The Mortal Instruments (The Graphic Novel)-Should You Read It?

Related imageGenre: Manga/Young Adult Fiction/Paranormal

Rating: 5/5

First of all, I call this a manga rather than a graphic novel because 1) graphic novels are usually in color or printed on a shiny paper and 2) this was published by Yen Press, a well-known manga publisher in North America. I have reviews for: Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows, and a special spotlight review on Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy as well, all of which likewise feature some of Cassandra Jean’s artwork.

Maybe I am biased (I try not to be), but this is one of my few 5/5 star ratings. It is an amazing adaptation of the first part (about half) of Cassandra Clare’s novel, City of Bones. Also, the art was done by Cassandra Jean, one of my personal favorite artists. All the work she does for the Shadowhunter novels is absolutely spot-on when it comes to what I, as a reader, think the characters look like. I even have the Shadowhunter Illustrated History with her artwork, the Mortal Instruments Coloring Book, and the tarot cards, all with Cassandra Jean’s work. If it hadn’t been for her beauty with Shadowhunter’s, I never would have found some of her other original work, such as Reindeer Boy (which is officially one of my favorites, also a manga published by Yen Press).

With all this fin stuff in mind, perhaps I should talk a bit about the story and to what extent it follows the novel. It has been about ten years since I first read City of Bones, and I am still a major Shadowhunter fan. This adaptation was not only done with beautiful art, but adapting the story was done well also. This first volume Introduces the reader to Clary Fray, a girl who enjoys a normal life with her friend, Simon. All that turns around when she witnesses a murder in the Pandemonium club.

Little did she know that it was a demon being murdered, and that Shadowhunters are meant to protect the mundane (human) world. When Jace Wayland discovers that Clary has the sight, he aims to bring her into the world of Shadowhunters, even though she does not want that…at first.

The three mortal instruments, the cup, the sword, and the mirror, are first described in this volume, and some of the history and lore of the Shadowhunters is introduced. The reader is also given some backstory by Jace, and the volume ends after Magnus’s party, when he warns Clary that her mother was hiding her from the terror of the Shadowhunter world.

I absolutely loved this adaptation; the art adds a different perspective when reading, in that I notice physical character interactions in a way that I did not notice when reading the novel originally. This is only volume one, and with the title being The Mortal Instruments, I will be assuming (and hoping) that it will cover the six books in the original story arc.

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On another note, on the same day as this manga, the 10th anniversary edition of City of Bones was released, and it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever purchased. There is a number of colored interior art by Cassandra Jean both within the pages as well as the interior covers. There are also a number of black and white pieces of art added into various places, which will really add to the reading experience and has me greatly looking forward to reading the novel again and starting my Shadowhunter journey from where it all began over ten years ago. There are also added files from the Clave, which is an interesting part of this edition as well, and the binding is like that of an old book, giving it a chic feel of value.

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Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 13

Demon Love Spell (Vol. 1) by Mayu Shinjo

Genre: Manga/Shoujo/Romance/Paranormal

Rating: 4/5

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This story is about a shrine maiden named Miko who just can’t seem to do her job. Both of her parents and even her grandparents expelled demons from the world. While she tries to expel demons from her shrine, she can’t see the demons, so she doesn’t even know if the spell went in the right direction or not! When her friend rushes to her telling Miko about this boy who must be possessed by a demon, since he is such a womanizer, Miko runs to the call of her friend and classmates. Of course, her friend was just joking. When Miko arrives on the scene and uses a dispel charm, it turns out the guy was an incubus all along (a male demon that feeds of of female energy). Miko can see demons when she touches Kagura (the demon she dispelled), and she finds that he is adorable (as a key chain) and useful in her demon hunting. Of course, feelings seem to blossom on both ends. When a bunch of demons come to try and take Miko’s power away, the two must work together to emerge victorious.

When I picked this manga up, it seemed kind of cheesy, and it…well…kind of is, in a cute way. I really liked the heroine as well as the demon. Both characters had something to them that made me want to see how they grow and change over the course of the series. While I have only read the first volume, the writing and shoujo aspects of this manga do make me want to pick up the next one at some point in the future for sure. The art is nice too, which just adds to the allure.

 

Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Vol. 1) by Ark Performance

Genre: Manga/Military Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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The Fleet of Fog has made humanity desperate. After a time when powerful vessels have appeared out of nowhere and taken over the oceans, people aim to bring these intelligent submarines down.  These vessels are able to maintain a humanoid avatar that represents each vessel, women of course since ships and subs are always dubbed with “she.” When one submarine chooses to side with humanity, only Chihaya can command her, and his strategies are pristine, worthy of being an intelligent vessel captain.

I was not sure what to expect from this manga when it came from Loot-crate, but it was sure interesting. The main character, Chihaya, is interesting and intelligent, and when the submarines take on their own avatars and intelligence’s, the war rages, and Chihaya must find a way to keep humanity from ruin, as well as from destroying his own vessel that originated from the Fleet of Fog. This is a very unique story and a great manga for those who enjoy military strategy as well as intriguing crews…with some chick action on the side!

 

Yowamushi Pedal, Go! by Wataru Watanabe

Genre: Manga/Sports/Bicycling

Rating: 3/5

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Sakimichi Onoda is an otaku. He make the ninety-kilometer round trip to Akihabara more than a few times a week, and mommy bike too. As in, a women’s designed bike with a basket. Despite this, Sakamichi is a power-peddler. When his biking skills are notice I a serious first-year road racer, Imaizumi, Sakimichi is challenged to a rigorous bike race. Sakimichi has no interest in biking for sports, but when Imaizumi says he’ll join the anime club if Sakimichi wins, Sakimichi has something to race for.

For monger bouts for, because biking is a sport, it was actually really interesting. The first volume leaves you on the cliffhanger with wondering who’s going to win the race, which he would find out in the second volume. It is intriguing and has me want to keep reading, but when I found out there is over 50 volumes, I decided that perhaps this particular monger was not meant to be part of my collection, but maybe one day I’ll read it online or borrowed from my friend, who happens to own all of it. Overall I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t about romance, and it wasn’t necessarily about action either; it’s simply about a boy who loves anime and a boy who loves biking.

 

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Vol 1 by Emma Carlson Berne

Genre: Children’s/Science-fiction

Rating: 3/5

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This book, targeted toward young girls, features three short stories featuring some of the heroines from the Star Wars universe: Rei, Sabine, and Padme. The reading level is elementary, and it has some wonderful illustrations that make it appealing to younger female readers. Rei’s story features an adventure with BB-8 after finding him on Jakku and the struggle to keep the highly sought-after droid safe. We learn a little bit more about Sabine and a past friend of hers that she is trying to draw over to the rebellion, and Padme bonds with Ahsoka over a political dinner set-up and threat.

I picked this up in Target one day because, hey, I am a girl and I love Star Wars. While this is nothing like the young adult or adult novels in the Star Wars universe, I thought it was a fun collection of stories for young readers who are interested, and it goes along with the new show targeted toward young girls. Overall, I enjoyed it for the most part, but since I am quite a bit older, the simplicity of it was a bit to boring for me, but I can see the appeal for lower elementary grade-school readers.

 

Flying Witch (Vol. 1) by Chihiro Ishizuka

Genre: Manga/Paranormal

Rating: 4/5

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This manga is about Makoto, a girl from Yokohama who moves to the rural Aomori to train to be a witch. Being a witch is a secret, unless one is related to the witch, but when Makoto begins flying in public and a classmate sees, she is so excited about telling someone else about her being a witch that she forgets the rule for a minute! With the assistance of her family, friends, and cat, she trains to become a full-fledged witch as she learns new tricks and develops her power.

This manga was cute and well-drawn. It does have a main plot, but it feels very free and as if there is not enough accountability for me to want to continue reading. The cute art and the humor are the most attractive things about this manga, and I would recommend it for readers who want something easy and light-hearted, but for those who want a story with a thick plot and action, I would suggest looking elsewhere. The cat is a great character, by the way. It meows a lot and comprehends human speech.

A Centaur’s Life-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Monster Girl/Manga

Rating: 3.5/5

This review will feature instances and portrayal’s from the first four volumes, since reading one may not give a well enough idea of whether one might want to continue the series or not. Monster girl fans (especially centaur fans) will enjoy this one because the main character is a centaur and there are a number of other monster girl races featured in this series.

While this series does not seem to have an overarching plot (although it seems to have some interesting political and historical context that gets sprinkled in a bit in each volume) in the first four volumes, it does feature what a centaur’s life is like. Who do they hang out with, how do they get dressed, how to they bathe or use the toilet, what kinds of worries do they have when dating? These are all questions answered by this manga.

One of the more mature content things I enjoyed was that the very first chapter, Hime, the main centaur girl, gets a love confession by a creature of another race, and her concern is that her female parts are that of a horse, so all her friends compared…This was a hilarious and fun opening, but the rest did not match up from there onward. Within the first four volumes, we get to see what it is like for a centaur in PE and sports, to visit a mermaid school, go swimming, visit family, dress, eat, and get a haircut!

At the end of volume three, a new race is introduced, and interesting race called Antarcticans that have human legs and arms, but are otherwise serpentine in appearance. This is where the politics of the show get interesting. In the community, there are a number of speculations about Antarcticans, but no one knows what is true and what is not because no one has actually seen one in person, until one transfers to Hime’s school. Hime finds this creature to be frightening based off of a horror movie she saw as a child, but she learns that Antarcticans can be just like everyone else. I personally find this race to be interesting and might continue reading just to see the interactions between Hime and her friends and this race.

All-in-all, this series was okay (thus far). I am on the fence about continuing it though. As much of a monster girl fan as I am,  this series is cute and interesting to see different monster girl races, but the lack of an overarching story, or perhaps just the small hints of a major plot, are not enough to keep me reading. I would say at least give volume one a shot if this is your type of thing, that way you can see for yourself if it is worth the investment. The art is great, though, and Hime is such a cute character!

The Ones-Should You Read It?

Image result for the ones bookGenre: Near-Future Fiction/Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

The opening to this book is interesting and strong, dropping the readier into a closed space with phrases such as “You are a terrorist,” making the reader feel as if they were in the predicament of the character. The story then moves to a few weeks prior to that scene and feels almost too normal, but it has its twist, and that is what makes this book interesting.

This Summary/Review contains MANY SPOILERS

Relative to genetic engineering and science today, The Ones features Cody and James, two of the Ones, children out of 1% of the population who were genetically engineered before birth to be superb physically and academically, but a person cannot tell who is a One just by looking; they look just like everyone else, except maybe with sharper features. Despite this, it is impossible to tell if someone was born with natural physique or talent, or if they were genetically modified.

When a new law passes that allows discrimination against Ones, Cody and James have a hard time at school, especially when a list of names comes out that has every One on it. Cody finds that she must fight for the rights of the Ones and finds herself being recruited to a group who aims to rise up and fight the discrimination by whatever means necessary…but when they find out Cody’s name is not on the list of One’s, they think that she is a spy, and everything she knows in her whole life is turned around.

Determined to stick with fighting for equality, despite not being a One, Cody aims to have a small rebellion at her own school, where the students fight for the rights of the One’s by not letting any of the staff out until their rights to sports and academics are returned. When what was meant to be benign turns into something deadly and unexpected, Cody is determined to be a terrorist and takes the blame to save James and those aiming to maintain the rights of the Ones.

Cody finds herself being tortured in a place she does not know. Tortured is a strong word, but basically she is being waterboarded, a form of torture that is very controversial in the United States today. In the meantime, James tried to get Cody out through the influence of his father, a man who is establishing a vaccine for those who have been genetically altered.

One free, Cody joins Kai with the New Weathermen, the group that fights for the Ones, and aims to destroy James’ father’s lab late at night with no casualties. Kai will do whatever it takes for the survival of the One’s, and when the premature destruction of the lab warrants a late-night visitor, Cody must choose.

When society has nearly completely turned against the Ones, Cody follows the New Weathermen to the caves on the outskirts of her hometown, but the law enforcement who aim to put them into internment camps find them. James to the rescue cuts off their path with fire and saves Cody and the New Weathermen, at his own expense.

While this story seemed a bit too “normie” in its high school setting, it picked up once the politics and the fight between society and the Ones became intense. The torture scenes relate back to the opening chapter (I love when books go full circle in that way, it is an effective strategy to draw the reader in), and are also vivid and may be a bit too strong of imagery for people who view waterboarding negatively (I am neutral and have no argument on it, although it seems very in humane and scary).

I also enjoyed how the stakes really heightened in the end, with the death of James’ father as well as his sacrifice in the end. As the reader, it is undetermined what happens to him, but there is a second book, and I cannot wait to see what happens with James, Cody, and Kai as their fight for their rights concludes in The Equals.

I would suggest this book for a slightly older group, possibly age 16+, and I can see this book highly appealing to both genders. It is also an interesting read for those interested in genetic sciences as well as equality and political movements in today’s world, because many of the ideas and concepts in this book reflect many of the things we see today. All-in-all I would say this book is a YES, you should read it; I will be reading the second one very soon, and can’t wait to see what the characters to to fight for their freedoms and become equals!

Avatar The Last Airbender: North and South-Should You Read It?

Genre: Graphic Novel/Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the fifth and final installment to the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel line of story arcs. I have not reviewed the other arcs previously, but I have read them, and if you are a fan of the TV show, these continue right where the show left off. The Search involves a search for Zuko’s mother, so if you ever wanted to know, it is vastly interesting. There are also a number of instances in which there are set-ups that show the beginnings of the industrialization that we see in The Legend of Korra, such as different benders working and living together, as well as the beginnings of Toph’s metalbending academy. I also only get the “Library” editions, which are basically huge hardcover editions that not only have all three volumes of the arc within, but have annotations by the writer’s and the artist’s, which are always fun to read because they share where they got their ideas, reflections or connections to previous arcs or the show, and lead ups to events and things in The Legend of Korra.

North and South in particular is almost a stand alone arc. There are some characters who have appeared in the previous graphic novels, but they are not a huge part of the plot with what is going on in this arc. There are also occasional references to the previous arcs or the show, and in these cases, the annotations are useful and fun.

North and South begins with Katara and Sokka returning to the Southern Water Tribe, but they find that their home has been drastically altered in a more future-forward way, their father becoming chief of the south and having a huge office building. A palace is being build for him, and Katara finds that all this industrial and progressive infrastructure is not what the Southern Water Tribe is meant to be about.

The Northern Water Tribe has come in and helped design all the progressive buildings and aims to make the Southern Water Tribe more like them, which upsets not only Katara, but many of the natives of the south as well. Those who oppose the north infiltrating the south have banded together to make a rebellious group to bring down the northern leaders who are trying to get oil out of the rich grounds in the south. When Katara’s father starts becoming more open to northern ideas and policies, the south also turns against him. This is the beginnings of the tensions that we see between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes in The Legend of Korra.

With the help of the Avatar and their friends, Katara must figure out what it really means to be of the Southern Water Tribe, and how to find it in herself to follow the right path. When her culture and home are being changed from what she once thought and still believes her home to be, she reflects on change and what it means for her people.

Overall, I enjoyed this graphic novel. Some of the other ones were a bit more interesting, but this was a closure to lead up into the future events of Korra. It is a shame the artistic team has disbanded, but perhaps they will have more adventures for the Avatar and his friends in the future.

7th Grade Synthesis Blog Entries-Cultural Diversity

With my 7th grade class we have been discussing how our own cultural backgrounds effect who we are and how sometimes we try to fit into a society or culture that is not our own. Students have read two short stories to determine how cultural backgrounds can be challenging when it comes to gaining respect from others and trying to fit in. To demonstrate their understanding of this concept, the students wove the information from the two stories to write a synthesis blog entry; some samples I will post as a response here, just to have those available, and present is my own synthesis blog entry based on the criteria of how I wanted my students to structure their own.

 

Binary Truths of Cultural Challenges: A Blog Entry by Mrs. Mullin

       In “The White Umbrella” by Gish Jen and “A Ribbon for Baldy” by Jesse Stuart, both narrators demonstrate how they view their own heritage, although their actions in response to their cultural backgrounds greatly differ. During a time of revelation, the narrator in “The White Umbrella” finally decides that her Chinese heritage is what she is Image result for anime chinese with white umbrellameant to live by when she “[throws] the umbrella down the sewer” (11). By the narrator throwing away the white umbrella, a representation of what it means to be among the white American culture and society, the narrator is giving up on trying to fit in as a white American and becomes comfortable with who she is as a Chinese-American girl. By respecting one’s own heritage, a person realizes how being different is a good thing, and that people learn from each other’s differences; if people were all the same, there would be nothing for for them to lean. However, in “A Ribbon for Baldy,” with high self-esteem and determination, the narrator comes up with the brilliant idea “to do something worthwhile, and something to make [his classmates] respect [him]” (1). The narrator is from a farming family and finds that doing a project that betters himself will gain the respect of others while showing pride in his own farming cultural backgrImage result for anime farmer with cornound and heritage. Through determination, people can accept who they are and find pride in their own backgrounds and heritages, which leads to the sharing and learning of culturally diverse ideas and ways of thinking. Both narrators demonstrate how they view cultural backgrounds differently, but ultimately some to the conclusion that their own backgrounds are important, and that society can learn a great amount from people of diverse cultural backgrounds.

Warcross-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 5/5

As you may know, if you have seen/read any of my other book reviews, I have not given a whole lot of 5/5 scores, so that tells you something about this book. Hopefully the view is not biased, but the majority of other 5’s I have given are to books that are likewise by Marie Lu, which either means I am biased, or that Marie Lu is a phenomenal author. None of her book series’ are of quite the same genre, which demonstrates her skill as a writer across genres. The Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, Champion) is a young adult dystopian series that is often described as a young adult version of Les Miserables but in a dystopian U.S.A. The Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star) is more of a fantasy series based on Italy during the time of the plague, although the world building and powers involved in this series are very unique and interesting. That leads us to Warcross, the first in a duology that takes place in a world where virtual gaming is immensely popular and the technology is so fine-tuned that people virtually play e-sports or gamble in the world of the internet using an avatar that a person can make and use in a virtual way with special glasses and contacts.

Warcross is told from the perspective of Emika Chen, a rainbow-haired 18-year-old bounty hunter living off of sparsely capturing and turning in Warcross gamblers. When Emika is desperate for money, considering she is a few months behind in rent, she hacks into Warcross during a major event in the hopes of stealing a hacked item to sell to sell to someone in the notorious underworld of Warcross. But something goes wrong with her hack.

Industrial master, Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, along with millions of other people, see Emika’s slip-up. She is instantly asked to be flown to Japan to meet Hideo in person. What she thinks might be some terrible fate for her hacking slip-up turns into a job for a master a hacker such as herself, a job to find another hacker who is going into Warcross and messing with a number of the game’s mainframes. Using the traces that this hacker has left behind, Hideo asks Emika to track the hacker down and prevent him from foiling Hideo’s industrial plans. Emika’s rent is paid off, she is gifted the newest virtual glasses for logging into the game, virtual glasses that are going to soon be distributed to people on a global level, and there’s a catch. Hideo has hired other hackers to track down the person messing with his game, and whoever finds the person first wins an unrealistic amount of money, something Emika could sure use to stay afloat in the world.

Emika is undercover as a hacker, being brought into the Warcross championships as a wild card, a player that will be selected by one of the main teams competing in the championships. When selected for the Phoenix Riders, Emika finds that she can access and hack their personal data much easier by being on their team and living in the same dorms as them. When she finds that one of her teammates, Ren, has more shields and safeguards up against hackers, Emika immediately selects him as a suspect. When she is able to get at least something out of his data, she trails him only to find the hacker messing with Warcross known as Zero.

Among all the hustle and bustle of living a double life, hacker on the side and gamer as a front, Emika and Hideo find that they are interested in each other for more than just their gaming or hacking skills. Hideo, a closed-off person, eventually breaks down and tells Emika that everything he does is for his brother, a brother who went missing one day and was never found again, a brother who enjoyed playing in the park, and whose games became the basis for Warcross.

When Zero comes forth and asks Emika to hack on his side instead of Hideo’s, a number of events fall through that lead to the climactic ending, leaving the reader in anticipation for what Emika will do next.

This book is well-written and fast-paced. It is a book I would recommend for fans of .hack// or Sword Art Online, or even James Dashner’s The Mortality Doctrine series. I would also recommend this for video gamer’s who play League of Legends, Overwatch, or Smite, because it has the feel to it that would hit any gamer’s itch. Lu’s craft is refined and her presentation of first person perspective is done well in present tense, a feat that is not easy for many writers to accomplish. Being one of the few 5/5’s that I have given, I would strongly recommend this book to the appeals I have mentioned above, as well as any young reader who is itching for something exciting that they cannot put down.