Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Abbreviations #66 | Paradise Kiss, Your Name + The Garden of Words

I get most of my manga recommendations from Kristin of Super Space Chick, and Paradise Kiss was one of them. I've read another series from this manga author (Nana, and yes, I'm still dying over where it cuts off since it's unfinished) and really liked that, so I'm not entirely sure why it's taken me so long to pick this one up. Paradise Kiss is about an ordinary girl who is undecided about what she wants for her future, and finds herself crossing paths with a team of student fashion designers who want her to model for them in a showcase. I liked it even more than I expected! Yes, it's definitely over the top with the fashion, the drama and the characters, but that does lend it a certain unexpected quirky charm that reeled me in. I loved the characters (especially George), found the story super compelling and was constantly wishing I could see all this art (and the fashion) in full color! I found myself really eager to find out what would happen next, and pretty much yelled at myself for not just buying the entire series so I could binge the next two parts. I can't wait to find out what happens next! (And thank goodness this one is already a finished series, or I would have felt so sad about it.)

Paradise Kiss 1 by Ai Yazawa | Series: Paradise Kiss Volume #1 | Publisher: Vertical | Publication Date: September 25, 2012 | Source: Purchased the manga

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: I'm so biased about Your Name. That movie was my anime obsession of 2017 (and still is), and I just know that it's earned a lifelong spot among my favorites. Anyway, even though I know the story so well, I still wanted to read the manga in order to experience it via a different medium! This is the story of Mitsuha and Taki, who find themselves switching bodies for nearly a month until that abruptly ends and it's up to Taki to figure out just what is going on. It sounds farfetched, yes, but I promise you, it is so, so, so brilliant. Just like the film, the art style is gorgeous in manga form. It's fun seeing tiny details and having more time to peruse them while reading the manga! And I still got the same sense of warmth, humor and thoughtfulness with the written form of this story. It was quite lovely experiencing this in a different way, and I definitely would recommend it - both to those who have loved the film and those experiencing the story for the first time. (But do watch the film too if you haven't yet!)

your name, Vol. 1 by Makoto Shinkai | Series: Your Name manga #1 | Publisher: Yen Press | Publication Date: June 20, 2017 | Source: Purchased the manga

I didn't know that this manga existed until a random day when I was browsing at the Strand and the author's name caught my eye as I was perusing their collection of manga. Makoto Shinkai is the person behind Your Name and 5 Centimeters per Second, and that was all I needed to know when I picked this one up. The Garden of Words centers around a high school freshman who meets a woman in a garden who tells him part of a poem, and that's the beginning of their story. There's more to it than that - which I expected but couldn't have predicted the specifics of - and I liked this one a lot, even though it does have a very melancholy vibe to it. There was just something sweet about the themes running through the story, even with all the heartbreak woven in as well. And the art style was lovely! It was ultimately a very likable (and sad) manga read, though it still hasn't beat out Your Name as my favorite.

The Garden of Words by Makoto Shinkai, with art by Midori Motohashi | Publisher: Vertical Comics | Publication Date: October 28, 2014 | Source: Purchased the manga

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Playing The (High Stakes) Game • Wildcard

If you’ve been reading this ol’ blog since last year, or following me on any of my other social media accounts, you’ll already know that Warcross was my favorite book I read in 2017. I love it so much, in fact, that I decided I needed to reread it before I picked up the sequel this year. It was so worth it because the story was just as fun and exciting as I remembered it, I still loved all the characters (though I discovered my new obsession with being president of the Asher Wing fan club) and I was left so hyped for Wildcard.

(This is probably a good time to mention that if you have not yet read Warcross by Marie Lu, you are going to be spoiled for it if you read any further. Also, you should definitely remedy this by going out, grabbing a copy of Warcross from your bookstore or library and reading it ASAP.)

Wildcard is a direct sequel to Warcross that literally picks up just after the events at the end of the first book. After discovering the truth about Hideo Tanaka and his plans for the NeuroLink algorithm and his technology, Emika Chen is determined to stop him even though the stakes only get higher when a bounty is placed on her. The only way to survive and stop Hideo is to cooperate with Zero and his Blackcoats… though it looks like Zero may be keeping a few explosive secrets of his own that may just change the game.

If I thought Warcross was an intense thrill ride of a read, Wildcard basically blew my mind. t’s very rare for me to say that a sequel is just as wonderful as, if not better than its predecessor, but I truly think Wildcard is one of those rare few. There was just more of everything I had loved about the previous book in this sequel, and I could not have asked for more.

Here are just a few of the things I loved about Wildcard, put into a bullet point list for easy reference:

  • The characters | Emika Chen is still such a badass. Our girl knows how to get things done, no matter how difficult it might look, and she’s very capable, brave and smart. Her skills are put to the test again in this story, plus we also get to see her make sense of her feelings and ideals in the context of this tale. Apart from Emika, I developed a deeper love for all of the Phoenix Riders (but particularly Asher, my captain), Hideo (with his morally gray actions driven by personal emotions), and Zero and his Blackcoats (there is one person in particular I love who is a new addition to the series).
  • The story | It’s so intense, emotionally and events-wise, and I was totally here for it. It helps that there is a very short timeline within which everything takes place (which just added to the urgency of the situation). Marie did such a great job with unveiling the plot, including some awesome fight scenes and still having nods to the Warcross gameplay I adored in the first book.
  • The themes | My sister (who has also read Wildcard at this point) and I like to talk about how it’s so impressive that Marie Lu manages to write an entertaining story and invite her readers to think about things like free will, technology and the power it holds, bad choices made with the best of intentions and morality. It’s really cool, and she does this both in Warcross and in Wildcard. 
  • The action (and gameplay) | There is plenty of action online and offline in this sequel. I loved seeing some pretty cool real life action-packed sequences, but I really loved getting to dive back into the world of Warcross gameplay even more. It’s so fascinating to see what Marie does with what she built in the first novel, and it’s soooooo good.
I obviously loved Wildcard! It was the follow-up slash ending to this series that I didn’t know I wanted, and it exceeded any expectations I had before diving into it. It’s definitely a series that I can see myself rereading in the years to come, and I will definitely be encouraging anyone and everyone to read it too. So excited that this one is out in the world today, mostly so that more people can join me in gushing about Wildcard!

Wildcard by Marie Lu
Series: Warcross #2 | Previous Book in Series: Warcross
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: ARC picked up at BookExpo 2018 (Thank you!)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Table for Two #21: Blank Slate Tea

Rachel of Hello, Chelly and I have teamed up to bring you a collaboration that involves two of my favorite things: New York City and food. Welcome to Table for Two, where the two of us will be highlighting restaurants and dessert spots in New York City. Today, I'll be sharing my thoughts on Blank Slate Tea, while Rachel will be talking about our visit to Blue Box Cafe.

I love finding places to eat in New York City that have tasty food and an adorable aesthetic. Blank Slate Tea fits both those criteria perfectly, and it's unsurprising that it's become a spot that I like frequenting. (It does help that it's located only a few streets away from my office!) I love the dainty, colorful aesthetic it sports, the really cheerful and positive staff and I've enjoyed each drink and dish I've had the chance to taste on my visits.

On our most recent visit, Rachel & I wanted to try out their two dessert dishes - the rose gold dip and the earl grey lavender tea cookie skillet. The former is rose-flavored dip topped with edible gold and served with tea cookies and strawberries, while the latter is basically a cookie in a skillet topped with earl grey glaze. Both were really good! I think I might prefer the cookie a smidge more, just because I love cookies, but I definitely think both were having.

You should definitely drop by Blank Slate Tea if you ever get the chance, particularly if you're a tea fan (their tea offerings are pretty delicious too). It's located on 121 Madison Avenue (between 30th and 31st St), New York, NY 10016.


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