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review 2019-01-06 04:20
Gakuen Prince (manga, vol. 1) by Jun Yuzuki, translated by Harumi Ueno
Gakuen Prince 1 - Jun Yuzuki

I bought this and the next two volumes while bargain bin shopping a while back. The cover made me think it might be some kind of "bad boy + nerdy wallflower" romance. It's not.

Jyoushioka High School used to be an all-girls' school until a few years ago. Although it's now co-ed, the school's girls still vastly outnumber the boys. All the boys are placed in S-class, which only the richest and brightest girls are assigned to.

Azusa Mizutani is the school's newest male transfer student. He has no idea how the school works, and he soon realizes that he'll have to learn fast. Since boys are few and far between, nearly all of the girls are sex crazed. S-class gets first dibs on raping the boys, after which they're fair game for anyone who can get at them. Munechika, the school's most powerful guy, has learned how to make the system work for him, and his advice to Azusa is simple: just accept it and don't get anyone pregnant.

Azusa doesn't have many options. He can take control and actively seduce girls the way Munechika does, keep running until he's finally cornered and raped, or find a girl who's willing to date him and thereby stake her claim on him. When he accidentally comes across Rise Okitsu, a girl who just wants to make it through high school without getting involved in any trouble, he decides to declare her his girlfriend.

I always liked Del Rey's manga releases because they all had pages of useful translator's notes. Those notes are probably the best thing about this pile of garbage.

This series is basically just an excuse for lots of on-page abuse and near-rape. Within the first few pages, Azusa spots a guy in tears because a gang of girls ripped all his clothes off. During his first class, he reads a note being passed around in which all the girls are talking about how hot he is and what it'll be like when they tie him up, take embarrassing pictures of him, and rape him. (I don't recall the word "rape" ever being used in the volume, but it's pretty clear that's what the girls intend to do.) After Azusa forces Rise to help him,

she's bullied and set up to be raped by a lesbian who she initially mistakes for a man.

(spoiler show)

There are a couple instances where girls try to drug Azusa -

in fact, they actually do manage to give him something near the end of the volume, which leads to Azusa almost forcing himself on Rise (she punches him).

(spoiler show)


The brief quiet period after Azusa initially announced that he belonged to Rise bothered me on multiple levels. Both Azusa and Rise started to relax, thinking their fellow students' sudden friendliness was genuine, and all I could think was how gross it would be to smile and laugh with students who were only behaving like decent human beings because of a necktie (students who are dating each other exchange neckties).

There are a few gender-flipped instances of the sorts of things women often encounter. For example, when Azusa first finds out how the girls treat the boys, he tells himself that the boy he saw on his way to his first class must have had a problem (had done something that led to the girls attacking him). That kind of thing wouldn't happen to him because he's different. So we have victim-blaming as a form of self-comfort (which doesn't last long in this case). Then there's the whole "ownership" aspect of dating - guys gaining some measure of protection by declaring that they "belong" to one particular girl. The gender-flipping didn't make any of it less gross, and I have a feeling that, in the end, Yuzuki was aiming more for "titillating rape fantasy" than some sort of commentary on rape culture.

There was also some "not like other girls" crap. Rise was the only girl who wasn't involved in the boy-hunting and the only one who seemed to be even slightly bothered by any of it. There were also multiple instances of her fuming about the "heifers" and "sluts" at her school.

If I continue on, it's because I already own the next couple volumes and it's always hard for me to force myself to offload stuff I haven't read. I can't get the "what if it gets better?" voice to shut up, even in cases like this, where odds are really good that it won't get better and might even get worse.

Extras:

Four pages of translators notes, a couple pages of honorifics explanations, a few author freetalk sections (including the postscript, in which the author writes "Well, to tell you the truth, I've been drawing manga just by my instincts, so I don't know the basics of building up a story." (175)), and at least one humorous four-panel comic featuring characters from the series.

 

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

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review 2019-01-04 22:37
Brutal but stunning dark fantasy, this chilling debut goblin-king novel has roots in Norse mythology
White Stag - Kara Barbieri

In this dark fantasy, Janneke is the last child in a family of daughters and has been groomed to be the ‘male heir’, having been taught to hunt, track, and fight. When her village was burned to the ground she was the only survivor and was taken captive by the malicious goblin Lydian, who scars her for life, and who then sends her to work for his nephew Soren.

She then has to serve this monster who she is bonded to in the Permafrost. A brutal hunt begins for the beautiful white stag as Lydian and Soren compete for the throne of the next Goblin King. Janneke's humanity comes at the cost of becoming more attached and loyal to the goblin Soren, and as she has to learn to survive in the world she has been made to live in, learning truths about the past and about who she really is.

 

This is the first novel from a talented new author, Kara Barbieri, who brought it to life on WattPad; she has imagined a world called the Permafrost, heavily influenced by Nordic mythology, laden with dangerous monsters alongside the goblins, living in an unforgiving frozen landscape. Set to be the start of a series, ‘White Stag’ is both frightening and captivating.

*Frightening because of the amount of sheer brutality in the novel: there are plenty of references to rape, torture, mutilation, and abuse, as well as all the combat/fighting leading to bloodshed and descriptions of injuries and more. Janneke has been victim to unspeakable acts at the hands of Lydian, and we gradually learn about his true capabilities as the story goes on, making him just about the vilest character you can possibly ever read about. Soren, who she is bound to, is the unlikely antidote to this goblin villain, and ironically becomes the one to bring romance and emotion to her world, despite the ‘humanity’ leaving her life.

*That's your trigger warning, folks!

 

 

What I found most appealing about the book, is the journey that Janneke goes on, both physically and emotionally, which kept me captivated throughout; the hunt and the battles are relentless and test her constantly, and the relationship with Soren gradually changes. I've read some criticism of the relationship between her and Soren (I made the mistake of reading others' reviews, which I don't normally do), and I disagree that it would be unlikely that she would become attached to him, given that she is his charge and bound to him. I wasn't sure whether to attribute her feelings towards Soren to a sort of Stockholm syndrome or because she genuinely developed feelings for him because he seemed to care for her (he became more human as she lost her humanity). The dichotomy here is fascinating. They've been attached for some hundred years or so, and the intensity would undoubtedly bring some connection; why now though is more the question, but it makes for great reading.

 

Barbieri has set the stage for a series in a world that may trigger many readers but evokes images, not unlike the Game of Thrones and is for anyone who loves Viking or Nordic-inspired tales and mythology. I appreciated her sense of humor throughout the novel, and I know there is so much more to come from this bright light that is Kara Barbieri.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863517-white-stag
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url 2019-01-04 09:27
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review 2018-12-24 18:33
Recommended to readers and professionals interested in PTSD and to those considering therapy
Trauma Recovery - Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD - Beth Fehlbaum,Matt E Jaremko

I thank the authors and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

As some of you might know, I’m a psychiatrist, and although I am not working as a psychiatrist at the moment and have mostly worked in Forensic Psychiatry, there is no specialty of psychiatry where we don’t come across Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, unfortunately. As researchers and practitioners have discovered in recent years, trauma is more widespread than people think, and it can have a bearing even in some of the classic psychiatric diagnosis, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

You have probably come across many books written by survivors of a variety of traumatic experiences, and this is a very useful trend, as one of the things that people who have experienced trauma share in common is the feeling that they are alone and nobody understands or shares the way they feel. Reading other people’s accounts and sharing in their hope can be a very useful first-step towards seeking specialised help and starting the journey towards recovery.

This book manages to combine two aspects contained in books on the topic that are difficult to get right. On the one hand, there is a solid and clear explanation of the main therapeutic technique he uses and some adjunctive therapies, and the background to the approaches that Dr Jaremko has used in his everyday clinical practice for many years. On the other, and to illustrate the theory, there is a fictionalised account of a series of sessions of group therapy that seven patients engage in throughout the book. These patients, males and females, from different backgrounds, ethnic and social origins, and who had suffered a variety of traumas, meet regularly for a whole year and learn together, through their interactions within the group, how to apply the lessons learned through the therapy, while supporting each other and modelling their behaviours upon those of the others in the group who might be further away in their journey. Some of the patients, like Ashley and Darren, had been attending the group for a long time, while others, like Patty and Felicia, are newcomers. Beth Fehlbaum, the co-author of the book, has her personal experience as a trauma survivor to bring to the book and her years as an author too, and the fictionalised part of the book works very well. The characters are individualised, fully-fledged, and we get to know them, not only through their group sessions, but through some fragments of chapters when we share in what they think and how they feel from their own perspective. There are highs and lows for all the characters, and not a single one of them is always right and well (life is not without its bumps), even those who have come the farthest through the process. Because it is a process and there are no magic bullets, but there is help out there, and that is what the book excels at: giving hope to those who experience PTSD but have never tried therapy, or have tried therapy but it has not worked for them.

As I read the book, I kept wondering about its format. At first, especially as somebody who has read a bit about the subject (although I have never worked exclusively as a therapist, run group therapy, or used Cognitive Processing Therapy, the approach recommended by the book and also by many experts working in PTSD), I found that there was a fair amount of repetition of some of the key elements and theoretical concepts, that would make sense if the book was read more slowly by people interested in becoming familiar with many of the basic therapeutic aspects, perhaps chapter by chapter. Although I felt readers would probably connect more easily with the fictionalized characters and their difficulties and experiences, than with the purely theoretical parts, I realised that the process is somewhat similar to that the characters go through. They have much to learn and to become familiar with at first (you cannot enjoy stories if you don’t know the alphabet and understand the mechanics of reading), but slowly they gain in confidence, start applying what they have learned and can offer insights to others that they might have missed. The book, towards the end, becomes more dynamic and we can follow more directly the group sessions and the events in the characters’ lives, with the therapeutic aspects more seamlessly incorporated.

Dr Matt, the fictionalised version of Dr Jaremko, also shines through the book, and we get to know him, not only as a professional, but also, although less, as a person with his own plans and interests outside of his practice. Although he is well-liked by the patients, there is no hero-worship at play, and the book clearly explains that finding a therapist with whom one can work is not easy, no matter how good a professional the therapist is or how highly recommended s/he comes. The book emphasises the importance of finding a therapist or a mentor expert in the condition and there is never any suggestion that the book itself can cure anybody, but it is meant as a way to explain and exemplify what the therapeutic process might look like, and to offer hope and encouragement to those who have been stuck suffering, unable to decide what to do, or firmly believing there is no solution.

The book also offers great resources, to both professionals and patients. There is a bibliography at the end that includes books, articles that can be downloaded, and websites to check for more information. The appendixes include relaxation techniques, worksheets, advice on how to choose a therapist (and although some aspects of this are very USA based, the general principles would apply anywhere), and one of my favourite aspects of the book was that each chapter contains a playlist including songs and movies relevant to the aspects of trauma and therapy discussed there, and there is much emphasis placed on the importance of reading and of books that inspire the journey to recovery. In the same way that no patient would be cured just by reading this book, but they might feel inspired to seek help, no psychologist or therapist would become an expert on how to treat PTSD just by reading this book, but they might discover new approaches that they might want to explore further and learn more about. Although the book talks about PTSD, as I read it I could not help but think that many of its lessons and the examples of behaviours and erroneous beliefs highlighted through the theory and especially the sessions (there are some individual sessions also illustrated in the book, although they always result from questions or aspects of a patient’s experience that has been discussed in one of the group sessions) would have practical application in many other conditions. Cognitive errors (or “stinking thinking”, as it is known in the sessions) are common in many psychiatric conditions, and we all get stuck with them at some point or other. Much of the advice about how to change behaviour (CPT has its roots in CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy) could be applied to aspects of our lives that we wish to change, and that is one of the beauties of this method and the book, that it feels common-sensical once we get used to analysing the way we think in those terms.

As a writer, I also thought this book would be a great resource to other writers who are interested in understanding their characters’ motivations better, in particular to those who write about characters with a diagnosis of PTSD or severe trauma.

This is not a book for everybody, but it is a book that I am sure will provide useful information to people interested in the subject, and you do not need to be an expert to follow the theoretical basis behind the therapy. It is also very well written, and you will get to care and feel for all the characters in the group, and that is something that as an avid reader I know is not always easy to find, even in fiction. As you can imagine, the book contains descriptions of the traumas that the characters have suffered, as that is necessary to understand the therapy and the way the patients react to it. Those go from sexual and physical abuse to war trauma, natural disasters, hate crimes, and road traffic accidents. So, plenty of trigger warnings. On the other hand, if the book can inspire readers suffering from the condition to seek a therapist and start in the way to recovery, it is well worth a read.

Note that both authors are happy to provide copies of the book to people who cannot afford it but feel might benefit from it.

A great resource for professionals and others interested in the topic, with characters that feel real and we get to understand and care about. Highly recommended.

 

 

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review 2018-12-13 00:02
Which would you choose: Mortal or magic?
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1 - Jack Morelli,Robert Hack,Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa came onto my radar because I saw the super edgy trailer for the Netflix show and of course I felt I needed to at least read the first volume (containing the first 6 issues) before I started in on the show. :-P [A/N: For those unaware, this alternate reality version of Sabrina exists in the same realm as Archie and his pals over in Riverdale and you can keep your eyes peeled for my review of that too.] This is a comic book series that takes the familiar character of Sabrina Spellman (Remember that cute show about witchy magic with that super sarcastic talking cat named Salem?) and turns it onto its head. This is Dark Stuff and trust me the capitalization is warranted. The story starts out with Sabrina's parents, Warlock Dad and Mortal Mom, who disagree on how to raise their newborn daughter. According to coven law, Sabrina should be blessed by Satan so that when she comes of age she can formally sign Satan's book and give her soul over to him. (Did I mention this was dark?) These parental disagreements result in the mother being driven insane and Sabrina being entrusted to her witchy aunts to be raised 'properly'. So now Sabrina walks in two worlds (witch at home and mortal at school) and by the time she is 16 (present day in the comics where it's the 1960s) she is thoroughly confused about where she fits in which is par for the course with most teenagers if we're completely honest. Gore, violence, Satanism, cannibalism, necromancy, first love...your standard high school experience. The artwork was unlike anything I'd ever consumed in a comic or graphic novel medium before with bold colors and almost grotesque characterizations. I dug it. Horror fans and those that like re-imaginings of familiar tales will enjoy the world that Aguirre-Sacasa has crafted immensely. Yes, it's Dark Stuff but it's also boldly imaginative and well-formed. He's not only crafted this but another series called Afterlife with Archie (not to mention the tv series Riverdale). This is an author to watch! 10/10

 

PS Salem the cat is in this version as well!

 

PPS I started the series and I'm digging that too!

 

Not too spoiler-y since it's from the beginning. [Source: The Mary Sue]

 

What's Up Next: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and The Science of Supervillains by Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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