Rummanah Aasi

  It's Monday and time for Manga Mondays! Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. We have finally reached the last volume of Boys Over Flowers, but there is an added bonus volume to the series which was fun to read.

Description: Boys over Flowers officially ended with volume 36, but Yoko Kamio, one of the most beloved shojo creators of all time, just couldn't stay away from her beloved characters! Jewelry Box contains two short stories that take place one year after the end of Boys over Flowers volume 36.

Review: Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box is a supplemental read for the manga series. This volume is solely created for fans of this story as it contains contains two short stories, both of which take place a few years after the end of the manga. In the first story Tsukasa is still overseas and Tsukushi misses him dearly. Despite their best attempts to stay in a long distance relationship, it is still hard. Rui has been coming over quite frequently, much to Tsukasa's dismay when he discovers this. Thankfully Rui is only there as a friend and knows that Tsukushi has no romantic feelings for him. As a surprise, we get to go on a trip and see Shizuka's wedding as Tsukushi and the F4 reunite. The second short story is entirely about Rui, a character that is still a bit mysterious and someone who I can't really figure out. In his short story he reflects over everything that has happened over the course of the series & wonders whether or not he can truly move on or if he is capable of loving again.  While this supplemental volume doesn't entirely give a lot of closure to the series, it was a pleasure to read and seeing the characters again.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and crude humor. Recommeneded for teens and up.

If you like this book try:  Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
 There are many books written about World War II, but I have not encountered many books that feature the role of animals during this historical time period like Saving Zasha. If you know any readers who enjoy reading books about pets and don't mind the historical fiction setting, they might like this book.

Description: World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive.

Review: Saving Zasha is a sweet, quick read about a little known problem that I did not know about at all: the near extinction of any dog in European countries after World War II. As the main character, Mikhail and his familly learns that dogs were used along with soldiers and artillery in the way. The dogs were used and abused for many different purposes, including carrying bombs under tanks, carrying messages through enemy territory, and acting as guard dogs and killers. In addition, declining food resources meant that many animals starved just as humans were struggling to make ends meet. The other I had a hard understanding is that the dogs became a scapegoat and a symbol of prejudice against other nations mainly because they were bred in certain nations, mainly in Germany. 
  Zasha is a German shepherd found by a teenage boy in Russia not long after the war ended. Although he and his family take the dog in to care for her, they must also keep her a secret for the simply reason because her breed includes the word German. Too many hearts are unwilling to forgive or accept that not every aspect of the German culture was bad. I like how the author included chapters that lightened the mood by having the family grow attached to Zasha as well as suspense as the family almost getting caught because of their trespass.
  There is also a bit of a mystery in the secondary plot line as we are not sure whether Mikhail's father who was recruited by the army is alive. An author's historical note is found in the back of the book which gives a bit more details about the roles of dogs in the war and the race to start a new breed of dogs called the Black Russian Terrier.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of war violence though not graphically detailed. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow (a prequel novel about Zasha's background before meeting Mikhail and his family) Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice, Duke by Kirby Larson,
Rummanah Aasi
 I struck out with both Dark Metropolis and Dream Boy. Though they both had the potential to be great reads, they felt unfinished to me. Please note that these reviews are based on the advanced reader's copy I received from the book's publishers via Netgalley.

Description: Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.
  Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Review: Dark Metropolis is marketed as a magical thriller, however, it never succeeds to do both. The author has created an unique world of a pseudo magical Jazz Age that doesn't really come together. The books seems unorganized as we are shuffled between three teens who are trying to survive in this world without any smooth transitions between them. With her father missing and presumed dead and her mother becoming increasingly mentally unstable,  Thea Holder must find work that will support the two of them. The waitressing job she finds at the Telephone Club introduces her to a mysterious boy, Freddy, and the sinister underworld with which he seems to be involved. When her best friend and co-worker, Nan, vanishes, the situation becomes increasingly dire as Thea and Freddy discover that the city workers are literally dead men walking, kept alive through arcane magic. It was hard to follow this story along because I wasn't really sure where the story was going and really which character story line to follow. I didn't feel any emotional investment in these characters and as a result, I mostly skimmed this book to the end in hopes that it would redeem itself but it didn't. If you're looking for a dark urban fantasy for young adults, this isn't it.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and a few brief scenes of torture. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Tithe by Holly Black

Description: Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.
  One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

Review: Dream Boy has a really interesting premise for a paranormal romance, however due to the lack of world building and poor character development the story falls flat. After a bad breakup with a popular boy who never really got her and a rough divorce between her parents, Annabelle dreams as a means to escape. Reality and dream blur together, though, when Martin, the literal boy of her dreams shows up, live and in person, in her chemistry class. It appears as though she has conjured him from her subconscious, and he is drawn to her, reading her mind and seeking her out. At first, she is excited, because he is completely perfect and everything she would ever want in a boyfriend, but the story twists when she realizes she is not the only one who can dream up people and things. The relationship between Annabelle and her dream boy are instantaneous and occupy the first, slow half of the book. Things pick up in the second half of the book as Martin slowly opens up to talk about his world and how it functions; unfortunately, this story line doesn't get developed at all leaving us with lots of questions and plot twists that are suppose to surprise and shock us fall flat. With shelves full of paranormal romances available for young adults, Dream Boy doesn't stand out. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and few disturbing scenes. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Rummanah Aasi
 Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. We have finally reached the last volume of Boys Over Flowers. Though I had mixed feelings while reading this series, I ultimately enjoyed it.

Description: The final volume of Boys over Flowers has Tsukushi facing a very uncertain future. Forces seem to conspire against her as she races to make it in time for her high school prom. Characters from her past make cameos as she reflects on her tumultuous time at Eitoku Academy. Will she decide to join Tsukasa in New York or will she stay in Japan and finish school?!

Review: I was a bit surprised on how the author ended this manga series. Though a wedding is normally how a romance story ends like Boys Over Flowers end, we are given a more realistic solution which stays true to the characters. I thought the ending was nice as it ended on a positive note, leaving hope for the future. I really enjoyed watching the character growth of Tsukasa especially since he was the character that had me worried from the start. He has morphed from a hot head bully to someone with more patience and self awareness. I would recommend picking up Boys over Flowers because of its characters and the story much more than its artwork.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and crude humor. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
 When I picked up Before I Met You by Lisa Jewel I was in the mood for a read that was similar to Jojo Moyes's writing style and it delivered. While this book won't garner literary awards, I was engrossed in this book and devoured it in a couple of days.

Description: Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks.
In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.
  As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness?

Review: Before I Met You is a story about two different women living in two different times whose lives converge in the most unexpected way. When she is a child, Betty first meets Arlette, her stylish and glamorous grandmother. Betty has always imagined her grandmother having wonderful adventures and wanted the same type of life for herself when she became an adult. When Arlette has a stroke and then develops Alzheimer's, Betty's parents can't cope and move out, but Betty stays, becoming Arlette's caregiver for several years. Upon Arlette's death, the will mentions a beneficiary none of the family have ever heard of, Clara Pickle, and Betty sets off to London on a search that will take her places she never imagined.
The story goes back and forth between Betty's own rites of passage of a young woman living in the city as well as her search for Arlette's story and Clara, and Arlette's coming of age story in the years from 1919 to 1921 in London. It was fascinating to see what the 1920s were like in London. Arlette's story line comes alive as Jewel sets the stage for London's fashion, music, parties, art, and love. From Liberty's to jazz clubs, parties with black jazz musicians, forbidden romance, sitting for portraits, living a life full of happiness to heartbreak and tragedy, Arlette's life is one that you won't forget. Arlette's story drew me in instantly as I wanted to figure out the mystery behind Clara. Betty's story line is also good and I like how the author made her self-discovery journey parallel that of her grandmother's. Though Betty' story can be a bit melodramatic and I wasn't always happy with the choices she made I do understand her desire to have an adventurous adulthood like her grandmother.  
 Jewell keeps the pace steady, the plot intriguing, and the characters highly relatable. Family dynamics, the search for love and personal meaning, and the simple yet evocative daily motions of each woman keep the pages turning. I was never confused with the switching of the time period and the story came together neatly in the end though I was still curious about how things went after Betty finds Clara. Though I favored Arlette's chapters more, I was still engaged in Betty's story. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction with a bit of romance and mystery.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, sexual situations, including a brief rape scene. Recommended for mature teen readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Not Without You by Harriet Evans
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