Most Recent Review Written on Tuesday, March 16, 2010.
Monkey High!, Vol. 1 is a Shojo Beat Manga (Japanese comic book) written for a teenage female au...moreMost Recent Review Written on Tuesday, March 16, 2010.
Monkey High!, Vol. 1 is a Shojo Beat Manga (Japanese comic book) written for a teenage female audience between the ages of 16 and 18. This is the first in a series about high school students. It's written in the traditional Japanese manga style, which reads from right to left (often referred to by non-fans of the genre as "backwards"). If you've never read a manga before, the style can confuse and disorient you, but it's worth acclimating to. Since I've been a fan from a young age, this was a fairly quick and easy read.
The story is divided into the following chapters:
1st Monkey: Miss Contrary vs. Runt Monkey
2nd Monkey: Climbing Mountains Is Easier than Professing Your Love
3rd Monkey: Xmas Is More Romantic than a First Kiss?! Postscript
The setting is a traditional Japanese high school with the main character Haruna Aizawa having recently transferred schools because of a political scandal involving her father. The story focuses on the budding relationship between Haruna and Masaru Yamashita (nicknamed Macharu, which means "monkey" in Japanese). The story is complicated because Haruna is a beautiful girl while Macharu is a cute but rather silly "monkey looking" boy (he has big monkey ears). Hence, Haruna has other boys interested in dating her including Atsu, the most popular boy in their school, and Nakazawa (a third year student from K Academy who happens to be Haruna's ex-boyfriend).
Haruna's character undergoes a transformation throughout the manga. At first, she considers herself "above" the students at her new school. She acts like a girl who is used to being popular. Because of all the attentions Atsu gives her, the girls at her new high school immediately ostracize her. It is through her friendship with Macharu that she is able to let her guard down and make friends. He teaches her about fun and laughter, attributes that have recently been missing from her life because of her problems at home.
Many of the issues that Haruna deals with are those that female teens face everyday when navigating the social drama at their own high schools. Haruna is a good role model for female readers because she teaches teens to be true to yourself first and let love gradually happen rather than forcing or rushing it.
As you read, there is one question that continuously nags at the forefront of your mind: Which boy will Haruna choose to date and what problems will the couple have to face?
Despite the seemingly inconsequential subject matter, there are deeper points highlighted in the introduction to the series. In the postscript the author explains how she created the main characters to be "opposites," two people who usually wouldn't date. Macharu is also a nontraditional Shojo Manga Hero because he is so comical, the same height as Haruna, and often acts "girly." Even his facial features are drawn to resemble Haruna's own wide-eyed, innocent stare. He isn't the "white knight" who's meant to whisk Haruna away from her everyday problems. He's a relatively typical boy trying to lose the identity of being the class clown, or in this case the class monkey. The two characters grow from each other as much as they give to each other.
The author also explains that many of the events in the book such as the Snow White play, the field trip, and even the Christmas chapter were inspired by her own life, whether it was from a time of her past when she was in high school or a current event.
The most fascinating part is that Haruna constantly makes comparisons that all high school students act like wild monkeys, always gossiping about her and Macharu or getting into their business. This is an interesting social commentary about high school hierarchies. At one point Macharu questions Haruna's opinions and they have an extensive conversation about her belief system:
"I'm just saying that everyone at school acts like a pack of wild monkeys."
"But...Then...Where does that leave you? Looking on from the top? Or are you just an outside observer? Where do you think you are?"
"How am I supposed to know! Who cares!" (31-32).
The conversation demonstrates that Haruna has no understanding of her identity or whether she socially fits in with her peers. She is often angry at Macharu for having such deep and serious moments with her. He forces her to examine her life from the inside out.
Of course a major factor to enjoying this book are the illustrations. I love anime and manga artwork. The way the characters' faces are depicted draws me into the drama and romance of the story. Shouko Akira is no exception and masterfully creates complex characters like Haruna and Macharu. The attention to details is vividly expressed in every stroke of the pencil.
Overall, the book has a similar feel as Peach Girl, Volume 1, another well-known manga, but Monkey High!, Vol. 1 is more playful. I loved it and recommend it to readers of all ages. For older members, it will have you recalling your formative high school years when you were just figuring out who you wanted to be. For high school students, it will give them a story they can relate to and have a bit of fun with. After all, high school shouldn't always be about the drama.
Original Review from November 9, 2008. I read the book from November 1, 2008 through November 9,2008.
This is the first book in a series about high school students. This story focuses on the budding relationship between Haruna Aizawa and Masaru Yamashita (nicknamed Macharu, which means "monkey" in Japanese). The story is complicated because Haruna is a beautiful girl while Macharu is a cute but rather silly monkey looking boy. Hence, Haruna has others interested in dating her, including Atsu, the most popular boy in their school, Nakazawa (a third year student from K Academy and her ex-boyfriend). Who will Haruna choose? To make matters even more crazy, all the high school students in her class act like wild monkeys, always gossiping about her and Macharu or getting into their business. Overall, the book has a similar feel as Peach Girl, Volume 1 but more playful. I loved it and can't wait to read the second book in the series.(less)
This is my favorite novel written by Amanda Quick. Clare, the heroine, creates perfume. She marries Gareth, the Hellhound of Wyckmere, and the two get...moreThis is my favorite novel written by Amanda Quick. Clare, the heroine, creates perfume. She marries Gareth, the Hellhound of Wyckmere, and the two get caught up in an evil plot to steal an alchemist's book. One aspect that brings this tale to life is the setting, the isle of desire. It's a beautiful place and the descriptions leave me wondering if Clare and Gareth live in the garden of Eden. My favorite part of the book, though, is Clare's strong, independent nature. Quick is able to create a heroine any woman can admire in a time period where women were valued for the number of male heirs they bore. Watching both Clare and Gareth develop as a couple is a truly magical experience.(less)
This is a story about a boy and his dragon, which takes place in a fantasy time period and setting. Jakkin Stewart lives in slavery with other men and...moreThis is a story about a boy and his dragon, which takes place in a fantasy time period and setting. Jakkin Stewart lives in slavery with other men and women (they are known as bonders). The only way to get free from bond is to become a master, not only a master of humans but of dragons. The book explores Jakkin's journey into manhood as well as a friendship with a dragon hatchling. The book starts a little slow, but after the first three chapters Jakkin faces hardship after hardship, from stealing an egg to fighting evil drakks. There is even a love interest, a mysterious girl named Akki. Overall, it is a good read for a young adult between the ages of eight and fourteen. Despite being an adult, I enjoyed reading this book. However, I found myself wishing the author had done more with the themes and issues that arose during my reading, such as slavery (the idea of a master and a slave), the treatment of the dragons (both in the pits, the training, and the horrible culling), and finally the achievement of a dream (was it really everything you wanted?). However, since this is the first book of a trilogy, I think Yolen will address the unanswered questions in the later books. Most of my disappointments about Dragon's Blood, though, relate to the way Yolen translated some of the themes for a young person's mindset. Because of this, many of the issues felt diluted or too easily solved.(less)
This book has many elements that readers of all ages would enjoy in a good, light-hearted fantasy novel. Piers Anthony creates an unique world called...moreThis book has many elements that readers of all ages would enjoy in a good, light-hearted fantasy novel. Piers Anthony creates an unique world called Xanth that has magic galore such as centaurs, magicians, and sorcerers. This is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the magical elements that exist in Xanth. The characters are engaging, and since this is the first book in a long series, readers are sure to learn more about everyone, even the supporting characters, in later novels. However, the overwhelming quality that stands out for every reader is Anthony's humor. All aspects of the book are intertwined with sarcastic, witty, and even pun humor. Some of the humor can be overwhelming or a bit insulting, especially the jokes about male and female relationships, but overall the book is an enjoyable and quick read.
There is more to A Spell for Chameleon than meets the eye. The characters deal with philosophical issues that cause the reader to reflect on her or his own life. Some ideas that the protagonist grapple with throughout the course of the book include: 1) Appearances and how they can deceive us 2) How appealing a life of illusion really is 3) What does good versus evil really mean 4)Do evil creatures have souls? 5)The value of friendship and loyalty 6) And, of course, the enduing power of love. Add magic to the mix, and you have one dynamite book.
If you enjoyed this first glimpse of the "Magic of Xanth," I recommend reading more of the series because it only gets better. Anthony is a creative genius as he continually develops Xanth and the lives of his characters. This is not the last you will see of Bink, Chameleon, Trent, and Iris. (less)
It is extremely difficult to write a review for a book without incorporating spoilers for those who have not read the entire series. However, I am det...moreIt is extremely difficult to write a review for a book without incorporating spoilers for those who have not read the entire series. However, I am determined to do my best because Meredith Gentry novels deserve to find a home on many new readers' bookshelves. Of course, I recommend starting with the first in the series, A Kiss of Shadows (Meredith Gentry, #1), but future readers should note that Swallowing Darkness (Meredith Gentry, #7) surpasses all the previous books in the Gentry saga.
Hamilton proved she could blend multiple genres with A Kiss of Shadows (Meredith Gentry, #1). She continues that tradition with this recent title, which has action, adventure, fantasy, romance, lore, death, sex, and a strong, independent heroine.
The most important aspect of this book is Merry Gentry. It is rare to find such an unique woman in a series and still remember her months after reading the books. Her strength of character, as well as the strength of her magic, make her a compelling protagonist. In addition, Merry has an entourage of male supporting characters who accentuate her nobility and dedication to love. Even though there are many that Merry loves and shares herself with, the reader feels the sincerity in the relationship between each person. Merry's guards cannot be forgotten because Hamilton has a gift at creating unique men who are kings in their own right.
In this specific book, the reader deals with the aftermaths of rape, the early stages of pregnancy, multiple deaths, the wild chase of the hunt, and further development in Merry's relationship with Sholto, Doyle, and the Goblin Twins (to name a few individuals). Despite the intense issues Merry has to deal with, she remains poised, resolved, and strong. No one can break her spirit, and I only wish that more women in the real world could be this assured of their self-worth.
The world of faerie that Hamilton creates is one in which the goddess reigns supreme. This book ends on a high note as some of Merry's foes from earlier in the series are finally destroyed. After all, Merry can only play the diplomat to a point. Once the life of her unborn children and lovers are threatened, she plays to kill.
The book, like most in the series, has an intense pace. By the time readers reach the end, they will beg for more, especially after Merry's final decision. What will be the fate of Merry, her twins and lovers, and the Seelie and Unseelie courts? Fans will just have to wait for the next installment of a truly unforgettable and captivating series: Divine Misdemeanors A Novel.(less)
I had read this narrative before, at least three different times, but the repeat reading only brings more of the details to the reader's attention. Si...moreI had read this narrative before, at least three different times, but the repeat reading only brings more of the details to the reader's attention. Since the previous readings were so long ago, I didn't remember too many of the details of the narrative. It was like I was reading Jacobs' story for the first time. Harriet Ann Jacobs is very deliberate in her language and the way she acts as supplicator and judge. The complexity of the language is often overshadowed by the "flowery" writing of the time period. Jacobs is a complex individual and narrator who tells the story from the first person perspective of Linda Brent, a fictional pseudonym. Even though I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for a graduate American literature course, I was inspired to write a research paper about Jacobs' story and present it at a literature conference. This narrative enlightens the reader on many levels and offers a critical examination of one of America's darkest periods of history-- African American slavery.(less)
This was an amazing science fiction young adult novel. The story is about a clone named Matt who struggles with ideas of power, class, and prejudices...moreThis was an amazing science fiction young adult novel. The story is about a clone named Matt who struggles with ideas of power, class, and prejudices to find his place in society. The story's setting mainly takes place in Dreamland, a country between the U.S. and Aztlan, which used to be called Mexico. Ceclia and Tam Lin act as surrogate parents for Matt. His clone father, El Patron, is one really creepy guy. This book has it all: action, adventure, drama, romance, and political intrigue. Much of the novel relates to modern day issues and will open new areas of critical study for any teen or adult. (less)
This was my first audio book since around a year ago. It took me two days to finish it; I was listening to it on a car trip to visit my family. It bro...moreThis was my first audio book since around a year ago. It took me two days to finish it; I was listening to it on a car trip to visit my family. It brought back nostalgic memories of Card's classic Ender's Game and made me want to revisit that whole universe again. This is a great novella for anyone who loves science fiction, morality, religious and political debates, and, of course, the writer Orson Scott Card. The reader is introduced to a new character in the Ender saga, Zeck, whose parents' religious beliefs resemble Puritan ideology. You also get to see classic Ender characters such as the entire Rat Army, including Dink and Ender himself. This story is compelling because of the moral debates, the main one being pacifism versus fighting, even "pretend fighting" for a global army. Zeck is an emotionally and physically abused young boy who won't budge an inch on his religious views, even in the face of extreme isolation. This intense belief system is contrasted with extreme hypocrisy, as exhibited by Zeck's preacher father. Juxtaposing Zeck's private battle is the battle of the students, led by Dink, to celebrate their Christmas holiday even though religious and cultural practices are forbidden at battle school. A short poem and pancake in the shape of an F lead to a war of gifts with consequences that can possibly surpass the time at Battle School. Can Ender help Zeck face his past and find peace with himself? The events that lead up to the final conversation between Zeck and Ender reminds me of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, mysteries that need solving. When Vincent D'Onofrio (Detective Robert Goren) confronts the villain of the current criminal case, it is to provide release and vindication for the criminal and her or his victims, just like Ender promises emotional and spiritual release for Zeck. All characters shine in this book and many teach us to never lose hope in faith and friendship. (less)
My original review for this book was a few sentences long, so my details are not as precise as I would like. The entry read as follows:
"I enjoyed this...moreMy original review for this book was a few sentences long, so my details are not as precise as I would like. The entry read as follows:
"I enjoyed this novel because the author developed Meredith's character even more than the first one in the series. I was a bit disappointed that Laurell K Hamilton did not elaborate on the relationship between Merry and Frost more, but I am hoping that the third novel will go into more details about it. My only negative comment about this book was the abrupt ending."
Now to expand on my thoughts...this book seals the deal for me: I am determined to read this entire series no matter what (If we are extremely lucky, it won't end for a long time!). It is obvious between the first and second book that Hamilton is writing an amazing series filled with dark ideas, sexual and explicit situations, and an all around creative world very different than most books in a traditional fantasy setting. I appreciate the blending of genres (fantasy, sci-fi, romance, mystery, and suspense/thriller, to name a few) and the witty repertoire of the characters. Ultimately though, This is a dark fantasy series that explores the relationships between the light and dark sides of life.
Book two pulls the reader back from the private detective agency while the politics of the Seelie and Unseelie courts are expanded. Even though I missed some of Merry's original profession, I did enjoy learning more about her character's history. In fact, she becomes even more "bad ass" because of the growth of her Faerie powers as well as her leadership role among the men in her consort. Merry is still focused on her original goal from book one, which is the only way to claim the Unseelie throne, but that doesn't prevent Hamilton from jam-packing the book with endless thrills and side quests.
In comparing the first and the second book, I enjoyed the start to the series just a bit more because it felt more balanced and the ending wasn't as abrupt. Still, the abrupt ending did its job--hooked me to read the third book.
Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a blend of sex, magic, wit, and romantic dilemma. However if you don't condone polygamous relationships or are easily offended by sex, this might not be the book for you. There are also a wide array of strange and unusual creatures, which can be a bit frightening. In order to truly enjoy A Caress of Twilight (Meredith Gentry, #2), the reader must have an open mind to try new things. If you do, then you won't be disappointed with this purely entertaining novel.(less)
I had mixed feelings about what type of a rating I should give this book purely based off my disappointment with the end of the novel, which I won't s...moreI had mixed feelings about what type of a rating I should give this book purely based off my disappointment with the end of the novel, which I won't spoil in my review.
Overall, I enjoyed the mystery. I couldn't solve the ultimate puzzle, which always fascinates me since I consider myself an amateur sleuth when it comes to mystery novels. In retrospect, I fear I was too engrossed in the book to pay enough attention to the clues that would help me solve the puzzles. As a reader, though, I appreciate authors who give me opportunities to solve the crime along with the main characters.
As for Mikael Blomkvist, he was an interesting choice for the lead protagonist and detective of the mystery. His character reminded me of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon. He was the epitome of journalists, a real diamond in the rough.
However, the character who really made the novel enjoyable was Lisbeth Salander. She was tough, quirky, and different. Regardless of whether you thought of her as a protagonist or antagonist, she made Blomkvist seem like an old man. Nonetheless, they created a unique partnership in the book that allowed them to be a crime-fighting duo purely because of their differences. In fact, all the characters developed nicely based on their interactions with each other throughout the year in which the novel takes place.
After the prologue, the beginning of the book is slow. I was a bit confused by the setting because I am unfamiliar with Sweden's governmental system. I couldn't help but wish I had conducted a preliminary reading about the country before tackling the novel. In fact, the book didn't start to engage me until about chapter 4 when Blomkvist meets with Henrik Vanger. Again, the two characters contrasted nicely and made the story more engaging. In fact, the entire Vanger family added important elements to the story that complicated the mystery.
By the end of the novel, though, I was disappointed with all the characters. At first, I thought I could relate to some of them, either because of their past histories or their insistence on justice and freedom. Unfortunately, the ending left no warm feelings for any of the characters. They were all selfish. Perhaps it was my own fault for building the characters to be something they weren't, but I was sorely disappointed that there were no redeeming qualities.(less)
This is an abridged audio version of the third book in a trilogy about an enemy called the Totality. Star Trek fans will enjoy this reading by William...moreThis is an abridged audio version of the third book in a trilogy about an enemy called the Totality. Star Trek fans will enjoy this reading by William Shatner because he brings the characters alive with his engaging impersonations (although he could work on his women's voices). This audio book was like a radio show broadcast with special effects and a musical score that rivals the series.
The main negative aspect to this book is the fact that it's abridged. I recommend reading the print version and then listening to the audio CDs to gain a different experience of the story.
Finally, remember that it's the finale to a trilogy, so try reading the first two books in the series. I didn't realize this fact until after I had finished listening to it. Despite this unfortunate realization, I still throughly enjoyed the book and was able to follow most of the back-story.
This book has an engaging and interesting villain, the Totality, which will draw Borg fans into the depths of the Star Trek universe. Countering the villain's efforts to consume humanoid life in the universe are favorite heroes from various Star Trek series: Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott, and even Admiral Kathryn Janeway, to name a few. Overall, I enjoyed the interactions between Picard and Kirk the best, many of the scenes were thought provoking or comical depending on the situation. And of course the epic battle between the heroes and the villain had me on the edge of my seat until the interesting conclusion.
Although the entire crew of the Next Generation makes an appearance in this book there was one question left unanswered for me: Where was Data?(less)
My original review from 2006 was: "I finally read the book and was not too impressed with it. The storyline was predictable and the characters were no...moreMy original review from 2006 was: "I finally read the book and was not too impressed with it. The storyline was predictable and the characters were not very well developed. I prefer Angels and Demons over this book."
Unfortunately, I don't have much to add to this original review. My writing skills have improved, but without reading the book again, I can't comment on the specifics like I normally would. Since I didn't enjoy the book that much, I won't be re-reading it anytime soon if at all.
Keeping that in mind, one of the main reasons I disliked this book was because the main character, Robert Langdon, is not the type of person I want to follow and "get to know" through a mystery series. I find him a pale comparison to similar characters such as Indiana Jones and even Double 007. Langdon is not likable, and I find him pretentious.
I don't mind a lot of the female characters Brown has developed, both in this book and in Angels and Demons; although, the women fall for Langdon too easily. It would be an interesting twist to see Langdon desire one of the women and then have her deny him. I like strong, independent female characters that don't need quick flings with men to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, part of the charm for adventure male perspective books (in a series) is who the hero will meet and get together with in future situations. So, I don't see Brown changing his writing formula anytime soon.
I did enjoy the setting of the book as well as the descriptions. The religious elements didn't bother me too much even though I'm Catholic. I see most of it as dramatized for the public's sake. Parts could be based in truth but most is for entertainment purposes only. To know the truth, you really have to research these matters. You can't trust someone else's research, especially when it's used for writing a fictional story.
There were many parts I found unbelievable, but what bothered me the most, as I originally stated, was the predictability of the story. Overall, I thought Angels and Demons was more unique and a good way to start the Robert Langdon series. I enjoyed it more than this second book despite the amount of gore.
In the end, I won't read another Dan Brown book because it doesn't seem worth my time. There are better mystery series books that don't read as if they are being written with Hollywood movie producers in mind.(less)