Star Wars: Rebel Rising-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

Rebel Rising is a part of the Rogue One story line in the Star Wars franchise. This book can be found in the young adult section of your local book store, and is written for more of a teen audience, which made this a fun and unique read in addition to the Star Wars collection of books.

This novel features Jyn Erso for the ten years she spends between the time of her mother’s death and the time that she truly joins the rebellion. When Jyn is taken from her hiding place by Saw, a Clone Wars veteran, she finds she could learn to care for him as if he were family, but Saw has treated Jyn as a rising rebel rather than a daughter. At times, he does claim her as his daughter and he ingrains into her that she must never share her true identity, since her father is working for the Empire.

Jyn learns how to use a blaster and how to fight and defend using hand-to-hand combat. She becomes antiquated with a number of rebels that begin forming small strikes against the Empire, and she even demonstrates her strength against them, proving her worth to join Saw and the rebels on a mission.

When a mission goes sour and the rebels find a traitor in their midst, they must be careful. When the wrong person is accused, the real spy makes himself known, and Jyn is separated from Saw. She spends a year with the Ponta family (Hadder and his mother, Akshaya), finding new meaning to life, and even romance.

Even though Jyn constantly warns Akshaya that the Empire will eventually come down on their planet, the trader does not listen. When the Empire strikes, Jyn must make a new start yet again. Finding jobs hard to come by, Jyn resorts to working codes for the Empire and even selling out rebels, until she lands herself in the Imperial prison on Wobani.

This book is fun and fast-paced with the perfect type font, line spacing, and writing style for a young adult audience and it works for any Star Wars fan as well. There are some time skips that make the book feel rushed, which was noticeable and a bit of a bummer, and there isn’t anything that particularly stands out that makes the book great. Rather, it is the build and background that is placed upon Jyn’s character that makes this book more interesting, especially since we know the events that happen right after the books ends.

All in all, I would recommend this book for Star Wars fans of all ages, whether they be new fans to the franchise or veterans. It was a great installation to the series, to be sure!

King’s Cage (Red Queen 3)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the third book in the Red Queen series. Following the ending events of Glass Sword, Mare is imprisoned by king Maven. The book title comes from her experience of feeling that she is constantly in a cage created by the king.

With Mare having Silent Stone shackles at all times, her powers are useless. She becomes weak, a pawn in Maven’s game. Maven forces Mare to enlighten Newbloods to come to his side and fight for him, that they will be duly rewarded.

One of the interesting aspects about this novel compared to the previous one is that we get Cameron’s point of view, a Newblood girl from the group rescued at Corvium Prison. When we get her perspective, we see what is going on with the Scarlet Guard, Cal, and the Newbloods during Mare’s imprisonment. This addition gives the reader a new perspective on Mare and Cal as people.

While Mare is imprisoned, she can tell that Maven must still have feelings for her. She uses that to her advantage, until he declared his engagement to the Lakeland Princess. During the wedding ceremony of Maven and the princess, Mare makes a daring escape with the help of someone the reader would not have expected, but her helper has their own goals in mind.

The whole first half of the book involves Mare’s imprisonment, but does not mean it it lacking. We learn a lot about the other nations and their opposition to Maven as king, as well as some of the high houses of Norta who think likewise.

The second half of the book involves taking Corvium, helping Newbloods, and making a bunch of political alliances in the Scarlet Guard’s plans to take over Norta. It also features a nice spotlight on Cal and Mare’s relationship, but when Cal is being put forth to be the king to take over Norta, Mare is furious, since he previously stated he did not want to be king again. This leads to an interesting cliffhanger in regards to there own romance.

Mare is also reunited with her family and becomes and auntie. She also meets a bunch of interesting Newbloods who want to see a world undiscriminating by blood, just like Mare.

This book was not quite as good as the first one, but it was better than the second, despite the fact that Mare is imprisoned for a huge chunk of the novel. If you thought the second one was a bit meh, fear not! This book more than makes up for the slow bits, leaves the reader with a lot of questions, as well as itching for more!

Crewe Chase and the Pearl Defender (Crewe Chase #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Picking up right where Crewe Chase and the Jet Reapers left off, this book is much better than the first one! While the writing is simple and there are still a number of written redundancies that the reader does not need, the plot pick up, and the book had a leading promise for the adventures (and battles?) that await Crewe in the future.

In this second installment, we know Crewe has been admitted to the Jet Reapers, and that Cheyenne wants him out, but we do not know why.

Crewe gets his personal training from his favorite teacher at the castle, Professor Abernathy, who gruel’s Crewe down with physical force to help him become stronger. When Crewe finally sees that Abernathy has his best interests in mind, despite her treatment of him, he finally grows as a character.

Fans of the gravedigger scorpion, Rockcave, will not be dissapointed by this second book. One of the main subplots involves Crewe finding a way to create a portal on his own so that he may allow Rockcave a short vacation with the Scorpion Queen and to mingle among his own kind. The steps Crewe must take to satisfy his paired animal involve a whole assortment of people who Crewe is not so fond of–including Cheyenne.

While Crewe becomes stronger and proves his worth to learn how to make a portal, he learns a number of things about the Jet Reapers, including that they have a holding area for Cados. when Crewe finds a Cados leader and his wife and son in detainment being treated poorly, he begins to question the motives of the Jet Reapers.

Among the Jet Reapers is a Pearl Defender, someone who does not think all Cados are bad, and that not all wizards are good (and where have we heard this before? The dream of his mother as well as from Cheyenne–what could their connection be?)

The end leaves promise of a more exciting battle to come. If you can move past the set up and installment of the first novel, this one surpasses it greatly and shows promise for future installments in the series, so at least give this second book a try before you give up on Crewe Chase!

Carve the Mark-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Carve the Mark blew me away! At first it was slow and convoluted because there is a lot of information to take in about the world and how it functions, but once that is more clear, the story is interesting, fast-paced, and outstanding! I went into this book not knowing anything about it or what to expect, and it turned out to be one of the best reads of 2017 thus far. The author the the Divergent Series does not disappoint her fans here.

The premise of the story is somewhat complex, but I will try my best to explain: basically there are two groups of people who inhabit the same planet and they are warring with each other. The origin stories for this dispute are different in both societies, so we cannot know which is accurate and which is not. The people of these planets obtain something similar to powers, called “currentgifts,” such as the use of fire or healing. People gain currentgifts from the current stream in their universe when they are around the age where they would go through puberty.

Akos Kereseth is the main male character who obtains the currentgift for interrupting other currentgifts; in other words, he can take them away. He is of the Thuvhe, the northern culture of people inhabiting the planet. When the Shotet people come to take Akos and his brother away, one of them supposedly the new prophet, the violence encourages even more dispute among the people.

Ryzek Noavek, the leader of the Shotet people in the south, believes that if he owns his own prophet (in this case, Akos’s brother), then he can escape his fate or rewrite what the prophet foresees before it happens. Ryzek’s gift is to exchange memories with others, and his hope is to be able to take the prophet’s power away through memory exchange.

When Akos becomes a servant for Cyra Noavek, Ryzek’s sister, the two seemingly hate each other, but their currentgifts are well-paired. Cyra’s currentgift is being in a constant state of nearly chronic pain, pain which she can give to others through touch, and even kill people with it. Since Akos can take currentgifts away, he can help Cyra ease her gift to build her public face for her brother. Because of her gift, Ryzek uses her to torture enemies often, despite how it affects her.

Eventually, Cyra and Akos not only find feelings for each other, but find that they have a common goal: remove (by murdering) Ryzek from power, because he is the one causing the current violence between the two civilizations. Akos also knows his fate: that he will one day die for the Noavek family, but when and how is uncertain, and no one can change their fate.

Overall, this book received a number of mixed reviews and has been called “ableist” and “racist” by many reviewers. While I can see these aspects in the novel, it is the racism and ableism that make the characters and the novel interesting. Basically, Roth is using this science-fiction world to demonstrate issues that we are still struggling with in the world today, issues that may need a bit more light and understanding bestowed upon them.

Despite the mixed reviews, the story is fast-paced (after the large amount of world building and exposition at the beginning of the novel) and has characters that seem to have a sort of Romeo and Juliet type of fate. It is the hardship and tragedy of the characters that make them worth following and growing attached to. It is the hope that they will overcome what fate has written for them, but knowing Roth, Akos and Cyra may yet have a tragic end.

The writing is pretty solid, and I have to say that the only way to really get a feel for what this book has to offer is to pick up a copy and READ IT! I am greatly looking forward to the next one, which I believe will be even better than the first, since the major exposition has been put out in the first novel.

A side note: Why is it called Carve the Mark? Well, every time the Shotet kill someone, people of violence, they carve a mark into their skin and dye it so that everyone knows how many they have killed, and to put those deaths to memory as well.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 8

 

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

Genre: Adolescent Fiction

Rating: 3/5

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Perhaps you have heard of the long poem called The Lady of Shalott, by Alfred Lord Tennyson? The Lady of Shalott is a women in old Arthurian myth during the time of Camelot. This book features King Arthur’s younger sister, Elaine, who happens to love Lancelot. When Gwynivere arrives into the camp, Elaine notices that she has a new love rival. When the two girls get mixed up with the Saxons, Elaine puts aside her differences and aims to help Gwynivere share the Saxon’s plans with Arthur, but that means escaping their imprisonment first.

Written in a poetic format gives the novel an interesting structure. Having only read Ellen Hopkins’s contemporary novels in poetic form, those were the only structure I had to compare this contemporary novel to as well. The poetic verse does not actually add much to the story and is rather distracting since there is no real meter or flow to the poetic form. the story itself is a nice historical fiction piece for middle grade and young adult readers in that it features a female heroine who fights for her beliefs and feelings during the time of King Arthur. I would say that this is a great book for the aforementioned age groups and worth a one-time read.

 

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Stacy King

Genre: Literature/Manga

Rating: 4/5

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This adaptation of The Scarlet Letter was fantastic. The art was beautiful and the reader can really read into the deeper feelings of the characters through their facial expressions in a way that cannot be expressed through text alone. Pearl was portrayed as the little evil child she is claimed to be in the original novel, and the art portrays her behaviors in a way that makes the material comprehensive on a whole new level. While the original novel still moved me, this adaptation got me a bit teary-eyes with the visual emphasis (as did the Manga Classics adaptation of Les Miserables, which did have me crying). This is a great adaptation for young readers and anyone who enjoys looking at something from a different artistic medium.
I have read not only this Manga Classics adaptation, but I have read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Les Miserables in the Manga Classics editions as well, and all of them are written in a fantastic way that can help struggling readers or English learners comprehend these more complex texts and students can still fulfill the needs of the Common Core State Standards with these adaptations. Check out the Manga Classics Website for the different titles, a PowerPoint on how they work with the standards, and lesson plans that go with this edition of The Scarlet Letter.

 

Tokyo ESP (Volume 1) by Hajime Segawa

Genre: Action/Manga

Rating: 4/5

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I dived into this series not knowing what to expect, but by the end of the first volume, I must say that the series looks like it has some great potential. This series introduces the reader to Rinka, a regular girl, or was regular until she is touched by a strange glowing fish in the middle of the city. When she wakes up falling through her apartment floor, she knows something is a bit different about her, and she’s not the only one. A bunch of people in Tokyo who have touched the glowing fish have suddenly gained different forms of ESP powers, and not everyone has good intentions. Now Rinka and fellow ESP user, Azuma, must use their ESP powers for good. And what’s up with the penguin? It can take ESP away, problem solved!

This seems like a very action-packed series with great art. The American release versions come as 2-in-1 compilations, which is nice, making up a total of 8 volumes in America, 16 in Japan. I would recommend this for the die-hard anime fans as well as those who are into the super hero genre.

 

Spider Gwen (Volume 0) by Jason Latour

Genre: Young Adult/Comic

Rating: 3/5

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In an alternate universe, Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman. She aims to fight crime, but when Peter Parker becomes the Lizard in hopes of being a powerful hero like Spider-Woman, he goes on a rampage, and Gwen must stop him. With the guilt of Peter’s death looming over her, Gwen aims to do good against the evil Kingpin and his lackey, Matt Murdoch. The problem is, everything she does ends up looking like a crime from the police perspective, making her a wanted criminal.

While this was interesting and the art and color schemes were visually aesthetic, the story feels a bit lacking. It was fun to see Murdoch as a villain and Gwen struggling through her secret of being Spider-Woman, but the over arching story feels plain and used. The other Spiderverse comics are vastly more interesting, but this was a nice switch-up for the girls.

 

Monster Musume: I c39bd2813d999a1ddc360bcba21e4d54_heart-clip-art-free-blue-heart-outline-clipart_298-276.png (298×276) Monster Girls by Okayado, SHAKE-O, et. al

Genre: Comedy/Monster Girls/Short Anthology

Rating: 3/5

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While this book is by no means up to par with the main Monster Musume series, it still had its interesting points and quirks. This volume has 14 short stories drawn in the four-panel comic strip format, including a story (and cover art) by SHAKE-O, the author of Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary, as well as a short, one page blip from Okayado himself. The stories are written and drawn by people from the publisher or who work with Okayado on the main series, not general fan-fiction. Most of the stories are bland, with the occasional very funny or worth-while read.

Do not buy this at full price at the store, because it is not worth that. But it on Amazon for half the cover price. The catch with this series is that each volume comes with….THREE MONSTER MUSUME COLLECTOR’S POST CARDS! These are very beautiful drawings by Okayado and worth the purchase for die-hard collectors, but still not worth 12.99 + tax just for three illustrated cards. I am still debating whether or not to continue to buy these just to have in my collection, but the post cards sure make it tempting!

Dark Apprentice (Jedi Academy Trilogy #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Science-fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

11 ABY

Happy 40 year anniversary to the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, released on May 25, 1977! In honor of the anniversary, I ensure that a fresh Star Wars Post makes it onto my blog on May 25th. This post features the second novel in the Jedi Academy Trilogy: Dark Apprentice, preceded by the first in the trilogy, Jedi Search. While not quite as interesting as the events and characters in the first novel, this one still has quite a bit of merit.

The New Republic has taken the Sun Crusher, and in retaliation, Admiral Daala is wreaking havoc across New Republic worlds, including Akbar’s home-world. After his ship is tampered with during a peaceful political talk with a new planet of people, Ackbar crashing into their sacred building has the New Republic remove him from his post, no longer an admiral. Now residing on his home-world, Leia and Ackbar fight against Daala’s assault.

While this battle rages on Mon Calamari, Luke is on Yavin 4 training his new Jedi apprentices. Little does Luke know that a couple of his Jedi are looking to the Dark Side. Gantoris on the Eol Sha people sees visions of dark power, and when he chooses to embrace the Dark Side, it is too much, and his body gives out. Now this dark being has found its way to Kyp Durron, who claims the Sun Crusher can be used against Daala and the rest of the Empire remnants, and that Luke is not teaching his new pupils what they need to know.

Meanwhile, Leia is aiming for peaceful negotiations with various planets while trying to be a good mother at the same time, and the one who sabotaged Ackbar’s ship has found Anakin Solo’s whereabouts!

When Luke finds out about the destruction of the Eol Sha people, wiped out by Daala in an act of pure guerrilla warfare, Luke cannot keep up with the fading Empire remnants and his pupils turning to the Dark Side. When Luke aims to fight whatever this looming darkness is, he falls into a comatose state, leaving his apprentices to fend for themselves, and leaving Kyp to do as he pleases with the Sun Crusher as he aims to exact revenge and save his brother.

All in all, this book was still pretty decent. I was not as interesting as the set-up and character introductions in Jedi Search, it has potential to lead into a climactic finish, and it does keep the reader wanting to know what will happen with many of the characters, including Luke, Kyp, Anakin, Daala, and Mara. Yes, Mara Jade make an appearance in this novel, as Luke is aiming to get her to join his Jedi Academy, and the plays between Mara and Lando are hilarious. Overall, a decent sequel to a decent Star Wars trilogy that any fan would find interest in.

Monster Musume-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Manga/Comedy/Harem/Monster Girls

Rating: 4/5

While the audience for this manga is definitely geared for men, I, a woman, vastly enjoyed this series. At present (by the publication date of this post) there are 11 volumes released in North America by Seven Seas publisher. Volume 12 is scheduled for Late August, 2017, and the NA publisher is keeping up as volumes are being released in Japan. This manga has a rating of OT (older teen, which is 16+) and has an abundance of nude breasts, so be warned.

So what is this multi-genre manga even about? Basically this young man named Kimihito was not signed on for the Interspecies Cultural Exchange Act, but when Smith-san brings a shy Lamia, Miia, to his door, his home becomes open to monster girls, and he is their host. Of course, there is only Miia, but when he encounters a Harpy in the park and a Centaur on the street, he finds that more and more exchange monster girls are in need of a place to stay. Not only do these three girls end up staying with him, but a Mermaid, Arachne, Slime, and Dullahan live with Kimihito too!

Miia is very protective of Kimihito and gets flustered and jealous when the other monster girls are around, because she wants “Darling” all to herself. When the Interspecies Cultural Exchange takes a new step, considering it currently states that humans and monsters cannot physically mingle (sex or harming). With Smith-san the head of many things, she puts forth that Kimihito must select one of the monster girls living with him to marry, so that the cultural exchange can move forward.

A number of other monster girls get involved with our daring “Darling,” some even seeking to kill him!

There is also the MON squad, a group of more human-like monster girls (consisting of a Doppelganger, Zombie, Cyclops, and Oni) that help Smith-san keep the peace between monsters and humans. They, too, get some fun date time with our hero, Kimihito. (Zombina is one of my favorites!)

Even though this series is geared toward men, I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves comedy and can handle a lot of breasts, because bare breasts are an iconic thing in this manga. The thing I personally love most about it is the author’s sense of humor. Okayado knows just the right time and place to implement memes and modern media humor. Included below are photos from some of my favorite jokes implemented from video games: