AO3 ID: 10963047
Status: Ongoing (84 Chapters)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Before Natsume came to live with the Fujiwaras, the people in his life hurt him or left nearly as soon as they had come. But this story isn’t about those people; it’s about the ones that came into his life after he moved to Hitoyoshi. The people who love him, even when he doesn’t know how to be loved. The people who will never go away, because they can’t imagine their lives without him.
The ones that come after is an absolutely charming fanfic that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Natsume’s Book of Friends. It mostly focuses on Natsume’s friends, although there are a few chapters from the Fujiwaras’ perspectives and from Natsume’s own perspective. It’s fascinating to see all of these relationships, and Natsume’s character in particular, through so many different viewpoints. Each chapter stands alone as an individual oneshot, and some are even AUs, but they all fit into a united whole in tone and conception. I love how soft and sweet these stories are, yet how deep they also manage to be. They portray complex characters dealing with difficult pasts and a sometimes challenging present while supporting each other and learning to trust. Highly recommended.
Mangaka: Tatsuya Endo
Status: Ongoing (currently 3 volumes)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Renowned spy Twilight has just been given what may be the most challenging undercover job of his career–get a wife and child in order to infiltrate a highly prestigious school and get close to someone working there. He manages to pull it off, somehow, becoming “psychologist” Loid Forger, adopting an adorable daughter, Anya, and marrying a nice office worker, Yor. Little does he know that Anya is a telepath and Yor is an assassin!
Spy x Family is a charmingly funny manga. At first glance, it resembles a Cold War spy novel, all secret identities and intrigue. But then you throw in Anya and Yor, and suddenly you’ve got this adorable family comedy. At first, everyone’s just using each other to advance their own purposes, which leads to some pretty amusing moments in its own right. As these people live together longer, though, you begin to see them grow closer, becoming something more like a real family, and it’s just too super cute. The art is good, and the story is a great balance of drama, intrigue, and humor. Highly recommended!
AO3 ID: 1752638
Status: Complete (33 Chapters)
My rating: 5 of 5
In the middle of the mission, the Asset’s mission resets. No longer is he to kill Steve Rogers but to protect him. It would be a whole lot easier if the guy had any sense of self-preservation. Fortunately, the future has great things like white chocolate mochas and grilled cheese and some great mission assists to help Barnes out.
I love, love, love this fanfic. It starts right at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and is canon divergent from that point, with Bucky sticking around and protecting Steve from the shadows. The plot itself is fantastic, but what takes this story from good to great are all the fabulous characterizations. The story’s told from Bucky’s perspective, but with something of a fractured sense of self–entirely understandable given the circumstances. It sounds dark and angsty, but his conversations (arguments) with himself are actually pretty funny. He’s written with a ton of personality and sass, and it just makes the story really fun to read. There’s also a great deal of detail and some amazing OC’s that absolutely make the story. It’s colorful and funny and touching and oh-so-sassy. Highly recommended.
Note: You can find this fanfic at https://archiveofourown.org/works/1752638/chapters/3745571.
There’s also an awesome podfic of this by AvidReaderLady, if you prefer to listen to your stories, which can be found at https://archiveofourown.org/works/11823066/chapters/26679579.
Original Story by: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, & Travis McElroy
Adaptation by: Clint McElroy & Carey Pietsch
My rating: 5 of 5
The Adventure Zone, vol. 3
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your (fantasy) engines and prepare for the race of your life! Our unlikely heroes, Taako, Magnus, and Merle are once again after a dangerous relic–this time a sash that gives the bearer (one “Raven”) power over plants. It’s more dangerous than it sounds, okay? In any case, it so happens that these three have been paired with the Raven’s secret girlfriend, Hurley, who’s also a cop?! Talk about the odds. They’re going to test the odds even further, because Hurley is convinced that the only way to get through to the Raven is to beat her–in a super-dangerous battle-royale-style race outside of Goldcliff.
Petals to the Metal, the third installment of the Adventure Zone graphic novel, is just as fulfilling (irreverent, ridiculous, and funny) as the previous two volumes. It’s honestly just a very amusing story with fantastic characters who stay true to self, even when it causes complications to the story. Which is really impressive, considering this story was originally a live-play D&D podcast. This volume sticks close to the contents of the original podcast for this arc and also includes the Lunar Interlude immediately preceding it–so yay for absurd costumes, lots of goofs, and ominous eyes in the sky! As always, Carey Pietsch’s art for this story is fabulous and adds an extra layer of awesome. Highly recommended.
Author/Illustrator: Kevan Atteberry
My rating: 4 of 5
The boy knows there’s a ghost in his house, and he’s pretty sure it’s a cat–just like the cat he used to have. One day, he follows a trail of catly chaos through the house, all the way to the front door, where he finally sees the ghost cat properly . . . only for it to lead him straight to a tiny kitten in need of a home.
Ghost Cat is a really cute little story. The premise is simple, but cute, especially the sweet ending with the boy, the ghost cat, and the kitten all curled up happily together. Adorable! It’s pretty clear that the author knows cats, considering how on the nose some of the ghost cat’s behaviors are, so that’s pretty amusing. The art is cute, too. And the text is simple enough to be easy for younger children to follow along with–or for beginning readers to pick up pretty easily. I read this one with my nieces (ages 2 and 6) and found the reading level to be well suited for both of them.
AO3 ID: 21375892
Status: Complete (3 Chapters)
My rating: 3.5 of 5
It’s official: Merlin and Lancelot are never allowed to argue, not if this is what happens when they do. It’s only been a couple days and already the whole of Camelot is in an uproar. People are picking sides, there’s talk of a class war, women are going into labor, knights are being traumatized. . . . And no one even know what these two are fighting over to begin with!
If you’re looking for a good laugh, CaffeinatedFlumadiddle’s works are a great place to go. This particular fanfic is an excellent example of that fact. Basically, the entire plot is that Merlin and Lancelot get in a fight and no one knows how to handle that fact. That’s it. But the author shows the knights to be such amusing gossips, and their observations of the situation so wild, that the whole thing is ridiculously funny. Definitely recommended.
NOTE: If you’re interested, you can find this story at https://archiveofourown.org/works/21375892/chapters/50919595.
Author: RicardianScholar Clark-Weasley
FFNet ID: 12343354
Status: Complete (15 Chapters)
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Having discovered Ladybug’s civilian identity, Chat Noir has determined to woo her–in truly typical fashion for him. He’s determined to imitate the classic Christmas song over the fourteen days leading up to Valentine’s Day, with a new gift for each day. As one could expect, Marinette’s a touch overwhelmed and flustered, as well as confused, since she still harbors a deep crush on her friend Adrien (if only she knew!). Will our unlucky kitty’s extravagant and heartfelt gifts be enough to win his lady’s heart?
Fourteen Days of Valentine is exactly what I love and want in a Miraculous Ladybug fanfic. It’s sweet and silly and entirely fluffy. There aren’t any real surprises, although the last chapter/epilogue was a bit unexpected in a refreshing way. But mostly, this story is just our two adorable dorks being cute and romantic and going through the uncertainties of youth. It’s also a reveal fic, although I don’t think of that as being the primary focus . . . but yeah, these two kids finally figure out each other’s identity, which is nice. Even if they do play up parts of the love square first. Recommended if you’re looking for something both adorable and funny.
Author: Christopher Keene
My rating: 4 of 5
Fifteen-year-old Nathan is well aware that, while intelligent and knowledgeable about the theory of summoning Melkai (powerful monsters trapped in another dimension), his practical experience is still somewhat lacking. Add to that, the fact that he’s a nobody orphan, living in the palace at the goodwill of the king, and . . . let’s just say that grand adventure and daring exploits have never been in the cards for him. He’ll leave that to his best friend, Prince Michael, thank you very much. But when the boundary between his world and the world of the Melkai threatens to break, Nathan is the only one who can find the other half of the key to seal the Melkai safely back in their realm before they destroy his world.
War of Kings and Monsters may be one of my favorite of Keene’s books so far. It’s got high fantasy, epic battles, political intrigue, a secret past, great friendships, and some impressive monster battles. As always, Keene’s worldbuilding is exceptional, giving us a rich environment, history, lore, etc. in a manner that is easy to grasp, woven directly into the story without seeming like an infodump. The whole summoning system, the Melkai, and the history surrounding them is fascinating. Also, epic monster battles. Pretty cool. I found Nathan to be a sympathetic character, and it was enjoyable to follow his growth throughout the story. On the whole, the entire cast of the book was well-written and fun to read. The plot itself was pretty epic, giving us a centuries-old conflict that’s bigger than any individual character. There’s lots of tension and action, with a satisfying resolution. Overall, War of Kings and Monsters was a solid read that I would recommend, particularly to fans of high fantasy, monster battles, and adventure.
NOTE: I received a free review copy of War of Kings and Monsters from the author in exchange for an unbiased review, which in no way affects the contents of this review.
Authors: James Asmus & Jim Festante
Illustrator: José García
Status: Ongoing (2 issues/5 projected)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Mrs. Flubbins’ class is off on another exciting field trip in their magic bus, ready to explore whatever wondrous adventure their teacher has in store today. It starts off great, exploring a world where you can experience all four seasons in a single day . . . until they find that this world also has man-eating plants. Then their controls get messed up, and they find that they can’t get home. The class ends up jumping from world to world . . . for seven whole years. Those of them who survive, anyway, although even they find themselves irreparably changed. Still, for all that Mrs. Flubbins hasn’t saved them, she’s still the adult in their lives and they look to her for guidance–until their teacher’s captured by pirates, and they have to save her instead.
Field Tripping is–quite frankly–a trip, and I kind of love it. The beginning harks strongly back to The Magic Schoolbus, like, almost uncomfortably so. Only, this graphic novel goes darkside pretty quickly. It’s like the authors are imagining what all could have gone wrong in a situation where a teacher takes her students without their parents’ knowledge on field trips using magic–like, realistically (as realistic as one can be in such a hypothetical, fantastic situation), that’s dangerous and sketchy at best, right? This story plays that up, with most of the students being dead by the end of the seven-year gap, and the survivors being cursed or stuck in magical armor or transformed into a bear or something crazy like that. But it’s not just dark and dour–actually, it’s not really dour at all. Because the personalities presented here are just plain funny, especially since these kids have basically grown up together at this point and know each other really well. And the authors do a good job of adding in situational humor to keep it from being overwhelmingly dark. The art is fabulous as well, and plays into the atmosphere and balance of it all quite well. Field Tripping has been an extremely interesting story so far, and I’m quite interested to see how the rest of it plays out. Recommended.
Mangaka: Emi Fukasaku
My rating: 4 of 5
Believe it or not, Masato’s friend and classmate, Koto, is actually an android–she just looks like a cute girl. Around exams, it’s easy to get frustrated with how easily she can load the information she needs to know, while he’s busy trying to study. But it’s also all too easy to forget how utterly dopey and forgetful she can be about taking care of herself–getting to school on time, taking in the water that is necessary to fuel her functions and protect her operating system. Her (irresponsible) creator has asked Masato to look after her for just that reason . . . but with all the studying he’s trying to do, he hadn’t realized just how much she needs him until it’s almost too late.
Happy Bird is another super-short oneshot manga from the author of Alpha Minus, and it’s also extremely adorable. The art is just too cute–again, somewhat reminiscent of Kiyohiko Azuma’s work. While reading this story, I was also reminded a lot of Keiichi Arawi’s manga, particularly Nichijou. The blend of a cute slice-of-life school story with just a touch of the surreal, especially with the whole android thing, is what really brings that flavor out. It’s enjoyable and sweet, and the characters are interesting to read. Recommended.