Six for Sunday #5

#SixforSunday is a weekly MEME hosted by A Little But a Lot, this week’s prompt is:

Favourite series

I don’t think it’s fair for a series to be called a favourite unless I’ve read it in its entirety, so on this list is only completed series, though I do have some uncompleted honourable mentions.

❥Six of Crows (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo
My husband claims duologues are not series, but I disagree. I’m a character driven reader and Leigh Bardugo is a master at crafting characters, so naturally I get along very well with this series. Nina and Inej are two of my all-time favourite characters, so of course this duology had to make this list. It also helps that the character interactions/relationship dynamics are some of my favourites and watching the crew get along (or not) is one of my favourite things to read about.

Soul Eaters (Cracked, Crushed, Crossed) by Eliza Crewe
Because Meda Melange. She’s the snarky, sarcastic Slytherin of my dreams and I love her. Also, this series is everything I could have ever wanted from a paranormal fantasy, it pokes fun at a lot of YA fantasy tropes, and it has one of the most brilliant best-friend pairings I’ve ever read about.

❥The Story Girl (The Story Girl, The Golden Road) by L.M. Montgomery
The Story Girl is a love letter to storytelling. There’s something about it that just gives the feeling that Montgomery was writing a story she loved and felt passionate about. The Story Girl is so special and so underrated and I think everything about it is beautiful

❥The Anne Series (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, The Blythes Are Quoted) by L.M. Montgomery
I can’t write a list of my favourite series and not include Anne. Anne is one of my most beloved characters in literature and I adore getting any amount of insight into her life. While the first three are definitely my favourites and best embody the fun and good-natured side of Anne, this series has a lot of amazing novels and I recommend it to everyone.

❥The Bartimaeus Sequence (The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, Ptolemy’s Gate, The Ring of Solomon) by Jonathan Stroud
I don’t understand why this series isn’t more beloved in the book community. Dare I say it, it’s like Harry Potter but better, like imagine Harry Potter but with Malfoy as the chosen one. Nathaniel, our protagonist grows up in a situation where he’s influenced by a lot of people with shady intentions and this greatly affects who he becomes as he gets older and I love it. I don’t always like him, but he and his story are so compelling. Also, Bartimaeus, his demon “familiar” is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about and the way this series comes together as a whole is just perfection.

❥Harry Potter (and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows) by J.K. Rowling
I maybe, slightly, bashed Harry Potter in the above paragraph, but it’s still a favourite. I have so much nostalgia attached to this series and I love its characters so much. Rowling is a master at writing characters, they pop off the page and I think they truly reflect real-life and how different and complex people can be. I’m always going to have love for this series.

Honorable mentions (incomplete series)

Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi
I started seriously rereading this series this month and I’m obsessed all over again. The attention to detail Kusanagi puts in her art, story, and characters is phenomenal. If you’re looking for some really slow paced but extremely rewarding character development, this series has it. It also helps that YotD features my favourite romance.

❥The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss is such a talented writer, and Kvothe is such a compelling character. I love his story, his love of music, his recklessness, the magic, the world building, everything.

What are some of your favourite series? I’d love to know! Happy reading! 💗

Manga Reviews: Sailor Moon Volume 1, 2, & 3

Reviews for each volume have spoilers for the preceding volumes.

Series: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Eternal Edition Volume 1
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
First published: 1992
Ongoing: no
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: December 15, 2018 (reread)

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon follows a young woman named Usagi who stumbles upon a talking cat named Luna. Through Luna, Usagi learns she is actually a Sailor Scout, a chosen guardian to the mysterious moon princess. She must find the other guardians and the princess and protect the princess.

I fully acknowledge that my high rating of the first volume stems a lot from nostalgia. Art in 90s manga has never been my favourite but there is something undeniably pretty about Takeuchi’s art style. It was also a pleasure meeting Usagi again and watching her befriend all the Sailor Scouts. I do wish this series had better character development though, and that it wasn’t so episodic in nature. Yes, there is an ultimate story arc, but for the most part each chapter follows the same formula of bad guy appears, girls transform, bad guy is defeated. As for the characters, while I feel like I know them I think I only feel that way because I’m already familiar with them. And while I’ll always root for Mamoru and Usagi, their relationship is severely lacking in any real substance. In regards to the conflict, the tactics the villains use to control and collect energy are a bit repetitive and easy. To be perfectly honest I’m not sure who the age demographic/target audience is for this manga, and without the nostalgia factor I don’t really see this appealing to many.

Series: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Eternal Edition Volume 2
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
First published: 1992
Ongoing: no
Rating: 3/5 stars
Date read: March 20, 2020 (reread)

Volume 2 picks up right where volume 1 left off. We finally get to meet our Moon Princess, Sailor V.

The story continues! Unfortunately the storytelling aspect of this series is its weakest element, and it relies too heavily on convenience to move the story forward. There was a plot twist revealed in this volume that was neither ground-breaking nor shocking and added to the story in no way whatsoever. Plot wise this unfolds more or less the way you would expect it to. On the plus side I like that we got more into the backstory of the Moon Princess, though I would have appreciated more depth when it came to her romance with the Earth Prince. Their romance plays a central role in the story, so I wanted more from it then just love at first sight. This volume also had the brainwashing trope, which is something I always dread when it comes to manga and anime. It’s just so overused and cheap. I am pleased that the story arc wrapped up well in the first two volumes though.

Series: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Eternal Edition Volume 3
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
First published: 1992
Ongoing: no
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Date read: May 23, 2020 (reread)

Volume 3 of Sailor Moon picks up right where Volume 2 left off, with a strange girl pointing a gun at Usagi’s head and demanding she fork over the Mystical Silver Crystal.

 If you didn’t enjoy Sailor Moon‘s first story arc I think you’ll like this one even less. Our villains this time around… I can’t think of any other way of putting it other than that they’re aliens. The focus on crop circles, new magic, time travel, and alien invasions, it was just a bit too much for me and had me feeling like I was watching a really bad episode of The X-Files. As for the characters, while I appreciated that each of the first few chapters chose a different Sailor Scout to focus on, I still don’t feel we got any real depth into their characters. Usagi was particularly annoying in this volume, especially her getting jealous over Chibi-Usa. Chibi-Usa was never a favourite character of mine, and I don’t feel she was improved with this reread. I really hope this arc wraps up in the next volume because it’s probably my least favourite.

If you’ve read Sailor Moon or plan to, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

Manga Reviews: Yona of the Dawn Volume 1, 2, & 3

Series: Yona of the Dawn
Volume 1
Author: Mizuho Kusanagi
First published: 2010
Ongoing: yes
Rating: 4.75/5 stars
Date read: May 14, 2020 (reread)

Yona lives her life as the spoiled princess of Kohka, hoping to one day marry her sweet and handsome cousin Su-won and being constantly annoyed by her bodyguard Hak. On Yona’s sixteenth birthday everything changes dramatically after she witnesses the murder of her father at the hands of her beloved Su-won. Hak and Yona flee the palace, and set off on a journey to find Yona’s destiny and the companions she needs to achieve it. 

It’s always so challenging rating and reviewing an ongoing manga based on only one of its volumes. We’re really just starting off the story here, so it’s tough to judge it. When we first meet our main character, Yona, she’s a total brat, and she’s especially dense and insensitive when it comes to a certain someone’s feelings somethings never change, though given the circumstances, her personality and attitude change throughout the volume. She and Hak have a really fantastic dynamic, she’s spoiled and can be a bit much at times, but he keeps her in check with his teasing. Naturally I’m rooting for Hak because I always love a character who puts the happiness of the ones they love above their own, and I respect that he acknowledges his own position. As for Yona’s crush on Su-won, while I do feel it comes from a good place, I’ve never take it too seriously because I’ve always thought of it as an innocent childhood fancy. 

In terms of the story, this volume really is just setting the stage for the series. We get a lot of flashbacks to Yona, Su-won, and Hak’s childhood, and these flashbacks create a solid foundation for the varying relationships between the trio. The flashbacks also make the “love triangle” more compelling, and drive home just how devastating Su-won’s betrayal really is. At this point the plot isn’t entirely clear as we have no idea where Yona wants to go from here. 

As for the art, to be completely honest, Kusanagi’s art didn’t sell me initially, but over time I’ve come to love it and I think she’s improved so much since this first volume. Her characters look a bit young in this first instalment, but they look more their ages as the series progresses. I also appreciate that all the faces of her characters are distinct, I’ve come across more than one manga where the artist will use similar faces for every character and if those characters were all bald or changed their hairstyles I’m convinced I would not be able to tell them apart but that really isn’t the case here. Her assistants are also amazing and the scenery in this manga should not be overlooked.

As for some random musings, I wish Hak hadn’t stopped wearing his headband because it was so adorable, I’m still hoping King Il’s reasoning for not wanting Su-won to be king is further explored later on, and I do have to wonder why no one thought to make sure Hak wouldn’t be an issue the night of the assassination. He’s easily the biggest threat in the palace. 

Series: Yona of the Dawn
Volume 2
Author: Mizuho Kusanagi
First published: 2010
Ongoing: yes
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: May 17, 2020 (reread)

Volume 2 of Yona of the Dawn picks up where volume 1 left off, with Hak and Yona seeking solace from the Wind Tribe.

From Volume 1 of the series, its not entirely clear just where this series is going, and while volume 2 still doesn’t answer that question, it does at the very least give Yona a direction to head in. Volume 2 really takes the time to allow Yona to get over her shock over the loss of both her father and Su-won. In this volume we also get to see Su-won move forward with his plan to be King, and what measures he takes in order to garner the support of all the tribes. I really appreciate that Yona of the Dawn is a multiple perspective story and that we get to see what Su-won is up to, though his motivations are still unclear. I also appreciated the time we spent with the Wind Tribe as it added more dimension to Kohka, and allowed us a glimpse into what Hak’s upbringing was like. There were also some really touching scenes in this volume with Mun-deok, he’s the last parental figure the trio has that I’m aware of at least, I mean I have no idea where Su-won’s mom is. With this volume we also get more insight into Hak and Yona’s characters. They’re both individuals who are quick to take responsibility for their actions or in this case Su-won’s actions and that’s a trait I find admirable in any hero/ine. Our sheltered princess also gets to see the result of violence for the first time, an event that I feel really encourages her to take action, and finally moves the story forward. So overall I enjoyed this volume and the world building and character depth it added to the story.

Series: Yona of the Dawn
Volume 3
Author: Mizuho Kusanagi
First published: 2010
Ongoing: yes
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: (reread)

In this instalment of Yona of the Dawn we follow Yona as she leaves the Wind Tribe in search of a priest who can guide her towards the path she is destined to take. 

Yona of the Dawn is always a pleasure to read. This series has some of the best art and Kusanagi’s attention to detail is impeccable. Kusanagi is not only a talented artist, but also a talented storyteller. I love the attention she gives to the main players of the story and really appreciated exploring both Yun and Gija’s backstories, this really helps bring to life their characters and offers insight into their personalities and motivations. My favourite part of any volume is of course Yona’s interactions with Hak, I can’t help it, they’re my OTP. I also liked the world building in this volume, we got a look at the backstory behind Kohka and I really enjoyed the mythos behind the kingdom. Obviously I’m really looking forward to rereading the next volume!

If you’ve read Yona of the Dawn or plan to, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

Book Review: Anna K

Title: Anna K
Author: Jenny Lee
Date Published: March 3, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: May 23, 2020 (reread)

Anna K is a modern young adult retelling of Anna Karenina, and follows the love story between Anna K and Alexia Vronsky, the relationship problems between Steven K and Lolly S, and the heartbreak between Dustin L and Kimmie S.

I first read Anna K just after its release, and I enjoyed it so much so that I felt compelled to pick up Anna Karenina. And then of course reading Anna Karenina made me want to pick up Anna K all over again, so here we are. I do think Anna K is more enjoyable if you’ve read the original source material, but that being said it’s absolutely not necessary. Anna K is a fantastic retelling, and viewed as a love story, was much more successful and compelling than its counterpart Anna Karenina. With Anna K we have all the passions and lust of Anna Karenina but told in a way that is much more believable. I also found that while Lee captured the essence of the original cast, her characters were much more dynamic and likeable than Tolstoy’s. As for plot comparisons, I love that the opening few chapters of Anna K really stayed true to the original story, and found the mirroring of the two scenes extremely clever. The changes Lee made plot wise made perfect sense to the setting of the novel and I enjoyed the liberties she took to narrow down the cast a bit and to modernize the story. I especially liked what Lee did with the ending of her retelling, and it’s an ending that I know will have me either near or in tears every time I read it. 

I know this book isn’t going to be for everyone. Anna K has a lot of unpopular elements: cheating, insta-love, and shallow, unlikeable characters, and yet it’s one of my favourite contemporaries. I think a large part of why I was able to overlook the cheating was because without it this really wouldn’t feel like an Anna Karenina retelling, and in Anna K it is so clear to me that Anna and Alexander are not right for each other, yet Anna is in a position where she has a lot of pressure to stay with him. While that doesn’t justify her cheating, it does make it a lot easier to stomach. I also didn’t even think about the fact that this had insta-love until my second read through. The characters falling in love or developing crushes just feels so natural that I didn’t even notice just how quickly these feelings were developing. As for the characters being unlikeable, initially they come across as pretty shallow and selfish, but over time you realize there’s more to each character than meets the eye.

As for the writing, Jenny Lee is a fantastic writer and her style was well suited to the story (I’d love to see her write something else and see how her writing adapts to a different setting). The writing is reminiscent of a tabloid magazine, but I mean that in the best way possible, it really draws you in and it’s easy to digest. My only major complaint is that I wish the main characters had been aged up, and that this was new adult instead of young adult. I don’t know what goes on in the lives of extremely wealthy teenagers, but it would have made the story more believable for me had they been university students instead of high schoolers.

Have you read Anna K? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

WWW Wednesday #7

WWW Wednesday is a weekly MEME hosted by Taking on a World of Words answering the following questions:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This is my current audiobook, it’s super interesting to learn about what sort of conditions and settings are necessary for success.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (reread)
Still reading this one, for whatever reason I feel like my days have been very full so I haven’t made as much time for this reread as I would have liked.

Yona of the Dawn Volume 11 by Mizuho Kusanagi (reread)
When I first started my reread of Yona of the Dawn this was one of the volumes I looked forward to getting to the most, and it is not disappointing.

Recently Finished

Sailor Moon Eternal Edition 3 by Naoko Takeuchi (reread)
This was my least favourite volume so far! It just read like a bad episode of The X-Files.

Anna K by Jenny Lee (reread)
I have a feeling Anna K is going to be one of those books that I love more and more with each reread. Plus I’m super thrilled this is getting a sequel! I’ll definitely be rereading this again just before it’s released!

Yona of the Dawn Volume 10 by Mizuho Kusanagi (reread)
I was really surprised that I loved a volume that focused on Tae-jun, he starts off as a pretty despicable character, but after this volume he really grew on me.

Reading Next

Sailor Moon Eternal Edition 4 by Naoko Takeuchi (reread)
I seem to have trouble motivating myself to continue with this series, but what’s keeping me going is knowing I’ll eventually get to the Sailor Stars arc.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I’m going to pick this up as soon as I’m done my reread of Spinning Silver. I’ve tried my best to avoid reading any reviews, but it’s been difficult because it’s getting a lot of buzz!

The One by John Marrs
This’ll be my next audiobook once I’m done with Outliers. Apparently it’s full-cast so I’m looking forward to it!

What are you currently reading? What have you just finished reading? What are you planning to read next? I’d love to hear it! As well as any of your thoughts on the books above. Happy reading! 💗

Top 5 Tuesday #4

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly MEME hosted by Bionic Book Worm, this week’s prompt is:

Top 5 Summer Reads

Because we’re still in Asian Heritage Month, I decided to keep my picks to Asian authors.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians is like a more culturally diverse Gossip Girl. It’s a story full of drama about a woman named Rachel who is going to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family for the first time. She is surprised to find out he is insanely wealthy and considered one of Singapore’s most eligible bachelors. I don’t know about you but I love reading contemporaries during the summer. I first read Crazy Rich Asians two summers ago and have associated it with summer ever since!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient follows a woman named Stella who is very inexperienced when it comes to dating and relationships. She hires a male escort to show her the ropes. The Kiss Quotient is a super cute, sweet, and funny romance, just the type I like to read during the summer months.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rishi is a young adult contemporary romance novel following a young woman named Dimple during her last summer before college. Her parents send her off to a coding camp (something she is extremely excited about) with the ulterior motive of also trying to arrange a marriage for her to a young man named Rishi. What better book to read in the summer time than one that takes place during the summer?

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
I don’t just like easy going contemporaries and decided to include a few hard-hitting ones as well. The Science of Breakable Things is a middle grade novel about a girl named Natalie who’s mother is depressed, and who is learning just what that means. The Science of Breakable Things is super underrated! It’s a middle grade so it isn’t too heavy, yet the topic was really well handled.

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan
For my last hard-hitting contemporary pick I had to go with The Astonishing Colour of After. It is such a beautiful story. The Astonishing Colour of After follows a young woman named Leigh who’s mother recently committed suicide. Leigh also believes her mother has turned into a bird. Leigh visits Taiwan to reconnect with her mother’s family and culture.

What books are you excited to get to this summer? I’d love to know! Happy reading! 💗

Book Series Review: Soul Eaters

The synopses and reviews for books two and three contain mild spoilers to prior novels. For my overall thoughts on the series are at the bottom of this post.

Title: Cracked (Soul Eaters #1)
Author: Eliza Crewe
Date Published: November 5, 2013
Rating: 4.5/5
Date read: March 3, 2020 (reread)

Cracked follows a half-demon, half-human named Meda who believes she is the only one of her kind. One day, in the middle of one of her human meals, she runs into demons and demon hunters. Meda tricks the demon hunters into thinking she’s harmless in order to infiltrate their base and learn more about herself. 

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, the Soul Eaters series is everything I wanted the Shadow Hunter books to be. We have witty banter, kick butt characters, and interesting (not necessarily romantic) relationship dynamics. Meda is the unconventional hero of my dreams, she’s snarky, sarcastic, and knows how to get her way. She does a lot of terrible things and she doesn’t feel remorseful about it (most of the time). My favourite aspect of Cracked is the friend group that forms. These characters really have to work for their friendships and that makes them so much more believable.

Title: Crushed (Soul Eaters #2)
Date Published: August 5, 2014
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: April 20, 2020 (reread)

Crushed is the second novel in the Soul Eaters trilogy. Crushed picks up a few months after the events of Cracked as Meda is poorly adjusting to life with the Crusaders. Matters aren’t helped when a certain bad boy makes an appearance and a tempting offer Meda doesn’t want to pass up. 

I can’t deny that Crushed is a filler novel, in that we pretty much end things off where we start, but I personally have never been one to hate on filler novels. I find that they tend to offer the most character development/exploration and world building, two things I love, and two things I thought were very well done in this instalment. Because of the events taking place in the novel, Meda develops a lot as a character and becomes more sympathetic towards others (to an extent, don’t worry, she’s not a completely different character by the end of this). As for the world building, it was introduced in a very natural way and at a very natural point in the story, and I thought Crewe’s use of Armand to answer main questions was brilliant.

Emotionally, Crushed is equivalent to Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix or Spider Man 2 (2004) in that we have ANGST, ANGST, ANGST a situation that is wholly frustrating for the protagonist, and it seems no one is on their side. I’m personally a sucker for this type of story line, it really pulls on my emotions, so naturally I loved where the story went. I also think the situation Meda is in is very compelling. You can’t be mad at the Crusaders for not trusting her, but at the same time their attitude and actions towards her are both infuriating and questionable and make you sympathize for her. 

The highlight of this novel for me was Jo and Meda’s relationship, it’s why I have so much love for this series, well that and Meda’s charm, and sense of humour. How often do we come across a young adult novel where the bonds between two female friends are this important to the story? There is nothing easy about their relationship, its a constant uphill battle, and yet they love and are loyal to each other. 

Title: Crossed (Soul Eaters #3)
Date Published: August 13, 2015
Rating: 4.75/5 stars
Date read: April 28, 2020 (reread)

Crossed takes place not too long after Crushed, the Crusaders have lost their base and are moving around a lot. On the bright side, after the events of the last novel they’re also more willing to work with Meda. When the Crusaders propose a crazy plan to help them get an edge over the demons, Meda is less than willing to oblige.

So we’ve finally reached the end. Meda is just as snarky and embracing of her cowardliness and sense of self-preservation as ever. There were some pretty crazy plot points that I had completely forgotten about in this instalment that were a very pleasant surprise. I do have to say that the series gets a bit repetitive in the sense that the ultimate conflict in each novel involves infiltrating the demons’ base, but it makes sense given the premise. 

As usual, the highlight of the novel for me was the characters. I especially liked where the story went with Jo’s character, her development in this novel was fantastic and brought about some really great discussions on hatred and hope. I also liked that we saw more to Chi’s character and the character development and backstory we got on Armand made me sympathize towards him a lot more. It was weird that Meda was the sense of reason in this novel, but fair. And of course I loved how Jo and Meda’s relationship was the most important relationship in the novel. My biggest complaint about this series is that Meda and Jo aren’t canon.

Final thoughts: Speaking for the series as a whole, it’s solidified its position as one of my favourites. I can’t imagine myself disliking a story where the main character constantly struggles to do what’s morally correct versus what’s in their best interests. I’ve read from a few different characters where one of their internal struggles was not succumbing to their more terrible base desires and I think Meda is one of the best depictions of this type of character. It also helps that she’s incredibly charming in a sarcastic and snarky way. If you’re looking to pick up a series with one of the best main characters ever, then this is it!

Have you read Soul Eaters? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗