April 22, 2014

Review: Hamlet

by William Shakespeare
Kevin Stanton (Illustrations)
Jeff Dolven (Editor)

Release Date: November 6, 2012 
Publisher: Sterling Signature
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

To be or not to be? Hamlet is, arguably, Shakespeare's most well-known play, with its compelling lead character, stunning language, and philosophical underpinnings. This drama of the procrastinating Danish prince who ponders whether or not to revenge his father's death now appears in a beautifully illustrated edition with annotations by Princeton professor Jeff Dolven.   

My Review:

Cover: The cover is made from laser-cut paper art, like the five illustrations within the book. The blue part with the title can be taken off to see the full cover. Really love the cover. When I got my copy I couldn't stop staring at it.

Writing: (5/5) I think why Shakespeare's writing is so remembered is because every sentence, every word, is so well thought-out. You can't read it quickly, and it's not because it's old English. You're more likely to grasp the entire play and writing, if you savor every word. And it seems every time you read it, you gain more. I read Hamlet back in school, so this is my second time reading it and the experience is even more rewarding and enjoyable the second time. 

Hamlet is a play so, for the most part, the whole thing is dialogue. I was really fascinated by how much the dialogue got across the characters' personalities and gestures and with so much layers and depth too. And I mean really? All they were really doing was talking. 

Also no joke, I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it. Lately I've been really fascinated with beautiful writing and language, so I thought I should probably read Shakespeare. When you give it a chance and carefully read it, you really see that Shakespeare is a master of language.

Setting: (5/5) Hamlet is set in Denmark, and for the most, in the royal castle of Elsinore. I've always wanted to read something that is mostly set in a castle and in court. Most fiction doesn't give you that, it's about an exiled or runaway prince or a peasant who discovers he's a prince and the castle and all the nobility are not that important besides being antagonists. Hamlet is the direct opposite of this.

Plot: (5/5) Hamlet probably has one of the best constructed plotlines I've ever seen. I always remember plot points, but I don't ever remember the entire plotline because they're not that memorable. 

Another thing I feel everyone forgets is that characters make a plot, not the other way around. The plot gets more intense because the characters themselves get more intense as the stakes get higher. The conflict is internal and caused from the characters themselves and not external (like war or a desolate setting), and that's what makes all this memorable. Because at the end of the day, plots are just plots, characters are what's memorable. Call it character driven, but things that are purely plot driven are cheap entertainment. There's a reason classics are remembered. 

Main Character: (5/5) OK, I didn't like Hamlet. He was my least favourite character. He's so indecisive that it's irritating, but he's such well constructed character that I can't bear to rate him any lower. Hamlet's not a hero in any sense of the word. He was so caught up with his revenge that I felt like he got really carried away and started to go insane. When Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, he wonders if this is indeed his father or a demon, meant to deceive him:

What if it [the ghost] tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
 Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff  
That beetles o'er his base into the sea,  
And there assume some other horrible form,  
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason  
And draw you into madness?  
Act I, Scene IV, Lines 75-80

And I think he was a demon actually (maybe even the devil) that caused Hamlet to fall. That's my current interpretation of this play. A prince who went astray because he believed too much in the whispers of the devil. So much that he kept throwing away his logic and reason, which he is so highly praised for.

That's my interpretation anyway. The thing about Hamlet, and all Shakespeare's plays, is that there are thousands of ways to interpret the characters. You can talk about them for hours and days because they're just that complex. 

Villain: (5/5) Claudius, Hamlet's uncle/step-father, is the King of Denmark and my favourite character. What I loved about him the most is his charisma that is really evident from his speech and language (some of my favourite lines from the play). 

I felt he was the opposite of Hamlet, where he's a people person and charismatic, Hamlet came off as a loner and even antisocial. He decides something and follows through with it (even if it's wrong) and Hamlet is just plain indecisive. 

He also seemed to genuinely love Gertrude (Hamlet's mother and his wife) and I even felt he tried with Hamlet. And yes, he is cunning and is willing to kill to get what he wants, but I see a lot of guilt. If Hamlet didn't become so reckless and melodramatic, I wonder if the situation could have been turned around. If he focused on Claudius' guilt for his actions, would the story have been different and even a happier one?

Other Characters: (5/5) 
Gertrude: Gertrude seems to love her son very dearly. But her love for Claudius really clouded her judgment. She doesn't seem to want to admit she's done anything wrong. She came off to me like she's trying very hard to pretend she didn't do anything wrong. The mother-son relationship with Hamlet was very interesting because I really don't see much of that (whether good or bad).  
Polonius: Polonius is clever and a snake of a royal adviser and although I've seen many of those, none have been pulled off as convincingly (or at all, actually) as Polonius. 
Ophelia: I'm still musing about Ophelia. I would say she's my second favourite after Claudius, but I'm still thinking about her. She doesn't really come off as a weak-minded maiden to me. There's more to that, I feel. And I really loved her air of femininity that fiction is so lacking because people feel it's inferior to masculinity or something. Maybe Ophelia is a bad example, but I hope you know what I mean. 
Laertes: Son of Polonius and brother to Ophelia. To me, Laertes was noble and honorable, but being a hot blooded youth, he didn't think clearly sometimes. 
Horatio: Horatio reminds me of Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet. He's by far the kindest character in the play and the most honorable. Beyond a loyal friend. He's wasted on Hamlet. Now when I think about it, he's probably my second favourite.

Artwork: (5/5) This edition has five beautiful laser-cut illustrations within each act:

The only thing I didn't like was that they're very fragile, so you have to handle them with care. It also has matching artwork throughout the book in blues and reds:

Other Comments: The edition has, on the left side (like the above picture), explanations for some words, phrases, and allusions that I found extremely helpful. It also includes essays that were very interesting to read if you want some background information on Hamlet.

Overall: (35/35) For anyone who likes words and beautiful language, read Hamlet. If you want characters with layers and layers of depth, read Hamlet. And if you want to read one of the best constructed plotlines I've ever seen, then read Hamlet. I even recommend reading Hamlet again. Every time you read it, it's like a complete different experience and I was tempted to read it again as soon as I finished it.

For collectors, Shakespeare lovers, and anyone who loves beautiful editions of books, I recommend Sterling's Hamlet Signature Shakespeare. The paper art is gorgeous. I would even recommend it to Shakespeare beginners as I found the explanations to old words, phrases, and allusions to be extremely helpful.   

April 19, 2014

March 2014 Haul

Really love the art for this picture book! I'll be reading it soon.
I've never heard anything about this series. If you've read the first book, Songs of Earth, what did you think?
I still need to read the first book, A Natural History of Dragons, but I'm excited to start it. I've also recently done an interview with the author, which will be posted soon.
The cover is gorgeous! I've already finished reading the book. It was a fun and light read with a pretty setting, but it had no story to speak of. Review will be up soon.
  • Starling by Fiona Paul (Thanks to Penguin Canada)
Recently finished reading Belladonna (review will be posted soon), a really fun read. Excited to see how this series ends.
  • Tribute by Ellen Renner (Thanks to Penguin Canada)
Sounds like a really interesting fantasy, plus it seems it's a stand alone!

I loved Clarke's The Assassin's Curse (my review) and its sequel, The Pirate's Wish (my review). This is the first book in a duology that's set in the same world, but about different characters. I'm also on the blog tour. My date is April 28, so look out for that!
  • Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley (Thanks to NetGalley and Strange Chemistry)
This has a gorgeous cover and it's about swan maidens I think.
The first in a new fantasy series that sounds really good.
I've been wanting to read more contemporaries. 
I still need to read the 2nd and 3rd books in this series. Not sure when I'll be picking this series up again though.
Still need to read The Immortal Rules, but Kagawa's books are always fun reads.

March 7, 2014

Review: Fracture Me

Fracture Me
by Tahereh Mafi

Release Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5 

Series: Book 2.5 in the Shatter Me series

In this electrifying sixty-page companion novella to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, discover the fate of the Omega Point rebels as they go up against The Reestablishment. Set during and soon after the final moments of Unravel Me, Fracture Me is told from Adam's perspective.

As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam's focus couldn't be further from the upcoming battle. He's reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend's life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James's safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It's time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam's newly discovered half brother, won't be that easy. The Reestablishment can't tolerate a rebellion, and they'll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.  

Cover: I find it neat that the lashes are made of feathers, which seem to be a symbol for Adam, a bird that is. The eye looks like it's crying by the dropping of a couple of feathers.

Writing: (2/5) Adam's point of view is very different from Juliette and Warner's because it's coarse and he curses a lot, which I hated. It's very obvious to me that the author is trying to change your feelings for Adam through this and I didn't like that. 

Setting: (2/5) The setting seems to be a very loose backdrop that's not touched on much.

Plot: (1/5) The novella starts from near the end of Unravel Me (chapter Sixty-Three), except from Adam's point of view. This novella is beyond pointless plot-wise, as novellas tend to be. Like Destroy Me, its sole purpose is changing your opinion of the narrator. While Destroy Me was meant to make Warner more sympathetic, Fracture Me's purpose was to make Adam less sympathetic. Also, Destroy Me clearly had more work put into it and is a story in its own right while Fracture Me seems like it was thrown together last minute.

Main Character: (2/5) I don't mind making characters more sympathetic or likable, but I absolutely hate it when a character is deconstructed to be more unlikable. And it's for the sole reason of making Warner seem less wrong and more of an attractive match for Juliette. I don't care who Juliette ends up with because I love Juliette and read the series for her. But if you have to resort to these kinds of methods, I think it's clear who Juliette should be with.

So this novella tells me that Adam would choose James over Juliette. So what? He's a 10-year-old child that he raised. Is that so bad? Juliette loves children too and would admire Adam's love for James. To pit family and love interests into a contest of who you would choose over the other is wrong.

Or is the author trying to say that it's OK if Adam doesn't get Juliette because he still has James?

But what I hate the most is that this battle for Juliette is done through these novellas and so out of Juliette's hands. It doesn't seem to be a battle for who's right for Juliette, it's chosen on who's more attractive to the author. I haven't read Ignite Me yet, but it seems obvious who Juliette will end up with. 

Also, I find it laughable that Adam's actions are kind but his thoughts aren't while Warner's actions are cruel but he means well!? 

Other Characters: (3/5) It was really interesting seeing Juliette from Adam's point of view. I liked seeing how she appeared on the outside to others, especially when she's lost in her head as she tends to be. I also really liked Adam's relationship with Kenji and James. The characters were slightly clouded though because Adam saw them in an unkind light.  

Other Comments: It's obvious that the books after the first were not planned. The two novellas are meant to manipulate you to change your opinions about Adam and Warner. Basically, their purpose is to contradict the events of Shatter Me. If this series was planned, it wouldn't be so disjointed and these novellas would be completely unnecessary. 

Overall: (10/25) This novella was all about deconstructing Adam and making him more of an unattractive match for Juliette and I really didn't appreciate that. 

March 6, 2014

Manga Review: Gangsta., Volume 1

Gangsta., Volume 1 
by Kohske

In the city of Ergastulum, a shady ville filled with made men and petty thieves, whores on the make and cops on the take, there are some deeds too dirty for even its jaded inhabitants to touch. Enter the “Handymen,” Nic and Worick, who take care of the jobs no one else will handle. Until the day when a cop they know on the force requests their help in taking down a new gang muscling in on the territory of a top Mafia family. It seems like business (and mayhem) as usual, but the Handymen are about to find that this job is a lot more than they bargained for.

My Review:

Story: (3/5) So far this volume was episodic, which was kind of surprising. I liked this better though as it was more interesting. I usually hate seinens as I find most of them to be far too dark and gritty. Gangsta. was lighter in that area but still pretty dark as it has to do with Mafia and gangs. So far I found it pretty unoriginal, but the episodic and the flashbacks to the main characters' pasts made it more interesting to read.

Main Character: (3/5) The two "Handymen" Nic and Worick take jobs that no one else is willing to take. My favourite thing about this manga definitely had to be Nic. Nic is a swordsmen that is "tagged" - incredibly feared fighters that wear specific dog tags. He's deaf and communicates through sign language, although he occasionally speaks. I really liked his character and found him to be really amusing and intriguing. If I end up continuing with this manga, it will be for him.

On the other hand, I really disliked his partner Worrick. He had this happy-go-lucky and annoying personality that really irritated me. I also didn't like his line of work, which I don't really want to spoil.

Other Characters: (1.5/5) The rest of the characters are made up of the people who inhabit the city, mostly criminals it seems. Alex is a prostitute who gets taken in by Nic and Worick and starts helping them with their jobs. Her personality is fine I guess, but I couldn't really get past how she was introduced as a prostitute. Then there was Chad, the local officer. He was fine and I liked his close relationship with Nic. Besides him and Nic though, I found the other characters to be too unlikable.    

Setting: (2/5) The manga is set in the city of Ergastulum. It seems to be a crime-ridden city and although I like city stories, I found this particular city to be too bleak and unoriginal. 

Artwork: (3.5/5) I liked the clean art, which is pretty rare for a seinen.

Overall: (13/25) I found Gangsta. to be too bleak and grim for my taste and completely unoriginal. Most of the characters were unlikable. The only thing I really liked was one of the main characters, Nic, who I found pretty original and intriguing. I probably won't be continuing with this series. I only recommend Gangsta. to those who don't mind reading a grim seinen.

March 5, 2014

Review: Cress

by Marissa Meyer 

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Series: Book 3 in the Lunar Chronicles series

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.  

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.   

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.   

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

My Review:

Cover: This is probably my favourite cover so far. I really thought they were going to change her hair to red to fit the red theme. Glad they didn't. The ribbon was a great idea. The next book is obviously going to be an apple. I can't wait to see how they're going to design that one. 

Writing: (4/5) The writing is very light (despite being a science fiction) which suits this series. There's a lot of dialogue which helps move the story along because there's so many characters. I would say that the book is written fairly well, but I feel it has a lot to do with the original content. 

Setting: (5/5) I keep forgetting how fun and imaginative the setting in this series is. I love the mix of science fiction and, I feel, ancient. It really is a unique world. Cress being trapped in a satellite was a neat way to retell Rapunzel being trapped in her tower. Quite a bit of the book was set in Africa, specifically in the town of Farafra, which was refreshing shift from New Beijing and France. A couple of chapters also took place on Luna and I loved what I saw so far. The next book, Winter, will be set on Luna and I'm excited about that.

Plot: (5/5) Unlike Scarlet, which took me a while to get into Scarlet's point of view, I was instantly absorbed into Cress's story. None of the chapters were boring to read. The author intertwined everyone's stories extremely well, which seems to be the result of careful planning. Scarlet actually split up from Cinder, so we had three different main characters with three different plot lines going on.

Main Character: (2.5/5) 
Cinder: With each passing book, I keep seeing how incredibly flat Cinder is, especially when you compare her to Scarlet and Cress. Which is obviously a shame because the main story is Cinder's story, while the other three's stories - Scarlet, Cress, and Winter - are intertwined in hers. I really don't see any characterization with her at all.

Scarlet: Out of the three, Scarlet was in the book the least. She had a few chapters from her point of view, but they were incredibly brief. It wasn't really until the end that I felt like I actually saw her again, but with where that ended off - I'm curious to see what will happen to her next.

Cress: Cress is my favourite out of the three heroines. I really liked her innocent and shy character and it was incredibly fun reading her story. I'm quite curious to see what will happen to her by the end. 

Villain: (4/5) Although Levana made a few appearances, the main villain was Sybil (the one who locked up Cress in a satellite). I actually really liked Sybil's extreme loyalty to Levana. I always find these kind of characters incredibly interesting. 

Other Characters: (4/5) 
Thorne: This was a surprise to me, but I guess it was actually pretty obvious: Thorne ends up being Cress's love interest. I liked seeing him mature from his vain and self centered personality and I hope to see him develop more in the next book. 
Kai: Like Cinder, Kai is pretty flat. At this point I would say they're equally the two worst characters in the series.
Wolf: Wolf, Cress, and Iko are currently my favourite characters. Again, like the first book, I found Wolf to be incredibly endearing.  
Iko: Something interesting about Iko is that she has a different form in each book. It keeps her very cute seeing her mannerisms through each form. 
Dr. Erland: I liked seeing Dr. Erland and I liked that an adult was part of Cinder's teenage group. Because of this, I didn't like what happened to him at the end.
Jacin: A new character that, if you remember, made a brief appearance in Cinder. On that note, I really like how the author has mentioned and interwined these characters right from the first book. It makes the introduction of characters not unwelcome and feel like they always belonged. Jacin's personality was more cold in comparison to the rest of the cast and that was an interesting addition. 

Romance: (4/5) Kai and Cinder's romance was OK despite them being so flat. It helped that they were barley together in the book, but I hope they won't be unpleasant in Winter. Cress and Thorne were interesting and even funny because their personalities were so different. I found Scarlet and Wolf to be cute. 

Overall: (28.5/35) The only flaw was Cinder and Kai's flatness. Cress is my favourite out of the series so far! It was great right from the beginning. The intertwining of the point of views and stories was done wonderfully. Cress's character and story was my favourite out of the heroines.

March 4, 2014

Manga Review: Blood Lad, Volume 1

 Blood Lad, Volume 1 
by Yuuki Kodama

The vampire Staz is one of the most powerful district bosses in the demon world, fending off everyone who dares challenge him. But secretly, the fearsome Staz is obsessed with human culture, especially video games, manga, and everything that comes from Japan! When a Japanese girl wanders into the demon world, Staz can’t wait to meet the human and learn everything he can about her world. Unfortunately, before he’s able to ask her anything, the girl is killed by one of his would-be usurpers, leaving just her bare soul behind. Staz vows to help the girl restore her body and return to her former life—especially since it means taking a trip to the human world himself!

My Review:

Story: (4/5) Staz is the vampire boss of a district in the demon world. Unknown to most, Staz has no interest in drinking blood and is obsessed with Japanese stuff. He meets a Japanese girl that is soon killed and turned into a ghost. He decides to turn her back into a human and the story follows this. I wouldn't say the story was original, but it was very fun and comedic. It especially got really interesting near the end as we start learning about Staz's past and meeting his family.

Main Character: (3.5/5) Staz was my favourite character in the manga. He was aloof yet humorous. Although his obsession with Japanese things was funny, I did feel it was a little out there. Staz had a strange fascination with Fuyumi (the Japanese girl) when she was a human that seemed like infatuation. When she turns into a ghost though, he doesn't have much interest in her. It seems to me that he's not really in love with her, he just has blood lust. I'm curious to see how that will play out as the story continues. I'm also interested to learn more about his past and family.

Other Characters: (2/5) 
Fuyumi: I hate Fuyumi. She's walking fan service. She's an airhead and submissive just so she can add more fan service to the manga.
Mamejirou: A ferret-like demon with three eyes. It can talk and has the ability to see the future. I didn't really like or hate him. I just hope he doesn't become the manga's mascot or something.
Saty: A demon girl with three eyes. Like Mamejirou, she's also clairvoyant. She doesn't talk much (at all actually) and I liked that just fine. I hate loud and obnoxious characters that seem to litter manga.
Dek: Staz's right hand man. He has the most common sense.
Yoshida: A mimic who takes Staz's place while he's away. He looks up to Staz. It was funny seeing him pretend to be Staz and I hope we go back to him and Dek more in the next volume.
Hydra-Bell: A treasure-hunter demon with the ability to teleport. I honestly found her presence completely pointless.
Wolf: A friend and rival of Staz. I didn't really like that they added a werewolf main character just because there was a vampire in the manga.
Liz: Staz's younger sister who despises him. I'm probably the most curious to see how things will turn out between them, especially after the ending of this volume.

Setting: (2/5) The setting was just a mash-up of a bunch of overused demon concepts in manga. I know this is a parody, but I wish the manga was more original.

Artwork: (2.5/5) The artwork is OK, but although I like Staz's design (and his family), I really don't like everybody else's. They're possibly the most horrible designs I've ever seen. 

Other Comments: This volume is actually an omnibus (2 volumes in 1 of the Japanese edition). It's 360 pages long.

Overall: (14/25) The side characters were obnoxious and I hated the female lead. She seems to be there purely for fan service. I also didn't like how unoriginal the manga was and I've never liked parodies in general. I did like the main character though and the story was a fun read. It especially got interesting near the end. I'll probably be continuing with this series. 

March 3, 2014

February 2014 Haul

I'm currently reading these two. Ignite Me was my most-anticipated title of 2014, so I'm nervous about how this series will end.
I read Cress and really enjoyed it! It was as good as Scarlet, if not better. My review will be posted next week.
I'll probably be starting this series after I finish the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce.
I've been meaning to read this for such a long time. Now that I finally have a copy, I'll be picking it up soon.
Now that I have these two and Abhorsen (the last book in this trilogy), I can read this series in a row! I've been looking for an older fantasy series to read and this sounds really good.
This is a book of silly rhymes for children. It's very cute and Winnie-the-Pooh makes his first appearance in this book.
I really loved the cartoon series growing up as a kid and I'm excited to read the book which the TV series was based off:

This series sounds pretty interesting, curious to see how it turns out.

  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Jeff Dolven (Editor), and Kevin Stanton (Illustrator) (Thanks to Sterling Publishing)
I adore this edition of Hamlet! It has a bunch of hand-cut paper art, which I absolutely love:

I'm really excited to start this. Everyone seems to love it and I've been meaning to read more contemporary. It's also set in 1986 which is neat and I guess doesn't make it exactly a contemporary.
  • Stormbringer by Shannon Delany (Thanks to St. Martin's Griffin)
I haven't read the first book, Weather Witch, yet. If you've read Weather Witch, what did you think?
I've already read Strange Sweet Song and really enjoyed it. I loved the idea of music in this book, which the whole book was about. Review will be up closer to the release date.
This is a collection of short stories by Kaoru Mori. I've yet to read it but I'll be picking it up soon.
This is probably the best art I've seen in manga to date. This manga series has gorgeous and extremely detailed artwork. Combined with the Turkic culture and heartwarming slice of life story, this is a manga series I highly recommend to everyone. I've already reviewed all four volumes. You can read my review of the first volume here.

I've already read Blood Lad, it was a very fun read. My review will up tomorrow.
I'm curious to see what will happen next after the events of the first volume (my review).
This is the last volume in the Soulless manga series. Excited to see how it ends.
Not sure what this one will be like. The art is pretty bad, but hopefully the plot will be good.
The latest volume in the Pandora Hearts manga series. I'll be starting this series soon.

  • Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen (Thanks to Strange Chemistry and NetGalley)
The only fantasy Strange Chemistry title I've read so far was The Assassin's Curse (my review) and its sequel. I really loved that duology and I'm curious to see how Strange Chemistry's second fantasy will turn out. 

Jim Corbett is a hunter turned conservationist. This is his first and most well known book where he tells his stories about his experiences hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. I already read the first story and really enjoyed it. It was a different read for me and Jim Corbett details his experiences very well. They end up being very much like stories. You can get a copy free on Goodreads here.