Manga Series Review: Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

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Title: Naruto, Volumes 1-72
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: VIZ Media
Source: Chicago Public Library – Overdrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In another world, ninja are the ultimate power—and in the village of Konohagakure live the stealthiest ninja in the world. But twelve years ago Konohagakure was attacked by a fearsome threat—a nine-tailed fox demon which claimed the life of the Hokage, the village champion. Today, peace has returned, and a troublemaking orphan named Uzumaki Naruto is struggling to graduate from the Ninja Academy. His goal: to become the next Hokage. But unknown to Naruto and his classmates, within him is a terrifying force…

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

I started watching the Naruto anime years and years ago, but it went on for so long that I was never able to finish, let alone get into Shippuden. Then, Andrew started getting into more anime and manga stuff and agreed to watch the series with me. We just barely made it to the Shippuden anime series before the wonderful Chicago Public Library released the entire manga series on Overdrive. My local branch of the library doesn’t have a lot of manga, so I requested a volume or two once in a while, but didn’t get very far into the manga series, so this release was HUGE. I could read it on my computer and not have to deal with waiting a week for it to ship to my branch. At the same time, Andrew and I cancelled our CrunchyRoll subscription, so we didn’t have access to Shippuden anymore. So, he started reading the manga as well.

Without giving spoilers, I’m going to sum up my feelings of the series as a whole — all 72 volumes. It starts off as a bit of a fun story, with Naruto trying to become a ninja and being loudmouthed about how he’s going to be Hokage someday, but quickly takes a bit of a darker turn. They are, after all, ninja and are very often in real danger when they take on their missions. Kishimoto doesn’t hold back when he crafts the story — the battles and dangers are high-stakes and even at 11 years old, the characters fight for their lives. I enjoyed this, because being a ninja would be dangerous, so I appreciated that this series had that level of honesty and genuineness.

My favorite parts, however, are the characters. You can tell that Kishimoto loves what he does, because there’s a wonderful playfulness to the characters that drew me in and made me fall in love with them. Each character has their own flaws and personalities, but you see that they are generally good people who care about their friends and their families. They work hard to protect them and when there’s danger, they all come together to fight against it. The series shines when the characters are given a chance to go above and beyond for their comrades, and this series is, in the end, a series about what it means to be friends.

Though it’s a long series, I would say it’s worth it. It’s almost bittersweet that we’ve finished it. We spent the better part of the year reading the manga together, talking about new developments and following the characters in their journey. Unlike the anime, which dragged on with filler episodes, the manga is perfect. Some things drag on, but the pacing is overall great for the story. It’s made me laugh out loud and cry, sometimes both at once. And while everything isn’t over-explained in the final volume, all my questions were answered satisfactorily. I loved reading about Naruto’s story and his journey to becoming an adult. There’s a reason why this is such a popular series — it’s really, really good. If anything about it at all interests you even in the slightest, I’d highly recommend getting started on it.

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Beauty Review: Sephora Rouge Shine Lipstick – Honeymoon

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I got this on sale at Sephora and thought that I’d give it a shot. I love collecting different color lipsticks so I can have something for every occasion, and I tend to be drawn more towards corals, pinks, and reds, so I thought I’d do something different. Honeymoon is listed as a glossy, semi-sheer toasted taupe.

Here are the comparisons:

Basic makeup – Foundation, Blush & Mascara
Basic makeup + Sephora Rouge Shine: Honeymoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And for the closeups:

Makeup free lips
Sephora Rouge Shine Lipstick – Honeymoon

 

 

 

 

 

VERDICT

It’s definitely a sheerer lipstick and has a very neutral color. While it is highly moisturizing, it doesn’t really have any staying power. I would never use this for a night out, because the second I drank or ate anything, it’d completely rub off. I use it as a step up from chapstick, basically. Someone decides to take pictures during a day of hanging out, and I don’t want to look completely washed out? This lipstick comes out. It’s good for a quick fix to add a little color and shine to your lips. Be prepared for lots of transferring and rubbing off. I don’t think I’d buy this again, to be honest. I’d use a tinted chapstick instead.

Podcast Review: Crimetown

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Before I get into this review, I should probably explain how podcasts have taken over my life over the last few years.  My first year teaching, I used to listen to sports talk radio on the way to work.  I would occasionally listen to music, but found that I got more out of people talking.  This wore on me very quickly.  I then started listening to NPR (which I now joke is my obligation as a teacher).  One thing quickly led to another and I found myself subscribed to NPR podcasts of segments I liked and suddenly realized I could listen to “talk shows” of just things I was interested in, as opposed to whatever happened to be on the radio, and off I went.  I tend to alternate between subject matters. I usually alternate between episodes of a “serious” podcast and then to a goofier one.  This both reflects my interests and is also a direct result to my over-saturation of politics earlier this year when I was at one time listening to exclusively six or seven different politics podcasts, several of which were releasing daily episodes which super bummed me out. So, you will probably see a similar pattern as these reviews roll out.

Podcast: Crimetown
Producer: Gimlet Media
Hosts: Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier
Summary: (taken from Crimetownshow.com)

Welcome to Crimetown, a new series from Gimlet Media and the creators of HBO’s The Jinx. Every season, we’ll investigate the culture of crime in a different American city. First up: Providence, Rhode Island, where organized crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life. This is a story of alliances and betrayals, of heists and stings, of crooked cops and honest mobsters—a story where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier.

5 out of 5 stars

Crimetown is produced by Gimlet Media and hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier.  It has been mentioned before that I have an outrageous fascination with non-fiction books and that love extends to other form of non-fiction as well.  I often find myself watching documentaries as often as traditional TV and movies.  I have a vague interest in the genre of “true crime” although I was never really sucked into it all that much until I read The Lufthansa Heist by Henry Hill and Daniel Simone.  I must have missed the period of fascination most people (or at least males I grew up with) had with the mob, but I hit a period last year after reading that book and seeing other documentaries and of course the classic Goodfellas that got me supremely interested in all the different angles around Henry Hill.  It passed.  Or so I thought.

A friend and I will often drop into conversations if we’ve started listening to a podcast we think is worth checking out.  He led me along on a string a little for this one.  He said it was a podcast that was in the style of a documentary about organized crime.  They were going to spend each season focusing on a different city.  At this point I was already pretty interested and figured I would chuck it onto the backlog of podcasts to check out.  Then he reeled me in.  “It’s just started it’s first season and that season just happens to be about Providence.”  A podcast that sounded interesting, I would only have to listen to a couple episodes to catch up to, and was about my home state?  How could I not at least give it a chance?

True to the description, Crimetown is an incredible undertaking.  The podcast uses archived audio as well as interviews with several people intimately involved with the politics, law enforcement, and mafia starting in the 1970s.  It uses several people of interest to drive the story, however, it is fair to say that the infamous Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, the former mayor of Providence, is the focal point of the podcast.  Each episode or chapter runs about 30 to 45 minutes and are packed with stories and interviews.  They do a great job telling just a couple specific stories each chapter that drive the overall plot forward.  At the time I am writing this, six chapters have come out and each chapter has a companion page at their website crimetownshow.com where they put up pictures of the people involved and occasionally archived documents and videos.  It really is quite amazing how well they paint each of stories and it has become a must listen for me as soon as it is released.  If you are at all interested in true crime or even just someone who finds the style of documentaries to be interesting this podcast is completely worth checking out.  I look forward to the rest of the season and any/all of the future seasons to come.

Book Review: Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes

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dark-sons-by-nikki-grimes
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Title: Dark Sons
Author: Nikki Grimes
Publisher: Blink
Paperback: 208 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A guy whose father ripped his heart out too.

You and me, Ishmael, we’re brothers, two dark sons.

Destroyed, lost, and isolated, the perspectives of two teenage boys—modern-day Sam, and biblical Ishmael—unite over millennia to illustrate the power of forgiveness.

 

 

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I’ll be honest and say I did not know what I was getting myself into when I picked up Dark Sons.  I knew I had read things by Nikki Grimes before (and am embarrassed to say I could not remember what those things were) and that it looked like kind of an interesting.  I was pleasantly surprised both by the format and content of the book.

One thing to know (and again something I should have but didn’t know before I read the book) is that it is a collection of poems that tell the story of two sons dealing with a changing relationship with their father.  The first is Ishmael and his relationship with his father Abraham (from Old Testament fame) and the second is a more modern distancing about a teenager named Sam.  Through the course of the book the similarities and differences of these two interpretations are brought to the forefront through alternating sections of poetic cycles.

As someone who grew up in a fairly religious household (and as a result when I stopped being particularly interested in faith for religious reasons and more for academic ones), I really enjoyed the Ishmael side of the book.  He has always been a fascinating character to me and the role he plays is one that I feel like is ripe for a lot of different interpretations.  I felt like this interpretation of what his emotions and feelings must have been were incredibly well done and were interesting when compared to the Christian response in terms of how Sam was able to deal with his father’s new family in the modern part of the book.  It set up an interesting parallel of having God take care of these people while still not making a great life for them or seeming to always have their best interest at heart.

I thought the portrayal of Sam was also incredibly well done.  It felt incredibly real and is one of the few reasons I would potentially recommend this book to a student.  The way that the character processes emotions and was able to separate his feelings for his father and his new wife from those for his step-brother was quite interesting and something I feel like most people have had to do even if not with this particular situation.

I do not think I would ever assign this book primarily because I think that religion is a bit too explicitly central.  That said, I have several students that I am already thinking of who could relate and benefit immensely from this.  I also think that there are students like me who might see the comparison of Ishmael as almost a “patron saint” of someone abandoned by their father to be compelling even without the religious overtones it produces.  Overall, it was a good, quick read and the format was something different that I found quite refreshing (although, this should not be super surprising coming from me since my favorite format for books are short story cycles).

New Year’s Resolutions – 2017

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Making resolutions at the start of each year used to be almost like a religious task for me. We were never very religious in my family, but I took resolutions seriously — working for weeks to make the perfect goals that would help me be a better, happier person. Unfortunately, that activity dropped off once I went into grad school. I was already working so hard on my education and my degree that I couldn’t imagine expending even more effort into making personal goals aside from that. However, even after graduating and earning my degree, I didn’t pick up the habit again.

With all that happened in 2016, and after seeing all the hate and vitriol spewing into the internet from people’s keyboards, I think a lot of us need to make goals to help ourselves be happier, kinder people. True, many of us did not call each other terrible names or dehumanize each other, but with what we’re already dealing with, even voicing one unkind thought is voicing one too many, especially when it’s at the sacrifice of legitimizing someone else’s concerns and humanity. Life is hard and I don’t see why any of us think it’s okay to make it even harder for each other.

So, here’s to a better, kinder, more thoughtful year, and here are my resolutions:

  1. When compelled to say something unkind, take 10 seconds to breathe and come up with a more positive, productive response that will allow us to both treat each other with respect, as if we were fellow humans.
  2. Be more vocal — about my appreciation and gratitude for others and reach out to friends and family at least every other week; stand up against hate.
  3. Do something for a charity or good cause at least once a month, whether it’s donating, volunteering, or even something as simple as talking about a cause that’s doing good work.
  4. Laugh AT LEAST once a day.
  5. Be active for 20 minutes at least 3 times a week.
  6. Post more regularly on the blog this year.

I think these are very simple, and I’m working on the things I think I have the most trouble with. I’m looking forward to being more mindful about how I treat myself and others, and I can’t wait to make this year a great one.

Happy 2017!