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.

New Release: Gone Without A Trace

After attending a conference in Oxford, Hannah is so excited to get home and tell her boyfriend about the promotion coming her way. Her boss told her that she is in the running to become a director at their company soon. She wants to see the look on her boyfriend, Matt’s, face when she tells him the good news. But when she arrives home, she notices his paintings are no longer on the wall. His TV is gone too, with her old one in its place. Everything in her house looks just as it did before he moved in with her, years ago. She goes to the fridge and even his bottle of ketchup is gone. Not only are his belongings gone, but his texts, emails, and phone calls to Hannah have disappeared from her phone. She can’t figure out why he suddenly left her like this. Things only get worse when she starts receiving texts from random numbers, sent from someone who claims to be watching her. If it’s Matt texting her, why doesn’t he just talk to her? Or is it more complicated than just an ex-boyfriend wanting revenge?

Hannah tells the story from her perspective. This makes her an unreliable narrator. She starts drinking, so she doesn’t remember everything she does. She quickly begins questioning herself and her relationship with Matt. She’s confused about the whole situation, and she doesn’t notice that the people around her are acting suspicious, such as her best friend, Katie and her boyfriend James, and her coworkers Sam and Lucy.

To me, what makes a good thriller is the ending. This ending didn’t disappoint. The last 50 pages were so exciting, I think I held my breath the whole time. I’m excited to see what the reception is like for this great, thrilling book.

The Animators

Sharon Kisses and Meg Vaught meet in their college art course. They are both extremely talented cartoonists. After they finish college, they go on to create a cartoon about Meg’s life, called “Nashville Combat.” It largely focuses on Meg’s wild, alcoholic mother, who is now in prison. Their film is very successful and Meg spins out of control, drinking and doing drugs. She gets news that her mother was stabbed in prison and died of her injury. Meg and Sharon drive down to Florida to identify Meg’s mother’s body and to promote their film. Then everything spirals out of control, with Sharon ending up in the hospital and Meg sobering up. The two girls overcome some major challenges, but as soon as they reach the top again, they free fall back to the bottom. Meg and Sharon work well together, but are they also their own worst enemies?

This book was quite an emotional rollercoaster ride. I had to stop reading about a third of the way through and put it aside for a while. It was quite intense.

In the films that Meg and Sharon make, they address the hardships they have faced in their lives. Likewise, this book makes the reader look at her/his life in the same way. The story forces you to think about difficult subjects, such as rape, death, drug abuse, and heartbreak. The story pulls you in, so that you can’t avoid these problems, just like Meg and Sharon couldn’t escape these aspects of their lives.

I appreciated how this book addressed these important, inescapable topics. However, I felt overwhelmed by the wave of emotions that this book made me feel. This book was a little too intense for me.

Being A Witch And Other Things I Didn’t Ask For

Rachel, AKA Raya, is a teenage girl in foster care in London. She lives with Angie and Jake, another child in foster care. She’s almost 17. She wants to run away and live on her own. She goes to a hostel that someone recommended but it isn’t what she expected. She meets Pavel, who brings her to his friends, Ian and Emma, who own a cafe and have a spare room for her to stay in. She works for them for about a week but eventually her social worker finds her. Her foster brother has also run away, and he took Oscar, their social worker’s magical, talking cat, with him. Raya feels terribly guilty for influencing Jake to run away. They find him in a coma in the hospital. He ran in front of a truck to save the cat. Oscar was still in the hospital, so Raya and the social worker, Bryony, go to get him back. But when they reunite with Oscar the cat, Raya suddenly transports them back in time. Raya and Oscar arrive in England in 1645, just in time for the Essex Witch Trials. This isn’t the best time to be a teenage witch who travelled from the future, with a talking cat. Raya has just discovered she has powers, so she isn’t strong enough to bring them back to the future. Bryony comes back and finds them, but that isn’t the end of their adventure. When Raya attempts to send them back to the future, they only travel to Turkey, during the same period. Now Raya is faced with the challenge of learning how to use her powers to return them to modern England and how to survive in 17th century Turkey.

I enjoyed this book. At the beginning I was a little confused about how witches are perceived in the London of the book. Of course, since it’s called Being a Witch, I knew that the main character was going to be a witch. But she called her social worker a witch like it was an ordinary thing to say to someone. And her social worker agreed with her. Plus, she could hear a cat speak. No one addressed if this was a normal part of their life. There was also a part of the police department dedicated to “integrators,” which is the term used by Pavel for people with magic powers.

I enjoyed the story once she got to Turkey. The last half of the story was quite exciting, with her travelling around Istanbul, Turkey and learning how to use her new powers. I liked the historical aspects of the novel too. They were accurate depictions and added some truth to this fictional story.

YOLO Juliet

YOLO Juliet is one of the books in a series from Brett Wright. These books retell classic stories, told in text messages. This one is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s classic play. They come from feuding families, but fall in love. They are forbidden to see each other, since their families hate each other. They secretly get married. Romeo gets into a fight with Juliet’s cousin and kills him, which leads to Romeo being banished from the town. Juliet fakes her death with a special potion. The plan is that after she is buried in her family’s tomb, she will wake up and run away to be with Romeo. Friar Lawrence, who gave Juliet the potion that will make her appear dead, sends a letter to Romeo telling him of the plan to reunite him with Juliet. However, the letter doesn’t reach Romeo in time. Romeo hears about Juliet’s death, and rushes back to see her in her tomb. He drinks poison and dies, just as she wakes up. When she wakes up and sees her love has poisoned himself, she takes her dagger and stabs herself. After the deaths of these two young people, the Capulets and Montagues end their feud, though it is too late to help Romeo and Juliet.

This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was very funny. At times, it was absurd to think about a story like this happening today through text messages. But it was funny to imagine how Romeo and Juliet would text each other. I especially liked that Lady Capulet would sign her name at the end of every text messages, because I have seen people who are not used to texting sign their texts with their names.

Many texting abbreviations were used in the story, but there is a glossary at the back that explains what they mean. I like how “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) is in the title. Juliet literally learns that in the story, since she and Romeo end their lives over their love.

This book was really good, so I’m going to watch for the other adaptations in the series.

Pride and Prejudice (Manga Classics)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. I love the adaptations of her classic story, especially ones in different formats.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it follows Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters on their way to finding love. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet, believes if her daughters have a fortune, they will be happy. Unfortunately, their father’s estate is entailed so it will be inherited by a distant cousin instead of the Bennet sisters. When Mr. Bingley moves into the large estate down the road, Mrs. Bennet is certain that one of her daughters will marry him, since he is wealthy. They meet Bingley and his friend Darcy at a ball they host at Bingley’s estate, Netherfield. Immediately, Elizabeth decides that Darcy is too proud to have anything to do with her or her family. Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, falls in love with Bingley, and their mother begins to plan the wedding, though they aren’t engaged.  Soon after that, Bingley, Darcy, and Bingley’s sisters move back to London. Jane is crushed when she realizes her relationship with Bingley is now over. Elizabeth and Jane then go on alternating holidays with their aunt and uncle, eventually leading them both back to Darcy and Bingley. Elizabeth will have to learn not to be so quick to judge people, and Darcy must put his pride aside to find love.

This manga version from UDON Entertainment follows the plot, but it fills in some gaps that were in the narrative too. For example, we get to see Darcy’s reaction to Elizabeth at the Lucas’s ball, when he first falls in love with her. This graphic novel gives an objective perspective, by showing Darcy’s reaction, whereas Austen’s novel follows Elizabeth’s perspective. 

The language was more straightforward and simple in this graphic novel. It lost some of Jane Austen’s beautiful prose.  However, this would make the book more accessible to readers of all levels. 

There were two different manga art styles in this book. Most of the time, the pictures were realistic, a more traditional manga style. But sometimes the smaller frames had small cartoon drawings, that were less detailed. This change in style happened when Lydia, Kitty, or Mrs. Bennet we’re excited, talking about boys and/or money. The less detailed drawings demonstrate how childish and superficial those women were acting.  

I’m excited to read more manga classics in the coming weeks. Look for more reviews coming soon!

New Release: Fireworks

Dana and Olivia are best friends who live in the town of Jessell, Georgia. They have just graduated high school in 1997. Dana stays with Olivia’s family most of the time to avoid her alcoholic mother. One day, Olivia asks Dana to go with her to Orlando for an audition. The manager of the hottest pop star, Tulsa MacCreadie, is holding auditions for the next pop girl group. Though Olivia was the one auditioning, the manager asks Dana to audition too. After they return home, both Dana and Olivia are called back to be part of the girl group, Daisy Chain. Soon after they start training to be pop stars, a boy threatens to come between them. It becomes apparent that Dana is much less musically trained than the other girls. Dana has to work much harder than the other girls to keep up. But will it be enough for her to stay in the group?

This story is set in the 90s but the relationships between the characters have a timeless quality to them, so it could be happening today. If it wasn’t for the references to the Spice Girls and the lack of cell phones, the story could take place in 2017. 

The story was quite good. I kept anticipating something serious to happen but it wasn’t too dramatic. Overall, I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to my friends.