Romance

Manga/Graphic Novel Review: MANGA CLASSICS Emma

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

After reading a couple of the books in this Manga Classics collection, I decided to take a look at the other titles available on NetGalley. I’ve never read the original novel by Jane Austen, but I hadn’t read Great Expectations either before reading the manga adaptation.

Emma

Manga Classics: Emma by Stacy King (originally by Jane Austen) – eBook, 377 pages – Published June 17th 2015 by UDON Entertainment

As usual with these adaptations, I’m not going to focus too much on the story as that was down to the original author, not the author of this particular adaptation. Here’s a quick synopsis though, in case you’re not familiar with the novel:

Emma Woodhouse is a single young lady living with her father. She prides herself for her ability to see into the hearts and minds of others, and her matchmaking capabilities. Her governess has just recently married a man Emma set her up with, after all. When she acquires the friendship of Harriet, she believes herself capable of matching her with a suitable gentleman. But it turns out to be a lot more difficult than she anticipated.

And her own mind – once set on remaining single and unmarried forever – is suddenly rather confused…

It is, clearly, a romance novel. But it’s not just a boy-meets-girl kinda thing. It’s a typical Austen novel, I think, with all the misguided affections and complicated love stories all tangled up.

This adaptation is wonderful; I’m a big fan of this collection. As I’ve said before, it helps you understand the story and characters a lot better, and is really useful for people who aren’t that fond of classic literature. The author manages to keep the original tone and language (mostly) intact, while still making it a lot easier to understand and relate to. The art is fantastic, too; it really expresses the different moods and scenes, and the feelings of each character.

I’d easily give this 4 stars out of 5. I really think this collection is worth looking at, whether you’re interested in classic novels or not.

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Manga/Graphic Novel Review: The Beast’s Tale

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

A few days ago I posted my review of the first instalment of this collection, Belle’s Tale.

The Beast's Tale

The Beast’s Tale (Beauty and the Beast #2) by Mallory Reaves – eBook, 178 pages – Published March 2017 by TokyoPop

There’s not a whole lot extra I can say about this one, as I mentioned the art style last time. I did like how this featured the Beast’s side – as the title suggests – and therefore provides more insight into his own experiences and feelings. It was nice to read these two parts together; the same story but from different perspectives. I think it was a pretty unique was of telling the classic fairytale.

This has never been my favourite story, but I still enjoyed it. I preferred this book to the first one, as it seems a bit more original and took a bit of a new turn on the original story. Overall, a strong 3.5 stars.

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Manga/Graphic Novel Review: Belle’s Tale

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I’ve never actually read the original book of Beauty and the Beast but I love manga and thought I’d request a review copy from the publisher. I’m assuming it’s been kept pretty close to the original story, but like I said, I don’t really know.

Belle's Tale

Belle’s Tale (Beauty and the Beast Volume #1) by Mallory Reaves – eBook, 178 pages – Published March 2017 by TokyoPop

Most people are pretty familiar with the general plot of this tale, where Belle meets the Beast and is kept prisoner in exchange for her father’s freedom. She discovers the truth about what happened to her mother all those years ago, and begins to fall in love with the once-terrifying Beast. But when the village learns of his existence, they are not welcoming or friendly toward him. And his time is running out…

I’ve always found it to be a bit of a weird story, but I suppose it is kind of cute? But this review isn’t on the plot, as this is just an adaptation of the original. The art that’s used is quite nice, not particularly outstanding in my opinion but still good. I always find these manga adaptations to be a lot easier to understand, but the watermark on this review copy did get in the way a bit! Obviously, you won’t have that issue if you buy the novel, though.

If you’re a fan of the classic tale then you’d probably really like this. And it’d make a great gift, I think. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – Paperback, 309 pages – Published February 12th 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton

I’d heard a few things about this book around the internet and stuff, but didn’t actually read the blurb until the day I started the book. I guessed it was my kind of book from the title, but yeah I had no idea what it was about until I actually started it.

In case you’re wondering, it’s about a suicidal teen and her Suicide Partner, who meet through an online suicide forum. Bit messed up but yeah. Depression is like that.

Obviously, it may not be suitable if you’re going to get triggered by the frequent mentions of suicide and depression, but on the other hand I’d say this is actually aimed at people who are struggling – despite Aysel’s decision to kill herself, this book is actually about overcoming your sadness and fears and issues. It’s about living, not dying.

Aysel’s reason for wanting to die is because she’s scared she’s like her father – her father, who’s locked up for murder. And her partner feels responsible for the death of his little sister, and believes he doesn’t deserve to live when she isn’t living anymore. Obviously, these sorts of triggers are not the only reasons people kill themselves – you don’t have to have some big issue like this to want to die, believe me – but I think these particular situations are quite good. Not the ordinary kind of trigger you read about, but also pretty real.

Aysel is, for most of the book, kind of a bitch. She’s pretty sure she’s gonna be dead in a month, so she doesn’t care too much about anyone else anymore. But all of a sudden, “love” changes her – her relationship with Roman, her Suicide Partner, helps her see herself differently. Even if he’s still depressed as hell and set on killing himself.

The ending, to me, was maybe a little too cheesy. A little too perfect and happy. Yeah, I definitely didn’t want either of them to actually kill themselves, but this change of heart happened so quick and Roman, who was so against “flaking out” just changed his mind along with Aysel so easily. I feel like it should have taken more fight. It made it out to be too easy, too simple to just “change your mind”. It doesn’t really happen like that in real life, not in my experience.

But at the same time, Aysel’s “black slug” of depression is pretty accurate. Eating her happiness and sadness and just all her emotions, for the most part. Taking away everything.

So I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a really good read, overall. My only issues are with the accuracy of the topic, because it’s something quite important to me. I hate when mental health is portrayed wrong. Like I said, it wasn’t too far off, though. So about 3.5 stars, I think. A good read, just not quite how I would’ve written the ending.

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Book Review: Whisper to Me

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Whisper to Me by Nick Lake – Paperback, 530 pages – Published May 5th 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

This book is fantastic. I know it sounds cheesy, but I literally could not put it down.

The plot isn’t just one simple story line; it’s twists and turns and ups and downs all over the place. Cass is writing to someone – who is never named, actually – recapping events. The style means that she can switch from talking about the past to describing her current situation and feelings, in the present. She’s able to reflect on the past, add a whole new level to the story. I loved it. And when “you” are in the story, she describes you but also skips the mundane details that you would already know, keeping the story really interesting. It really sounded like she was writing to someone.

Cass’s letter/email is an apology, an explanation, for hurting someone. She acknowledges this right from the start, but it takes a long, long time to get into what really happened. Not in a boring, dragged-out way, but in a suspenseful way. Constantly, I wanted to know what she was referring to, what had happened to require the writing of this email.

So the plot is, as I said, not a straight line at all. But some important things are:

  1. Cass starts to hear a voice. A voice that’s not there, not really.
  2. Cass meets “you” and the voice is quiet and everything is great. But things go wrong. Things go so, so wrong.
  3. Cass’s dad has issues – untreated PTSD from serving as a MARINE.
  4. Cass has some, uh, unacknowledged issues caused by the death of her mother.
  5. Cass meets Paris. Paris is sunshine and love and happiness.
  6. There’s a serial killer on the loose.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this book. I won’t tell you how all the things link together, but it’s so clever. And oh, so heartbreaking.

Let’s just say that you know it’s coming – you can tell by Cass’s choice of language that something is going to happen – but you still hope for some miracle.

Leading on from that last point, the characters are fantastic. Paris is honestly just amazing; I really fell in love with her. Probably more than Cass’s actual love interest. Oops. And Cass’s dad is so complex, clearly struggling with some stuff, and although he does wrong and he gets angry and he scares Cass sometimes you don’t hate him, not really, and neither does Cass. He’s her dad and she loves him, and he’s trying his best and I could really feel that.

Some books really do just click with you, and this was one of those for me. I made excuses to read for longer than planned, stayed up later. It was lovely to have that excitement back when reading, even if I do feel kind of sad and empty now it’s finished.

Part of me wants some kind of follow-up, but I also know that that would kind of ruin the whole mysterious, imaginative element that the ending leaves. I don’t know.

I would completely definitely certainly recommend it. It covers so much – mental illnesses and single parents and love and death and sex workers and just so many different aspects of life that you maybe wouldn’t expect to find thrown together into one book. But Cass doesn’t seem crazy, isn’t made out to be some kind of mental patient. And no single theme dominates the story – this isn’t just about love, or just about murder. It’s about life.

Definitely 5 stars. I adored this book.

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Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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Graphic Novel Review: MANGA CLASSICS Pride and Prejudice

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

 

We all know of the classic novel, but have you ever read Austen’s work in the form of a manga?

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Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice by Stacy King (originally by Jane Austen) – eBook, 377 pages – Published September 17th 2014 by UDON Entertainment

 

I won’t talk about the plot much – I’m sure you know enough about it already – but I will definitely mention the art and the portrayal of the different characters and their relationships with one another.

So, just in case you don’t know the story of Pride and Prejudice – my review of which is here – I will give you a quick summary. Originally published in 1813, the story features common themes from the era such as wealth, social standing, and marriage. A family with five daughters are desperate to get them married into wealth, into comfortable homes with handsome young men. But Elizabeth is not so keen on marrying just anyone, and her eldest sister soon finds herself falling for a particular young man.

The original novel is fantastic, but some people don’t particularly enjoy reading classics – which is understandable, as a lot of the language is rather hard for us to understand in the modern day and age. So this adaptation makes the story a whole lot more enjoyable and easy to follow, while still keeping the importance of the plot intact. Not to mention how well the characters are all portrayed – especially Mrs Bennet, the comedic mother in the book. The artwork emphasises how exaggerated she is, as well as showing her husband’s reaction to her.

At important times – such as weddings or the introduction of a certain character to another – the illustrations are particularly beautiful and romantic, with lots of floral designs. I thought the illustrations reflected the mood of the plot/characters really well. And the language is a lot easier to understand than Austen’s original writing, yet still somewhat classic and formal.

I really did enjoy this, and am definitely going to consider other books from the range. 5 stars for this wonderful retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

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Book Review: Zenn Diagram

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Thank you to the publishers of this book for sending me a copy via NetGalley.com

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Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant – Review ARC/Galley, 222 pages – Expected publication: April 4th 2017 by Kids Can Press

Side note: I accidentally said Zenn diagram instead of Venn diagram to my A level maths teacher because of this book. It was incredibly embarrassing.

 I don’t usually like typical YA romance stories very much, but I quite liked this. It wasn’t just romance, but that was quite a big part of the story.

Eva is eighteen and has never really been able to touch anyone or anything. Not because she can’t, but because she gets serious fractals when she does. They’re like visions, only made of just patterns and colour that show Eva the issues and problems people are hiding.

One good thing from these fractals is that they make her a great math tutor. Her maths skills are amazing, and when she touches anyone’s calculator she can feel what math frustrations they have. Combining these two factors make Eva the best tutor, well, eva. 

She has two students currently; Josh, the footballer and her best friend’s crush, and the new kid, Zenn. Little does she know how both these boys are going to change her life…

Quick note: No, this is not one of those annoying love triangles.

Without giving too much away, it turns out that the circles of Eva and Zenn’s life overlap more than they ever knew.

So the themes in this book are wide and plenty, ranging from religion to death of family, loss of virginity, first loves, best friends, and way more. I like how Eva is, at first, a very stereotypical nerd who finds most girls shallow and horrible, but that she allows herself to try makeup and become obsessed with a boy because she knows it’s natural. Feminism should allow for love and crushes and makeup and girliness.

The writing is very appealing to the age group I think, the voice of Eva pretty accurate throughout the book. There is loads of humour, but also some pretty nice serious notes, too. The change brought on by her best friend beginning a relationship is very relatable, and well-portrayed. They drift apart, get new friends, but find their way back to each other eventually. It’s quite sweet.

Eva’s family is great, too. I won’t ruin too much but her mother reacts so naturally to the circumstances.

My only real issue with this book is with the ending. I like that we don’t know exactly what happens, but the whole deal with the scholarship/grant money… Hmm. Surely it would make Zenn angry to be treated like charity? And although it’s nice, it’s maybe a little too easy and perfect.

It was a really nice book. Not too long, but full of great content. Because of the ending, I will have to put my rating at 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5.

If you want to check it out, this book is available for preorder on Amazon.

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Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Paperback, 303 pages – Published April 7th 2015 by Penguin

This was really a wild ride. I think this book managed to get me out of a mini reading slump (yay!).

The book starts off with Simon’s private email being read by some guy in his drama club. This may not seem like a huge deal, except Simon’s secretly been emailing this guy who he’s maybe in love with. But they don’t know each other’s real identity, and neither of them have come out yet.

So Simon has to help the guy – Martin – get with one of his best friends. Only she isn’t interested (at all). At the same time, Simon is falling for Blue more and more with each email, and is becoming desperate to find him in real life. He starts to decode the clues in an attempt to figure out his identity – only for Blue to beat him to it.

Simon’s also struggling with tons of friendship issues, a big play coming up, and his family (and the entire school, for that matter) finding out about him being gay. He doesn’t want any of it to be a big deal. But it is.

He’s a great character, portrayed to be a normal human being. His relationships all seem pretty realistic (though I’m sceptical about the situation with Blue. Would anyone really be that lucky?). I really felt for him throughout the novel, and I was so unbelievably pleased for him at the end. I’m so not used to such great, adorable endings.

My biggest issues are that sometimes the teen voice was being pushed a bit too hard – we don’t always say “freaking” or whatever. And the scenarios seemed a little too far-fetched sometimes. (Seriously, has anyone ever experienced people dancing in the crowd at a school talent show?) But generally this was a good representation of life, and I really enjoyed reading it.

very nearly marked this as a favourite, but decided on just 4.5 stars in the end. I loved the book, but there were a few minor details that put me off just a little bit. It is most definitely a fantastic book, though! I’d definitely recommend this book for the YA audience.

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Book Review: The Lovely Bones

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Paperback, 328 pages – Published 2002 by Little, Brown and Company

If my English Lang and Lit class hadn’t chosen to study this book this year, I probably never would have read it. At least, not yet. Not because I didn’t want to but simply because I may never have been motivated to do so. Honestly though, I’m very glad we chose this novel (even if I personally did not vote for it).

As I’m studying it for my exams, I really don’t want to spend too much time writing about it now. But I will do a quick review about the pros and cons of this novel.

So the book is about the death of a girl. Well, not about it, but it’s a very important aspect (obviously). The victim, Susie Salmon, narrates the story from beyond the grave in her “heaven”, recalling memories from her lifetime and also watching her family’s life unravel after her death.

There is an air of mystery to this, but not for the readers. We know from the start who murdered Susie, but her family do not. We follow them as they try to figure out what happened, getting closer and closer to the truth.

This book has an aspect of fantasy and supernatural to it, as well as mostly being a drama-based novel. We learn about Susie, and then we follow Ruth and Ray and her siblings, Buckley and Lindsey. We watch her parent’s marriage go through hell and back, and we even watch her murderer escape the town unpunished.

Everything about this is very interesting. The writing, simple but still detailed and descriptive; the characters, who grow and change as the book progresses; the plot, or multiple mini-plots, evolving around all the different characters.

I really liked this book, and at first I thought it might become a favourite. But it didn’t carry on quite as well as it started, and became more or more of a realistic, dramatic story about love and life. It’s so interesting to see how Sebold portrays heaven, and how the lives of her Susie’s friends and family are affected both directly and indirectly by her death. A good 4 stars for this book!

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