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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Novel Review: Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde



Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating (Out of 5): ~3.5-4
Publisher: Random House (Knopf)
Spoilers?: Very minor.
Buy it here: Amazon.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Elle is a loner. She doesn’t need people. Which is a good thing, because she’s on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother’s boyfriend won’t have to deal with her.

Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He’s older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can’t stop thinking about him. Frank isn’t like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He’s gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard.
But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he’s transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down.  Now she’ll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.

Tender, honest, and compassionate, Jumpstart the World is a stunning story to make you laugh, cry, and honor the power of love.

Review:

I figured this would be a quick, somewhat light, maybe thoughtful, read. And, for the most part, I was right. And I did enjoy it about as much as I thought I would. Which is to mean, that I liked this book. However, it hasn’t left me with a lot to say, or at least not with much of knowing what to say.
Elle, the main character, is forced to move into an apartment by herself, paid for by her mother, despite the fact that she’s still in high school. The reason being that her mother and her new husband want to be with only each other, mostly the idea pushed on by the new step-father. Her mother feels bad about it, but doesn’t do anything to stop it.
Now, there’s the fact that most teenagers would like to be on their own, and at times it would be nice to be by yourself, especially if your mother was paying for everything. But then there’s the fact that Elle’s mother pretty much chose her husband over her daughter, and even went so far as to kick her daughter out of the house, even if she’s paying for her new living arrangements. That’s just ridiculous, and bad parenting.
But, in Elle’s new apartment building, she meets her very nice neighbors. Next door lives Frank, a very nice little-bit-older guy who Elle forms a crush on. And then there’s Franks girlfriend, Molly, who is nice enough. And then there’s the fact that Frank (I’m ruining what could be a surprise, if the synopsis didn’t give it away, so I’m not going to feel bad about it, even if the book would have been better were it kept a secret) is a transgender.
Elle also gets new friends at her high school, all of whom are outcasts, but whom she forms a nice friendship with. These new friends are who bring up the idea of Frank being a transgender to her. She’s not expecting this, feels very insecure about the fact that it might mean she’s gay, and causes a rift between her and everyone else. It’s understandable, her insecurities mostly plausible, even though I think she should have gotten out of her funk much sooner than she did.
The topic of being gay and transgender and whatever else was handled rather well, I think. Elle had a hard time grasping it at first, and we were given the idea of how other people are not supportive, but I don’t think we were given enough of an idea of how bad it could turn out if someone were to get bullied or something because of it. But even saying that, I still thought that the topic was handled well.
Also, I don't really like the title. Or how it's used in the book. I feel like something better could have been thought of.
I liked Frank, was okay with Molly. The ending was not what I expected, but it wasn’t bad—it worked. I really liked Elle’s friends from school, particularly Wilbur. I would have liked to have gotten to know Wilbur better, actually, to have seen more of him. They were all just really good for each other; they’re people who don’t have a lot of people in their lives, and somehow ended up forming a friendship because of that, because it was needed and it works for them. I liked their talks, their general friendship, and I liked the different characters. Elle also adopts a very wary cat, who was also needed in the story, and who I just liked.
This is a rather short book, but the writing is nice, thoughtful, the characters all have different personalities and they’re fun, I liked the protagonist. This was overall a pretty good book.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher, Volume 9, by Izumi Tsubaki



Rating (Out of 5): ~3-3.5
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shojo Beat)
Volumes: 16+
Spoilers?: Minor-ish.
Buy it here: Amazon.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences rated teen. Mafuyu is the no-nonsense, take-charge and hard-hitting leader of her high school gang. But when she gets expelled for being a delinquent, her mother, fed up with her daughter’s wayward ways, sends Mafuyu to an isolated school far off in the country.

The yearly culture festival is coming up fast, and it’s a great chance for Midorigaoka Academy to shine. But disappearing students and rising tensions between the academy and nearby Kiyama High could turn the festival into a full-on disaster! Can a pack of delinquents save the day and the school?

Review:

This series is funny. It’s enjoyable. I like it. But I’m not loving it, the little things are all starting to collide and blur in my head, and there’s just a little too much going on with too little plot movement.
This volume continues the school festival plot line, ending the hallway disappearances, and starting and ending a delinquent riot. The delinquent bit had been hinted at, but I didn’t think too much of it. It was interesting, part of it was needed, but the ending seemed a bit too cheesy, and kind of made me wonder what the point was, probably because I just didn’t really know the guy behind it all, Bancho’s original second or whatever. Mostly, it was to make the Bancho the Bancho again (since he’d been kicked out of it by Mafuyu/Natsuo, although I can’t remember why that happened, nor did I remember it happening at all until I was reminded), and I’m okay with that. It needed to happen.
Also, it connected the plot where the student council president is trying to bring down the public morals club, or Mafuyu. We got to know one of the new characters a bit better in this volume, and that was alright. It was funny.
There are just too many characters, okay? I know I keep saying this, but it’s true. Not only are we now maybe getting to know the six new student council members, but we’re also supposed to remember who several of the delinquents are at Mafuyu’s current school, as well as the ones from her old school and the ones rivaling her old school, then there’s Saeki’s old classmate, and the main characters who I can’t even remember the names of a majority of the time. There’s just too many, and when I can’t remember their name, let alone even vaguely what role they play, I have a hard time caring and then remembering what happened with them.
Then there’s the fact that barely anything ever happens. We’ve been shown peeks of the student council for several volumes now, but very little of what the president is actually doing has been actually done. There are hints of things, little bits moved forward at a time, which I have to commemorate Tsubaki for doing all of these secret, subtle things behind all of the humor, but at this point I want the plot to get going already. I’ve been waiting for way too long, all of the little plot movements are starting to blur together, and I’m starting to get impatient.
So, overall: I like this series, I think it’s funny. But there’s too much. I will probably continue reading, but I’m not really in any hurry to get the next volume, and I might even be taking a break from the series for a while.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Novel Review: My Man Michael (SBC Fighters, #4) by Lori Foster



Genre: Adult Romance Fantasy (with SEX)
Rating (Out of 5): 4 (maybe 3.5)
Publisher: Penguin (Berkley)
Spoilers?: Minor (main element is spoiled, with hints of other things)
Buy it here: Amazon.
Goodreads Synopsis:

Knocked out in one world, he?ll take on another.

On the verge of a title shot match, fighter Michael ?Mallet? Manchester is injured in a car accident. And just as quickly as his career was taking off, it?s over. Then Kaylie Raine appears, offering him a second chance at becoming whole. Even though Mallet thinks it?s the pain medication talking, he accepts her challenge. And on an extraordinary journey with Kaylie, he?ll get a chance to fight again?to save the woman who has saved him.

Review:

This was my first Lori Foster book in a while (aside from some short stories) (also, this one was the one I read before the one reviewed last week), and I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
This one takes a very, very different turn from the others in the series, which is why a lot of people don’t seem to like it as much. I didn’t have a problem with that, which is probably because I’d only read the first book in the series, and I read it a couple years ago, so it was very fuzzy in my brain. I can understand why some people would be upset, if they really liked the other books because of the fighter element and because they liked seeing the other fighters from the other books, but I didn’t mind.
The book starts with Michael, or “Mallet”, being in the hospital. He’s gotten very hurt, and has very likely lost the use of his legs. He’s grumpy and upset about this, generally not very good company. And then a girl shows up, who gets his attention but keeps disappearing. The girl, Kayli, wants his help with something. In the future.
(One thing that I [kind of] liked about the synopsis, is that it keeps this part of the book hidden. But I want to talk about that part, and apparently some forewarning wouldn’t be a bad idea, so I’m going to spoil that for you.)
This is the part of the book that I think most people didn’t like. Kayli is from the future, and she takes Michael back to the future with her. I did, at first, have a problem with the added futuristic/time-traveling element to a series that was otherwise contemporary, but it grew on me. And I really enjoyed this book, so I’m happy to overlook that.
I really enjoyed the world that Foster built in this book. This future has its problems, but is mostly just really cool. I liked it.
I also really liked Kayli and Michael. Michael seems to have changed a lot from the previous books (at least, from when we first saw him in SimonSays—I haven’t read the third book yet), and I really liked him. He didn’t seem to jump on the love-train too quickly, but once he decided that he wanted Kayli, there was no other choice for him. He wanted her, and so he was determined to have her. And he wasn’t too pushy, either. I really liked that part. I liked Kayli, too. She was sweet, and tough, and very shy, which was just really nice. Her na├»ve shyness was done in a very sweet, honest way, and I liked that.
And the sexy part of the romance was very nice, as well. Their whole chemistry, the way they interacted, was just really well done. I really liked it. Foster really knows how to make a good romance, which is something I'd forgotten.
There was a subplot romance in this book, which at first I didn’t like and really didn’t want to happen, but ended up turning out really well. I was a little surprised at how easily I opened up to it, but I did. I liked it. And I thought it worked rather well for the ending.
One part that I did not like about this book was the sexist part. Foster seems to be putting in little bits in her books about how women are just women and thus not as strong or capable as men, while at the same time having the women fight to prove how strong they are, and that was a very big element in this book. And it was really pissing me off a couple of times. It seemed like, at the end of this book, that the guys were coming around, but not that they really believed it, and that they still thought that women shouldn’t be fighting against men because they weren’t as strong or capable. And I just wasn’t as content with that part of the ending as I would have liked to be.
Also, with the fact that, throughout the entire book, Kayli was fighting for her spot as head of the defense team, and yet at the end of the book, she decided that she would give it up for Michael. I don’t like that she was going to do that, and I don’t think she should have been even thinking that way, at all.
That part of the book just really got on my nerves. As I said, it was a little bit better at the end, and the rest of the book is enough to make me say that I did really enjoy it, but that part still bothers me.
To sum up, I really enjoyed this book. A lot. And I’m really looking forward to reading the third and fifth books in this series, as well as Foster’s other books.

Manga Review: Sengoku Nights, Volume 1, by Kaoru Ohashi and Kei Kusunoki



Rating (Out of 5): ~3
Publisher: Tokyopop
Volumes: 2
Spoilers?: No/Very Minor.
Buy it here: Amazon. (Out-of-Print)

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the creators of Diabolo When evil is resurrected, it's up to one boy to give them hell.At first glance, Masayoshi Kurozuka is an ordinary high school kid...until the day he discovers that he is the reincarnation of an evil woman named Oni-hime, who sold her soul to the devil during Japan's warring period. Masayoshi must come to grips with his gruesome destiny--while fighting off legions of ghosts, the remnants of men killed by Oni-hime! From the creators of TOKYOPOP's Diabolo comes a sinister and compelling horror story taken from traditional Japanese mythological roots.

Review:

I picked this two volume series up a while ago, mostly because I knew there were only two volumes, Tokyopop had recently closed and I wanted some of their completed series’, and I loved this authors’ other series, Diabolo. Diabolo was my first ever manga, it’s what got me to read more, I love it, and I hold it in a special place in my heart.
This volume wasn’t too bad, but I don’t think it’s going to be as good as its predecessor.
Sengoku Nights is about a boy, Masayoshi, who is the reincarnation of a woman, Oni-Hime. Oni-Hime/Masayoshi doesn’t remember the past for a bit of this book, but he has a demon working for him, Nozuchi. Although, Nozuchi was lovers with Oni-Hime and expects to be the same with Masayoshi, even if she’s now a he, Masayoshi wants none of that.
Oni-Hime locked up Nozuchi, as well as a whole lot of other demons and spirits in some mountain, but the mountain’s been sold and an exorcist set them all free, so now all of them are after Masayoshi for revenge. Including, in a surprising turn of events, Oni-Hime’s father, who is a horrible person although I’m not going to spoil why.
We meet the exorcist, who seems alright at first but is actually working against Masayoshi, and I’m sure we’ll find out why in the next book. There’s also Masayoshi’s friends, including a girl who is obsessed with all things supernatural but hasn’t seen any spirits or demons herself, and Masayoshi, I think, likes her but hasn’t told her about him being a reincarnation. Then there’s Grandma, a spirit who helps Masayoshi, although she isn't actually his grandma. Lastly, there’s Masayoshi’s parents, who we see very little of, but who I don’t really like. At all. Particularly his mother, who’s a bitch to her husband, even though he’s not much better because he never fights back.
One big downfall to this book were the obvious sexist elements. It’s possible that the remarks are probably only because of the time they are set in, as it was back when samurai’s were around, but still. I didn’t like it.
This was pretty much just alright. The artwork wasn’t bad, I liked seeing the similarities in the art to Diabolo (but mostly just because it’s nostalgic for me), the characters were alright, the story is alright. I have the next, and last, volume, and I plan to read it soon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesday[39]: Necromancing the Stone (Necromancer, #2) by Lish McBride

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Spring Break! Yay! I have very little to do and a whole bunch of time for reading. It’s the best. Next week, however, I will be back in school. That sucks. But for now: no school! Yay!
Here’s this week’s book:
Genre: YA Supernatural/Paranormal (Light-Romance)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publish Date: 2012

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?

Excerpts:

“‘Um, are you watching Murder, She Wrote?’
‘I find it to be…soothing.’” (Hardback, pg. 149)

“Douglas was next to him, a hand resting on the boy’s shoulders. Douglas was smiling a little. It was creepy.” (Hardback, pg. 149)

So, what are you reading right now, or, how are you spending your free time (or did you spend it, if you’re break is over already)?