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review 2018-04-19 18:11
I Am Here! (manga, vol. 2) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks
I Am Here! Omnibus Vol. 02 - 遠山 えま,Ema Tōyama

The first omnibus volume introduced Hikage, Hinata, and Teru. Hikage starts off practically invisible to everyone around her except Hinata and Teru. In the first volume, we learned that Hinata has a crush on Hikage. Hinata's jealous fans - one girl in particular - start bullying Hikage for spending too much time with him. In the end she's able to stand up to them.

Whereas the first omnibus volume was focused more on Hikage and her efforts to make friends, this omnibus volume was focused more on Hinata and Teru and the mystery of Black Rabbit's identity. Hikage is convinced that Hinata is Black Rabbit, a possibility that's initially appealing but then fills her with horror and embarrassment. Black Rabbit is her kindest and most supportive online friend. If Hinata is Black Rabbit, that could mean that her "friend" was really laughing about her behind her back as he was encouraging her to talk to him more. Hinata keeps denying that he's Black Rabbit, but he's clearly hiding something.

Things become even more difficult for Hikage when Teru realizes that he has a crush on Hikage too and the two best friends, Hinata and Teru, ask her to choose between them. While Hikage tries to figure out what to do, the wedge between Hinata and Teru starts to tear their entire class in two.

I felt so-so about the first omnibus volume, but since this series is so short I felt like I should finish it anyway. This final omnibus had some parts I liked and some I loathed.

I liked the closer look at Hinata and Teru's friendship. Now that I know Black Rabbit's secret (which I didn't clue into while reading the first volume but figured out a few pages into this one), I have a different perspective on what was going on between Hinata and Teru in the first half of the series. The first half of this volume, when Hinata and Teru were still actively trying to make sure that whatever each of them might be feeling for Hikage didn't hurt their friendship, was fine. Unfortunately, it fell apart when the love triangle reared its ugly head.

I hated the love triangle. Once Teru realized that he was in love with Hikage, his and Hinata's relationship devolved into a competition over Hikage. Teru was a liar, too - he'd say that he didn't want to make things difficult for Hikage, but then he'd explicitly ask her to choose between him and Hinata. Since Hinata and Teru's friendship turned out to be the glue that held the entire class together, asking Hinata to choose meant she'd also be responsible for the class group breaking in half, a fact that her fellow classmates picked up on right away (and almost piled on her for). Hikage found herself at risk of not only losing her budding romantic relationship and all her friendships and budding friendships, all because of this stupid love triangle.

The love triangle resolved itself less painfully for the characters than I expected, but that was mostly because Toyama allowed the tension between Hinata and Teru to just sort of magically evaporate. Some aspects of the love triangle never quite went away, despite Hikage making her choice, which left me wondering whether the issue had really been resolved. I suppose it could morph into an inside joke shared by all three of the characters...

In addition to the love triangle, I also hated that the bullying storyline came back, with the exact same bully. Even though her previous plans resulted in her own public humiliation, Aya decided to jump back into the fray with new plans...that could easily be traced back to her and used to humiliate her a second time. Because this is supposed to be fluffy shojo starring a super-sweet heroine, instead of humiliation Aya got an apology, a smile, and an encouraging speech.

Meanwhile, I'm the horrible person who thinks that there was nothing for Hikage to apologize for. Aya was in the wrong for thinking that Hinata was supposed to be some kind of untouchable idol and trying to keep others away from him. She was also in the wrong for bullying Hikage for getting close to him. She made it worse by impersonating several people in the love triangle to further screw up everyone's relationships, all so she could win over a guy who'd already made it clear he wasn't interested in her.

On the plus side, I was glad that Hikage's online relationships didn't quite work out the way I originally thought they were going to. It wasn't as neat and tidy as "Black Rabbit is this person from Hikage's offline life and Mega Pig is that person," and I liked the recognition that the way people interact with others online might not always match how they interact with them in person. So there's that. (And yes, characters could use their flip phones to post comments on Hikage's blog. They do it on-page in this volume, answering the question I had back while I was reading the first volume.)

I didn't hate this series, but this half of it was definitely weaker than the first half, and the first half was mediocre. Parts of the series were stronger than I expected, but the bullying storyline and the love triangle were both annoying. If ever there was a series that I wish had completely ditched its romance aspect and just focused on friendship, it's this one. I was more than a bit horrified when Hikage examined her feelings for Hinata and Teru and began to lean towards the "romantic relationships are more important than friendships" answer. The series didn't quite work out that way, but I still wasn't a fan of how Toyama handled things.

Extras:

The volume includes several author sidebars featuring a not-particularly-interesting comic series starring Mega Pig (the actual cartoon animal) and Mahi (the sunflower character), character profiles for Hikage, Hinata, and Teru, a short comic starring fourth-grade Hinata and Teru, a few pages of humorous short comics, and a few pages of translator's notes. There's also a bonus comic starring Mega Pig (his offline self), which was kind of cute and tied up a few loose ends from the main series.

 

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

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review 2018-04-18 09:36
Wings
Wings - Aprilynne Pike

I really enjoyed this book. The beginning is pretty fast, but I feel it's needed just to get David in the picture.

David, while being the main love interest, is actually a decent guy. He doesn't want to control Laurel, he's there for her when she needs him. He's not over protective. He's both an "alpha male" and not. He's a "true alpha male' in that he cares for Laurel and genuinely wants to be there for her. He's understanding and patient and really feels like a brother. He's not the "fake Alpha Male" often found in many paranormal romance books. You know the ones.

Laurel overall wasn't a protagonist that wanted to make me throw the ereader across the room. She's smart, quick thinking, and has to save David at one point or two. She's never simpering and takes action for herself without the men in her life telling her.

Tamani on the other hand, rubbed me all sorts of wrong way. He's possessive. He wants to make Laurel 'his'. because they had some form of past together, or that she's a faerie. While Tamani was there when it counts, he does pull the "I got hurt for you, so why won't you be mine, uwu." Doesn't fully respect Laurel's choice to stay with David. He however, was never wholly terrible. Just annoying in that possessive way.

Really it'd be best for her to end up with both of them, but I'm siding with David.

 

Overall the book pacing is on an even keel and focuses a lot on Laurel and her being a fairy. The whole plot is about her trying to save the land that has been in her family for generations.

 

The romance was not heavy at all and I really appreciated that. They did go over faerie biology, which doesn't make sense from a evolutionary point. However they at least went over it. Which does explain why Laurel doesn't have her period. Lucky.

 

I'm hoping the future novels will continue to build on this one and not jump the rails.

 

While light on the faerie stuff this book, it's a good read for people that don't want to be confused about the Seelie and Unseelie court and tons of fae folk being name dropped. It's nice and light and might delve into that bit later.

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review 2018-02-25 19:14
I Am Here! (manga, vol. 1) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks
I Am Here! Omnibus Vol. 01 - 遠山 えま,Ema Tōyama

This is actually an omnibus collection of the first three volumes of the series. Hikage Sumino is an eighth grader who'd like nothing more than to have friends like other people do. Unfortunately for her, she's practically invisible. Even when people notice that she's in the room, they soon forget she's there. It isn't just people her own age who don't see her - adults constantly forget she exists too. She's been left behind on field trip days, ignored in restaurants, and even hit by someone on a moped when she tried to help a cat. The only times she seems to truly exist are when she's taking care of the sunflower she's been growing and when she's blogging. She has two regular commenters who encourage her: Black Rabbit and Mega Pig.

When two of the school's most popular boys, Hinata and Teru, talk to her, it starts to look like maybe Hikage can finally have her time in the sun. First, however, she must struggle against her own introversion and low self-esteem, as well as jealous classmates.

I might have liked this a lot more if I weren't a longtime manga reader. As it was, I could think of several series this reminded me of, and most of those were better. The one that came foremost to my mind, for example, was Kimi ni Todoke, which had a more believable setup and more enjoyable heroine. Toyama pushed Hikage's invisibility a bit too hard and ended up making it seem almost like some kind of unfortunate superpower. People literally didn't see her, or forgot she was there even if she was within view. Only Hinata and Teru were exempt from her powers, at least until Toyama decided that it was necessary for some of Hikage's female classmates to hate her.

The bit with the jealous girl was cliched but not necessarily bad, although, again, I preferred the similar storyline in Kimi ni Todoke because of the way it tied in with the main character's first female friendships. In this series, Hikage just went from no real-life friends to actually talking to someone for the first time and almost immediately getting dumped on by jealous girls. The scene where everyone

suddenly stood by her when she finally defended herself

(spoiler show)

was nice, but felt a bit forced.

The way the volume ended indicated that the second and final omnibus will deal with the identity of Hikage's "anonymous" online friends. Since they're almost certainly

Hinata and Teru

(spoiler show)

, I'm more interested in finding out how Hikage reacts and how they learned that "Sunflower" was Hikage. I somehow doubt that Toyama will ever explain how, out of all the blogs in existence, they became commenters on a supposedly anonymous blog written by

one of their classmates

(spoiler show)

.

I got the feeling that Toyama didn't have much of a concept of just how big the Internet is. The first volume of the series was originally published in 2007, so it isn't like this was written in the early days of blogging and the Internet. Toyama also didn't always think through how certain scenes were supposed to work. For example, if

Hinata was Black Rabbit, how did he comment on Hikage's blog minutes/seconds before knocking on her door? The characters in this series only had flip phones. Was it possible to use flip phones to comment on blogs? (I only ever used mine as a phone and an alarm clock, so maybe that was a function I didn't know about.)

(spoiler show)


Although this was pretty mediocre, it did remind me of my first blog, which I started back when I was in the midst of my post-grad school job hunt. It wasn't a good time in my life, and my blog was meant to serve as both a way to keep track of what I was doing to make myself a better job candidate and as an emotional outlet. In real life, I talked to maybe a handful of people a week, my parents and my supervisor and coworkers at my part-time job, and the longer I went without being able to give them good news about my job hunt the worse I felt. Unfortunately, I also felt like I couldn't talk about most of what I was feeling. My blog gave me a place where I could vent a little without worrying that I was upsetting anyone around me.

Amazingly, I got several frequent commenters and, as far as I can remember, every single one of them was kind and supportive. If you were one of the commenters on my first blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you. You all helped me so much.

Extras:

There are various author sidebars, plus two pages of extra comics that take a humorous look at Hikage's invisibility. The sidebars reveal that Toyama had similar issues with going so unnoticed at her school that her own classmates didn't know who she was, although she admits that it wasn't on the same level as Hikage's invisibility.

 

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

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review 2017-10-21 13:14
Review: "Battle Dawn" (The Chronicles of Arden, #3) by Shiriluna Nott & SaJa H
Battle Dawn - SaJa H.,Shiriluna Nott

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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review 2017-10-11 18:50
Review: "Nightfall" (The Chronicles of Arden, #2) by Shiriluna Nott & SaJa H
Nightfall - SaJa H.,Shiriluna Nott

 

~ 4.5 stars ~

 

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