Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori (Volume Two)

Synopsis: One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the 'Host Club', a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages, she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the boys are and how different they are from everybody else. (from the online description) 

Review: The next installment of the Ouran High School Host Club is just as fun, light, comforting, with a touching depth and heart. We follow the Host Club on several more zanny adventures, and we learn more about each member, why they joined and where they come from. The art, as always, is brisk and clean, with fun notes and clear pictures. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Anime or who wants light and fun manga.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1591-1699-01
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 2-28-2018
Pages: 185

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Demon Angel by Meljean Brooks (The Guardians, Book One)

Synopsis: Lilith, a demon, has spent 2,000 years tempting men and guaranteeing their eventual damnation. That is, until she meets her greatest temptation: the man whose life mission has been to kill her.  (from the online description)

Review: Set across 800 years of history, the story follows Lilith, a demon enslaved to Lucifer, and Hugh, once human, then a Guardian of Heaven, as they battle for the souls of mortals. But their attraction to each other complicated their respective orders. They share a twisted courtship of blood, banter, and bartered kisses, that creates excellent sexual tension.
Brooks created an intriguing world, populated by a complex hierarchy of demon and angelic characters. Several of her secondary characters here appear as primary in later books, which mean they are more well-rounded than your average secondary characters. While the plot kept me interested and the characters had depth, the story, over all, was disappointing. Plot twists are good, but this story had so many, it became cluttered and the world-building details got lost. The resolution seemed forced and didn’t match the build-up. While the main characters end up together (naturally) but the ending wasn’t satisfactory, as the questions and mysteries about how the world worked remained hidden by the muddled plot twists.
Good dialogue and unique secondary characters kept me reading until the end, but didn’t help the story rise above mediocre. Sadly, I won’t be reading the remainder of the series.
Prude Note: There is a LOT of graphic sex in this book. It doesn’t take place until the last fourth, but then it seems that the main characters don’t talk unless there is sex involved. Since so much important dialogue takes places in the context of sex, it isn’t possible to skip the sex scenes without missing important plot points. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-425-21347-6
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 2-26-2018
Pages: 412

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Review: Lazarus: Family, Lazarus: Lift, Lazarus: Conclave by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Sanit Arcas et al (Volumes 1-3)

Synopsis: In a dystopian near-future, the world is ruled by sixteen families, dividing the land into territories. If you aren’t family, you are serf, bound to the family, or you are waste, scrounging for food and water in a dangerous and barren world.
The families war among themselves, behind the scenes and sometimes outright, for power, resources, and knowledge. Each family has a Lazarus, a champion for house.  Forever Carlyle is the Lazarus for House Carlyle, and as such, she defends her family's holdings through deception and force as their protector. But even as she dies and is reborn over and over for her family, their she begins to question her origins and the things she’s been told as truth…

Review: I purchased Volume One on the recommendation of some Bookstagram friends. I read one page, ran to Amazon, and purchased Volume Two and Three. Then I read all three in one sitting, then went out and bought Volume Four and Five.
With a intriguing mixture of power, strength, and vulnerability, Forever Carlyle defends her family with a single-minded devotion. But she can’t ignore the mystery of her origins, or the tangled struggle for power both inside her family and between her family and the others that rule the world.
Gritty art, realistic color, and deft design bring to life a grim world, with complex characters and rules. We follow not just Forever, but her siblings, her serfs, her rivals, her lover, and the Waste as they struggle to survive. People die. People suffer. People are cruel and mean and they lie. And they love. Forever, for all her strength, is still young of mind, almost naive. The plot concerns her exploration of the world and her place (coming of age) as she faces dangers both inside and outside her family. The writers don’t shy away from dark topics and this gives the story a riveting tension.
If you enjoy stories with strong female characters, twisting plots, dark and dynamic art, gritty world-building, and blood, then this is the  story for you. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5 (All)

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60706-809-9 / 978-1-60706-817-6 / 978-1-63215-225-1
Year Published: 2014 / 2014 / 2015
Date Finished: 2-25-2018
Pages: 132 / 120 / 115

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Ouran High School Host Club (Volume One) by Bisco Hatori

Synopsis: One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the 'Host Club', a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages, she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the boys are and how different they are from everybody else. (from the online description)

Review: After seeing the anime, I knew I had to read the Manga. It’s amazing how alike they are. Remarkable faithful to the mange, the anime captures all the same wit, humor, warmth, and depth. This volume is the first three episodes of the anime and covers the introduction of Haruhi to the Host Club and her subsequent indentured servitude to them. With fun, clean art and hilarious dialogue, this manga is a perfect start to this fun story. If you are looking for a fun, warm, humorous, heart-felt story, this is the one for you!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59116-915-4
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 2-24-2018
Pages: 150

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (The Broken Empire, Book One)

Synopsis: When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be kind.
It is time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, t take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his Mother and younger brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and Death are no more than a game to him – and he has nothing left to lose.
But treachery awaits him in his Father’s castle. Treachery and Dark Magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining? (from the back of the book)

Review: Recommend to me by several people when I asked about Grimdark books, I found Lawrence's novel compelling, bloody, and dark, indeed. Our narrator, Jorg, is unreliable, his mind and body twisted by dark deeds forced upon his hidden dark soul. I greatly appreciated his cunning, clever, ruthless mind, and his dedication to his goals.
It took me several chapters to realize the world is a post-apocalyptic earth, somewhere in Europe. Scant remnants of the world before the Day of a Thousand Suns remain but have direct impact on the life of the characters. But there is also magic, dark and deadly. I’m intrigue to know how magic factors in the nature of the world, whether it is truly Magic or some form of Science called magic.
Even with compelling characters, it took me a few chapters to get into the story. Perhaps it was my mood or frame of mind when I picked up the book, but I almost put it down after the first chapter. I’m glad I didn’t. The plot picks up quickly and soon became addicting
I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys anti-heroes, heroes with no morals, all good deeds being punished, ruthless actions perpetrated by even more ruthless men, and world-building extraordinaire. I’m eager to read the remaining two books. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Finalist in the Goodreads Choice Award for "Best Fantasy 2011", a David Gemmell Morningstar Award Finalist in 2012, Short Listed for the Prix Imaginales (Roman ├ętranger) in 2013, Barnes & Noble's "Best Fantasy Releases of 2011

ISBN: 978-1-937007-68-3
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 2-17-2018
Pages: 319

Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: Sakura's Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Sakuri

Synopsis: Sakura's dad gets a new job in America, so she and her parents make the move from their home in Japan. When she arrives in the States, most of all she misses her grandmother and the cherry blossom trees, under which she and her grandmother used to play and picnic. She wonders how she'll ever feel at home in this new place, with its unfamiliar language and landscape. One day, she meets her neighbor, a boy named Luke, and begins to feel a little more settled. When her grandmother becomes ill, though, her family takes a trip back to Japan. Sakura is sad when she returns to the States and once again reflects on all she misses. Luke does his best to cheer her up -- and tells her about a surprise he knows she'll love, but she'll have to wait till spring. In the meantime, Sakura and Luke's friendship blooms and finally, when spring comes, Luke takes her to see the cherry blossom trees flowering right there in her new neighborhood (from the online description)

Review: Told through a series of poems in the Tanka style, a traditional Japanese poem similar to a Haiku but with two additional lines, this sweet story tells of young Sakura as she moves from Japan to America. She leaves behind her Grandma and the time spent under the cherry trees. At first, America is confusing and lonely, but time eases both of these things - except the she misses her Grandma. The end is bittersweet, but real, and gives the book a depth and maturity. The use of traditional Japanese poetry combined with the soft, cheerful, drawings make this a sweet and gentle book with surprising depth. I would highly recommend for children, particularly those missing a loved one or who find themselves facing changes in their life. It is also an excellent introduction to the art and poetry of Japan, in an easy to grasp way. I highly recommend this for parents and educators. 

Note: I received this book free through the Early Review Program hosted by LibraryThing, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-101-91874-6
Year Published: 2018
Date Finished: 2-16-2018
Pages: 33

Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Keesha's House by Helen Frost

Synopsis: Keesha has found a safe place to live, and other kids gravitate to her house when they just can’t make it on their own. They are Stephie – pregnant, trying to make the right decisions for herself and those she cares about; Jason – Stephie’s boyfriend, torn between his responsibility to Stephie and the baby and the promise of a college basketball career; Dontay – in foster care while his parents are in prison, feeling unwanted both inside and outside the system; Carmen – arrested on a DUI charge, waiting in a juvenile detention center for a judge to hear her case; Harris – disowned by his father after disclosing that he’s gay, living in his car, and taking care of himself; Katie – angry at her mother’s loyalty to an abusive stepfather, losing herself in long hours of work and school. (from the online description)

Review: Told from many viewpoints, each character's story is told through poems - specifically the classical forms of Sonnet and the Sestina. Not just the main characters speak, but also the adults surrounding them - parents, coaches, social workers, teachers, guardians. Keesha found safety and stability in the house own by a man named Joe (who lets troubled kids stay at his home without payment or official sanction). She reaches out to others, kids like herself, those whose home and life have crumbled around them, who need a place to stay. Each comes with their pain, their own fear, their own troubles, and each find the healing and safety they need at Keesha's House.
While most of the story is through the eyes of the kids, there is a part told through the eyes of the adults. This gives the story a unique depth, helping the reader to see the parents as more then just stock characters. Instead, it speaks to the frequent communication issues between adults and children, and reminds us that adults are often as lost as the kids they try to guide. While race and gender are touched upon, the real topic is the idea of hope, help, and healing.
Because of the format and subject matter, this book is a excellent choice for educational purposes. I would recommend it for high school students (and mature middle school age). There is reference to sex (both consensual and non), abuse, abortion, homosexuality, drugs, and crime, but all in passing (no glory details), and isn't anything that teenagers don't already have detailed knowledge about.
For my part, I found this book enlightening, educational, thought-provoking, and bittersweet. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards:  Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, 2004, Michael L. Printz Honor Award, 2004, YALSA's "Selected Videos, DVDs, and Audiobooks For Young Adults", 2005

ISBN: 0-374-34064-1
Year Published: 2003
Date Finished: 2-16-2018
Pages: 116