Book Review: Bleach Volume 55 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 55 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 55 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, things seem pretty peaceful until the Soul Society personnel start going missing. Whatever is going on, it’s starting to affect Ichigo and his friends.

Character: Already we see these characters starting to flesh out much more than in the last arc. There’s more compelling mystery and more emotional context that while equally sudden from the last arc, is still somehow more powerful because we have a deeper connection to the history of the arc.

Exposition: This is hard to gauge for me because this whole arc bleeds together. There are some blocks here that explain the previously mentioned context, but I don’t honestly know which volume had those blocks. While noticeable, the exposition wasn’t exactly offensive.

Worldbuilding: This volume sets up a deeper history of Soul Society and finally connects to information teased in the much more popular Aizen arc. At this point, we’re only getting set up data, but it promises rewards that are far more satisfying than the previous arc.

Dialogue: I think most of the dialogue in Bleach is more about “Behold my super ability!” than anything that develops character. At its best, Bleach has truly touching lines that make it easy to bond with the characters. At its worst, the series (and this volume) is full of data dumping that at least sets up the threat of the upcoming arc.

Description: As far as set-up volumes go, the art in this volume is better than some. The settings really give the Soul Society a sense of depth that activates the imagination. No, there aren’t a lot of cool fight scenes, but there are several great spreads of art that reveal the technology and culture of that world.

Overall: I honestly felt like I earned the right to read this arc because I soldiered through the previous one. This means I was so excited to start this arc that my self-hype could possibly elevate my opinion. However, I was far more invested in the history and lore of Soul Society than that of Fullbringers. It may have been clunky, but this volume sets up a wonderfully action-packed saga (even if it’s undercut a bit by some of the things that happen).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Hazel

A 5-Star Review for Hazel

Hey all,

I’m going to talk about last week’s comic convention in a few weeks. For now, I just wanted to quickly share with you this kind five-star review for Hazel.

Hazel is still doing wonderfully (by my standards), and I’m hopeful any of you who tried it will be kind enough to leave a review in Goodreads, Amazon or both.

I’m always thankful for you all. This post was quick and short, even for a review post, but we’ll be back on track after the holiday.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 54 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 54 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 54 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo has his powers back, but the looming secret behind Kugo’s past and the role of a substitute soul reaper present a test that might lead him to doubt the soul society.

Character: I think the author was trying to establish Ichigo as one who stands by his convictions and beliefs. The problem is, we already knew that about him. So the story lost interest for me because there was this “shocking” plot reveal, and Ichigo kind of shrugged at it. Yeah, it’s cool seeing Ichigo say he’s all in no matter what, but given there was not even any sort of doubt or real apparent test of his philosophy, it fell short.

Exposition: I don’t really remember any exposition here. The dialogue covered most of the data (more on that below). Here, the dialogue and action carried this volume.

Worldbuilding: I mentioned this plot reveal last week. It closed a gap that we saw happen very early in the series, but it wasn’t the real question mark I was looking for. Sure, it expanded the world of the series, but it at least gave us something.

Dialogue: While it’s true that the dialogue was the plot device used to drive this story, it wasn’t unnatural even though it was unsatisfying. To me, this felt like, “I am your father.” Only this time, Luke shrugged and said, “Maybe, but I’m still fighting for the rebellion.” So I’m divided on my feelings in this matter. It wasn’t bad dialogue, but it was probably not great writing.

Description: This is the end of this arc. The fight scenes are good. The art is good. The visuals are satisfying. The cool fight scenes really drive an arc that was essentially thrown in to get Ichigo back in the fight.

Overall: I think I hit the nail on the head in the last section. This arc felt very forced to me. Everything was driven at getting Ichigo back at it, and every interesting plot element was literally slashed aside by Ichigo. It does the job in that it gets Ichigo in position, but that’s literally all it does.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 53 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 53 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 53 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo has reached his lowest point, but some old friends return to hel out. They also bring with him a true return to the fight, which was brought by scheming and betrayal. Does he still have the will to win?

Character: So the character and worldbuilding sort of tie together in this volume. Also, a few of my favorite characters are back, and they easily make this volume fun to read. If the payment for the action in this volume is the redundant story arc from the previous ones, I’m at least willing (if begrudgingly) to pay. The character development belongs to the Fullbringers though. We learn a lot about them through these fights.

Exposition: There is probably less in this volume than in the others, which is true of action volumes (volumes that are more about the fight than plot). There’s the usual explanation of, “Look at see why my ability is so horrifying!” However, that’s about the long and short of it.

Worldbuilding: Here, as we learn about the Fullbringers and their pasts, we also learn about the lore of the Soul Society and some history about substitute soul reapers. This is the interesting part about the arc and it helps set the stage for the final arc of the series. It’s great that the world is deeper; it really is, but that depth comes with little context, and that diminishes the impact of the revelations in this and future volumes. One on hand, I think, “That’s pretty cool,” but I don’t have an emotional connection to the world and these particular characters, so it’s cool, but not emotionally valuable.

Dialogue: This is pretty much on par with the other volumes. Ichigo: “We fight to protect, and I’m on team Soul Society!” Bad guys: “Soul Society is bad, and we support this cause! Behold my ultimate power.” Ichigo shrugs and goes ultra mode. Conversation over. Butt-whooping to commence.

Description: The fight scenes are well rendered. The action sequences here would translate better to anime. I keep hearing that these are being adapted to animation, but I don’t really know. If these are coming, would you let me know. The plot isn’t as wonderful, but the fight scenes should be entertaining to watch.

Overall: If your favorite things about Bleach are the fights, this volume gives you what you’ve been waiting for. What we have in some 40-something volumes of buildup for Aizen’s arc, we get some 10 volumes that lead to a reasonable plot twist that lacks any sense of danger. However, if you’re just here for the cool fighting, then sit down and enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 52 by Tite Kubo

PERSONAL NOTE: My new graphic novel Hazel is out right now, and I’d be honored if you considered picking up a copy!

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 52 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo growing in power, but things seem to be going astray. What are Ginjo’s true motives, and how does Tsukishima play into the equation?

Character: There is a small plot twist here that breaks from the pattern of the previous arcs. I’m not sure it’s “enough” to be satisfying to some readers, but it was at least a break from the norm. It’s hard to discuss character in this volume because there is a plot-related reason the characters frustrated me, and that’s actually good. When characters cause readers to get frustrated, it makes them read. I don’t know that I’m the best at calling out the plot twists. This one got me, and that’s to the volume’s credit.

Exposition: This area of a story sort of held steady from the previous volume as well. An average manga doesn’t typically have a lot of exposition to begin with, and this sort of fell in the “normal” range for me.

Worldbuilding: Despite similarities to the Visard arc, this volume did expand the universe and magic system of the series, and that’s always a plus. I need the right mix of character and world building to hook me, but this at least did some interesting things and took the series in a new (ish) direction.

Dialogue: It wasn’t snappy or anything spectacular, but Ichigo is a much more dramatic character than some of his contemporaries. So there is a lot more development in the dialogue than other volumes or manga. The trick here is those who love the characters will be compelled to keep reading, especially as the plot begins to turn.

Description: I’m not sure the action here is higher than other volumes, and when there isn’t much fighting going on, the panels are more simplistic. Sure, the detail is amazing, but there’s not a lot of dynamic information in them. What action sequences are there are cool.

Overall: The plot twist that came in this volume was satisfying enough for me, but it might not be enough for others. The training is cool, and the expanded data is equally interesting if not enough to stand out as an arc.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

We Got Some Reviews to Share!

We Got Some Reviews to Share!

Greetings all,

First, let me please thank you for the reception Hazel has received thus far. Even as I type this, things are looking good. I don’t know if we’ll hit our goal, but things are already going pretty darn well. But I’ll have more on that next week. For now, what I do have are some reviews for Hazel and one for Bob.

Since we only have one for Bob, let’s start with that.

Here’s a five-star review from Cowan on Audible:


What a journey

Such a great book! Felt like a trilogy all wrapped into one book. So much heart put into this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on the other ones. This book has it all and takes you through a full range of emotions. Highly recommend picking this one up!


As for Hazel, well she has two reviews. Check out this four star review and this five star review. Neither of them have a lot of words, but I promise they both have a ton of value. If you’ve read Hazel in some form or another (or any of my books), we’d appreciate a rating and review. Also, if you haven’t tried Hazel out, maybe these reviews will inspire you to check it out.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 51 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 51 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 51 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo Kurosaki is quickly getting the hang of his Fullbring powers, but it’s a race against time as Tsukishima is targeting Ichigo. He’s apparently attacked at least two of his friends, so Ichigo needs to gain more power quickly before he’s too late.

Character: If you can get past the fact that this feels very much like Ichigo’s training as a Visard, you get to know these characters. Yes, the formula is yawn-worthy familiar, but at least you’re getting to know knew people and what drives them. I will say you get to connect with them, and that’s something to this volume’s credit.

Exposition: This was better than the last volume. There’s more action (not in terms of a fight, but in terms of training). So the conversations add to the context, but it’s just about what it would be with any manga, so one has to let that sort of thing go.

Worldbuilding: So we start to understand Fullbring a bit more. Because this feels so much like the Visard arc, even though we’re understanding a different ability, it doesn’t feel unique at all.

Dialogue: There’s some cute dialogue here and there. The characters are unique, but this is generally a strength of the series (even with the exception of the last issue). All manga tend to have those occasional volumes where one character or another explains pretty much the plot of the entire arc. This volume is more witty banter between punches, which is fun if not really content adding.

Description: The art here is cool. It’s not as sweepingly majestic as Demon Slayer, but it is pretty cool to watch. A lot of the moves are more effective for black and white, and that says something for the series.

Overall: This volume is sort of more on track with what I said about the arc overall. Like I mentioned in the character setting, this sequence of events was so formulaically like the Visard arc, it buried what might be great characters. In future arcs, there were some changes and plot development that, even if it is still true to the basic anime patter, give the events an original feel. Not so with this volume. It’s cool in a way, but it’s unoriginal.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 50 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 50 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 50 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ichigo Kurosaki is trying to adjust to life without his Soul Reaper powers. Things seem to be reaching a pretty normal (at least for Ichigo) rotuine when a man named Kugo Ginjo comes to town, promising Ichigo a way to get his powers back. But why is he doing it?

Character: If you’re not in love with Ichigo and his friends by Volume 50, I’m not sure why you’re reading this review or the series in question. What stands out to me is that Volumes 1-49 comprise a beautiful, complete storyline. So The future arcs really seem out of place given everything was wrapped up nicely. Sure, this Fullbring arc does connect to the history of Soul Society and Ichigo’s past, but it’s not so unique that I felt it demanded publication. However, I think if you loved Bleach the way I love, say, Mistborn, then more is something you’ll like. These new characters bring new dynamics into the worldbuilding that may not be as interesting as the previous arc, but it’s still cool. For Ichigo, the more interesting arc would have been to force him not to be the hero. I get why this arc exists, but it just feels like they did this to pump out more content, and that content only advanced one aspect of storytelling (see below).

Exposition: This is a manga, so get ready for several “the exposition boxes were solid.” I will say there is far more exposition in Bleach than Demon Slayer. Some is hidden in dialogue, but given how obvious it is, it can get pretty annoying.

Worldbuilding: So this is where the rubber meets the metaphorical road in these future volumes. If the politics and history of Soul Society are interesting to you, then this is your volume. If you want to understand the origins of substitute shinigamis and power activations in normal humans, this is for you. I’m just not one of those. But that’s not a bad thing. Mistborn fascinates me. I’m going to read all the eras because that world does interest me. However, Dragonriders is my favorite series every, but I only read the main arc. I’m not saying I never will, it just doesn’t interest me nearly as much as Jaxom and Ruth. So that’s what everything rests on (with the exception of fights, see below).

Dialogue: This is probably the weakest. Almost every conversation I can remember was basically the characters explaining the plot to me, and that annoyed me. It wasn’t the clever cat and mouse stuff from the previous volumes. There was almost no attention paid to the actual characters and their everyday motivations. Instead, the monologued about whatever info dump the author wanted to pour down the reader’s throat. The one character who acts and speaks like a normal character is brushed aside when the fighting starts.

Description: Here again is a point of emphasis for fans of anime and manga. What makes it good? If you think good manga is cool fight scenes with epic OP battle moments, this gives you what you want. But if you’re looking to connect more with new characters and new stories, I’m sorry. You’re going to be disappointed. You might get a brief, “trust me, I’ve had it rough” speech from some character here or there, but we don’t get time to know the character and bond with them, so these speeches fall short of the mark.

Overall: I have to say that I have a bias that might be unfair. I thought the end of the battle against Aizen was a perfect ending to a perfect story. I feel much the same way about this as I did about Season 5 of Supernatural. The most important thing any storyteller can do for his story is to let it finish, and none of these volumes did justice to the ones before them. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them. If you like epic fights, this is for you. If you are fascinated by the history of Soul Society, this is for you. This arc already puts an odd barrier between the heroes that I didn’t understand. It doesn’t address it or improve on it. It almost starts over in an odd way, and it’s not nearly as powerful as the first version. I leave you the right to decide for yourselves. Did I hate it? Honestly, no. It was OK, but it was just OK when before it was awesome, and that’s the reason some of this seems negative.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes.  Featured image was taken from Fruitlesspursuits.com, no source was listed on the website.

Spoiler Free Summary: Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. As Shallan Davar prepares to make her way to the Shattered Plains, her plan gets ruined before they even have a chance to begin. She’ll need to find her own way, and in the process, she’ll have to confront her greatest secret and her biggest lie. Meanwhile, Kaladin has escaped the oppression of the light eyes, choosing to align himself with the only honorable lighteyes in the world, maybe. The more he works with them, the more he fears what he thinks is their inevitable betrayal. Just as everything comes to a head, he discovers a plot that puts him on the wrong side of his oaths. What effect would breaking his oath have on Syl?

NOTE: This is my third (if not fourth) read of the book. I usually re-read books in a series like this before the new one comes out. I read this book again after finished Rhythm of War.

Since this is a re-read, I don’t want to give you information that I’ve already provided. That wouldn’t give you any value as a reader, so for this review, I’m going to focus on the characters. This book is already the best in the series (by a long shot). That doesn’t mean the other books aren’t good or even awesome in some cases, but it does mean this one still stands out.

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Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

Kaladin really steals the show here. This is supposed to be Shallan’s book, but for her, this is just the book where I stopped being so annoyed by her. Oddly, some will say Kaladin starts to annoy them in the future books (and I can’t really blame them), but not here. This book is where Kaladin becomes a beloved mainstay character. In fact, for those who feel the later books sort of let them down, I’d argue this book and how Kal progresses is exactly why people are willing to endure Kal’s struggles with him. I’ll talk more about those issues in the future reviews for the next books. For now, I want to express what a great story this was for him.

Kaladin, in this story, is a hero who doesn’t trust his good fortune, and with good reason. Every time he’s done something amazing in the past, he’s had that taken from him and been sent lower than he’d ever been. So how can he not be in a position where he doubts? This journey of a man who doesn’t trust his good fortune is unique because that fear of falling or losing is real despite not being the most overt threat one could see. Indeed most stories would have an identified villain who is in fact trying to take everything from the hero. Not so in this tale.

Shallan however, starts every bit as annoying as she was in Way of Kings. In that book, she pointedly felt like the expositional character. “Oh no, here comes Shallan and another lecture on the economics of Roshar!” However, this story gives us more on Shallan. While she’s still absolutely the characterization of Roshar, its history, and its economics, she’s also a character in her own right. Her history is compelling, and that builds sympathy.

Then we have Adolin, who I will never forget because I get so frustrated with people who do. Adolin doesn’t come into his full potential until the fourth book, but right about here is where we see him start to exist as more than a foil to Dalinar, and Sanderson openly admitted Adolin got more screen time to play that role. In this story, we start to see Adolin as more of an individual. As his goals and earnest charm start becoming clearer, he starts being a more beloved character. After this many reads of the saga, I might actually think he’s my favorite in the who series (though let’s see how Kaladin goes in Book 5). He’s certainly in contention at the moment, and that affection is born here. Adolin should be an arrogant jerk who is only after a new fling and another fight, but that’s just not how it goes. Sure, there’s a duel here where Kaladin get’s an awesome hero moment, but Adolin is all the more impressive because it’s all just him.

This book is the best book in the series because it’s the book that focuses most on the characters reaching their potential. This book shines because the characters grown and evolve, ending with them in a better place. I think the third book falls short because the characters regress. As an overall series, characters need to regress. However, seeing Kaladin regress as far as he does and Shallan do something relatively similar is actually a pretty big letdown because this book ends in a spot where we feel those characters should start to shine. That doesn’t make the future books bad, but it does explain why some may resent them and why this book stands out so well.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A New 5-Star Review for Caught

A New 5-Star Review for Caught

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I’ve had a review, but man, I love it when I get one, especially when it’s good. That means I get to share this five-star review for Caught from Cowan on Audible.


What a read!

Ho-ly Cow! What a great book to read. Intense with great twists. A wonderful and original take on the genre. Highly recommend!


It’s great because it’s five stars, and even though it’s short, it’s super kind.

If you’ve read any of my work, please consider leaving a rating and review on Amazon, Goodreads, Audible, or all three. They really do mean the world to me.

As always, I appreciate you all for supporting my silly dream. I’ll keep writing, and I will always thank you for reading.

Matt