March 7, 2014

Review: Fracture Me

Fracture Me
by Tahereh Mafi

Release Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5 

Series: Book 2.5 in the Shatter Me series

In this electrifying sixty-page companion novella to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, discover the fate of the Omega Point rebels as they go up against The Reestablishment. Set during and soon after the final moments of Unravel Me, Fracture Me is told from Adam's perspective.

As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam's focus couldn't be further from the upcoming battle. He's reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend's life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James's safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It's time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam's newly discovered half brother, won't be that easy. The Reestablishment can't tolerate a rebellion, and they'll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.  

Cover: I find it neat that the lashes are made of feathers, which seem to be a symbol for Adam, a bird that is. The eye looks like it's crying by the dropping of a couple of feathers.

Writing: (2/5) Adam's point of view is very different from Juliette and Warner's because it's coarse and he curses a lot, which I hated. It's very obvious to me that the author is trying to change your feelings for Adam through this and I didn't like that. 

Setting: (2/5) The setting seems to be a very loose backdrop that's not touched on much.

Plot: (1/5) The novella starts from near the end of Unravel Me (chapter Sixty-Three), except from Adam's point of view. This novella is beyond pointless plot-wise, as novellas tend to be. Like Destroy Me, its sole purpose is changing your opinion of the narrator. While Destroy Me was meant to make Warner more sympathetic, Fracture Me's purpose was to make Adam less sympathetic. Also, Destroy Me clearly had more work put into it and is a story in its own right while Fracture Me seems like it was thrown together last minute.

Main Character: (2/5) I don't mind making characters more sympathetic or likable, but I absolutely hate it when a character is deconstructed to be more unlikable. And it's for the sole reason of making Warner seem less wrong and more of an attractive match for Juliette. I don't care who Juliette ends up with because I love Juliette and read the series for her. But if you have to resort to these kinds of methods, I think it's clear who Juliette should be with.

So this novella tells me that Adam would choose James over Juliette. So what? He's a 10-year-old child that he raised. Is that so bad? Juliette loves children too and would admire Adam's love for James. To pit family and love interests into a contest of who you would choose over the other is wrong.

Or is the author trying to say that it's OK if Adam doesn't get Juliette because he still has James?

But what I hate the most is that this battle for Juliette is done through these novellas and so out of Juliette's hands. It doesn't seem to be a battle for who's right for Juliette, it's chosen on who's more attractive to the author. I haven't read Ignite Me yet, but it seems obvious who Juliette will end up with. 

Also, I find it laughable that Adam's actions are kind but his thoughts aren't while Warner's actions are cruel but he means well!? 

Other Characters: (3/5) It was really interesting seeing Juliette from Adam's point of view. I liked seeing how she appeared on the outside to others, especially when she's lost in her head as she tends to be. I also really liked Adam's relationship with Kenji and James. The characters were slightly clouded though because Adam saw them in an unkind light.  

Other Comments: It's obvious that the books after the first were not planned. The two novellas are meant to manipulate you to change your opinions about Adam and Warner. Basically, their purpose is to contradict the events of Shatter Me. If this series was planned, it wouldn't be so disjointed and these novellas would be completely unnecessary. 

Overall: (10/25) This novella was all about deconstructing Adam and making him more of an unattractive match for Juliette and I really didn't appreciate that. 

March 6, 2014

Manga Review: Gangsta., Volume 1

Gangsta., Volume 1 
by Kohske

In the city of Ergastulum, a shady ville filled with made men and petty thieves, whores on the make and cops on the take, there are some deeds too dirty for even its jaded inhabitants to touch. Enter the “Handymen,” Nic and Worick, who take care of the jobs no one else will handle. Until the day when a cop they know on the force requests their help in taking down a new gang muscling in on the territory of a top Mafia family. It seems like business (and mayhem) as usual, but the Handymen are about to find that this job is a lot more than they bargained for.

My Review:

Story: (3/5) So far this volume was episodic, which was kind of surprising. I liked this better though as it was more interesting. I usually hate seinens as I find most of them to be far too dark and gritty. Gangsta. was lighter in that area but still pretty dark as it has to do with Mafia and gangs. So far I found it pretty unoriginal, but the episodic and the flashbacks to the main characters' pasts made it more interesting to read.

Main Character: (3/5) The two "Handymen" Nic and Worick take jobs that no one else is willing to take. My favourite thing about this manga definitely had to be Nic. Nic is a swordsmen that is "tagged" - incredibly feared fighters that wear specific dog tags. He's deaf and communicates through sign language, although he occasionally speaks. I really liked his character and found him to be really amusing and intriguing. If I end up continuing with this manga, it will be for him.

On the other hand, I really disliked his partner Worrick. He had this happy-go-lucky and annoying personality that really irritated me. I also didn't like his line of work, which I don't really want to spoil.

Other Characters: (1.5/5) The rest of the characters are made up of the people who inhabit the city, mostly criminals it seems. Alex is a prostitute who gets taken in by Nic and Worick and starts helping them with their jobs. Her personality is fine I guess, but I couldn't really get past how she was introduced as a prostitute. Then there was Chad, the local officer. He was fine and I liked his close relationship with Nic. Besides him and Nic though, I found the other characters to be too unlikable.    

Setting: (2/5) The manga is set in the city of Ergastulum. It seems to be a crime-ridden city and although I like city stories, I found this particular city to be too bleak and unoriginal. 

Artwork: (3.5/5) I liked the clean art, which is pretty rare for a seinen.

Overall: (13/25) I found Gangsta. to be too bleak and grim for my taste and completely unoriginal. Most of the characters were unlikable. The only thing I really liked was one of the main characters, Nic, who I found pretty original and intriguing. I probably won't be continuing with this series. I only recommend Gangsta. to those who don't mind reading a grim seinen.

March 5, 2014

Review: Cress

Cress 
by Marissa Meyer 

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Series: Book 3 in the Lunar Chronicles series

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.  

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.   

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.   

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

My Review:

Cover: This is probably my favourite cover so far. I really thought they were going to change her hair to red to fit the red theme. Glad they didn't. The ribbon was a great idea. The next book is obviously going to be an apple. I can't wait to see how they're going to design that one. 

Writing: (4/5) The writing is very light (despite being a science fiction) which suits this series. There's a lot of dialogue which helps move the story along because there's so many characters. I would say that the book is written fairly well, but I feel it has a lot to do with the original content. 

Setting: (5/5) I keep forgetting how fun and imaginative the setting in this series is. I love the mix of science fiction and, I feel, ancient. It really is a unique world. Cress being trapped in a satellite was a neat way to retell Rapunzel being trapped in her tower. Quite a bit of the book was set in Africa, specifically in the town of Farafra, which was refreshing shift from New Beijing and France. A couple of chapters also took place on Luna and I loved what I saw so far. The next book, Winter, will be set on Luna and I'm excited about that.

Plot: (5/5) Unlike Scarlet, which took me a while to get into Scarlet's point of view, I was instantly absorbed into Cress's story. None of the chapters were boring to read. The author intertwined everyone's stories extremely well, which seems to be the result of careful planning. Scarlet actually split up from Cinder, so we had three different main characters with three different plot lines going on.

Main Character: (2.5/5) 
Cinder: With each passing book, I keep seeing how incredibly flat Cinder is, especially when you compare her to Scarlet and Cress. Which is obviously a shame because the main story is Cinder's story, while the other three's stories - Scarlet, Cress, and Winter - are intertwined in hers. I really don't see any characterization with her at all.

Scarlet: Out of the three, Scarlet was in the book the least. She had a few chapters from her point of view, but they were incredibly brief. It wasn't really until the end that I felt like I actually saw her again, but with where that ended off - I'm curious to see what will happen to her next.

Cress: Cress is my favourite out of the three heroines. I really liked her innocent and shy character and it was incredibly fun reading her story. I'm quite curious to see what will happen to her by the end. 

Villain: (4/5) Although Levana made a few appearances, the main villain was Sybil (the one who locked up Cress in a satellite). I actually really liked Sybil's extreme loyalty to Levana. I always find these kind of characters incredibly interesting. 

Other Characters: (4/5) 
Thorne: This was a surprise to me, but I guess it was actually pretty obvious: Thorne ends up being Cress's love interest. I liked seeing him mature from his vain and self centered personality and I hope to see him develop more in the next book. 
Kai: Like Cinder, Kai is pretty flat. At this point I would say they're equally the two worst characters in the series.
Wolf: Wolf, Cress, and Iko are currently my favourite characters. Again, like the first book, I found Wolf to be incredibly endearing.  
Iko: Something interesting about Iko is that she has a different form in each book. It keeps her very cute seeing her mannerisms through each form. 
Dr. Erland: I liked seeing Dr. Erland and I liked that an adult was part of Cinder's teenage group. Because of this, I didn't like what happened to him at the end.
Jacin: A new character that, if you remember, made a brief appearance in Cinder. On that note, I really like how the author has mentioned and interwined these characters right from the first book. It makes the introduction of characters not unwelcome and feel like they always belonged. Jacin's personality was more cold in comparison to the rest of the cast and that was an interesting addition. 

Romance: (4/5) Kai and Cinder's romance was OK despite them being so flat. It helped that they were barley together in the book, but I hope they won't be unpleasant in Winter. Cress and Thorne were interesting and even funny because their personalities were so different. I found Scarlet and Wolf to be cute. 

Overall: (28.5/35) The only flaw was Cinder and Kai's flatness. Cress is my favourite out of the series so far! It was great right from the beginning. The intertwining of the point of views and stories was done wonderfully. Cress's character and story was my favourite out of the heroines.

March 4, 2014

Manga Review: Blood Lad, Volume 1

 Blood Lad, Volume 1 
by Yuuki Kodama

The vampire Staz is one of the most powerful district bosses in the demon world, fending off everyone who dares challenge him. But secretly, the fearsome Staz is obsessed with human culture, especially video games, manga, and everything that comes from Japan! When a Japanese girl wanders into the demon world, Staz can’t wait to meet the human and learn everything he can about her world. Unfortunately, before he’s able to ask her anything, the girl is killed by one of his would-be usurpers, leaving just her bare soul behind. Staz vows to help the girl restore her body and return to her former life—especially since it means taking a trip to the human world himself!

My Review:

Story: (4/5) Staz is the vampire boss of a district in the demon world. Unknown to most, Staz has no interest in drinking blood and is obsessed with Japanese stuff. He meets a Japanese girl that is soon killed and turned into a ghost. He decides to turn her back into a human and the story follows this. I wouldn't say the story was original, but it was very fun and comedic. It especially got really interesting near the end as we start learning about Staz's past and meeting his family.

Main Character: (3.5/5) Staz was my favourite character in the manga. He was aloof yet humorous. Although his obsession with Japanese things was funny, I did feel it was a little out there. Staz had a strange fascination with Fuyumi (the Japanese girl) when she was a human that seemed like infatuation. When she turns into a ghost though, he doesn't have much interest in her. It seems to me that he's not really in love with her, he just has blood lust. I'm curious to see how that will play out as the story continues. I'm also interested to learn more about his past and family.

Other Characters: (2/5) 
Fuyumi: I hate Fuyumi. She's walking fan service. She's an airhead and submissive just so she can add more fan service to the manga.
Mamejirou: A ferret-like demon with three eyes. It can talk and has the ability to see the future. I didn't really like or hate him. I just hope he doesn't become the manga's mascot or something.
Saty: A demon girl with three eyes. Like Mamejirou, she's also clairvoyant. She doesn't talk much (at all actually) and I liked that just fine. I hate loud and obnoxious characters that seem to litter manga.
Dek: Staz's right hand man. He has the most common sense.
Yoshida: A mimic who takes Staz's place while he's away. He looks up to Staz. It was funny seeing him pretend to be Staz and I hope we go back to him and Dek more in the next volume.
Hydra-Bell: A treasure-hunter demon with the ability to teleport. I honestly found her presence completely pointless.
Wolf: A friend and rival of Staz. I didn't really like that they added a werewolf main character just because there was a vampire in the manga.
Liz: Staz's younger sister who despises him. I'm probably the most curious to see how things will turn out between them, especially after the ending of this volume.

Setting: (2/5) The setting was just a mash-up of a bunch of overused demon concepts in manga. I know this is a parody, but I wish the manga was more original.

Artwork: (2.5/5) The artwork is OK, but although I like Staz's design (and his family), I really don't like everybody else's. They're possibly the most horrible designs I've ever seen. 

Other Comments: This volume is actually an omnibus (2 volumes in 1 of the Japanese edition). It's 360 pages long.

Overall: (14/25) The side characters were obnoxious and I hated the female lead. She seems to be there purely for fan service. I also didn't like how unoriginal the manga was and I've never liked parodies in general. I did like the main character though and the story was a fun read. It especially got interesting near the end. I'll probably be continuing with this series. 

March 3, 2014

February 2014 Haul


Bought:
I'm currently reading these two. Ignite Me was my most-anticipated title of 2014, so I'm nervous about how this series will end.
I read Cress and really enjoyed it! It was as good as Scarlet, if not better. My review will be posted next week.
I'll probably be starting this series after I finish the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce.
I've been meaning to read this for such a long time. Now that I finally have a copy, I'll be picking it up soon.
Now that I have these two and Abhorsen (the last book in this trilogy), I can read this series in a row! I've been looking for an older fantasy series to read and this sounds really good.
This is a book of silly rhymes for children. It's very cute and Winnie-the-Pooh makes his first appearance in this book.
I really loved the cartoon series growing up as a kid and I'm excited to read the book which the TV series was based off:

Trade:
This series sounds pretty interesting, curious to see how it turns out.


Review:
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Jeff Dolven (Editor), and Kevin Stanton (Illustrator) (Thanks to Sterling Publishing)
I adore this edition of Hamlet! It has a bunch of hand-cut paper art, which I absolutely love:


I'm really excited to start this. Everyone seems to love it and I've been meaning to read more contemporary. It's also set in 1986 which is neat and I guess doesn't make it exactly a contemporary.
  • Stormbringer by Shannon Delany (Thanks to St. Martin's Griffin)
I haven't read the first book, Weather Witch, yet. If you've read Weather Witch, what did you think?
I've already read Strange Sweet Song and really enjoyed it. I loved the idea of music in this book, which the whole book was about. Review will be up closer to the release date.
This is a collection of short stories by Kaoru Mori. I've yet to read it but I'll be picking it up soon.
This is probably the best art I've seen in manga to date. This manga series has gorgeous and extremely detailed artwork. Combined with the Turkic culture and heartwarming slice of life story, this is a manga series I highly recommend to everyone. I've already reviewed all four volumes. You can read my review of the first volume here.

I've already read Blood Lad, it was a very fun read. My review will up tomorrow.
I'm curious to see what will happen next after the events of the first volume (my review).
This is the last volume in the Soulless manga series. Excited to see how it ends.
Not sure what this one will be like. The art is pretty bad, but hopefully the plot will be good.
The latest volume in the Pandora Hearts manga series. I'll be starting this series soon.

eBooks
  • Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen (Thanks to Strange Chemistry and NetGalley)
The only fantasy Strange Chemistry title I've read so far was The Assassin's Curse (my review) and its sequel. I really loved that duology and I'm curious to see how Strange Chemistry's second fantasy will turn out. 

Freebie:
Jim Corbett is a hunter turned conservationist. This is his first and most well known book where he tells his stories about his experiences hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. I already read the first story and really enjoyed it. It was a different read for me and Jim Corbett details his experiences very well. They end up being very much like stories. You can get a copy free on Goodreads here.

February 25, 2014

Review: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
by Tamora Pierce

Release Date: April 19, 2011 (first published 1986)
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Series: Book 3 in the Song of the Lioness Quartet

The beloved Song of the Lioness series has enthralled fans for decades, and now an even larger audience can revel in these adventure-filled fantasies, which are in trade paperback for the first time and feature newly designed covers.

In Alanna, Alanna of Trebond disguises herself as a boy and makes her way to the castle of King Roald to being training as a page. As she masters the skills necessary for battle, Alanna must also learn to control her heart. This challenge is even greater in In the Hand of the Goddess, where Alanna becomes a squire to Prince Jonathan, who knows the secret of her identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince’s life, it will take all of Alanna’s skill, strength, and magical power to protect him. Her efforts result in knighthood, and in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna seeks adventure in a vast desert of Tortall, where, after a life-threatening duel, she becomes the first female shaman to an ancient tribe. Her warrior wisdom is put to the test in Lioness Rampant, because Tortall is in grave danger that only Alanna can prevent. As she takes on her archenemy, Alanna discovers she has a future worthy of her mythic past—both as a warrior and a woman.

My Review:

Cover: This edition is the one I own and definitely my least favourite out of all the covers. I prefer illustrations, especially when it comes to fantasy. Their clothes are very off, especially Alanna's. Her shirt looks beyond modern and the hair colour is horrible. Plus the models look so obviously posed.

Writing: (2.5/5) The writing isn't top-notch and pretty simple. It's Tamora Pierce's first series and written for a younger audience and it didn't really bother me at all when I read the book.

Setting: (3/5) Although I found the setting of Tortall to be pretty unoriginal and bland, I liked the setting of the Bazhir desert. More specifically, I liked the Bloody Hawk tribe that adopts Alanna. The tribe, again, were very unoriginal, but they were different than your standard medieval, plus I liked the close-nit feel of it.  

Plot: (5/5) I read the book in one sitting. It helps that the book was on the short side and the simple writing was easy to get into, but the story was really good too. I really enjoyed Alanna being adopted into the Bloody Hawk tribe and the time she spent with them. It was incredibly fun to read and just as enjoyable as the rest of the series so far.

Main Character: (4/5) Although Alanna isn't necessarily the most original character (a stubborn and fiery yet courageous girl), she is very genuine. It probably has something to do with the series being older and seeing Alanna grow up from a 10 year old in the first book. There aren't huge time leaps in this book like the previous ones, but that was just fine. I enjoyed seeing Alanna's character develop: she begins to accept her magic and grows more mature. She takes on a couple of apprentices when she becomes a shaman. We see a different side of Alanna when she acts as a mentor and even though there wasn't huge time leaps, she still did grow up. 

Villain: (2/5) The villain was a little irritating. He was a tribesman with a backwards way of thinking. He's very sexist and hates foreigners. He had no logic to speak of and it's impossible to change his opinion. I hated this and I found him stereotypical and even slightly racist, considering he was supposed to be based after Arabs. Plus it's incredibly easy for the main character to look good next to a villain like this, which is incredibly cheap and lazy. I was happy that the matter with him was dealt with pretty quickly though, and the author didn't stick with him for too long.

Other Characters: (4/5) 
Jonathan: Jonathan changed a lot when Alanna sees him again. I liked that, but at the same time, I didn't. His change made his character more interesting but he became worse. I also didn't like where he and Alanna left off at the end. 
Kara and Kourrem: Alanna's two female apprentices. I liked their relationship with Alanna and that Alanna is finally around other females. Actually, she builds a good relationship with quite a few women from the tribe.
Ishak: Alanna's only male apprentice. I didn't like the fate of this character. It felt like the author was trying to say "girls are better than boys". There was constant comparisons between him and the girls and I felt like his flaws all led back to him being a boy.
Myles: I liked his relationship with Alanna and I enjoyed seeing him appear in this book again. I didn't expect to see him again quite so soon. 
George: After the ending, I'm curious to see what will happen with George in the last book.

Overall: (20.5/30) The only real flaw was the villain, but the story was a very light and fun read. I finished it in one sitting. I enjoyed seeing Alanna continue to mature as a person and I'm excited to see how this series ends with the final book!

February 23, 2014

Manga Review: A Bride's Story, Volume 4

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road turns westward, following Englishman Mr. Smith on his long journey to Ankara. Passing through a fishing village along the Aral Sea, Smith and his guide encounter a pair of spirited young girls named Laila and Leily—identical twins who are fishing not for sturgeon, but for husbands! Despite their efforts to find two wealthy, healthy, and handsome brothers to wed, Laila and Leily’s plans generally only land them in loads of trouble!

Plot: Once again, it seems like Smith got delayed from his journey to Ankara, this time at a fishing village. This volume, like the previous one, tells the "Bride Story" of two mischievous twins, Laila ans Leily. The first chapter focuses on the Halgal family and a prospect suitor for Pariya (which was pretty amusing and I hope we see more of). The other four chapters focus on Laila and Leily.

At this point, it's obvious that this series has different bride stories that are interconnected in the manga. Laila and Leily's story was quite different than the previous volumes because it was more comical. The twins' antics of trying to catch themselves a husband always seemed to go wrong.

The previous volumes were more serious (especially volume three), but this volume was more lighthearted and humorous. Like the previous volume, this one had a different feel and I praise Kaoru Mori for that once more.

There was also a side story titled "At the Horse Market" where Yusuf and his son, Torkan, go buy Torkan's first horse. I really do enjoy the side stories and bonus content and I'm glad we saw more of Yusuf and his children.

Main Character: Again, Amir didn't appear much in this volume. This manga has a lot of interconnected bride's stories, but I feel like it will always goes back to Amir and that she's the heroine of the series.

Other Characters:
Smith: Smith getting sidetracked in this village was hilarious. In the last volume, Ali told him to disguise himself as a doctor and he gets stuck in the fishing village as hordes of people come to be cured.
Azel: The first chapter of the manga focuses on the Halgal clan and their current predicament. We glimpse more of Azel's feelings about his clan in this volume. I'm curious to see more of him as the series progresses.

New Characters:
Laila and Leily: They were definitely my least favourite out of the brides so far. They were extremely selfish, pushy, and obnoxious. They didn't seem to care about anyone but themselves and I can't think of one good point they had. Amir and Talas were far more likable (Talas being my favourite). Despite that, their story was amusing and I liked that it was different considering their personality.

I also liked that everyone thought they had the same personality and they themselves (on some level) believe that. It was different, because twins that are identical in personality are usually never stated to be or thought to be different within the series, or they're complete opposites - both of which I find very annoying.

Another point I liked was that they came from a poor family and that lifestyle was shown. Also, this is the first volume where we actually get to see the bride price and how they're set up, so that was interesting to learn about.

Sarmaan and Farsami: Laila and Leily's childhood friends. They're more responsible and reserved than the twins. Weirdly enough, despite them not being twins, they shared a similar personality.

Art: The art is beautiful, as always. The people of the fishing village had slightly different clothes, but that makes sense, since they spend so much time in the water and fishing.

Overall: (5/5) This volume was more comical than the previous volume and told the story of two different brides - twins, Laila and Leily. If you enjoyed the previous volume's different bride story, then you'll probably enjoy this one. It was more humorous and less serious though.