Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 18

Intense, Volume 1: Night on the Red Road by Kyungha Yi

Genre: Manhwa (Korean Comics)/Boys Love

Rating: 4/5

Image result for intense  night on the red road Intense is a Korean boys love graphic novel series featuring main character Jiwoon Kang. Orphaned by the mafia, yet still tangled up with the warring gangs, Jiwoon is sent to the red light district in a shady-enough-as-it-is town, meant to keep the peace as needed. There he is offered housing with Soohan, a local young man. While Jiwoon is a very quiet person himself–having seen his own father murdered in front of him, he is interested in the fact that Soohan actually talks less than he does, something he never imagined could be a possibility. It turns out Soohan is a mute, hence the lack of vocalization. When Jiwoon kisses Soohan in a moment of vulnerability, their already non-existent relationship may never even blossom.

When my husband bought this for me as a gift, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. I dived in and figured “Oh, it’s just another gang violence series,” but when Jiwoon shows feelings for Soohan, I was like, “Wait, what?!” Only then did I turn to the back to find the genre “Boys Love” printed there. I enjoy boys love, but this definitely doesn’t have the feeling of a BL such as Love Stage or The World’s Greatest First Love. There is some mafia conflict in this first volume, and just enough to keep me wanting to read. One of the few first volumes where I feel like I really need to read the second one to decide whether I want to stay committed to the series or not. Also, the art is fantastic. An overall enjoyable manga.

 

Hellgate London by Arvid Nelson and J.M

Genre: Manga/Horror/Action

Rating: 3/5

Image result for hellgate london mangaThis manga series serves as the prequel to the video game of the same name. John Fowler, among others, unburies a human skeleton that may be worth something to the finder. Upon closer inspection, the remains have found to be buried in a peculiar way, a way that related to demons. After seeing some kind of spirit, the spirit of the remains and John’s ancestor, Isaac, he is called upon by the Templars, an organization committed to ridding the world of demons. When John himself must take on a demon arm with his own flesh, he finds that he doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. The only way to find his place is to take up his ancestor’s sword and fight the onslaught of demons that is to come.

Having never played the original game may have perhaps hindered my true appreciation of this manga, but it was still somewhat interesting. I find the art to be average and the story to be relatively cliche in the way it forms the call to action for the main character and its use of demons, a very common evil entity across genres. There are also basic ancestral inheritances that are very common among many genres as well, making this series not very unique and non-innovative in the grand scheme of available manga out in the world.

 

Black Clover by Yuki Tabata

Genre: Manga/Action

Rating: 4/5

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Black Clover follows the story of Asta, a young boy who wants to become the greatest mage of them all: the Wizard King! The only problem is, no matter how much he tries and trains, he has no magic power. How can Asta become the Wizard King without any magic? When his friend and rival, Yuno, obtains the legendary Grimoire with a four leaf clover, others see him potentially predestined to become the Wizard King. Meanwhile, Asta’s Grimoire doesn’t arrive (I mean, you have to be a magic user to get a Grimoire). That is, until he is in the midst of battle against another magic user, and a Grimoire(?) presents itself to Asta, albeit a charred, mottled looking book. With the power of anti-magic, Asta might be able to participate in the magic games to be selected by a guild, and thus develop his skills and follow his heart and dream to become the Wizard King through his sheer force of will and determination.

I actually really enjoyed this book. It is a newer series (2015) but very reminiscent of Hiro Mashima’s works (Fairy Tail and Rave Master). It has the hero’s journey vibe with aspiring (non-magic user) Asta, who wants to be the Wizard King. He has the same feel of Haru Glory (Rave Master) seeking the Rave Stones, or Fairy Tail aiming to be the top magic guild. It is a shounen book to reflect the quest for greatness and features an underdog hero. The art is fun and the ending has me wanting to see how Asta will progress and if he will succeed!

 

Heaven!! by Shizuru Seino

Genre: Manga/Romance/Comedy

Rating: 3/5

Image result for heaven!! vol 1 seino Heaven is about a girl named Rinne who can see and exorcise ghosts, removing them from possessing others and helping them pass on. When Rinne almost becomes a ghost herself, school punk Uzaki saves her just in time. With his spirit knocked out of his body, a god decides to take over Uzaki’s physical form! Since a god is different than a spirit, smarter, Rinne has more trouble exercising him from Uzaki’s body. Meanwhile, Uzaki’s spirit is thrust into a stuffed pink monkey until Rinne is able to get him back into his own body. And of course, Rinne begins falling for…someone?! Is it the god within Uzaki’s body, or is she actually finding attachment to Uzaki himself? And will she ever be done exercising spirits from where they don’t belong?

Overall, a cute story, but seems very cliche. An imminent love triangle potentially presents itself, and the generic high school setting and heroine with medium powers is a bit overdone among the Japanese genres. If you like the whole high school romance, but with a ghostly twist, there are numerous other volumes that have a better story (some only slightly so and some much more), although occasionally dealing with demons rather than ghosts/spirits. *cough cough* Yu Yu Hakusho is great. Gaba Kawa is similar, with demons rather than ghosts.

 

The Titan’s Curse (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti, Attila Futaki, and Greg Guilhaumond

Genre: Young Adult/Graphic Novel/Mythology

Rating: 4/5

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Once again the Percy Jackson adaptations blow me away. With this third installment, we follow Percy as he aims to save Anabeth from Atlas. When a prophesy calls for five heroes, saying that one will not make it, Percy is excluded because The Hunters of Artemis, who are likewise seeking to find Artemis, who has gone missing, don’t want a boy to go with them. When Nico finds Percy thinking about following, he encourages it, wanting Percy to keep his sister safe. Percy ultimately ends up joining the group, but cannot keep his promise. The heroes come across a number of trials as they try to avoid some ominous undead soldiers. Percy is also able to call upon the pegasi, having the ability to communicate with horses. That sure comes in handy when Percy wants to  get some quick, reliable transportation for him and his friends. With Thalia ultimately joining the Hunters of Artemis, it would appear that Percy is still the demi-god of prophesy who will either save or destroy Olympus when he turns sixteen…that is until a certain someone is claimed by one of the big three…again!

I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series and like the accessibility of the graphic novels. The art is a bit funky (it took me forever to realize which one was Thalia), but the story adaptation is excellent and an enjoyable way to get the story all over again without having to take the time to read the whole novel. At present this is the most current one (no word of the last two becoming graphic novels yet—please let me know if I am wrong), but I would love to have the refresher and brevity of the last two novels in the series without spending the time to reread them because, let’s face it, there are too many books and too little time!

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Star Wars: Allegiance-Should You Read It?

Related imageGenre: Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

First of all, this is an amazing novel that features the perspective of Stormtroopers-hey, they’re people too!

Second, this novel also features Mara Jade as a young Hand to the Emperor, a great back-story edition to the woman who becomes Luke’s wife (in the old canon, anyway…).

Only a few months after the Battle of Yavin, LaRone and four other Stormtroopers have been assigned to root out some rebels. When his squad orders the execution of planetary citizens suspected to be members of the Rebellion, they mistakenly murder innocent civilians, Han Solo and others having already left. With this realization, LaRone questions what they are doing for the Empire and what they should truly be doing with their lives.

Meanwhile, while LaRone and his troopers figure out what they truly want to do with their lives, Mara Jade sets out on one of her very first missions for the Emperor. When she finds some interesting mishaps with a Grand Moff, she offers to investigate further, aiming to remove any from the Empire who do not truly see the vision that Palpatine has.

Han and Luke have their part to play in this story as well. They are sent by Leia to investigate pirate attacks that are affecting their commerce and supply lines.

When Mara’s investigation and the aim of LaRone’s team, as well as Han and Luke, come to fall on the same planet, Mara asks the troopers to help her with her mission to stop a notorious pirate, one who may be involved with the questionable Moff.

So much happens in this novel that it is hard to touch on the details, but it was an interesting blend that really gives the reader the perspective from the Empire side of things. The daily life of a Stormtrooper, the fact that they have feelings and families, really made their side of the story so real. Getting to know Mara Jade as a bad ass in her early years was excellent too. Of course, we know her and Luke get married, and it’s definitely funny to know they are on the same planet dealing with their own situations, yet they never even see each other. Fun stuff!

Any Star Wars fan should read this novel because 1) Mara Jade and 2) Timothy Zahn, an amazing combination when it comes to style and characterization. This is a fantastic first novel in a duology, followed by Choices of One that likewise features a young Mara Jade.

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Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 17

The Son of Neptune (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditi, Antoine Dode, Orpheus Collar

Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel/Adaptation/Mythology/Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

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While the art is decent, but a bit sketchy, the adaptation of the novel is well done. This is the second installment in The Heroes of Olympus series, albeit the graphic novel version. While The Lost Hero introduces Piper, Jason, and Leo, Percy has mysteriously vanished. In The Son of Neptune, we learn that he has been sent to the Roman camp for dami-gods. The reader is introduced to Hazel and Frank, two more demi-gods who join Percy in stopping a giant army from assaulting the Roman camp, all while Percy aims to regain his memories–he’s not a Roman demi-god, he is Greek! In the grand scheme of things, Romans and Greeks are not friends, and Percy will have to reunite the two to fight Gaia for the greater good.

I enjoyed this adaptation and found that it grabbed my attention better than the novel version did. This series, to me, is not quite as good/interesting as the original Percy Jackson series, but the graphic novel adaptations really add to the vividity of the world.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Genre: Young Adult/Fiction/Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

Image result for miss peregrine's home for peculiar childrenJacob has heard many stories from his grandfather, and has seen many photos to accompany those tales. When his grandfather is hunted down by a strange, somewhat humanoid creature, Jacob scurries to the police, only to find that they do not believe the 16-year-old boy’s tale. Now Jacob is in search of an island with a mysterious old, abandoned orphanage that was spoken of often in his grandfather’s stories. When Jacob finds the island and Miss Peregrine’s old school, after rifting through old rooms and things, he learns the children may have been dangerous in their peculiarities. The isolation of these children might have been done for a good reason. When Jacob discovers that these peculiar children are still alive by repeating through a time loop of the same day every day. Ever hear of wights? They pose a threat to the peculiar, since feasting on a peculiar soul will restore them back to human form.

This book was interesting in that it combined photos that Riggs found at various yard sales and thing, using the photos to compose a narrative. It is fun reading about how the characters are musing over or describing a picture to then turn the page and see the actual image that was being described. While this is a unique and interesting way to share a story, I felt like there wasn’t enough drive for the reader to keep going, aside from the unique use of images. The story itself has a nostalgic feel as though I have read something very similar, or have seen this somewhere before (and I don’t mean X-men). The writing style itself feels very much like James Patterson, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. Overall, something that was enjoyable for a one-time thing, but not something I see myself rereading in the future. I have not yet decided whether or not I will read the second book.

 

Manga Shakespeare: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi, and Mustashrik

Genre: Graphic Novel/Classic Literature/Play

Rating: 3/5

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This adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar illustrates the rise and fall of Ceasar, a Roman leader. When fear of Caesar’s misuse of power goes to the heads of Cassius, Brutus, and their following, the group of men aims to murder their new Roman leader, later claiming to the public that it was for the good of Rome. With Caesar’s nephew/adopted son Octavius now heading for Rome, a battle soon follows. Even after death, Caesar has been an imminent influence on the fate and events following in the final acts. Brutus, although he has killed Caesar, is still a noble Roman, in comparison to Cassius and the other men who claimed to have killed Caesar for Rome.

This historical rendition has some interesting facts pulled from the actual history. Of course, Shakespeare has changed many things for the sake of drama, creating dramatic irony and developing phenomenal persuasive speeches using many different forms of rhetoric in this play. In this manga rendition, the art is actually very lackluster, and the context is not as easy to place as other Manga Shakespeare editions (such as warring Japanese Yakuza in their edition of Romeo and Juliet). I think it is meant to be…some war rendition? But there are some interesting steampunk-looking elements to the art as well. While some of the drawn elements add to things like facial expressions during major speeches, the manga edition is not as good as the play itself. Compared to all the other Shakespeare I have experienced (written plays, visual versions [movies and live performance], and illustrated editions), I would have to say that the story of Julius Caesar itself is one of my least favorites (but I love the history plays!).

 

Darker Than Black by Nokia, BONES, Tensai Okamura, and Saika Hasumi (Arklight)

Genre: Manga/Supernatural

Rating: 4/5

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This omnibus features both volumes of the Darker Than Black manga series. For fans of the show, the manga is much more concise and has some characters that (I don’t remember them, anyway) are not in the show. Something called Hell’s Gate manifested in the middle of Tokyo about ten years prior to the events in this manga. New stars have emerged in the sky, a sky created by Hell’s Gate, and each star seemingly corresponds to a Contractor, a person who has been gifted (or cursed) with some kind of supernatural ability. Although these people have gained these abilities, each Contractor has a different price they must pay every single time they use their power (cutting themselves, giving up something, etc.). Most Contractors are hidden, a secret from society. When Kanna see’s her father after he was supposedly killed, she ends up mixed up in a battle of contractors: those who aim to do right by their powers and those who abuse their powers. Klang, a Contractor, seeks to save Misa, a girl he grew up with who happens to have the power to take other Contractor’s powers away. It is obvious that Misa would have great value to the right people, becoming a possible gateway between Contractors and the normalcy of being human.

Despite it being awhile since I saw the show, this manga was a nice refresher to the characters (although some are quite noticeably absent whoa re in the show). the art is spatious and beutiful, and the story was relatively intriguing. The onyl thing that bothered me, as a reader, was that it was evident that Hei was trying to find his sister, and that ends being pretty much unresolved (unless I missed some subtlety about that plotline), which made one of the major plots feel a bit wasted. Other than that, it was an enjoyable read, nice having the omnibus, not waiting for numerous more volumes to be serialized.

 

We Can Be Mended by Veronica Roth

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

Image result for ewe can be mendedSPOILERS if you have not read the Divergent series (and possibly if you have).

In this epilogue to the Divergent series, five years have passed since the final events of Allegiant. Four secretly visits the Dauntless headquarters to explore his fear landscape, not to see Tris, but to one day come to find that he has moved on from her death. Chicago is rebuilt for a fourth time in its history, and the people there are responsible for its upkeep, to avoid the failures of the past. Factions have generally been eradicated, as people come to find that more than one trait makes up a human being. With a museum showing the people the history of the Genetic War, humans are able to understand their mistakes, able to travel and learn as they wish once more. Of course, time move forward and, in essence, heals all wounds. Tobias is young and has experiences similar hardships as his fellow faction members from the past. Together, they can move forward.

While this is a predictable 22 page epilogue, the development of the relationship is rather lacking. The beginning pacing was okay, but the end feels rushed and wasted. While many people do not like this scenario, I am indifferent. Why? Allegiant was not that great. While I enjoyed the scientific bits, the plot was lacking, and I found Tris’s death, of all main character deaths that I have read about, to be anticlimactic and wasted, feeling no remorse for the characters. While this epilogue is okay, it was not executed to its most potential. Also, the writing style doesn’t feel quite as good as some of her other works…

Star Wars Highlight: Comics (Part 19)

There are many, many comics in the world of Star Wars. The ones I have here vary in era, art, publication date, publisher, and style, but they are all interesting releases both to the old Expanded Universe as well as the new canon. They are listed in order based on the Battle of Yavin. Just remember, this is a highlight on a small fraction of a larger whole.

 

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Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic (22 BBY)

Publisher: Marvel (5 Issues)

Writer: Matt Owens

Artist(s): Denys Cowan, Roberto Poggi, GURU-eFX, et. al.

Taking place shortly after Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, during the Clone Wars era, Mace Windu, among other Jedi, take up a new role beside that of Knight or Master: Commander (or General). Hissrich is a planet infested with enemy droids, being led by a droid commander. Behind the scenes, General Grievous asks that this Hissrich droid destroy the Jedi that have been deployed there and to bring their lightsabers back as proof of their deaths. Windu takes Kit Fisto, Prosset Dibs, and Rissa Mano with him. Rissa is a newly made Jedi Knight and still has much to learn, but working alongside Mace will give her plenty of knew knowledge on handling certain situations. Aside from the droid army that need to be dealt with, Prosset brings about accusations that the Jedi are hiding behind the war and losing their true values and teachings. When Mace shrugs this off, the two have a lightsaber duel, ultimately ending in a trial for treason in Prosset’s outspoken words, and a new lesson for Rissa to take with her in the future.

Once again, Marvel has a fantastic team of writer’s and artists on this project. Mace Windu is one of my favorite Jedi of the Clone Wars era (although no one beats Quinlan Vos) and I was very excited to see that he was getting his own new Marvel story arc. While I have read (and previously reviewed) all the old Dark Horse Clone Wars comics, this was a nice fresh addition that adds a bit more to Mace Windu and his beliefs and values, as well as some backstory from when he was a Padawan, which was also very interesting. It is always nice getting additional Star Wars story for the new canon that is from a time period other than ABY.

 

 

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Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition (0 BBY)

Publisher: Marvel (4 Issues)

Writer: Bruce Jones

Artist(s): Eduardo Barreto, et. al.

This 40 year anniversary hardcover edition compiles issues 1-4 of the original 1997 comics. This edition features some uncolored sketches as well as commentary. Bringing to life the original movie, A New Hope is the story of a water farmer named Luke who winds up being a savior to the galaxy. He learns about Jedi and snippets of his father from hermit and once-Jedi, Obi-wan Kenobi. At the loss of Kenobi, Luke feels lost in the world, but Kenobi is still with Luke through the Force. Luke learns to harness the Force truly for the first time when he shoots the aiming blow to the Death Star. This beginning aspect of the hero’s journey is a fun and exciting adventure, the first Star Wars story and the epic that began the major franchise we know today.

I like the hardcover aspect of this edition, but, considering it is only four issues, it feels a bit short compared to other graphic novels. The art is also an older style, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t on the same level as the newer Star Wars publications by the current team Marvel has. It would have been really neat to do a whole new adaptation of A New Hope with a new writer and the current Marvel artistic team to see what kinds of changes they would make, such as rephrasing certain things or moving things around for more action among the panels, extending into a 5 issue piece. That would have been cool.

 

 

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Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit (0 ABY)

Publisher: Marvel (5 Issues + Annual #1)

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist(s): Kev Walker, Marc Deering, Marc Laming, et. al.

This is the second volume featuring Doctor Aphra, containing issues 9-13 as well as Annual #1. Aphra is an archaeologist who is constantly aiming to find (or steal?) artifacts to make a huge amount of money. Recently, Aphra has obtained an ancient Jedi artifact that, when awakened, can posses different mechanisms, becoming an enraged, killing machine. Aphra has set up an auction for the artifact among the highest bidders, having concealed the artifact from being able to utilize its ultimate power. Creatures from across the galaxy find that there are numerous way to use such an artifact, but Aphra is choosy about who she will ultimately sell too. Of course, her tech fails and the Jedi within wreaks havoc. Not only that, but her droids seemingly serve a different master, one Aphra does not want to confront again!

I really like the Doctor Aphra series because it adds an interesting, bad-ass female character to the new Star Wars canon. While her story continues (for now), I hope to see her in future media (other books, TV shows, or movies). I love the art, a great team for the Marvel Star Wars line of new comics. Aphra is a unique, fun, and interesting addition to the Star Wars canon, having worked for Darth Vader, encountered Luke Skywalker, and moving on with her own endeavors, which makes me wonder just what she will be doing next.

 

 

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Star Wars: Out Among the Stars (0 ABY)

Publisher: Marvel (5 Issues + Annual #3)

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist(s): Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado, et. al.

This is the sixth collected volume of the new Marvel line of Star Wars comics collecting Star Wars issues 33-37 and annual #3. Something unique about this collection is that each issue is focused on one or two of the characters, rather than the whole group, as the characters are all spit off for the majority of this part of the story line. Issue 33 portrays Luke and Leia as they wait to be rescued from a presumably deserted planet. When they find that there is life underwater being affected by the taint of the Empire, Luke and Leia aim to help while they await a transport. Issue 34 segues into Lando and Sana aiming to get a number of credits through some sneaky means. Sana swindles more than one group of people with some of the Empire’s stolen weapons, and Lando is impressed by the way she thinks through things. In issue 35, Luke and Leia have been reunited with Han and Chewie. Han and his partner are then sent to smuggle Grakkus the Hutt and Han knows Hutt tricks, so he is ready for any deception the Hutt might use to escape. Meanwhile, in Issue 36, we see Artoo infiltrating a Star Destroyer to save his droid friend, C-3PO, who we last saw having been taken by the SCAR Stormtrooper squad. With a mind of his own, Artoo is able to save his friend and bewilder many of Vader’s crew. Issue 37 comes back around with the SCAR squad having found a rebel base where the reunited group comes in to find it in ruins. They must continue to hold out in their fight now more than ever if they wish to vanquish the Empire. Annual #3 is fun in that we get Han and Leia stranded together where someone whose life was ruined by Han aims to kill him. While this man vs man conflict presents itself to their predicament, Han and Leia begin to understand each other just a little bit more.

While this is still an amazing graphic novel, I find it a bit lacking in relation to previous volumes. The reason for this is that it is a bunch of different side stories going on as the group aims to get together again. The side stories themselves were all mostly interesting, but the overall story arc is more powerful when there is some looming dread that the main heroes must overcome. Volume 7 looks very promising to pick up the main story, for sure. And of course, once again, Marvel has a great team of artists on this project along with the writer, Jason Aaron.

White Noise-Should You Read It?

Image result for white noise delilloImage result for white noise delillo

Genre: Satirical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

White Noise, by Don DeLillo, covers an array of thematic ideas that relate to something the American culture cannot escape: consumerism.

The novel is told from Jack’s first person past perspective. Jack is in his fifties, has married multiple times and has a number of children among the marriages. He is also the founder of Hitler Studies as his local small-town college. His fascination with Hitler is interesting in that how we look at Hitler today is a man of terror. Why might Jack be so interested? Hitler surrounded himself with death, and now, as he ages, Jack is surrounded by the fear of death, consumed by thoughts of what age he will die and “Who will die first,” him or his wife, Babette? The question appears multiple times in the novel, driving this obsession of man vs self.

The novel has an interesting structure. There are three sections of the novel: “Waves and Radiation,” “The Airborn Toxic Event,” and “Dylarama,” each adding to the thematic ideas and meaning behind consumerism and the satirical development that shows readers to not give in to consumer culture. While “Waves and Radiation” sets the reader up with the characters and their personalities, it is slow in comparison to the rest of the novel. Once the family experiences the Airborn Toxic Event, things really heat up in the final part of the book, “Dylarama.” Dylar, for short, is a fictional drug for the sake of the novel that is meant to cure the fear of death, a major theme in the novel.

The fear of death is something all people must face. We all have that fear, to some extent, and the various characters in the novel approach that fear on varying levels, some even looking at it in a positive light, because why fear something you cannot control?

Another interesting aspect to the structure is its “white noise” and random consumerism inferences. For example, we see a number of single lines similar to “Blue jeans tumbled in the dryer” (18), “‘Kleenex Softique, Kleenex Softique'” (39), and “Mastercard, Visa, American Express” (100), all hinting to white noise and consumerism. The dryer, the running sink, the garbage compactor, the TV or radio on in the background, cars rushing by–all these things are “white noise,” the noise of everyday life that we often do not singulary hear because it is not what is important in the now. These background noises are all contrubutors to the daily life of the average American lifestyle, always needing to clean house, drive somewhere, throw trash away. And where does our trash come from? Consumerism. the “Kleenex Softique” is an announcement over the mall speaker, both white noise to those who don’t care, and an advertisement to consumers. And of course, the major credit card companies being randomly thrown into the structure show how consumerism is all around us no matter where we go, in our pockets.

Through the lens of Jack, the reader can establish through DeLillo’s use of satire, that consumerism is negatively impacting our culture because we buy and waste so much more than we need to. As Jack meander’s through his fear of death, he comes to find that shopping, for him and everyone else in the world, is a way to put off death, to mingle until our time comes. Consumers are the residents of Purgatory.

Overall, an interesting book. I read and taught this to high school seniors and find that the novel has a number of real-world applications that students who are turning 18 should be aware of as they ready themselves to enter the world on their own, to go to college, find a job, and pay their bills. This book makes them more aware of consumerism and highlights how being afraid of death is trivial. Many instances in the book relate to many of the experiences we simply have as human beings, and that is what teaching English is all about: learning what it means to be human. Recommended for those who want to be aware of issues in society through an interesting and relatively humorous and fun satirical lens.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi-Should You Read It?

Genre: Science-fictionImage result for the last jedi novel

Rating: 5/5

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the first film-to-novel adaptation in the Star Wars saga that I greatly enjoyed.

It was a quick and easy read–if you have seen the movie. If for some reason you have not seen the movie, this book might actually be a bit hard to follow. There is a big disconnect when transferring something from screen to print and vise versa. While you get the eloquent descriptions of the action written in the book, it is still very different than seeing those actions set in motion on the screen. While the descriptions are relatively vivid, they are not detailed enough to give face to the characters for one who may not have seen the movie. It doesn’t often reflect on how they look, although there is a lot with body and facial expression.

The Last Jedi novelization is extended to the movie (are all copies extended edition? I don’t see why they wouldn’t be). There are a number of “deleted scenes” that were wanted in the movie, but the movie is already the longest of the saga so far, and the extra bits had to be cut for the sake of time, but these scenes will likely be featured in the DVD/Blu-ray extras as well.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the feelings and the connections between the characters that can be expressed in the third person limited scope of this novel. One example is the connection between Finn and Rose. While their “side quest” feels pointless since it does not succeed, that is actually one of the elements that makes The Last Jedi unique–not every plan is going to work, and their plot line demonstrates this reality. During their quest to find a master codebreaker to get them aboard the massive star destroyer Supremacy to nullify the tracking beacon they use to find the Resistance, Finn and Rose seemingly do not like each other. We get a bit less of Finn and a bit more of Rose in the third person perspective. Rose complains internally (and externally as well) about how much Finn praises and has hope in Rey. As their journey progresses, we see the internal feelings begin to bloom as Rose finds herself attracted to Finn. We also get a lot of internal thoughts on her deceased sister, Paige, and aspect that we don’t really get to see as much in the movie, developing Rose as a character more so that the visual version did.

Then we have the main plot with Luke/Snoke/Kylo/Rey/Leia, those involved more closely to the Skywalkers and have larger involvement in the Skywalker plot line. While the movie version did a very interesting job of portraying the relationships between Snoke/Kylo and Rey/Kylo, the book was more interesting in that, once again, we get the third person limited perspective where we see inside the character’s heads as to their true feelings and thought processes. Snoke has slightly more information given through his way of thinking, Kylo’s actions are more sound through his reasoning behind them, and they whole Kylo/Rey (or ReyLo, if you will) has much more meaning behind the words on the page.

When comparing The Last Jedi to The Force Awakens, while I find Abrams to be a better director, I found that the main plot of The Last Jedi was more interesting and there were a number of opportunities for character development in the main plot that changes the perspective of the reader/viewer. Hardcore Star Wars fan that I am, when The Force Awakens came out, I did not have any favorite new canon character (Mara Jade is my personal favorite character and always will be, followed by Thrawn). But with The Last Jedi, the character Development of Kylo Ren has me very intrigued and has enlightened me with a third favorite Star Wars character. Within the novel, although it is shown in the movie as well, there is an exorbitant amount of internal conflict going on in the young man, and his struggles leave room for a lot of development. I also like how we get more of his past, and there is an anti-hero element to his own story. Being an anti-hero doesn’t mean he is evil, but rather he finds that he is doing the right thing in his own way, perceiving the ways of the Resistance as those that would be “bad” or “evil.” This potential for development, whether he has a change of heart, or in the end, wins (that would be interesting indeed), the space for development through the final installment leaves delight and intrigue for those who want to see something not so cliche.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 16

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Romance/Mystery/Magic Realism

Rating: 4/5

Image result for wink poppy midnight

This was a cute book portrayed through the three characters Wink, Poppy, and Midnight. Wink is a girl living on a farm with her mother and many siblings with a dad who left long ago. Uniquely, Wink and her family are able to read tarot cards efficiently, giving a mystical element to the character. Midnight had sex with Poppy once and has been in love ever since, but Poppy was pretty much just bored, waiting for Wink’s brother, Leaf, to return her feelings for him. When Midnight meets Wink, he finds her different and unique and even caring in a way that Poppy could never be. When Poppy tries to convince Midnight to play a prank on Wink, Wink and Midnight turn the prank back on Poppy, scaring her mentality thereafter. The disappearance of Poppy sets Wink and Midnight on a quest to find her and make amends for what they have done, but who is the biggest prankster in the end?

I enjoyed this book as a young adult piece about finding where you fit in and knowing yourself, being who you are and not taking anyone else’s crap for it. Wink is seen as odd by many people, and Poppy and her posse do a number of mean and insulting things to the girl, but Wink doesn’t bat an eyelash because she is content with who she is, a message that should be conveyed to a young adult age reader to be who they are. The air of mystery about this book and the subtle magic realism within is a fun touch. The pacing is excellent and the character development and what the reader sees through each character’s perspectives and how the reader learns the little quirks of the characters makes for a fun read as well. I would recommend this book to a young adult audience, male or female, because they would be able to relate to some of the conflicts the characters face and maybe even learn how to solve their own problems in life by adding their own unique mysticism and being proud of who they are as a person.

 

This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Image result for this night so darkThis very short story connects Kaufman and Spooner’s These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, two amazing novels in space. This short story is free on Amazon Kindle , which shows the authors’ devotion to their fans. The story is a conversation that takes place after the events of the first novel, but the story Tarver tells takes place six months before the crash of the spaceliner, Icarus. Throughout the first novel, the reader learns a bit about Tarver being a war hero, and this is the story that brings his heroism to light. When stationed on a planet to stop some mercenaries, Tarver learns a lot more is going on at a research facility than meets the eye. His aim is to save the scientists within. While recounting the tale to Lilac, the two discover some connections between the facility Tarver was at six months prior to the facility found on their deserted planet, which isn’t a good thing.

I liked the length of this overall, but the story itself was lacking interesting aspects in the same way the novel draws the reader in. It was a bit slow to start. The dialogue between lilac and Tarver was more interesting than Tarver’s heroism at the research facility. Only toward the very end did it start to pick up, and that is because the connections between the novel and the short are revealed nearly at the last digital page. It was an interesting connector to the second book in that it shows there is more going on with LaRoux Industries than Tarver and Lilac first discovered, and it is bridged to events in the second novel in a subtle way that makes me glad I read this. I could have not read it and have still enjoyed both novels, but it was a fun little connecting piece.

 

Olympos by Aki

Genre: Manga/Fantasy/Mythology

Rating: 3.5/5

Image result for olympos manga omnibusA relatively interesting manga featuring Apollo, the sun god, along with some others (such as Poseidon, Zeus, Hades, and Artemis). Apollo has taken a young boy from Troy and keeps him in a special garden belonging to Zeus. The boy, Ganymede, can never escape the garden, even through death. At the beginning of the manga, a young archaeologist makes an appearance, but is not in the rest of the manga, which seems like a wasted character. At some point, Apollo visits a temple where people have crafted a statue in his image (although it looks nothing like him). When conversing with a girl that is meant to be a sacrifice, Apollo learns what people really do and expect from the gods, something he was not really very aware of.

While the art in this two-volume omnibus is very stunning, the plot is rather lacking. There are characters that have the reader questioning why they are even used at all, and there’s not anything linear to the story, for the most part. There are various tangent plot lines that do not seem to match the initial story. While the art is stunning, the plot could have been developed further. The most interesting plot line is when Apollo converses with a girl who is meant to be a sacrifice to him. If the plot were more about the gods and their interactions (or lack thereof) with humans, it would have been more interesting. Overall, worth a one-time read but not something I need to keep or read again.

 

 

Deadman Wonderland (Vol. 1) by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

Genre: Manga/Horror

Rating: 4/5

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This horror manga has some interesting fantasy elements to it. Ganta Igarashi thinks he’s going to another normal day of school, but when the “Red Man” appears and slaughters a number of students, Igarashi is accused of the crime and sent to Deadman Wonderland, a prison with deathly tasks that citizens of the city may go to watch for entertainment. If the people die during the “games,” what does it matter, since they are all inmates on death row anyway? When a strange girl in white saves Igarashi with a strange power, Igarashi finds that he might just have a special ability that will keep him alive in Deadman Wonderland.

For those who like gore, this is a pretty graphic manga when it comes to head slicing and body chopping. The story has some interesting pieces that leave intriguing questions by the end of the volume, and draws the reader to find that there is much, much more going on in Deadman Wonderland than meets the eye. Igarashi is targeted by inmates and regulators alike, and some notice something special about him, wanting to challenge this strange ability of his. The art is portrayed elegantly, especially the gore, and the pacing is quick, which works well for the novel, leaving a cliffhanger that urges the reader to continue the series. My only warning: if you do not like gore/horror, avoid this one, because some of the graphics are cringe-worthy in their vividity.

 

My Little Monster by Robico

Genre: Manga/Romance/Comedy

Rating: 3/5

Image result for my little monster vol 1Haru Yoshida gets into fights and skips out on school often. When Shizuku Mizutani is asked to bring his work to him, he attacks her like a monster, accusing her of trying to drag him to school. When he realizes that Shizuku had no intention of trying to get him to come to school, he realizes she’s a bit different than the average girl. Shizuku sees him as a monstrous, crazy person with no good qualities, but when she sees how much he cares for animals, her perception of him somewhat changes. But then Haru continues to claim that he is in love with Shizuku, reinforcing her opinion that he must be insane and there’s no way a guy like him could ever love a girl like her., not to mention it can never work.

This seemed like a manga with promise, but it was rather disappointing. The art is relatively decent, but the story is generic and lacking. There is nothing that really makes this stand out from any other shoujo manga that I have previously read and there is no driving factor for me to want to keep reading. As a first volume, it has its funny and cute moments, and ends with the heroine coming to terms with how she truly feels about her crazy pet monster boy, as well as an appearance of a new character that leaves the reader questioning just who he might be (he looks like Haru a bit…hmmm).