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review 2016-11-16 02:59
Review - Wisdom of the Centaurs' Reason by L.R.W. Lee (Andy Smithson #6)
Wisdom of the Centaurs' Reason: Teen & Young Adult Centaur Epic Fantasy Book (Andy Smithson 6) - L. R. W. Lee

My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!!

***I choose what I read and review based on what intrigues me!!

 

The cover is wonderful!  They always draw you to the book.

 

This is the 6th book in the series, and it is targeted toward middle grade students.  However, I think any fantasy lover would love this series at any age.  This book does involve dealing with death and loss.

 

I am definitely not an eloquent person.  This is why I read, and don’t write.  This series always amazes me with the complex layers of story and meaning that is interwoven through the series.  I have fallen into love with the journey into saving Oomaldee, and Andy learning many life lessons along the way.  Andy grows with each book.  This book was another tear jerker.  My heart ached for Andy continuously, and I wanted to vanquish Abaddon and his minions for Andy.  You know in live how you tend to wish for miracles; well I found myself wishing that for Andy and his kingdom.

 

This book and the whole series is an outstanding and moving.  I think everyone should read a series that evokes so much emotion and especially the moral issues that are presented and make this book so much bigger than just an adventure.  I can’t wait for the next book, but at the same time, I’m going to go into mourning as it will be the last book.  Have you ever had those feelings when a series ended?

 

I highly recommend this book and series to those fantasy lovers who want to read a well-crafted story filled to the brim with emotions and life lessons!

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review 2016-11-09 03:27
The War is Heating UP! Are you ready for Wizardry?
Assault in the Wizard Degree: Book Six of 'Fantasy & Forensics' (Fantasy & Forensics 6) - Michael Angel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” 
― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

 

“To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

Pull out your “Happy Dance” ladies and gents! Assault in the Wizard Degree is printed!! The Fantasy and Forensics series has expanded to book six, and six is definitely a magic number.

 

Poor Dayna. The more she busts her backside to save the world on Andeluvia, the more it twists itself into a bloody mess . . . and guess who gets the job of straightening everything out each and every time? Yep. You got it. What is a Forensic Scientist stuck in an epic fantasy land supposed to do? Well, if you are Dame Chrissie, you dust off your hiking boots, gather your tools, and do your best to save the day. Again.

 

“Salvation shall come to Dame Chrissie only when she stands in the shadow of all that she has achieved.”

 

Well, salvation is something, at least. A bit of hope, after the court Soothsayer invades the throne room of the King bearing tidings of doom and death.

 

“I dreamt a dream of utmost import . . . that if not heeded, shall mean the downfall of this kingdom and the ruin of all Andeluvia!”

 

And this time, he might just be right. Dayna’s life in Los Angeles is hard enough as the evil attempting to take over Andeluvia bleeds over into her birth world. Now, an evil long thought buried and gone is awakening. Death and despair, war and horror are looming on the horizon, and Dayna’s small group will be tested beyond anything they have ever faced before.

 

It begins, as do so many things, with a request for Dayna’s help. The centaurs, you see, have a problem.

 

“A centaur that has committed an act of sacrilege regarding the ‘Ceremony of Equilux’.”

 

It should be a simple case – use her forensic skills to discover who committed a crime. But what she finds is so much more. The Creatures of the Dark have made deeper inroads than anyone expects (well, anyone other than Dayna and her friends) and even the densest and most purposefully ignorant will no longer be able to deny the truth.

 

There are, of course, the light moments Michael’s writing is so well known for. Characters are well written and believable, the landscape of the world of Andeluvia is sharply drawn, and the storyline holds perfect continuity throughout the series. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, I would highly recommend you do so before reading this installment. I am not saying you couldn’t understand or enjoy this book as a standalone, but it is such a wonderful series it would be a shame to miss the run-up to this pivotal point in the series.

 

This is a Wonderful series, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!! Of course, full disclosure, I work with Michael on his books – but that doesn’t mean I don’t adore each and every one.

Source: soireadthisbooktoday.com
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review 2016-07-04 03:41
A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 3) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu
A Centaur's Life Vol. 3 - Kei Murayama

In this volume, Hime and her classmates play softball, Shino deals with a bully and becomes a younger centaur girl's big sister-figure, Hime and her friends form an after school study group, Manami's little sisters play with other kids while she's at a student council meeting, the boys fight over control of the TV, and Hime's class gets a new student.

My favorite part of this volume was the nearly wordless bit with Shino. She was so cute as she tried to be a good big sister-figure, just like Hime. I thought she did a pretty good job considering that she had to deal with both a bully and with the little centaur girl getting jealous as other little kids started wanting to be around her. The only part of that section that I disliked was that, once again, Shino's mother acted like there was something either romantic or sexual about Hime and Shino's affection for each other. Please, stop. Just let them be two family members who care about each other. Even if she was just joking, it really wasn't funny.

Aside from that, this volume was serviceable, but boring. The second-best part was probably the softball game, which was messy and a little hard to follow, but otherwise not bad. I also liked the peek, later in the volume, into the student council president's home life.

This is the last volume I have on hand. I'd be fine with quitting the series at this point, except for one thing: the new development at the end of this volume. Murayama had been hinting at this since the very first volume, and I'd kind of like to see what this new development adds to the mix. Just not enough to buy more of the series. Maybe I'll put in an ILL request for volume 4.

Extras:

  • Two full-color illustrations.
  • More information about Kanata City on the inside front and back covers. I still fail to see what any of this information has to do with anything.
  • Several informational pages about the gods and supernatural beings of this world. Oddly enough, magical girls are included in this list. Apparently, magical girl shows come in two different varieties: one with a team of magical girls representing all the major races, and one in which the main magical girl character changes every season. 
  • A 2-page manga-style afterword. It's intended entirely to poke fun at the perviness of the series' most openly lesbian character. ::sigh::

 

(Original review, including read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-06-28 03:28
A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 2) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu
A Centaur's Life Vol. 2 - Kei Murayama

In this volume, Hime gets a visit from Shino, her young cousin. Shino adores Hime. When she and Hime meet Manami, the class president, and Manami's young triplet siblings, she gets jealous when Manami's siblings greet Hime with kisses. After that, Hime decides to get her hair cut, everyone tries to make it through the colder weather in their own way, there's a flashback about a class visit to a merfolk high school, and Hime worries that she'll be too nervous to do well during a traditional centaur archery event. The volume ends with a lengthy story called “Fears of a Human Faced Dog” which, as far as I know, isn't set in the same world as the rest of the volume.

In some ways this volume was better than the first one, and in some ways it was worse. Shino was cute, and the drawings of Hime's potential hairstyles when everyone was suggesting how she should get her hair done were nice. There were even more world details, which was both good and bad: good, because it was clear that Murayama had fun thinking this stuff through, and bad, because I noticed the series beginning to groan under the weight of its own world-building.

To be honest, the too-detailed world-building was evident even in volume 1. I feel like this series was born out of several lengthy centaur-related “what if” and “how would they” sessions between Murayama and a few friends. I can picture Murayama translating these sessions into a slice-of-life manga because slice-of-life seemed easy enough to do. (My Googling indicates that this is probably Murayama's first multi-volume series, although I could be wrong about that.)

A Centaur's Life is a pretty good example of why authors shouldn't underestimate “simple-looking” genres. Good slice-of-life manga needs characters readers can care about, situations that can hold readers' attention, coherent storytelling, and well-integrated world-building, just like everything else. Here, there's just too much world-building detail, incorporated too badly. All that detail backfired, because I found myself thinking too much about the things Murayama messed up or chose not to mention. I mean, when a series goes so far as to explain how centaurs use Western-style toilets, complete with diagrams and a visual depiction of the difficulties that overweight centaurs have with wiping themselves, pretty much everything starts to seem like fair game.

For example, in this volume Hime and Shino wore hats with little pointed parts that their ears could fit inside. Why were the hats designed to cover their ears like that? Wouldn't it have been easier, from a manufacturing standpoint, to include ear holes? And besides, wouldn't that design have impeded their ability to hear?

Then there was the way Hime lifted Shino. She grabbed her under her armpits and lifted her straight up, leaving Shino's horse half unsupported. Something about the image immediately made me think of my parents' dachshund. An important thing to know about dachshunds is that, when you lift them, you need to support both their upper and lower body. Otherwise you risk damaging their spines. When I thought about it more, it occurred to me that lifting Shino up by her armpits would also be similar to lifting a cat or dog up by its head. Just like the weight of the dog or cat's body would suddenly put a lot of strain on their necks, the weight of Shino's horse body would have put a tremendous amount of strain on the point where her horse back met her human back, damaging and possibly even breaking her spine.

The merfolk also had me asking questions Murayama possibly hadn't considered. Their bodies were designed so that, from the knees up, they looked like ordinary humans. Their legs fused together at the knees to form long tails that propelled them, eel-like, through the water. I can't even begin to say whether this method of movement would be possible for them, so instead I'd like to comment about the strange point at which Murayama chose to fuse their legs. Yes, this design allowed merfolk to wear bikini bottoms, but it also left me wondering about merfolk skincare. Did they have problems with fungus growth or callous formation between their thighs? And how did merfolk women give birth?

Part of me feels like I'm being too nitpicky but, again, it's not like Murayama didn't go into obsessive detail in a lot of other areas. This particular volume gave readers more information about how evolution differed in this world (all life sprang from six-legged creatures, while four-legged creatures died out).

Okay, moving on to the rest. After the pervy weirdness of the beginning of volume 1, I was a little worried about what this volume would bring. Thankfully, the perviness was limited to a bathing scene (in which Murayama demonstrated that he doesn't know how breasts work) and an extended scene in which a lesbian character (I can't find her name anywhere) awkwardly and persistently tried to prove Manami wrong after Manami told her little siblings that “Once you grow up, girls don't kiss each other.” While Manami's statement was clearly flawed, her siblings were, what, maybe 5 years old? The amount of effort that whats-her-name went to to prove Manami wrong was more than a little weird.

The archery portion of the volume was bizarre. I'm pretty sure that the entire hostage scene was just a nervous fantasy on Hime's part, but Murayama made zero effort to visually distinguish it from everything else, so it looked like an event that actually happened. Maybe I'm wrong and it really did happen, in which case I'm even more confused.

I'll wrap this up by talking about the short at the end, “Fears of a Human Faced Dog.” Technically this counts as an extra, but it was long enough and weird enough that I think it needs a few paragraphs devoted to it. In this story, a little girl takes care of a tiny human-faced dog, feeding her, playing with her, helping her use the toilet (what is with Murayama and toilet use?), and reading to her from an Alice in Wonderland-like book.

I have no clue what the point of this story was supposed to be. There were indications that the girl was being abused. Her mother threatened to kill her if she left the house or phoned the police, and she threatened to kill the dog if the girl didn't get rid of it. It ended happily enough, but the happy ending came out of nowhere. It was this short that solidified my feeling that Murayama's storytelling skills weren't very good.

Well, I have one more volume of this series on hand. Who knows what that one will bring? Besides at least one slightly pervy moment, of course.

Extras:

  • Two full-color illustrations.
  • "Kanata City's past, present, and future," information included on the front and back inside covers. While I think this might be the city where Hime and the others live, I can't for the life of me figure out what any of this information has to do with any of the hints of the world's history that readers have been given so far.
  • A 2-page afterword primarily featuring Manami and the triplets, with a bit of crossover with the human-faced dog (the triplets chase and tease the dog). There's also a tidbit of merfolk info: apparently merfolk children aren't instinctively able to swim. I suppose it makes sense, considering their bizarre anatomy, but now I have even more questions.
  • Several informational pages about various animals in this world, as well as beings that existed in this world's past.

 

(Original review, including read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-06-26 19:19
A Centaur's Life (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Kei Murayama, translation by Angela Liu
A Centaur's Life Vol. 1 - Kei Murayama

Himeno (nicknamed “Hime”) is a shy, pretty, and somewhat ditzy centaur currently attending high school. Her best friends are Kyoko, one of the goatfolk, and Nozomi, a draconid. In this volume, Hime deals with the awkwardness of having an angelfolk guy give her a love letter, starring as a princess in a school play, and everyone's differing physical abilities in gym class. Readers also get a peek at her family life and other everyday aspects of living in a world populated entirely by fantasy beings.

I remember being intrigued by the idea of this series when it was first announced that Seven Seas Entertainment had licensed it. A slice-of-life series with centaurs, angels, satyr-like beings, and more, in an ordinary modern day setting – sure, why not?

I currently own the first three volumes, and the very beginning of this one made me wonder if I'd regret having them. An angelfolk guy offered Hime a love letter, causing her to freak out and run off. It turned out that she was nervous about the idea of dating anyone, because dating could eventually lead to sex. A past incident in which a classmate teased her about her genitals probably looking similar to those of livestock made her worry about what an angelfolk guy would think if he saw her naked. Hime's friends tried to reassure her, asking her if she'd ever looked at naked people in public baths or elsewhere and compared herself to them, but she'd always been too embarrassed to look.

This was all uncomfortably detailed but, I thought, a legitimate (if premature) concern for Hime to have. After all, of all her classmates, she appeared to be the only one who wasn't human from the waist down. I absolutely did not expect Nozomi's solution, however. She suggested that she and Kyoko show their genitals to Hime, and then they'd look at Hime's. Everyone was at least a little embarrassed, Kyoko most of all, but everyone did it.

I don't know about other women, but I can't imagine I or my friends ever offering to do this when we were in high school. I especially can't imagine it going quite the way it did in this manga. To be specific, here's the dialogue when Nozomi showed hers off:

Either Hime or Kyoko, fascinated: “Can...can we open it a little?” 

 

Nozomi, blushing a bit: “Do what you want! Except...don't put anything in. Especially you, Kyoko.”

Nope. Just nope. I mean, WTF? No.

I might have liked the second chapter more if it hadn't been for the first chapter. In that one, the girls got ready for a school play, and there were stronger indications that Nozomi was probably a lesbian. An attempt by a male classmate to get Hime to kiss him backfired and resulted in Hime kissing Nozomi instead, and Nozomi spent a good chunk of the chapter blushing over and thinking about the incident.

The world-building was intriguing, but confusing. All (most?) of the races were descended from primates, but instead of Homo sapiens, evolution gave rise to centaurs, goatfolk, angelfolk, and more. There were indications that the races had previously been more segregated. Goatfolk like Kyoko once enslaved centaurs like Hime and used them as mounts in war, and some beings, like Antarctic snake people, still tended to be presented in a negative light in movies and fiction.

Architecture, furnishings, and clothing were set up to accommodate as many races as possible, but there were still awkward moments. For example, there were scenes showing what centaurs like Hime had to do in order to use a Western-style toilet, and Hime's family lived in a home that wasn't originally built for centaurs.

So far, Murayama's sometimes uncomfortably detailed look at the mechanics of living in this world is interesting. I'm morbidly curious about what the next couple volumes will bring. That said, Murayama doesn't incorporate most of this information very well, and some of it seemed like the kind of stuff that basic history and physical and sex education classes should have covered, if the races were really as integrated as they seemed to be. There were things that the girls shouldn't have needed to ask each other about, or that should have been more awkward to bring up than they were. I mean, Hime didn't even twitch when Kyoko mentioned that goatfolk used to keep centaurs as slaves.

Extras:

  • Several information pages about things like centaur undergarments and footwear (I don't think that horse hooves work that way, though), how angelfolk undress, tail holes in undergarments, and more. 
  • Two full-color illustrations.
  • A 2-page manga-style afterword in which God (Murayama?) is revealed to be a goat. An actual goat, not goatfolk. 
  • Two pages about Kanata City's past, present, and future. I was very confused about this bit, since it seemed to be info about a real-world city rather than world-building for the series, but my Googling indicates that the place names are probably made up. 
  • A 12-page preview of Monster Musume. It includes on-page sexual stimulation of a lamia, with enough nudity to show off the lamia girl's nipples and reveal that the artist found a way to incorporate human genitals onto a snake body. Basically porn.

 

Rating Note:

 

I struggled with my final rating. The bulk of it was 3 stars, but that first chapter was 1-star WTFery. I settled on 3 stars. The more I thought about it, the more that first chapter made me uncomfortable and grossed me out, so I downgraded my rating to 2 stars. I'd advise prospective readers of this series to skip the first chapter.

 

(Original review, including read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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