I think the parrying is fine personally once you get used to it. I do agree on the second point though, I really like the quests on the whole and it does add something extra to the game, but it can be a pain if they are located in an awkward place, you can relocate them but have to be a fair distance away, the other annoying thing with quests is some are time of day specific.
I'm finding a lot of parries fail because the game is catching up to the several moves I've apparently got queued up.
There are a couple of monsters where it's obvious when they're going to attack, but some seem to have no indicators at all apart from that general warning of the red icon.
I relocated the first quest, because it was at someone's farmhouse and needed me to cross their obviously private field to reach... and the damn game instead moved the objective to the middle of the ******* M3!
Other than that, it's not a bad game so far.
What's in these gifts, anyway? Not more ingredients? My inventory is perpetualy full, but I can't craft enough at my level to use much of it up.
Yeah I generally stop swinging once the icon appears so I've got time to stop and parry, as otherwise you do tend to get stuck still attacking, especially if doing fast attacks. Its definitely a lot easier to see if some are attacking than others, it can be tricky with some with their fast attacks but I think you can spot most of them eventually.
The gifts are pretty pointless tbh, mainly ingredients and stuff as you say. It wasn't something I'd bothered about but they were putting different items in over Christmas so that was the only reason I was really looking to be able to send/receive some. I think some might contains oils which would be useful, though I've only had a couple of standard gift boxes so not entirely sure.
Edit - I did just receive a gift with a potion, so not entirely useless.