Book Review of More Than Alive by Fernando Torres

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Title: More Than Alive

Author: Fernando Torres

Review by: Dani Hoots

Genre: YA Sci-fi/Fantasy

Release Date: June 22nd 2020

Rating: 4/5

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Back cover:

MORE THAN ALIVE: Death of an Idol, is a literary response to the growing interest in anime, manga, and Japanese culture. Told via alternating storylines MORE THAN ALIVE is a fast-paced, laugh-out-loud, sci-fi/paranormal novel set in Japan in the year 2042. Complete at 103,000 words, it takes advantage of my experiences living in Kyoto and lessons acquired concerning story and character development while working at ABC/Disney.

Alice Suzuki (16) has recently passed away, making her eligible to be a harvester, a transporter of souls. For her first thread, she finds herself investigating the death of Akari, a Japanese idol who died playing a VR game while on enhancer, a drug that turns off the suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, the shadow demon Solak, who was formerly constrained to killing people in their dreams, has learned that enhancer allows him to get around the limitations imposed by free will. Alice must join the Japanese idol group, of which Akari was a member. Her journey is one of learning the true nature of attachment, particularly in regards to love.

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*I received an ARC from YA Bound Tours for my unbiased opinion*

The concept of More Than Alive was quite interesting. It mixed futuristic elements with fantasy having to do with grim reapers (although he doesn’t like to be called that), mystery, yakuza, and pop idols. Having read and watched a lot of Japanese manga and anime with similar themes, I didn’t hesitate to join this blog tour to see what it would be like to have those themes all wrapped together. I really felt it was original and an interesting concept and really liked the characters. It was full of suspense and I kept wanting to read more to know what happens.

One of the things I disliked about this book was the POV. It moved around from POV, sort of like omniscient POV, but not quite. It jumped around character too often and I didn’t feel grounded in any POV. It made me confused a lot of the time, but the story was still interesting enough where I kept on reading. I think this story would have done better if it didn’t switch, but that is my personal preference.

I also really liked the glossary in the back and now want to know why the author can’t open soy packets around shoji.

~Dani

 

About the Author

Fernando Torres is the best-selling author of “A Habit of Resistance,” “The Shadow That Endures,” and the soon to be released sci-fi novel “More Than Alive: Death of an Idol.” Fast-paced, humorous stories that poke fun at genre tropes and explore moral dilemmas are what define this author’s mission. Early in his media career, Fernando A. Torres created the definitive definition of media interactivity. At ABC/Disney, Inc., he worked behind the scenes on such shows as Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Grace Under Fire, Home Improvement, My Wife and Kids, and the Power Rangers. Influenced by many of his generation’s most talented writers and producers, Fernando Torres’ style developed a light, humorous edge that continues to influence his writing to this day. During his time at ABC/Disney, Inc., he contributed to the Writer’s Development program, which inspired additional contributions in education. Many of his stories are inspired by his travels, though he has more permanent roots in the United States and Japan. An instrument-rated pilot, he also enjoys writing music and photography.

“I write because the written word is a powerful ally in conveying truth.” – Fernando Torres

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Blog Tour Organized By: YA Bound Book Tours

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Book Review of Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono

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Title: Shinto: The Kami Way

Author: Dr. Sokyo Ono

In collaboration: William P. Woodard

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

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Back cover:

Shinto, the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, continues to fascinate and mystify both the casual visitor to Japan and the long-time resident. Relatively unknown among the religions of the world, Shinto: The Kami Way provides an enlightening window into this Japanese faith.

In its general aspects, Shinto is more than a religious faith. It is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas, and ways of doing things that through two millennia and more have become an integral part of the manner of the Japanese people. Shinto is both a personal faith in the kami—objects of worship in Shinto and an honorific for noble, sacred spirits—and a communal way of life according to the mind of the kami. This introduction unveils Shinto’s spiritual characteristics and discusses the architecture and function of Shinto shrines. Further examination of Shinto’s lively festivals, worship, music, and sacred regalia illustrates Shinto’s influence on all levels of Japanese life.

Fifteen photographs, numerous drawings and Dr. Ono’s text introduce the reader to two millennia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami and communal life.

Chapters include:

  • The Kami Way
  • Shrines
  • Worship and Festivals
  • Political and Social Characteristics
  • Some Spiritual Characteristics

About the Author:
Dr. Sokyo Ono was a professor at Kokugakuin Daigaku, a Shinto university in Tokyo, and has lectured for the National Association of Shinto Shrines. He also served as Executive Director of the International Institute for the Study of Religions and the Japan Religious Cooperative Council

William Woodard directed the research unit of the Religious and Cultural Resources Division, Civil Information and Education Section, SCAP from 1946 to 1952.

I asked for this book for Christmas to help with my research for two different YA Japanese Fantasy novels I am working on. I felt that this gave some good insight of what it is like at Shinto shrines and how Shintoism is engrained in a lot of daily life actions in modern Japan. I found it to be quite fascinating, as we don’t learn much about this religion in schools or while looking at cultures in general. A lot is said about Buddism, but not much is said about Shintoism, and this book goes over a bit of why that is. I wished it went a little more on the changes throughout history and what actions changed or didn’t with a timeline, as my novel takes place in different periods through Japan.

I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about this religion, whether it be because they are interested in Japanese culture, research for something they are writing, or if they want to visit shrines in Japan and understand what is respectful and what is not. I can’t wait to visit Japan and pay my respects to the kami at various shrines.

~Dani

Book Review of My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn

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Title: My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life

Author: Rachel Cohn

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 3/5

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Back cover:

“I’m here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!

In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World’s future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS – the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.

Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her 16th birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahara, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington, DC, to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hypercritical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn’t exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of ubercool international kids who spend money like it’s air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who’s frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.

This story had a lot of potential, but I felt it was lacking. I liked the idea of Elle not finding out who her dad was due to the strict culture beliefs in her dad’s side of the family. It reminded me a lot Ouran High School Host Club as Tamaki couldn’t be with his dad until the grandmother knew he was the only way to be the successor.

I liked Elle’s background, coming from a semi-okay background to her mother getting into drugs and her life came crashing down. That gave depth to the character…

But when Elle moved to Japan, she was quite a snob and disrespectful to her father’s way of life. Yeah, I’d be pissed if my grandmother didn’t like me because I wasn’t full Japanese, and that was understandable, but there were many other things where she was just rude, selfish, and snobby.

The other problem I had with the plot was that nothing really happened and then all the real conflict was at the 75% mark and it was all resolved within the last few pages. And some stuff wasn’t even resolved or talked about again.

I felt this story had a lot of potential, but it fell short.

~Dani

Anime Review of Kamisama Kiss

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Series: Kamisama Kiss

English Producing Company: Funimation

Stream on: Funimation/Hulu

Genre: Comedy/Romance/Fantasy

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Description:

Nanami is a poor homeless high school girl until she accepts an offer to live at an old shrine – making her the new local god! After an awkward introduction, the handsome and hard-shelled fox spirit Tomoe reluctantly vows to protect her as her familiar. As Nanami learns the ins and outs of godhood, she meets more spirits along the way—including a cute snake god and a sexy crow demon!

This is one of my favorite anime and manga series. Although I love the manga series a lot more, as it goes in much more detail and actually comes to an end, I do love them both. The love story behind it is very well plotted out and intertwined. Nanami falls in love with her familiar, but her love is not returned. She is fine with this, and the two of them bicker a lot (like most animes) but the development of Tomoe and why he doesn’t like humans and why he can’t remember is really good. It is both warming and heart-breakening. A lot of stories I think make either one or the other, but this one does a good job spinning both of the feelings together.

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My favorite character is Tomoe, as he is one of my top five husbandos. His backstory and past are very interesting, even though I don’t think he really changed like some say he did. I like most kitsune though, and vampires. My friends say I have a type and I don’t know why they say that…

Anyway… I really hate Mizuki. He has a good story and reasoning for the way he is, but I really really dislike him. I’m with Tomoe on my feelings for him.

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All in all, I hope you check it out. Also, there were OTP episodes that I cannot find in the US so if you have a source for those (legally) please let me know. I need more…

~Dani

Anime Review of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life

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Series: Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life

English Producing Company: Funimation

Stream on: Funimation

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Description:

Down to its last member, the koto club will accept anyone who is interested in the traditional Japanese instrument. But when a delinquent and a prodigy player sign up, finding harmony isn’t going to be easy—especially not with ensemble competitions looming around the corner. With enough time and some incredible skill at the strings, perhaps this motley crew can strike a chord with the judges.

I like a good slice of life anime, although usually I go for the ones that have a little fantasy or sci-fi in them. This one caught my eye as the art is quite spectacular, and also because I like a stories with delinquents in them some odd reason. I was hooked after the first episode!

The story arc itself is a pretty normal one—they make a club and they want to make it to nationals! yay! But I found how the character develop in this story to be quite beautiful. Even some of the ones I didn’t like I ended up liking because their background made perfect sense. Everyone had their own unique story, and I really enjoyed that. For anyone who wants a good example of character arcs and character backgrounds, I definitely recommend this anime!

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All in all, I’m excited for season two and see what happens with this group. I watched the dubbed version because I’m a Capricorn and have to be multitasking in everything I do, and can’t sit still to read the subs. The cast did a great job, as most Funimation voice actors do.

So if you need a sweet, beautiful anime, this is definitely a great one!