Great Expectations (Manga Classics)

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Stacy King, Charles Dickens
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

The story opens on Pip in a cemetery looking at his parents’ graves. A prisoner in shackles approaches him and asks him to bring a file for him to remove his chains. Pip returns to his home, with his sister and her husband who is a blacksmith. Pip smuggles the file to the prisoner who is then able to escape. One day, Pip is invited to go visit the widow, Miss Havisham. She is a very wealthy women who lives in her wedding dress because she was left at the altar years ago. She adopted a girl named Estella, and Pip falls in love with her. Then, after Pip has begun an apprenticeship with his brother-in-law, Joe, someone comes from the city and tells Pip that he has a benefactor who is going to pay for him to become a gentleman. He now has great expectations. Pip moves to the city, assuming that his mysterious benefactor is Miss Havisham. Pip hopes that if he can become a gentleman, he will be able to marry Estella.

This graphic novel followed Dickens’ story faithfully. It gives the basic story, without all the added details in the novel. Though I love his writing style, I know some people think that Dickens is tedious to read. This graphic novel is a great alternative to get the same story.

It’s been a few years since I read the novel, so I liked reading the story again in graphic novel format. This is a great addition to any library of classics.

New Release: Eden

Title: Eden
Author: Jeanne Blasberg
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★

Becca Meister lives in her family home of Eden on Rhode Island. Her father built it following World War I. She has always lived at the house, but due to the debt that her husband left her with, she may now have to sell it. She wants to sell her share to her brother, so that the house can be kept in the family. For July 4th in the year 2000, Becca invites her whole family to give them a big announcement. Not only does she have something to tell the family, but her granddaughter, Sarah, has returned from college pregnant. Becca invites her brothers and their wives, her son and his family, and her sister-in-law for this family reunion. However, some family members can’t handle the news.

I struggled with this book. There were so many characters that I couldn’t keep track of them. About half way through I thought I had them all figured out, but then I got some names mixed up. I don’t like when a story is difficult to read without the help of a family tree, or taking notes.

Another thing that made it confusing is that it jumped back and forth between periods of time, and generations in the Meister family. It alternated between the “present” on the July 4th holiday in 2000 with Becca’s children and her siblings, and the early 20th century with Becca’s parents and her brothers.

The story line was good but moved very slowly to compensate for the jumping between time periods. This story could have been improved if it was spaced between a couple of different books. Even if it was divided into different volumes within this book that separated the different generations so it moved linearly through time, it would have improved my understanding of this novel.

New Release: Lemons

Title: Lemons
Author: Melissa Savage
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Crown Books
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Lemonade Liberty Witt moves to Willow Creek, California to live with her grandfather after her mother dies. Willow Creek is known for one thing: Bigfoot sightings. As soon as she arrives, she meets Tobin Sky, a ten-year-old boy who created the company Bigfoot Detectives Inc. Tobin spends a lot of time with Lemonade’s grandfather, Charlie, and he runs his business out of Charlie’s garage. Various people who live in the town call Tobin to report Bigfoot sightings on their property. Mrs. Dickerson phones regularly with new evidence, and freshly baked cookies for the two kids. While Lemonade has to learn to cope with the loss of her mother, Tobin feels the space left by his father. His father was drafted into the Vietnam War five years earlier, but he still hasn’t returned. Lemonade and Tobin go on expeditions into the forest to try and get the coveted photo of Bigfoot.

I really enjoyed this story. It was quite funny when Tobin and Lemonade were searching for Bigfoot. Especially when Mrs. Dickerson kept calling them over for her suspected sightings, but she really just wanted to share her baking with them.

At first, I thought Lemonade was going to be in foster care in the story. It seems like that when her social worker drove her to live with Charlie. But it eventually became apparent that she was moving in with her grandfather because her mother passed away. I was glad it deviated from the cliche of the main character being in foster care. I have read so many books with that premise lately so I’m glad this one was different.

I wasn’t sure when the story was happening until quite a few pages into it. It was set in 1975, but it could have been happening now. I usually like this timeless quality, but it’s not good when there isn’t any indication of when the story is actually happening.

This is a cute and funny story, great for middle grade readers!

Book Haul: April Uppercase Box

The Uppercase Box for April was awesome! The first thing I saw was the Hogwarts notebook! It’s amazing! It will have to be used for a very special project! ❤️

There is a bookmark with a quote from The Hobbit on it. It’s made of a very thin wood, so it should be durable. 

The book sounds awesome! It’s YA Fantasy. There is also a magnet that matches the book. I’m so excited to read it!

The Rejected Writers’ Book Club

Title: The Rejected Writers’ Book Club
Author: Suzanne Kelman
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

This book was a page turner from beginning to end. It starts with Janet Johnson being asked to attend a meeting with other women who live in the small town of Southlea Bay. She discovers it is a club for rejected book writers. All of the women in the club write books of different genres and then submit them to publishers in order to get a rejection letter. They have a collection of 475 letters and are planning a celebration for when they reach 500 letters. The leader of the club invited Janet, one of the town’s librarians, to the meeting for help with the club’s latest problem: one of the women has received an acceptance letter! This is terrible news for them as it means they are no longer all rejected writers. The ladies embark on a trip to the publisher to get them to change their minds about her book and give her a rejection letter as well as a letter of apology for accepting the book in the first place.

This was a fantastic book and it was very funny. It was hard to put down. The characters were all distinct and, at times, outrageous.

This book is similar to The Jane Austen Book Club, but I liked The Rejected Writer’s Book Club much more because I was laughing out loud the whole time. The idea of writing for the purpose of receiving rejection letters is hilarious, but there are many incidents along the way to getting the letters that are equally entertaining.

New Release: Anything Is Possible

Title: Anything Is Possible
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: ★★★

This collection of connected short stories is a follow-up to Elizabeth Stout’s bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton. Each story focuses on different people from Lucy Barton’s hometown of Amgash, Illinois. Since it is a small town, everyone knows each other. The main characters in most of the stories are middle aged. They now have children and grandchildren of their own. They revisit things that happened in their youth, and how it has affected them in their adult lives. A couple of the women had mothers who had affairs and left their husbands. Some of the characters have lost parents. They also discover that a childhood friend was molested by her father. Though they had hard times growing up, most of them have become successful adults, who can give their children better upbringings than they had.

When I started reading this book, I realized it was a sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton. Since I hadn’t read that one, I was worried I wouldn’t understand this book. However, since it was a series of connected stories that don’t focus on what happened in the previous novel, I still enjoyed it.

I liked the way that each of the stories are connected. One character who was mentioned in the previous story would be the main focus of the next story.

The stories are good, but I didn’t find them very moving. They are all well written, but there are so many characters that it got overwhelming at times. They also have similar lives since they grew up in the same town, so I mixed up some of them.

This was a good book, though it wasn’t something I would normally read.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (But You Could’ve Done Better)

This book is a collection of bad breakup stories. They were very entertaining. One boy broke up with his girlfriend in middle-school so he could spend more time with his dog. One girl received a break-up letter on a floppy disc (this was in 2006, past the floppy-disc era). I think my favourite one was that a boy broke up with his girlfriend because Jesus told him to.

I liked the pictures in the book. They were simple sketches, but they represented the ridiculous stories perfectly!

This book is a cute, short read. It would be great for someone going through a bad break up, because it would show them that (hopefully) other people have gone through worse break ups!

New Release: The Ridge

The thrilling narrative styles of Gillian Flynn and Stephen King meet in this new thriller!

Megan and her husband Tyler move to Willow Ridge. Tyler has just gotten a job at the institute at the edge of the Ridge as a technician. The families of employees at the institute all live in the neighbourhood of the Ridge. Megan is furious that her neighbour, Rachel, has been flirting with her husband. One evening, she goes over to talk to Rachel in her garage. Rachel is standing on a ladder and stacking clay pots on a shelf. Megan tells Rachel to leave her husband alone. When Rachel just laughs at her, Megan starts throwing Rachel’s gnomes at the wall. Then she throws some of the clay pots at Rachel. Rachel loses her balance and falls off the ladder, her neck twisting at an unnatural angle. Megan looks at her and decides that she is dead. Megan runs back home but she’s too scared to call the police. She calls her husband to come home from work, and she tells him what happens. Tyler decides to go over to Rachel’s house and knock on her door, so that when she doesn’t answer he can go around to the back of her house and “discover” her body in the garage. However, he comes back into his house a few minutes later, saying that Rachel opened her door. Megan is sure that she saw Rachel’s neck break when she fell off the ladder, but Tyler saw her open her front door. Has Megan lost her mind or did Rachel somehow come back to life?

I was sitting on the edge of my seat through this whole novel! The chapters were short, yet almost all of them ended with a major cliffhanger. Though Megan doesn’t narrate the story, the narrative follows her, making her perspective seem unreliable. It is a great thrilling mystery and a really fast read too!

New Release: 180 Seconds

Allison is entering her junior year at college. Her adoptive father, Simon, drops her off. He adopted her out of foster care when she was 17 years old. Allison is quiet, and she is happy when she finds out her roommate isn’t attending school anymore, so she will have the room all to herself. Then one day, after wandering around town by herself, a girl grabs her to participate in a social experiment. Allison has to spend 180 seconds looking at a boy, without breaking eye contact. At the end of the 3 minutes, he pushes his chair back and kisses Allison passionately. She runs away immediately after, not saying anything. Her best friend, Steffi, who lives in California, calls her and asks her about a viral video by the online sensation, Esben Baylor. Esben makes videos of his social experiments, and the one that he posted of him and Allison holding eye contact for 180 seconds has gone viral. All of his fans want to know what happened to the girl in the video, after she ran away. At first, Allison is embarrassed and furious at this invasion of her privacy. She doesn’t want any kind of attention, especially not from fans on the internet. Eventually she speaks to Esben, and he isn’t the jerk that she thought he was. She thought he posted the video for his own gain, but he really cares about Allison. Esben teaches Allison to break down the walls that she has built up after years of living in foster care. However, soon her newfound strength is tested, and threatens her relationship with Esben.

In general, this was a good story. It had a unique plot, though some aspects were cliches of contemporary YA books (such as Allison living in foster care for most of her life). It was entertaining and the characters were realistic most of the time.

Good stories give the reader an emotional attachment. When Allison was falling in love with Esben, I felt happy with her. Similarly, when Allison was facing tough times, I felt bad with her.

Though the plot was intriguing, this story was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. The high parts were super high, with everything going extremely well for Allison and the other characters. But the low parts had everything spiralling out of control. There wasn’t really a happy medium of emotions. This is the only criticism I have of an otherwise good story.

Emma (Manga Classics)

Emma Woodhouse thinks she’s a great matchmaker. The story opens on the wedding of her former governess, Miss Taylor, marrying Mr. Weston. Emma’s father is devastated that Miss Taylor will no longer live with them but Emma assures him this is a good match for Miss Taylor. Emma meets Harriet, a young girl who lives in the school in town. Harriet never knew who her parents were, but Emma is sure that her father had a high standing in society. When Harriet gets a proposal from a farmer, Emma insists that she turn it down because she can marry someone better. Emma sets Harriet’s sights on Mr. Elton, who ends up falling for Emma. Meanwhile, Mr. Weston’s son comes to visit. Mr. and Mrs. Weston want Mr. Weston’s son, Mr. Churchill, to marry Emma so their families will be joined. However, when Harriet confesses to being in love with Mr. Knightly, Emma’s brother-in-law, Emma realizes she has loved him all along.

I really like this adaptation of Emma. Some scenes are interpreted differently to accommodate the graphic novel format. For example, the novel starts with Emma and her father sitting in their house, discussing Miss Taylor’s new marriage. However, the graphic novel opens with Miss Taylor’s wedding, with Emma and her father speaking in the pews of the church. This makes the opening of the graphic novel more active, since pictures of people just sitting and talking in their home would be a boring way to start it off.

At the end of this book, the author describes some of the changes she made to the original story. The story still unfolds in the same way as the book. There are some twists at the end of the story, which could have been demonstrated earlier in the book for people who have read the original. But she kept these surprises a secret for new readers, who haven’t read Jane Austen’s original, so they will experience the twists for themselves.

This was a great adaptation of Emma. I will be posting more reviews of Manga Classics from UDON Entertainment in the coming weeks.