Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Friends with ARCs | The Blood Spell + The Beast's Heart

The Blood Spell is a Cinderella-inspired tale set in the same world as the rest of the Ravenspire series. It follows two main characters: Blue de la Cour (a girl with magic in her blood who desires to use her ability to find a way to help Balavata’s homeless) and Kellan Renard (the crown prince who must balance politics and power as he chooses his future queen from among the head families of Balavata). The pair have known each other since childhood, though there’s no love lost there as Blue has been a constant foil to all of Kellan’s adventures and Kellan has always been a thorn in Blue’s side. But when mysterious forces put the kingdom and its citizens in danger, Blue and Kellan must team up to figure out what’s going on and how to save everyone… no matter what the cost.

I do love a fairytale retelling, but it’s a rarity for me to enjoy the ones inspired by Cinderella. Additionally, I was a little concerned going into it, as I hadn’t enjoyed the last novel set in this world all that much. So, it was with a little hesitation that I dove into this story. Friends, I’m pleased to report that The Blood Spell surpassed all the expectations I had for it! I really enjoyed immersing myself in this tale from start to finish. Redwine expertly wove elements of the original Cinderella tale (in ways that were recognizable, yet specific to her retelling) into a story rife with political intrigue, magical mayhem and a healthy dash of family, friendship and romance. But what particularly cemented my love for this novel were the two main characters, Blue and Kellan, who both popped off the page from the very start and who won me over almost immediately – both as individuals and as a pair. I’m happy that I adored The Blood Spell so much (I’m seriously giddy just thinking about it) and, in case it wasn’t obvious, I’d highly recommend checking this one out. 

What is your favorite adaptation of Cinderella? I’m going to go a little old school and say that I adored the Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella film released in 1997. First of all, Brandy plays Cinderella and Whoopi Goldberg plays the Fairy Godmother and they are both delightful and well-cast. Second of all, the prince is played by Paolo Montalban… who is Filipino! I just loved this particular version of Cinderella when I was growing up, and now I’m tempted to track down a copy so I can watch it again. (Two other runners-up are Ever After, which is beautifully done, and A Cinderella Story, which puts a fun rom-com twist to the story.)

The Blood Spell by C.J. Redwine | Series: Ravenspire #4 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: February 12, 2019 | Source: e-ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thank you!)

We all know how the Beauty and the Beast story goes – a man treats an enchantress terribly and is cursed to live out a beastly, solitary existence, a father seeks refuge in the Beast’s home during a storm and a daughter exchanges her father’s life for her own. The Beast’s Heart doesn’t stray from this set-up, but it does put its own spin on the classic fairytale by narrating it from the perspective of the Beast.

As already mentioned earlier, I am partial to fairytale retellings, and Beauty and the Beast happens to be one of the fairytales that I am always excited to find retellings for. The Beast’s Heart offers readers a glimpse into the Beast’s mind and heart as the story of Beauty and the Beast unfolds, which is the most interesting aspect of this novel. The author’s writing style did take me a couple of chapters to get used to, but soon enough, I got used to her depiction of the setting, the characters (including the rest of Isabeau’s family) and the relationships. Unfortunately, because it was basically just the same exact story as its source material, it isn’t a standout read. I also found it disappointing that I didn’t feel any more invested in the Beast, since I had expected this novel to offer a chance for me to be more sympathetic to him and interested in his character. It was, to put it plainly, just fine, but I do feel like it’ll ultimately be forgettable to me in the end. 

What fairytale would you want to read from the guy’s point of view? This is actually a difficult question for me to answer! But I think, in the end, I’m going to go with Sleeping Beauty. I’d want to know what motivated the prince to try and slay a dragon and rescue a princess, and whether his reason was really romantic or more on the practical side or maybe something entirely unexpected.

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcrowss | Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: February 12, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Galentine's Day Out

Last Saturday, I had the chance to celebrate a belated Galentine's Day with my friends Rachel & Kristin. We planned a full day out that included all sorts of food (unsurprising!), bookstore visits (also unsurprising!) and a little shopping to top it all off. It was a lovely day spent with some of my favorite people, full of nonstop chatting and getting to visit some really cool spots in New York City! 

  • We kicked the day off with breakfast at Buvette, a French restaurant I'd never heard of before last weekend but which has a charming little aesthetic and some of the most delicious food (I had a waffle sandwich and a cappuccino, Rachel had French toast and a cappuccino, Kristin had a waffle and tea) I've had in a while. We also got to sit in a cozy, bright little corner, so it felt both intimate and comfortable. 
  • After breakfast, we walked over to the Be Mine mural (on Kenmare and Mott, a piece by Jason Naylor) and visited the Gucci Wooster Bookstore, where we camped out on the surprisingly comfortable yellow couches for nearly half an hour.
  • We went to visit the brand new Modcloth Fitshop. It's definitely a cute little space, filled with all sorts of wardrobe items from the site and it certainly made me want to go shopping. (I definitely snapped a few photos of items to look up again later when I got home!). I want to go back on a day when it's less packed so I can properly browse and perhaps even try things on!

  • The three of us can never hang out without having dessert! For this particular day, we elected to go to Stax Ice Cream, which is an old favorite and a spot I'd highly recommend. I ended up getting a scoop each of peppermint Oreo bark + Fruity Pebbles in a French vanilla cone, topped with the heart sprinkles (their Valentine's Day offering!) and a cookies and cream whale macaron. 
  • We wound up going back uptown to visit Remi Flower and Cafe, a cozy little cafe-slash-flower shop that has a delightful aesthetic. We were lucky enough to snag a table, so we could enjoy our drinks (a lavender latte for me, a rose latte for Rach and an Earl Grey latte for Kristin) amidst all the flowers. I would definitely go back for another visit!
  • It was time to do a little shopping next! We popped into & Other Stories (not pictured) first, followed by a visit to one of my favorite New York bookstores Kinokuniya Books (not pictured). The first floor focuses on novels and non-fiction like most bookstores, but it's the basement and the second floor that I love best! The basement has all sorts of stationery and cute merchandise alongside the Japanese literature, while the second floor is filled with manga (in Japanese and English), anime and other otaku goodies. 
  • We ended our day with a visit to Bryant Park, where we visited the Umbrella Academy pop-up installation (not pictured) and ended our day with poutine from Duck Season.

It was such a wonderful day out with two of my best friends, and I'm so grateful for all that we got to do and for the fact that I get to have such amazing women as a part of my life. Can't wait until our next adventure!

Friday, February 15, 2019

OtakuAThon Announcement (+ My TBR)

This really cute Sailor Moon background was purchased from BeatPaperDesigns, who has a lovely Etsy shop!
The time has finally come, friends, to announce a fun collaboration that Kristin & I have had in the works for some time now! We're pleased and excited to present OtakuAThon, a four day-event (at least, this initial run is four days) that we're hosting from March 1-4, 2019. Our intention was to carve out dedicated time in order to indulge in our deep love of manga and anime, and to celebrate with fellow manga and anime fans, so we definitely hope you'll be joining in. (You can use the hashtag #OtakuAThon to chat about the event, ask questions, give recommendations or talk about other things. There's also going to be an Instagram challenge coming around the week of the event!)

We came up with a couple of challenges, and you can feel free to either read manga or watch anime to complete them (and you can double up on challenges with one manga volume or anime series). This is a low-pressure event, so definitely read or watch however much you can! I'm going to mention my TBR picks below too, to give you a couple of ideas.

1. Most recently acquired
I'll be reading Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 16 (as well as the rest of the series) as of right now, unless I happen to acquire a different manga before the actual event. In case you didn't already know, I am obsessed with this story (because I binged the anime and I'm still mad about only getting one season) about a princess who loses her father and her kingdom all in one night, and the only way for her to recover the latter is to find the four legendary dragons. It is so. damn. wonderful.

2. Catch up on a series you're behind on
Yona of the Dawn could also have been a pick for this category, but I wanted to mention Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, just in case I had the chance to get to the next two volumes. Again, this is another situation where I watched the anime before ever picking up the manga - but it hasn't deterred my enjoyment at all. It's essentially about four coworkers in a corporate setting, who you eventually find out are all otaku and it is delightful!

3. Adaptation of a manga/anime you loved
I could also have used either one of the above titles here, but I actually picked an anime for this: Orange. I fell head over heels in love with this manga (it was a Kristin recommendation!), which is the story of a group of friends who get letters from their future selves that instruct them to do all they can to prevent their classmate and friend from committing suicide. It was so moving, and I loved the group of friends a lot, and I can't wait to see it animated.

4. Revisit an old favorite
I knew without a doubt that I was going to pick Fruits Basket for my manga reread. Honestly, I didn't expect to fall in love with this series as much as I did when I binge read... but we're here now, and I can't even be mad about it. The entire premise of this series is that there is this girl living on a tent on the land of a well-known clan, and she crosses paths with some of the clan's members and is invited to live with them. She ends up discovering their family secret: when hugged by a member of the opposite gender, they turn into animals of the Chinese Zodiac. And the story goes on from that ridiculous premise and is incredible. (If I end up picking an anime, however, I will probably watch Ouran High School Host Club, which is a delightful reverse harem anime where a girl must work off a debt by becoming part of a host club!)

5. Start a new series
I had a few options for this category, but I decided to go with The Demon Prince of Momochi House. I honestly only know the barest of details: there's a girl that inherits an inn that straddles the line between the real world and the spirit world. I'm assuming she'll encounter a demon prince at some point, and the story will escalate from there. 

6. Recommended to you
Most of my manga and anime recommendations come from Macky and Kristin, and this particular one comes from the latter. I actually read the first volume of this series already, but will reread it and then read the next two to complete the series... and it's Paradise Kiss. It's about a girl who isn't sure what she wants to do in the future, but finds herself roped into being a part of a fashion show for a set of fashion students with their own atelier. I'm really excited to find out where the story goes!

7. Read another series by an author you've read before
Macky is the one who convinced me to choose Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden for this category, because he read and enjoyed it last month. In case you're new to me talking about anime, I love Fushigi Yugi. It's one of the very first animes I ever watched and fell deeply in love with, and it's really held up for me every time I watch it again. I'm excited to dive into another part of the history of this world with new characters, and after Macky mentioned there are so many aspects that he thinks I'll love, my expectations are high.

8. Genre of choice
I do indulge in shōnen every so often (and I love a few!), but I will definitely pick shōjo for this time around just because it's generally my preference. Nearly everything I mentioned here is actually perfect to fulfill this category, but just in case I have more time on my hands, I picked Hana-Kimi out to read. I've actually seen a Korean drama adaptation of this tale before, but just in case you didn't know what it was about... a girl follows her sports star crush to a school... that turns out to be all male, so she has to pretend to be a male. It obviously means that hilarity and hijinks are going to ensue, and I cannot wait to experience it in manga form!

Phew, we made it to the end of my very ambitious list! In all seriousness, I'm really excited to be able to deep dive and indulge in my love for manga and anime for these four days and to be doing that together with one of my best friends. I really hope you'll be joining in on our event (and if you'd like recommendations, I am more than happy to give them, as is Kristin)! 

For easy reference, all challenges are listed below:
1. Most recently acquired
2. Catch up on a series you're behind on
3. Adaptation of a manga/anime you loved
4. Revisit an old favorite
5. Start a new series
6. Recommended to you
7. Read another series by an author you've read before
8. Genre of choice


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