Monday, August 27, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Maximum Ride, Vol. 1 by James Patterson

Maximum Ride, Vol. 1 (Maximum Ride: The Manga, #1)
by James Patterson; NaRae Lee (Illustrator) 

Genre: Fantasy/Sequential Art (Manga)
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: January 27, 2009
Source: paperback purchase
Age Rating: 15+

Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel—are just like ordinary kids—only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time... like when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the “School” where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of wack jobs.

Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare—this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf “Erasers” in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb—now her betrayed and greatest enemy—that her purpose is save the world—but can she? 

My Review

Just to start, I've never read the original books this manga is based on. I really wasn't expecting to like it, but I did. The story starts out with 14-year-old Max Ride living with her younger friends as she protects them all from the School they escaped from four years earlier. They are all experiments in genetic engineering, humans who have been given a bit of bird DNA in order to make them flight-capable. One day, they get attacked by a pack of wolf-men called Erasers and they take the youngest in Max's care, 6-year-old Angel. They all vow to get her back and decide to head out to the School in California from their hideout.

I really liked these characters. Max is kind of impulsive and does get herself into what appears to be a silly mess when she saves a helpless girl from some bullies, but she meets the girl's mother who is a sweet lady and even gives her some cookies and cash. Fang might just be the next oldest character at age 13, he being a very intuitive thinker type, quite the opposite of Max. Then, Iggy is 13 and blind, but can somehow fly around with no trouble, then Nudge age 11 or 12 who is way too talkative, but cute, then gassy Gasman is 9, and doll-like Angel is his little sister at age 6. Silly names, but all of them are unique and have distinctive personalities. Also, they each either have individual goals to achieve, or disadvantages to overcome.

The story is straight-forward and simplistic, but it works. It's just like shonen (boys) manga with a female main character, which is rare. I happen to love shonen manga, so I have to say I enjoyed it. It kept me entertained with plenty of action and scenes that revealed the characters' personalities and relationships with each other. Also, we find out a little about how these kids are able to fly. Just having wings alone wouldn't really allow for human flight.

The writing is done through captions and talk bubbles, and it's an effective way to tell a story as it's happening. I will say that the actual dialogue seemed a little unrealistic—too 'Hollywood.' I would have preferred that they talk like normal American teenagers, but it didn't ruin the experience for me. As for the art, the characters all look way older than they ought to and are super, super pretty, but that's the manga art style in play. Everything is quite beautifully illustrated and I have no complaints about it.

I can't compare it to the novels, but it was quite enjoyable and never took itself too seriously. There are a lot of silly moments meant for comedic relief, which is typical of manga. There's even an intriguing plot twist towards the end and it ends on quite the cliffhanger, although it's really an overused trope. Still, it makes me wonder what's going to happen in the next volume. And, just so you know, this manga volume comprises the first half of Volume 1 of the Maximum Ride novel series.

My score: 4/5 stars. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Wings of Tavea Cover Reveal!

Hey, everyone. Today, I'm revealing the cover for the second book in the The Solus Trilogy series, Wings of Tavea by Devri Walls. This book will be coming out in November 2012, published by independent book publishers, Stonehouse Ink.

Now, for the cover, which is gorgeous!

You can get the first book, Wings of Arian on your Kindle and Nook for only $2.99. Read my review of it here

Book Synopsis for Wings of Tavea

Kiora is rapidly learning that evil and lies come in shades of black and white and swirling greys, but nothing could have prepared her for the shock of leaving Meros.

Kiora and her protector Emane step through the pass into a world they never knew existed but were always meant to save, only to find it far worse than they could have ever imagined. Good has been forced into hiding for its own survival, while the rest of the land bows to the Shadow, a force that pushes any remaining thoughts of Dralazar from Kiora’s mind. This land is full of new creatures, each more dangerous than the last. Her visions have taken on a deadly twist, and magic, or what comes of it, was never so real. And then there is Alcander: a Tavean, their guide, and an entirely different kind of trouble.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sulan is Free!

Hey, everybody! My good friend Camille Picott is an author and has newly published the first book in a YA dystopian series called Sulan. Between now and August 20th, you can download it onto your Kindle for FREE from Amazon

Definitely grab a copy of this while you can with absolutely no risk to you. 

I'll be a stop on her upcoming September blog tour, so stay tuned for more from Camille and Sulan!

About Sulan, Episode 1: The League: Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms, #3)
by Kristin Cashore 

Genre: Fantasy
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher
Age Rating: 15+

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart. 

My Review

I have to say Bitterblue was somewhat disappointing for me. I really liked Graceling, the first book in this series, but Bitterblue is very long, longer than need be, and just doesn't have the excitement Graceling has. It's not that the plot is worse, because it's fine being an unraveling mystery for Queen Bitterblue to sort out. She has to discover all the ways her late father, King Leck, ruined her country and its people, and it takes its toll on her emotionally, as it does many other characters. It's well written, even better technically than Graceling, but reading about how Bitterblue runs around her castle solving clues for 500 pages gets old very quickly.

I like Bitterblue as a character and she's nothing like Katsa, by the way. There's a lot of feminism in Graceling that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but I didn't mind it. I like that Katsa can be a heroine who doesn't want to get married or have children because that is so rare, but I don't even feel like she's much of a poster child for feminism, since she latches onto her boyfriend Po for dear life. What kind of feminism is that? -__- Bitterblue knows she'll marry one day and wants to, and in this novel, she falls in love with someone she can't possibly marry for political reasons.

Saf is a decent male hero whose more of an anti-hero, but I didn't feel like he was in the story enough. Bitterblue liked him probably more than she should have for how little he appears in the story. I wish he had been in it more just so I could believe her feelings for him were justified. But, then there's the issue of her seemingly growing attraction to Giddon and I wonder what will happen with them in the future. I'm not sure anymore books will be written in this series, let alone volumes that will include anything on Queen Bitterblue's future, so I may never find out. As for my favorite character in the series, I like that there's more Raffin in this story compared to Graceling, but he doesn't even have to be in it because he doesn't do much of anything useful.

Anyway, overall, it is a decent book but nothing like Graceling. Still, I felt the mystery element was handled really well and you get to discover along with Bitterblue just how truly horrific King Leck was during his reign. The man was sicker than the sickest sicky that ever sicked. If you're curious at all about him as a character, you will find a treasure trove of information in this installment.

My score: 3/5 stars.

*I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest opinion of the story.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review: Existence by Abbi Glines

Existence (Existence Trilogy, #1)
by Abbi Glines 

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: December 13, 2011
Source: borrowed ebook through Lendle
Age Rating: 15+

Pagan Moore doesn't cheat Death, but instead, falls in love with him.

Seventeen-year-old Pagan Moore has seen souls her entire life. Once she realized the strangers she often saw walking through walls were not visible to anyone else, she started ignoring them. If she didn't let them know she could see them, then they left her alone. Until she stepped out of her car the first day of school and saw an incredibly sexy guy lounging on a picnic table, watching her with an amused smirk on his face. Problem is, she knows he's dead.

Not only does he not go away when she ignores him, but he does something none of the others have ever done. He speaks. Pagan is fascinated by the soul. What she doesn't realize is that her appointed time to die is drawing near and the wickedly beautiful soul she is falling in love with is not a soul at all.

He is Death and he's about to break all the rules. 

I'm getting back to my old way of reviewing, which is just the normal way everyone else does it. I feel I can be more thorough this way, if need be....

My Review

This story is about a girl named Pagan Moore who for some unknown reason (which never gets revealed) can see dead people—the spirits of those who have parted and still linger in this world. One day, she sees one who actually talks to her, which has never happened before, and he's this really good-looking, smarmy guy (of course). She falls in love with him and he isn't even supposed to fall in love with any humans, ever, but he does anyway. She can't figure out for most of the book who or what he is, although every reader knows already because we read the synopsis, which states he is Death! Anyway, clueless as she is, she has to be told that he is Death by another character in the story.

Okay, I can honestly say I didn't find Pagan all that interesting or all that speshful a snowflake as she is meant to be. To her friends and family, she is as well as to Death, aka, “Dank.” Why his name is Dank is never explained. Dank is a bit more fun, but only when he's being smart-alecky, not when inexplicably swooning over a dumb teenage girl. That's what I kept asking myself the entire time, why does he care about her so much? He's never loved anyone before at all, but happens to fall for random-girl Pagan? Well, she's not completely random—she is apparently, special in some way, but it doesn't specify how other than that she's very self-sacrificing. And, no other woman in history ever was? Surely, Death has come across a self-sacrificing woman somewhere in the past.

Still, it doesn't justify her specialness and I got annoyed because that's not an answer to my question. Away from these two unspectacular characters, I think Leif is the most interesting. Pagan ends up putting herself in a position to lie to him day after ceaseless day, but why? Why do that to the poor guy? There's no good excuse presented and it looks more like her own cowardice that she's unwilling to face.

Holy cliffhangers! This one has a doozie and I'm going to have to read the next book just for that. It involves Leif, the best character, even though he's hardly all that great. I somehow managed to like this book for some reason, even though it really isn't amazing. I just didn't relate to the characters at all because I was never like any of them during my high school years. I usually feel this way when I read YA about high-schoolers. But, the story does have some good plot twists and it's a really short read. I borrowed it through Lendle, saving me about $5, so I'm not going to complain that much.

My score: 3.5/5 stars.


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