Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sota's Knife

Description:

Sota Kitaoka, 20 years old, working at Ginza's famous "Tomikyu" under a strict but passionate boss, struggling and aiming to be a chef.  One day he will make food that reaches peoples' hearts...

My Thoughts:

I am so glad that I found this on Net Galley as it combines my love of manga with my love of foodie stories. Although this is a fictional account of a young wannabe cook at a famous Tokyo restaurant, Tomikyu, I feel like the stories reveal cultural and foodie culture truths that make Japan so very unique. 

I appreciate that the first story really identified the humility of Soto and his work ethic that will help him to succeed. That was a great way to identify this character and his  gambatte spirit. Other values that are highlighted in this manga:
  • there is honor in even the most menial jobs
  • if you want to learn something, you have to show that you are willing to put the work in beforehand to show that you are "teach worthy"
  • ingredients, including water, are important
  • there are no cutting corners on quality
More from this very enjoyable character please. 

An advanced copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Batman and the Justice League Manga Vol. 1

by Shiori Teshirogi
DC Comics
Publishing October 23, 2018

Description:

A young boy from Japan travels to Gotham City on a mission. A year before, his two parents--both scientists--were presumably killed in an expolosion that destroyed an experimental power plant. But the boy believes they may still be alive. At the very least, he's determined to find out what actually happened. But his quest soon leads to a run-in with some powerful forces--forces that require help from both Batman and the Justice League!

Mangaka Shiori Teshirogi (Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas) creates an exciting new story, combining an authentic Japanese comics approach with the World's Greatest Superheroes. Translated into English and collected for the Western audience for the first time, collected in standard manga size trim, Batman & The Justice League Vol. 1 is phenomenal entry point for fans of the Justice League and manga alike!

My thoughts:

Aside from the manga version of  Superman that I think is a bit too androgynous in typical manga style, I actually like the familiar Justice League characters drawn this way. The end of the . Still, I need to go back to Superman. Shouldn't his head at least be more proportional to his body? Perhaps that would help with the masculinity issue. Just, if you are trying to tell a very American owned story styled in manga aesthetics, it still needs to be an American story which means that our definition of masculinity needs to be addressed no matter how horribly old fashioned that sounds.

On the bright side, the text is easier to read, the manga style storyboarding, compared to the American style template also gives the story more breathing room. I know I am not using the right words for the art or the genre, but I just feel like aesthetically, I enjoyed this story. Although Batman is still dark and moody, especially after the loss of Robin, but he is still heroic and he is still able to mentor Rui as Bruce Wayne. The reader is left with a juicy mystery - what powers does Rui's mother have? And if his mother is still alive, what about his father? 

The back of the book has a great interview with Ms. Teshirogi and in it she talks about some of the things that I actually picked up on just as a reader of both genres. Part of her taking an American story and "translating" the graphics meant that even with drawing the scenery, she had to do a lot of research so that she could pick up on cultural details that would create an American versus Japanese city, even if Gotham is a made up place. 

She also talks about focusing on panel layouts and forgoing the text heavy American comic style for the more graphic focus on emotions by using face closeups typical of the manga. 

This is a great partnership and I can't wait for the next volume.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Down the TBR Hole

To be read (TBR) 

to•be•read /toō/bē/rēd/ (verb, future perfect)
1. A wishful listing of future books to be read
2. A current interest in future engagement
3. A play on the metaphoric "down the rabbit hole"  - an allusion to Alice in Wonderland that connotes entering into the unknown, the chaotic and the sometimes deranged black hole of psychedelic experiences

Finding books for the TBR list

There are many different ways to find books to populate a TBR list:
  • Goodreads recommendations from friends
  • Email announcements from book pushers like Brightly, BookBub, Net Galley, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Edelweiss
  • Book excerpts provided by some of publishers
This month, I am going with Buzz Books, offered by Publishers Marketplace. It provides excerpts of upcoming books, and this particular one is just for young adult new books. I get this by Net Galley, but this is also free on Kindle at Amazon. Since I am a blogger for Net Galley, though, Buzz Books allows me to read the excerpt, and then request it if I want to read the whole book. If I get around to reading the Buzz Books as soon as it comes out, everything is available, but I am late to the game this season so I may add some books to my TBR here, but I won't be able to get it from Net Galley as it is already archived. 

TBR adds 


The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker
What grabbed me: a paragraph
Lena reached for her uncle and hugged him goodbye for another week, memorizing his arms and the smell of  him -- tobacco, vanilla, ink. She held him so tightly she imagined breaking him in half and taking part of him home. 
Out now.  


The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
What grabbed me:  the cover, the setting, the intrigue, and the description
It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel seizes his help on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.
Out January 15, 2019 (on request)


The Girl in the Locked Room Mary Downing Hahn
 What grabbed me: the excerpt, the cover, the author

I am a sucker for a good ghost story told from the point of view of two unreliable narrators (the ghost herself who does not know that she is a ghost) and the young protagonist. I am also familiar with the author who likes to write about mystery and the supernatural. I have already read Closed for the Season and All the Lovely Bad Ones. 

Out now which means that it was already archived on Net Galley so I have to find other ways to get a hold of the book. I tried getting my local library to buy it but it does not show up as an option right now.

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

What grabbed me: the summary - seriously, sci fi AND retelling of the Mahabrahata. This is a must read. Plus, how cool is this cover?

Out now but Sky Pony Press did not give it to Net Galley and really, they probably did not feel like they needed to, so this is another I am putting on my TBR and now I have to ask my library to buy this.





Ignite the Stars Maura Milan
What grabbed me: the action in the first chapter grabbed me despite the issue I had with the protagonist's name Ia Cōcha. You know, like Lee Iacocca - Ford and Chrysler auto exec who brought the Mustang back? If it's purposeful, why? If it is coincidental, why?

Out now and no longer available on Net Galley but I recommended it to my local public library so you're welcome.





Girls of Paper and Fire Natacha Ngan

What grabbed me: one paragraph
Our kingdom believes words have power. That the characters of our language can bless or curse a life. Inside the pendant is a single character. One word that we believe will reveal a person's true destiny. 
Out November 6 2018 (on request)
Seriously, though, look at the kinds of books that I read. This is a possible ladder from the Wrath and the Dawn series or Empress of All Seasons which ironically is coming out on the same day.



Friday, September 28, 2018

The Darkest Star

Description:

Seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher knows firsthand the devastating consequences of humanity's war with the aliens. When she's caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

My Thoughts:

This newest paranormal (or supernatural, or transterrestrial) YA romance reminds me of the early years of Twilight except that it is missing the "choose a team" love triangle aspect. Instead, The Darkest Star focuses on the familiar girl notices much too beautiful boy in a place she has never been to. Much too beautiful boy with laser focus sees girl and makes sure that he talks to her, almost angrily. Much too beautiful boy of course has no other girl vying for his attention. Girl is both irritated by and extremely attracted to boy who is not human (but she does not know that yet). 

In short, this is not a new story, but as YA paranormal romance goes, it fulfills all the expectations of this genre and will appeal to those YA readers searching for this kind of book. The ending has the potential for more books and it will probably interest movie producers who are eager to tap into the YA book to movie market. After all, who does not love smooth faced, beautiful teens who have their own apartment, lots of freedom and juicy secrets? 

A digital advanced copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Wellspring Trilogy: The Crystal Key


Description:

The sun has not shone in over a thousand years. Sixteen year old Felicity lives in a world where the Dark rules. Humanity stays to the Wellsprings, illuminated swathes of land where the light of eternal fountains keeps the skies bright all day long. But beyond that, the world is wrapped in eternal shadows, filled with monstrous Horrors who pray on the unsuspecting. When Felicity discovers that she is a Turnkey, a guardian selected to protect the Wellsprings, her life unexpectedly changes. Not only is she gifted with a magical Key with amazing abilities, but her fate soon takes her deep into the Dark, where with the help of a mysterious boy named Tobin she must survive astonishing odds. For it is soon that the Horrors begin hunting her, and a race to get home is only the beginning of her worries.

My Thoughts:

This is a great book for tweens and middle schoolers who like Harry Potter without the bulk of reading Harry Potter. This first in the trilogy takes a girl with hidden talents thrust into a world she is not familiar with who must face horrors and zombies and things that go bump in the Dark. If you like magic, quests, a little romance and things that can kill you in the dark, this is the book for you.

A Few Words:

"Tobin - " she began.     He looked up languidly. "You shouldn't call me that. It's not my name."  "It is," Felicity insisted, grabbing his hand and squeezing it. "To me, you are Tobin. I've never known you by anything else. Besides, some people can name themselves, why not you. I like that name."
An ARC provided by Net Galley for an honest review

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Shadow of the Fox


Publication date: Oct 2, 2018
Harlequin Teen

My Thoughts:

In Hawaiʻi, most of our students are Asian and Pacific Islander students, so finding YA readings for this population that do not just represent a white, western culture is challenging. Even popular dystopian reads in YA with strong female leads are very western centric. These females live very western/American values even if they are not set in America. 

Kagawa, in my opinion, is best when she brings forward Asian/Japanese heroines in her fantasy series (Immortal Rules) and now this. What makes Yumeko very Asian (besides the fact that it takes place in what resembles feudal Japan) is that her female strength has to do with her cultural values of filial piety, loyalty, collectivism, spirituality. Japan is a place, like Hawaiʻi, where spirituality is alive in the forests, the rocks, the trees. Yumeko's ability to "see" this realm and communicate in multiple realms makes her the kind of heroine that can keep her innocence and belief in the good within people, even ghosts and wandering ronin. Others want to help her not because she is weak, but because she is strong. I am looking forward to the next adventure. 

Description:

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns...and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near...and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has...and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.



Last words:

Then it rose into the air and flew quickly out the door, following the beautiful man down the veranda, and both vanished into the night

A digital advanced copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Glory In Their Spirit


Glory in Their Spirit is the well researched account of 4 female African American WAC (Women Army Corps) privates who defied orders and walked off the job as a way to protest what they saw as racist working conditions. These women were promised an opportunity in the Army to be trained in and receive skilled positions, but they found themselves relegated to the heavy lifting and menial scrubbing tasks of orderlies while the white WACs were given opportunities to train for the more skilled positions in the Army hospital. 

The four women, along with 50 other WACs were arrested, but these four women chose court martial over returning to the menial positions. This is 1945 and before the height of the civil rights movement, so there is no real happy ending, however, it traces the pattern of institutional racism that is still prevalent in our institutions today. 

This book is not for the classroom, except as a resource, but I think if the women's voices through correspondence home or interviews could have been included (like a multi genre piece), this story would catch the interest of the middle level reader. 

A digital copy of this book was provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sneak Peek: Wildcard


This sneak peek is provided by Net Galley and the publishers.

This is a huge NOTE TO SELF:

Stop grabbing excerpts of books, especially when I really want to read the whole thing!!!!!!

This little sneak peek was maddening because I knew that the high action follow up of Lu's first book, Warcross was going to end badly for me by leaving me hanging with no alternative but try and forget what I read.

This book is going to be on the YA must read lists in the same way that Warcross continues to be on the must read lists.

This book continues to be an ethical dilemma about free choice and evil, but it also has all the best elements of a spy thriller like Bourne Ultimatum or Mission Impossible. 

Order it now or leave a note with your local library to order the ebook today.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

806

Description:

Sibling 1 throws blenders and plays guitar. Sibling 2 is allergic to everything and is into magic. Sibling 3 is a varsity swimmer with a group of female fans. Enough said.
The only thing they have in common is their biological father, and the only thing they can agree on is that they all want to meet him.
With the help of a broken-down, “borrowed” Jeep, KT, Jesse, and Gabe make their way across the country evading police, trying their luck on the slots, and meeting a life-changing pig, all to track down Donor 806, their father. Any hope of success requires smarts, luck, and ingenuity. Good thing they have each other...even if they don't see it that way.

My Thoughts:

I  don't know if this premise has been written before, this search for sperm dad, but it is an interesting, fantastical romp. There are so many inconceivable connections and despite some false leads, regarding sperm dad, the tale ends with all the neat ends tied up. 

Perhaps it is because this book is written by Rock n Roll hall of fame songwriter Cynthia Weil, but this story reads like a song. It has different verses (the false starts and stops), a chorus that shifts and grows a little as the song progresses (the relationship between the three half sibs from different worlds in the same high school) and a conclusion that is both inevitable and satisfying.  

Friday, August 24, 2018

Warcross


From the Publisher:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My Thoughts:

This blog was started because as an English teacher, I was always trying to up the number of books I could booktalk that would appeal to the reluctant (mostly male) reader. I still believe, based on my 26 years in the classroom, that we lose our male adult readers if we do not capture them in middle school. 

I used to see this 20 something Hawaiian kid on the airplane when I was flying a lot for work. He always sat down early and had a paperback novel with him. I was not as bold as to ask him what he was reading, but he always read for the whole 40 minute interisland airplane ride. I look for books that will appeal to the younger him and will create this kind of young man who will continue to read way beyond the school assignment to read.

For those kind of male readers, if you like sci fi, dystopia, the action part (versus the political part) of Hunger Games, online gaming, this book is for you. If you liked the movie Hackers or Ready Player One, this is your next read. Warcross should be a movie, it is that fast paced. 

For me, this book appeals to me because it is headed by a street smart, on her own Asian American, Emika Chen. It is a science fiction novel written by an Asian female author. Although it talks about the ethics of technology, it really is about the chase. If that appeals to you too, this is your next book. 

Finally some Hideo Tanaka-isms.
Everything's science fiction until someone makes it science fact.
Everyone pays lip service to world peace. They use it as a pretty answer to pointless questions. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book to Movie: To All the Boys I've Loved Before


It is not often that I think a movie is better than a book. This is an exception. I adored the movie even though I forced myself to get through the book.  Although this is a movie/book with minority characters, this is about re-normalizing American teen society as one of diversity without stigma.

Themajor issue I had with the book was I just did not care for the voice of Lara Jean. Considering she is a junior, the voice seemed so immature. However, X-Men: Apocolypse actress Lana Condor was just the right mix of innocence, sassiness and vulnerability. I wanted to cheer for her. I did cheer for her.

This movie will be added to my classic welcome to teaching teens movies like The Breakfast Club, Ten Things I Hate About You, Can't Buy Me Love, Mean Girls and Heathers.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery


Publication date: September 1, 2018


Description: 

When Lacy wakes up dead in Westminster Cemetery, final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, she's confused. It's the job of Sam, a young soldier who died in 1865, to teach her the rules of the afterlife and to warn her about Suppression—a punishment worse than death.

Lacy desperately wants to leave the cemetery and find out how she died, but every soul is obligated to perform a job. Given the task of providing entertainment, Lacy proposes an open mic, which becomes a chance for the cemetery's residents to express themselves. But Lacy is in for another shock when surprising and long-buried truths begin to emerge. 



My Thoughts:

According to the "Dear Reader" letter at the beginning, this is based on a true story and was originally written for the Deceased and performed first at Westminster Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. Most of the characters are Deceased and indeed if this play is performed in other cemeteries across the country, it will be quite the novel entertainment. 

The scene opens in front of Edgar Allen Poe's cemetery as Sam Steele, want to be poet and romantic struggles to find his muse. When the Raven announces the name of new resident Lacy Brink, the chaos begins, after all  she is the first new dead person in over 100 years. 

This is about love and sorrow, friendship and rules. This is about people who are afraid, stuck and just sleeping through eternity. And this is about one girl who brings hope.

Do readers have to be familiar with the works of Poe in order to read this? No. Except for his Raven who acts as both semi-narrator and sentry, readers do not need to read Poe. 

Instead, the main characters, Sam and Lacy, will appeal to the bookworm, the silent poets, the readers with their own hidden lives. Sam and Lacy will be familiar friends. 

A Few Words:

Perched on Poe's monument, the bird looks directly at us, black eyes glittering. He opens his beak as if to finally give us the truth, to tell us what it all means, to tell us what that vastness of infinity holds for our characters and holds for us, and then a look -- a mixture of humor, pity, and love -- flashes from his eyes and he closes his beak. That thing gathering inside our chests --hope--snags against the prickle of comprehension.  --Scene 10: The Amen

An advanced digital copy provided by Net Galley and the Publisher for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Henshin

From the Publisher:

I KILL GIANTS co-creator KEN NIIMURA (International Manga Award winner and Eisner nominee) brings a unique vision of life in Japan to the page in HENSHIN. The lives of a kid with peculiar superpowers, a lonely girl discovering herself in the big city, and a businessman on a long night out are some of the short stories included in this collection that will make you laugh, and even maybe shed a tear. Explore Tokyo as you've never seen it before under NIIMURA's masterful and imaginative storytelling, printed here for the first time in English.

My thoughts:

I like reading English translated graphic novels/manga/comics from non-American illustrator/writers because they open up a different lens for readers. The aesthetic, both in the illustration and in the story is refreshing in its non-western lens. The line for what is beauty, humor, tragedy, horror gets moved and as a reader, makes my world expand because I must face my own boundaries and outer limits. 

Niimura is an internationally recognized craftsman in his art, so these 13 vignettes, I am making up, reflect/respond to, or shine a mirror on the Japanese aesthetic in manga. If I am correct, these stories that fictionally center around the larger metropolis of Tokyo teem with hidden layers of disconnection and disenfranchised grief from other people, from nature, from ourselves. 

One of the stories, "Watermelon summer" was shocking at the end, enough so that I had to stop reading and put it down. However, the more I thought about it and acknowledged the lens with which I was judging this story, I realized that no, there was a kind of Kurosawa-ish beauty to this story, an almost honorable, poetic, Shintoist harmony to the process in the story. I stopped focusing on the end and re-looked at the journey.

I am not sure what my middle level reader will takeaway from this, but for me, this was a haiku. Seemingly simple, but metaphorically complex.