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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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…

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 15

The Lost Hero (Graphic Novel Adaptation) by Rick Riordan and Nate Powell, et. al.

Genre: Children’s/Young Adult/Mythology/Graphic Novel

Rating: 4/5

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This adaptation features three new characters in the world of Percy Jackson: Piper, Leo, and Jason. When Jason appears at Camp Half-blood with no memories, it is soon evident that Jason is a son of Zeus. The trio are sent on a quest by Hera to prevent Gaea from awakening, which partially involves defeating the giants who counterpart each of the gods. (For more detail on the story, see my review on the full novel using the titled link above).

Overall, this adaptation was done well. Of course, some parts need to be ordered in a slightly different way to ensure the visual version flows well, ending issues or chapters with a relatively strong cliffhanger, as that is what comics are meant to do. I enjoyed the art and the graphic novel version really added to my own reading of the original novel, giving me some elaborate visuals on the setting as well as the characters, since my own mental images are not necessarily set in stone. It was fun to compare my own visual representation to the artist rendition of all the different characters, and the graphic novel is, overall, presented in a way that is clear, flows, and adds aesthetic value to the story.

 

It by Stephen King

Genre: Horror/Fiction

Rating: 3/5

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Derry, Maine, 1957. Six year old Georgie goes out in the rain to play with his wax boat, only to find himself killed by a clown. It, renown for it’s clown monster, is Stephen King’s 22nd novel. The clown is actually a creature with a true form that is not known until nearly the end of the novel. It takes the forms of various fears and makes an occurrence every 27 years in the small town to feed on its victims. Bill, Georgie’s older brother, seeks to destroy the monster with the help of his friends. When they seemingly destroy it, the group of children make a pact to return to Derry if the monster ever comes back. In 1984, the monster has returned, and Mike contacts the gang to return to Derry to exact vengeance against the creature only they know know how to extract from their hometown.

This book is super popular because 1) Stephen King, and 2) both the old and new movie adaptations. Despite this, the book is long and tedious, yet it has an interesting layout. This book goes back and forth between the character’s experiences in 1957-1958 and 1984-1985 and has a number of interesting literary aspects, such as dialogue, longer prose, news articles, and other elements that bring Derry’s history to life in the novel. While this book is vastly popular, it is hard to read in that the action is lacking in many areas, with more exposition than anything. The historical elements are interesting and often add to the tale being told, but are also often a bit lengthy, making this book drag out as a slower read. It is not a book that I would want to read again (albeit it is my husband’s favorite book ever), but the new movie was done well and was presented in a more enjoyable way than the book, even though some of the elements and defeating the monster is different in the two mediums.

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Retelling

Rating: 3.5/5

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Heartless tells the story of Cath, the young woman who is to become known as the Queen of Hearts. She wasn’t always such a menacing and terrible person, but the events in her life bring her to become the heartless queen. Cath loves baking, and her dream is to open her own bakery, even though this means she will not be among the gentle class any longer. When the King of Hearts takes interest in her, she does not want to marry or give up on her dream. Instead, she meets Jest, a court joker sent to take the heart of a queen, but alas, the two fall in love. A monster takes rise in the realm, a jabberwok (check out the original poem, “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll), Cath finds that she might be responsible for the creation of the beast. As events unfold, Cath slowly begins to change, to become a heartless person with no mercy as she takes the stand as Queen of Hearts.

What I liked about this book: It is a stand-alone, so there won’t be any waiting for a sequel (aside from reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland). It was an interesting idea to make a prequel to develop Lewis’s character, The Queen of Hearts, because she has to have some back story, right? And it is a story of romance and dreams. The baking aspect was a nice character trait.

What I did not like about this book: The writing style itself did not feel like Marissa Meyer. While I haven’t read The Lunar Chronicles yet, I have heard great things about it and own them all. On the other hand, I did read Renegades, and it was well-written and the pacing was just right. The pacing of this novel was a bit slow in terms of events, but I feel like the writing itself contributed to the feeling of slowness with this book. While the setup with Cath in the beginning of the novel was interesting, the middle was bogged down with very little character development, but picks up again at the end, the most interesting part of the novel. All in all, the book was a decent read, but not something I would read again.

 

 

High School DxD (Vol. 1) by Hiro Mishima, Ichiei Ishibumi, and Zero Miyama

Genre: Manga/Harem/Occult

Rating: 3/5

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Vastly popular, this manga is about Issei Hyoudou, his dream in high school to eventually form his own harem. When he finds out he was killed by a demon, he is claimed by another and made a demon himself. Learning about the demon hierarchy, Issei wants to climb the ladder and become a great demon who is able to take on his own slaves, but first he must do a bunch of menial tasks or he will never be able to make his dream come true. When he meets a priest that aims to kill demons, things escalate quickly, and he is surprised to find that a girl he previously met is a holy woman, their friendship an impossibility!

This was okay, and that’s it. This anime/manga is very hyped up, and I am going to assume it is from all the boobs and fan service for the male audience. I did not find the story very riveting or drawing, but the art is done very well and is aesthetically pleasing. The one hitch that might keep me going at a reader is a potential romance between the Bishop girl and Issei, a demon, for angelic and demonic are mortal enemies. Other than that, there is no draw in this series and it seems like it is trying to hard in a negative way compared to other manga that contain explicit content geared toward older readers.

 

Dreamin’ Sun by Ichigo Takano

Genre: Manga/Comedy/Romance

Rating: 4/5

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Shimana Kameko has a new step-mother and a new baby brother as well. When attention falls to him, she feels unwanted and unneeded in her house. Aiming to run away, she comes across Fujiwara Taiga, who offers her a room in the house he is renting out with two other friends, but Kameko has a few conditions to meet before she is welcome to stay. First, Kameko must tell Taiga why she ran away, and it better be a good reason (although he really just wants the truth). Second, she must retrieve the missing house key from one of his roommates, and third, Kameko must have some kind of dream and fall in love, two things she has never done before! With all members having some kind of dream, they are a very goal-oriented bunch, but falling in love can be tough, especially when she falls for the pretty boy that all the other girls at school like too!

By the same artist and author that brought us Orange comes this well-drawn, cute story. The art in this manga is very cute and the facial expressions are captured extremely well to give the reader the desired tone of panic, loneliness, or humor. This manga seems like a decent start to a series that has potential. The protagonist relates to readers who may have or have had similar experiences with not feeling wanted by family, making a strong connection with the narrator from the beginning. The characters are well-balances too, with smart, serious, quirky, and average people all coming to live together in the same house. The dynamic in characters makes the manga fun to read and wanting to know more about all of the characters, rather than just the shoujo heroine.

 

Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead-Should You Read It?

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the third installment in Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series following The Sword of Summer and The Hammer of Thor. Once again, Riordan does a splendid job of integrating diverse characters and comedy to bring Magnus’s adventure to life.

Now that Loki is free, Magnus and his friends, both dead and living, must stop the Ship of the Dead from sailing, or Ragnarok will soon follow. To prevent Loki from releasing the ship from it’s icy hold on the one day of the year that it is warm enough for the ice to melt, Magnus is gifted a big, yellow viking ship from his father, Frey. With this ship, which can conveniently transform into a spiffy yellow bandanna when not in use, takes Magnus and his companions across the borders or the nine worlds to stop Loki. Let’s not forget, the boat has been named thus: The Big Banana.

Along the way, Magnus, Samirah, Hearthstone, Blitzen, Alex, Halfborn, Mallory, and T.J. all face a number of trials that effect reaching their goals to prevent Ragnarock, as well as effecting many of them on some personal level. During the entire journey, Samirah is participating in Ramadan, a pert of her culture that forces her to fast, to not eat, until after sunset. Even though she does not eat or drink during the day, she powers through the quest with her friends with a headstrong attitude. The crew is taken by the sea god’s nine daughters and are aiming to find a special mead so that Magnus can defeat Loki in a flyting to capture him. Magnus, T.J., and Alex find themselves having to face a stone giant-T.J. fighting the giant while Alex makes a stone warrior to fight one made by the giant. Hearth and Blitz assist Magnus in defeating Hearth’s father, who has now turned into a hideous dragon because of his greed and the magical ring that he chose to wear, Halfborn and Mallory have broken up, and the tension between the two is high. Mallory finds out who her mother is. More giants….

Throughout, Magnus learns more and more about his friends, but especially about Alex as they both go on the most adventures together. Magnus feels at ease with Alex at his side (whether Alex is male or female doe not matter to him) as they search for a clue in his uncle’s mansion, create a ceramic soldier together, suffer the freezing cold to near-death, and bring Loki down together. Their relationship is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel, and the two trying to figure out how they feel about each other is one of the driving aspects that has me itching for the next novel.

One of the things I continue to praise about Riordan is his incorporation of multiple types of diversity into his novels, and Magnus Chase by far has the best types of diversity to expose young readers to including racial/religious diversity (Samira is Middle Eastern), gender diversity (Alex is gender fluid), and disability diversity (Hearth is deaf). These are all excellent characters that show not everyone needs to be perfect, that everyone should be who they are and who they want to be. The Norse gods are ever interesting in how Riordan incorporates the lore, and the next adventures should be exciting for Magnus (and us readers, of course), so if you have not picked this series up, I would say yes, you should read it. The humor is a nice tough to the reading; you know it is a good book if it can coax an actual, audible laugh out of the reader!

Some fun things:

The Costco edition comes with a neat little poster: Image result for magnus chase costco poster

The Barnes and Noble edition comes with a Norse insult generator:Image result for magnus chase barnes and noble insult generator

The Walmart edition comes with a neat bookmark (Hearthstone?):Magnus Chase - Ship of the Dead - Bookmark

The Target edition comes with a make your own viking longship pull-out craft:Magnus Chase - Ship of the Dead - Viking Longboat Diagram

The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the second book in the series, following The Lost Hero. It takes place simultaneously with the first one, but features different characters at a demi-god camp all the way across the country from Camp Half-Blood.

While the first book introduced some new characters to the series (Jason, Piper, and Leo), this book brings back our original hero, Percy Jackson, with a few new friends in tow (Hazel and Frank) as well as the return of old friends (Tyson!).

When Percy, like Jason in the previous novel, awakens across the country having lost his memory, is being chased by monsters. With the guidance of Lupa, the Roman wolf-goddess (rather than a Greek goddess), Percy finds his way to the California equivalent of camp Half-Blood, Camp Jupiter. Upon arrival to the new camp, Percy is attacked by even more monsters, Gorgons this time, and a lone woman is in danger. Using his power over water to create a whirlpool gains him the woman’s favor, but catches one of the guards (Frank) within. The brave hero that Percy is, saving the woman turns out to be a good thing, considering the damsel in distress is the Roman goddess Juno (the Greek goddess Hera).

With Juno’s approval, the son of Neptune, is welcome into the Roman camp, even though he is looked upon in a negative light for being a Greek demi-god. Despite the gods being the same gods in Greece and Rome even though they have different names, they are at war. Percy, having no memories, is told by Juno that he does have a chance at regaining his memories, but only if he can learn to be a hero again and survive the new challenges that will present themselves to him at Camp Jupiter.

Frank and Hazel, the guards who witnessed Percy fight the Gorgons, become fast friends of Percy. Routines and leadership are different than his own home camp, but with no memories, Percy would have nothing to complain of anyway.  As the camp misfits, the three become more than just good friends. When Frank’s father, Mars, tells the children of a prophecy, the three must set out as heroes to Alaska, free the god Thanatos within a certain amount of time, or die. Of course, the trio finds that freeing the god is a more viable option.

Along the way, the trio stops in Portlans, Oregon, where they can find the location on the giant in Alaska from the blind seer, Phineas. When he tells them to chase a harpy with red feathers and bring her back, they meet Ella, a pretty intelligent harpy who can memorize anything she reads, and ends up being rather a unique asset to the group later one. 

Rescuing Thanatos involves fighting the giant, Alcyoneus, in Alaska. The goddess, Gaea, is awakening from quite a long slumber, and she has some major plans to destroy the gods, along with the known world. With the defeat of one of Gaea’s seven giants, Hazel and Frank become true heroes, finding their own unique abilities.

When Camp Jupiter is under attack, the trio rushes back to California to save the camp. Hazel expresses her feelings for Frank, while Percy remembers Annabeth, and he knows they are coming, for seven heroes will save the world from Gaea. When a great flying ship called the Argo II arrives with Annabeth, among some of our heroes from the previous book, Percy and his demi-god heroes set out to save the gods, and the world, from destruction.

One of the things that I really enjoy about Riordan’s books is the diversity of the characters. In this particular novel, we are introduced to Hazel, who is of African descent, and Frank, who is of Chinese descent (rather than having a book with a bunch of Caucasians). He also goes into some interesting cultural aspects with their own heritage and how that heritage ties into their relation to the Roman gods.

All-in-all I enjoyed this book more than the first one, but I think that is because Percy, our hero from the previous series, has finally returned. One of the fun things about reading this is that Percy does not remember who he is, but we, the reader, do remember his adventures from when he was first taken to Camp Half-Blood, which makes it all the more exciting to see when and how he will remember, all while making new memories and facing new challenges. I think this book is worth the read (especially for a middle-grade audience) and has a lot of potential for the books that follow.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 10

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan, Attila Futaki, and Tamas Gaspar

Genre: Graphic Novel/Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

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When Thalia’s tree protecting the camp is poisoned, Percy finds that he must help the tree to save the camp. When Clarisse goes to the prophet to have gain the quest to save the camp, Percy and Clarisse find that they encounter each other often as they both aim to get the Golden Fleece. Of course, Luke is still a threat, and his goal of reviving Chronos is becoming even more of a reality.

Even better than the first one, this graphic novel adaptation picks up the essence of its original novel counterpart very well. The art, especially the landscapes, is amazing. I was not sure the graphic novels would be too good. The first one was okay, but this one has me ready and eager for the next graphic novel!

 

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Ngyen

Genre: Graphic Novel/Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

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I was excited to get a graphic novel version of Outlander, and from Jamie’s perspective, nonetheless. While it is meant to be from Jamie’s perspective, we are still given some of Claire’s thoughts. It was interesting to see Jamie’s thoughts and ideas that were unspoken/unheard/unseen in the original novel. This otherwise is the same story of Outlander with some minor twists (such as Geillis Duncan, who has a man after Claire to find if she moved through time too, and perhaps to kill Jamie because of his heritage and threat to Geillis’s son’s legacy to Castle Leoch).

The art is soft but detailed, adding a nice visual reference of the world and characters. The plot did have to be altered somewhat to be a self-contained piece, but this is a wonderful addition to the series and a nice perspective for any Outlander fan.

 

My Neighbor Totoro (the novel) by Hayao Miyazaki and Tsugiko Kubo

Genre: Adolescent Fiction/Ghibli

Rating: 4/5

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This is the novel adaptation of the original Ghibli film by Miyazaki. It follows the story of 4-year-old Mei and 11-year-old Satsuki who move to the countryside to be closer to their hospitalized mother. When they discover a sacred tree in the forest, the girls find that the forest spirits, among them Totoro, strive to help the girls become more knowing of the world by gifting them with acorns to plant their own forest. When Mei goes missing, Satsuki enlists in Totoro’s help!

When transcribing something from screen to page, the effect is similar to that of page to screen. Some things are taken out that flow well visually in the movie, but would sump the flow of the novel, and the organization is slightly different to help the chapters move along. Of course, it is very different reading a description of something over seeing it with carefully chosen background music, but the description adds a whole new element to experiencing My Neighbor Totoro. Well worth the read for any Ghibli or Totoro fan!

 

The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis

Genre: Companion/Guidebook/Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

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This is an informational companion to Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter novels. It is presented in a similar way to a Dungeons and Dragons book and has chapters and sections for everything in the Shadow World. There are beautiful illustrations by a number of artists, including Cassandra Jean, who does a lot of the special and exclusive art for many of Clare’s works (including the graphic novel adaption of City of Bones). There are also little notations written by Clary, Jace, and occasionally Simon, throughout the text. Some of it is rather comical, such as the section on “Facemelter” demons, the description being “self explanatory.” The two appendixes give interesting information about the vreation of the Shadowhunters as well as some information about The Circle.

Overall, this book was interesting in the extra detailed information on things like Idris, Downworlders, and the Mortal Instruments, as well as various types of demons. While it is a bit of a slow read if you are reading it as an actual book, it is a nice reference to look to when questioning politics and things from the main series, and the images are nice. I wish there were more images (like one for each demon or Downworlder race).

 

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Miller and Steve McNiven

Genre: Superhero/Graphic Novel

Rating: 4/5

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This graphic novel was slow at first, but it became interesting very quickly and definitely picked up the pace. When the Hulk’s group seeks money from Logan to protect his family, he heads out to get the money with a limited amount of time. When Hawkeye arrives asking for accompaniment on his journey to deliver a special package, Logan offers to be a driver only, and not to get involved with fighting. Along the way, the duo ends up saving Hawkeye’s daughter and fighting off some mole creatures that have dug out the underparts of many major cities. Hawkeye’s shipment turn out to be something that could revolutionize the power of mutants (in an evil way), and Wolverine’s secret to why he chooses not to fight becomes revealed. When he finally gets the money, he is too late, and goes out to seek revenge against the Hulks.

Of course I picked this up after seeing Logan. I was not sure what to expect, and the beginning was slow, but once Wolverine’s past is revealed, along with the fate of the X-men, as well as the images of his bloody vengeance, it is a vastly visually appealing piece. The art is above average for a Marvel superhero work, and I was actually very impressed by this graphic novel overall.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 7

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Genre: Adolescent Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This is the story of three children who are orphaned after their parents die in a fire. When they are sent to their closest (literally, closest in terms of distance) relative, they find that Count Olaf is a terrible man who just wants to steal the children’s fortune by whatever means necessary.

While this book features three children who suffer some, to say the least, terribly unfortunate events, it is well-written for its target audience. It is a vocabulary rich book that defines new words and phrases for young readers to increase their own vocabulary, although reading that as an older reader gets a bit tiring.

 

Entertaining an Elephant by William McBride

Genre: Education Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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At first, this was a novel assigned to one of the classes everyone must take to obtain a single subject teaching credential in California. On the first day of classes, it was no longer on the syllabus (but it was listed as required through the bookstore). I got a copy on Amazon, but my professor said since it is out of print and hard to find, we won’t be reading it for the course.

That said, I read it anyway. This book is about an English teacher who has been teaching the same lesson plans on grammar every day for the past fifteen years. When  a janitor comes in and writes quotes on Mr. Reaf’s board everyday after he leaves, Mr. Reaf finds that the students are excited to discuss these quotes. Mr. Reaf thinks the debate club is leaving the quotes, but the janitor has secretly been leaving them in hopes that the anger in Mr. Reaf’s room would dissipate. While Mr. Reaf has a hard time accepting the janitor’s words on how to change his teaching strategies, he takes his own life and meaning for teaching in to consideration.

All in all, the book was a decent read, but not life changing to me as an educator. It was a bit tiresome that Mr. Reaf is one of those teachers who sticks to the same thing year after year after year, because many teachers these days do not do that. Teaching as a profession is changing, and this book is now 20 years old, dating it to a time when school was a very different place.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3.5/5

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I had thought about reading this adaptation for quite some time and finally decided to pick it up and give it a go. The art is what prevented me from reading it previously, but I found that the art is actually rather interesting, different that a lot of the graphic novel art out there these days. That said, this adaptation was all right. It spent nearly half the book with Percy making his way to Camp Half-Blood and getting his quest. The quest itself left out a number of iconic aspects that are in the novel itself, and the fight at the end was lackluster and somewhat disappointing. Where the adaptation takes so much time with the beginning aspects of the novel and the universe, it could have elaborated on the quests and involved more action. Overall it was a decent read and worth the read for any Percy Jackson fan, but perhaps not worth a re-read.

X-men Misfits Volume 1 by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman

Genre: Action/Modern Science Fiction/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3/5

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While deviating from the original X-men stories to make it more Japanese style and appealing to a female audience, this manga was still interesting, to say the least. When Magneto takes Kitty Pryde from her home to join Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she finds that she is the only girl in attendance, besides some of the teachers. Being the only girl has made her quite the popular spectacle, especially with the Hellfire Club. She and Pyro become an item, but only when it is too late does she realize the wrongs that the Hellfire Club has done.

The art is fairly appealing and gives a more shojo (female-based) perspective. It has a few cliches, such as being the only girl in the school and being favored by all the guys. There also is not much appeal in terms of plot. While it is an interesting perspective, not a whole lot happens in the volume. It has potential, but just not quite enough. Worth a one-time read, but definitely not worth owning or re-reading.

Uglies: Shay’s Story and Uglies: Cutters by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3.5/5

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Fans of the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld will absolutely love these graphic novels. Not only is it a graphic novel adaptation, but it tells the story from Tally’s friend, Shay’s perspective. We see how Shay sees Tally as a friend and a betrayer in all things. Inviting Tally to join her at the Smoke may not have been Shay’s best idea ever, for the Specials follow and make Shay a Pretty. When Tally arrives as a pretty, she takes Shay’s boy, again, and seems to be the ruin and seed of Shay’s anger.

These are great graphic novels for fans of the series who are already familiar with the dystopian world of the series (a world in which regular people get their surgery at age 16 to become Pretties, a surgery that is meant to keep people simple and happy to prevent crime and chaos in society). The art is great and it was fun to see a visual representation of the dystopian world.