Book Review: Deadman Wonderland: Volume 1 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou (Advanced Readers Copy)

Advanced Readers Copy Published by Viz Media LLC

Pages: 216
Genre: Manga (Graphic Novels), Science Fiction, Mystery
Format: Advanced Readers Copy E-book 

I haven’t really read much manga, especially now, but graphic novels have recently piqued my interest, especially since there is an area in my college library that is stacked full of them. What I love about graphic novels is that they’re quick, light reads, entertaining but yet the author can put so much amazing, meaningful, and mind blowing content in a matter of words and artwork. 

Deadman Wonderland was one of the first anime to premiere on the revival of Toonami, one of the few programs that show anime other than Adult Swim in the U.S. Unfortunately, like most good TV shows, I was unable to watch it and now with the streaming of TV shows online, people barely touch their TVs. 

I had seen the first episode of the series, but never read the manga until now. So the first volume was merely a refresher since it is exactly the same. However, it was still enjoyable. So what happens is the main character, Ganta Igarashi is in school, sitting among his classmates and friends, but then suddenly a ghost man dressed in a metal helmet and a cloak releases a red light or force field and murders everyone except Ganta. He is accused of the murder, proven guilty despite the lack of evidence, although the anime portrays the court having fake footage of a sociopathic Ganta killing his classmates. He is sentenced to death and sent to a prison called Deadman Wonderland where their are attractions and forms of entertainment created to fund for damages caused by an earthquake in Tokyo.

Deadman Wonderland is  pretty brutal, the characters are cold and desperate, committing every sin to survive the prison life they must live under. The crowd and everyone outside seems to be completely oblivious, living in their ignorant bliss. I feel like this manga is more than just a action, fantasy tale, it a bit of a commentary of our society who seems to be immune to violence and lack empathy for others.Violence has become nothing but a mere entertainment.

It’s a pretty enjoyable manga, interesting plot and some character develop has already occured since the main character was kind of a wimp and he just wanted to follow the rules and everyone else’s barking. Eventually he broke them all, not only does he want to live, but he also wants to stay human and keep his sanity.

                                                                     Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: Repetition Patterns by Ben Tanzer

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Pages: 40
Genre: Short Stories
Format: E-book

I somehow stumbled upon a website of wonderful indie authors who write experimental styles of literature. I don’t quite remember how, but I somehow started off with Ben Tanzer. All of the authors provide the choice to buy the book in print or in e-book form. You can either download them for free or pay a certain price. This website or publishing label is called CCLap Publishing (http://www.cclapcenter.com/publishing/

I’m not really sure how I found Ben Tanzer, it was probably during my search for online literary magazines or on Twitter. Repetition Patterns was the first book I saw, and the title caught my attention. This book is a short story collection, a very short, light read.

The title story deals with a guy who is going through depression and feels that his psychologist is a jerk, he ends up finding a new one. I’m not really sure what the meaning of the story is suppose to be about, but Ben Tanzer’s writing style is very ‘readable’, his stories are nice to read for some reason. A lot of them focus on the lives of suburban people, depression, young adults and dysfunctional parents or families. A lot of them are dark, but the endings are usually either light hearted or tragic. 

Repetition Patterns seems to be a study of suburban life, the a parody of daily life, gossiping women, unfaithful husbands, and people who are generally unsure of their lives. The characters are confused and don’t seem to understand others or they get disappointed in their lives. They usually yearn for an escape from reality. 

The stories are well written and easy to read. It was a bit of a page-turner for me, so these stories must be really good and I’m slowly crawling out of my book funk.

                                                              Rating: 4/5

Friday Reads #7

On Beauty by Zadie Smith 
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Pages: 446
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Family
Format: Hardback 

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a Zadie Smith novel for awhile, something about her and her stories intrigued me, so I found this in the library. I’m going through it really slowly, but it’s okay for now. 

Leaving the Sea: Stories by Ben Marcus (Advanced Readers Copy)
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Pages: 288
Genre:Short Stories, Contemporary
Format: (Advanced Readers Copy) E-book

I don’t know if I like this, it’s pretty slow for me, it’s not even funny like the writing is described as.

The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma (Advanced Readers Copy)

Pages: 336
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary 
Format: (Advanced Readers Copy) E-book

I just started this one, the cover is sure quite a beauty. 

Book Review: The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James (Advanced Readers Copy)

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Advanced Readers Copy from Net Galley
Pages: 192 
Genre: Graphic novel, Surrealism
Format: E-book

I had no idea who Martin Vaughn-James was until I found this on Netgalley. Graphic novels are a pretty new thing for me, they were never around when I was growing up, and they weren’t even called ‘Graphic novels’, they were simply called ‘comic books’ or ‘pretty cartoon books with pretty colors in it’. Lately I noticed graphic novels are really darn powerful, beautiful, especially after reading a volume of of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

This graphic novel is very odd and thought provoking, maybe even a bit disturbing. The artwork is very real, very clean, and it pops out on the pages, because it looks and feels so realistic. The story however, may confuse some readers since it starts out with a pyramid, even though the cage was the one that was really destroying everything and taking everything in with the help of a black blob thing. The writing narrates the story and is the only way to express what is happening, without the text, readers will definitely be clueless.

This book is kind of hard to explain, the story line and everything. It’s simply is what it is. It’s a very symbolic story in my opinion, a very dystopian story where everything is destroyed by time, except for the pyramid. There is a pyramid, a cage, and a house. The house, from what I can interpret, is suppose to represent something beautiful, and maybe even perfect, but over time, it slowly decays and then the black ink drags it away into the cage, as if the house were human life or the life we desire, and it’s is destroyed and dragged away into this miserable cage. Nothing seems to escape the grips of time, everything rots away. Then there is a garden with an abundance of leaves, living organisms, the only living thing that exists, but soon they are destroyed by the black ink. Then a whole abandoned city is destroyed too, and dragged away into this cage. The story kind of has a  religious feeling to it, I was immediately reminded of the plague of gnats from the Book of Exodus. I am not religious but for some odd reason I thought of that plague, how it destroyed everything in it’s path, like the black ink. 

The cage is a horrifying thing in this novel, everything is destroyed and dragged away, to be locked forever, never freed, doomed for an eternity. The cage might be a symbol of evil or the end, a punishment for being too perfect or a form of hell after everything is destroyed by time. The act of existing is punished. It’s very hard to explain, my words can’t express this, which is what I like, it’s very odd and surreal. It doesn’t even need somebody else’s words to show what makes this graphic novel so thought provoking. Only eyes can tell. 

                                                                          Rating: 3.5/5

Booking Through Thursday: Craziest Thing Done When Reading

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Booking Through Thursday is a WordPress blog that creates blog meme posts every week.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done while reading? Walked the dog? Brushed your teeth? Cooked supper? Splashed in the waves at the beach?
And… were there any repercussions? Would you do it again?

The craziest thing that I have ever done while reading is straightening my hair with the straightening iron. I find straightening my hair a boring and tedious task, usually I play music on my IHome using my Itouch, but it’s still kind of boring. So one day I decided to bring out my Kindle and read on it while I style my hair. I mostly read physical books but there are a lot of e-books on my Kindle that needs to be read, so I get a lot of reading done on that Kindle every Saturday or Sunday after washing my hair. I have yet to burn my hair or skin off.

Book Review: Murmurs: Gathered Stories Vol. One by Caleb J. Ross

Murmurs: Gathered Stories Vol. One

Pages: 73
Genre: Short Stories
Format: E-book

Caleb J. Ross is not only an author, he is also a Youtuber, specifically a Booktuber, who makes amusing book reviews and rants. When I subscribed to his channel, I was sent a message offering free downloads of his short story collections on Smashwords.

I’m not going into insane details of these short stories like I did with Shifu, because most of the stories shared similar themes and were pretty short. However, that doesn’t interfere with the quality of the short stories. Murmurs is actually one of the few e-books that I finished reading without any troubles. A lot of the stories were very dark and disturbing since they followed a theme of domestic violence, quirky, depressed characters, self-injuring, suicide, and other oddities. Most of these stories consist of dysfunctional children who live in dysfunctional houses, or people who are into self-destructive activities. The darker stories have dysfunctional parents who don’t want their kids and would rather see them die. Al I can say is that most of these stories are dark, brutal, and real, a little too real except for the story about the vampire, which is my favorite one. Some of the stories are so out there and dark, that it seems it is almost as if the author is making a parody of depression, inhumanity, and the destruction of society. Maybe I worded that wrong but that’s my feelings on it. Born Again Michael has one of the most unique portrayals of a vampire I ever read, making it my favorite. Caleb’s s writing style is also pretty unique to me, his stories and everything aren’t similar to anybody I’ve read so far, so I’m looking forward to reading more by him.

                                                                       Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For a Laugh by Mo Yan

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Pages: 189
Genre: Short Stories, Magical Realism/Surrealism, Chinese Literature 
Format: Paperback (Softcover)

I got this book from the Book Outlet sale many months ago, along with Mo Yan’s Wine of the Republic. So lately I had gotten tired of reading big books, it became a chore to read anything longer than 200 pages, which is why you haven’t seen a review of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich. So I decided to read a batch of short stories and some E-books, so there might be an Advanced Readers copy review and an review of an E-book containing short stories. So I will review each of the short stories, so this review will probably be pretty long.

Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For a Laugh: This is the first story of the book, it’s more of a novella or a novelette, since it’s 53 pages. Most of the short stories in this book include the theme of poverty in China. Shifu is an old factory worker who is laid off from his job, and he is unable to find a job due to his age and heath. Shifu is kind and hard-working and the last time he gets paid off is by getting fired. He is also childless and his wife depends on him to bring money home. He is also very clumsy, which complicates his situation further because he eventually couldn’t afford to pay for the medical bills. Eventually he ends up in a cemetery where a dilapidated bus is located. In that bus, a young couple makes love and gives Shifu the idea of making a ‘love hotel’ where young couples pay to spend some time together. So this business becomes successful and he gets really insecure, he thinks that he will get in trouble with the government for shady business. He sees a middle aged couple crawl into the bus after they pay and never come out. He later finds out that his worry was nothing. Shifu is  pretty light hearted compared to the other stories, it’s has a bit of sarcastic humor and it’s a bit satirical. I actually found this story humorous. It’s one of those really weird stories that puts a smile on people’s face.

Man and Beast: The second story is pretty violent, a battle between a man and a fox who was forced to live in a cave out in the wild when the Japanese invaded China during World War II. After he wins the battle with the fox, he begins to venture out of the wild and comes upon a Japanese village, he attacks a Japanese woman, but when he regains his humanity, he lets her live. It’s a story of humanity and forgiveness during a time of bloodshed and war. The ending was very touching and probably one of my favorites in this book. 

Soaring: This is one of the shortest, or felt like one of the shortest stories in this book. This is one of the more ‘magical’ like stories like Man and the Beast. This one is about a woman who refuses to follow old Chinese values, she regains the ability to fly away from her husband. Unfortunately, she ends up getting the village’s way the hard way. I’m not sure why, maybe I’m sick in the head, but I actually found this story amusing, I wish I can fly away from my problems with the flapping of my hands.

Iron Child: This is a modern fairy tale in my opinion, it’s about a starving child who meets an Iron Child, they both have the ability to eat iron. They run around the village and factories eating iron to sustain their never ending hunger. I actually really love this one more than Man and Beast because it was like a modern version of a fantasy tale  that I read when I was younger. 

The Cure: This is one of the more darker stories where public execution and the stealing of organs is involved.  Three people are executed and a father and son extract a gall bladder to cure a grandmother’s sickness. 
 This is one of those stories where Mo Yan portrays corruption, desperation, and the deterioration of society.

Love Story: This story doesn’t really stand out. It’s a simple story about a boy falling in love with a girl who is a few years older than him. He feels like a mere child and she is a beautiful woman. He is in love with her maturity and feels that his love would never be requited because of the age gap. However, since it is a love story, of course this love is accomplished by the end of the story because she’s been ‘wanting it’ anyway. It’s also a sort of coming of age story since he was the only one that showed kindness towards her while everyone makes fun of him for it.

Shen Garden: So here is a story about two middle aged people who knew each other when they were younger, they were probably a couple. The woman is slightly ill and they both want to be around each other for the sake of memories and affection. The woman wants to go to Shen Garden, the man who liked her, didn’t know where the garden was. They go in a taxi and embark on the journey to this garden but end up going somewhere isn’t really the Shen garden but the woman probably didn’t really know or gave up trying to go. They try their best to make the best of the trip, they end falling in love with the nature and growing close together. It’s another sweet story.

Abandoned Child: This is the last story that left me with a sullen feeling, which makes it one of the best. It’s involves poverty, the One Child Policy, and the obsession with the preference for boys. The main character is a writer and his mindset is a lot more modern than the rest of the villagers. He hates humanity for it’s narrow mindness and lack of empathy. He rescues an abandoned baby girl and feels rather down when he encounters a bunch of misfortunes and the disapproval of his wife and family. He talks about how he hates humanity but finds peace in nature, specifically the sunflower gardens. He seems to find comfort alone in nature, loves the abandoned child, and he hates the corrupt people around him.

Mo Yan writes beautiful stories, the language is poetic and the descriptions are vivid. The stories are entertaining, but dark and cringe worthy. A lot of the stories were influenced by his childhood of poverty and the destruction of humane thinking after the Cultural Revolution. The stories are dark yet beautiful all at the same time, they feel like fairy tales created in a modern era. This book was a good read light read that I really needed.

                                                                   Rating: 4/5