Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

Baffle

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Jim Wendler's 531 Forever training program book. The man's a lunatic, I don't know if I should try lifting lighter because I'm ego lifting on I'm an inexcusable pathetic wuss who shouldn't even bother trying because I can't already do it. Which is it Jim?! How can I be good enough?!
 

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Avatar: Adapt or Die (3/5)

Of the Avatar comics released so far, this is somewhere in the middle in terms of quality (above Tsu'tey's Path, below The Next Shadow). However, this is easily the most...I dunno, mellow, so to speak? There's very little in actual plot, but by my reading, it's less about plot, and more about characters.

Anyway, for context, this is one of the earliest EU pieces in the setting, at least a decade (and a bit more) before the events of the film. At this point in time, things are iffy between the "Sky People" (humans/RDA) and na'vi, but nowhere near as bad as they'll get by the events of the film. The two main characters are Grace and Mo'at, who deal with an illness that's beginning to affect the Omaticayan children, and in turn, the avatars. Both have to deal with Selfridge/Eytukan breathing down their necks, as they work in their own ways, sometimes together, sometimes alone, to find the cure.

I could go into details, but it's arguably beside the point, and like I said, there's little actual plot to deal with. That said, I'm going to throw in a few notes on certain aspects, such as:

-Parker is handled weirdly in this comic, and I'm on the fence as to what the writers intended. There's moments when he approaches full-blown sociopathy (e.g. commenting indirectly that if all the na'vi were to die, it might be a good thing - makes the RDA's operation less complicated), yet also covers Grace in terms of red tape to allow her to help the Omaticaya. The generous interpretation of this is that it's showing that Parker is multi-faceted, the less generous interpretation is that it's just inconsistent writing. From the film, Parker fell into the area of "willing to do terrible things, but feels terrible about them," but here, it's more that he flips as the script demands it. Also, Parker even being here feels a bit out of place. I can understand Grace being on Pandora this long, but Parker? Not so much.

-In contrast to Parker, there's certain characters who come off as just being missing. Very little is seen of kid!Neytiri, and Sylwannin isn't seen at all. I get that this is before Grace establishes the schoolhouse proper, but still...also, as others have pointed out, the comic doesn't really seem to gel with one of the Avatar mobile games (the one with Ryan Lorenz), and that it may have been removed from canon, but having never played it, I can't comment.

-There's a certain melencholia that runs through the comic that's only going to be present for those who've seen the film (then again, if you haven't seen the film, I'm not sure why you'd be reading it). Like I said, things are strained, but nowhere near as bad as they'll get by this point in the timeline. The Omaticaya children are far more open and trusting than their parents, for example - quite willing to learn how to play basketball for instance - whereas nothing the RDA does is beyond the pale (e.g. a SecOps officer flies Grace around, but nothing he says or does is anti-na'vi, just mildly cautious). The comic's last panel (it's a very abrupt ending), taken as writ, hints at a positive future that we know will never happen. In the context of the IP, the comic almost feels like a "what if?" scenario - one where humans managed to operate on Pandora peacefully, rather than things going south over time. I've commented in the past that one of the themes of Avatar is about failure (namely, humanity's failure to co-exist), so in that context, this works well. But when I consider the dearth of actual plot and the pacing, among other things, the comic's simply just "okay."
 

Hawki

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39 Ways to Save the Planet (3/5)

...God, I wish.

To be clear, this book deals with climate change, focusing on 39 potential solutions to alleviate/solve the issue. All of them are grounded in actual science, over a variety of sectors (energy, agriculture, transport, etc.), and looked into. A hopeful look at solving the issue, but not falling into "hopium" territory.

I don't have much to say here. This isn't really an issue with the book per se, but it's hard to feel hopeful, when stats are given as to how many CO2 emissions would be shaved off by implementing each of the listed solutions. To be clear, climate change is more likely to be solved with silver buckshot rather than a silver bullet, to borrow the phrase, but reading this...well, yeah. Basically, we'd have to do all of this to even hope of stemming the crisis, and that's provided we haven't already gone past tipping points. Plus, none of the solutions were stuff that I wasn't already familiar with to at least some extent.

Decent read, but nothing special.
 

TheMysteriousGX

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Got a few #1's, all technically in the "Office Lady Yuri" genre, though wildly different. In order of fucked-upedness:

She Loves to Cook and She Loves to Eat
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Contract office worker and hobbyist cooking blogger Nomoto is bored with only cooking for herself and wants to make heaping portions and big food projects. She notices her neighbor, Kasuga, heading back to her apartment with a heaping load of KFC all for herself.

One night, after blowing off some steam by making good food, Nomoto finds that she's made too much, and invites the taciturn Kasuga over to help her finish off the heaping plate of food. Thus begins a sweet slice-of-life romance.

Meanwhile, SHWD, or Special Hazardous Waste Disposal, is about a unit of special government agents cleaning up active bio-terror weapons left over the last war.
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The gimmick is that the monsters aren't particularly dangerous on their own, but they emit an electromagnetic wave that causes deep psychosis and violent mental corruption in people that get too close, requiring operatives to have intense mental defenses to avoid them breaking from the mental pollution and PTSD and going on deadly rampages

SHWD features some very interestingly broken women working together. From the gun-hating veteran Sawada, the eager to please giantess Koga, the gun-happy Leone, to the stunted Nonaka, the damage on display is fascinating.

Last but not least is Black & White: Tough Love at the Office
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We're just gonna skip the buildup and go straight to the (tastefully presented) hatefucking. Shirakawa Junko is headed straight up the corporate ladder for the multi-national bank she works at, but all-star transfer Kuroda Kayo comes in and starts gunning for the same rungs.

So naturally, their oblivious boss assigns them to the same project, because personable veteran Junko is the perfect person to train and onboard the popular newcomer Junko.

I had a fantastic time watching these two almost kill each other.
 

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Doctor Who: I Am a Dalek (3/5)

Well this was a letdown.

Focusing on Ten and Rose, the story involves a dalek shell casing from Roman Britain times being unearthed in a dig, which triggers a character's "dalek factor" to be activated, as they seek to reactivate the dalek and so on. Nothing original going on here. The irony, of course, being that this plot point was done in one of the New Year's specials for Thirteen, so I guess daleks really like sending their members back to the same place in the same time period. But then, this is a setting where aliens invade the UK more than any other country, so maybe it's par for the course?

As you can tell, I'm not unaware of Doctor Who tropes and cliches. And those things I can live with, provided the execution of the material is good enough, but here...look, there's no way around this, the writing of this novel is really basic, despite being categorized as adult fiction. And while it's true that DW is a "family show," every other DW novel I've read within the last year has had maturity in its themes and writing that this novel doesn't. For instance, there's a literal line where the OC "felt a stab of evil pass through her," and I almost did a double take, considering how banal a line that is. And while no piece of individual writing is as bad as that, when the OC is torn between the "dalek factor" and the "human factor," it's as cliched as you can imagine. None of the stuff done in this novel is stuff that DW hasn't done before, but the novel manages to do all of it worst.

There's also another element involves, where as part of the plot, the dalek gets its gun back, and starts slaughtering people inside a train carriage. While this is more subjective than anything else, this came off as really mean-spirited. I know daleks are literal monsters inside what are borderline armoured tanks, and that genocide to them is like breakfast, but I dunno, maybe it was the tonal whiplash as well.

Still, despite all of this, I can't call the novel "bad" per se, as it's still perfectly functional, but banal, boring, and cliched? Yeah, pretty much.
 

Hawki

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Sunreach (3/5)

Don't have much to say about this. This is the first installment of the Skyward Flight trilogy, which in turn is part of the Wider Cytoverse/Skyward series. Admittedly, I was missing a fair bit of the context, since as far as I can tell, this is a sidequel to the third book in said series, whereas prior to now, I've only read some of the first book (and Defending Elysium if you count that), but it's beside the point. Generic characters shoot generic aliens in generic starfighter combat with generic states, uttering generic dialogue as they do so. There's nothing that's technically bad about it, but it doesn't really do anything new, either. Not even Sanderson's claims of exploring biological FTL are really that groundbreaking, because off the top of my head, I can point to IPs such as Dune, Warhammer 40,000, and Star Trek as examples of similar concepts.

Yes, I AM still reading Sanderson's works, why do you ask? I don't know, but I think, as others have pointed out, it's part of the MCU factor - since (almost) everything is connected, you don't want to miss out.
 

Hawki

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A Wizard of Earthsea (3/5)

I really didn't like this book. If you'd asked me to rate it by the halfway mark, I'd have given it a 2/5, and asked Little Jimmy if I could just quit it. Since Little Jimmy won't leave my head, lest I turn into a donkey, I ploughed on and I've reached the conclusion that while I don't like this novel much, it's by no means a bad one, and indeed, probably one of the most unique fantasy novels I've read.

I'm going to start with the novel's main selling points, and they can basically be boiled down to worldbuilding (sort of) and tone. Earthsea is a world of almost endless ocean, where there's plenty of islands everywhere, but no real major landmasses - nothing you'd call a continent for example. The seas are further divided into reaches, and various peoples of various cultures/ethnicities populate said islands. While the worldbuilding has an Achilles heel I'll get to later, conceptually, at least, Earthsea is pretty unique, even if water worlds aren't that unique in of themselves. Secondly, there's tone. Earthsea follows Ged, the titular wizard, as he goes through life from childhood, to becoming a wizard, to facing his inner demons (literally, in this case). That said, the novel's plot and stakes are very sedate. You could remove Ged from the world of Earthsea, and nothing would change. Not significantly at least (at least within this novel, I can't comment on the sequels). This isn't a criticism mind you, but it's an example of the low stakes, more introspective writing going on. Earthsea is just a setting that Ged explores, as he moves through life and develops as a person. Contrast that to something like Lord of the Rings for instance, where even in The Hobbit, the fate of an entire part of Middle-earth is decided by the actions of the protagonists.

So, yeah. Earthsea's unique, I'll give it that. However, I'm still not that fond of the book. First, the worldbuilding. While it's a strength, it's also a weakness here, in that the worldbuilding never really goes into much depth. Le Guin's approach to worldbuilding is "move through, name a lot of islands, keep moving," and while some islands get more fleshing out than others, it's a...well, ironically for the setting, the phrase "wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle" comes to mind. Second, while the writing is fairly unique, Ged is...look, I'm sorry, Ged is just boring. He's not as obnoxious as, say, Kvothe, despite both being wizards and having red hair, but he just isn't interesting enough to carry a novel by himself. A lot of the time, it's just Ged meandering through life, and consequently, La Guin's writing style does a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of summarizing, where whole years can be covered in just a few paragraphs. I get that the novel going into detail for Ged's entire life would make it unwieldy and/or insanely long, but I'm really not fond of this writing style. I think part of why I like the second half more is that there's less summary, more in-the-moment writing.

I'm going to briefly touch on the question of Earthsea influencing other works, because reading this, I could see a lot of similarities with other IPs I was familiar with. True names holding power? Inheritence and Warhammer. Cosmic balance that affects the world? Wheel of Time and Diablo. Wizard school? Christ, too many to count, and yes, I'm aware of the irony that after trashing Magisterium and Keeper, I still can't escape the wizard school trope. However, while it's fair to say Earthsea did it first, a lot of the afforementioned medias did it better. So as I researched what I could on Earthsea, with people claiming it should be put on the same pedestal as Lord of the Rings or Narnia for instance...yeah, no. Not going to tell you what to like, and how to rate it, but for me, while Earthsea is a very unique work, that uniqueness doesn't inherently make it a good one, nor make up for its flaws.
 
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Drathnoxis

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A Wizard of Earthsea (3/5)

I really didn't like this book. If you'd asked me to rate it by the halfway mark, I'd have given it a 2/5, and asked Little Jimmy if I could just quit it. Since Little Jimmy won't leave my head, lest I turn into a donkey, I ploughed on and I've reached the conclusion that while I don't like this novel much, it's by no means a bad one, and indeed, probably one of the most unique fantasy novels I've read.

I'm going to start with the novel's main selling points, and they can basically be boiled down to worldbuilding (sort of) and tone. Earthsea is a world of almost endless ocean, where there's plenty of islands everywhere, but no real major landmasses - nothing you'd call a continent for example. The seas are further divided into reaches, and various peoples of various cultures/ethnicities populate said islands. While the worldbuilding has an Achilles heel I'll get to later, conceptually, at least, Earthsea is pretty unique, even if water worlds aren't that unique in of themselves. Secondly, there's tone. Earthsea follows Ged, the titular wizard, as he goes through life from childhood, to becoming a wizard, to facing his inner demons (literally, in this case). That said, the novel's plot and stakes are very sedate. You could remove Ged from the world of Earthsea, and nothing would change. Not significantly at least (at least within this novel, I can't comment on the sequels). This isn't a criticism mind you, but it's an example of the low stakes, more introspective writing going on. Earthsea is just a setting that Ged explores, as he moves through life and develops as a person. Contrast that to something like Lord of the Rings for instance, where even in The Hobbit, the fate of an entire part of Middle-earth is decided by the actions of the protagonists.

So, yeah. Earthsea's unique, I'll give it that. However, I'm still not that fond of the book. First, the worldbuilding. While it's a strength, it's also a weakness here, in that the worldbuilding never really goes into much depth. Le Guin's approach to worldbuilding is "move through, name a lot of islands, keep moving," and while some islands get more fleshing out than others, it's a...well, ironically for the setting, the phrase "wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle" comes to mind. Second, while the writing is fairly unique, Ged is...look, I'm sorry, Ged is just boring. He's not as obnoxious as, say, Kvothe, despite both being wizards and having red hair, but he just isn't interesting enough to carry a novel by himself. A lot of the time, it's just Ged meandering through life, and consequently, La Guin's writing style does a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of summarizing, where whole years can be covered in just a few paragraphs. I get that the novel going into detail for Ged's entire life would make it unwieldy and/or insanely long, but I'm really not fond of this writing style. I think part of why I like the second half more is that there's less summary, more in-the-moment writing.

I'm going to briefly touch on the question of Earthsea influencing other works, because reading this, I could see a lot of similarities with other IPs I was familiar with. True names holding power? Inheritence and Warhammer. Cosmic balance that affects the world? Wheel of Time and Diablo. Wizard school? Christ, too many to count, and yes, I'm aware of the irony that after trashing Magisterium and Keeper, I still can't escape the wizard school trope. However, while it's fair to say Earthsea did it first, a lot of the afforementioned medias did it better. So as I researched what I could on Earthsea, with people claiming it should be put on the same pedestal as Lord of the Rings or Narnia for instance...yeah, no. Not going to tell you what to like, and how to rate it, but for me, while Earthsea is a very unique work, that uniqueness doesn't inherently make it a good one, nor make up for its flaws.
I've heard Earthsea mentioned from time to time, and have been gradually getting more interested in it. Sorry to hear it's not really all that good.
 

Specter Von Baren

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'On Color' by David Kasting and Stephen Farthing.

Bad. I wanted something practical about use of colors in art and how it effects people, it has a little of that, but it's mostly philosophical drivel. The chapter on red isn't even about the damn color, it's just, "Oh but IS it actually red? Or is it just our PERCEPTION" and on and on. What's interesting is that the first chapter talks about how scientists in different fields disagree on the source of color (Like is it the eyes or the brain, stuff like that) and that artists are more like native people that have lived with color and know how to use it even if they don't entirely understand it... then the book proceeds to do the opposite of that, despite being co-written with an artist.
 
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Hawki

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I've heard Earthsea mentioned from time to time, and have been gradually getting more interested in it. Sorry to hear it's not really all that good.
In a way, I'd kind of recommend it, given that it's fairly unique in the fantasy genre, but that doesn't mean it's "good."

It's a slog. Not a slog in the same way Lord of the Rings can be, but still a slog.
 

Hawki

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The Red Pyramid (3/5)

Specifically, this is the graphic novel adaptation of the titular novel - the first in the Carter Kane series. And if you don't know what that is, just think "Percy Jackson, but with Egyptian gods." And if you don't know what Percy Jackson is, Google it.

I mention the Percy Jackson thing because this really is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief with some switcheroo. You have Percy (sorry, Carter) discovering that he's a demigod (sorry, magician) due to his blood lineage with the Greek (sorry, Egyptian) gods, and the world's going to end in a few days' time because of Zeus's lightning bolt (sorry, Set) which involves a roadtrip across the United States with his girlfriend, Annabeth (sorry, sister, Sadie) and a satyr, Grover (sorry, cat goddess, Bast), who's been watching Percy (sorry, Sadie), disguised as a cripple (sorry, cat) all their life. Their goal is to prevent the flooding of the world (sorry, desertification of the United States), where they visit real-world landmarks and see their connection to ancient Greece (sorry, ancient Egypt), which involves a trip to the Underworld where they meet Hades (sorry, Anubis), and where the world is saved at the last moment atop the Empire State Building (sorry, Red Pyramid), where the characters discover that the true magic is the friends they made along the way.

You could argue that's stretching things, but really, it's the same damn story by the same damn author just with mythologies switched out. Now, I'm not really a Riordanverse fan in any real sense (the Lightning Thief novel is pretty neat, the movie is meh), but even then, the similarities were striking. Iffy enough that it's by the same author, but it literally takes place in the same shared universe as well, so...

That aside, the similarities with PJ aside, the graphic novel is perfectly functional as YA fiction. On a slightly more personal note, as far as pantheons go, I'm far more familiar with the Greek pantheon than the Egyptian one, and while the graphic novel isn't really designed as edutainment, it does introduce things to the characters naturally, so it did help refresh my memories a bit. At the least, Riordan's clearly done his research, so there's that. Also, being a graphic novel, the artwork is pretty neat, especially when it comes to anything deity-like, and especially when it comes to the inside of the titular Red Pyramid, replete with everything from Set to demons.

So, decent read, but bogged down by familiarity, so to speak.
 

Hawki

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ReDawn (2/5)

The second installment in the Skyward Flight trilogy, and I like it even less than the first.

I'm going to start with what I did like first, and that's everything to do with worldbuilding. The POV character for ReDawn is Alanik, who's a member of the UrDail species. They live on ReDawn, which is basically a giant series of trees floating above a gas giant. So, basically space elves, of the wood elf variety. The UrDail are basically a client state of the Superiority (think the Dominion from Star Trek) and while some of their people want to fight back (the Independence faction), most of them have come to side with Unity, which favours acquiescence. Alanik ends up becoming a member of the titular Skyward Flight, and throughout the story, we get the usual (and cliched) "look how (insert virtue/vice here) humans are, as seen through my space elf eyes."

Yeah, even the stuff I like about ReDawn is sullied by cliche. And I could endure cliche if the writing was good enough, but I was just bored through most of the story. There's probably even more action than its predecessor, and I'll say it again, action in a non-visual medium is hobbled from the get-go, and the constant descriptions of space fighters going pew-pew-pew against evil aliens isn't enough to make me interested. The IP is undoubtly pulp sci-fi, I get that, but aside from some of the worldbuilding, nothing really appealed to me.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

The Throne of Fire (3/5)

Dragon Ball Z: Volume 2 (4/5)

Dragon Ball Z: Volume 3 (4/5)

Evershore (2/5)
 

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So my Sanderson withdrawal hit full swing alright, causing me to buy the first 3 Mistborn books. Am about 100 pages into the first, it has a unique enough setting, the idea is the age old saying of "die a hero or live long enough to become the villain" and is about a world after the good guys save it, and how it looks a thousand years later. Slavery is a prominent theme in this one too, and it has a cool magic system involving eating metals to harness magic. Chars are pretty fun so far, nobody I really dislike and the main duo of protagonists are immensely likeable, especially the girl instantly makes you feel for her and wanna cherish and protect her. Also it's quite a bit more gritty than the Stormlight books, it feels like an industrial revolution era story but with a magical dictatorship and a caste system juxtaposed on top of it.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Volume 1 (4/5) (Where you start to realize that this is far more than just a 1:1 adaptation of the game)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Volume 2 (3/5) (Where things start to drag a bit)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Volume 3 (4/5) (Where you're reminded that Midna is still the MVP)

Sonic the Hedgehog: Volume 11 – Zeti Hunt (4/5) (Where the Deadly Six are pretty deadly, and Belle reminds you that death of personality is technically murder)

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run (2/5) (Where Captain Marvel does a Star Trek and fights the patriarchy)
 

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Trevor Noah's Born A Crime

A very hilarious, very sobering look at South African culture during and after apartheid. Makes me kinda glad that I'm not funny enough to be a comedian, if that's the kind of shit you need to go through to get your material.

Interesting how as neither a white nor black person, I can relate heavily to Noah's apartheid experience. Not nearly to the same degree of course, but so much of it sounds familiar.
 

Hawki

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Vol. 4 (4/5)

Don't have much to say here that I didn't touch on with comments on volumes 1-3; yes, they weren't actual reviews, but I more or less covered my thoughts with them. While it broadly adapts the events of the game, it also does its own thing in a number of areas, for better or worse. I'd say mostly better, but, well, for instance, the manga makes no secret about Midna's true form (even if Link doesn't know it), and while this doesn't really improve or harm anything, still not sure why the choice was made. Still, manga is mostly solid.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

-Dragon Ball Super: Volume 1 (2/5)

-Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, BFF (2/5)

-Sonic the Hedgehog: Convergence (3/5)
 

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Just finished The Last Ronin TMNT comic last night. It was pretty good, though it would probably have hit harder if I had read more TMNT comics.
I plan to dig out The Crow for my next read.