Yu-Gi-Oh! Volumes 4 – 6 by Kazuki Takahashi

I have to admit, that after reading volume 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! I was worried that the series might become somewhat formulaic (and here’s my review of the first three volumes, for reference.) To a small extent, that is true, but the series continued to provide me with enough exciting twists and turns throughout the next three volumes, so my fears ultimately turned out to be moderately ungrounded.

The most interesting storyline dealt with the return of Kaiba, who was after revenge against Yugi. This revenge takes the form of a dark and twisted version of an amusement park. Once again, I was shocked by the levels of violence (people die!) that surround the child main characters and the story was really quite gripping. I genuinely feared for their lives. Kaiba also received an interesting backstory, which I appreciated. There’s also a really lovely scene about the enduring power of friendship, which resonated with me on a personal level.

I was also quite pleased with the development of some of the other characters. In the first three volumes, I’d been a little unsure about Jonouchi, but he’d really grown on me by the end of volume 6. Honda was another character who’d appeared previously, but it wasn’t until now that I really started to like him. Yugi and Anzu are, of course, on top form as usual.

While Kaiba’s “Death-T” revenge storyline was the most interesting part of these three volumes, there were other parts I quite liked too. At one point, yo-yos are the next big craze in the school, which entertained me since I am a yo-yo bozo myself. Towards the end, a very interesting new character was introduced and I look forward to seeing more of them in the later volumes (but can’t say anything without spoiling it!)

Overall, I was happy with these three volumes. They had that same mixture of teenage humour and innocence, spliced with horrific violence and death. If you liked the first three, you’ll probably like these three too. Although, I have to say, that I think I enjoyed the first ones just a little bit more.

Rating: 8.7/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Deadpool

Not too long ago, I watched the movie Deadpool and I decided that I’d like to properly immerse myself in the Marvel Universe. As I had quite enjoyed that film, I thought that a collection of comics featuring the character of Deadpool would be a good place for me to start.

Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Deadpool collects together some of the most significant and highly regarded stories featuring Deadpool and, on the whole, it’s a collection that I really enjoyed. I felt like I had a good idea of the character and his story reading it – and he’s a very likeable character too. He’s funny and entertaining, but that doesn’t mean the stories lack a genuine emotional depth.

The first comic in the collection is Deadpool’s very first appearance. It’s nice to see it, as a sort of historical artifact, but it’s also really hard to enjoy because it’s the middle part of an ongoing story which requires a lot more information. Deadpool just plays a fairly insignificant side character. There were a few other examples, too, where I felt like pre-exisiting knowledge of the universe would be quite helpful. Not a problem for big Marvel fans, but a problem for people like me.

Overall, however, I felt that I was generally given all of the essential information about the character and his ongoing storyline. There are stories about his involvement in the dubious Weapon X project, stories about about his stance in a big civil war (which is explained, don’t worry) and even outlandish stories, like him fighting zombies of past US presidents (which was very good, although I do wish it had that whole arc.) The most recurring (and surreal) plot thread is Deadpool’s ongoing romance with the personification of Death. I love stuff like that.

There are appearance from several other prominent characters in the Marvel Universe and it makes everything feel quite whole and connected. Ultimately, it did what it was designed to do: it left me wanting more. The character was wonderfully developed throughout the different stories (which construct a kind of over-arching story of their own.) I’d recommend it for those who want to get to know the character (or the Marvel Universe in general.) An enjoyable read with broad appeal for comic, sci-fi and superhero fans.

Rating: 8.6/10

Buy it here.

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How Watson Learned the Trick by Arthur Conan Doyle

How Watson Learned the Trick is a very short (and obscure) Sherlock Holmes story. It’s basically a small scene from the lives of Holmes and Watson where Watson decides to have a go at deducing things like Holmes does. But is it really as easy as it seems? I won’t say what happens (to avoid spoiling it) but it’s a fun, enjoyable little story.

What makes this story quite unique, is that it was written to be part of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. This was a very detailed and impressive dolls’ house which was built in the 1920s. It was full of all kinds of things, from miniature paintings, to miniature wine bottles and was used to showcase the talents of artists and manufacturers across Britain.

Normally, I don’t go into the details of the particular edition of a book that I own, but what I have is a replica of the tiny book held in that dolls’ house. It’s a really nice little thing. It’s a nice bright red and the edges of all the pages are gold and shiny. It comes inside a larger “book” so that it’s got some form of protection and can sit on your bookshelf alongside other books. When you open it up, you’ll see that it goes so far as to have Arthur Conan Doyle’s handwriting copied for all the text. It’s really lovely.

It also comes with a small booklet which explains the interesting history behind Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House as well as talking about the history of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes (for those who need it.) There’s also a complete transcript of the story, which is useful, since the handwriting is a little hard to read.

So, overall, this is a very welcome addition to my book collection. I recommend it to any fan of Sherlock Holmes. I hope that I will get a chance to see Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House in person one day.

Rating: 8.9/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Assassination Classroom, Volume 3 by Yusei Matsui

This is the third volume of the fantastic Assassination Classroom manga and, in my opinion, is the installment where it goes from being “very good” to being “absolutely amazing!” So, I definitely suggest picking it up if you read the first two. Do bear in mind that this review will contain spoilers for the first two volumes.

So, as you may remember, the last volume ended with Kayano and Kanzaki being kidnapped by some thugs during a school trip. This, I felt, was a real turning point for the ongoing story, because it was then that it was clear that they’re actually going to deal with some fairly dark subject matter, even if the general premise of a tentacled smiley face teacher who wants to blow up the world is rather absurd. Seeing this story resolved was very enjoyable for me.

It’s not just the drama that I enjoy, though. Volume 3 has some really nice, lighthearted moments. In particular, I am referring to the fact that we get to see the boys and girls gossiping in their dorms during the trip and Koro-sensei is keen to be involved. It probably sounds a bit boring without me actually telling you what happens, but trust me, it’s quite funny and it makes Koro-sensei even more endearing to me.

We’re also introduced to a new character: Ritsu, a new transfer student. She’s actually one of my favourite characters, but she’s… a little unusual. I wouldn’t like to reveal too much about her, as the surprise is quite exciting. Anyway, I really like her and think that she has a lovely little story arc in these chapters (which is also a little bit sad.)

This volume doesn’t leave us on quite as much of a cliffhanger, but I don’t think that really matters. Volume 3 is superb and sees the story coming into its own (if that makes sense.) I highly recommend it.

Rating: 9/10

Buy it here.

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One Year by Mary McDonough

Mary McDonough is best known for her role as Erin Walton in The Waltons, which just happens to be one of my favourite TV shows. I was very fortunate, in that I was able to attend a book signing and meet her (along with Michael Learned) but this is a review of the book and you can read about that experience in my previous blog post.

So, what is this book about? Well, it focuses on three generations of women within the large Fitzgibbon family, who live in a small town called Oliver’s Well. The story mostly centres around Alexis who has just married PJ (one of the younger Fitzgibbons.) She struggles to adapt to life as part of a large family and we get to see how it effects her and her relationship with her husband.

I don’t want to spoil the storyline, but essentially there’s conflict between certain members of the family. What I was extremely impressed by, was the fact that the book doesn’t tell you who’s right and who’s wrong and instead leaves you to decide for yourself. I found this to be very true to life. A lot of stories have an obvious bad guy when it comes to conflict, and that’s fine, but the way that it’s handled in One Year feels very much like you’re reading something which could be true. Some of the arguments were downright uncomfortable, because they were so real.

A particularly interesting character is Mary Bernadette Fitzgibbon (PJ’s grandmother) who is in her 80s, a devout Catholic and very strict. At times, you’ll think that she’s just a very nasty and self-righteous person – but other times, you’ll find that she’s actually a lot more sympathetic than that. She, like every other character in the book, is very fleshed out and three dimensional.

I was also very fond of Megan, who’s PJ’s mother. You know how sometimes there are characters in books who are just really nice and really likeable? Well, that was Megan in this book. Her interactions with Mary Bernadette, a woman who’s very different to her, were some of my favourites aspects of the book.

Something I was particularly fond of, was the book’s focus on the women in the family. Usually these kinds of stories will have a strong focus on the sons, fathers and grandfathers and how they bring the family together during hard times. In this book, the focus is on the women (not that the men don’t play significant roles) and it was nice to have such a strong, female perspective.

One thing I’d like to add, is that I especially enjoyed reading it as a fan of The Waltons. There are no overt connections to the show and it definitely has its own identity, but it has a similar sort of tone and there were a few moments and characters who strongly reminded me of certain Waltons elements. Fans should definitely give the book a read.

I suppose the only real negative thing I can say, is that it takes a little while to get to grips with who everybody is. There are a lot of characters and it can be a bit hard to keep track of at first. One chapter was basically just introducing a long list of people and I’d say that it was kind of boring. However, once everybody has been established, the book becomes quite addictive. It’s like a box of chocolates, where you decide to have just one more and then have about five “one mores” and you can’t stop.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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The Writer’s Curse

I am currently in the process of looking for a new contracted job. I’ve been freelancing for almost a year now, but my work is starting to dry up. As much as I appreciate freedom, I also require money in order to continue to function as a person in our society, so I have to find a more solid type of work.

Ideally, I’d get a contracted writing job, but they’re kind of rare. As such, I’m also applying for lots of general administration and office-based jobs. These are things I know I could do very easily, but they’re also the kind of jobs I hear back from less often. When I do have interviews for them, they tend to say “You know this isn’t a creative job, right?” and I feel like they’re worrying that I might leave them for a writing job as soon as I can.

While I would always prefer a creative job, I’d really just be happy with any job and my creative desires would be satisfied with my blog and other writing projects. I think I could be quite happy in a non-writing job, but I don’t think employers trust that. And that, I believe, is the writer’s curse: there’s not much writing work, but employers for other roles won’t want you, because they’ll know you want a writing job!

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Jellyfish

Back in 2007, I was on a beach on a family holiday. Excitingly, there were jellyfish all over the beach. It was exciting to see them up close and in the wild for the first time. I know they’re just blobs, but, actually, I find them quite cute. Using my spade, I carried them over to the sea and plopped them back in – saving them from an unpleasant death under the sun.

But, since I had a bucket full of water, I decided to pop one of them in there. It was a nice companion for the day and a sort of semi-pet. I loved watching it move around in there. I remember feeling quite attached to it. In the end, of course, I had to return it to the ocean, where I hoped it would be okay.

Today I was having a day out with a good friend of mine. Somehow or another, we ended up speaking about this very subject. I told her the story of the jellyfish I “saved” and the one I kept in the bucket. I told her that I knew that jellyfish could live forever, barring accidents and how I liked to think that that jellyfish in the bucket might just still be alive today.

“No, it won’t be. Jellyfish only wash up on the beach when they’re dead, they don’t go there naturally. It was dead.”

I felt like I’d lost an old friend.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Mii games:

2007: Wii Fit ¹
2008: Mario Kart Wii ²
2008: Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City ³
2009: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
2010: Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing
2011: StreetPass Quest
2011: Puzzle Swap
2011: Mario Kart 7
2011: Nintendo Letter Box
2012: Miiverse ¹⁰
2012: Nintendo Land ¹¹
2012: New Super Mario Bros. U ¹²
2012: Animal Crossing: New Leaf ¹³
2013: New Super Luigi U ¹⁴
2014: Mario Kart 8 ¹⁵
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ¹⁶
2015: StreetPass Zombies ¹⁷
2015: StreetPass Fishing ¹⁸
2015: Yoshi’s Woolly World ¹

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Miis are playable in most of the game’s different modes.
  2. Miis are playable characters.
  3. Using special masks, your villager can become your Mii.
  4. Miis are playable in certain game modes.
  5. Miis are playable characters in the Nintendo Wii version of the game.
  6. Miis are the only playable characters.
  7. Miis appear as animated characters who represent the player.
  8. Miis are playable characters.
  9. Miis appear as animated characters who represent the player.
  10. Miis represent different users and can be used to reflect emotional responses.
  11. Miis are the only playable characters.
  12. Miis are playable in certain game modes.
  13. Using special make up, your villager can become your Mii.
  14. Miis are playable in certain game modes.
  15. Miis are playable characters.
  16. Miis are playable characters.
  17. Miis are the only playable characters.
  18. Miis are the only playable characters.
  19. Miis appear to share posts from other players.
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Miiverse

There has recently been a piece of news in the gaming world which has made me feel rather sad: that is the official discontinuation of Miiverse (which is going to happen later this year.) If you don’t know what Miiverse is, I guess the simplest way to explain it, is that it’s a sort of social media network which was accessible via Nintendo consoles.

I can honestly say that Miiverse enhanced my experience of many games on the Wii U and the 3DS. I like to play single player games the most (not that I don’t appreciate multiplayer) and the addition of Miiverse helped to make this very solitary activity feel like something which was more communal. It was a great feeling.

Let’s say I was playing Donkey Kong Land III, Game & Watch Gallery or some other equally old and obscure game; Miiverse gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts and observations about these games (along with screenshots) with people who were actually interested in them. I could make ridiculous jokes that nobody but a small number of people would get, but I’d be connected with that small number of people via Miiverse.

It wasn’t just the stuff that I’d share though, but also the opportunity to see what other people had shared. Sometimes I found out about cool secrets and glitches thanks to Miiverse posts and other times my attention was drawn to things in games which had been staring me in the face for years, but which I’d never noticed. People could comment on posts to start a dialogue with others and instead of just “liking” things like a lot of social media platforms, you could use your Mii to give different kinds of responses to things. It was cute and I appreciated it.

The more talented users would post illustrations they’d made of different gaming characters and so forth. Some of these were absolutely amazing and it was hard to believe they’d been made with nothing more than a stylus and a touch screen. Sure, there were a lot of bad posts too, but the good ones made it all worthwhile. It’s worrying to think that these works of art may be lost once the service goes down.

A lot of games integrated Miiverse really well too. For example, in Splatoon you could find graffiti on the walls and this graffiti would be made up of illustrations posted on Miiverse. Sometimes this lead to hilarious (and even surreal) results. Often it just took the form of people leaving comments about how they felt about certain parts of a game, but it was all good. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U even dedicated a whole level to Miiverse – which I guess means it exists in-universe for a lot of Nintendo characters (a fact which appeals to people like me.)

One thing I loved, was looking over my past Miiverse posts. It was fun and exciting to be reminded of all the games I’d played and all the different things which had come into my head as I did so. Once I just looked through all my posts back to the beginning and it was a lovely, nostalgic experience. I suppose it was kind of like a gaming-diary and it’s a terrible shame that I won’t have this in future.

I’ll miss Miiverse a lot. I sincerely hope that future Nintendo consoles will have a good replacement. It’s the main thing that I feel is missing as I play on my Nintendo Switch. I’m glad I was around to play it while it was here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Haunted by the Ghosts of Encouragement

I was recently feeling a little bit sad. I went to bed, feeling quite sorry for myself and my levels of self-worth were particularly low. It was an unpleasant feeling, but I was able to stop myself from falling to an unending pit of depression.

How did I achieve that? Well, let’s just say that I was “haunted by the ghosts of encouragement.” You may wonder exactly what I mean by that, and I feel at this point, I should point out that these are only metaphorical ghosts. But it’s at times like these when my friends are able to help me, without even being there.

Using the power of my overactive imagination, it’s easy to make myself feel as if I am surrounded by my closest friends and to remember the kind words that they’ve bestowed upon me. “Adam, you’re an absolute diamond.” “The fact that there are still good people like you in the world makes me cry with happiness.” “I sometimes ask myself, what would Adam do?” “Never forget that I love you and am always hear for you.” “You’re not like most people, I know I can always trust you.”

Some of those things were said to me long ago, by people who (try though I might) I have been unable to keep in my life. But, ultimately, their words still help me to this day. Though it is always going to be sad when I can’t see people anymore, the experiences I had with them still happened and can live forever in the pockets of my memory.

People tell me I have a good memory, and maybe I do, maybe I don’t (I dunno) but I know I always like to take in exactly how it feels to spend time with people, how their voice sounds, how they make me feel, what mannerisms they have, etc. Then, even if they don’t have time for me or if they move on with their lives, they will always be there when I need them, because I can just close my eyes and remember how it felt and feel good once again.

A bad experience will eventually end, but you can make a good experience last forever.

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