Manga Mania!

October is here! My favorite month. I’m also over excited because the creators of Bleach are blessing fans with a new final arc called BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War on October 10th, 2022. This blog post is going to take a minute to celebrate VIZ Media by taking a moment to gush over the awesome manga titles I’ve read from them as a rabid manga fan.

Bleach!

Here is a look at the new trailer, premiering on October 10, 2022. Ichigo Kurosaki coming your way with some Bankai! Don’t miss out. This show was really fun to watch. The characters going through multiple levels of growth, and the visuals only improved with each arc. Check out the full series if you can before you find the new arc.

VIZ has had some great releases. Here are a few of my fave preferences


1. Moriarty the Patriot

Moriarty the Patriot volume 2 cover

In the late 19th century, Great Britain rules over a quarter of the world. Nobles sit in their fancy homes in comfort and luxury, while the working class slaves away at their jobs. When young Albert James Moriarty’s upper-class family adopts two lower-class orphans, the cruelty the boys experience at his family’s hands cements Albert’s hatred of the nobility he was born into. He asks the older of the two boys—who has a genius mind and a killer instinct—to help him rid the world of evil, starting with Albert’s own family!

Storyboards by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Art by Hikaru Miyoshi

Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Imprint SHONEN JUMP


Demon Slayer Final Volume cover

2. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Learning to destroy demons won’t be easy, and Tanjiro barely knows where to start. The surprise appearance of another boy named Giyu, who seems to know what’s going on, might provide some answers—but only if Tanjiro can stop Giyu from killing his sister first!

Story and Art by Koyoharu Gotouge | Imprint SHONEN JUMP

Demon Slayer is complete. The final volume is No. 23. You can also check out the anime on Netflix.

Demon Slayer art

3. Platinum End

Platinum end volume 1 cover

As his classmates celebrate their middle school graduation, troubled Mirai is mired in darkness. But his battle is just beginning when he receives some salvation from above in the form of an angel. Now Mirai is pitted against 12 other chosen humans in a battle in which the winner becomes the next god of the world. Mirai has an angel in his corner, but he may need to become a devil to survive.

Story by Tsugumi Ohba, Art by Takeshi Obata | Imprint SHONEN JUMP | Platinum End is complete at Volume 14


4. Levius /est

levius est volume 1 cover

Having fought his way into the top grade of Mechanical Martial Arts, Levius faces an ever-changing world that grows more threatening by the day. The shadowy megacorporation Amethyst wields its military might across the world through advancements in the arena. Can Levius be the fighter who changes the course of the world’s fate?

Story and Art by Haruhisa Nakata | Imprint VIZ Signature

Levius /Est is complete at Volume 10.


More titles:

Fullmetal Alchemist

Bakuman

Blue Exorcist

Call Us What We Carry – A Beautiful Poetry Collection

Call Us What We Carry book cover

Call Us What We Carry

Amanda Gorman

Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.


Thoughts

I fell into this poetry book on a Saturday afternoon. I love so many poems in this book. I wish I could share them all, but that would spoil the fun of you discovering them for yourself…hahaha. So, I can only share the little gems I found between the many pages filled with Miss Gorman’s poetry.

In There’s No Power Like Home, she says:

 ‘…we were sick of home/Home sick. / That mask around our ear/ hung itself into the year.

The pandemic year so aptly described and our time at home certainly felt like forever. We became homebodies.


What we Carry banner

In Good Grief, she says,

‘…All that is grave need not be a burden, an anguish/ Call it, instead, an anchor…/ What we carry means we survive/It is what survives us

There are many grave experiences that touch our lives, the most profound one being the loss of those we love. In the storm that follows, the grief we carry makes us, defines who we are, who we become…Ms. Gorman argues it can be called good grief. Something that anchors us to what matters.


In the poem, Call Us, she says,

‘…at times over half of our bodies are not our own/…we are, a boat of a being/ A country/ A continent/ A planet / A Human/ We are we/ Call us/ What we carry

We are never the one thing, no matter how much one thinks so. If not from the country’s viewpoint, even at home we are a child/siblings/parents/aunts and uncles/friends/coworkers…so many parts of us. I love this poem.


In the Lighthouse, Miss Gorman quotes Terrence’s Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. (I’m human, I consider nothing that is human is alien to me.) Then writes of a year lived in isolation mode.

 ‘…this year was no year/ when next generations ask, we will say/ it went something like this: / the empty/ creaking playing grounds/…gatherings and people, gone to rust/’.

Describing the endless months of not meeting loved ones, coworkers, friends, and family. This poem ends with a bucket of hope that our harsh memories from that year will pass.

‘…hope is no silent harbor, no haven still/ it is the roaring thing that tugs us away/ from the very shores we clutch/…

We move forward despite the hard patch. We meet others now, pushing the fear of the pandemic away, after all, nothing human is alien to us.


In What We Carry, she says,

‘…children understand/ even grime is a gift/ what is mired is miraculous/ what is marred is still marvelous/

This poem reminds us of our childhood days, of running around with no care in the world. Playing in the dirt and lying on the grass staring at the clouds for hours. How we saw beauty before we grew up and our opinions and perception hardened. She speaks of emerging from the pandemic era.

‘…we have recalled how to touch each other/ and how to trust all that is good and all right/’.

How we must look beyond. Carry our hopes forward.

What We Have Left banner
'…We have learned our true names—/ not what we are called/ but what we are called to carry forth from here/ what do we carry, if not/ what and who we care most for/…’

Ms. Gorman ends this poem with a call to let go, to discard, ‘…our rage, our wreckage/ our hubris/ our hate/ our ghosts/ our greed/ our wrath/ our wars/ on the beating shore.’ She hopes we find a haven in what we have left after the ravaging storms we have faced.

‘…what we have left/ is all we need/ we are enough /armed only/ with our hands/ open but unemptied/ just like a blooming thing / we walk into tomorrow/ carrying nothing/ but the world.’

The Gilded Ones – Book Review

The Gilded Ones Book Cover

The Gilded Ones

by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself. 

Book Review

Deka is hoping to undergo the purity ritual and earn acceptance among her people. However, an unexpected event in her village makes this dream impossible. She soon discovers that the people she has cared for, loved, and leaned on can turn on her in a second. Her blood runs gold, marking her as impure. In a society rooted too deep in patriarchy, this impurity dooms her to death without trial.

Deka’s people believe in Oyomo’s teachings. Communities revere this religion, and anything that ventures away from the teachings becomes impure. A girl with gold blood in her veins is judged impure on sight. For “…an impure girl is despised by Oyomo, her very existence an offense to Him. Her murder is sanctioned by the Infinite Wisdoms, and who can argue with the holy books? Who would dare even try? All the families can see from then on is the demon that somehow invaded their bloodline. The sheer wickedness of it stings…” – The Gilded Ones.

Deka is doomed to die until an opportunity finds her in the hole the elders have placed her. A hole where they kill her repeatedly in an effort to end her. This opportunity gives her a chance for a new life. A chance to discover if there is more to her gold blood, and may give her a reason to live. For Deka must learn how to live with impurity as she views it. She is a believer in Oyomo too, and hopes for salvation, even as she is the very thing this Oyomo condemns. It takes great effort to get her past these beliefs and the torture and pain she endures to find herself beyond the Infinite Wisdoms can only be called a rebirth.

The Gilded Ones is not an easy fantasy read. It is full of torture and abuse of women, born from the weight of religious extremism. The religion in question is Oyomo’s holy book called the Infinite Wisdoms. The priests who teach these pearls of wisdom persecute young girls and women like Deka born from what they call The Gilded Ones. The truth of the Gilded Ones is therefore hidden in the persecution that soon turns the cruelty toward the gold-blooded women into a common occurrence.

Deka fights these injustices, trying to find the truth behind her existence. Who she is and why she is persecuted. In time, when she learns the truth, it becomes clear that she must survive and earn a life for herself.

This book is an absolute ride. I love the characters, and the world-building. I do wish there was less torture, and in the end, I feel that Deka has serious mental health issues that need resolving in time. However, I also know there is a second book and perhaps she will get to address her ghosts then.

Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robin Smith

Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends—Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie—through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx. The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere, setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters’ everyday lives and how they care for each other.
Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith originally kickstarted their critically acclaimed, award-winning slice-of-life mini-comic, Wash Day, inspired by Rowser’s own wash day ritual and their shared desire to see more comics featuring the daily lived experiences of young Black women. Wash Day Diaries includes an updated, full-color version of this original comic—which follows Kim, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx—as the book’s first chapter and expands into a graphic novel with short stories about these vibrant and relatable new characters.

In expanding the story of Kim and her friends, the authors pay tribute to Black sisterhood through portraits of shared, yet deeply personal experiences of Black hair care. From self-care to spilling the tea at an hours-long salon appointment to healing family rifts, the stories are brought to life through beautifully drawn characters and different color palettes reflecting the mood in each story.

Thoughts

So, I love, love this graphic novel. I love the illustrations with the different types of natural hair we have. The texture, the complexities of taking care of our hair, and yes, how sometimes it does take a day to get it just the way we want. Wash days are a large part of us. They can be easy and/or hard. They can take all day, or half a day, if you’re getting braids, it’s an event packed in with a movie session. These natural coils may frustrate us or bring us joy, there are tears, and sometimes laughs. It’s a day that pushes very personal buttons, and I love how this graphic novel touches on subjects like depression, mental health and relationships. Because washday is that day that will pull and tug at what is going on in our lives.

All plans do gotta stop, take time and revitalize.  I wish this book was longer, but mostly, I loved the representation. I felt seen and acknowledged in a comic, which is awesome.

Ember Queen – Book Review

Ember Queen

by Laura Sebastian

The thrilling conclusion to an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.

Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.

The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.


Book Reviews

Ember Queen is the last book in the Ash Princess Trilogy. Theodosia is no longer unsure of who she is to the people of Asteria. She has taken on the mantle of leadership and there is no longer doubt. She is also stronger, which is a very different Theo from the one in the first book.  It was nice to see this growth in her, a movement from being unsure, to a powerful, decision-making individual.

The cast of characters supporting Theodosia also took center stage. Some of the losses were hard to take, and I suppose that’s what makes a great tale. The sadness that grows from the death of a great character. In all, I suppose Theodosia’s own grief is enough to mark the passing of these great characters.

I died the Queen of Peace, and peace died with me…But you are the Queen of Flame and Fury, and you will set the world on fire.”

Ember Queen

I enjoyed reading the Ash Princess Trilogy. The story is good, but not epic. It is very character-driven, told primarily from Theodosia’s perspective. I felt that it would have been great to know what the other characters are thinking and what is driving them. Dragonsbane is a character I would have loved to discover more about. The Ash Princess Trilogy is definitely a journey about the Ember Queen’s quest to get back her throne.

Lady Smoke Book Review

Lady Smoke Book Cover

Lady Smoke

by Laura Sebastian

The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess–a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.

Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage–Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.

To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.

Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.

Thoughts

I enjoyed Lady Smoke more than the first book of this series. Theodosia is free of the Kaiser and is on the run. She is set to take on her title as the Queen of Asteria, but her people are still enslaved. She has no allies, no army, no means to fight for her people’s freedom. She is a queen with only hope, and good friends.

This book is about Theodosia finding out where she stands with her people. She works to gain power, and enough strength to fight for her people’s freedom. She must also convince her people who have been long enslaved to fight for their freedom. That there were will be a time they will be able to feel and hold that freedom. In many ways, Lady Smoke describes that coming-off-age stage perfectly and finding inspiration to fight for a worthy cause.

Murdering Romance by Kendi Karimi- New Book Alert!

Murdering Romance Cover

Murdering Romance

by Kendi Karimi

Murdering Romance is a fictional story about one woman whose love for peanuts unknowingly sealed her fate, her missing father who had a lot to say about his absence in her life, and a little time to say it, then suddenly none at all, her ex-lovers who had a lot of her to kiss, but not to love, never to love.

Mukami wants to understand love and has spent all her life understanding death, like picking up yellow flowers from the brown earth and having them turn a pale blue in your hand. And she has lived a long life. And she is tired. She has been brave and is tired of that face. She has written herself to fame and is tired of the fame.

Available at these places –> Amazon.com | Nuria the Honest Store, Nairobi | Naivas supermarkets | Writer’s Guild Kenya bookshop | Kibanga books | Candy and Books Kenya


Book Review

Murdering Romance is about Mukami, a woman in a quest to discover and experience authentic love, freely given by a father, or even a lover.  She has wondered where to find this love, for what she has seen and experienced for herself does not compare to her imagination.  She has also always wondered why her father left, why he didn’t stay and make a family with her mom. Perhaps his love and care would have taught her more, shown her how to find an authentic love for herself years later.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mukami starts a conversation with her estranged father via email, in which he tells her about the past, and she does her best to tell him about her present. She works at understanding his choices while doing her best to resolve a longstanding grudge over his neglect. Their conversations are fresh and revealing.

As these conversations unfold, Mukami shares her own experiences with love, or the lack of it, in the form she imagines authentic love should be and exist. The most disturbing of these accounts is a relationship with ‘Peanut Man’. An experience that is treated as best as it can be. I do feel as though the Peanut Man’s saga should be an entire book plot on its own, complete with a therapy session for the character, but I digress. Thankfully, Mukami does move on from Peanut Man to other relationships.

There is a rawness to Murdering Romance. Mukami does her best to share and unpack her life and the experiences she has lived. Each one made her wonder, making her wish and hope for the right one, the perfect moment. The conversations with her father become important. Murdering Romance is a story about Mukami who simply wanted to experience an actual authentic moment of genuine love and call it her own.

Ash Princess

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Summary

Ash Princess is a story about Theo, a princess of Astrean, who is living in an enemy’s palace ruled by the cruel Kalovaxian King. This king has murdered thousands of Theo’s people. He also takes pleasure in humiliating the Astrean Princess, calling her the Ash Princess. Theo even wears a crown forged of ash to parties thrown in her honor. When the man she thought would rescue her from the Kalovaxian King dies, by her hand no less, she is forced to start thinking of the future. Of her people’s suffering and the truth that no one is coming to the rescue, Theo must rescue herself.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel. Once again, I have picked up a second series that is a quick, don’t-think-too-much kind of story. The plot line is not new, nor is it ground-shaking. It has been done before and reminds me a lot of Red Queen by Victoria A. Still, Theo is her own character and she takes charge in this book, doing what she can to survive her circumstances. Read it for a good easy time. There are heavy nuances of cruel behavior, obviously war, and slavery. It is a Young Adult novel at its fullest fantasy mode.

Caraval – Book Review

Caraval Book Cover

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless, she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Book Review

Caraval Aesthetic

Scarlett Dragna loves her younger sister Tella very much.  Their father is cruel and abusive, and he uses their love for each other against them. When he arranges a marriage for Scarlett, she decides to go through with it, in the hope that she will be able to take her sister with her. She hopes her arranged marriage will allow them to escape their abusive father.

Scarlett will do anything to protect Tella. It is to the point of giving up her dreams and sense of adventure.  When Scarlett was young, she longed to see the Caraval – the magical, faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the magical show. She wrote letters to Master Legend, asking for the Caraval to visit their tiny island, hoping for a chance to watch the Caraval. She never gets a response and loses hope as she grows up.  And then, days before her arranged marriage, Scarlett receives a letter from the Master of Caraval, Legend, inviting her to the magical show on Isla De Los Suenos. Enclosed in Legend’s letter are three tickets to the show.

Scarlett must now make a choice whether to follow through on the arranged marriage or follow her dreams and whims and attend the Caraval.

It's only a game

A series of events ensues, and after a kidnapping and a near drowning, Scarlett does end up at the gates into Caraval.  The ticket master has a set of rules for Scarlett and her companion.  Most important of all is to remember that it’s all a game.

It all does seem like a game until Scarlett realizes that her dear sister Tella is at the center of the game.  She is missing, seemingly kidnapped by Legend.  The players are in a race to find Tella and win the prize, but Scarlett is in it to save her sister before the day she has to marry a man her father found for her.

I think the rules of Caraval apply while reading this book.  It is simple good fun, and entertaining.  It’s about Scarlett finding a footing, finding what matters to herself and what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She does it while playing a game of make-believe that might cost her more than she bargained. Reading Caraval had me wanting to go to a magic show, or visit the circus. It’s all make believe, don’t get carried away.

I hope your weekend is full of beautiful magical moments.

April 2022’s Reading List

The April Reading List only has two books. ^_^That’s about how many I could get in this April. They were both intense books. I now think I probably needed the month to read both of them. My excuse is very valid. ^_^ Here is my list for April 2022 :


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

It is about:

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Book Review

I loved the movement of African history through the eyes of the characters in this book.


A Thousand Splendid Suns Cover

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

It is About:

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

Book Review


On a very exciting note, I would like to thank Christine Warugaba for inserting a few words from this blog’s review of Belonging on her book cover. I’m truly honored.  Thank you for making my month! Belonging is now available for purchase on Amazon, and through Furaha Publishers, Kigali.