The Empty Sea

The Empty Sea

The Empty Sea (Into the Realms #2) by Craig Michael Curtis

Released originally April 30, 2013

Daniel, Eleanor, Immy and Oka have spent two years traveling through the perilous Labyrinth in the Fifth Realm before they finally managed to escape, only to be betrayed by a temporary member of their party. Eventually they make it to the oceanic Sixth Realm, only to be separated almost immediately. The boys are press-ganged onto a Yellow Star Guild Ship, while the girls end up with the opposing New Start Guild. This trip around the Sixth Realm is a real test of faith for both Daniel and Eleanor, and they find themselves continuously questioning themselves and their decisions. After a very circuitous route and acquiring a few new companions, they finally manage to make it to the Seventh Realm and meet back up again. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. There were several spelling/grammar errors that I feel could’ve been corrected with some good editing. The beginning up until they got to the Ocean of Storms in the Sixth Realm was rather exciting, then the story really dragged in the middle, and picked back up again in the end.  It took me forever to finish this one because I ended up reading a couple of ARCs in-between. Even though I didn’t understand all of the sailing ship references, different parts of the ship etc, I enjoyed the Horatio Hornblower/Master and Commander feel to it. In that respect, it reminds me of L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, which I adore. The map in the beginning of the book was very helpful as each group of characters jumped around in the Sixth Realm a lot, and I had trouble keeping track of where they went. 

I know the separation between Daniel and Eleanor was great for the story-building, but it was also super frustrating. This is especially true during the part where they literally missed each other by a couple hundred feet but didn’t meet. I know I wasn’t the only reader to scream out “No!” at that moment. Despite their separation, or maybe because of it, there was a lot of growing up done by both Daniel and Eleanor. I feel like they’ve really learned what they are capable of and what each of them can endure, which will become more important the further into the Realms they go and especially with their sort of forced separation (when Eleanor goes back to the Fourth Realm with Oka because of her promise). 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 28

Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 28

Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 27 by Karuho Shiina

To be published: Jan 2, 2018

Ayane refuses to tell Pin (Mr. Arai) that she likes him because he is respected teacher at their school, even though she’s completely fallen for him and told her friends all about it. Meanwhile Sawako and Kazehaya are enjoying their Christmas break and spending more time together outside of school. Chizuru and Ryu are also spending time together when she realizes that Ryu hasn’t told Toru (his brother and Chizuru’s first love) about them yet, which makes Ryu a little jealous. However, when they tell Toru he is so happy for them. Over by the school, Pin is not coping well with being single on Christmas, especially with all the couples he keeps seeing. He runs into Ayane, and chides her for being hit on by so many guys. He offers to walk her home to get rid of the horde of men asking her out. But she gets mad at him after he calls her a kid.

Toru and his wife Haruka come with their baby daughter Ayu to visit the family and Chizuru falls a little in love with her. A snowstorm develops on New Years Eve, which also happens to be Sawako’s birthday, but neither she nor Kazehaya can wait to see each other so they both brave a snowstorm to do so. Kazehaya gives her a ring and promises to give her a wedding ring in the future, as they ring in the New Year together. The whole gang gets together the next day for New Years Day at their local shrine to pray for good fortunes and Chizuru has invited Pin, which makes things super awkward for Ayane after their last meeting. The girls reminisce about the last couple of years they’ve been friends and wish each other well on final exams to graduate high school. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

If I didn’t already love this series, I can see how this series could drive a person crazy with its saccharine-y sweet scenes of first love and teen angst. And this volume had both by the dozen. I however just see it as just a fun shoujo series and being a hopeless romantic at heart, the adorable parts are even more adorable. 

There were so many sweet and hilarious scenes in this volume. For example, the line that Sawako says early on, “Everything I dreamed when I entered high school came true with you [i.e. getting more friends and a boyfriend so she has people to hang with].” And then she and Kazehaya exchange gifts and they get so embarrassed just holding hands. It is too cute! And oh my goodness, when Sawako can’t go home because of the snowstorm and has to stay at Kazehaya’s house and their faces are priceless, especially after he gets a sex talk lecture from his mom twice! Then there is the gift-opening scene, which was so sweet I wanted to cry, but also laugh a bit because they’re still so awkward together after all this time. 

I also love when Ryu and Chizuru are at his house, and he leans in for a kiss when Chizuru is fixing his Christmas antlers. Ooh and when Ayane sees Pin with his hair down and she gets so excited to see him, and then can’t help harassing him like old times. And later when they’re walking home together, I love when he tells her “to stop smelling so good,” like it’s something she could stop. After the snowstorm, on New Years Eve Day, Chizuru’s reaction to Sawako and Kazehaya-kun getting “lovey-dovey” was hilarious and reminded me of a similar reaction to Kyo in Fruits Basket with the protagonist’s two best friends. Overall, this was one of the best volumes yet and I can’t wait for volume 29, even though I know they will probably end the series in a couple of volumes. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Simon and Schuster (Viz Media LLC) in exchange for my honest review. 

Check Me Out

Check Me Out

Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite

To be published: Feb 6, 2018

Greta is a small town Assistant Librarian who really loves her job. Only her local library is in trouble and she takes on saving it single-handedly. She has been best friends with Will, the civics teacher and debate coach at the local high school, since they were little an he has always been there for her. Greta’s mother likes to criticize Will because he is chunky and therefore, in her opinion, not worth her time. This year for her birthday, she has asked for the perfect man and Will has delivered him in the form of his cousin, Mac. He is a poetry-spouting, drop-dead gorgeous man who likes to give her free hot chocolates whenever she visits him in the cafe that he works. Who wouldn’t want that? Plus he seems to be really into her. Is he too good to be true? To find out read this modern adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and decide for yourself which man Greta should end up with. 3-1/2 stars. 

First things first, I usually do not read adult romance books. I would much rather read a historical fiction or a manga that has romance in it but is not the main focus. This one was pretty formulaic, and after I found out it was based on Cyrano de Bergerac, I knew exactly what was going to happen. The library element did add a bit of a twist, which I enjoyed, but pretty much everything was tied up in a nice bow at the end. Overall, I did enjoy the book. 

I picked this one up because it was about librarians, the main character has an MLIS (like me) and she thinks she might’ve found the perfect guy (courtesy of her best friend). And Mac is perfect: curly dark hair, loves poetry and writes it for her, and is gorgeous. He’s the total package, or is he? No surprise that this handsome guy can’t think on his own or that his bigger cousin is supplying all his fabulous lines. I didn’t so much like the whole “Will is fat so he can’t be a good choice for me” mentality that the main character, to an extent, and definitely her mother seemed to have. Just because you’re overweight doesn’t make you less of a person or less deserving of love and attention. I mean it was pretty obvious early on that Greta had a thing for him even if she never mentioned it out loud, especially the longer she hung out with Mac. And Will definitely had the hots for her, even if she was too dumb to figure it out. I always find it a little funny how some people can have advanced degrees but be totally clueless when it comes to love and sex. And no, this is not everyone, but it has been this way in my experience.

The librarian part of the story I enjoyed the most. While I’ve never worked as a small-town librarian, I have worked in small city branches and know all about the fight to keep yours open and viable, and the constant funding issues that you face in one. Greta was incredibly lucky to find a job right out of graduate school, as library jobs are few and far between these days. I have very personal experience with that issue. You really gotta love your job to stay a librarian long-term. I also loved her historical crush on Dr. Silver, and how he fought for integration in the local public school. I’m glad she eventually got to meet him and be a bit of a radical herself, even though the results were not exactly what she had planned. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate (Into the Realms #1) by Craig Michael Curtis

Published: July 28, 2009

Fourteen year old Daniel Weaver arrives in a strange new world called the Realms one night by boat. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. He is not the first human to come there, nor will he be the last. He meets a local girl named Eleanor,  and together decide to travel through the sixteen Gates of the Realms on a “forward quest” in order to find out the truth about why humans have been coming to the Realms. Come explore the world of the Realms, and join Daniel and Eleanor as they begin their epic coming of age quest. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

First I will discuss the things I didn’t like about the book. There were some obvious spelling errors and typos. The two spaces at the end of each sentence bothered me in the beginning, but I didn’t care so much about by the end of the book, probably because I got used to it. The biggest issue with the book, in my opinion, was the way the story dragged in the middle and end, and I felt like it could’ve been edited down a bit to help with that problem. 

On to the good stuff. I really liked the world-building in this book. I also liked the idea of getting a “Realm gift” from the prime-numbered Realms and a “power word,” which gives you another superhero-like power. The main character is transported to an unknown world and must survive by his wits and skills. He is good at helping people and encouraging them. Daniel meets Eleanor in a bit of an odd way, but they hit it off right away. I love both of these characters, and they really compliment each other. Their awkwardness as they start to fall for each other is adorable, the boy is a bit clueless and the girl is more forward (just like it usually goes in real life, at least in my experience). My favorite characters were the soul-bound couple, the Butterfields, because of the way they interact with each other – just like an old married couple even though they’re not. The most surprising character that I enjoyed reading about was Oka, the curmudgeon would-be wizard, who reluctantly helps Daniel and Eleanor at the end of the book. My favorite scene was probably the static electricity scene at the end of the book with the ghosts (can’t go into more or it will ruin it for everyone else). 

The end of the book especially had a Wizard of Oz theme to it, which I enjoyed as L. Frank Baum is one of my favorite authors. Think about the story summary: Two, and eventually four, teenagers go on a quest to seek knowledge and the help of a wizard. They finally find their wizard, who is actually not one (just like in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and is conveniently named Harry Baum. Daniel doesn’t exactly find the answers he is looking for in the Fourth Realm with his “magician” and so needs to continue all the way to the end to find his reason for being in the Realms. 

Bottom line for this book, and the series in general: Yes it is a long book but well worth a read and I personally am excited to see what he does with the next book in the five book series. 

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Kamisama Kiss, Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25 written and illustrated by Julietta Suzuki

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Nanami has been studying hard the last ten months and finally got accepted into Junior College in the Dept of Early Childhood Education, so she can work with kids. But she is wary of marrying Tomoe, and still doesn’t really want to leave the shrine and stop being the human kami. Kotaro, the human love of Himemiko, the fish yokai, that Nanami helped out in the beginning of the series, is gravely ill. Kotaro seeks her help. It turns out Himemiko is pregnant with Kotaro’s child and her people are not happy that the child is human. Himemiko wanted Nanami to come to her palace and get married to Tomoe so that her subjects would relent about her wanting to marry Kotaro, and see that a yokai marrying a human is perfectly normal. So Tomoe finally proposes and she says yes! They are getting married at Mikage shrine, and invite all their friends.  Will they finally get their happily ever after? To find out, read the heartwarming conclusion to the Kamisama Kiss series! Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

I am sad that this is the last volume in the series, but I figured it was coming soon as they can only drag the Tomoe-is-still-stuck-in-the-body-of-a-fox for so long. I love Tomoe but I kind of prefer Jiro, the tengu chieftan,  for her even if he is a grumpy bastard. Hehe on that whole “you’re too tempting a sight tonight” comment. I loved it, even though the way she went about it was rather odd, when Himemiko kidnapped Nanami and dressed her in the traditional all-white wedding kimono. Nanami didn’t really want to get married probably because of what happened with her parents, but the look of pure joy when she put that wedding dress on and saw how beautiful she looked, was priceless. Not to mention the look on Tomoe’s face when he first sees her and the way he hugged her on their wedding day. I liked Ami being brave and finally talking to Kurama and told him how she felt about him. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC, from Viz Media, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 10 written and illustrated by Aya Shouoto

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Himari Momochi is still in shock after Aoi’s love confession. She goes exploring the house on her own and almost gets kidnapped by a female ayakashi (or what is left of it), only to be rescued by the Guardian of the Gate between the spiritual and human worlds, who she met a few volumes before. He wants the power in her last name now and decides at first that the best way to do that is to marry her, which she of course refuses, then decides that becoming the guardian of the Momochi House (the omamori-sama) would be the better route. Aoi also completely refuses to allow either of these things to happen, but the Guardian forces his hand by kidnapping Himari and forcing him to play a dangerous game to get her back. Aoi thankfully wins but at what cost to Himari and himself? Bonus story about Ise included at the end. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

Mangas like this crack me up. This book is basically a reverse harem, a manga where the main character is a girl who has a bevy of hot young men that are falling over themselves to get her attention and/or protect her. The Guardian of the Gate is handsome and charming, and it seems used to getting his own way, but is defeated using his own vanity/bad habits in the end. Bit poetic if you think about it. Aoi, despite looking exactly the same, seems to have changed and become more powerful/ruthless since he revealed his true feelings for Himari. And that scene where the Guardian gets all cheeky and kisses Himari and you see Aoi literally crack and turn into the bloodthirsty Nue, is pretty bad-ass. I was honestly a little confused about what exactly happened with the new shikigami at the end of the manga, so hopefully the author/illustrator will explain it better in the next volume. 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this manga from Viz Media in exchange for my honest review. 

Honey So Sweet, Vol 8

Honey So Sweet Volume 8

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 8 written and illustrated by Amu Meguro

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Yashiro,  after weeks of teasing, finally kisses Misaki. Both are shocked by it, and Yashiro ends up avoiding him for a few days. Yashiro goes to talk to Nao about it and finally confesses that she likes Misaki but hadn’t intended on kissing him originally. Nao encourages her to tell Misaki how she really feels, and she does by kissing him again and swearing more in the future. Nao and Tai have been going out for a year, and go out on a date to celebrate. They see Sousuke, Nao’s guardian at a diner with Tai’s mom, and Nao realizes she’s never thought about him having any kind of love life or wanting to be with someone. This comes into sharp focus once Nao and Tai meet Aoi, a former high school classmate of Sou’s and they see the reaction Sou gives when they see each other. Is love in the air for Sou? The end of the book fasts forward to seven years after their second year of high school and it is now Nao and Tai’s ninth anniversary. What surprises are in store for the couple? To find out, read the exciting conclusion of the Honey So Sweet series. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars. 

I was so sad to learn that this was the final volume of this series! It seems way too short. Misaki and Yashiro’s budding relationship is so awkward and adorable, especially when he tries to be “be a man” and kiss her first, failing because she kisses him first again. But of course nothing is as cute as Nao and Tai together. The title is very appropriate in this volume, as we see how much the two of them care for each other – wanting to share the gifts they gave each other to other and being able to express their feelings to each other (i.e. Nao commenting that “just being with Tai makes [her] feel giddy”). I’m glad Sousuke gets some face time, he’s probably one of my favorite characters in the series because he’s so selfless, but there’s hardly any mention of him except in the context of Nao liking him more than an uncle in the beginning of the series, or as a passing mention when Nao does something stupid and he has to be her parent. Aww, I adore the part when Aoi tells Sou talk about how happy Nao looks and how that is entirely because of him and how he has raised her. And it was totally sweet when Tai told Sou that he is his role model, as Sou had been questioning himself being a good parent, and I think it was exactly what he wanted to hear. I’m not usually a fan of guys giving girls roses because it is pretty cliche, but I loved the enormous bunch Tai gave Nao at the end of the manga. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Viz Media Inc. in exchange for my honest review.