Manga Review: Apple and Honey

Apple and Honey

Apple & Honey by Hideyoshico

Published by Digital Manga Publishing

Volumes 1 & 2 currently available in English

No further volumes currently planned.

Genre: Yaoi, LBGTQ


A sweet story of a blossoming relationship between two very different young men, Apple and Honey is a great addition to the world of translated yaoi manga. 

Natsuki and Komano are opposite sides of the same coin – dark and light, introverted and outgoing, overlooked and popular. Komano is immediately drawn to the lonely Natsuki, and pursues him relentlessly. Even after they start dating, Natsuki prefers to hide the relationship, while Komano wants to open up about it and show everyone how much he cares for his boyfriend. Eventually they do come out to their friends, who are not at all surprised, and they are much happier for it.

While this sounds like the basis of most of the yaoi manga I’ve read, the dynamic between Natsuki and Komano is anything but typical. Ko is very respectful of Natsuki’s boundaries, and doesn’t pressure or force him into anything. There is no forced kissing in a dark corner of the hallway, no pressure to have sex in a semi-public place, and no secrets hidden between them about other lovers or relationships. The boys are very open with each other, very honest, and refreshingly tender and caring.

Unfortunately, the sweet romance is ruined by the sudden inclusion of a sex scene at the very end of the volume. I was not expecting this scene, and its graphic nudity. No offense taken – I’ve read gay sex before and it’s not a problem – but this scene really didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the novel and felt very gratuitous. 

Complementing this tender romance between two college boys is a different short story, following 2 young men who haven’t spoken for almost ten years, since high school. Many translated yaoi manga feature this format of alternating between chapters of 2 different stories, and I was very pleased with the differences between the characters in the two stories featured in Apple and Honey

I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a different kind of romance, or who is a fan of yaoi manga. 

Manga Review: Seraph of the End

Seraph of the End, Vol. 1 (Seraph of the End, #1) Seraph of the End, Vol. 2 (Seraph of the End, #2) Seraph of the End, Vol. 3 (Seraph of the End, #3)

Seraph of the End by Takaya Kagami

Published by Viz Media

Volumes 1-4 currently available in English. Further volumes tbd.

Seraph of the End has been marketed as Attack on Titan with vampires – and I have to say that isn’t far off. If you’re a fan of Attack on Titan, World Trigger, and Blue Exorcist, than you’re going to enjoy Seraph of the End.

It’s the story of a boy, Yuichiro, who joins an elite group of soldiers that fights the vampires that have taken over Japan, and possibly the rest of the world. Yui grew up in a vampire orphanage – a place where vampires basically grew humans like cattle and drained their blood to drink it. When Yui and his best friend, Mika, attempt to escape from their vampire keepers, but they don’t make it – and all of the other orphans pay for their mistake. 

Yuichiro is headstrong and never listens to authority or follows the rules. He is brave and generous to a fault, putting the lives of innocent civilians first over the lives of his soldier teammates, all in order to exact revenge on the vampires that killed his friends when he was little. Sound like anyone else we know? Yui has a grudge as deep as the Pacific Ocean, and he’ll stop at nothing to kill every last vampire. 

The manga is well-drawn, with nice color pages in the front and some interesting extra content in a couple of the volumes. The action is good, the suspense is okay, and the twists are completely predictable, but it’s still a really fun manga. In volume 2 the characters get special weapons and you meet an even higher up team of vampire hunters in volume 3, so there’s a lot to keep you reading. Highly recommended!

Monday Musings: YA Sci-Fi Duologies and Companion Novels

mondaymusings

Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of duology series – 2 books only – instead of trilogies. This seems to be specifically for science fiction in YA. There are also some “series” composed of companion novels – novels set in the same (or a similar) universe, but not following the same exact storyline as the first book.

I absolutely love this trend. I wish that more genres of YA would follow it.

Below are a bunch of YA sci-fi duologies & companion novel series. I’ve read all of them, or at least the first book in the series, and absolutely loved them all!

Entangled (Entangled, #1) Unmade (Entangled #2)

Avalon (Avalon, #1) Polaris (Avalon, #2)

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1) This Shattered World (Starbound, #2)

Stitching Snow Spinning Starlight

Now That You're Here (Duplexity #1) While You Were Gone (Duplexity, #2)

Arclight (Arclight, #1) Meridian (Arclight, #2)

Salvage Sound

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1) In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink, #2)

 

Character Appreciation Post #10: Prince Niklaas

Name: Niklaas, last prince of Kanvasol

Book: Princess of Thorns

Princess of Thorns

Author: Stacey Jay

Background: Niklaas is the last prince of the kingdom of Kanvasol. His 10 brothers before him have transformed into swans on the morning of their 18th birthdays, and Niklaas is searching for a way to escape the same fate. Niklaas has basically run away from home, and his father doesn’t know where he is or what he’s doing, which could be dangerous for the prince.

Characteristics: He is feisty, strong, and at times he can be ruthless in his search for a cure to his curse. He is also fiercely protective of Ror, once they become friends. Niklaas has a good sense of humor, and he thoroughly enjoys good food and drink. He is known as a womanizer, and expects to have absolutely no trouble wooing Princess Aurora.

My vision of Niklaas: 

Quotes:

“And perhaps, if men were brought up to be gentler people, women wouldn’t have need of protectors. Have you ever thought of that?”

I shake my head. “Men aren’t going to change, Ror. Men are what they are.”


Doesn’t Niklaas sound lovely? Check out my review of Princess of Thorns to find out more about this awesome book!

Review: THE GLASS ARROW by Kristen Simmons

The Glass Arrow

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

Published by Tor Teen

February 10, 2015


SUMMARYThe Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.


REVIEW:

The storytelling: Kristen Simmons is a great writer. Her writing has the tight, conciseness of a short story, with the expansive and deep world-building of a fantasy arc. The pacing of each chapter, each section of the novel is incredibly well done. The exposition is never boring, the action always leaves you breathless, and the drama will tug on your heartstrings.

The plot: The action gets going from page 1. You are immediately thrown into Aya’s head, as she runs away from Trackers who are trying to capture her to sell at auction in the city. I wasn’t expecting where the novel would go at first, with Aya being taken in to the Garden and not immediately sold. Aya’s time in the Garden, a place where girls are confined, trained and prepped for sale, was fascinating and crucial to the rest of the story.

By the second chapter, Aya has already spent 107 days in the Garden. Simmons could  have spent an entire book detailing Aya’s time there; instead she chose to show us what Aya has learned from captivity, how she has changed, and to move right into the plot points that actually move the story along: when she meets Kiran.

The characters: Simmons has created some great characters in The Glass Arrow. Aya, known in the Garden as Clover, is a badass. She’s grown up in the mountains, and has had to care for her family, hunt and fish, and hide from Trackers since she was born. The girl has awesome survival skills, and she is clever about putting them to use. Aya is also very adaptable, a trait which we won’t often see in YA female protagonists. Aya can adapt and change to any situation, using her skills in new and innovative ways when most girls would freeze and hold back in fear. I really respect Aya, and saw a lot of myself in her. I wish I was even half as badass as she is!

“I’d rather be a wolf than a girl any day.” – Aya

Aya meets the mute Driver boy, Kiran, on her 5th jaunt into solitary “confinement.” Kiran approaches Aya and manages to befriend her. They develop a bond, and Aya can interpret Kiran’s gestures and expressions into speech. She never really knows if Kiran can understand everything she says – no one knows what language the Drivers speak, if any – but she spills her heart and soul to the boy, anyway. They spend many nights sitting side by side and “talking” as Aya is chained up in solitary. Kiran develops a lot as a character, and I really like who he becomes. He has an unexpected depth that readers will love to explore.

“And I feel it happen–silent and study as a feather, a piece of my soul becomes his.”

Last, but not least: Brax. During her first period in solitary, Aya rescues and cares for a wolf pup, which she names Brax. Over the 10 or so months Aya spends at the Garden, Brax grows up and becomes her best friend. Aya actually longs for time in solitary so that she can spend time with Brax, the clever, highly intelligent and endearing wolf companion.

“They’ve forgotten, or maybe they’ve never learning, that their worth is not determined by how much a man wants them.”

The Verdict: Simmons has created an eerily realistic dystopian world then thrown her characters into the toughest situation they could imagine, and they fight for their freedom harder than anything. The Glass Arrow is a masterpiece of feminist fiction that teens and adults will love.

PRINCESS OF THORNS Review

Princess of Thorns Princess of Thorns 

by Stacey Jay

Published by Delacorte Press

December 9, 2014


SUMMARY: Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne. Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago. Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?


REVIEW Princess of Thorns was not what I was expecting. It was better.  This is a hardcore fantasy adventure, with fairy tale elements threading their way throughout the story. Aurora is a princess hiding from the evil ogre queen – and to do so she pretends to be a boy. Specifically, she pretends to be her little brother, which leads to “Ror” searching for “his” sister along with a runaway prince from the neighboring kingdom. This runaway prince, Niklaas, just happens to have his own agenda – break the curse that will turn him into a swan when he turns 18. The unlikely pair bicker and battle their way across the country, trying to win allies for their fight against the ogre queen’s forces.  The chemistry between Ror and Niklaas is delightful. They disagree almost constantly, but still respect and care about each other. Niklaas takes a big brotherly-approach to caring for Ror, who he thinks is a young prince. Ror finds herself equally infuriated by and attracted to the reckless and womanizing prince Niklaas. Their relationship goes through so many trials and changes throughout the book, and I can’t talk about anything else without spoiling it for you! The world-building is phenomenal. Stacey Jay really knows how to make a fantasy world seem as real as anything. The periodic chapters from the ogre queen’s perspective create sympathy for the enemy, while showing the reader aspects of an ogre’s life, effectively making it even more real. The fairy tale magic and mystery is wholly believable, and the curses and promises made even more so. 

Stacey Jay’s Princess of Thorns is an engrossing fantasy adventure, tied together with fairy tale magic, curses and romance. I highly recommend it!


If you liked these books, you’ll love PRINCESS OF THORNS!

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1) Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3) Defiance (Defiance #1)

Monday Musings: Women in Fiction

mondaymusings

My friend who is a cataloger at a small public library sometimes likes to share the titles of particularly outrageous romance novels. He catalogs a LOT of romance novels. I am always surprised by just how ridiculous these books sound, and how crazy-creative the covers and titles can be.

However, I often wonder what people think of the popularity of these books. They are widely read, widely circulated at public libraries, and they are almost exclusively read/bought/borrowed by women.

Books like these:

The Duke Is Mine (Fairy Tales, #3) Unclaimed (Turner, #2) Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2) At Your Pleasure

 What do these books have to say about women? Women like reading and writing these books. Meanwhile, we’re telling girls they should be reading books about strong female protagonists and books that empower women and show that they don’t need a man’s control in their life. Meanwhile, we’re telling authors that they should be writing books that empower women. 

Are these books empowering? Why or why not?

You know what my friend said? “I have too much respect for women to be a feminist.” And I 100% agree with him.

And do you know what IS empowering? Letting women make their own decisions. Letting them read what they want and write what they want and enjoy what they like. Whether it’s Ravishing the Heiress or The Hunger Games, women like what they like and you should let them do so.