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. 

 

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. 

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

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

To be published: Sept 5, 2017

Sawako has been thinking about Kazehaya-kun all summer, though they’ve not seen each other very much. When he suddenly calls her to tell her his mother is in the hospital and he’s been trying unsuccessfully to make dinner, she immediately jumps to his rescue bringing a full meal. She impresses his father, but he is less impressed with his son. Father and son get into a fight and Shota is finally able to express himself and get his father to really listen to him about what he wants to do with his life. Sawako and Shota go to visit his mother in the hospital and they talk about his dad and how similar the two of them are, and his mom reveals how proud his father is of him (even if he doesn’t show it). His father lets him attend university with one major condition, and Sawako wants to celebrate by taking him on a day trip far away, just the two of them. Soon it is time for final exams and everyone is studying hard to get into university. Ayane confesses to her friends that she likes Mr. Arai. Will Ayane be able to tell Pin how she really feels? Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

The last couple of volumes have been kind of hit and miss, so I’m glad the author/illustrator finally got into more meaty storylines, i.e. Shota and his father finally talking and him figuring out what he wants to do with his life. I wished that Sawako and Kazehaya-kun had made more progress towards a post-high school relationship, but hopefully that will come soon. The two of them are so freaking adorable together, the way they are always taking care of each other. I hope Shota proposes in the future and they can move in together. 

On to the parts I enjoyed. I liked it when Shota’s younger brother Tota kept teasing them about acting like newlyweds because they were acting so cautious and nervous around each other, when Sawako brought dinner to their house. I liked that Shota tells Sawako that she is his inspiration for telling his father the truth, that part was really sweet. I loved Shota finding that drawer full of stuff his father collected from him over the years to prove how much he really loved him. He really needed to know the truth – that his dad was not the hard ass he always pretends to be, but really cares deeply for him.

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

The Waking Land

The Waking Land

The Waking Land  by Callie Bates

To be published: June 27, 2017

Lady Elanna Valtai (El for short) was kidnapped at age five by the King of Ereni because of her father’s political connections and designs. She is raised as the adopted daugher in King Antoine’s court but never fits in because everyone thinks her family are traitors. Fourteen years pass and El has cut all ties to her family and considers herself Ereni. That is until the King is mysteriously murdered, and she is blamed for it. She escapes with the help of a mysterious young man with magical abilities named Lord Jahan and his party of Caerisi supporters. She soon has to deal with her parents that abandoned her so long ago, and the semi-dormant nature magic she has been keeping secret for years. Magic is forbidden and is punishable by death. Will El be able to lead the rebellion that will determine her destiny and possibly her future love? Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I adored this book! The world-building was great and the author really did manage to create a rich detailed novel. El could be a spoiled princess who cares about nobody but herself (like her adopted sister Loyce), but she is way more than that. This is especially true after she realizes all that is going on her around her – i.e. her role in the political machinations of her father and the kingdom of Ereni. Eren reminded me of late medieval/early Renaissance England, while Caeris reminded me a lot of Scotland with a splash of Ireland, and a little bit of Diana Gabaldon with the magic stones and power of the earth element of the story. I loved the El and Jahan story! Finn totally reminded me of Leith from the TV show Reign, in fact the actor is who I picture in my head whenever I read about him. He’s got that whole innocent caught in the middle vibe, especially in regard to being the next king, and I do feel a little bad for him as he’s seems to have feelings for El. That marriage to the land scene at the end of the book…wow is all I can say.

There were two things I didn’t like about this book. The first was that the story dragged a bit in the beginning and end, which dragged the story out unnecessarily, and made it hard to get into and then I was praying for it to hurry up and end. Second, there was not enough background information on one of my favorite characters besides El, Jahan Korakides. Seriously, he’s El’s love interest and all you know are some vague details about the guy and he’s the most interesting character because he’s a sorcerer who completely hides this fact and manages to live amongst royalty. 

 

Winter

winter

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter isn’t completely the completely useless crazy princess all the nobility on Luna maker her out to be. She is beloved by the common people, something her stepmother Queen Levana has never been, and the Queen hates her for it. Winter, in turn, despises her stepmother for using her Lunar gift to permanently scar her face and not allowing her to be with the love of her life, Jacin, a palace guard. She allies herself with Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet as they plot to take down Levana and install Cinder as Queen of Luna. Will they be able to defeat Levana and each be able to find their happy endings? To find out read the exciting conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles! Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I reviewed the other Lunar Chronicles books here and here, and although I ultimately loved this book, it was so freaking long I nearly gave up several times. It took me about a month to finish on audiobook, though that was with several interruptions. I mean c’mon, it was 19 discs. We’re almost getting into Game of Thrones territory here (it had 28 discs). I really think it should’ve been divided into two books as the story took so much buildup to get to the point, which was to take down Levana and install Cinder on the Lunar throne as queen. The theme of this book was about Winter, the stepdaughter of Queen Levana who has been mentioned in previous books but you hadn’t heard much about until this book, and was a reference to the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Winter was so flighty and weird that at first, I kind of hated her character, but as the book progresses the reader realizes that her odd behavior isn’t completely her fault. She has chosen to withhold the Lunar gift (mind control) and therefore has essentially driven herself crazy. 

I loved the character and relationship development between the couples: Kai and Cinder, Thorne and Cress, and Wolf and Scarlet. Kai and Cinder are so awkward when the book starts, probably because of the kidnapping but once he understands everything, they are too cute together and apart (especially when he is dealing with Levana). Wolf and Scarlet were interesting because she was tortured and he was genetically modified, but they are still so in love with each other no matter what has happened. Thorne and Cress are my favorite relationship and characters, aside from Cinder. Cress is very brave despite feeling insignificant all of the time. And Thorne is such a dashing rogue (very Han Solo in my opinion), though at the same time completely petrified at the thought of losing Cress, even though he can’t seem to voice it until the very end.

I found the part at the end, the face-off between Cinder and Levana in the audience room to be completely insane but fantastically written by the author. The way Levana keeps using Cinder’s friends against her physically and keeps thwarting all her attempts, even pretending to surrender; it honestly was kept on the edge of myself till the last minute wondering who was going to come out on top. Apparently there’s a short story about one of the characters getting married in the author’s book  Stars Above, so I am definitely going to check that out later. 

Saving Hamlet

saving-hamlet

Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth

To be published: Nov 1, 2016

Emma Allen just got a cute new haircut and she can’t wait to start her sophomore year of high school. She is especially excited this year because she will be the Assistant Stage Manager for the high school’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and her senior crush Brandon is directing the play. Only things start to go wrong from the beginning. She is thrust into the role of Stage Manager, the cute soccer guy with no acting skill gets cast as Hamlet (which infuriates her best friend Lulu who had wanted the role and is not talking to her right now), and Brandon is a horrible director. Plus, as Emma discovers one night, she can go through the trap door of her high school stage and ends up in Elizabethan London at the Globe Theater where Shakespeare and the King’s Men are performing the original Hamlet. Because of her short haircut and clothes, she is mistaken for a boy and soon becomes Master Allen. She catches the attention of Master Cooke, the young man playing Ophelia. What is a girl to do? To find out, read this fascinating glimpse into the play Hamlet as seen through teenage eyes. 

I did find it interesting that I managed to read two ARC time-travel books back to back last week. This one was completely different from the other one, but has similar qualities, i.e. about growing up and rediscovering yourself and what you can be. I loved the in-depth study of the play and the characters and their motives, as it is one of my favorites and I enjoy watching different interpretations of it. I’ve never seen the play in street clothes, but it seems like it would work just fine, as it did in the text. The David Tennant version of Hamlet they mentioned in the book is really quite excellent, I recommend it. 

I liked the interpretations of Hamlet and Ophelia that Josh and Lulu came up with during the course of the play. During the “To be or not to be” speech, Josh suggests that “maybe this is about being stuck in a weird place. Knowing that you have to do this thing, but not being brave enough to do it. Being too much in your head.” I am totally guilty of doing this, especially with events going on in my life right now, so I can see where he is coming from about it. My favorite part was about Lulu’s interpretation of Ophelia, which also has points about it that remind me of my life at the moment. She says:

“I’ve always thought that Ophelia was this throwaway character and that Shakespeare was a sexist pig for writing her so fragile…But lately I’ve been thinking: she’s always being controlled, right? By her father, by her brother, by general sexism and the court. But then she has this love and she does everything correctly but loses everything, including Hamlet…She’s just so alone  and so done with living in this sexist world that doesn’t make any sense. So she just lets it take over, and gives in, and lets herself drown in it.” 

Emma is actually a pretty interesting character. She has decided to do drama instead of soccer (even though she was awesome at it) and changed to a whole new better group of friends. Her best friend is bisexual and her friend’s parents are super traditional and are in denial about everything, and making their daughter’s life miserable. Emma likes Brandon, the unattainable older hottie, but he barely acknowledges her existence outside of the play. Then there’s Josh, the untrained actor who rescued Emma from a party last year and she’s kind of attracted to, but not ready to admit it. Then of course, there’s the whole part of the book in Elizabethan England, where Emma becomes a boy assistant stage manager and uses the skills she acquires there to help out Josh in the future. I loved the mysterious Master Cooke character and I kind of would have liked to get to know him better or maybe have her pick him in the end. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Disney Hyperion, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Snow White: A Graphic Novel

snow-white-a-graphic-novel

Snow White: A Graphic Novel written and illustrated by Matt Phelan

Published: Sept 13, 2016

Using watercolor in the Art Deco and film noir style, Matt Phelan introduces us to a fresh take on the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves story. After Samantha White’s (aka Snow) mother dies of tuberculosis in the 1920s in NYC, Snow and her father are heartbroken. Ten years, her father, “The King of Wall Street” is lonely and discovers that the “Queen of the Ziegfeld Follies” is performing on Broadway. He is captivated with her elegant style and bobbed hair and promptly marries her. The Queen is not pleased that Snow is around and promptly sends her to boarding school in the country. She soon gets rid of her husband, but he still gets the last laugh, which she discovers during the reading of the will. Her husband has gone behind her back and left Snow three-quarters of the estate. The Queen is furious and vows revenge by getting rid of Snow, but the Huntsman spares her. She is rescued by the Seven, a group of street children that adopt her and try to protect her, though she still falls to the Queen’s poisoned apple. The Seven put her in a glass cage. Will she be rescued by her Prince Charming and live happily ever after? To find out, read this charming version of Snow White. Recommended for ages 10+, 4 stars. 

I was honestly not a fan of the artwork until I learned more about it from the author, via this interview. I liked that he not only loved the Disney Snow White version (one of my personal favorites), but also enjoyed film noir movies such as Citizen Kane and the Thin Man movies (which I also enjoy) and these influenced how he created the graphic novel. I really loved the story line and the twist on the classic tale. The Ziegfeld Follies were always cool to see on movies from the 1920s and 1930s, and they must have been spectacular in real life, so yeah I can see how the King would be dazzled after seeing the Queen of the Follies dancing so glamorous and looking like a real stunner on stage. I liked that the Seven were a group of abandoned street kids because in a way, they are kind of like Snow, forced to fend for themselves even though they’ve definitely gotten a more rotten deal. I also liked that they made the Prince a working detective instead of a superficial pretty boy.