Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the fourteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Kizuki members Hantengu and Gyokko are attacking the swordsmiths. Each has an ability that tests their members. Are they more than our heroes can handle?

Character: This volume is battle oriented. We do get to know more about Tokito and his past, and that’s cool, but if you’re not in love with the main cast at this point, you’re probably not interested in this volume no matter what I say. The author knows this. Sure, we get a bit more (and we always will) because Gotouge is a master, but these volumes at this point are more about rooting for characters we’ve already come to love than giving us stories to make us love them.

Exposition: I don’t honestly remember much exposition in this volume to begin with. The story is moving along, so there’s just no real need for any explination.

Worldbuilding: While there’s a touch of character development in this volume, I wouldn’t say the worldbuilding had much. This is much more about sitting back and enjoying the fight to see if (or how) the heroes win.

Dialogue: This actually doesn’t have the 1980s cartoon banter the other volumes have (either that, or I’ve gotten used to it). Sure, there’s some banter, and it may be a bit more on the cheesy side, but I’d say this is an improvement on what has been the trend.

Description: There’s really not much more to say about the art in this volume. A few issues back, we had a new scene (setting/location) to fawn over, and we’ll get more, but for now, it’s just well-illustrated fight scenes.

Overall: Like the last few volumes, I’ve read this one twice. I tend to re-read one right after my wife so I know what I’m allowed to talk about and what I’m not allowed to talk about. This battle has a lot of drama and great peak moments. I think this is where we see the heroes come into their own. This volume continues the freight train that is the last third of the series.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge
The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the thirteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Two more members of upper Twelve Kizuki have started an all-out attack on the sword smiths, which just happens to be where our heroes and a few Hashira happen to be training. It’s been more than 100 years since any one upper Twelve Kizuki have died, so what are any number of slayers going to do against two?

Character: As the cover suggests, we finally dig deeper into one of the quieter side characters. All of these characters have satisfying back stories, and this one is no different. Don’t blame the writer because I can’t remember the name. I really struggle to remember names. The world is expanding quickly, and as a fight of this magnitude begins, it’s cool that we still take a bit of time to get to know some of the other characters more.

Exposition: There were a few exposition boxes in this issue, but only to give context. I feel like this volume did a great job only relying on those boxes when there wasn’t another way.

Worldbuilding: This volume doesn’t do a ton to expand the world, but it has a few subtle points that a discerning reader should look for (no spoilers). The safe thing to say is those Kizuki all have unique traits that make the simpler methods of beating them unreliable if not hazardous.

Dialogue: I think if there’s a knock on this manga, it’s that the fight dialogue is pretty dated. I’ve mentioned this a few times, and I still don’t mind it personally, but I can’t deny it might rub some readers the wrong way. In fact, this particular manga has a few 1980-cartoon habits that wouldn’t work if the characters were any less appealing or the fights weren’t that interesting. Still, I have to tell potential readers they have to be ready for those kinds of things.

Description: The art is fantastic as always. I love the way the different breaths (as I call them) are illustrated. I could stare at any page for hours and just enjoy it (if I had hours to spend looking at art).

Overall: I’ve already read this volume twice. Honestly, every volume from 12 up is just amazing. I’m so glad I had most of the other issues out before I started this. I’d be so mad having to wait months for the next volume. This is the kind of binge read action manga and anime fans should love. I know I do.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a self-help book that bases its assertions on 10 Pillars of Whole-hearted Living. She bases her pillars on research, as that is her field of expertise. Through the interviews she’s conducted and her research, she’s narrowed down this pillars and created terms that describe them.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I appreciate is that while I may not like some of the terms she uses, she’s careful to define those terms through the context of her research.

The basic premise is to help people let go of unhealthy thoughts and pursue healthy thoughts, which I aggree with. However, i can’t necessarily get behind everything she says.

Listening to this audiobook, I found myself nodding my head a lot, and then a second later I would jerk back because I disagreed so strongly with at least a part of what I heard.

I have to contextualize that last comment. I’m not one to simply deny research because I don’t agree with it. Most of my issues come not from the research or what I felt the ultimate points were but instead how they were presented or defined.

The example I’ll go with here is Brown’s distinctions between sympathy and empathy. Without getting into too much detail (and therefore debate), she speaks as if sympathy is bad, and empathy is good. She overgeneralizes sympathetic behavior. It’s frustrating because her overall point is that people want to connect. There are some good ways to do so, and there are ways that don’t succeed. I wouldn’t go so far as to lump the non-successful techniques and wrap them in a box labeled “sympathy,” and that’s what Brown does.

There are things here in this book I think are very important. And what I love most about this book is that Brown provides ways to stop bad habits and cultivate good habits. I think some of her pillars taken literally and applied in excess can actually create the opposite effect. I’m not one to practice a lot of “self” anything, but that’s where there’s some interesting overlap.

Brown believes in God, she speaks often of that. Her denomination or even specific religion are harder to pin down, but she speaks about it here and there. She also includes faith as an aspect of her pillar. But here we find another area where I feel an odd contradiction. It’s difficult for me (and I can only speak to my personal challenges) to see life through any other filter than my faith. Sometimes Brown refers to a person’s self in a manner I don’t feel is profitable, especially for one of my specific faith. This isn’t a critique on her faith whatsoever. This is instead a perspective on how I struggle to wrap my head around her 10 pillars through the lens of my faith.

This portrait of Brown, taken by Jose Tutiven, was taken from Brown’s About Page on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I generally like about her book is that even if I don’t agree with the whole of everything she says. There is something out of each pillar I found helpful. What this means is even someone who doesn’t completely embrace every word of Brown’s book can find some value in the book. I appreciated the “letting go” portions more than the cultivating portions, but she provided actionable methods to apply these principles and exercise them into daily life, which is very good.

For me, listening to this book made me want to buy her dinner (in a professional manner) and just talk. I had a lot of “Well you say you mean this, but what about this?” or “When you talked about this part, did you consider?” or “How does this pillar apply in situations like this?”

Despite the fact that there were some parts I couldn’t get behind, I found a lot of the information helpful. I even found some ways to contextualize her information into my mental framework that alleviated those issues. What this book does best is talk about the hangups most people have and provide ways to counter those hangups.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 5-Star Review for The Power of Words

A 5-Star Review for The Power of Words

Greetings all,

I don’t care how “big” I get (not claiming to be big now); I’m always going to love sharing reviews. The five-star review below from Shawna is for The Power of Words.


Great Collection!

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

These short stories were a great collection. I love having short stories by different authors in one book. It always seems to shake things up a little bit.

These stories really spoke to me and I loved every second of them. Usually, I can’t really connect too well with shorter stories but these ones all had me hooked from the moment I hit play. Very well done!


I truly appreciate the thoughtful words.

As always, please allow me this opportunity to ask that if you’ve read any of my books (especially Betrayed), please be kind enough to leave a rating and review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible (or all three). They really do help.

Thank you for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 12 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 12 by Koyoharu Gotouge
The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 12 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the twelfth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. A member of the upper Twelve Kizuki has been killed. Muzan is furious, and now he’s seeking to go on the offensive. Meanwhile, Tanjiro has to recover and train. He also has to explain how he keeps breaking his swords to the swordsmiths. This provides an opportunity to learn more about his abilities and improve, but Muzan’s plans and Tanjiro’s training are destined to collide.

Character: One thing I like about these later volumes is we start to further expand on the characters outside the main cast. We start to get to know the members of the Hashira, and some of them have some awesome backgrounds. While this book starts to establish a pattern in where we typically have one “set-up” volume and one action volume. This was the set-up volume. It’s probably my favorite of the set-up volumes though because we see Tanjiro train. We also see a few of the higher ranks. 

Exposition: There’s a bit more exposition (in terms of narration boxes). This is because there’s some background and new locations we need to learn about.

Worldbuilding: This volume has a fantastic quality in that we start to see more of the Kizuki and their hierarchy. We learn the group dynamics and a bit about how they establish their ranks. We also learn more about how some of the Hashira are somehow related Tanjiro.

Dialogue: This dialogue is more natural than the last few volumes. This is an improvement. The conversations they have absolutely provide background, but they don’t feel so forced.

Description: This is it’s typical outstanding stuff. The art is wonderful. The way the artist portrays movement is particularly interesting in this case. There are a lot of beautiful landscapes and scenes that really help draw the reader into the world.

Overall: This is probably my favorite set up volume in the series, and that’s also taking into account the other volumes I read. it was real cool seeing the Kizuki as well. This volume ends and makes a reader want to just devour the next ten. I guarantee it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eleventh volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The fight against Daki enters its final stages. Every time our heroes feel like they have found a new level, we see the upper Kizuki are still just that much better. No one demon slayer stands a chance, but what if they fight as a team?

The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: The development continues here, but this volume is far more about the fight scene (and man is it great). Here what makes the character work is something important: I was genuinely worried about the characters. To make a fight scene great, and to make a character sympathetic, we have to worry for them. We have to be afraid that they hero might lose, and that’s an impossibly high standard sometimes because who goes into a story genuinely expecting the hero to lose. We’ve seen an uptick in side-character deaths, but it’s a rare author (Martin) who’s willing to kill off any character. This means establishing that worry is very hard. I had that from this issue through (I’m currently caught up and eagerly awaiting Volume 22).

Exposition: Once more, we’re seeing an actual fight, so the exposition is pretty much non-existent and not necessary.

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding doesn’t really shift from the earth-shattering reveal in Volume 10, but I don’t need every volume to have that. This issue is the culmination of an arc, and so all the worldbuidling had been done. That lest us readers sit back and enjoy the show.

Dialogue: That 1980’s cartoon villain banter was still present, but I didn’t mind. There is minimal dialogue in this volume aside from “I can’t believe you’re still alive!”

Description: The art is amazing. The way the breathing forms are done is just wonderful. I love aspects like that, and I intend to steal it at some point (the technique, not the literal names). There isn’t any description via the written word, but the detail of this art is second to none (at least outside of anime/manga).

Overall: This volume ends the fight that started in Volume 9. It’s not the best fight anymore (see later reviews), but it still really holds up. To me, this volume represents the last surge before the final push that begins in Volume 17. From 11 to 17, there is a lot of great stuff, but once you start 17, you better have the rest ready to go. This arc, however, is similarly (if not as) difficult to put down. I love it when a conclusion (even to a chapter) is worth the build up, and this volume is.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller

Book Review The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller is a book designed to correctly orientate a believer’s thoughts in the correct direction. This book is extremely short. It’s less than an hour to listen to. The book is based on a segment of 1 Corinthians in which Paul declares he doesn’t care what others think. He doesn’t even care what he thinks (1 Corinthians 4:3).

I hesitate to say much more about the content of the book because of how short it is. It’s a lovely sermon, but I found myself thinking, “That’s right, I shouldn’t care … but I do, so how do I stop?”

And therein lies the problem I had with the book. It felt like I read this amazing prologue to a book I’d love to read, only I didn’t get the whole book. My problem is not in understanding how I should think, but in training myself in that correct way of thinking.

That’s what I wish the book had. This book had a beautiful message, but it didn’t have much if anything in the way of actionable guidance. Naturally one should seek scripture, and I am working on it. This book correctly identifies the problems of “anxiety” and “shame” and their origins. I just wish it had the rest of the content.

The basic premise is perfect, but as someone who does struggle with this issue, I wish there was more applicable or actionable information.

The portrait of Timothy Keller was taken from his Amazon author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

One takeaway I had from this is to constantly remind myself, “God is my judge!” Honestly, that’s helped. Even in what was a particularly stressful time recently, that helped me (or at least I think it did). So this book becomes a call to action for me that lacks the directions after the call is answered.

This isn’t to say the book isn’t good. I enjoyed what I heard. It’s a wonderful message.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

Greetings all,

This review has actually been waiting a bit, but with all the news I’ve had lately, it just took this long to post it.

Did I mention that Betrayed is finally out!? I’d be grateful if you gave it a try.

Anyway, I’m happy to share this five-star review that was posted on both Goodreads and Audible.

As always, I humbly request that you leave a rating and review on any of the books of mine that you’ve read. It really does mean a lot to me.

In other news, my 2021 April Book Cover of the Month poll is still up. If you like books, click on over and support your favorite.

As always, I’m so honored that anyone chooses to take time to read something that I’ve written.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon

Book Review: Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon

Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon is a series of devotionals connected to various Psalms and Proverbs. I know that’s obvious given the title, but I need to set up where I’m going.

Most of my “reading” these days is via audiobook. This was no different. With other books that are non-fiction or even fiction, there’s a plot to hold to. At the very least, there are lessons to follow and things to learn. I’m not saying this isn’t true of this book, what I’m trying to convey first is I failed miserably at reading this book. I have several excuses. Luckily, I own it and intend to read it again once I get a few other books read.

However, I will say that I don’t think this is the kind of book you just read. While I certainly struggled with focus while this was on my phone, there are other things that added to this struggle. The one I want to mention is that a lot of what is in this book is so thought provoking and contemplative, that I’d find myself praying or thinking along a different track. By the time I realized I wasn’t paying attention anymore, I was already well into the next devotional.

Naturally, I’d skip back and try to listen again. Spurgeon would say something else, and my mind would fly off on a different track. I’m not actually sure how “bad” that is. A part of me feels that this book is meant to be mulled over and considered. I think one is supposed to listen and try to apply what is being said.

This image was taken from the Christian Hall of Fame of Canton Baptist Temple website in an attempt to represent Spurgeon. This caption is a credit to where the image came from but does not necessarily endorse the site or its teaching as I haven’t studied their site much.

This means the problem is that I was trying to read this like any other book rather than let it be the reflective tool it is. This book takes a single passage and expands on it and basks in it. I loved that, but I’ve since realized that if an author is contemplating or reflecting, the reader will want to do the same.

I want to listen to this again and pause when I want to think about something. I want to listen again and focus on one portion at a time. I want to take that time to think on and apply what’s being said. I just have to do that.

This book is packed with several tidbits that sent my mind off. I just want to take the time to give it due attention. Still if you’re looking for a book you can sink your teeth into, this fits the bill.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 10 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the tenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The battle with Daki, one of the upper rank six, is in full swing, and Tanjiro must find a way to defeat her, but if a Hashira like Uzui struggles to fight her, what can Tanjiro do. They must all work together, but things only get worse when the team discovers this deomn’s unique ability.

Character: Things really develop well here as most of of the cast finds a new level. This isn’t just in regard to their combat ability. Tanjiro is starting to formulate his own philosophy, and that philosophy is going to be critical going forward. This character growth is particularly interesting considering this volume is mostly a fight sequence. We see Tanjiro’s growth and Uzui’s softer side all while the battle plays out.

The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Exposition: Since this is an action volume, there isn’t too much need for exposition, but there are a few text boxes that offer some explanation. The exposition is ever bit as sparse as it is unnecessary (in a good way).

Worldbuilding: Again, this volume (which is currently my second favorite (see my review for 15 later on)) takes a wonderful stride here in the worldbuilding because we see a deeper history of everything. We finally catch a glimpse of what the big bad fears so much about Tanjiro’s technique. It’s honestly only a glimpse, but it has such an impact on the series as a whole.

Dialogue: This is sort of par for the Demon Slayer course. It has moments of adorable interaction and comedic fun. There’s also some 1980’s cartoon villain speak, but I honestly like it. I think it’s fair to say some will think it’s a bit hokey, but I think it fits.

Description: This fight scene continues in this chapter (but it doesn’t end here, buy 9-11 and read it all) and the art and storyboard sequences are amazing. It makes me so hungry to see this animated because it will be epic. The art is enough to tide me over until I can see it all play out. You’ll need a careful eye here because there are some details one needs to note as this story continues.

Overall: This volume was my favorite overall until I read Volume 15, but for my money I still think the fight in this volume was the best (and that’s a very tough call to make). It has the right blend of comedy, action, emotion, and plot progression. It doesn’t stand alone though as the whole arc actually ends in Volume 11, so that’s kind of a demerit. The simple truth is I couldn’t put this down, and since I’ve read Volume 10, I don’t really want to stop reading at all. That’s how awesome this volume is.

Thanks for reading,

Matt