A Silent Voice Series Review

asilentvoice1Title: A Silent Voice
Series: 7 Volumes Total
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Manga – Young Adult – Contemporary
Format: Purchased paperbacks

LEARNING TO LISTEN

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

This will be a series review, so I will be covering all seven volumes of this series. There may be spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free.

This manga series is, in a word, stunning. I love the art and the characters and the story, and I’m so glad that it was so critically acclaimed in Japan because of the heavy subjects that it undertakes and how it’s executed in the story itself.

The story itself is about a boy named Shoya who always wants to have fun and never be bored. He often takes dangerous risks with his friends (such as jumping off bridges into shallow-ish water) in order to find those moments of fun and adventure. When his friends decide to cool it with all of the dangerous stunts, that’s when Shoko, a deaf girl, is transferred to his class and he thinks of her as kind of like a boss he has to beat in a video game.

Of course, that doesn’t exactly turn out well in his favor. He bullies Shoko without realizing he was being a bully by yelling at her, ripping out her hearing aids, and just causing chaos for Shoko. His other friends join in and eventually she has to transfer again.

That’s also when Shoya’s friends turn against him and he pretty much becomes a loner for the next six years.

I love how the story uses X’s over people’s faces because we’re seeing everything through Shoya’s point of view, and he doesn’t think about or care about anyone. Only when someone does something nice to him does that X fly off of their face and he sees who they are and becomes friends with them. I thought that that concept was demonstrated really well and that it was very important to the story itself.

When Shoya runs into Shoko six years later in high school, he returns the notebook she used to communicate with the other students to her and, to her surprise, he also learned sign language so he could communicate with her.

He tries very hard to redeem himself and make up with her and show her that he’s extremely sorry for the way he was as a kid, and though I thought this was sweet I oftentimes found that it became overbearing the way he was going about it. I did see immense growth in him, though, and I was glad to see that he was also affecting others around him in a positive way.

Shoko was a very defining character as well not only because she was deaf, but because she always tried to be kind to everyone and not let things get to her – at least on the surface. There are a couple of darker moments with her that made me want to reach out and comfort her. I thought that she was a very generous and warm character and I’m so glad to see some sort of deaf representation in manga (which I’ve never seen before).

There were also characters who were fat, or had a very ugly personality, or who was once bullied, or who tries her best in everything. Even Shoko’s younger sister is “different” in that she takes pictures of dead animals and dresses like a boy. I loved that there were so many varied personalities, body sizes, and disabilities shown in this series.

The plot, overall, was one that gripped me and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was cute in many places, and there were a few times where I felt some things were unnecessary or were just too extreme, but the main story was very gripping and I loved it to bits.

If you’re looking for a diverse manga set in Japan, then I highly, highly recommend A Silent Voice.

Each volume has it’s own rating, but for my series rating I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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The Sun is Also a Star Book Review

thesunisalsoastarTitle: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 344
Format: Received in November 2016 Uppercase Box

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

This book was both parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and I don’t know which one I’m feeling more of right now.

I thought that this book was very well written and that the sentences were strung together beautifully. I felt like the characters were real, that their problems, their universe, was real and that I was there with them experiencing everything that they were the whole time. They felt alive and so different but so connected, and I loved that. Plus there were situations that were going on in not just their lives, but in multiple people around them, and each felt real and genuine.

I felt that the plot was fluid and that it went from one scene and thought to the next smoothly, and I loved how there were chapters in between with different characters and also just fun chapters on things like love, eyes, the universe, and stuff like that. I could tell that Nicola Yoon did a lot of research because even I could remember these facts I had read on some of the more scientific parts of the story that were true. It felt like I could connect not only to the characters, but to the whole story in general, which was a very exciting feeling.

Natasha and Daniel’s chemistry together was one that melted my heart. I was afraid because of the insta-love feel of the story in the beginning, but it felt natural the way the circumstances occurred. Of course, I don’t know if this would actually happen in real life (maybe it has?), but I felt the plausibility of the situation and highly enjoyed it.

I found it interesting how Natasha always looked to the facts of things and didn’t believe in things like true love, destiny, and other concepts. I actually found it kind of refreshing, in way, because oftentimes the main characters are dreamers (like Daniel) and I think that because she relied so much on facts and data was actually very cool. Though I was glad she was warming up to the idea of those concepts as the day went by. I thought that she handled herself well in many situations, and I loved how she tried so hard to hide her expressions and emotions, but they slowly came out with Daniel.

And Daniel? Oh my God, he’s freakin’ hilarious! I found myself laughing out loud a lot while I was reading his point of view. He has a lot of jokes and a way with words, so no wonder he wants to be a poet. But otherwise I was glad to see him like his culture but still want to go for his own dreams. His family, though, made me very sad, much like Natasha’s, but in a different way. I understand family and culture and all of that, but still, I wish he could’ve had a better conversation with his father about what he wanted to do.

Overall I found this book to be very well done. The character I was most frustrated with was Natasha’s father because wow, how could someone regret having a family like that? I don’t know how to explain it cohesively, just the way he regretted meeting his wife and having his children irked me. And I’m obviously not one to endorse cheating, though I did kind of root for the lawyer and his secretary? It’s weird.

I found the struggle of deportation to be real, the need and want to be seen and heard and loved to be real, and I loved reading from the perspectives of a Jamaican young woman and a Korean young man.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Water’s Wrath Book Review

waterswrathTitle: Water’s Wrath
Series: Air Awakens #4
Author: Elise Kova
Publisher: Silver Wing Press
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 350
Format: Purchased eBook

Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.

The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.

As this is a sequel, there will most likely be spoilers.

Okay, I’m not going to lie: I can’t remember the beginning of the book. In my defense, I started reading this back in April and I just finished now in December, so… Yeah. I mean, I remember bits and pieces, but not everything.

Anyway, from what I do remember, I was very impressed with Vhalla’s character without Aldrick always by her side. We got to see how strong she was without him and how far she’s come since she was the shy library apprentice a year ago. She definitely showed that she is strong in mind and magic without him, but despite that there was still that aching longing for Aldrik that never went away (for either of them for the other). She showed that she had a lot of knowledge and she didn’t have to rely on her magic all the time, or Aldrik all the time, to make decisions and get things done. I think that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about her in this book.

Aldrik was a very distant character in this book in the beginning, but as the book continued and more went down (so many feels, omg), he became much more open and more raw with Vhalla than we’ve seen him, which was unusual for him. I did, however, think that that vulnerability was healthy to see. Although I do think that his emotions often clouded his judgement in some instances, he was still the Fire Lord we’ve come to know.

We got more of Fritz and Jax in this novel and oh man, Jax just makes me smile. He’s so full of himself and so charming that it’s funny, and I love how Fritz reacts when they’re around his sisters and Jax keeps flirting with them. Too good. I liked that there was humor sprinkled in because there was a lot of sadness and hard times going on that it was nice to have that bit of humor. I also think that the friendship between Fritz and Vhalla really shone in this book and I was really thankful that Vhalla had such a close friend.

So there were several major plot points that happened in this book that CRUSHED ME. I won’t mention either because of major spoilers, but just know that I am 1) heartbroken that both happened, and 2) and I’m being hopeful that things will happen in the last book that will remedy at least one of them. P.S. One of said major plot points did actually have me shedding actual tears and Ican’tevenwhydidithappen.

Also, I knew that Victor couldn’t be trusted but DAMN. I wasn’t expecting him to go to such an extreme and to learn more about his past a little with Aldrik and just… wow. So much happened toward the end that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

This book hasn’t been my favorite of the series and I think it’s because of the feeling I get when Vhalla didn’t really… react to the major plot points. I mean, she did with one really well, but the other? Not so much. And then there were just a few things I found very convenient and just… I don’t know, I’m having a hard time placing my finger on it. But I did enjoy the book, don’t get me wrong. I just think the focus was kind of all over the place and not super centralized.

Overall, I did enjoy the book (what I remember of it, haha…ha…), and I’m anticipating the last book. I can’t wait to see how it’s all wrapped up and how the conclusion unfurls in this beautiful fantasy series.

I rated this book 4/5 stars.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone Book Review

hpsorcererTitle: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Series: Harry Potter #1
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: June 26, 1997 (illustrated edition published October 6, 2015)
Genre: Children’s/Young Adult – Urban Fantasy
Pages: 256
Format: Purchased Hardcover

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley–a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry–and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

The beloved first book of the Harry Potter series, now lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay.

Yup, I’m doing reviews of these books. Why? I’ve never read the series all the way through before. GASP. I KNOW. It’s so weird, right? I was always the kind of person to never get into the hype of things and I just didn’t know about them, really, when I was younger. I’ve seen all the movies, though, and I love them to bits (they’re some of my most watched movies as I watch them any time they’re on TV), but as for the books I’ve only read the first three and part of the fourth. And I didn’t even start reading them until I turned 20! So I decided I’m going to challenge myself this month and read all seven books by the new year. That’s right! Rayna’s reading Harry Potter!

If you want to follow along with me as I read, you check out my Twitter where I’m using #RaynaReadsHP to talk about my thoughts, but I’m also doing an Instagram story with my reactions, too, so check out both! Now that I’ve said that, onto the review!


As I’ve read this book before, this is a reread, and I think I enjoyed it more than the first time! This world is so magical and the characters are so fun. This book is definitely light hearted compared to the later ones, I’m sure, but it still had its creepy moments (Filch is creepy AF) and it’s harrowing moments (like, why do people want to kill an 11 year old child?), but overall it was extremely enjoyable and I found myself smiling a lot as I read it.

The plot is centered around a boy who’s treated horribly by his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin when he’s left on their doorstep as a baby by some wizards and witches after his parents have died. He’s often left with nothing or hand me downs and left overs. I was shocked to really think about it and see how abusive this dynamic is, and it made me just mad at the Dursleys for how they treated Harry just because he was “different” and wasn’t their own child. As Harry grows up and strange things happen around him, and he gets his letter, he’s thrust into the wizarding world where life is much better for him – even though Lord Voldemort is still looking for him.

I thought that even though Harry’s life does get better and he’s thrust into this world, he was oddly calm about it when Hagrid had bust into that shack on the sea to tell him all about it. Like… I was in disbelief that Harry wasn’t in more disbelief or asking questions. I mean, I get he was eleven and everything, but I’d be a little confused if magic was never really introduced to me before. But I also guess that the weird things that happened around him were enough to convince him? I don’t know, I just thought that was funny. Harry as a character, though, was very brave and intuitive for his age. He was always ready and willing to do what was needed to save others or himself or just take on what was next. I liked him, for sure, and am interested to see what happened next with him.

I thought that the friendship that formed between Ron and Harry was in a manner in which a lot of friendships formed at that age: with food. It felt like it just sprang forth and was introduced to us and I think that it felt kind of genuine because do YOU remember how you formed friendships back then? I don’t but I know it was much easier and different than now. I thought that the two were fun together and that I really just enjoyed the Weasleys overall. They’re a fun family, really funny, and I need more of all of them. Ron, himself, was kind of sullen? I mean, I get he’s the youngest boy in the family, so he had a lot of pressure put on him. Maybe that’s why? But I found his character to be likable, for sure.

Hermione was treated poorly at the beginning, and I mean, I guess I understand why if she was acting like a know-it-all, but I thought Harry and Ron were just kind of mean to her until she stood up for them and lied to the professors after taking on the troll. And then that friendship formed and everything was fine (even if Ron and Hermione still fought), but I also found it to be believable. I loved that she was kind of like the conscience of the group and the voice of reason, even if she was ignored sometimes.

Neville is a precious cinnamon roll and I just want to squeeze him! He had so many unfortunate things happen and I didn’t remember how much of a role he played in this book! In the movies it was always the Golden Trio, but nope! Neville had a lot to do with the story, and I loved that.

I didn’t realize how awful Malfoy was in terms of his views of others. Like, wow, calm down there. I was glad to see Neville and Ron stick up for themselves as well as Harry during one of the Quidditch matches, though, and I thought that even though Malfoy was pompous, I found myself interested in how his character arc will form in later books.

Hagrid was so awesome! I thought that he made himself to be kind of like a father figure to Harry throughout the book, like he wanted to help him and protect and stuff. I don’t know, I just thought that the way Hagrid talked to Harry and was around to help was so great.

Dumbledore, McGonnagal, Snape, Filch, Quirrel, and others weren’t as present as I had hoped or remembered? Maybe I was projecting the movie onto the book, but I really want to see more of Dumbledore, McGonnagal, Snape… I want to learn so much more about them! I know it’s only the first book and they’re obviously going to be in the later books, too, but I just want more now!

I thought that some of the circumstances that happened in the book were kind of convenient in some ways, like things happened easily or some things weren’t fleshed out enough. That was probably my biggest gripe: I wished so much more had been fleshed out. Like, I seriously wanted to see more than what there was. I know that it’s only the first book (and therefore the smallest) and a lot more things will be revealed and stuff in the later books, but dammit, I want more!

ANYWAY, I really enjoyed this first book! There were just a few things that bugged me in very small ways, but it was overall enjoyable and I really liked the voice, the characters, the plot, and more.

As for the illustrated edition: omg the illustrations were beautiful! I loved how it added to the story and that we got to see the illustrator’s take on the characters and the world. They were all very beautiful and I think I enjoyed the book more because of it.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Scarlet Book Review

scarletTitle: Scarlet
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction, Retellings
Pages: 452
Format: Purchased Paperback

Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers.

Guys. This sequel. I was so enthralled with reading it, needing to turn the page to know what happened next, that I read it in under 12 hours. That’s right: I read it in one sitting. ME. A SLOW READER. HOW. I don’t know. But anyway, that’s not the point of this review. The point of this review is to inform you: I enjoyed this more than Cinder.

When I read the first book of the saga last year I didn’t get the hype. I don’t know what it was, but I ended up putting off this sequel for a long time as a result. And now I regret not picking it up sooner because this sequel was one that drew me in, kept me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh, go “WHAT THE HELL,” and so much more.

I knew that the fairytale retelling element in this book was all about Little Red Riding Hood. I wasn’t sure how the elements of the story were going to be incorporated into this world, but I think Marissa Meyer did a really great job of showing the elements without outright saying what it was! Scarlet (other than her name) had a favorite red hoodie that her Grandmother had given her, and then there was Wolf who had a lot of surprises and secrets of his own. I also loved seeing Cinder in there (she grew on me in this book) and seeing her work at being a mechanic and use her sass and wits in many situations. She wasn’t perfect, which I appreciated. And THORNE. I LOVE HIM.

So let’s talk about some of the things that happened, yeah?

When the book started out with Scarlet in an alleyway delivering produce from her Granny’s farm – and the fact that her Grandmother had been missing – was an instant hook for me. Scarlet had a fierce love and loyalty to her grandmother that I thought was so unseen in many YA novels, so I highly appreciated it. Scarlet has a temper which she tries to control, but sometimes it slips through her fingers and she unleashes her anger on the inanimate things around her (or people, depending on the situation). I thought it was endearing. Scarlet’s resolve to find her grandmother was inspiring, honestly. Her fierce determination was a constant in this book, even when she faced betrayal and imprisonment.

Wolf was a mystery from the start. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something in me knew that something was going to happen for him to betray Scarlet. He wasn’t anything like the “Big Bad Wolf” that I was expecting – you know, strong, distant, cold, fearless. No, he was much more timid and wary, super cautious. But he was definitely strong, that’s for sure. When circumstances unfolded and it was revealed who and what he was, I was a) shocked, and b) in disbelief. There were so many questions running through my mind and I didn’t know how to place them.

Also, I’m forever shipping Scarlet and Wolf because they’re EFFING ADORABLE, OKAY?

Anywho, then we have Cinder who I don’t remember if I was impressed with or not in the last novel. But in this novel I felt much more attached to her, like what she was fighting for, what she was struggling with and what she wanted to do not only for herself, but for others, was purposeful and I wanted to see her achieve. I loved her sarcasm and wit, and I also liked the fact that she doesn’t have complete control over her powers, that they’re so underused that she doesn’t completely understand how to use them. And that she feels guilty when she does use them. I find that makes her realer than I was expecting. I also just love the mechanic aspect of hers because a) I love female mechanics in stories, and b) I find those scenes extremely fascinating given that she’s a cyborg and can use her own body to do so many things. It’s so cool!

And then we have Captain Carswell Thorne. I love him. That is all.

No, but seriously, he was so hilarious and charming, but he was also strong and smart in his own ways, even if he did act dumb a lot of the time. Does that make sense? Either way, I thought Thorne was kind of like the much needed comedy relief in this story? He had his uses, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of what came out of his mouth was really funny. I highly appreciated him and need more of him, thanks.

Kai was struggling so much in this novel and it makes me wonder what’s going to go down in the next two books now that he’s made a decision about something huge. I’m glad to see that he still cares about Cinder despite everything that happened and despite how much he tries to deny it, even to himself. I think that his role will become greater AND I have a theory about one of his advisors. Hmm.

I was surprised to see a chapter from Queen Levana’s point of view! It was interesting to see how observatory she is and how her mind works, even in that little snippet. I’m interested to see if we’ll see more from her point of view in the next books.

The plot of the book was centrally geared around Scarlet saving her grandmother and Cinder finding Scarlet’s mother for answers. It was fast paced and definitely upped the ante of the book. I thought that the plot of the book and the dangers within them were definitely heightened given that Cinder is now a fugitive, and that the story itself was well done. I did have some questions, though, at some points where I was like, “But why are you doing that?” that had me unsure of what I wanted to rate this. Also how things took place in only a matter of days and a few certain romantic things happened (which I’m totally fine with and was glad that even the characters acknowledged the short time span of things).

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!