Manga Review: Good Luck Vol. 1 by E-Jin Kang

Title: Good Luck, Vol 1
Author: E-Jin Kang
Publisher: TokyoPop
Series: Good Luck, Book 1
Paperback: 192 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Shi-Hyun is pure bad luck. That’s what everyone says…and in some ways, she believes it. So for their protection and her own, she’s developed a hard shell that keeps people at bay.But when Shi-Hyun transfers to a new school, an array of new characters comes into her life. The Queen Bee has a cool personality and the fighting skills to match. The Cold Prince has the looks and demeanor to make all the girls swoon. And what about the nice girl, Hee-Soo the only one who’ll come near Shi-Hyun? Well, she has an agenda of her own..

Overall Rating: 3/5

I wasn’t very impressed by this one. The romance was well done, but the story line could have used some work. Shi-Hyun is convinced she’s bad luck, but we don’t get to actually see any instances of this. There are a couple of past events that happened, which is why everyone thinks she’s bad luck, but there is nothing that happens in the present-day of the story to prove that she really is bad luck. This is the only problem I really had with the story, but it’s a big one since it shapes everything that happens. There are some quite funny moments that made me smile, but there was nothing incredibly exciting.

The artwork is pretty good. There were a few characters I kept getting mixed up because of their similar appearances, but that’s all the problem I had with it.

Overall, however, I think there are much better manga series to spend your time reading. I don’t have much of an urge to read the rest of the series because I didn’t connect with the story or the characters all that much.

Book Review: Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot

Title: Size 14 Is Not Fat Either
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: Avon Trade
Paperback: 344 pages
Series: Heather Wells, Book 2
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Former pop star Heather Wells has settled nicely into her new life as assistant dorm director at New York College—a career that does not require her to drape her size 12 body in embarrassingly skimpy outfits. She can even cope (sort of) with her rocker ex-boyfriend’s upcoming nuptials, which the press has dubbed The Celebrity Wedding of the Decade. But she’s definitely having a hard time dealing with the situation in the dormitory kitchen—where a cheerleader has lost her head on the first day of the semester. (Actually, her head is accounted for—it’s her torso that’s AWOL.)

Surrounded by hysterical students—with her ex-con father on her doorstep and her ex-love bombarding her with unwanted phone calls—Heather welcomes the opportunity to play detective . . . again. If it gets her mind off her personal problems—and teams her up again with the gorgeous P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives—it’s all good. But the murder trail is leading the average-sized amateur investigator into a shadowy world. And if she doesn’t watch her step, Heather will soon be singing her swan song!

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either is a lot of fun. I don’t think it’s quite as funny as Size 12 Is Not Fat, but it still got quite a few laughs out of me. Meg Cabot certainly knows how to put people in a good mood with her books, which is why she’s one of my favorite authors.

This book is a bit more serious than the previous one. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s just different. Actually, I liked that Heather had to deal with more than just the murder of the girl in the dorms (as if that isn’t enough, ha!). She has to face her father, her ex-boyfriend, and I think the next book will bring a final confrontation with her mom, which is much needed. I appreciate that this isn’t just another mystery and that Cabot has Heather deal with these issues. It adds depth to all the characters involved.

There were some parts that were slow, but for the most part, I couldn’t put this book down. I kept wanting to know more and more about the mystery and about what would happen in Heather’s personal life. The criminal(s) was/were a bit over the top, but that wasn’t a huge issue for me, especially considering how the murder was played out.

Overall, this is a quick, fun read that is guaranteed to at least put a smile on your face. The mystery and Heather’s investigation are incredibly amusing and entertaining. I can’t wait to see what else Heather is forced to deal with in Big Boned.

Audiobook Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Narrator: Carolyn McCormick
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 11 hours, 11 minutes
Series: The Hunger Games, Book 1
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Overall Rating: 5/5

This is one novel that deserves the popularity it enjoys. Wow, is this book good!

The main thing that makes this such a favorite is the suspense that Collins has woven in. I could not stop listening to this book! I kept trying to find more things to clean around the house to justify listening to it for “just another hour.” Of course, that hour turned into two hours, which turned into three hours — needless to say, I finished this one very quickly and my house was sparkling for a couple of days. There is never any part where the reader’s emotions are allowed to rest. Like Katniss, I was always on edge, waiting for her next challenge, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. This makes it a fast read. Also, since it’s told through Katniss’s eyes and the storytelling is excellent, I was completely involved in the story from start to finish.

Haymitch is by far my favorite character, with Katniss being a close second. I thought all the characters were wonderfully done. I got a sense of each of them without being told exactly who they were, what they did, and what I should think of them. Collins lets us draw our own conclusions by giving their personalities through Katniss’s eyes and letting the characters’ actions speak for themselves. I think this envelops all of the book, actually. She doesn’t dumb down the writing just because it’s young adult. It’s complex, teaches lessons without being didactic, and (better yet) doesn’t talk down to the reader.

Another thing I appreciate is the realism Collins brings to The Hunger Games. Problems don’t magically disappear and there aren’t any forced happily-ever-afters. It’s violent, brutal, and dark. Those who are squeamish will have a hard time with this story, but I think it’s worth it. For one thing, the violence isn’t there for shock value, as is the case for some novels, unfortunately. Rather, it’s a statement about the government of Panem and what these people are forced to live with. I like that the characters are forced to work through their problems and actually deal with issues. It makes for an interesting story, the characters are allowed to grow and change, and it reflects the real world. Problems don’t just disappear.

The narration of the audiobook is also excellent. McCormick is so talented at infusing her words with emotions and getting the pacing exactly right. The voices for each of her characters are easy to distinguish, even if you’re listening to it in the background. Her rendition is so well done, in fact, that I found myself pausing in my chores to just listen to her tell the story.

I highly recommend this to everyone. Yes, there is violence, yes it is dark, but these are parts of the message The Hunger Games holds. This is one book worth reading.

Manga Review: Hands Off! Vol 1 by Kasane Katsumoto

Title: Hands Off!
Author: Kasane Katsumoto
Publisher: TokyoPop
Paperback: 176 pages
Series Order: Volume 1 of 8
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Kotarou is totally stoked that basketball season has started and he can now fulfill his hoop dreams. Things look even brighter for Kotarou as he meets Mio, a beautiful upperclassman who’s got the hots for Kotarou. Unfortunately he also meets Chiba, Mio’s devious protector. With trouble afoot, Tatsuki and Yuuto must use their ESP to make sure there is no foul play!

Overall Rating: 4/5 

Compared to other manga, I don’t think the artwork in this book is all that pretty, but I have never read anything funnier. This series has a supernatural spin on the classic mystery story line. Kotarou has no idea that others’ psychic abilities are augmented when they touch him, so when his cousin, Tatsuki, and his friend are trying to help him solve a mystery, they make up completely random excuses for touching him. Honestly, I’ve never laughed harder. Add that to the fact that Kotarou looks like a girl, and you have more hilarious incidents.

I really like the relationship between the three main characters. There’s a lot of tension, but there’s camaraderie, too. I’m looking forward to see what exactly happened between Tatsuki and Kotarou to change them from best friends to almost-enemies.

Volume 1 was a bit formulaic for me. There are three acts that all play out similarly. I hope that the future volumes add a bit more variety in the story line. I think once Tatsuki starts opening up, the story is going to have a lot more substance.

Hands Off! is a quick read that is guaranteed to make you laugh. I would recommend it for any manga fan.


Book Review: Second Wave by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Title: Second Wave
Authors: Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Publisher: Eos
Hardcover: 304 pages
Series Order: Acorna’s Universe, Book 9 ; Acorna’s Children: Book 2 out of 3
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

It is difficult growing up in the shadow of heroes revered throughout the galaxy. But Khorii became a hero in her own right as she fought to save the universe from a mysterious, deadly plague that not even the healing powers of the Linyaari could stop. Now, confined with the rest of the survivors on Paloduro, it seems as if Khorii and her friends may be able to stem the tide of death and disease. However, ominous signs indicate that the epidemic is only beginning, as old enemies reemerge and a shocking family secret is revealed. With the aid of her android “brother,” Khorii must foil the deadly pestilence before a covert mission to cripple the entire star system is catastrophically complete.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

This series just doesn’t have the charm that the original Acorna series had. I don’t know if it’s because we’re not discovering as many different worlds and cultures or if it’s due to having Khorii as a main character, but there’s definitely something missing. However, for fans of the series, this is still enjoyable and worthwhile. It’s a fast read and this one does a better job of tying into the latter part of the original series than First Warning did.

This book is a good set-up for what’s to come. I think the last book of the series is going to be extremely exciting. Not only is the plague transforming into an unknown entity that even Khorii doesn’t seem able to fight, old enemies are coming back (as the summary says).

Khorii is a bit whiny for my taste, but she does what she needs to do. She has some awesome moments in this book, one with a shady trader, and some others with futuristic pirates. Sometimes I really miss the presence of Acorna’s adoptive fathers. Instead, Khorii hangs out with kids whose parents were the victims of the plague. It fits into the story line, but I don’t think there are any really strong characters in this series, which bothers me a bit.

What I like about this book is that Khorii seems to be coming into her own. Without the help of her parents, she’s maturing and learning how to manage by herself. Also, the entire book is suspenseful. You know something really bad is going on, but all the characters seem to pass it off as something odd but not incredibly important. In the end, the begin to figure it out. This is at once frustrating and necessary, because it most definitely kept me turning the pages.

I would recommend this for those who have already read the original Acorna series. If you’re just now getting into this series, don’t start with Acorna’s Children. It’s not as good and you won’t catch the references made to the previous series.

Book Review: Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card

Title: Alvin Journeyman
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor
Paperback: 400 pages
Series: Tales of Alvin maker, Book 4
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Alvin Miller, a gifted seventh son of a seventh son, utilizes his skills as a Maker to help create a brighter future for America, but his task is further challenged by his ancient enemy, the Unmaker, who plots to end Alvin’s life.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

This is one of the best alternate history series I’ve ever read. It’s clever, well-researched, and incredibly entertaining. For those of you who know your early American history, you will appreciate Card’s rendition of mid-nineteenth century America. What I appreciate the most about this series is the writing. It’s clean and efficient, and he trusts his reader. Despite all the information he throws at you, he doesn’t stop and take the time to explain every little detail; he trusts that you’ll pick up on the historical references.

One of the main things I love about this series is that you get to see the characters grow. By the end of each book, all the characters have gone through obstacles and are changed because of it. In this particular novel, Alvin is put in jail and tried for the “theft” of the golden plow from Makepeace. We are introduced to some very interesting new characters and meet up with quite a few old faces from Hatrack River.

Alvin Journeyman is also one of the more suspenseful books so far in this series. Between the trial, Calvin’s troubles, and Peggy’s dilemma about whether or not to go back to Hatrack River and help Alvin, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It is a bit slower going in this novel because of the lack of war and action, but I didn’t enjoy it any less. It is a middle book in a series, so there’s going to be quite a bit of set-up for the end, and I’m sure there will be a payoff.

Overall, I like how this series is progressing. I love how Alvin isn’t the perfect hero — he has a good heart to be sure, but he has many flaws and a lot of doubts about his work in the world. The challenges between Alvin and the Unmaker are kept fresh, and now we’re seeing a big conflict coming up between Alvin and Calvin, something I saw coming, but I’m excited to read about nonetheless.

Audiobook Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Narrators: William Hope and Laurel Lefkow
Publisher: HighBridge Company
Duration: 17 hours, 46 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it’s about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

I can see why this book became so popular. Not only is this a cool story, but it is well-written too. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for time travel — seriously, I love the idea of time traveling. The Time Traveler’s Wife was exciting, touching, and intelligent. I thought that the rules laid out for time traveling were very realistic and consistent. If it were possible, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it work the way it works in the book.

Now, I did see the movie before I read the book, but I found that it didn’t at all prevent me from enjoying the novel. I think I like the novel more, actually. It’s more complicated and a bit darker. The story line isn’t incredibly different, but different enough.

This is a character-driven novel, and Niffenegger does a great job in making her characters come to life. It’s told alternately from both Clare’s and Henry’s points of view, so the reader gets a good feel for how their relationship works. Also, there are no secrets. Seriously, you get to know everything about the characters. Sometimes it’s a bit sexual and violent (not between Clare and Henry, but between Henry and other people), but this didn’t bother me overly much.

The audiobook is very good. It has two excellent narrators that brought out Henry’s and Clare’s personalities perfectly. It is told in a sort of diary-format and, like I said before, you get to know everything about the characters. Having it read aloud felt extremely personal, but not overly so. If anything, it brought more life to the characters and made them feel more real. Despite the somewhat long length of the audiobook, I finished it within a few days because the story is so interesting and fast-paced.

I know I’m a bit late in reading this, but if any of you somehow haven’t read it yet, do so! It’s a bit sexual and crude at times, but it’s a lovely story about romance, love, and family.

Manga Review: Angel Sanctuary Vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki

Title: Angel Sanctuary
Author: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: VIZ Media
Paperback: 198 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

When Sara’s classmate, Ruri, received a computer disk from a strange man, Setsuna shows up to whisk her away from him. After lecturing Ruri about talking to weirdos, Setsuna comments she’s much cuter without glasses, which she dropped in the confusion. Unfortunately, neither of them have been watching the news which reports of mysterious deaths occurring in connection with the CD-ROM “Digital Angels.” The disk Ruri received is this same “Digital Angels” disk, and without knowing the danger, Setsuna lets her keep it. As soon as Ruri uses the program, her personality starts to change, and strange things begin to happen as Evils and angels seek the Setsunas’s soul for their own mysterious motives….

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Killer computer games, reincarnation, fallen angels, demons, weird romance — this book has it all! Seriously, I don’t think that it can get any cooler. Sometimes, when a bunch of really cool elements are thrown together in one book it can be disastrous, but Yuki pulls it off and has created an incredibly exciting, suspenseful series. Plus, the artwork is beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever read a manga with such gorgeous drawings.

As for the characters, I fell in love with Setsuna immediately, and I adore all the others. It’s a very complex story with a deep historical background that I’m sure will be revealed little by little throughout the series. There are some funny moments to alleviate some of the tension (this is a very dark series). These moments aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, but they definitely put a smile on my face.

The only thing I had trouble with was remembering who was who, and what gender they were — Yuki seems to love the theme of too-pretty males.

I would recommend this for fans of dark fantasy and fallen angels. Be prepared for some serious weirdness, though!

Book Review: The Briar King by Greg Keyes

Title: The Briar King
Author: Greg Keyes
Series: Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1
Publisher: Tor
Paperback: 553 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The Briar King, Greg Keyes’s latest elegant entry into the world of high fantasy, lays the groundwork for what promises to be a mesmerizing four-book series–the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Keyes spins his tale in a meticulously crafted fantasy realm on the brink of apocalyptic change. The Briar King, a legend cobbled from children’s stories and rural folklore, is waking from his slumber to an unknown but cataclysmic end. Dark agents are afoot in the land, stirring war and edging an ancient prophecy closer to fulfillment. In destiny’s path are a king’s woodsman, his headstrong lover, a bookworm priest, a cocksure swordsman, and the embattled (from within and without) kingdom of Crotheny. Keyes masterfully intertwines far-off courtly intrigue with the personal quest of the woodsman and his brave companions who seek to unravel the secret of the Briar King before all is lost.

My Rating: 3/5

The storyline of The Briar King is fantastic. I enjoy fantasy plots with a doomsday prophecy and characters who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. There are the stereotypes that one comes to expect in this sort of novel: stubborn, hot-headed princess, naive priest, brave knight, cynical woodsman, etc. However, I think there are quite a lot of unique elements to the story, and the imagery of the Briar King thoroughly creeped me out. What really sold me at the end was how everyone’s stories start fitting together.

Despite this, I found this book extremely difficult to get in to. The writing gets progressively better throughout the book, but the beginning was tough going. It reads like a middle-grade novel instead of adult fantasy. There’s very simplistic narrative, unrealistic dialogue (and a lot of it!), and many of the characters aren’t likeable at first. At about three-quarters of the way in, the plot gets moving and the characters get better. I think it’s because they have to deal with real problems instead of whining about trivial things.

I’m not sure if it’s worth investing in this series yet, considering that it doesn’t become good until the later part of the first book. There are three more books, and if these three are anything like the last part of The Briar King, I think it will be worth it. The ending of this book is definitely enough to keep me reading more, but the sequel has to be very good for me to continue with this series all the way.

Audiobook Review: The Devil Wears Prada

Title: The Devil Wears Prada
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Publisher: Books on Tape
Length: 14 hours, 13 minutes
Summary (Taken from Goodreads):

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

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Overall Rating: 4/5

I saw the movie before I read the book, so of course I compared the two throughout my whole time listening to The Devil Wears Prada.

The book is quite different from the movie, which I loved. I know that book-lovers hate it when their favorite book gets a make-over when turned to film, but my experience was backwards. Reading a book after watching a faithful movie representation bothers me a little. I feel like it’s a waste of time, because I already know the characters and what happens. In this novel, the premise and most of the plot are the same, but the characters are distinctly different. The story isn’t as light-hearted as the movie, which I found to be the most striking difference. Miranda isn’t humanized at all, Emily is less mean (and therefore less funny), but she’s definitely a more interesting, complex character than what the movie shows, and there’s a lot more going on with Andrea’s friends and family in the novel.

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