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…

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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.

Divergent Series–Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth has recently become a rather popular motion picture event, but the question is, should you read the books?

Individual Rating: Divergent 4.5/5

Let’s start with book one, Divergent. To be honest, I flew through the entire book one and book two, but I staggered off and had a hard time finishing book three. So book one is actually rather interesting. The reader is set up with Beatrice Prior, the protagonist of the novel whose point of view you are presented with. The society is dystopian, an alternate future of the United States. While that is not quite clear until sometime later, to put the world of Divergent into context, the setting is meant to be what was once the great city of Chicago. Now, this society is split into what are called Factions: Dauntless, Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, and Amity. Being the type of reader that I am, I looked up all these words, and low and behold, each faction constitutes people of that particular nature–unless the person is divergent. The leader of Erudite, the scientific and mathematical faction, finds divergence to be a threat to the society that they have built. Book one mostly focuses on Beatrice (Tris) and her fight to become a Dauntless, also focusing on the romantic interest of Four. That is all this book is: becoming Dauntless, finding romance, and then the big whammy at the end: the world Tris and Four knows explodes into the world of nonexistence.

Individual Rating: Insurgent 3.5/5

Book two, Insurgent, I find not quite as interesting as book one. Once again, the entire book is presented in Tris’s point of view. This time, they are hiding from the clutches of Erudite, who are seeking to destroy the divergent’s to keep their society in order….or to maintain power, either one. A war between the remaining factions and the factionless, led by Four’s mother, ensues. There’s not much more to this book, really. Events are bland. Tris eventually gives herself over to Erudite, the Romeo and Juliet cliche is used to fake her death, and then Four saves her. In the end, they leave the city to find out what is out there based on information her mother was hiding from their society, information such as their whole city was an experiment. Okay, that sound’s interesting and all, but when you read it, it’s really bland.

Individual Rating: Allegiant 3/5

Book three, Allegiant, is a giant textbook of genetics and biology, and as predicted, the movie was absolute garbage. It didn’t even end the way the book ended, which was a major disappointment. They tried, they really did, but by the third movie, I didn’t really care about the characters anymore because there was no more character building. The last of that really stopped in the second book.

SPOILERS FOR ALLEGIANT 

So basically, the crew finds the facility that is dedicated to fixing the genetics of the United States after a great genetic war. This “Purity War” involved some kind of genetic damage which the nation is now trying to fix. Those who had damaged genes were a threat to society, unable to commingle without using violence. Here we learn that Four is not divergent and viable, like Tris, and is therefore useless in the fixing of the United States because he is genetically damaged. The society tests being done around the nation was to bring divergent people to the forefront, to create a future where genes are once again original and unhampered, making divergent’s extremely important to society. Moving forward, Tris dies a rather cliche death that is likewise predictable. In book three, chapters alternate between Four and Tris, which was not done for the first two books. This indicates the author may not have that protagonist to tell the story later. Horrible give away. Roth should have done alternate points of view throughout the series to avoid that immediate giveaway to critical and analytical readers who will notice that sort of thing right away.

So, should you read it? I would say give Divergent a chance and keep going from there if you wish. Like I said, it took me a long time to get through book three, and I absolutely LOVE genetics and such, so that’s saying something. It’s the exposition of the book that really killed the story. Sometimes the death of a main or even a title character is acceptable and worth the sacrifice (Star Wars: Rogue One is a perfect example), but since I could foresee the death of Tris based off of Four having point of view chapters, it was anticlimactic, predicted, and made me feel like reading the series was a waste of time, even though the future was secured for the United States. Basically, you SHOULD read the first book. It really gets you attached to the characters and gets your head around the magnificently created dystopian society, but, read the second and third only if you wish. I would NOT recommend them.

Individual Rating: Four 3/5

A note on Four: Four is a collection of short stories placed in Four’s point of view in places mostly throughout events in the first book. While his point of view was interesting to an extent, it was all predictable information and didn’t really feel like it added to the story. I would suggest skipping out on this one.