The Before Now and After Then by Paul Monn (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

22841551

Pages: 304
Genre: YA, Romance, LGBT, Coming of Age
Format: E-book
Published by Pen Name Publishing
This is an Advanced Reader’s Copy Received from Netgalley

Another Pen Name Publishing title, I happened to find it on Netgalley, and it had to be read. Once in awhile I sneak in a YA novel to lighten my reading mind. I’m not saying that all YA is light reading or simple, but this one just happened to be one of them. A cute coming of age, romance novel, that what’s this is, and it did quite well, but it wasn’t really for me. People who know me will probably roll their eyes, I am technically still a young adult, and next year I will be part of the New adult genre, which I never touched yet. But let’s get on with this. 

The Before Now and After Then is about a boy named Danny Goldstein, who loses his twin brother, Sam.  He is also gay and feels that he is nothing but a cardboard cutout, no personality, no own personal tastes, no self confidence. All he has done was hide behind his brother’s shadow and let’s life and his brother choose everything for him. After Sam dies in a car accident, he moves out of his home, into a new one and then attends a new high school. This starts off his new life journey, his mother and father are finally separated, he makes a new friend named Cher, and meets his first crush. 

High school, bullies, quirky friends, crushes, that’s all YA food. Everything that makes a YA novel is in this mix of a novel. However, there are little lessons tucked in between the sentences, making this a coming of age novel. Danny soons learns to somewhat move on his own. But he still, even till the end, doesn’t make much progress,despite that there’s the one character, Uncle Alex, who seems to hold him by the hand a bit and teach him a few life lessons, but not in a bedtime story way, in the smallest of ways, the type of way where the character learns later on. Uncle Alex is sort of the Atticus Finch, he tells you a little lesson, a little story of his life, in this case, being gay, a writer, and sort of lonely, and hopes that maybe Daniel will change his mind. 

That was what I like about this novel, it teaches you something, it doesn’t preach to the choir and yell at you, but it does what a contemporary YA novel is supposed to do. It tells you how it would feel in the other perspective and it holds your hand and tells you, “Hey, you gotta be you, ignore the asses, and don’t let a little something put you down.” That sounds a bit cheesy, but that’s how I feel about it. I’m not sure why, because I’m literally, maybe 4 or 5 years older than the characters in book, I can’t remember their exact ages, everything feels a bit, teeny bopper hit movie in the theater. The instalove, the 80s pop music, it felt like Perks of Being a Wallflower, except a hundred times less depressing, it doesn’t wallow in the darkness of being a teen. 

That was my problem with the book, it took me a few chapters, especially after the the instalove, that this book wasn’t really for me. There’s a lot of romance, teen romance, that is mixed with silly innocence and hormonal feelings. I can’t really explain why when it comes to teen romance, some writers pull it off and some writers do it like I am Number Four, which was a bad way to write the romance, it was a cheesefest. Then again, I never experienced romance yet, so maybe I’m just being immature. That was how I felt about the romance, it was instalove, quite typical of teens and people my age, Oh my god were so in love. That love tends to be sort of shallow and involves every movie romance performance that they had seen on TV. The parents of the story try to be the logical ones and sort of try to persuade the main character that maybe it isn’t true love. But like most YA novels, the main character doesn’t listen and the relationship does have this “Happily Ever After” at the end, after a few tangles. I guess that would be preferred, because lately, now most YA novels purposely have the saddest of endings so everyone can cry about it, and then more copies fly off the shelves as your friends cries about how it’s so amazing and it made them cry. Okay, what I just said sounds pretty terrible. It is somewhat true though. 

But it is great for the YA audience and I can understand all of the Goodreads and Twitter hype. The Before Now and After Then does what it was meant to do. It’s great for those who feel misunderstood and outcasted. The high school blues, they’re freaking terrible. 

Rating: 3/5

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Flight by Sherman Alexie

19024059

Pages: 181
Genre: Magical Realism? or Science Fiction? Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, YA, Coming of Age
Format: E-book
Published by Open Road Media
{By the way, if I don’t indicate that this book was borrowed or if it is an ARC, then that means I bought it. It was not free.}

The first Sherman Alexie novel I had read was during high school, my last year. It was The Absolutely True Diary of  a Part-Time Indian. It was one of the few books I have ever read by a Native American writer. I know there are more out there, maybe ones that are better and underrated. Sherman Alexie is probably one of the most mainstream, the most well known. Native American writers aren’t seen very often in bookstores or maybe I was just don’t see them. I’ve found more First Nations writers, than  Native American writers on the internet though.Which is an odd thing, because I’ve never read much Canadian literature. So anyway, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was the first one I read by him and ever since then, I’ve been wanting to read more by Sherman Alexie. Goodreads and Youtube has also suggested or exposed me to more writers like him. So Flight happened to be on sale and I snagged it. 

Flight is a novel about a kid who calls himself Zits. He lives a dysfunctional life, his mother is dead and his father has disappeared. He is a Native American and is forced to live in foster homes, that seem to further his misery and anger. After meeting a White kid who has a fascination for Native American culture and a sort of manipulative personality, but Zits inferiority complex and constant idolizing of White people has made his charisma and personality more powerful, Zits ends up taking on revenge, on his ruined life and childhood. With two guns, he shoots down a bank, gets shot in the head, and ends up time traveling into different bodies of people in the past.

That’s it for the whole plot, the narrator ends up dieing and his soul floats off in time and into different bodies. From the wars between Native Americans and White Colonists to White police officers to Native Americans and White Americans who have been betrayed and killed off by life’s rules that are never fair. This novel is a coming of age and doing all this time travel is sort of a way for Zits to understand himself and the people that surrounds him. It’s a literal interpretation of the saying “Stepping into another person’s shoes.” Flight seems to be the sort of the novel that teaches empathy, to understand and rationalize the feelings of hatred and prejudice, regret and melancholy. To understand that people need to forgive, but they cannot forget or it will repeat. Revenge only causes more unneeded blood shed, more illogical anger and it increases self-righteous ego. 

The writing style is quite beautiful, maybe even more poetic and heartfelt than The Absolutely True Dairy a of Part-Time Indian (I’m just gonna copy and paste this title in this post). It still contains that angsty teenage boy voice, but yet, despite the curses and the hormonal sex thoughts that are quite amusing, you can tell that the kid is quite intelligent, despite his claim that he isn’t. 

However, I feel somewhat confused about this novel, despite that I enjoyed. Some people say or I read somewhere, that Flight was sort of another version of one of his previous novels, Indian Killer, which is about a psychopathic man who is of Native American descent and I think he might also be half White like Zits, but I’m not sure, who skins and kills White men. I’ve never read it to be honest, but it might appear one day on this blog as soon as I take it out of the library.  But apparently Flight was supposed to be  a gentle, more friendly and forgiving version of Indian Killer. Although I’m not sure of this. So what am I trying to say here? When it comes to the racism in this book, there was another person on Goodreads who also points this out, the White characters are always portrayed in this glorified way, in a way where it feels like “He killed a person for being non-White, but who cares, he’s so beautiful and amazing! So innocent, it’s okay!” That sounds a bit exaggerated. But I can’t put it in the right words. I understand that the kid has a racial complex and he is half White, but something about those parts kind of rubbed me the wrong way. It’s as if he was excusing their violence. 

Despite that problem, this novel was rather enjoyable. It has everything that would make a great YA novel. Heartfelt, touching, and  trying to understand others in the oddest of angles. 

Rating: 4/5

Dead End Volume 1 by Shohei Manabe



Pages: 196
Genre: Graphic Novels (Manga), Shounen or Seinen? Action/Drama
Format: Paperback
Borrowed From Someone
Published by Tokyopop

Here’s some more manga, but this one isn’t an advanced reader’s copy, it’s actually sort of hard to find these days. I never heard of this guy at all, Shohei Manabe. I’ve never even heard of Dead End at all, so of course I would take interest in it.

So basically for the first volume, the main character, filled with ennui and loneliness, witnesses a girl falling from the sky. he takes her home and shelters her, eventually she befriends him, and he develops a crush on her. Along with his gang of bored, smoking, alcoholic friends, they notice that the girl is quite odd, her outlook on life,and her suspicious behaviors. Then one day he finds her missing after a mysterious  man murdered all of his friends and he finds that the girl has disappeared. Everything seems to be falling apart and he has to piece everything together, until  he wakes up to find that everything is normal and all of his friends don’t remember him. 

The story isn’t really the most unique, mysterious girl, memory loss, but the way it was pulled off made it quite a fun read. The characters are rude and nasty to each other, I love the dialogue, there are some very lively characters. Yet, there’s all of these beautifully written sentences, questioning the meaning of life and loneliness, the type of sentences that you find in a literary fiction novel. I wished that I could highlight  some of them, or somebody could post them on Goodreads.

At first the artwork sort of bothered me. I didn’t dislike it, but the facial features are so drastically different from most manga, that I actually ended up loving it. The characters aren’t beautiful and cutesy, they actually look somewhat realistic. The characters have these big, puffy lips,  actual noses instead of triangles or cones, and human sized eyes. Urban dirt, grime, and buildings, the artwork is so detailed and the pencil was loved, every little drop of ink was smeared and worked into this manga with care and good eye. But then, isn’t that the artist’s job?

 I look forward to the next few volumes. Dead End is a short series, only four volumes, and I recommend it to anyone who is into mystery, action, and paranormal or surreal manga. 

Rating: 5/5

The Bloodcurdling Blowout 2014 Giveaway

Hey there, guess what, you see this above? It’s a giveaway starting in late August.  I’m participating and promoting this Kindle giveaway. So in this competition giveaway thing, there is a Kindle, e-books, and gift cards. There are various authors who are participating in this giveaway, one of these authors is actually Weston Kincade, the author of A Life of Death, which I talked about last month, I believe. The rules and stuff is explained better in the original post, so if you’re confused, you will eventually be cleared. So if you’re interested, just click on the picture above. This is honestly my first time doing this, so I feel kind of weird typing this now. It’s starting sometime at the end of August I believe. 

Random Update of Stupid Crap

1. I changed the look of the blog, basic and white, that’s really nice right? I don’t know anything about blog coding and I’m not planning on messing it up.

2. I’m trying to catch up with my ARCs and my review copies, which is why there are no review requests.

3. I finished a writing project and well soon go through the process of editing, reading it over.

4. In two weeks, I will be going back to college, so when September comes, expect to see little blog posts.

Thanks for making this blog a blog everyone.

Kamen Volume 1 by Gunya Mihara (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)



Pages: 250
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel (Manga), Shonen?
Format: E-book (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)
Published by Gen Manga Entertainment Inc. 
This is an Advanced Readers Copy received From Netgalley

The last volume of manga I remember reading was probably Gantz, I never finished it, but it was indeed a fantastic journey of blood, guts, and, um, sweat too. I never read too many manga that focused on a sort of old Japan, with the samurai and the folk tales, and this one was one of those. I think the only thing that I have read, that was close to this, was a novel called Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi. They both share that same surreal type of story with a magical hero in an old, feudal Japan.

Kamen starts off with an unnamed man, waking up in an unknown land with a mask on his face. The mask talks, but he doesn’t, and it seems to lead him to his decisions, but so far, he always seems to do the opposite.  So that proves that the mask is more like Navi from Legend of Zelda? Except, if he removes it, he dies. Eventually he catches himself in between a war between two towns and he has no choice but to stay behind this mask, that seems to give him super strength, and slowly weave the answers to his existence. 

The pacing of the story was great, but the story isn’t much different from any other fantasy, shonen, but not in a bad way. For me it was refreshing, maybe even a bit nostalgic, reminding me of the manga 666 Satan, also known as O-Parts Hunter. So far, this hero isn’t particularly  flawed, like the 666 Satan one, but his mystery is his flaw, and he has no choice but to follow whatever is in his path, to discover what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. 

The artwork is great, but again, it’s no different from any other Shonen manga, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Kamen will be great for those who are fans of Shonen manga, fans of Naruto, 666 Satan (the creators of these two are actually twin brothers, hence the similarity), Moribito, and basically anyone who loves manga and graphic novels. 

Rating: 4/5

Zaya Volume 1 (Issues 1-3) by Jean-David Morvan and Huang-Jia Wei (Advanced Reader’s Copy)

ZayaZaya

I couldn’t find the image for the whole volume, I’m assuming the third issue image is. Since that’s what it looks like when I search for it.

EDIT: I MIXED UP CYBERPUNK WITH STEAMPUNK?
Pages: 216
Genre: Science Fiction, Graphic Novel, Cyberpunk?
Format: E-book (Advanced Reader’s Copy)
Published by Magnetic Press
This Advanced Reader’s Copy was received from Netgalley

Science fiction has been a genre that I have been quite picky with for awhile. I’m not too interested in aliens and space ships, but when it comes to graphic novels, I’m quite fond of it. Science fiction in the YA section has been saturated and it all comes out the same thing, the graphic novel section has been keeping its stand in the Sci-Fi genre. There might be some books out there that would debate this though, but I’m trying not to buy too many. I’m not that hard to impress though, if it’s something similar to 1984 or it involves some quirky characters, then it will hit me I guess. 

Zaya is a graphic novel of a science fiction world, cyberpunk to be more accurate, there doesn’t seem to be anything dystopian about it, everyone seems fine. The main character is a woman named Zaya, who was a former agent, trying to live a normal life again, with her kids and her works as an artist. Suddenly, she gets thrusted back into that job again, for a mission that seemed so simple at first, but soon gets thrown into a dilemma, from biomechanical threats destroying a colony, to fellow agents getting murdered, and eventually, after traveling through space for a bit, with an AI buddy, she decides to take a visit back at her home colony, to find that nobody remembers her. 

In the first few pages, I was actually quite confused with what was going on at first. There wasn’t much explanation, until maybe the second chapter. At first, I didn’t really enjoy the first chapter and the the first half of the second chapter, because the movement was so slow, passages with too many words and parts with little explanation. It improved later on, as you develop feelings for the characters, especially the main ones, then some crazy stuff happens and I don’t want to say. That would spoil everything. I didn’t understand what all those robots were all about. I didn’t know what all the chaos was coming from, until I read the synopsis. Maybe I’m reading too fast? This might be my own fault. 

The artwork is the best thing in this volume. It’s beautiful and detailed, delicate, yet rough enough to show off the edges. I will admit that the characters faces look sort of funny when half of their faces get blown off. I must be a sick person. Excellent imagery and scenes, the artwork is a real beauty, especially the characters themselves. 

I will look forward to future issues of the comic, I will admit that the story isn’t the most original or the most coherent. There is something that is telling me that the more the story stretches, it will be a pretty epic drama. So, cyberpunk fans, be on the lookout for this. 

Rating: 4/5