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review 2017-12-10 18:06
Black Butler (manga, vol. 23) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura
Black Butler Vol. 23 - Yana Toboso

This is the beginning of a new arc. The four disgraced prefects from the Weston College arc invite Lizzie's older brother to a music hall. Lizzie gets her brother to take her, and she has her fortune told, resulting in her

being mysteriously ensnared by the music hall - no matter how much Lizzie's brother tries to get her to come home with him and stay, she keeps going back to the music hall. Ciel investigates, on the order of the queen and in an effort to figure out Lizzie's strange behavior. The fortune teller, Blavat, seems to immediately know what Sebastian is and has him escorted out of the music hall. Meanwhile, Ciel has his fortune told and is told he's favored by the divine protection of Sirius. He's told to come back on a special day to take part in secret activities: a pop music concert (starring the prefects, who remind me strongly of the Uta no Prince-sama anime) and drugged sleep, during which the participants maybe have their blood drawn. Sebastian learns that some participants are turning up dead.

(spoiler show)


Meh. This arc isn't starting off on a very interesting note, although I did enjoy seeing the prefects and Sebastian act like chirpy pop stars. Also, it was nice to see Sullivan reappear in order to diagnose Ciel's puncture wound - it looks like she might turn into a series regular, the person Ciel can turn to whenever he needs a little scientific help.

Part of the reason why I was disappointed with this volume was that I was hoping this arc would bring the story back to the Undertaker and Ciel's father. It looks like that isn't going to be the case, unless this stuff with Blavat is somehow connected.

That said, I'll probably enjoy this more after being given time to get used to it. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series during my next vacation. Seeing the shock on Sebastian's face when Blavat instantly realized he wasn't human was a lot of fun - it'll be nice to see where this arc ends up going.

 

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

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review 2017-12-10 17:52
Black Butler (manga, vol. 22) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura
Black Butler, Vol. 22 - Yana Toboso

This is the end of the Emerald Witch arc. Wolfram (Sullivan's butler and bodyguard), who was raised as a soldier since birth and given a name only after he was assigned to Sullivan, is miraculously saved. Ciel and Sebastian transport Sullivan and Wolfram to England. Ciel gives Sebastian one week to turn Sullivan into a young lady fit to meet the queen. Hilarity ensues.

Wolfram is only permitted to complain about Sebastian's treatment of Sullivan if he can do so in English. Lizzie arrives and briefly thinks Ciel is cheating on her with Sullivan, but that gets cleared up pretty quickly. Ciel instructs Sullivan to give the queen the formula for mustard gas but to carry the formula for SuLIN to her grave - it's a way for her to secure funding for future research while limiting the horror she looses upon the world. Sebastian deposits the SuLIN samples deep underwater (that doesn't seem like a very good idea unless they're all sure that it won't affect the water, but whatever).

(spoiler show)

The inside cover bonus this time around is "Black Diver."

As usual, Toboso ends the arc with a bit of comedy. I was glad that Wolfram survived, and watching Ciel torture Sebastian by forcing him to do the impossible, turning Sullivan into a lady and teaching Wolfram English in only a week, was fun. And then Lizzie arrived and forced Ciel to undergo some of the training too. Ha!

This volume included a wacky multi-page bonus comic based on the Japanese character popularity rankings. A character's ranking affected their page-time in the comic, so higher ranked characters got to appear more often. This led to them scheming to steal each others' rankings, which only ended after

Sebastian took multiple character rankings to defeat Snake's ranking-superpowered snakes.

(spoiler show)

Like I said, wacky. It ended on a surprisingly melancholy note, as the Undertaker tried to bring Ciel's father, Vincent, back to life by gifting him with a higher ranking. Which made me wonder about Vincent and the Undertaker's relationship, and whether that would get touched on in the next arc.

Another intriguing bit: the end of this volume indicated that

Vincent might still be alive.

(spoiler show)

I somehow doubt it - the wording was ambiguous - but I look forward to seeing what Toboso has in store for readers.

 

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

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review 2017-12-10 17:40
Black Butler (manga, vol. 21) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura
Black Butler, Vol. 21 - Yana Toboso

Ciel convinces Sullivan to choose to live by telling her she could come up with the antidote to SuLIN. However, first Ciel and his group must successfully get her out. While Sebastian

is retrieving the samples and killing everyone in sight, Ciel splits everyone else into two groups and acts as a Sullivan decoy. Sebastian catches up in time to save Ciel from a Panzer, although Ciel's father's old friend, Diedrich, also helps. Everyone makes it out, although Sullivan's beloved bodyguard is tragically killed. (Or so it appears!)

(spoiler show)

Also, two German grim reapers are introduced: Ludger and Sascha. The bonus this time around is, I think, "Black Schoolboy" - the library stickers covered up most of the second word.

This volume was loads of fun, even though it didn't technically add much to the story. It was just nice getting to see Sebastian rip loose and Ciel's servants finally get to do the things they're actually good at. It's easy to forget that they aren't all just there for comedic relief.

Sebastian

got to scare the crap out of everyone by surviving a massive dose of mustard gas, which he then blew in Sullivan's mother's face. Finny played the role of Sullivan's legs, transporting her faster than anyone except Sebastian could have done. Baldo got to play with explosives, Meyrin put her sniper skills to use, Tanaka cutting a bullet in two with a sword, and Snake got to use his snake-y communication skills to lead one of the groups. Oh, and Sebastian took out the Panzer by literally punching a hole in it and putting an explosive food tin inside it.

(spoiler show)

So much carnage in this volume. Oh, and there's a brief flashback with Ciel's dad in it!

Toboso's manga looks so freaking good after reading bad or mediocre manga. Crisp lines, nicely done screentone, clear facial expressions, and easy-to-follow action.

The ending of this volume was a bit of a gut punch, although it was nice to see that even just one person truly cared about Sullivan.

 

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

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review 2017-12-10 12:39
Stone Circle
Stone Circle - Kate Murdoch

 

 

In Renaissance Italy in the village of Pesaro, Seer Savinus is looking for someone who shares his talents for divining the future so he is able to cultivate the next generation and Seers.  Savinus' daughter, Guilia is talented, however, women in the trade are simply not respected.  Savinus decides to hold a competition.  One of Pesaro's noble family's son, Nichola Valperga competes as well as a servant in the Valperga household, Antonious.  Antonious has far more ability in the field and is recognized right away by Savinus.  Nichola has limited ability, but Savinus agrees to apprentice Nichola as the secondary apprentice out of respect to the noble family.  From the start the two young men are at odds, Nichola can not stand that a servant has a position above him and Antonious can not understand Nichola's haughty nature.  Tensions rise as Giulia's affections towards one apprentice emerge and jealousy leads to violence.  

Stone Circle immersed me into 16th century Italy and the alchemy practices of the time.   I was surprised to learn the esteemed role that Seer's played in the society and that they were often employed by nobles to learn the best time for special events to take place and even who they should marry.  Savinus was my favorite character, wise and conscientious in his choices, helped along by his psychic abilities. Antonius and Nichola were typical young men, but their strained relationship demonstrated the division between classes at the time.  I was waiting for one of them to compromise on their differences as so many of the adult characters suggested.  Guilia was an interesting character for me, I really wanted her to take a more prominent role in her father's practice rather than simply be a love interest; however she did show insight and grow as she realized the apprentices true nature.  Jealousy was a theme throughout the story, and it was one that had dire consequences.  It was interesting to see that even with magic and alchemy all of your problems could not be fixed.  Overall, an engrossing story that mixes history, magic and romance. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

 

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review 2017-12-10 12:34
A Fun, Enjoyable Historical Young Adult Book Not To Be Miss
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

Historical fiction is a genre I am most interested to read but have a fear that I might put it down. One week ago, I have heard a lot of good reviews and opinions about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and with an upcoming book discussion and Skype with Mackenzi Lee. Here's some thing I have to be honest about - I would never pick up a book with a book cover that features a real person. I admit I was skeptical at first but after a while, just trusting my intuitive I give it a go and read it.

 

I have no regrets in the end.

 

Set in a 18th century period, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue begins with Henry 'Monty' Montague, a care less, young drunk charmer who happens to be a born gentleman from a high-class family waking up next to his best friend Percy, one day before their Grand Tour around Europe. Tagging along is Henry's sister Felicity, who is on her way to a boarding school. Every thing was thought as plan by Henry's father, only that it goes very wrong because of Monty's behavior that leads to (surprise) an unexpected turn of events filled with adventure, mystery, conspiracy, a little bit of science and of course, romance. For a young adult book, its a fun read. What is more surprising is that its so light and easy, its enjoyable in many ways. While its pretty straight forward, its the combination of all that makes this relaxing that doesn't need much deep thought but just sit back, rest and drink your preferred tea (or coffee).

 

I would recommend this without a doubt for anyone who wants light reading or a historical buff but in a young adult manner. I can't say much as it will spoil a whole lot more but this is a book, despite how people say never judge a book by its cover, should pick it up and read it.

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