My Little Pony: The Elements of Harmony Volume II Review

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It’s time to check out the new My Little Pony guidebook. I read the last one almost 4 years ago so it has certainly been a while. I suppose that makes sense since each guidebook covers 3 seasons of the show and it takes a while for those to be produced. As it stands, I can’t see a third volume coming out for a long time since I think it is currently only 1 season out of date. It’s a very informative book and I can honestly say that it is pretty much perfect for learning about the ponies. I dare say that Megaman.exe and Transformers still had the most colorful and immersive guidebooks on the block, but this one keeps it close.

There are several sections in the book. First we take a look at the main ponies of course. The book talks about the Mane 6, their friends, allies, enemies, etc. It also talks about the surrounding areas and just about everything you need to know about the basics of Equestria. This section is always pretty fun and even if you already know most of the characters, it’s nice to see their write ups. It’s an essential part of every guidebook.

There is also a small section at the very end of the guidebook which talks about the songs. It writes down all of the lyrics for them so you can really appreciate the writing. I’m guessing they only chose some songs as I doubt there were 3 seasons worth of lyrics in there, but maybe there weren’t as many musical episodes as I had expected. The songs were nice although it’s always a lot more enjoyable to actually listen to them than read the lyrics.

The bulk of the book and the section where you’ll spend the most time are the episode descriptions. The guidebook goes through each and every episode from seasons 4 through 6 and gives a detailed look at what happens. They even post the moral to each episode on the bottom of the page. This is one of those areas that separates the guidebook from the rest. I can’t think of any other guidebook that does such a great job of showing you all of the episodes. You could theoretically be able to start season 7 feeling confident that you know everything if you read this guidebook. (And the last one of course)

There aren’t a whole lot of bonus features beyond that so I’ve pretty much mentioned everything there is to know about this one. So it’s pretty basic with the episode summaries being the main thing that makes it a lot of fun. Without it I’d probably have to dock a star, but it’s good enough with that feature. You’ll find yourself breezing through the book as you eagerly catch up on the latest pony knowledge. Now lets talk about some of the bonus features that the book could have had though.

I think some sections that could have made the book a lot more detailed would have been a nice Q and A section. Seeing the writers and voice actors talk about the characters and answer questions from fans would have been nice. Maybe hintings at future episodes or at Derpy’s big upcoming role would have been neat. Maybe some character popularity polls like which MLP characters are the most popular or something of that nature. These are all things that could have made the book more epic. “Top 10 MLP fights” may not be applicable for the average fan but what about something like top 10 songs or top 10 episodes? Those are a must for the average guidebook. Maybe what this series can do is make the next volume come out after 2 seasons instead of 3 and then they can pack in the empty space with some of these bonus features. Just a suggestion, but I do think it would make the book even better.

Overall, You’ll enjoy this guidebook. The only way you wouldn’t is if you aren’t an MLP fan, but if so then I doubt you’d be reading this in the first place. I suppose it could be a good launching on point for fans who haven’t had time to watch the show but in that case I would hope that you would have read the first voluem first. That would definitely be beneficial. It’s been a while since I read a guidebook, but maybe more will pop up at some point. They seem like an easy thing for a franchise to do so I wish more would do them. Imagine a nice Pokemon version where it’ll cover all of the episodes in a region? That’d be really nice. Meanwhile, now I just need to wait for my library to get the next My Little Pony comic to continue this marathon of the franchise.

Overall 8/10

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Pokemon Talent Showdown Review

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Time for another Pokemon adventure. Ash and friends were minding their own business when they notice a big crowd of people gathering around. It turns out that a big talent show is occurring nearby and Gary is even participating in it. Ash isn’t a big fan of contests, but Gary eggs him on and continues to insult Ash until the main character decides to bluff his way through it and claims that he already has a great act in mind. Can Ash think of an act that will actually defeat Gary’s or is it time for a slice of crispy, humble pie?

This adventure is a lot of fun because having Gary in the story is always great. I recently went back to check out most of his best moments and it’s easy to see why he’s such a fan favorite. The book does him justice as well since he actually had the slight upper hand against Ash. As Ash referenced, it’s a little odd for Gary to be so arrogant after Ash upstaged him in the tournament, but this is the fan favorite portrayal of Gary after all so I guess it’s to be expected. Either way I hadn’t been expecting a rematch between the two of them so that was really awesome.

The actual talent show wasn’t bad either. I felt a little bad for Ash since he apparently can’t sing or even play any instrument so he was given the smallest role. Still, Misty and Brock did help him out by coming up with their show so that was nice. I’d definitely assume that Gary is a better singer than Brock, but it’s nice to see that the Pokemon characters have such musical talent. The ending is a little cheesy though as the owner stated that this contest wouldn’t be about battling and just sportsmanship, but then Ash saves the day and he flips on that statement. I suppose having your life saved is a decent reason to quickly change up the results, but it still felt like Ash didn’t really earn his win. I guess that part could be pretty nostalgic to the original season as well though.

This book probably had the most action out of all the Pokemon books I’ve read so far so as you can imagine it is also my favorite one. Pokemon action is just a blast to watch and I definitely picture the fights in my head as they go. I forgot that Gary had a Charizard or if they just made it up for this adventure but that’s certainly interesting. It’s a little disappointing that Charizard was losing to Alakazam, but psychic types are some of the only ones who can give him a real fight so I can live with it. The stakes were definitely pretty high. I think Alakazam could definitely beat Psyduck though. Psyduck’s confusion certainly is great, but it takes forever to use and no opponent should actually just stand there and wait to be attacked. Gary’s confidence let this happen, but it wouldn’t be viable on most opponents.

Ash also fought another performer earlier as she thought he stole her Seel so she retaliated by trying to beat him up. I guess she was determined to get the truth out of him, but beating Ash in a Pokemon fight is no easy task. I think Ash is a little too quick to return his Pokemon during the battles here, but when you have Pikachu at the ready I suppose it’s no big deal. I also didn’t mind that the battles got more screen time than the actual show because that part was certainly more exciting for me.

As always the pacing is really great for the book. Since it’s so short everything has to happen quite rapidly which always makes for great results. Ash really can’t catch a break as a result, but it also shows how he is able to think on his feet. There’s never a dull moment and so you’ll be engaged from cover to cover. It certainly won’t take you long to finish this book anyway so it works out well.

Overall, This was a really good Pokemon story. All of the characters were itching for a fight and Ash was always ready to oblige. He may not have won all of his matches instantly but at least he reacted right away and acted reasonably experienced. I’d love to see an old school Pokemon movie that takes place around here where Ash just takes on trainers. It would be a lot of fun and I miss his old school lineup of Pigeot, Charizard, Snorlax, and the others. It was just a very balanced team even if Bulbasaur and Squirtle may hold the team back in attack power since they’re still in their first forms. They really haven’t been looking good in these books so far but maybe that’ll change soon. Charizard and Pikachu have really been doing all of the work. If you haven’t checked this story out yet, then you should definitely change that ASAP.

Overall 8/10

Pokemon: Journey to the Orange Islands Review

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It’s time for another quick Pokemon chapter book. This one brings us back to the beginning of the Orange Island adventures. Ash may have conquered the Pokemon League or at least that’s what you’d assume from how he talks about it in this book, but there is a new challenge around the corner that he cannot resist. Before starting the tournament he runs into a Lapras who is in need or a rescue and a Professor who may be in over her head with research. Ash is ready to save them all, but can he also stop Team Rocket from kidnapping Pikachu?

It’s always nostalgic to take a look at the good ole days of Pokemon. The newer adventures are fun enough (Although Sun and Moon is a downgrade) but the classics are classic for a reason. It’s great to see Ash just show up and take down 3 bullies in a single blow. He didn’t have time for one liners or panic attacks, Ash just got the job done. That’s why he’s the hero of legends. Ash doesn’t play games when it comes to cleaning up shop and I wouldn’t expect him too. Ash is also pretty straight forward here as he openly cringes depending on the situation. I’m not kidding, on page 2 he cringed and that’s when I knew that I was in for quite the ride. It was a good way to start things off.

There are really two main adventures here although they continue into each other pretty seamlessly. The first adventure has the kids stop by Professor Ivy’s lab to pick up the GS ball. For some reason it is impervious to teleportation so they are supposed to bring it to Professor Oak. Brock decides to stay with Ivy so he can become an official Pokemon breeder. Ash and Misty are pretty okay with this and head off, but Team Rocket tricks them and they get launched pretty far away. That’s when Ash notices the bullies and takes them down. A kid named Tracy shows up to join the crew and Oak allows Ash to forget about the GS ball so he can just have fun entering the league. Oak’s a pretty nice guy. The adventure is On!

Naturally this was a pretty big moment in the anime since Brock had been around for so many episodes. That being said, he was always the worst of Ash’s friends as he never kept his head in the game and was always holding the team back. He may have been the team’s cook, but I couldn’t get around to missing him. His replacement wasn’t exactly a fan favorite though as Tracy can be extreme in his own way. He notices some kids bullying Lapras and decides not to do anything about it because he’s busy sketching. That’s very shady right off the bat and he basically forced his way into Ash’s inner circle. Ash was totally against having Tracy on board but the decision was taken out of his hands. It was all pretty sudden. Tracy will have some work to do to get past his initial appearance and since he isn’t much of a fighter, that’ll be tough. Misty doesn’t do much here, but I’m sure she’ll have more of a role in the next few volumes…possibly. Technically Ash’s Pikachu is really the only Pokemon to get a big role. Ash doesn’t even use his others. Jigglypuff looks pretty good as she shows up to take names. I really miss the days when she would come out of the blue and just start singing. That was a quality running gag.

One thing I have to wonder is if the author has to recap what everything is at the beginning of every book or just for each region. For example, we’re reminded what a Pokedex is and the author describes everything as if we’re seeing it for the first time. The book’s fairly short and even then these scenes are really quick, but it does seem like you’ll lose valuable page space this way. In the end, I have no real complaints with the pacing though. The book flies by and it’s an engaging read from cover to cover. If I had any small complaint, it would be that this book is light on action. Pikachu’s one hit win and Geodude’s one hit win were basically the only battles in the book. Props to Team Rocket for tricking the heroes the same way twice in a row. Since the book cuts out the filler it almost literally occurs back to back. At least Ash didn’t go down without yelling for his food first.

Overall, This was a good volume of Pokemon. It could get a little dark like with the Lapras chapter and it’s easy to forget that the stakes used to be so high. Even Ivy almost died because of Pokemon spores gone wild. I have a feeling they’ve been nerfed to just knock you out in newer episodes. That being said, Ash is even more intense than usual in this volume and it’s just nice to have the old gang back. The show really had a lot of depth and emotion at this point. I still prefer almost all of the other regions to Orange Islands, but I like to just think of them as the lost episodes of Kanto. Think of it like an epilogue story and it works a whole lot better. No Gary this time, but he’ll return soon enough. If you haven’t read the book yet, now’s a good time to do so. It’s a pretty nice way to read through two episodes and it covers all of the important parts so it’s a quicker way of getting caught up with the anime.

Overall 7/10

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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I forgot to put this on the blog way back when, but I checked out the first book in the series. There are only 11 out so far so at least it’s pretty easy to read through them. It’s not exactly my kind of series as I always look for a little action, but it’s not bad. I expected it to be worse and at least the characters are always trying to one up each other. As the title suggests, the diary plays a huge role even if the main character can’t admit that it’s a diary. It suffers from some instances of crude humor and as with all comedies, not all of the jokes work. I’d give it a look if you’re a comedy fan and it won’t take you long to get caught up. I’ll have a review out if the series ends and I make it through all of them.

Overall 5/10

Pokemon Sun and Moon: The Pokemon Training School Challenge Review

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I read the first volume in the Pokemon chapter book series for the recent Sun and Moon adventures. I was debating on whether to review this book or just wait until the series ends, but the latter could certainly end up taking a while. Ultimately I may start reviewing the individual books for some titles with no foreseeable end while for others a series review still makes sense. It’s tricky, but especially since this book is so small it seems reasonable. It covers around 2 episodes of the anime give or take. The series had a lot of controversy surrounding it when it first came out and it’s easy to see why. Pokemon went from being a really serious action show to a comedy. It’s not the Pokemon that I grew up with, but it works out well enough.

The series starts with Ash being on summer vacation. He sees a lot of cool new Pokemon while at the new region and asks his Mom if he can stay. She allows it and he quickly joins the school so he can learn how to be a Pokemon Trainer. I can understand why he would want this knowledge since he’s been training for over 10 years with nothing to show for it. He hasn’t even aged a day for some reason. So, Ash sticks around and everyone starts to teach him the ropes. However, the island’s sacred guardian has taken an interest in the kid and challenges him to a fight. Can Ash really win this battle?

Ash has definitely lost most of his character development from the old days so part of the plot in the series will likely be him gaining it back. He learns something new in every episode so in about 100 or so episodes he should be a good strategist once again. It’s a long while to wait, but what else can we do right? It’s just the way it has to be I guess. Pikachu has also gotten quite a bit weaker so it’s rough for the pair. They used to be one of the strongest duos and now they’re getting kicked around left and right. It feels bad when you really think about it. They are still good leads though. They mean well and are always up for a challenge. The series works much better when you just think of this as a prequel. Imagine that it takes place immediately after episode 1 of the original series and you’ll be set.

I think one of the parts where a book can adapt this better than an episode is that the comedy gags don’t stand out as much. Ash getting pinched and saved from random disasters doesn’t seem as bad when you’re reading about it compared to actually seeing it on the big screen. He keeps a little more of his dignity this way, at least that’s how I see it. For example, I can’t stand the living Pokedex in the anime. That may be a bit strong, but at least in AMVs and such he just gets in the way. In the book he barely talks at all so he’s not as annoying.

That being said, learning all of the names is going to take some time. The new rival is a guy who’s named something close to Kiwi. He talks a good game and has a Charizard so I’m expecting him to fight quite a bit, but he gets on my nerves. He seems to think of himself as a big shot. The other friends are nice enough but they start to blend into each other since their personalities are virtually the same. The teachers try a little too hard to all be suave and cool around Ash, but it just doesn’t really work. Once they fight and prove themselves, then things could be different.

Team Rocket doesn’t get to do a whole lot here either. Nobody really fears them and while they may be more of a threat in this region than the others since Ash has forgotten how to deal with them, they aren’t very interesting. The only part that will make their plot fun is Mimikyu once he’s a main character. I had fun watching his fights in the anime and he’s probably the best part in the whole region. He looked quite good in the book as he was beating Pikachu with ease, but had to leave since Team Rocket was getting wrecked. Why do they manage to snag really cool Pokemon like that one?

Finally, Tapu Koko is a pretty cool Pokemon. He easily has one of the best designs in the entire region which may not be saying all that much but I’m certainly a big fan. He lives up to the hype and really manages to be a thorn in Ash’s side. He’ll make for a good rival as I’m sure he isn’t quite done with Ash and friends yet. His appearance also resulted in an action scene so I’m all for that.

Overall, This chapter book is quite short of course so you’ll read through it right away. It still does a good job of covering quite a bit though. This region certainly is my least favorite because the animation is the worst and there’s less action than usual, but the former doesn’t apply to the book and the latter isn’t noticeable yet. If I didn’t know any better, I’d actually consider this to be a pretty promising start to the region. If you’re a Pokemon fan then you’ll certainly enjoy this and it’s a reasonable way to jump into the franchise. It certainly is new reader friendly. We’ll see if the next book adaption can be quite as good. Moreover, I’m ready for Ash to finally win a fight!

Overall 7/10

Kingdom Hearts Review

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It feels like I’ve been reading this novel for months, but I have finally finished! As you can probably guess, this book covers the plot of the first Kingdom Hearts game. It does a good job of going through all of the important events and really covering the worlds. This does come at the expense of the fights which is unfortunate, but it’s a great way to catch up with the series if you’re not really a video game player. After all, the plot is fairly engaging on its own and with the movie/TV series probably not coming for a long time, this is your best bet! (Perhaps the manga as well, but the novel seems to handle it with greater detail)

The plot of this story revolves around a kid named Sora. He lived on a peaceful island with his two friends Riku and Kairi. Unfortunately, he wakes up one morning to find that the ocean has turned to darkness and a tornado is ripping the island off the ground. Riku vanishes in the waves and Kairi also disappears. Sora tries to keep himself together, but then he also fades away. He wakes up in a mysterious town where he meets up with strange people who tell him that all of the worlds are connected…and dying. Sora shakes this off and meets up with Donald Duck and Goofy from the classic Disney movies. They explain that they are looking for King Mickey and were told to travel with Sora in the meantime. This is because Sora is the chosen Keyblade Master of destiny who will find the keyholes in all of the planets and restore balance to the universe. Sora gets his game face on and prepares for this endeavor, but it’ll be tougher than he dared suspect.

It’s a pretty fun story that works well enough even if you switched out the Disney characters for made up ones. That being said, it certainly has more of an impact when you throw the crossover angle into the mix. It’s pretty fun to see the characters show up and help Sora out in each world. Sora gets to travel to Aladdin’s world, Peter Pan’s, Alice in Wonderland’s among others. It can be pretty nostalgic to see them and while those characters can’t fight all that much, Sora doesn’t really need any help.

As I mentioned earlier, the one drawback to this novel is that the fights are very short. Most of them are over in a couple of hits and don’t usually last more than a couple of pages. Some of them seem to be over in a single page. I hope we can get some longer fights in future adaptions, particularly Kingdom Hearts II since that should have quite a lot of fighting in it. I don’t mind if they have to skip a few worlds as a result, the action will be worth it.

Sora’s a likable protagonist and a good kid. He loses confidence a little too easily at times which is his main character flaw, but I’ll certainly take that one over most. He seemingly gets over this by the end of the novel, but it’ll be difficult to say for sure until we actually get there. There are quite a few plot twists and villains who like their mind games coming up so that could rattle Sora quite a bit.

I didn’t like Donald or Goofy though. They showed their true colors when they chose to leave Sora after the keyblade vanished. Friends shouldn’t just leave each other so easily. While they eventually went back to Sora’s side, it feels like he can’t really trust them as much as he thought. That test of loyalty was one that they failed. It’s not as if they’re great fighters either. Goofy’s shield and Donald’s magic will never be quite as effective as Sora’s sharp keyblade. It’s just the ultimate weapon.

Riku also shows up and part of the drama with him is that he has been tempted to the dark side. He thinks Sora is having too much fun as he goes on side trips while Kairi is still in a coma. Riku decides that he’ll have to save her on his own and goes through a lot of dangerous quests to get to this point. The darkness starts to overwhelm him by the end though and he loses sight of his goals to an extent. With his character arc coming full circle as Sora convinces him to join the light once more, he should make for a good ally in the coming volumes. While he may have had a point initially with Sora, he was also pretty unfair about it since Sora did try to find Kairi and just failed to do so. Riku had the advantage of having an evil witch on his side….if you can call that an advantage.

Maleficent is one of the big villains here, but her role is greatly reduced from the game. She gets to appear a few times, but comes across as an underling who was being used the whole time. Unless she redeems herself in the sequels, I’m going to say that the author probably wasn’t a big fan of hers. Ansem shows up at the end of the novel as a fun final boss and he makes for a good opponent. We certainly haven’t seen the last of him. Once Organization XIII shows up, it’ll help the series as it will finally have recurring villains who will last for a very long time.

This novel is of a pretty good length so it should last you a while. It’s about 300 words and the font isn’t all that big either. A lot of stuff happens over this time and as I mentioned, the book was able to fit in a lot of worlds. Each of the Disney worlds gets a good amount of screen time. While the Beast may have only gotten to appear without his world, he still looked pretty good since he was able to follow Belle when all of the other main heroes failed to do so. Following someone through a portal is rare no matter what medium you’re in. Characters just tend to hesitate a little too much when the going gets tough.

Overall, It’s fun to revisit the original Kingdom Hearts story and to finish another book in general. It’s been a long time since I played the first title so this is always nostalgic. I remember the series very well so it’s not as if it’s new to me, but it is fun to see how the series was before the deep plot started. Make no mistake, the seeds had sprouted for the plot with hintings all around. The writers likely had a good portion of the sequel all planned out and that’s one of the fun things about the franchise. It’s all connected and you always feel like it’s planned out well. I’ll be reading the sequel right away, but it’s a lot longer than this one so it could take a while to finish. I definitely know it’s going to be fun as well and it may even be better since Chain of Memories had a more engaging plot with higher stakes than this one. If you haven’t played the game, I highly recommend reading this book to get you into the franchise. Alternately, you should take the plunge and finally buy the original game.

Overall 7/10

Attack on Titan Before The Fall Review

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Attack on Titan is a series that I definitely am not much of a fan of. I’ve gone on record to remind people that it’s a series which could not live up to the hype and is riddled with flaws. The manga ranks among my least favorite titles and while the anime notched a 5, that is certainly low compared to most of the titles that I watched. Luckily, a franchise can always turn things around or at least get a good product into the mix somewhere. Attack on Titan managed to do that with this novel as it’s actually pretty decent. It’s still dark and violent, but in book format it’s just not quite as bad and books have always had this edge over other forms of media. It’s a fairly interesting tale, even if there isn’t much of an ending since it continues on into the next novel. (Would have been 2, but I got the fancy omnibus at the ready)

This book takes place before Eren’s adventures in the main manga. It’s a prequel that shows us how the humans first learned about the Titan’s weaknesses and it’s far back enough where the status quo may already be in place, but people still talk about the old days. If you want the true backstory, you’ll have to actually go and read the manga. The story follows Angel, an inventor who does his best to make weapons and equipment for the rest of the fighters. He has a friend who is in the corps and another one who is on the wall. The three of them look out for each other and Angel wants to eliminate the Titan threat so they can see the ocean someday. This is Titan though…so expect some major casualties sooner than later.

The main cast is relatively small so lets start with Angel. Angel’s a fairly good main character. He may not be as headstrong as someone like Ichigo, but he has his moments and definitely does get his shots in. He does his best to help out his friends and doesn’t stay paralyzed in fear of the Titans for very long. He becomes a more outspoken and dependable guy as the book goes on and he certainly spared no expense in working to eliminate the titans. It’ll be interesting to see him as a supporting character in the next volume since he had such a big role here, but time does go on and he has to get old eventually. While he may have made a mistake in judging the weak point of the Titans initially, Angel did a good job in noticing the general area at all. He can also be said to be one of the first humans to take down a Titan. He wasn’t literally the first as his friend also took one down and there may have been others in the past, but certainly not many.

Maria is the main heroine of the story and she’s a good character. She stays strong even after the Titans increase the body count. She’s certainly good at surviving and was encouraging for Angel to have around. She may not have been on board with some of his crazier stunts, but she came around. I’m glad that they also didn’t try pushing any kind of rebound romance here as they just stayed as close friends. Xenophon was essentially Angel’s rival. The novel makes sure to keep mentioning how they don’t get along, but I can’t say that I really understand why. They seemed to get along just fine whenever the two of them were on screen and their personalities don’t really clash. It’s hard to see why there would be any bad blood between them at all. I felt like the author maybe didn’t think this part through, but regardless, it’s good that they got along after that. None of them ended up being petty and suddenly turning evil or anything like that.

I also liked the general of the Survey Corps. Jorge is certainly a much better character than Erwin or the old Pixel guy from the main series. Maybe he also made some morally dubious choices at some point or other, but we don’t see any of that here so I like to think that Jorge didn’t cross that line. He certainly did a good job in the hand to hand fights and considering that Angel had a cool new weapon on deck, Jorge did quite fine. He kept his cool under pressure and also came out to help even when he wasn’t allowed too. Wars are won on the battlefield after all and someone had to make a move against the Titans.

One very interesting difference in this novel was that for the most part, Titans didn’t bleed. When they were slashed, smoke would simply come out from the wound healing back together so quickly. I think the only time there was some blood was when they were blowing up a titan to find out if he had any weak points. Titans didn’t feel any pain or seem to have much intelligence at all. It was certainly an interesting look at them, but I still would have felt iffy about the humans doing a lot of experiments on them like in the manga so I’m glad that didn’t happen.

While the novel is technically not all that long, it still seemed longer than the average light novel. Perhaps it was because the text was a little more dense with all of the terminology and plans as opposed to yelling out attack names and just slashing away at the villains. That…or I was just imagining things, some novels can just feel longer than others. I know for a fact that the Naruto novels seemed to be the smallest ones that I read, but that could be because those were related to Naruto so I was able to blast through them because I’m a big fan of the franchise…even if the first novel was a little dicey.

Overall, This novel was surprisingly good. It’s still the normal Attack on Titan fare in many respects, but in book format it just works so much better. After all, I do find the concept of Attack on Titan to be interesting and that’s why the anime actually wasn’t that bad. This book had an engaging plot and the characters were pretty reasonable. We didn’t have a lot of morally dubious characters or iffy moments where you have to remind yourself to root for the humans. There still were opposing factions and a lot of crazy guys running around, but they didn’t invade the main cast so that’s a good thing. I look forward to seeing what the sequel does with this and now that we’ll be catching up to the manga version, it’ll be neat to see how much of it I can recall. The next volume is double sized since it merges 2 and 3 so it may be a bit before that review pops up, but no worries…it’ll definitely be coming! It’s still pretty surreal to be reading about manga and anime characters in novel format, but it’s definitely a good feeling.

Overall 7/10

DC Superhero Girls: Wonder Woman at Super Hero High Review

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It’s time for another book review. I haven’t read a whole lot of books lately so it’s always fun to go back and finally read through one. The DC Superhero Girls lineup always seemed pretty interesting. The comic I read on Free Comic Book Day was fun and it seems like a nice piece of the franchise that people of all ages can enjoy. The book is also fun although Wonder Woman herself can be a little annoying. I look forward to seeing how the sequel fares.

Wonder Woman is finally joining Super Hero High and she looks forward to meeting everyone. She hasn’t really left the Amazons…in forever. Unfortunately, this means that she takes everything literally so expressions and jokes always tend to go over her head and result in awkward situations. No matter, that is not enough to deter Wonder Woman and she aims to help her school win the big Olympic Style event against the rival team…the Bad Boys!

I like the style of numerous short chapters as opposed to a few long ones. Maximum Ride did this as well and it makes you feel like you’re constantly accomplishing as opposed to once in a while. I believe the same is true of video games as well. You can finish the actual novel in a decent amount of time. It’s not short, but it’s not very long either. You can say that the size is just right. Books are interesting though in the sense that the first half of the book can usually all go to set up and development. You’d think that there wouldn’t be much room for the plot then, but it all evens out somehow. Either way, this book didn’t need to worry about a plot all that much as the main focus was on introducing Wonder Woman to the rest of the class.

As I mentioned earlier, this is the only real annoying part. Wonder Woman’s naivety is a little too extreme if you ask me. Do the Amazons not have any figures of speech? Her mother went to the school and clearly knew how to socialize so I’d expect Wonder Woman to have picked up on some of that. Even just a small bit would do. Wonder Woman means well and she’s a good hero, but I think that the story would have worked just as well even if she had known how to deal with everyone. They could have just emphasized how nice she is and the plot lines would have still worked. She still wouldn’t accuse the others all that much and would have rolled with all the tricks and media coverage just to be considerate. So, that’s why I think she could have been a better written character.

Of course, she makes some good friends during her stay at the school. Poison Ivy, Katana, and Harley Quinn seem to be her main friends. Quinn’s an interesting case though as she is still quick to humiliate everyone around her including Wonder Woman. Her rationale appears to be that it’s okay since she does it to everyone and they are still students so some mischief is fine. For the most part, I’d say that she keeps it to reasonable limits…except for when she threw all of Wonder Woman’s stuff away. That was a bit much, but she’s a fun character otherwise. Poison Ivy’s all right. She’s the very timid character of the bunch so she’s not my favorite character, but is fine overall. Katana’s one of the more likable characters as she is always eager for a fight and also tells it like it is. When she suspects that someone is trying to sabotage WW’s costume designs, she speaks up about it, which is more than most of the cast is willing to do. She’s a good friend to have and she will ensure that Wonder Woman isn’t subtlety bullied by the others.

Lois Lane has a fairly large role here as well as she helps Wonder Woman find out who is sending her the mean letters. Ultimately, she doesn’t find out a whole lot, but it’s hard to do much when you only have some letters to go off of. I thought that the book did a decent job of constantly misdirecting you as to who the culprit was. There were only a few people that it ever could have been anyway, but from those it was hard to pick one with total confidence. Steve Trevor shows up, but his role is pretty sad the whole time and the plot could have definitely been cut out. He just had no purpose in the story and the whole time you’re just wondering if the book is simply going through the motions.

Superman had a cool cameo though as he decided to root for the main team even though the media was probably hoping that he’d be impartial. Still, how could Superman root for a team like the Bad Boys right? It’s just not his style. It’s also cool how he’s still an adult while most of the other characters are teenagers. It’s an interesting AU in that sense as you never know where everyone stacks up when it comes to age. There are a lot of different stories that you can tell about the heroes being at school so this series can certainly go on for a while. It’ll just need to be careful not to be repetitive, but that shouldn’t be all that difficult of a task.

Overall, This was a fun start to the Super Hero High adventures. The cliffhanger has Supergirl joining the school so it’ll be fun to see her become one of the gang. In a sense, she’ll be Wonder Woman, but potentially a more likable version. I’m also waiting for some of the villains to show up and cause some mayhem in future volumes. The rival school already got school’d by Wonder Woman so we’ll need new threats if we want to take them seriously. I’d recommend checking this out if you’re looking for a fun little Superhero story. Even if you’re not usually a superhero reader, you can swap out the names and it’d just be a fun school story. There’s really not much to dislike here and my only real complaint is Wonder Woman. It’d be cool if Superman appears more in the sequel, but it’s not necessary…it’ll just give the story an extra bump up.

Overall 7/10

Naruto: Sakura’s Story Review

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It’s time to review the final Naruto novel that I’ve read so far. Sakura gets to be the main character of this adventure. While she is probably the weakest of the three personality wise, (The first two novels were led by Shikamaru and Kakashi) Sakura manages to have a pretty good novel. The villains are nothing to write home about, but they do their best to cause some destruction and mayhem. It’s a fun little story in the future of Konoha.

Sasuke is as distant as ever and Sakura has been having doubts about how their situation is going to work. It never made any sense from the get go and was squeezed into the lore for no reason anyway, but now Sakura is finally being forced to deal with all of this. It gets worse when Sasuke is framed for murdering a bunch of people and declaring war on Konoha once more. Sakura believes that there is no way that Sasuke could do this and Naruto doesn’t buy it either….but what if it is him? Sakura will be forced to slay him and that would definitely make her home situation very complicated.

Considering that Sasuke is being framed, nobody is taking it too seriously. Some villages are getting into a fuss as usual, but lets face it…what are they gonna do about it? If Sasuke truly is evil once again, he could destroy them all rather easily. By the end of the series, Naruto and Sasuke were light years ahead of everyone else. A confrontation involving one of them and anyone else would not even be close. There would be no fight, only a massacre. Luckily, the Sasuke impostor is not nearly as powerful as Sasuke. Sakura and Sai are able to handle the villains easily enough. It’s a good chance for Sai to save his rep considering that he didn’t look very good in the Shikamaru novel.

Kido is the main villain here and he’s mainly able to be a threat because he has his own 9 Tails Cloak. It’s mostly fake as he got it through DNA and a lot of science speak, but it does give him a very real power boost. It’s enough to almost put him on Sakura’s level, but she’s gone through a lot of training of her own and is ableto handle him. It’s a fun climax and it is always good to have an actual fight to finish things off. The first two novels had some issues with this. It’s why I’d like to see a Sasuke or Naruto novel at some point with more aliens like Kaguya which could make for epic fight scenes.

Aside from Sai, who did most of the heavy lifting here, the other supporting characters didn’t help much. Tsunade was just around to make Sakura more insecure and gave out bad advice. Ino mostly just fueled the romance angle and Kakashi didn’t really do anything. All he could do was talk a good game from his throne. The other villages spent their time panicking so in the end, it was really up to Sakura. They say that times of peace can make a place a little sloppy, that may be happening to the village. All these small villains are popping up now. They’re no threat in a face to face fight, but from the shadows they can be tricky.

These novels are fairly short and easy to read. You can easily finish in a day as you just cruise through the chapters. That’s a good sign that the novel is good since you’d otherwise be forcing yourself to get through it. The writing may not be great at times, but that could also just be because the characters are a little annoying. If the book has a weakness, it’s that you can’t really get attached to any of the characters. Sakura is too distracted by Sasuke the whole time and Tsunade really does her best to put Sakura on the wrong track. Kido’s as generic as they come, but there’s only so much you can do in just one novel. That’s why you should take that into account as you read through the book.

Overall, Sakura’s Story is a good way to wrap up the Naruto novels for now. It had more action than the Shikamaru adventure and less comic relief than the Kakashi story. It’s a better all around book and we’re getting closer to the action that I want to see from the Naruto series. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve finished the manga. It expands the universe and allows you to see the characters again. Any chance to revisit an old universe is usually a good one to utilize. The characters also look less shady and semi evil here than they did in the Shikamaru novel, where they decided to do things right under the Hokage’s nose. That’s not the best way to operate a village since you need to have trust in order to succeed. Things were done more by the book here, which was definitely an improvement. Nobody would try sneaking past Sasuke if he had been Hokage…I’m just saying…

Overall 7/10

Naruto: Shikamaru’s Story Review

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It’s time for the second Naruto novel! Shikamaru is definitely quite the improvement over the Kakashi one. Unfortunately, Shikamaru himself comes across as rather petty and completely unlikable, but sometimes side characters shine best when they’re on the side. It’s possible that looking at the world through his perspective just makes him appear to be a bad character. Regardless, this novel didn’t need Shikamaru to succeed so he doesn’t ruin the experience. Of course, this is why I want Naruto to be the main character for a novel at some point. I think you would be able to see a noticeable improvement if that happened.

Shikamaru was trying to enjoy a normal day for a change when he sees one of Sai’s birds approach the village. In it, a message states that he has lost sight of his own identity and the rebellion in the Land of Silence is growing worse. If nothing is done soon, Sai writes that this could become a very large problem. Kakashi is tempted to go himself (Or just posturing) but Shikamaru decides to volunteer. He figures that this is the best way to secure a bright future for Konoha and especially since some of the other Shinobi like Naruto would be averse to outright assassination. Shikamaru’s not as heroic, likable, cool, or as good as Naruto so he figures that he’ll take the job. He never had a problem with murder after all. Kakashi assigns 2 Anbu Black OPs, Ro and Soku, to accompany him. Together, the three of them set off into the Land of Silence and prepare themselves for what is to come….or not.

Unfortunately, Shikamaru seems to have lost most of his intelligence during the years of peace. They know that the leader of the rebellion is incredibly charismatic and that Shinobi have been deserting from every one of the great ninja villages. Even Sai has been turned to the other side. Does Shikamaru suspect even for an instance that mind control or genjutsu is involved? Nope, he just walks into a villain meeting with no concrete plan around that and listens to the guy’s speech. He begins to feel its effects, but decides to ignore this and lets the guy keep talking. Eventually, the leader calls him out so Shikamaru attacks, but by then the genjutsu has been way too strong.

Shikamaru really left his team out to dry with that kind of plan. Of course, as “experts” the two Anbu Black Ops should have been able to resist this technique as well. Shikamaru also came across as petty when he continued to refer to Soku by her real name even when she made it clear several times not to call her that. They are on a mission after all and Black Ops must keep their identities a secret to that nobody can find out who they are. Moreover, she just doesn’t want to be called by her real name, is that a problem? Apparently it is since Shikamaru intentionally uses her real name at every opportunity to annoy her. It’s just very self centered of Shikamaru.

Finally, I also didn’t like Shikamaru because he’s way too full of himself. He spends a few pages insulting Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi and questions why they should be regarded as heroes. He acts as if they don’t deserve this title despite saving the world. Where was Shikamaru during the climax? As far as I can recall, he was hiding with the other ninja and talking a good game while doing nothing. He really has no room to talk and Naruto really shouldn’t even have him as an adviser. He seems like the kind of guy who will give you the wrong advice each and every time. Plus, he hints that he would keep things from Naruto to shield him from the darkness, but that also means that he’d probably keep on doing assassinations and such. Part of why the Third Hokage’s rule wasn’t so good was because Danzo and the Anbu elites rose up in the background as well. Having two factions will simply fracture the village as a whole. Well, regardless of all those technical elements, Shikamaru just wasn’t cool here.

Ro and Soku don’t get a whole lot of character since they’re only around for a little while (The book is fairly short after all and the team doesn’t get to the villain base until around 1/3 of the way in. Book pacing has always seemed rather intriguing that way. It always feels like the prologue takes a really long amount of time, but I suppose that there is still time for a lot to happen since each page has so much dialogue in it) Ro likes to make puns with words and mixes his old way of talking with modern day slang. He’s not much of a fighter, but he can alter how a person’s chakra looks. That sounds like it would only be helpful once in a while to be honest. Soku is really snappy and aggressive. I don’t blame her for constantly threatening Shikamaru though. Her chakra needles definitely seem like a handy ability to have, but one that wouldn’t help quite as much in a direct fight since they seem to rely a lot on the element of surprise. Physically she is definitely a capable ninja though as she speedblitzes..you guessed it, Shikamaru, towards the beginning of the book.

While Shikamaru’s team may have ultimately failed 100%, (They were turned into traitors as well) it’s good that Temari and Naruto aren’t quite as weak willed. With Gaara and a lot of other ninja around as well, the whole uprising was over in an instant. In the end, the villain wasn’t much of a fighter either. He was able to hold Shikamaru off, but that’s not saying much and together with the two Anbu Black Ops for a fair 3 V 1 fight, Shikamaru’s team managed to pull in a win.

I was definitely glad at the ending of the book though. Ultimately, the heroes spared the leader of the uprising and imprisoned him. There was certainly never a need for an assassination and while the heroes didn’t want another war, I think they severely overestimated the Land of Silence. Naruto himself could have easily walked in and ended the whole situation with minimal casualties. So, the plot in and of itself was a bit of a stretch there.

Overall, This novel was fun. It’s just too bad that Shikamaru was such a bad character. I felt bad for his partners since they got beat up quite a bit as a result. Naruto and the others should probably start to doubt his leadership skills right now. The only part where the novel gets a little dark is when the two Anbu members are kidnapped. Besides that, it felt like your standard Naruto adventure and had a good blend of sneaking around and action scenes. Now we are approaching the final Naruto novel for now. Let’s see if the Sakura volume can continue the novel’s acceleration through the rankings or if it’ll take a step back. One thing’s for sure, Sakura should be more likable than Shikamaru. (Although she was annoying in this book and ended up being wrong in the end)

Overall 6/10