Deal Alert: Pawsitively Clawsome Humble Bundle

Yeah, so new offering from Humble Bundle that feels like Chat Noir must have named it himself, right? That definitely made me laugh. But for as silly and punny as this cat-themed bundle may look at first glance, it actually has some pretty cute stuff in it. Yes, there’s your requisite internet cats, cat-care, cooking and crafting with cats, etc. sort of stuff that’s kind of meh. At least to me; if you enjoy that, please knock yourself out. But mixed in with that stuff, this bundle offers a really cute selection of cat-themed manga and comics that are definitely worth getting the whole set. You’ve got 2-3 volumes each of Chi’s Sweet HomeFuku Fuku, and Nekogahara. There’s also some Grumpy Cat and Simon’s Cat stuff, as well as some other interesting-looking comics that I’m not as familiar with. In addition, there are also some picture books and a couple novels. So yeah, definitely a theme-specific bundle, but there’s some good stuff there. You can find out more here.

Incidentally, Humble Bundle is also offering a selection of D&D comics that could be fun. Plus, they’re having a Square Enix sale, including stuff like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy.

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Tempests and Slaughter

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Numair Chronicles, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Arram Draper is one of the youngest students at the Imperial University of Carthak, sent there by his family to hone his Gift–before he accidentally burns up everything they own! It swiftly becomes clear that his Gift is special, powerful, enough so that he rises quickly through his classes to get special training with advanced teachers, along with his best friends Varice and Prince Ozorne. As if being friends with a prince didn’t come with enough complications on its own. Not to mention the problems Arram gets into once he gains the attention of various gods and other supernatural beings. It’s pretty clear that he will never really fit in, not that he really wants to, but as Arram experiences more of the troubles facing Carthak–the threats to the Imperial succession, the horrific place that slavery and gladiatorial entertainment play in the nation–he finds himself more convinced than ever that he can’t stay in this country, even if it means leaving the people who mean the most to him.

I love Tamora Pierce’s writing, always. And Numair has been a favorite character of mine in her books for quite a while now, so it’s pretty cool getting to go back and get his backstory. Having said that, in the past, I’ve always watched characters grow up into legends in her books, so it’s a bit weird to know the legend first and then go back to that character’s childhood. (He even has a different name as a kid, although we’re already introduced to that fact in some of Pierce’s other Tortall books.) It works though, and I feel like his character is consistent while allowing room for his growth into the adult Numair that we know and love. It’s neat to get a look closer look at Carthak, and at this time period in this world’s history, too, since most of the stories we get are set in Tortall and are a bit later chronologically. As far as the general storytelling, if you like Pierce’s writing, you’ll like this. It’s solid, engaging, character-driven fantasy writing with an easy, gradual pacing, lots of character development, and a unified plot. Lots of room for development in future volumes, too. At its core, Tempests and Slaughter is a school story, so a lot of it revolves around Arram’s classes, teachers, and friendships, as well as a bit throughout about the physical and emotional changes he goes through during this time and the complications of handling that without a real father figure around to talk about it with. So, warnings that there may be some content that’s a bit old for elementary/middle-grade kids . . . okay, considering the exposure Arram has to the gladiator’s ring in later parts, I’d make that a definitely. Recommended for high-school and up, but definitely recommended.

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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Author: Douglas Adams

My rating: 3.5 of 5

A computer programmer out to describe the rhythms of the universe in computer-generated music. A sofa stuck in a physically impossible angle on the stairs outside his apartment. A ghost stuck between life and death. An impossible magic trick. An electric monk from an alien world, created to save the people of that world the trouble of believing things for themselves. A visit to an old college professor. The works of a dead poet. Seemingly disconnected pieces, and yet they come together surprisingly in the hands of one Dirk Gently–who firmly professes to not be psychic. He’s a holistic detective, that’s all.

I’ve enjoyed Douglas Adams’s writing in the past, and I found Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency to be an enjoyable read, but definitely a more challenging piece. Not that it’s a difficult read exactly. But it’s very fragmented, especially towards the beginning, and there are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of if you want the ending to make any sense at all. The author certainly doesn’t dumb it down enough to give the reader the full breakdown, although everything is pretty thoroughly explained by the end if you pay attention. But yeah, fragmented and kind of pretentious would be my best way to describe this book. It’s well written, though, and has some quite interesting turns of phrase. I would almost say that’s one of the biggest selling points of this book, honestly. Of note, the titular character doesn’t actually appear until, like, halfway through the book. It’s really more about the programmer Richard, honestly, than it is about Dirk. Dirk’s just the guy strange and open-minded (or something) enough to connect all the weird, impossible dots. In any case, recommended for those who enjoy some slightly older speculative fiction (the bits about 1980’s computers were cool) and who has the patience to piece together all the randomness this story offers.

Of note, since I recently reviewed the BBC rendition of this story: they aren’t even the same story. Like, at all. They can’t even be considered AUs of each other, since that would require at least some level of semblance. The only things they have in common are the name Dirk Gently–the character is completely different, despite the name–and the concept of everything being connected–the “holistic” thing. Other than that, characters, plots, everything is different, to the point that it’s possible to enjoy each completely without comparing them to each other . . . as long as you don’t go and try to make them fit, because they just won’t.

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Deal Alert: DC Comics Humble Audiobook Bundle

So . . . personally, I still have something of a love/hate thing going with DC comics, but I know a lot of people really love them. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a total sucker for full-cast audio dramas. And the idea of superhero comics produced as audio dramas is pretty intriguing, I must admit. So yeah, right now Humble Bundle is offering a number of DC comics (looks like mostly pretty classic ones, not that I’m familiar enough with the publisher to say for sure) in full-cast audio drama format. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.

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To Be Shared (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: clotpolesonly

AO3 ID: 2212308

Status: Complete (19 Chapters)

My rating:  4.5 of 5

Rated T for violence; otherwise, no warnings

Arthur is mortally wounded when their small hunting party is attacked, and the only way for Merlin to save him is to use magic–openly for the knights accompanying them to see. Not even a choice, in his mind, between staying safe himself and saving Arthur, his best friend and his destiny rolled into one. But, being Merlin and having a great deal of raw power but very little training in using it, he basically shoves his magic into his injured friend. It works . . . but it also leaves Arthur with magical powers himself, a warlock in his own right. Now they have to deal with not only Arthur’s reactions to finding out Merlin’s secret(s) and the knights’ reactions but also must keep Arthur’s condition from the king and teach him how to control his magic–fast!

To Be Shared was a unique and very enjoyable fanfic that I would definitely recommend. As the author mentions, it’s rare to find stories in which Arthur has magic, and I think both the concept and the execution of it in this particular fic is wonderful. The author does a great job balancing the shock and emotional conflict with the easy bromance and friendships that are present within Merlin and Arthur’s small inner circle. Add in the tensions brought by Morgana’s dark presence and the fear of discovery by Uther, and you’ve got quite a nice plot going–very engaging, and balanced by enough humor and warmth that it makes for a pretty great read. Seeing Arthur’s reactions to magic, both Merlin’s and his own, was very fun and in character. I loved how the relationship between Arthur and Merlin was handled too–“soulmates” of a sort, but NOT slash. So you’ve got that warm, supportive Arwen dynamic going on, coupled with this intimately close brotherly connection between Merlin and Arthur; let’s just say that it works really well and is also pretty consistent with what you see in canon. On which topic, it should be noted that this is a bit AU from canon right at the start, and gets moreso the further on you go, but in a way that works and is logical considering the plot development. Honestly, my sole complaint for this story is that I wish that author used clearer section breaks; you go from reading about one scene and the next topic is a completely different section, only it’s not indicated visually, so it took me a moment to recover and figure out what I was looking at a few times. Other than that, To Be Shared is a really great story that I would definitely recommend to Merlin fans everywhere.

Note: You can find To Be Shared at https://archiveofourown.org/works/2212308/chapters/4849671.

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Pick-Up and Chase (Miraculous Ladybug Fanfic)

Author: SKayLanphear

AO3 ID: 7568518

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

My rating:  4 of 5

Rated T – some language and slight innuendo

During a random conversation between Ladybug and Chat Noir (while she’s teasing him about his goofy pick-up lines and flirting), Chat brings up the fact that in most relationships, guys do most of the work and it would be nice for girls to initiate sometimes. Not that she immediately agrees, but the conversation does get Marinette thinking–everything she’s tried to get close to Adrien so far hasn’t worked, so it’s worth a try, right? She starts off covering for a trip by saying she’s “falling for him,” and it goes on from there, Marinette pushing past her awkwardness to deliver smooth pick-up lines, and Adrien puddling into a blushing, stammering mess. And when Chat comes to Ladybug complaining about this girl in his class who’s flirting with him, leading her to discovering his true identity, well, things get even worse. After all, turnabout is fair play, considering all the awkward flirting he’s put her through!

My, but Pick-Up and Chase made me laugh. It’s cute and funny, almost bordering on crackish but not quite crossing the line. The banter between Ladybug and Chat Noir is spot on. Love the characterizations here just in general; they’re quite well written. And seeing the role-reversal when Marinette takes the initiative and messes with Adrien’s head is pretty amusing–especially when you add Alya and Nino’s reactions into the mix. We get some cute Ladrien vibes here, too, made all the more amusing since to the outside observer Marinette and Ladybug are competing for Adrien’s affections. Basically, this is just a really cute, funny, and oddly romantic story that I enjoyed a lot. Warnings for bad puns and pick-up lines.

Note: You can find Pick-Up and Chase at https://archiveofourown.org/works/7568518/chapters/17218156.

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Supernatural (2005- TV Series)

The CW

Status: Ongoing (13 Seasons)

My rating: 5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/rated TV-14

Two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, travel the country in the 1967 Impala that is more home to them than any building has ever had the chance to be. They start out searching for their father who has disappeared while hunting the demon that killed their mother years ago. Along the way, Sam and Dean hunt as well–fighting monsters, ghosts, demons, the stuff of nightmares, and saving people from horrors they can’t even imagine. Sometimes their efforts go utterly unnoticed; other times, they meet incredible people who help them on their journey. Regardless, they always have each other, except for those rare, horrible times when they just don’t. And somewhere along the line, hunting simply becomes who they are–it’s no longer just a revenge mission or a search for their father. Sam and Dean are, quite simply, hunters; they save people, they save the world. A lot.

I’ve put off reviewing Supernatural for, like, 2 years now because I love it so very much, and I know I can never do it justice in a review. So know that first, before I delve into details; this show has my heart in a crazy way that almost no other story ever has, and it has continued to consistently for years now. I couldn’t say exactly what makes this show so incredible, largely because it’s a lot of little, subtle things combined. I love the characters, first and foremost. Jensen and Jared do such an amazing job of getting in their characters’ heads and of portraying them deeply and transparently, as do the immense number of wonderful guest cast members. So much so that, although this is at times a monster-of-the-week kind of show (much less so as you get to later seasons), it manages to be highly character driven. The characters grow and experience a lot of internal conflict over the course of the series as well, which is another thing I love–the show evolves as it goes, so that just when you think they’ve done it all (I mean seriously, we hit the biblical apocalypse in season 5) you find yourself seeing things afresh, finding new frontiers. And the writers do such a great job keeping the balance between all the angst (and yes, here there be angst) with family support and outright humor (e.g., recently in the midst of this big series of episodes focusing on busting into an alternate dimension to save family members–lots of angst and tension–we get a random crossover with Scooby Do that, while darker than typical for the cartoon, is brimming with laughs and fun as well). I guess what I’m trying to say is that Supernatural somehow manages to be a lot more than hot guys fighting scary monsters and saving the world, although yes, it’s definitely that. It’s family and understanding and acceptance and so many things that I long to see more of, and I highly recommend this show.

Created by Eric Kripke/Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard, Mark Pellegrino, & Alexander Calvert/Music by Jay Gruska & Christopher Lennertz

 

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