It’s hard to write a review about a classic like The Hobbit. You can’t help but be awed by the history and literary significance of the books (and I i...moreIt’s hard to write a review about a classic like The Hobbit. You can’t help but be awed by the history and literary significance of the books (and I include both The Hobbit and the trilogy that follows when I say this) upon which so much of epic fantasy literature is now based. Everything from the heroes quest to the world building, from the wizards and dragons to the goblins and elves scream fantasy to you and you can’t help but realize that this was one of the first, and that definitely gives you pause and something to think about.
Everyone knows the story of Bilbo Baggins. The poor Hobbit gets caught up in a quest that he embarks on with a little help from a wizard (Gandalf) and the adventures that unfold as this hired burglar journeys with thirteen dwarves to face a dragon that has conquered their home. Though initially reluctant and timid, Bilbo comes into his own as he journeys with the dwarves facing trolls, goblins, whargs, spiders, elves and more on the way to facing the evil dragon Smaug.
With the help of his sword Sting and a ring that he picks up in Gollum's cave he soon becomes a formidable hobbit indeed, and also soon finds that the timid hobbit from under the hill will end up deciding the fate of an epic battle as five armies come to meet on the the slopes of the Lonely Mountain.
I loved this book! The details, the storytelling, the narrators voice, the songs, all of it was just so readable and enjoyable and a very comforting read to snuggle up with on a cold January day. I would recommend this book to people young and old, and especially to any and all fans of fantasy.
Whether you are reading is as part of the LOTR story, as a piece of fantasy's history, or as an introduction to the world of epic fantasy, I think you will enjoy reading The Hobbit.(less)
In a dystopian future North America as we know it has been destroyed and from its ashes rose the Capital and it’s 13 Districts. The Capital was powerf...moreIn a dystopian future North America as we know it has been destroyed and from its ashes rose the Capital and it’s 13 Districts. The Capital was powerful and greedy and ruled the districts with an iron fist. When the districts rose up against them the Capital completely destroyed District 13 and subjugated the remaining 12. To keep the Districts in check they force each one to give up one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 17. The children must participate in The Hunger Games, a live televised fight to the death aired for the enjoyment of the residents of the Capital, the Districts are forced to watch in horror as their children are murdered right in front of them.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old who lives in District 12. She has been forced to provide for her family all her life as her father passed away in a mining accident when she was young. Her mother went into a catatonic state of depression afterward leaving Katniss to care for herself and her younger sister alone. Feeling abandoned and alone Katniss ends up drawing on the skills her father taught her: using bow and arrow, foraging and hunting in the forest, and surviving and supporting a family. When her younger sister Prim turns twelve and gets entered into the reaping for The Hunger Games the worst happens. Her little sister is chosen. Katniss sacrifices herself and volunteers in her sister’s place. Now she needs to see if her survival skills can transfer from providing for her family to staying alive in the arena as she faces the cruel carnage and inhumanity of The Hunger Games.
This book was absolutely riveting. I could not put it down. Every chapter ends on a cliff hanger and in between the plot is kept hopping and everything from the action, to the dialogue, the character development to the back story are written in very neat and tight leaving just enough left over so that you are asking for more. It is the very definition of a page turner.
The over arching themes about modern day reality television and violence as entertainment, combined with the dystopian ones of control, power and helplessness in a controlled state added a lot of depth and meaning to the book. At first glance the premise seems impossible but within two chapters you are utterly convinced of the viability and reality of such a world existing. I thought the world building and back story that built up this book were very well done and realistically portrayed.
The very premise of the book is one of violence for pleasure, and for a book like that to be done in such a way that still shows respect for the characters lives and the readers who are reading the book, I think, shows true talent. The deaths were handled very tastefully and with true feeling. Everyone's death, from the most helpless child to the most dangerous bloodthirsty opponent on the field, is portrayed in a very compassionate and in some cases touching way.
I have been recommending this book to everyone to read. The writing is vivid, fast paced and packs quite a punch. This is one you will read in no time flat but be left thinking about for a long time. If you haven't read it yet, you really need to. This is not one to miss out on!(less)
This was a very worthy sequel to The Hunger Games. It was just as action packed as the first, with all of the same favorite characters brought back to...moreThis was a very worthy sequel to The Hunger Games. It was just as action packed as the first, with all of the same favorite characters brought back to vivid life, only this time we get to journey to new places as Katniss and Peeta do their Victory Tour and get to see all of the other districts and the unrest that is stirring in each of them.
It was interesting reading about the effect the Hunger Games had on each of the other districts as they meet the families of the fallen and watch the unrest that results from their passing through. Katniss' survival instincts lead her to try her best to make it appear that their defiance was all a part of a wild love affair but when push comes to shove she finds herself just as instinctively following her heart and feeding the flames of a world catching fire.
I think in many ways this book was more tense than the previous. There are higher stakes at play. Instead of Katniss just attempting to save her life she is attempting to save the life of her family and her district as well. In a lot of ways though she is still just a teenage girl. She doesn't understand all that is at stake and she doesn't realize that just saving herself, her family and her close friends is just not going to cut it anymore. Everyone in the country is involved now and it has all gone too far to go back now. She is the icon of revolution and, in a surprisingly believable way, doesn't even realize it.
The storyline is mesmerizing and it keeps you flipping pages late into the night. I finished this book in one crazy sitting when I stupidly cracked the book open at 9 at night and stayed up until the small hours to finish. The plot is fast paced, the characters are sympathetically drawn and will tug at your heart strings, the world is described in a wonderfully realistic way and the ending will leave you breathless. If you have not started this series yet I strongly recommend reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The third book, Mockingjay is coming out this August and the movie is coming out in another year or so. Everyone will be talking about this series by next year, you don't want to miss out on this.(less)
For fans of the anime, this series is a must read. First off, the anime was based on this manga series. The original anime split off in development pr...moreFor fans of the anime, this series is a must read. First off, the anime was based on this manga series. The original anime split off in development pretty early on and ended some time ago. For those of you disappointed in that ending you simply must read this manga, and watch the new Brotherhood anime which follows it much more closely. The storyline is so much better and this is one of those cases where the book is ten times better than anything you have seen on screen.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story Fullmetal Alchemist turns out to be an engaging series set in the early 1900's about a paranormal world where alchemy is real and its effects on the world and artifacts that increase its power are at once magical and beautiful, sinister and deadly. Transforming something from a broken to a fixed state is handy, transforming something into a grotesque pantomime of what it should be, not so much.
The opening to this book is a shock that makes you sit up and take notice. They start you right at the moment that Ed discovers that he is missing his leg (no clean cut, either) and that his brother is gone. It very much sets the tone for the rest of the book, and the series! Very dark and frightening with many hard lessons to be learned and sacrifices that need to be made to set things right after this very gruesome beginning. Right at the end of that first page the book snaps to several years later and you have to read on to find out why Ed and Al are the way they are and what exactly made them that way. Definitely a page turner to find out more about these characters and the lives they have been forced to lead since that very disastrous decision they made as children.
The first volume is made up of a series of adventures as Ed and Al try and get their original bodies back. They know that human transmutation is beyond their power alone (just look at what happened last time they tried!) so they seek out the power of the Philosopher's Stone. Ed's power as the youngest State Alchemist (and dog of the military) ever, at age 12, both aids him and gets him in more trouble than he ever would have gotten into on his own.
There were lots of funny moments to lighten up the plot. Ed is a very stubborn and petulant child for all that he is in neck deep in an adult world. He throws huge fits when people call him "little", and refuses to drink milk because it's gross. Also, the constant confusion the public has thinking the suit of armor is the Fullmetal Alchemist and that the short kid is his little brother and not the other way around results in some spectacular displays of temper on Ed's part used to great comedic effect.
This is a great introduction for the series, it gives you just a taste of who these characters are and what they are setting out to do. There is a great balance struck between the horror, violence, comedy, hints of romance, and adventure throughout. I would definitely recommend it for teen and up though because of the gruesome violence and Ed's occasional potty mouth. If you want to know the rest, you have to read it to find out! (less)
Volume 2 picks up right where volume 1 left off, with Roy Mustang “owing one” to Ed for saving the general on the train. In return Mustang introduces...moreVolume 2 picks up right where volume 1 left off, with Roy Mustang “owing one” to Ed for saving the general on the train. In return Mustang introduces Ed to Shou Tucker, the “Sewing-Life Alchemist”. Ed is branching out in all directions searching for a way to restore his body and that of his brother. Unfortunately who he ends up meeting is a scientist who is willing to use any means to achieve his ends. Ed and Al have some hard lessons to learn about their own continued powerlessness and about the difference between sacrificing others for your ends, and sacrificing yourself. I thought this was a very powerful and eerie part of the series, and of course very sad.
After that a new character is introduced, Scar is a man that is set on a lifetime of vengeance. Scar believes that the alchemy of this country is a perverse sin. That it is wrong to create, transforming something into a grotesque pantomime of what it should be is a sin against his god. Ironically enough he uses alchemy himself to serve justice. Scar is not without his reasons though as you discover when you read about the military's dark past with his mother country Ishvarla.
To end the volume the brothers meet up with Dr. Marcoh. He is their first good lead on the Philosopher's Stone as he used to be a state alchemist that did that exact research. What he discovered terrified him and he fled to hide in the countryside as a simple doctor. Ed and Al's story and determination to right the wrongs they committed touched the Doctor. But, regardless of how horrifying the truth is that his research notes contain, can the Elric brothers not only face that truth but also look beyond to "the truth within the truth"?
Unlike the first volume this one takes time to explore the world around these characters and particularly the role the military takes in it. The military's warlike past and experimental present are explored and it soon becomes clear that in his quest for knowledge Ed may have allied himself with an organization with sins blacker than anyone could have guessed.
Through it all the author continues to make clear that Ed and Al are just kids themselves, so even though this manga is deservedly rated T for Teen, Ed and Al are portrayed as dealing with the problems and horror that arises in a very realistic way for someone their age. That is, not well at all. I appreciated the realism. (less)
Volume 3 has the Elric brothers finally arrive in their hometown to visit their mechanic Winry Rockbell. Their bodyguard Alexander Louis Armstrong lea...moreVolume 3 has the Elric brothers finally arrive in their hometown to visit their mechanic Winry Rockbell. Their bodyguard Alexander Louis Armstrong learns along with us more details about the brothers’ past and how they came to lose their limbs, gain their new metal bodies and decide to join the military and never turn back. It’s nice to finally get some more back story on the main characters and also find out just how committed they are to their present course.
After their repairs Ed and Al return to central to look up Dr. Marcoh's old research notes just to find that the Central library has been burnt to the ground. After this loss they have a stroke of luck and end up meeting a bookworm named Sheskah who has a photographic memory and recalls perfectly everything she has ever read. She had read the research notes, but didn't recognize them for what they were as they were disguised and encrypted. Being a bookworm myself I enjoyed the scenes with Sheska and totally related with her when she lamented that sometimes it seemed the only good thing she knew how to do was read.
After deciphering the notes they discover the worst truth of all. Not only the main ingredient in a Philosopher's Stone but also the realization that the military was behind such horrible research to begin with. The truth within the truth led to more chilling discoveries that had the boys facing enemies all too recognizable and facing inner truths about their own accidental destruction of a human being and just what that means for Ed and more importantly for Al.
With this volume the focus is back on the boys and their quest, and also on the Philosopher's Stone and what sacrifices and horrors are required to attain it. Ed and Al also have a lot more problems in store as they are still dealing with the horror and repercussions of their own actions while reeling from the discovery of the military's own sinister acts.
Again, admist all the horrors, the series stays true to the characters who are just young teenage boys. They have a lot they have to come to grips with both personally from their pasts, and presently with the corruption and danger that surrounds them every day. I thought this was very well done and it is interesting to see just how much the boys have grown in some ways due to their unique circumstances, and not in others. Inside that suit of armor, attached to those intimidating automail limbs, are just two frightened boys, no matter how much they try to hide it. Though what they fear most might surprise you.(less)
After the horrific events in volume 3 the Elric brothers spend most of volume 4 recovering from their wounds whether physical, mental or emotional. La...moreAfter the horrific events in volume 3 the Elric brothers spend most of volume 4 recovering from their wounds whether physical, mental or emotional. Laboratory 5 is destroyed and in its aftermath Ed is hospitalized with serious wounds and Al is left reeling from the words of doubt planted by Barry the Chopper. Winry also makes another appearance to fix Ed’s auto-mail arm with the missing bolt. Both brothers have time to reflect on their actions both past and present and in some cases are given a bit of a wake call about them.
More things come to a head as the players put together what pieces of the puzzle they have so far, only to be stymied by orders from higher up to cease the investigation and to not tell anyone about what they had found.
Meanwhile Ed, Al and Winry have some more lessons to learn about friendship, faith, brotherhood and trust. Winry is constantly frustrated at how little the brothers tell her. At the same time the lines of communication have shut down between the brothers and this results in misunderstandings and in some things coming out that will surprise you and help you understand the boys even more.
In the end the investigation sparked by the boys' misadventures and the military's own bloody history leads one character into knowledge that ultimately costs him more than he bargained for. The scenes following were definite tear jerkers and were very well drawn and laid out to that effect.
I enjoyed reading about the brothers' and Winry's growth throughout this volume. Also getting to see the interplay between the three and Winry's violent tempers played against the military personnel teasing Ed about her being his girlfriend were a lot of fun to read about. And, of course, the ending did have me in tears, it does every time I read it. One of my favorite chapters in the Fullmetal Alchemist saga.(less)
Volume five had some ups and had some downs. I loved reading about Rush Valley and getting to see this auto-mail mecca and the engineers (and people i...moreVolume five had some ups and had some downs. I loved reading about Rush Valley and getting to see this auto-mail mecca and the engineers (and people in need of them!) that lived there. Also reading about the story and the lessons learned by and from the pick pocket was good fun. Who knew one girl could give two alchemists so much trouble? And she does! It’s great fun! The most powerful part of the book was where the boys learned the limits of alchemy and the wonders of the human condition as they got to attend the birth of a baby. The creation of a human life is something alchemy cannot achieve and was just one of the many ways the boys are truly humbled in Rush Valley.
The story gets a little shaky after the boys leave to meet their teacher and the book flashes back to when they first started learning alchemy, and why. I thought that the scenes with their teacher when they show up on her doorstep from Rush Valley were a little forced. They were obviously supposed to show us some of their teacher’s beliefs and teachings without Ed and Al having to “tell” us them. But having random kids show up right at that time just so Teacher could solve their problems and show us the limits and proper attitudes towards alchemy that she likes to teach was almost more than could be believed. I wish that was done in a different way.
All in all another great addition to the Fullmetal Alchemist series. I enjoyed reading about the boys adventures – not to mention watching their interactions with Winry, Teacher and each other – and of course watching them eat their huge helping of humble pie that they have to choke down in every chapter of this volume!(less)
The more this series goes on the more complex it gets, in a very good way. Volume 6 continues the flashback from volume 5 covering the history of the...moreThe more this series goes on the more complex it gets, in a very good way. Volume 6 continues the flashback from volume 5 covering the history of the boys and how they learned alchemy. The training was almost unbelievable to read about. I could not understand why some of the unspeakable and terrifying things even happened to them in the first place. This was true in the anime as well. But it really sets the tone for just how brutal and dark the rest of the series gets as things progress. They need to be toughened up in their training for what comes after and I understand that more now. But, the first time I read it? I could barely stomach it.
The rest of the volume doesn’t lighten up much either as you see the rest of what you caught a glimpse of in the very first frame of the very first volume (finally!) and get a lot of questions answered. But not all, of course. I really enjoyed having all the blanks filled in concerning the history of the brothers and how they got to where they are. I also enjoyed having some more of the tenets of alchemy spelled out for us and more of a foundation set up so that we can better understand the limitations, and what happens when an alchemist tries to play god (an ongoing theme). After all the humble pie from volume 5, volume 6 goes straight for your gut. Those poor, poor boys.(less)
Despite the horror and goriness of the scenes in previous volumes, especially the ones that depicted what really happened to Ed and Al the night they...moreDespite the horror and goriness of the scenes in previous volumes, especially the ones that depicted what really happened to Ed and Al the night they lost so much, this volume is the most gruesome yet. The scenes in the Devil’s Nest are very bloody and for once I am glad that the manga is in black and white. This definitely is a series for teens, not children!
I enjoyed getting to see Teacher fight and also getting to see Ed use his head in a fight and not just brute strength. He may have become the youngest state alchemist because he saw “the Truth” but the kid had some brains before all of that and that intelligence comes through even under pressure to help him and his friends on and off the battle field.
The plot thickens as more pieces of the puzzle fall together and twists reveal surprises in unexpected places requiring us to re-evaluate the series and re-think who is “good” and who is “bad”. It is not so black and white as it first seemed.(less)
Definitely a very dark beginning for Volume 8. After the huge plot twist at the end of Volume 7 the rest of the fall out occurs in the start of Volume...moreDefinitely a very dark beginning for Volume 8. After the huge plot twist at the end of Volume 7 the rest of the fall out occurs in the start of Volume 8. It’s very dark and very sinister and while some pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place many more questions remain unanswered. I also thought the soldiers at the beginning wondering who wasn’t human (the chimeras and Greed or the alchemists and King Bradley) was very illuminating of where things are in the series right now.
The plot lightens up a bit after that as several new characters (and a whole new country!) gets introduced in the form of Xing. A country that uses a different form of alchemy that is more focused on the healing arts, and as a result thinks of alchemy in a very different way from the war-centric Amestris. Some very humorous scenes commence, especially the ones with the little girl Mei and her reaction on learning about Edward, the Fullmetal Alchemist.
Volume 8 was definitely a turning point in the series as new characters, new countries and a whole new viewpoint is brought into the manga. The moments of darkness offset with scenes of humor and witty banter that are true throughout the series really come to play in this volume. Another winning chapter in the Fullmetal Alchemist saga.(less)
It’s really hard to review volume 9 without giving out some major spoilers, so if this review is more vague than most I apologize. Volume 9 is a bit o...moreIt’s really hard to review volume 9 without giving out some major spoilers, so if this review is more vague than most I apologize. Volume 9 is a bit of a wake up call as Maes Hughes death finally comes to light for the Fullmetal Alchemist and his friends. They are devastated by the loss and blame themselves for dragging him into this mess in the first place. They have some tough decisions to face as a result and some real growth is shown here for both the boys and for Winry as well.
The events in this volume also highlight the animosity between Mustang and Ed. Combined with some looks back at the Ishvala campaign and the machinations of the homunculi makes this one of the saddest and most sinister volumes yet.
I really encourage you to read on even as the plot twists and characters turn around and stun you. Just like with every other volume, keep unwrapping that onion. There's always another layer underneath.(less)