16. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 4
Dynasties move forward with different figure heads, and usually we die before we have to contend with more than a couple of rulers. That is not the case with this series. You know how you get attached to particular characters in a story, and then they get old, or die, and the world continues to turn while you are still gasping for air? That's how I felt during this one. So much happens, and clearly this is a transitional novel in the story arc, so people come and go at a neck snapping pace.
There are really several story lines that play out in this manga series. There is what happens in the Inner Chamber with the Shogun, her concubines, and all the gossipy men. Then there is what happens in Edo and the rest of Japan during the time of the Redface Pox. And, finally, there is the exploration of how society changes as women are now widely acknowledged as heads of family. Absolutely fascinating.
But that is not to say that I don't have my gripes. There are so many people in this series, and because the art makes many of the key characters look alike, it is sometimes hard to keep track of them. The formal way of speaking continues to annoy me, but in spite of all that, I continue to love this series, and cannot wait to see what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.
17. Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
Book blurb: Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. This volume collects issues #1-5.
I've been so looking forward to this graphic novel series, after all what is not to love about booze guzzling, feminist kick-ass-take-no-prisoners women friends? However, it takes a while to build up and get really good. In the first half of this volume, the plot line is weak, and the characters rather one dimensional, but thankfully the second half is better, way better, than the first half. Yes, the hype about all the diversity is true, but what I really appreciated is the the refreshing look at the friendship and rivalry between the four friends. The world building is interesting, and it is so wonderful to finally have a selection of comics that appeal to women. Bloody, raunchy, and fun. Rating: 4 stars.
18. Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations
You'd think that just based on the title of the book that I would love this one, but you'd be wrong. And you guys, this book is a thing of beauty to hold and flip through. How did such a wonderful premise go so wrong? Yes, it has lovely maps (something I always geek out about), and there are some interesting nuggets, but overall this one simply fell flat in the execution. Each location has about a page of information, and a map, and maybe some diagrams. After randomly reading six essays, am bored, and disappointed, and have bailed on it. What a bummer. Rating: 1 star.
19. Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth
This volume collects issues #6-10.
Bilford Bogin, but this volume is even better than the first! This volume opens with the-morning-after frames of Betty, Hannah, Violet, and Dee, and not everyone is happy with how the night went. There are plots and intrigue afoot, so lots of action scenes with lots of blood soaked frames. This volume has flashbacks to key occasions in the women's back stories, and these are so good. I continue to really enjoy the humor, friendship, and loyalty of our Rat Queens, and cannot wait to see what our smidgen, dwarf, elf, and Cthulu priestess get up to in the next volume. Rating: 4 stars.
20. How to Relax
Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we relax, we “become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we’re not calm, the image we reflect will be distorted. When the image is distorted by our minds, it’s not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering.”
This is a little book, and I mean teeny weeny, with a big message: Relaxation is important, nay, vital for your well being. And if you don't think that's important, then think about how your well being affects not only the well being of your loved ones, but that of the entire world. It's enough to make anyone feel rather anxious!
This little (I keep saying that, don't I?) book has one or two page meditations to think about. And by meditations, I don't mean the Om kind, though it has those too, but the things-to-ponder kind. There are also cute illustrations to help remind you to not take yourself so seriously. Feel free to dip in and out at your leisure. This little (there I go again) gem is a reminder that we are way more than our to-do lists. Rating: 4 stars.