Book Review Round-Up: The Really Lazy Edition

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I do a few short reviews of some books I’ve read.

Today…it’s almost New Year’s, and I’ve just realized I never got around to writing some reviews for a few books I’ve read last month.  I really wanted to at least mention them and give a rating for them, just so I can sort of wrap things up for the year.  I definitely want to do more of a review for a few of them (all but the last one), so maybe I’ll do that in the New Year.

Book #1: The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa

My Rating: 5 stars.  It’s such a good end to the Call Of The Forgotten series, and the overall Iron Fey universe. For as much as I loved it, I kind of don’t remember reading it, but I did because I have it on goodreads! November was sort of a blur, though, and maybe this year, reading during NaNo and a totally bizarre reading slump was a really bad idea.  I need to re-read it.

Book #2: Winter by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 5 stars.  This is another one I absolutely loved, and I am so sad that this series is over!  It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sad over a series ending.  It was completely awesome and a perfect way to end the Lunar Chronicles, and next year, I am going to re-read it and give it a proper review, because it really deserves it!

Book #3: Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 4 stars.  I don’t remember much, but I did like seeing how it connected to the Parasol Protectorate, and I wish we got a little more of that. And for some reason, I think I was surprised that this was the last one, because I vaguely remember being not super into it.  Add this to the list of books that I need to re-read next year.

Book #4: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

My Rating: 1 star.  This one, I wanted to wait until I was less angry to review it.  I am SO disappointed in it, especially after really liking Lies We Tell Ourselves.  WWLB made me feel MORE confused about genderqueer than I was when I started the book- I finished the book with the impression that genderqueer and transgender are basically interchangeable and that if you identify as genderqueer, you’re confused about your gender identity.  The closest comparison I can make is how some people assume that if you’re bi, you haven’t made up your mind about who you’re attracted to.

Toni is also a very priveleged, entitled, self-absorbed, shallow preachy person.  I really felt like Toni was every negative stereotype you could think of for someone who identifies as a feminist.  At one point, Toni talks about how her roommates don’t get to talk about feminism until they stop wearing bikinis.  People are not less feminist than you because they wear bikinis or like fashion and beauty.

Toni refuses to acknowledge people’s preferred gender pronouns because Toni doesn’t like using gendered pronouns.  Some of her friends struggled so much to be acknowledged by gendered pronouns, and Toni pretty much ignores it because Toni doesn’t like gendered pronouns.  Even when they tell her why it’s hurtful and not okay, she still refuses to acknowledge what they want because she doesn’t like it.  It’s okay if you don’t use them for yourself, but respect what other people want.  And how Toni refused to talk to Gretchen about what was going on, but still told Gretchen that she didn’t understand what was going on in Toni’s life.  How is Gretchen supposed to do that if you don’t talk to her?  I felt so bad for Gretchen, who tried so hard to understand.

I also felt like anytime Toni talked, it was a massive info-dump… and in a bad way.  It felt like I was reading an essay or journal article anytime Toni talked.  I don’t feel like I know enough to talk about genderqueer and Talley’s portrayal of it, but I do agree with some other reviews I’ve seen that mention how genderqueer is seen as a transitional period rather than an actual identity.  I definitely went on more than I thought, but I have so many issues with the book because I feel like it reinforces so many negative stereotypes.

That’s all for today, have an awesome Monday!

Book Review Round-Up: The Silkworm, Poison And Need

Book Review Round-Up is an ocassional feature where I do short reviews of some of the books I’ve read recently.

The Silkworm CoverBook #1: The Silkworm by Robert Gilbraith, narrated by Robert Glenister

Published June 2014 by Hachette Audio/Length: 17 hours, 22 minutes

Where I Got It: I checked out the audio book from the library

Series: Cormoran Strike #2

Genre: Adult Mystery

What It’s About: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I mean, it is J.K. Rowling, and I’m not at all surprised that she writes mysteries so well.  I definitely wanted to spend more time in the car listening, because I couldn’t wait to see who was behind Quine’s disappearance and eventual death.  Thankfully, I was able to jump right in without having read The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I liked it enough that I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

I did like it as an audio book (except it was such a long audio book that I really needed a break from audio books), and while Glenister is a great voice for Strike, I don’t know that I’d seek him out as a narrator.  Still, if I started listening to a book he narrated, I’d still listen to the book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it’s a really good mystery!

Poison CoverBook #2: Poison by Lan Chan (An Advanced Reader Copy)

Published September 2015 by Smashwords/287 pages

Where I Got It: I received Poison as a digital advanced copy from netgalley.com, which hasn’t influenced my review in any way.

Series: Wind Dancer #1

Genre: YA Dystopic/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: Since the night her mother was murdered, sixteen-year-old Rory Gray has known one truth: There are no good Seeders.

In post-apocalyptic Australia, the scientists known as Seeders have built a Citadel surrounded by food-producing regions and populated with refugees from the wars and famine. To maintain their control, the Seeders poisoned the land and outlawed the saving of seeds.

It’s been six years since Rory graced the Seeders’ circus stage as the Wind Dancer and still the scars on her body haven’t healed. Even worse are the scars on her heart, left by a Seeder boy who promised to protect her.

Now the Seeders are withholding supplies from Rory’s region for perceived disobedience. Utilizing the Wanderer knowledge she received from her mother, Rory must journey to the Citadel through uninhabitable terrain to plead for mercy.

However, the Citadel isn’t as Rory remembered. The chief plant geneticist is dying and rumors fly that the store of viable seed is dwindling. The Seeders are desperate to find a seed bank they believe Rory can locate, and they will stop at nothing to get it.

To defy the Seeders means death. But Rory has been close to death before–this time she’s learned the value of poison.

What I Thought: Poison is really different than a lot of the post-apocalyptic books I’ve read.  I love the idea of a seed bank being controlled, and it’s a future that I (sadly) could see happening.  It’s a world so different than the one we know, and yet it’s one I can picture so clearly.  Post-apocalyptic Australia is also the perfect setting for this book, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next book to see what happens next.  It’s also refreshing to see a post-apocalyptic book set in a different country- I can see Australia being a popular choice, for some reason, but it works so well as a setting.  It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you’re a little tired of dystopic/post-apocalyptic books.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s different and refreshing than some of the other books in the genre, and worth checking out!

Need CoverBook #3: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Published November 2015 by Harcourt Brace And Company/352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller

What It’s About: “No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need…regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

What I Thought: Need definitely wasn’t the book I thought it would be.  It seemed like it would be a lot more sinister than it really was.  Part of the problem is that there are too many different perspectives, and they take away from the main person narrating.  Also: what simple pranks is the summary referring to?  I felt like it jumped over simple pranks, right towards malicious crimes.

A social network that will give students whatever they want…as long as they do what Need tells them to do…it has the potential to be a lot more creepy and dark than what we saw in the book.  Clearly, the students didn’t care what they had to do in order to get what they want.  You’d hope that at least some of them would be smarter than to trust Need, but all of the characters were so shallow and flat that people died and I didn’t care. There were enough characters that I couldn’t tell them apart, and even though there’s a reason for a few different narrators, it also means it was harder to care about what actually happened to any of them.

The idea behind Need was interesting but again, I didn’t care when it was actually revealed.  It’s over-the-top and not in a good way.  It read more like cheesy thriller than chilling.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Interesting premise,  but it was a little over-the-top.

Book Review Round-Up Fledgling And The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

Fledgling CoverBook #1: Fledging by Octavia Butler, narrated by Tracey Leigh

Published August 2008 by Blackstone Audio|12 hours, 17 minutes

Where I Got It: I got the audio from audible.com

Series: None

Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

What It’s About: Fledgling, the late Octavia E. Butler’s final novel, is the story of a young amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must learn who wanted to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself.

Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

What I Thought: Why did it take me so long to read Octavia Butler?  I’ve had Fledgling for a while, and figured it was a good time to actually read it.  I really liked it, and I think I’m going to read Kindred sometime soon. Butler certainly created an interesting vampire myth with Fledging, and the humans needed the Ina (Butler’s vampires) as much as the Ina needed their humans.  I thought Shori was an interesting (but also compelling) character- she’s human and Ina, attacked, and left with no memories.  I can’t imagine what she had to go through and what it was like for her to remember nothing.

Leigh was a wonderful narrator for the book- in my mind, she was Shori.  While I liked her as a narrator, I’m not sure if I like her enough to seek out anything else she’s narrated.  But if I happen to come across a book she’s narrated, I wouldn’t hesitate to listen.  I sort of wish I had reviewed Fledging right after finishing it, because I’ve forgotten a lot of what I wanted to say between when I finished the book and now.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and Butler really drew me into Shori’s world.

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks CoverBook #2: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Published February 2010 by Crown|370 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Medical/Science

What It’s About: Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

What I Thought: I am so glad I read this book!  I don’t know where to start with Immortal Life, because there were a lot of interesting things in it.

I think what made her story so fascinating was that they took her cells without asking.  I mean, it’s not surprising, given the time period (not that I’m trying to assume anything, because assuming isn’t good) but it’s hard to believe. Her own family has trouble getting good healthcare, and I really felt for them, especially her one daughter, who wanted to know more about her mother.

Immortal Life is really two stories- HeLa cells, which are very really important in the science world.  A lot of advancements made seem to be based on the cells they took from Lacks.  The other story is of Lacks herself (only a little) but it focuses more on her family and how what happened to Lacks had such a huge effect on them.

Not only that, but I was horrified by how Lacks name was attached to the cells, and that her name was attached to her medical records…and that they just randomly handed it off to people.  I work in medical records for my day job, and I kept having to remind myself that this was way before HIPAA and that there weren’t federal privacy laws.  At least some states had them, but unfortunately, Maryland wasn’t one of those states.  That has since changed, but I was so taken aback by that.  And the fact that they didn’t even have the right name!

I can’t help but wonder so many things.  Like, how would things have been different if they did get informed consent. Was her race or socioeconomic status a factor?

And she is definitely a real person, which the researchers seemed to forget.  It did seem like they saw her as just cells, and it also felt a little bit like that with her family too.  I don’t blame her family at all for wanting their mother to be recognized for her huge contribution to science.  It’s such a balanced look, and you see so many different pieces of the story.

It’s definitely a non-linear story, and Skloot herself does appear in the book.  But it’s only when it’s absolutely necessary, and I can’t imagine the story being told in a linear way.

I feel like it’s so hard to do this book justice, but it’s such an amazing look at the ethics of research and consent and trying to find the truth.

My Rating: 5 stars.  It’s an awesome book, and if you haven’t read it, you really need to.

Book Review Round-Up: Vampire Knight, Volumes 2-5, by Matsuri Hino

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I talk about several books in one post.

Today is Volumes 2, 3, 4, & 5 of Vampire Knight.  I thought it might be good to review them together!  I did go through them pretty fast, and they all started to blend together, so I had a little bit of trouble remembering which thing happened in which volume!  All four volumes are by Matsuri Hino.

Vampire Knight Vol 2 CoverVampire Knight, Volume 2

Published May 2007 by Viz Media|186 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 2

What It’s About: Yuki and Zero go into town to do some shopping for the Headmaster, and they are attacked by a fiendish vampire called a “Level E.”  Two Night Class students, Takuma Ichijo and Senri Shiki, come just on time and slay it, and invite Yuki and Zero to their dormitory at midnight to find out why they killed one of their own kind…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I am amazed at how she can tell a story with so little words and such detailed artwork!  Yuki and Zero really stood out to me, and I love how kind Yuki is, even knowing that Zero is coming to terms with being a vampire.  I liked seeing more of the vampires in this world, and I feel like as we get further into the series, we’re going to learn a lot more about the vampires!  I’m really curious about whether Yuki offering her blood to Zero will come again, and what sort of effect it will have on things.  Zero is definitely brooding in this book, which I totally understand but I also wonder if he’ll start to move on at some point.  And his former vampire hunter teacher is around, so I can’t wait to see where that goes.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story and some of the things that come up, because I’m really curious about where things are headed.

Vampire Knight Vol 3 CoverManga #2: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

Published October 2007 by Viz Media|196 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

What It’s About: Kaname, the pureblood vampire, has kept to his room since learning of Yuki and Zero’s forbidden act. However, the arrival of Ichijo’s grandfather brings the entire Night Class together to greet one of the oldest vampires on the senate. Ichijo’s grandfather says he’s there merely to visit his grandson, but he’s out for Kaname’s blood.

What I Thought: I really liked Volume 3!  We learn more about the characters, especially Yuki, and I really liked the flashbacks!  Kaname, Zero and Yuki are all very connected.  And the new transfer student, Maria…there is more to her, and I’m curious about where her story is headed.  It seems a little random, a new transfer student but I feel like there’s a purpose behind it.  New students don’t randomly show up for no reason.  We are getting deeper into this world and how things outside the school are affecting things inside the school.  And the concept of the Senate is introduced in volume 3.  I’m wondering how much of a presence they’ll have in future volumes.  I really liked the art, and both art and story are getting better with each volume.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I like that 3 volumes in, we are learning so much more about this world.  I can’t wait to see where things go.

Vampire Knight Vol 4 CoverManga #3: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

Published April 2008 by Viz Media|197 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

What It’s About: Zero warns Yuki to stay away from Maria Kurenai, the new Night Class transfer student, although he won’t tell Yuki why. Kaname is also wary, and he sends Ichijo to watch Maria so she doesn’t start trouble. Who is this girl, and why does she have the entire Night Class on edge?

What I Thought: This is the book where we learn what’s really going on with Maria!  I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, because I feel like I should have.  There’s the deal between Yuki and Maria and Kaname is pretty awesome.  And I feel for Zero, even though he still has a lot he needs to work on.  And he’s pretty sulky too.  But I still love him, and I still feel for him.  I also love the side bars she has throughout the book (and the ones in volumes 2 and 3 are equally as awesome).

I am having trouble keeping the characters who aren’t Yuki, Zero and Kaname apart, but hopefully as the series goes on, I’ll be able to tell them apart!  I really want to learn more about the Purebloods and their powers.  I feel like it’s going to come up again in the series.

My Rating: 4 stars.  The story is really starting to get interesting, and the artwork is getting better and better!

Vampire Knight Vol 5 CoverManga #4: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

Published September 2008 by Viz Media|195 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

What It’s About: Zero is suspected of killing Shizuka Hio, the pureblood vampire who murdered his family. Incensed, the vampire senate sends assassins to Cross Academy to execute him. Will the Night Class intervene, or will Kaname let Zero take the fall?

What I Thought: I am hooked on this series!  I have been since the first volume but this volume is really good!  We learn why Shizuka did what she did.  I tried to dislike her but I had a really hard time doing that- in fact, the opposite happened, and I felt a little bad for her.  Even though Shizuka has died, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of her in flashbacks.  Things don’t look good for Zero, but Kaname shows that he’s pretty awesome by defying the Senate and protecting the school and Zero.  We also meet a certain someone, and I’m wondering if that certain someone is going to show up again.  I feel like we will, and I can’t wait to see how that will go.  There really is a lot to Kaname, and I want to know more more about him.  I’m sure more will be revealed about him in the continuing volumes, so I’ll just have to read to find out!

My Rating: 4 stars.  As usual, the artwork and story is getting better with each volume, and we learn more about this world the further we get into the series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

ARC Book Review Round-Up: The Secrets Of Yashire and A Thousand Nights

Book Review Round-Up is a very random feature where I talk about several of the books I’ve read.

Today is an advanced reader copy edition of the book review round-up!  In the interest of full disclosure, I received both books as an electronic advanced reader copy (e-ARC) from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

PrintBook #1: The Secrets Of Yashire by Diamante Lavendar

Published August 26 2015 by Smashwords|157 pages

Series: None as of now, but it seems like there will be a second book

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: The Secrets of Yashire: Emerging From the Shadows is a young adult fantasy adventure that occurs within the framework of a young girl’s subconscious mind. The main character, Brianna, finds herself thrown into a world called Yashire where she is forced to deal with circumstances that are threatening Yashire’s existence. Against her will, she is sent on a journey to restore unconditional love back to the land while also contending with the evil force in the land, Zolan.

Brianna is sent on her mission by Libban, Keeper of the Land. Along the way, Brianna travels with the mystical tiger, Angelos; a huge, whitish-tan tiger with thick black stripes who sings only the purest songs of love, and the wondrous little one-eyed bird named Abiba. During the journey, Brianna is also preparing to meet her soulmate—the one she longs to be with and the one who will bring complete healing back into her life.

Together they travel through fantastic lands filled with magical creatures that could only exist in the wildest of imaginations. Through her treacherous brushes with danger and heartwarming experiences of love and acceptance, Brianna discovers many things. It is here, amidst the powers and phantasms of the mind that Brianna receives life lessons and virtues to help her. Will one of her greatest triumphs be achieved as she learns to believe in herself? For only then can she truly see all of the wondrous things that life has to offer.

What I Thought: When I saw The Secrets Of Yashire on netgalley, I was really intrigued with it.  I really like the overall premise of the book, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

Certain things were repetitive.  There were several times where you’d read something, and a paragraph or two later, you’d see the same thing almost verbatim.

It does move at a really slow pace, and sometimes I wished that there was some action in it, because it seemed to drag on.  There was something weird about how she reacted to everything- sometimes she seemed disinterested and other times everything was awesome.  I think she was 16 or 17 and it’s labeled as YA , but she seemed a lot younger than she was supposed to do, and The Secrets Of Yashire would be better suited for a middle grade audience, I think.

I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad, but I do think it could use some work.  Something about it reminded me of one of my NaNoWrimo drafts.  I am hesitant to say it’s bad, because I do think it has a lot of potential.  A story told in the subconscious of a girl is such a cool idea, and the world seems a little bit different.  I liked that patience and perseverance are really important, but everything as a whole didn’t come together for me.

My Rating: 1 star.  I didn’t like The Secrets Of Yashire, and it’s not my thing, but if experimental fantasy is your thing, this might be the book for you.

A Thousand Nights CoverBook #2: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Published October 6 2015 by Disney Hyperion|306 pages

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

What I Thought: I was really excited about A Thousand Nights, and it was one of the books I was looking forward to reading this year.  I ended up not liking it, and I feel weird about that because it seemed like a cool book.

So, I have no idea what the main character’s name is.  I don’t think we learn it at any point in the book, and if we do, it clearly didn’t make an impression.  Really, she could have been anyone, because I feel like we learned nothing about her.  The only character name I can actually remember is Lo-Melkhiin…I think he might be the only character who actually has a name because everyone is named in relation to the MC.  Her sister  is referred to as her sister, Lo-Melkhiin’s mom is named Lo-Melkhiin’s mother, and so on.  It’s hard to remember anyone when they have no names and nothing else to distinguish them from all of the other characters.

It seemed like there would be more romance, at least from the summary, so I was surprised that there wasn’t really any romance there.  I did like that the MC had growing power, leading her to be the only one who can defeat the king. I do wish the magic between them was explained more because it seemed really random.  There does seem to be a lot of folklore, and from what I’ve heard, it’s based on 1001 Arabian Nights.  Which I haven’t read, and may be why it felt like something was missing.  Or maybe it’s just me, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve read 1001 Arabian Nights.

Something about this book made me think of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge- I think there’s something about the world and how the story is told that would make it a good read-alike for Cruel Beauty fans.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Mostly because I just didn’t care.  A Thousand Nights isn’t for me, but I can see why people would like it- the writing was beautiful but not enough to get my interest.

Book Review Round-Up: Vampire Knight And MeruPuri

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I do short reviews for 2 or 3 books in one post. This is one is another manga round-up.  Enjoy!

Vampire Knight CoverManga #1: Vampire Knight, Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

Published January 2007 by Viz Media|192 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 1

What It’s About: Yuki Cross has no memory of her past prior to the moment she was saved from a vampire attack ten years ago. She was adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy, and now works alongside Zero to guard the Academy’s secret. Cross Adademy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!

What I Thought: I really liked Vampire Knight!  I randomly picked it up at the library, because the title caught my eye, and it seemed really intriguing.  It was definitely a good choice on my part, because I really liked the idea of a day class and a night class really interesting.  And two students who attend the day school but also know about the Night Class and are doing everything in their power to keep the secrets of the Night Class.  Zero reminded me of Kyo from Fruits Basket.  I have no idea why I am suddenly reminded of Fruits Basket characters in some of the manga I’ve been reading, but I am.

It was a little darker than I expected, with vampire-hunters and revelations- mostly the one surrounding Zero, which I want to know more about.  Certain things were repetitive, like Zero being from a vampire-hunter family and the only survivor of an attack on his family, and Yuki being saved from Kaname.  They seem to have an interesting relationship, as do Yuki and Zero.

It also felt like a prequel of sorts, because we were introduced to the school and characters.  I know that’s what first books do, and even though it’s volume 1, something about it felt more like a prequel than a first volume.  It was still enjoyable, and I can’t wait to get into the story a little more. I really liked the shading and detail for the artwork. It’s something I’m also impressed with, mostly because I can’t draw if my life depended on it.  But the detail, especially in black and white is really impressive.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story, but certain things were pretty repetitive, and that got to be frustrating. But overall, I would definitely recommend it.

MeruPuri CoverManga #2: MeruPuri, Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

Published July 2005 by Viz Media|192 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: MeruPuri, Volume 1

What It’s About: On the way to school one morning, Airi loses her mirror – one that had been passed down to her through generations – and suddenly finds herself in a bizarre situation. Never in her wildest dreams did she expect Aram, a little boy from a magical kingdom, to have emerged from the mirror in the short time it took her to track it down!

What I Thought: So, when I checked out MeruPuri, I didn’t realize that it was the same person who did Vampire Night!  There are things I liked about MeruPuri, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as Vampire Knight.  I thought the curse on Aram was interesting- it makes me wonder about his relationship with his brother.  Even though it is explained later on in the manga, I still can’t help but wonder about it.  And the magical mirror that leads to the world Aram is from!  I liked that part of it, but I couldn’t tell you much of anything about the characters.  Although I could tell you a little more about Aram and his brother than I could tell you about Airi.  She’s a little bit forgettable, considering it’s her mirror.

The artwork is pretty awesome, which isn’t surprising, considering how much I liked it in Vampire Knight.  I just didn’t find the story as interesting or compelling as Vampire Knight, but I may pick up the other volumes sometime in the future.

My Rating: 2 stars.  There were some things I liked about MeruPuri (like the artwork, and a couple of the elements of the story) but it didn’t capture my attention the way I thought it would.

Book Review Roundup: Kitchen Princess, Pita Ten and Skip Beat

Book Review Round-Up is something I do very sporadically, when I want to review several books in one post. I’m on a manga kick right now, and thought it would be easier (and fun!) to review several of them in one post since they go super-fast!

Kitchen Princess CoverManga #1: Kitchen Princess, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando (illustrator) and Miyuki Kobayashi (story)

Published January 2007 by Del Rey|187 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Kitchen Princess, Volume 1

What It’s About: Najika is a great cook and likes to make meals for the people she loves. But something is missing from her life. When she was a child, she met a boy who touched her heart–and now Najika is determined to find him. The only clue she has is a silver spoon that leads her to the prestigious Seika Academy.

Attending Seika will be a challenge. Every kid at the school has a special talent, and the girls in Najika’s class think she doesn’t deserve to be there. But Sora and Daichi, two popular brothers who barely speak to each other, recognize Najika’s cooking for what it is–magical. Is either boy Najika’s mysterious prince?

What I Thought: Kitchen Princess is such a cute story!  I love Najika, and her love of cooking and making food that people enjoy!  I loved seeing her go to Seika Academy, where she feels like she doesn’t belong- and she certainly doesn’t see her cooking as magical or as a special skill.  Both are things I think we can all relate to at some point in our lives.

I’m really intrigued by Sora and Daichi, and who gave Najika the silver spoon!  I know it’s one of them, and I can’t wait to learn who it was.  And who Najika will end up with, because I’m pretty sure she’ll end up with one of them at some point in the series.

I also loved the recipes at the end, and it really makes me want to cook!  Actually, there is something about Najika that reminds of Tohru from Fruits Basket- I think it’s in how they both want to make sure others are okay, and how positive they are.  I really liked the illustrations, and I’m amazed at how the drawings told a story, even when there were no words to describe what was going on.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I’ll definitely keep reading!

Pita Ten CoverManga #2: Pita Ten, Volume 1 by Koge-Donbo

Published January 2004 by TokyoPop|200 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Pita Ten, Volume 1

What It’s About: How to Acquaint Oneself with an Angel: With middle school entrance exams coming up, Kotarou was hoping to crack down on his study habits. But when a zany girl unexpectedly moves in next door to him, those plans go straight down the drain. When Misha boldly asks Kotarou to go out with her the moment they meet. Stunned at the sight of the girl, Kotarou turns and darts away like a kid scared of cooties. Now Misha has started popping up everywhere Kotarou goes, from school, to review class, and even hanging out outside his front door! What’s with Misha’s bizarre stalker mentality? Simple, she just wants to protect Kotarou and make sure he’s happy…by becoming his new momma! Sure, that might sound well intentioned, but Misha really has no clue what she’s getting herself into. Not only can’t she cook, but she’s also lives like a complete slob! And what’s all this talk about Misha being an angel?

What I Thought: Pita Ten is cute!  I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and I finally got around to reading it!  I liked it, and Misha is definitely…interesting.  She is pretty over-the-top, and while I liked Pita Ten, I think a big part of why I didn’t like it as much as I thought is because of Misha.  I did like that she wanted to protect Kotarou, and maybe she’ll calm down in the other volumes.  It seemed a little younger than I expected it to be, and I’m not sure why- maybe because of how Misha talked?  It did get irritating as the book went on, and it was a little too cutesy for my liking.  I love cutesy, but apparently, it has limits.

If it does get toned down later on in the series, I think I could really like Misha a lot more than I did.

Like Kitchen Princess, I really liked the artwork and how you knew what was going on, even when there were no words to describe what was going on.  I definitely want to read at least one or two more volumes, if not the entire series.

My Rating: 3 stars.  Misha and the baby talk got to me overall, it is pretty cute, with awesome artwork.

Skip Beat CoverManga #3: Skip Beat, Volume 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Published July 2006 by Viz Media|184 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Skip Beat, Volume 1

What It’s About: Kyoko always thought that Sho, whose family took her in when she was small, was her prince charming. However, when Sho heads for Tokyo to make it big as a musician, Kyoko goes with him and has to quit high school to support his dream. But soon, being in the big city makes Kyoko realize that she has show business ambitions of her own!

What I Thought: Skip Beat was a lot of fun!  Something about Kyoko reminded me of both Shigure and Kagura from Fruits Basket, but I think that made her a lot of fun and really interesting as a character.  I don’t blame her for wanting to getting revenge and having a grudge.  I probably would too if I were her. I really liked the artwork, too, and she has an awesome attention to detail.  I also loved the sidebars throughout the book about how Skip Beat came to be.  There’s just something really fun about it.

Plus, Kyoko is pretty determined to get what she wants, and I really like that about her!  She certainly is persistent. Also, Sho is not a cool guy.  Not cool at all.  It kind of makes me hope/wish that Kyoko gets her revenge and doesn’t give up on her show business ambitions.  Still, he is a little bit more interesting than Ren, who, other than his name and the fact that he is Sho’s rival, I remember nothing about.

I’m really glad I read it, because I’ve seen on the library shelves for a while and never picked up.  I definitely need to pick up volume 2 soon!

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I can’t wait to read volume 2!

Book Review Round-Up: Die For Love And The Murders Of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters

Book Review Round-Up was a series of posts I did a few months ago to talk about the books I was reading but couldn’t muster up the ability to do a full review for.  It seemed oddly appropriate for these 2 books.

Die For Love CoverBook: Die For Love by Elizabeth Peters

Published January 2002 by Avon Books (originally published January 1984)|346 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from a friend

Series: Jacqueline Kirby #3

Genre: Adult Mystery

What It’s About: This Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, who writes as both Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, has long been a favorite with romance readers. In Die for Love, she offers a satirical look behind the scenes at a fictitious romance writers’ convention. Jacqueline Kirby (the sharp-tongued, quick-witted, good-looking librarian from Coldwater College, Nebraska) is eager for any legitimate-sounding business trip to add some excitement to her life. But she’s swept off her feet by dangerous deceptions when she attends a gathering of historical romance writers and their fans — and finds that murder is on the agenda. It’s going to take all of Jacqueline’s considerable skills to determine who is the deadly criminal among the myriad agents, authors, journalists, and fans who have gathered for this event — each of whom seems to have something to hide.

What I Thought: Die For Love was fun to read!  There certainly was a lot of mayhem and sneakiness going on, and it was fun to be along for the ride, even though I didn’t try to figure out the mystery.  I could picture the characters and events so well, and I’m curious about what this book would look like if it were to take place today.  It’s a cozy mystery and yet it’s fun, funny and light-hearted.  And it pokes at romance novels in a good way.  I also really like that the book stands alone really well, and that even though it’s the third book in the series, you start off with the third book in the series and still know what’s going on.

My Rating: 3 stars for being an entertaining poke at romance novel land.

The Murders Of Richard III CoverBook: The Murders Of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters

Published April 1986 by Mysterious Press (originally published 1976)|230 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from a friend

Series: Jacqueline Kirby #2

Genre: Adult Mystery

What It’s About: When attractive American Jacqueline Kirby is invited to an English country mansion for a weekend costume affair, she experts only one mystery. Since the hosts and guests are all fanatic devotees of King Richard III, they hope to clear his name of the 500-year old accusation that he killed the little princess in the Tower of London. Jacqueline is amused at the group’s eccentricities until history begins to repeat itself. A dangerous practical joker recreates famous fifteenth-century murder methods – beheading, poisoning, smothering, and even drowning in a butt of malmsey. As the jokes become more and more macabre, one at last proves fatal.

Jacqueline puts all her observations together for a dazzling solution that will surprise even the most attentive reader.

What I Thought: Like Die For Love, Murders was a fun read.  This book, however, is about a group of devotees of Richard III, and how hellbent they are on proving his innocence for the murders of his nephews.  Peters had the most concise, easy to understand explanation of that time period.  I love Tudor history, and most of the details of the War Of The Roses go over my head, and yet she managed to explain it in a way that made sense!  It definitely felt well-researched, and I was reminded of Austenland, for some reason.  Since the book was originally published in the ’70’s, I’m curious about what the book would be like if it were published today.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It was a fun read, and the Ricardians are quite the group of characters.  All of the history in it wasn’t overwhelming, and it didn’t bog down the book!

Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest CoverBook: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Source/Format: borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Lunar Chronicles #3.5 (reading books 1-3 is definitely recommended before reading this one!)

Genre: YA Sci-Fi Fairy Tale Re-telling

What It’s About:

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told…until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

What I Thought:

I was super-excited when I found out there was going to be a Lunar Chronicles novella, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it after the series was finished (which is the norm for reading novellas- at least in my case) or now.  And I decided I couldn’t wait that long, and I really liked it!

We don’t really get much with Queen Levana, and she’s this mysterious, ominous villain that we didn’t really see a lot of in the series so far.  Understandable, since it’s Cinder’s story, and how it connects to Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (well, that’s what I’m assuming, given the series so far).  But there’s quite the connection between Levana and Cinder, and I really liked seeing why she hates Cinder, and the connection to both Cress and Winter.

I really liked seeing how Levana become the person she is, and I actually felt really bad for her.  She’s done some very horrible things that are not okay, but I do understand why she did those things, and it makes me really excited to read Winter- we definitely see Winter a little bit in this one, and I want to know more about her!  It also sheds a little more light on the Lunar people, so I’m definitely glad we get to see it way before things go down.

Another really interesting thing about it is that while it’s a prequel, taking place before the events of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter, I would also recommend reading it after Cinder, Scarlet and Cress, if you haven’t already read them.  It’s definitely easy to figure out at least one plot twist that I can think of.

Since I read the e-book, I didn’t get to see any of the artwork that’s supposed to be included in the print copies- which is unfortunate, because if they’re anything like that cover, I feel like I really missed out, and that the artwork is what would have pushed it from really liking Fairest to loving it.  At the same time, though, if it is as stunning as the cover (I mean, look at that cover, it’s gorgeous, and I want a print of that hanging up on my wall), it’s something I’d want to see in front of me, and not on a screen, you know?

Random Update: I was doing some book shopping at Mysterious Galaxy on Friday to avoid traffic, and I happened to see a copy of Fairest.  Knowing there was supposed to be artwork included, I flipped through, and was quite disappointed that the artwork was a drawing of Levana’s castle on the inside cover, and was the same image on both sides.  Granted, the summary doesn’t really specify, but something about it really made it seem like there was going to be all this beautiful artwork.  So you’re really not missing out on anything if you go for the digital or audio (assuming there is an audio, of course).

Rating:

4 stars.  I really liked Fairest, and I loved seeing how Levana got to be the way we see her in the books.

Book Review Round-Up #7

Book Review Round-Up is a series of posts that I started to talk about all of the books I’ve been reading and want to talk about.

Book #1: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

A World Without Princes CoverSource/Format: borrowed the e-book from the library!

What It’s About: In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn’t quite the fairy tale they expected. 

When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.

Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.

What I Thought: I liked it!  Not as much as The School For Good And Evil, but I still liked it.  It definitely didn’t have the same appeal as the first one did, which, now that I think about it, did stand on its own fairly well.  But I also liked seeing the consequences of everything that happened in the first book, and how there was such a ripple effect.

Something about this one was really confusing, and I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying enough attention (I did have to go back and re-read certain parts because it made no sense) or if it’s because I needed to re-read the first book (which I should have done) or if it was just really confusing (which is possible but hard to tell because of the first two things I mentioned).  Still, I liked that it poked at fairy tales in general, which is one of my favorite things about the book.  It is very much about shades of gray, and yet there is something very black and white about it too.

You do see that balance is necessary, and what happens when you don’t have balance, but I don’t know that it was as obvious as the ideas of beauty being skin-deep and that you can’t judge someone based off of looks that we see in the first one.

Rating: 3 stars.  I felt like this one was a little more confusing than the first one, and that it lost some of the charm that the first one had.  But I’m still looking forward to reading the next one to see what happens.

Book #2: The Conspiracy Of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy Of Us CoverSource/Format: borrowed the e-book from the library!

What It’s About: To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.

Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. 

They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead. 

To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.

What I Thought: I was very much intrigued by the idea of YA Da Vinci Code, and I’m actually really glad that this book delivered on that!  I definitely liked it, but I didn’t love it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun book, and if you’re into conspiracies, especially one where you have a secret group controlling everything, this is the book for you.

There’s definitely a lot of action, but everything we learn about this secret group and the prophecy aren’t sticking with me. There are quite a few details throughout the book, and other than connections to the Circle throughout history, nothing really stands out, and it hasn’t even been that long since I’ve read it.  I think I may need to re-read it again to refresh my memory, but I still am looking forward to reading the next one because I’m really curious about the different interpretations of the prophecy and they’re still sort of right about everything going on.

Rating: 3 stars.  I didn’t love it, but I did like it, and it’s action-packed and fast-paced- I just wish the details stuck with me more!

Book #3: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Sloppy Firsts CoverSource/Format: own the e-book!

What It’s About: When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment—from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

What I Thought: Here’s the thing with Sloppy Firsts…I liked it, and it was a cute book, but I totally read it at the wrong time.  I…kind of feel like I’m too old for the book.  Don’t get me wrong, Jessica is totally easy to relate to and I can see why people love this boo  I was definitely reminded of The Princess Diaries, and Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging (and there’s another one I remember reading but I can’t remember the name of it.  I think it came out around the same time as Princess Diaries and Angus, though), so if you love those books, you’ll love Sloppy Firsts.

I think Sloppy Firsts is the kind of book that teenage-me would have loved.  As an adult, I felt like Jessica couldn’t see that everything was going to be okay eventually.  And I hate that I think that, because I think what she’s going through and how she’s feeling is perfectly normal and understandable and valid and very much one that happens a lot.  (I’m pretty sure I’d react similarly).  I do wish we saw Hope at some point in the book- either a letter back or something, because I really just wanted to see the best friend that Jessica misses…and to see the person that no one will ever measure up to.  (That was definitely a point where I wanted to tell her that it’s okay to have other friends, even though Hope is gone and will always be her best friend).

Rating: 3 stars.  I didn’t love it but it is a cute book.  I just wish I had read it in high school, because teenage Nicole would have loved it.