The Promised Neverland Vol 12 by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu

There is some really good storytelling here; this series could have unraveled so easily after each of the previous arcs. As we start on the newest one in this volume 12, new secrets come out, new enemies emerge, and the plot somehow becomes even more convoluted.

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Story: Safe in their hidden shelter, the kids look for a solution to get them to freedom. Recognizing that it isn’t simply a matter of escape any more, Emma and her crew want to find a final solution that will free all the children bred for food. After many explorations, the kids are starting to piece together a puzzle dealing with ‘the seven walls’. But the Ratri clan head has sent an elite kill squad to track down and kill the 60 survivors hiding in Emma’s shelter. It’s only a matter of time until they are found….

The story takes a surprising 2 year jump in time, during which Emma was leading scouting parties looking for temples, golden waters, and the clues that will help them find the seven walls. At the same time, Ratri has hired a mercenary named Andrew to eliminate the Minerva supports while also finding out more information on where the kids could be hiding. An example has to be made to ensure that the demon pact is secure.

Interestingly, we have once again returned to the humans being the actual ‘demons’ in that they become the enemy that has to be overcome. With that comes the issues of whether the children can kill other humans or not – and how it would scar them to do so.

As with previous volumes, there is plenty of action and adventure. We also get glimpses of what’s happening with Phil back at Grace Field and Norman in the research facility that has imprisoned him. There’s a lot of life left in the story! Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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An Incurable Case of Love by Maki Enjoji

Enjoji fans will enjoy this new series, which has many similarities to the popular Happi Marriage?!. Quirky, kind of dumb, but energetic heroine paired with an alpha male obsessed with work. It’s hard to tell from this first volume how the series will go – but Enjoji always make you care about her leads no matter where she takes them so it should be another fun series.

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Story: Nanase stumbles upon a seriously injured person and realizes she doesn’t know how to help them. Fortunately, Dr. Tendo happened to be there and took care of the situation. Right then and there, Nanase fell in love and decided to become a nurse. Five years later, she is assigned to Dr. Tendo’s unit – only to find he’s a monster! Nice to the patients but an absolutely ‘evil lord’ to the staff. But Nanase is plucky – and decides to stick with the career even if the love didn’t work out.

So again, another sweet romance where the heroine will have to win over the heart of her ‘beast’. Since this is the first volume, we haven’t been introduced to the multiple side characters yet. But I know they are coming to complicate or facilitate Nanase’s love life. And in the meanwhile, Dr. Tendo will be sadistic to his nurse-in-training until he falls in love himself.

If you liked Happy Marriage, you’ll find more of the same here. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll

I can see why this has divisive reviews: it really is a very condensed, easy-to-follow, quick read meant to get someone immediately enabled into taking better photographs. The concepts are cleanly laid out, with large print, and easy to follow, eschewing a LOT of information in order to not overwhelm. But it is also shallow – great for the casual person who doesn’t want to fool around with the camera fiddling and losing shots but would like to have more interesting ‘snapshots’. Yes, a LOT of information is left out and the advice won’t be useful in all situations. But there is enough here to help novices use their cameras better. No, this isn’t intended for someone who bought a fancy new $XXXX DSLR. Rather, it’s great for pocket cameras and even for cell phones since it covers composition and lighting issues.

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Imagine this as a quick start guide that comes with an electronic item. It gives just the basics, quickly, with some images, but won’t tell you enough to really be good with the item, only better than if you are using it with no information at all and just guessing. That’s not a bad thing and this will be exactly what a large group of readers really want/need. Most only want to give the topic 10 minutes and finish the book and get better shots (better light, compositions, and subject). I would say you will get ‘better’ photographs, though not ‘great’ ones with just this booklet.

Those who are thinking of a career in photography, want to learn more about the art, and to get the images like those pictured in the book, there’s always more in depth books that do a superb job of fully covering topics such as Composition/Creativity ( The Photographer’s Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman) and the basics (the incomparable Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson). Those books are about spending time chapter by chapter to fully understand how to take great photographs but can be overkill/overwhelming to the novice/layman.

For me, I’d give my grandmother or my teen daughter this book – nothing but the basics since neither would be interested in long texts explaining photography and neither use anything but a cell phone or a pocket camera. But for my sister and husband, both eagerly digested the above books on the topic so they could use my DSLR to its full extent. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Fledgling by Molly Harper

Fledgling is a fun little read, never taking itself too seriously while giving a good adventure tale. In this second volume, our little changeling Sarah has established herself in society and made good friends at her school. Now that vacation time has arrived, the girls realize they want to help other changeling snipes as well. But things are very different outside of the school and they will have new challenges to overcome.

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Story: Sarah (now Cassandra) saved the school from a zombie horde but knows she cannot rest on her laurels. Alicia invites Sarah and Ivy to her family’s Summer estate in Scotland so they can follow up on a rumor of changeling children imprisoned in the North. But Alicia’s mother dislikes “Cassandra” – especially since her son, Gavin, has taken a particular interest in Sarah. Will the girls be able to find the abducted children, will Gavin’s mother manage to find ‘obligations’ elsewhere for Gavin so he can never meet up with Sarah, and most importantly, are there such things as evil unicorns?

Although much less happens in this second volume, the book has a brisk pace. The girls might be a bit too idealistic as friends and the author tries to give them some foibles to offset the saccharine. But this is a book with a 14 year old lead character so keep in mind that the target audience is one that appreciates and loves stories about bosom buddies (à la Anne of Green Gables) at that age. I know I would have loved this book if I had read it at that age. For adults, enjoy the snark and the fun dialogue between the characters while they foil the adults.

In all, an enjoyable book and I look forward to more in the series. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga

I greatly enjoyed this book – another wonderful read full of pathos and humor that publisher Angry Robot always delivers. Set in a less grim Dickensian London full of magical realism, the author successfully treads the line between unremitting hopelessness and dark humor. These are characters we want to follow even with their foibles and susceptibility to fate. The writing is quick, descriptive, and moves the plot well.

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Story: Roger was once the childhood friend of a princess, though he was only the son of a servant. But as he grew up, the two were separated and now Roger desperately tries to learn to become a physician through the only means possible to a poor man – exhuming cadavers for study and to sell to a college to earn money for books/tools. It’s dangerous, slightly illegal, and distasteful – but he has few options. Princess Sibylla, meanwhile, was glad to see Roger go when they were younger – she caught him kissing the help and wasn’t pleased to learn he accepted a bribe payment to leave the palace. But now, as an adult, she is faced with having to keep her magical bloodline continued by finding a suitable partner, all the while surviving the machinations of her royal family. The two are about to stumble into the path of a serial killer.

First, readers will have to adjust expectations after reading the description of the book – the couple do not immediately get bound together and don’t even meet until nearly 70% of the book is done. The story is mostly told from their alternating points of view as we learn of their situations. Also, there isn’t any romance here, though there is a previous attraction. So those thinking this is a romantic fantasy will be disappointed. What we have here is a murder mystery, with fantasy elements, and some very well drawn characters/characterizations. And while this ends on a clear arc, there is a lot left open (including their relationship) to be developed in further novels. So I greatly hope the author continues the story.

Finally, those worried this will be too grim or gory can relax – the author brought so much heart to the flawed characters and more than enough humor to keep the read from plodding or becoming unbearably dark. Both main characters are people that are fleshed out enough to make you want to root for them to succeed as they address the big mystery while also solving/facing the issues in their person lives.

In all, recommended. I greatly hope to see more from this author. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Boundless by R.A. Salvatore

The second book in the latest trilogy, and I believe the 32nd overall in the overall Drizzt saga, continues where the previous book left off with Drizzt’s father Zaknafein back from the dead. I guess this should have been expected given that Mr. Salvatore has resurrected (or extended the life of) every character from the original Icewind Dale/Dark Elf trilogies. While this sounds like a plot from a daytime soap, surprisingly it does work.

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Like the first book the main story is split into two parts – the activities in the present where we have (yet another) demon invasion and the past where Zaknafein and Jarlaxle live in Menzoberranzan years before Drizzt is born. The present is relatively uninteresting and it is hard to get excited about a horde attacking a Dwarven stronghold for the umpteenth time. It all feels like a D&D campaign gone wild where the player characters have grown too powerful and the Dungeon Master has nothing else to do but throw scores of the most powerful monsters available at them. There are some good moments with Zaknafein and his son though.

The story taking place in the past is more interesting since it takes place on a smaller, more personal scale. For once, the description of the Drow city makes it feel like it could be a real place and the machinations of the various players make sense.

The writing in the book is standard Salvatore style – not better, not worse. All in all, this is worthy addition to the long enduring saga and I will be picking up the next entry in the series when it comes out. I am glad Salvatore could keep on writing these when Wizards of the Coast axed their publishing business. If you’ve followed his books all through the years, there’s no reason not to pick up this book as well. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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World Trigger 19 by Daisuke Ashihara

World Trigger 19 is a welcome return of the series. Author/illustrator Daisuke Ashihara took a medical leave for 1-1/2 years (volume 18 was released 1/18) and details that journey in an aside in this volume. The series moved from being released weekly in Japan to monthly, ensuring his health was not stressed by the weekly schedule. Ashihara chose to seamlessly continue the story rather than making a big deal of the return – so we have the plot moving on as if there was no break.

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Story: Hyuse is now a part of Tamakoma 2 and ready to begin battling in the next rank wars. He’s virtually unknown and all the teams are wary of yet another Tamakoma surprise. As the next and very important rank war begins we have battling four squads: Suzunari 1 (who have map choice), Kageura, Tamakoma 2, and Azuma. Will Kageura’s sniper Yuzuru throw the match for Chika, how will Kuga work with Hyuse, and how will Hyuse perform now that he is limited to human weapons? And most importantly, what map will be chosen and what surprises await there?

Two original founding members of Tamakoma return: Cronyn and Yuri (niece of Tamakoma chief Rindo). Ashihara wrote in an aside that Cronyn is “A long haired Canadian who had conspicuously shown up all the way from chapter 1. His specialty in the labs is the management of trion form and trajectory. So he is in charge of the development and improvement of hound, viper, scorpion (which he helped develop with Jin).” So he will have a huge affect on ‘leveling up’ Hyuse. Yuri also returns, who “has the power to greatly lower the defensive power of Reiji within 10m of him, and that if a smiling Yuri San is to make a request, there are none who can refuse her.” We only saw them briefly but I look forward to seeing what they bring to the series.

The first half of Volume 19 is preparation for the rank war. Then we get into it (including some great surprises by Suzunari 1). I look forward to seeing if Tamakoma can pull off a win with so much riding on how many points they get in this particular rank war. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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