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review 2018-04-15 03:03
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit - Nahoko Uehashi,Cathy Hirano

The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's thought that the drought will be averted if Chagum is killed, so the Mikado himself has ordered several assassination attempts against him. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, enlists Balsa's help to save him.

While Balsa attempts to hide Chagum and keep him safe from his pursuers, she also seeks out several friends in the hope of figuring out what's going on so that she can somehow both save Chagum's life and prevent the drought.

The first time I read this book was, I think, too soon after having seen the anime. They're both good, but the time I spent noting similarities and differences to the anime made it hard to judge the book on its own merits (yes, I know the book came first, but my first exposure to the story was the anime).

Balsa makes me wish more than the first two books in this series had been translated into English. She's a great character - an experienced and talented warrior with an intriguing past. In general, the book had some nice gender role reversal, with its female stoic warrior character and male healer interested in the spirit world. There was a hint of potential romance between Balsa and Tanda, the healer, but it was handled in a very low-drama way. Tanda was a little frustrated at Balsa's lack of desire to settle down, but it never got to the point of wrecking their friendship.

The "found family" aspect involving Balsa, Tanda, and Chagum was nice. I enjoyed that restful period of the story before everybody had to worry about Chagum's safety again, and it was nice to see Chagum becoming more comfortable and confident in his life as a commoner.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way the setting and its history mattered. This was very much a story about how knowledge is lost or changed over time. Near the beginning of the book, readers get the history of how New Yogo was founded, but it's entirely from the perspective of the Yogoese, who are currently the area's dominant ethnic group. Later on, readers get more sides of the story - the secret history that only the Star Readers know (which is, again, Yogoese history) and Yakoo stories.

The Yakoo were the people who originally lived in the area where New Yogo was founded. (Supposedly they fled out of fear when the Yogoese peacefully tried to contact them, and I think the Yakoo side of the story agreed with this or at least didn't refute it, but I don't buy it.) They'd lost much of their culture and traditions, and what was left was sometimes mixed with Yogoese culture to an uncertain degree. It gave me shivers to think how close everyone came to not having the knowledge they needed during the chase at the end of the book.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed rereading this. I haven't read the next book in the series yet, but I'm now looking forward to it even more.


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

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review 2016-05-27 19:27
Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi
Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness - Yuko Shimizu,Nahoko Uehashi,Cathy Hirano

Got my hands on the sequel to Morbito: Guardian of the Spirit since I loved it and the anime so much, I wanted to see what other adventures Balsa has gotten herself into.


I adored this book just as much as the first. Balsa is still the strong, intelligent badass as she was in the first. The new characters introduced had many layers to them as well. And I even enjoyed the plot. The only thing I questioned was Balsa's motivations throughout the entire book. It felt a bit... weak? ...I suppose that's the word I'm looking for. It just didn't really made a whole lot of sense as to why Balsa wanted to so badly "get revenge" for Jiguro when she never felt like that before. It came from out of no where. Basically, I do think the plot was slightly stronger in the first book but that didn't deter my enjoyment of this book.


Cathy Hirano did another fantastic job in translating this novel. Everything flowed so smoothly and the depictions were quite vivid from the descriptions given. I really enjoyed this world and the people who live in it.


It's a shame that the other novels in this series was never translated into English. I would have liked to have read them. Well, that's okay. I plan to track down the original Japanese version and read those. Once I do, I will most definitely be talking about them in the future! 


If you liked the first book, then I highly encourage you to pick up this one! It's just as good as the first! 

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review 2016-02-10 23:52
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales - Michael Cunningham

I love fairy tales and fairy tale re-tellings. I love seeing the many different ways an author takes a known tale and spins it in a way that is different and unique to their own style. I love seeing a story that I am familiar with take shape into something new. So when I heard Michael Cunningham had a collection of re-tellings, I had to check it out. And I enjoyed it for the most part.


Cunningham has a very complex writing style. That is, he doesn't stick to just one style. Some of the stories were written in third person, another in first, and another still in second. Sometimes he has stories mixing two or three! His descriptions are very detailed and vivid. He doesn't shy away from the nitty-gritty. There are times when his writing shows the complexities of what his story is trying to convey. I enjoyed that tremendously!


However, not all of the stories in this collection were a hit for me. I definitely felt the first half of this collection were a lot stronger than the latter half. The latter half tend to drag a bit and didn't hold the same intrigue that the first half did. (Although I did like the last story to the collection quite a bit!) Also, all except for one of the stories were very dark and twisted and depressing so, even though that didn't bother me as a reader, it's something to keep in mind of. This is NOT a happy book.


All-in-all, I liked this book. I had some problems with it, but it was still a pretty solid read. Keep in mind that there's mention of sex, drugs, and a hint of abuse in the book. It doesn't go into great details, but it's there. If you like fairy tales and want to try out some re-tellings give this one a read. It's a pretty good book.

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review 2015-03-03 21:18
Barbed Wire Baseball
Barbed Wire Baseball - Marissa Moss,Yuko Shimizu

Moss’s juvenile biography of Kenichi Zenimura does a nice job of presenting his life, while focusing on the baseball diamond he created while in a US internment camp during WWII. I really liked Yuko Shimizu’s art as well. I suspect this might work a bit better for kids who already know about the internment camps, but it’s definitely one to recommend to young sports fans.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/february-2015-round-up
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review 2014-09-30 00:00
The Unwritten, Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock
The Unwritten, Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock - Mike Carey,Peter Gross,Yuko Shimizu,Steven Hall It's like Inception and Harry Potter invited a Choose Your Own Adventure book for a sleepover. I'm not completely sold on this series, mostly because it makes the reader do all the imaginative work. I also don't like the main character, so it's been tough for me to muddle through it all. Lizzie Hexam, who finally gets a little more story behind her in this one, is fascinating, but the fact that I find out more about her through a CYOA type storyline feels like a cheat. This series is clever, for sure. Is it too clever for its own good?
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