomenon have created Calendars mapping all sorts of “Heavenly” influences on Human Behavior.

Building their  system, using both Intuitive Thought () as an expression of Yin predominant states of Being and Reason as an expression of Yang predominant states of Being, they have created the most amazing Calendars that listen to the heart-beat of Universe and elements (within their system they are 5 in number). They have designed a diet whereby each item of food is related to the state of health called Macrobiotics; or within the relationship world the exchange of female and male energy is referred to as Tao of Love, and their ancient Confucius thought gave their children a strong drive for goodness....

 

http://artof4elements.com/entry/223/yin-and-yang-balance-within-human-beings

Source: artof4elements.com/entry/223/yin-and-yang-balance-within-human-beings
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-20 07:45
Just A Kiss (Summer Harbor #3) by Denise Hunter
Just a Kiss (A Summer Harbor Novel) - Denise Hunter

Watching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all. But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige. Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it. As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, now it's time to for Riley Callahan to get the spotlight! Moving in the background of the first two books, here we get to know his story a bit better as he returns from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. 

 

Through the earlier books in this series, the reader sees Riley struggling with the romantic relationship between his brother Beau and Riley's best friend, Paige. Riley himself has been secretly in love with Paige for years. To cope with his emotions, he chooses to enlist in the military. Almost immediately, he gets word he's getting shipped to Afghanistan. Now fifteen months later in Just A Kiss, Riley is returning home after surviving an IED attack that costs him one of his legs. 

 

Prior to the explosion, Riley had plans to return home to Summer Harbor and finally reveal his true feelings to Paige. Now things sit a little differently, as he is moved into Paige's home for the recovery / physical therapy process and Paige takes on the role of caretaker. Not exactly what he had in mind. Riley struggles with feelings of only being half a man, still tempted to confess his love to Paige but also feeling like she deserves better than what he feels he can offer as an amputee. In response to his inner struggle, Riley begins to distance himself emotionally from Paige, thinking he's doing her a favor. But as these romances tend to go, as one pulls back, the other party involved leans forward. 

 

Paige, when not helping Riley, has her own professional stresses. The shelter she runs is at risk of being shut down for lack of funding. On the suggestion of Lucy (Riley's sister-in-law you met in The Goodbye Bride), Paige puts together a bachelor auction fundraiser and, with a bit of a struggle, gets Riley to agree to serve as one of the bachelors. Seeing him in this light where many of Summer Harbor's single ladies going crazy at the chance to have a date with him, Paige is shocked at her own feelings of jealousy towards these women. Slowly the thought creeps into her mind that maybe, just maybe she herself feels something beyond the platonic for her best bud. But of course she takes the Riley approach to things, keeping her complicated emotions to herself. So as you can imagine it takes forever for these two to get anywhere fun with each other.

 

Author Denise Hunter offers a note to the reader right off the bat letting one know that any of the Summer Harbor books can be enjoyed as a standalone piece. With this closing book to the series, while it was cute I was a left a little disappointed overall. It's pretty standard romance fare, safe romance that was built a little TOO slowly for me, and closed on a pretty bland ending. 

 

Though this is technically a Christian romance series, the religious element is pretty light through most of the books. This one though, there is a pretty heavy dousing of religion near the end, which felt a little odd... like it was getting jammed in there real quick before the doors closed... when the rest of the series was so light on it. 

 

That aside, decent light summer fluff you can have fun with on a chill-out day without too much mental commitment required. 

 

FTC DisclaimerTNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

 

____________

 

My review for Falling Like Snowflakes (Summer Harbor #1)

My review for The Goodbye Bride (Summer Harbor #2)

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