Manga Review: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 2)

Details:28118570

Title: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 2)

Chapters: 13-24

Written by: Natsuki Takaya

Artist: Natsuki Takaya

Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka

Lettering: Lys Blakeslee

Publisher: Yen Press

Published: June 2016

Pages: 384

Genre: Manga, Romance, Young Adult, Shojo Manga

Synopsis:

When she was living in a tent pitched on the Sohma family’s land, Tohru Honda’s primary concerns were dirt and slugs. But now that she’s living with the Sohmas, magical powers and ancient curses are the order of the day! With Yuki and Kyo at each other’s throats like cats and… rats, life at the Sohmas’ is lively enough, but it all heats up as Hatsuharu joins the fray, spoiling for a fight! And even before the new school year can get underway, the mystery surrounding the family escalates when Akito, head of the Sohma clan, confronts Tohru without warning…

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

Once again, this volume of Furuba is very introductory. We’re introduced to several more characters, including two of my favorites, Hatsuharu and Ayame, and the hijinks only seem to escalate. This volume also includes our first encounter with the head of the Sohma family, Akito, who all the members of the Sohma family seem to fear. We start to dive into the troubled pasts of the Sohma family members, as well as the complicated relationships that bind them all together. We also see Tohru’s relationship with Kyo and Yuki get stronger, and we see more examples of just how devoted Tohru’s best friends, Arisa Uotani and Saki Hanajima, are to her.

I honestly love every volume of Furuba that I have read, but this volume is one where we start getting into why I find this series so good. While we’re still being introduced to characters and crazy, hilarious things are still happening to them, we are also starting to see the more dramatic, more serious turn that this series is going to take. I find this series is so reflective of life and real relationships. It starts out very superficial and steadily gets deeper, just like any friendship (normally) works.

This is also the only volume that I feel qualified to truly judge the new translation, since volume 4 of the original release is included in this volume of the collector’s edition, and it is the only one of the original release I ever actually owned. I really like the new translation! I feel everything that was changed was changed to make more sense, but all of the changes are really minor. According to a review I read online, “the inaccuracies from the Japanese still haven’t been fixed,” but since I don’t read Japanese and never knew that the translations were inaccurate to begin with, I really couldn’t care less. Translations are never truly accurate, anyway. They just follow the gist of the story, and this one is still telling the story that I loved long ago.

Blogger Note: Please don’t forget that we are also involved with Inkitt’s Novel Writing Contest! It was announced recently by Jessica in this post. If you’re interested in entering the contest or want to read more about it, you can do so here!

banner3

 

Manga Review: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 1)

28219400Details:

Title: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-12

Written by: Natsuki Takaya

Artist: Natsuki Takaya

Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka

Lettering: Lys Blakeslee

Publisher: Yen Press

Published: June 2016

Pages: 400

Genre: Manga, Romance, Young Adult, Graphic Novel

Synopsis:

After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, plucky high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out…into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Sohma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret. But, as Tohru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Sohmas have a secret of their own–when embraced by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!

A perennial favorite of fans and librarians alike, Natsuki Takaya’s beloved bestselling Fruits Basket series returns to print in gorgeous deluxe English-language omnibus editions with beautiful full-color illustrations that are not to be missed!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

I started reading the Fruits Basket (from now on referred to as Furuba) when I was in middle school. It was one of my very first manga (the actual first was Tokyo Mew Mew, I believe), and it was the first one I became obsessed with. I only ever owned a couple of them, I would borrow them from a friend as they came out and she completed them. When that friend went on to high school without me, I would check them out from the library. It’s a series I don’t think I ever managed to complete because there were 23 volumes and I think I may have skipped a couple. I never managed to own more than a couple of the original series because TOKYOPOP went under and stopped printing them before I had any source of reliable income that would allow me to buy them all.

So, imagine my delight when I found out that Yen Press was re-releasing the entire series in 12 volumes with new (more accurate) translations this year. I believe I squealed. I have officially preordered the remaining books in the series and am eagerly awaiting the final two release dates for the manga that introduced me to an entire genre I would never have thought about approaching if not for my friends back in middle school.

This volume is the introductory volume of the series. Most of this volume is introductions. We meet our lead, Tohru Honda, and journey with her as she becomes entangled in the lives of the cursed Sohma family. She learns of the Zodiac curse and is introduced to the key players of the series. By the end of this volume, even though we haven’t met all of the Zodiac members, we have met most of the key players in the series, and we are seeing the relationships of the characters’ form. There’s never a calm day in the Sohma household, and we are set up for a story full of fun, drama, and growth in this first volume. 

Blogger Note: Please don’t forget that we are also involved with Inkitt’s Novel Writing Contest! It was announced recently by Jessica in this post. If you’re interested in entering the contest or want to read more about it, you can do so here!

banner3

 

Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins (vol. 6)

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol6Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 6)

Chapters: 38-46, plus a bonus story (broken up into three parts)!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: January 13, 2015

Pages: 200

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

Blast from the Past!

Howzer whips up a huge storm in an attempt to defeat Diane, but even a human-sized giant can stand strong against the fiercest tempests. In the next match, Meliodas faces Cain, who conjures terrifying fire magic while also leveling fiery accusations at Meliodas about his rumored involvement in the destruction of Danafell. How will Meliodas respond? Can he take the punishment for his alleged sins?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

Volume 6 brings an end to the fighting festival with an interesting turn of events. The action doesn’t slow in between transitions, instead it picks up rather quickly. Griamore still has his ever changing body size, though the muscles don’t get too drastically large this time around he looks a lot better with his helmet on. In this volume you get to see more into Meliodas’s past and you’ll start asking more questions about his character. There’s also a bit of character development for the team in general as they start asking the same questions that the readers are.

As a whole, this volume is rather explosive with activity and new character development. There’s more action and fighting sequences than there are major plot points, if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s rather interesting to see how the Holy Knights differ in not only abilities, and where they get their strength, but also in ideology. You get to see the beginning of just how different the two fractions are. Overall, the fighting sequences are great, though there is one character that frustrate me. So far this manga has done a great job with the armor of the knights, making them appear more logical than others of the genre, however, there is one character with rather impractical armor and it more sexual than anything. I mean seriously, why would you allow your breasts to be exposed when a sword can easily stab through your chest and kill you?!

Warning: If you read this volume you must have the next one in hand because the cliffhanger is quite a doozy!

Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins vol. 5

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol5Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 5)

Chapters: 30-37, plus a bonus storie!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: November 11, 2014

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

It’s A Showdown!

Four of the Sins have been reunited and it feels almost so good. Entering a fighting tournament where the grand prize is Diane’s weapon, the unthinkable happens when the Sins and Holy Knights clash on stage! But who is the other faction of Holy Knights, dubbed the “New Generation”, and what could this monstrous group of demon-like knights be planning?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

This volume is centered on a tournament with a few flashbacks that add depth to our characters. As tournaments go, this one isn’t really different, especially when it comes to manga. There are some really over powered players and some that are in really far over their heads. Still, the tournament is rather fun to read, mostly for the various commentary between the contestants. We get to see some new and old Holy Knights with this volume shedding some more light on some of the older ones. The one thing that really bugged me was Griamore’s ever changing body size; I swear, every time we see him in a new panel his body gets larger and he has more ripped muscles that don’t actually exist on the human body. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character, but the inconsistency kept drawing me away from the action, especially when his head looked so tiny compared to the rest of him. In this volume we also get to see more of Elizabeth and her relationships with the people around her, especially more development between her and Meliodas. I do have to warn some people though, if you’re uncomfortable with fan service this volume may be a bit tough for you to read because there is a lot more of it. There’s also a bit more gore, so this is not a read for the faint of heart.

(Audio)Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

rebel-of-the-sands

Details:

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Author:  Alwyn Hamilton

Narrator:  Soneela Nankani

Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.

Release Date: March 8th 2016

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Play time: 9 hr and 31 min

Synopsis:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been looking for a good book to listen to on my way to campus and on my long walks to my classes. I haven’t read very many books, fantasy or otherwise, with a Middle Eastern tone, so I was excited to give this book a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a debut novel, Rebel of the Sands was pretty good. It wasn’t squeaky clean and shiny, but it was a good start to a series for a first time author. And for one of the first stories that I’ve read with a heavy Middle Eastern theme, it has given me a taste for more.

I think my favorite part about this book was the journey. Looking back on some of the other review for this book people found the first part to e rather boring. Honestly, it was really refreshing to listen to a story about an unfortunate heroine that isn’t rushing at the chance to save the world, like so many popular YA do. People complained that there was no plot to this story and I have to argue against that. Rebel of the Sands reads like the classic hero’s journey. In fact, while I listened to the story progress I often had thoughts about Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey.

Yes, the first part of the book can be very long to some readers who don’t care much for build. There’s a lot of action and character development in the first half of the story, but sometimes you just have to sit back and let the story wash over you. I found the ‘boring’ part of the story to be very interesting because the author took this time to try and introduce the larger world that she created for her characters. I promise that there is plot from beginning to end, it’s just a lot of the beginning of the plot is to subtly (and realistically) change the heroine into someone who looks out for herself only to someone who looks out for others. I found Amani’s journey to be quite interesting and I enjoyed listening to how she changed throughout the story.

For those willing to sift through the first part of the book (I promise, it’s not that bad but a lot of “big” reviewers have said otherwise) the second part of the story picks up the pace pretty quickly. Honestly, I got through that half a lot more quickly than the first, but mostly because I was not aware of how much time would pass when I listened. The change in pace wasn’t sudden, there was a nice easy transition that didn’t give you whiplash. However, one it really starts to pick up it’s really hard to put it down. Several times I had to remind myself that I had to get out of the car to go inside or that I needed to get homework done.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters and their development. Each character was just a little bit different and the author didn’t have to spend a lot of time showing us their personalities. Even the minor characters were easily discernable and could be imagined easily, which was nice because you meet a lot of them in rapid succession in the second half. Yes, our main character are a little bit cliché, but they were extremely enjoyable to follow!

Speaking of clichés, another gripe other reviewers had with this book was that it was riddled with overused themes in YA books. Honestly, it’s really hard to write a YA book without working in clichés into the story, it’s nearly impossible because every good idea has been used in thousands of books across the genres. With that said, this book actually didn’t have very many glaring clichés you might find in a debut novel. Yes, some of the things about the characters were a little cliché, but honestly they only appeared that way and the author slowly revealed why she wrote her characters that way. Could it have been written a little better? Yes, but for a first attempt at a bestselling novel, the author did a pretty good job of it.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the world building. One thing I love more than character development is world building, especially in fantasy or sci-fi where an author has the most range. While this book reads very much like it has a Middle Eastern setting, it is nothing like I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed being submersed in the sand with the characters, hearing stories about the county’s mythos along with them, it made my walks onto campus and to class seem almost mystical. The author’s world is more than just sand and sun, it was so much more and I loved seeing through my mind’s eye what it must’ve looked like. I can’t wait to see how the author expands her fantastical world in the rest of the series, especially as she grows as a writer!

 

Final Thoughts:

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel to a different place all together. I’ve read a lot of fantasies, but they normally spend a majority of the time in a very European-like setting where the characters visit ‘exotic’ places or deserts briefly, so it’s refreshing to read one set within the desert. The magic and mythos of the land is also different from what I’ve read before, so it could be a lot of fun if you’re looking for something fresh, something new.

I will have to say that this story does have some Western themes, which was a little odd for me at first because it didn’t seem to fit quite right in my mind. However, as the story plans out those themes add to the story and really help develop some of the characters. It does make some sequences in the story seem unbearably why, and some of you might ask why these scenes are needed. Trust me, the long sequences are very much needed but they dominate a lot of the first half of the story so it may be a little hard to get through that first bit.

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

This story was pretty solid, definitely an excellent first attempt for a new author! I loved the settling, the overarching world, the characters, and even some of the clichés. I also enjoyed being surprised from time to time. There were some major reveals that I didn’t see coming or saw almost a little too late, which is always exciting for me. This book won’t be for everyone, but I bet that those who do enjoy it will have a lot of fun reading it. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Narration: 4/5

I really enjoyed Ms. Nankani’s narration of this story. I felt like Amani and her journey really came alive as she spoke. Sometimes her male voices were a little rough, especially when they were conveying certain strong emotions. However, I do understand that it can be hard for women to variate male voices. Overall, she was fantastic and can’t wait to hear her read the sequel!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Manga Review: Kimi ni Todoke (From me to you) vol.1

kimi-ni-todoke-vol1Details:

Title: Kimi ni Todoke (From me to you) (vol.1)

Story by: Karuho Shiina

Artist: Karuho Shiina

Translation/Adaptation: Tomo Kimura

Publisher: VIZ Media LLC

Published: August 4th 2009 by

Pages: 205

Genre: Manga, Romance, Slice of Life, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Sawako Kuronuma is the perfect heroine…for a horror movie. With striking similarities to a haunting movie character–jet-black hair, sinister smile and silent demeanor–she’s mistakenly called Sadako by those around her. But behind her scary façade is a very misunderstood teenager. Too shy to fit in, all she wants to do is make some friends. But when the most popular boy in class befriends her, she’s sure to make more than just that–she’s about to make some enemies too!

Rating:

4/5

I first read this manga back in high school, and I really enjoyed it but I was never able to get the volumes for myself. When I saw this in the bookstore a while back I got super excited and bought this volume, just to see if it was as good as I remembered, and it is! This manga is really cute and made me squeal hardcore; I’m surprised I didn’t wake my boyfriend up with how much I squealed and giggled, like I was back in middle school or high school.

This manga was a lot of fun to read. The characters are well thought out and easily discernable, and not just by how they’re drawn but their personalities as well. Readers meet a lot of the main characters in this volume, though not much development is seen with the lesser cast yet. Each chapter is like its own little story, but they all connect to a greater plot. This volume contains a lot of introductory material and set up for the story, which just seems to follow the main heroine, Sawako, as she opens up more to the people around her. Slice of life stories don’t always hold my attention, however, I’m desperately waiting to get my hands on the next volume!

Book Review: The Golden Spider

the-golden-spider

Details:

Title: The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Chronicles)

Author: Ann Renwick

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: August 8th 2016

Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 482

Synopsis:

London papers scream of dirigible attacks, kraken swarms, and lung-clogging, sulfurous fogs. But a rash of gypsy murders barely rates mention.

Lady Amanda is tired of having both her intelligence and her work dismissed.

After blackmailing her way into medical school, she catches the eye of her anatomy professor from the moment she walks into his lecture hall. Is he interested in her? Or only her invention–a clockwork spider that can spin artificial nerves?

Lord Thornton, a prominent neurobiologist, has been betrayed.

Secret government technology has been stolen from his laboratory, and a foreign spy is attempting to perfect it via a grisly procedure… using gypsies as test subjects. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a beautiful–and brilliant–new student, even if her spider could heal a deteriorating personal injury.

Until her device is stolen and used in the latest murder.

Lord Thornton has no option but to bring her into his laboratory as well as the investigation where they must fight their growing, yet forbidden, attraction. Bodies accumulate and fragile bonds are tested as they race across London, trying to catch the spy before it’s too late.

My First Thoughts:

I always love to find good steampunk books and there are never enough of them! So when I was presented with story I immediately said yes.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This story was absolutely fantastic! While this book is a romance, that single element doesn’t drive the story like other books. The Golden Spider is very much a mystery novel with a side of romance and a touch and steampunk.

The mystery of this story was quite interesting to follow, and it had me guessing for most of the book. The murders weren’t too gruesome to read about, the author didn’t go into a lot of detail describing the look of the body and such. When she did go into detail, she used very scientific words, which made sense because both of the main characters are in the medical field, to describe what had happened to the body and thus allowing the reader to be slightly removed and less repulsed by the image in their mind. By the end of the novel none of the big twists shocked me. This isn’t a slight against the story telling, most books fail to shock me with their big twists because I’ve guessed them early on. The mystery did stump me for most of this book and there were some minor twists that I didn’t see coming.

The characters were likeable enough. I really enjoyed Thorton more than Amanda. Lady Amanda was fine, however she seemed rather basic. It’s not uncommon for the heroine of a romance novel to be extraordinary in some way, normally there super smart compared to their peers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that her character was cliché, because the author took great strides in proving how intelligent her female lead was by showing her thought process and even including the right terminology when necessary. However, Lady Amanda fails to stand out in my mind, which isn’t a point against the author, unlike her male counterpart. Thorton was different. I’ve never read a story before, especially a romance, where the male lead is handicapped in some way and is a bit self-conscious about it, afraid of receiving help from others but needing it in the end. Normally, a male character with his kind of personality would turn me off, but his injury and all the related baggage helped round out his character, making him rather likeable.

For the most part, the minor characters were interesting as well. There were a few that were quite forgettable, but the others had unique characteristics or actions that helped them stick in the mind, the gypsies were my favorite.

With any steampunk, I’m curious about how the author weaves the normal elements of the genre into their story. For many stories, the steampunk elements are mostly in the detailing of the environment, the fashion, etc. Not many stories that I have read actually do much with steampunk ideas beyond ‘oh look I added gears and steam to everything’. The Golden Spider actually weaves the elements into the plot, especially with Amanda’s device and the work that it does. I was absolutely fascinated with the world that the author created with steampunk, and I enjoyed the detailing and the functionality of her creations.

For the most part, this book is fantastic. My only complaints are the ending and some of the random sections with our killer. A few times the author chose to write from the killer’s perspective, as a way of giving the readers some clues as to who they might be. However, they were random and very far from each other. I would have preferred if we saw more from the villain’s side, not much, but a few more times to make those sections appear less disjointed with the rest of the story. As for the end, it was a fine ending but with how the rest of the story read I was expecting more. Everything seemed to wrap up so nicely with most of the loose ends getting tied in the last couple of pages. I wanted to know more about the killer’s motives and some answers to some of the backstory that was presented earlier in the story. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment, which I will definitely be looking for.

Final Thoughts:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves steampunk, romance, or mystery, or all of the above. No one genre dominates the story, which I appreciated because sometimes romance driven mysteries are rather dry and cliché. This mystery is well balanced, not very gory, and fun to follow. There are some pretty heavy scientific and medical terms in this book, they are scientists so it makes sense, however, there’s enough context to make it easier to get a general idea of what’s being said without relying on Google. Also, there is sex in this book, just to warn you in case it turns you off like some of the other reviewers I’ve read.

Rating(s):

4/5

Overall this book is fantastic. The world the author creates is detailed and well imagined while leaving the reader with enough questions to want to keep exploring in later books. The romance, while a little cliché, is realistic and enjoyable without stealing the spotlight. Some people might not enjoy the technical jargon or medical terminology, but they’re easy enough to understand. What keeps this story from getting 5/5 for me is the ending and the few sections told about our killer. There were 2-3 times in which the story followed the villain, which is fine, but they seemed so random and jarring that it took me out of the story a little. Just a few more sections with the killer, and it would have been fine. As for the ending, it was too short and clean for me. Most of the loose ends were taken care of, but they were all told to us and not shown. The rest of the book goes through great lengths to show and not tell, and I feel like the ending falls short of the standard the rest of the book set up. I understand if the author didn’t want to  go into too much detail, however, I think the readers deserved more than two or three pages. All in all, I’mm looking forward to the next book!

Related Reviews/Books:

A Curse of Ash and Iron