A Call to Action: Vote for Science Education!
To all my lovely readers! You may not know this but I work for a program at the University of Oregon called the Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence, or SPICE! We promote science education for children to keep them interested in the field.
As we all have experienced, or may be experiencing, middle school science classes can be boring or very favorable towards the male gender. What SPICE does is host a number of events in Track Town, USA to get kids and especially girls interested in science! We go out to schools to do science demos, and host an awesome summer camp every year.
SPICE is run by only a handful of staff and fueled by dedicated volunteers, but it's hard to expand. We are NOT funded by the University of Oregon. Our director tirelessly works for them while running the program. We receive our funds through grants and private donations, which aren't consistent resources.
We have decided to participate in the Project For Awesome, led by John Green and the Nerdfighters! We've made three videos, and one is a parody of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off! We need votes!
How can you help? Well, just follow the links below and vote! It only takes half a minute!
VOTE and SHARE HERE!
Coming Soon: Fushigi Yugi series by Yuu Watase!
Coming Soon: Chobits series by CLAMP
Wandering Son series by Shimura Takako
Start Date: May 25th, 2014
End Date: Jun 11th, 2014
PUBLICATION: July 5th, 2011- Jan 18th, 2014
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Graphic Novel
SYNOPSIS: *Note: This is a review for the first six volumes of the series*
The period of adolescence is full of confusion, growth, and discovery. Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are entering this time in their lives, along with their classmates of course. But both students share a secret that adds to the confusion of adolescence, and could damage their social life: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.
Discovering each others' secret, they befriend one another and try to navigate through elementary and junior high school while coping with their shamefully perceived identities. Along the way, they meet challenges- teasing by classmates, uniforms, romances, and overnight field trips- but find new allies in a wide range of people- quiet classmates, strangers, even famous models! As they bloom into adulthood, can Shu-kun and Yoshino-chan find the confidence to be true to themselves?
REVIEW: It was a strange fate that this series happened upon me. I was in the library, and ducked into a random aisle up on the adult fiction floor. I pretended to be browsing at the books, when this series caught my eye. I looked at the summary on the back and was curious when it mentioned the protagonists are transgendered. It is not common to find many fiction books with a transgendered protagonist, let alone not have the issue consume the entire plot.
This series had a lovely storyline that, while focusing on children, was meant as a more mature read. It kept the focus on the protagonists internal struggles, while not fixating on that point and without making it worth pity. The storyline had some dragging points, but not enough to be put down. It had realistic scenarios, maybe a little too coincidental to be strung as such, but they could very much occur, and showed how common situations had an effect on their identity.
I found some characters to be difficult to distinguish because of the art style, but the dialogue was never confusing. It also served to teach about honorifics in names. Slightly confusing as a Westerner, but through the guide, it made sense. I also appreciated the dynamics in clothing, more than just holiday wear and school uniforms.
All in all, an eye-opening read on transgender, while not being consumed by transgender. Quick and addictive read with clean paneling. I almost hate that its a still continuing series because of having to wait for the translations!
Special A Series by Maki Minami
Start Date: June 8th, 2014
End Date: June 18th, 2014
PUBLICATION: November 6th, 2007- November 2nd, 2010
GENRE: YA Graphic Novel, YA Comedy, YA Romance, YA Realistic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: *Please note that this is a review for the entire series, comprised of 17 books*
Hikari Hanazono is not your typical high school girl. While she comes from a modest background, she strives to do her best at anything and everything to top her rival. After losing an impromptu wrestling match as a child, Hikari made it her life's goal to beat Kei Takishima, a wealthy child who is destined to work for the family business, any way possible. She is so determined, she enrolled in the same elite private school as Kei, and worked her way to be number 2 out of not just her class, but the entire school, making her a part of an elite group of 7 called Special A. For Hikari, it's not enough, as Kei is sitting pretty as number 1.
With her friends, Akira, Megumi, Jun, Tadashi, and Ryu along for the ride, Special A follows the comedic adventures of the top 7 students at Hakusenkan High- as Kei is forced to work for the family business, as Jun learns to love, as Megumi finds her voice, as Ryu discovers the hidden face of love, as Tadashi opens up, and as Hikari continues to fight for number 1!
REVIEW: Unlike YA novels, I do not know my favorite type of manga yet. I mostly pick manga based on what series has the first volume on my library's shelves.... It can be a hit or miss, but this was a hit.
Similar to Veronica Roth, the series has a fast pace to it, constantly creating new drama and plot twists that never let the series grow boring. Some things you could see coming, but others not so much. Either way, I was not bored, and the book did not have any prolonged focus on romances, which can be boring for me. The story was also relatable: a student striving for success with friend drama, as well as personal dramas.
With most manga, I have issue of telling characters apart; just when I think it's Person A talking, its Person R, a close look-a-like to Person A, and even when I can tell the characters apart (barely), I still cannot remember the long, authentic Japanese names. None of these issues came up in the series. Consistently, the series would use the formal last name AND informal first, which helped me remember the name as Hikari Hanazono, not Ms. Hanazono or just Hikari... something. Also, the art was very well done, allowing me to tell character differences by expression and hairstyle.
This leads me to the art, which was glorious! Much detail was taken in to the backgrounds (as pointed out by Minami in her novels), and outfits. I also enjoyed the sporadic and roaming quarter pages of commentary. How she talks about a pseudo burglary at her place while the gang is in some sort of peril added a sense of nonchalance that fit the series. It's about the adventure these characters take, rather than following the emotion of the drama.
While this all sounds like a great series, a few elements ruined the series for me. First was the panel styling. Many of the panels were overlapping, which led to a choppy flow of reading. Incredibly distracting and confusing, which stole from enjoying the series. Second, the focus could have been turned more towards other characters in the series. It is titled Special A, but the story mainly focuses on Hikari and Kei. I personally would have liked to learn more about what happened to Ryu and his lover before the conclusion, or whether Akira and her old friend could get along. It had more chapters on Hikari and Kei than any one S.A. member. Lastly, I was not a fan of outside girls, interfering with Kei and Hikari. I am not saying I was protective of Kei and Hikari, but I found it rather obnoxious. It was framed like the S.A. were a special elite group, which they were, and everyone else, who wasn't rich at least, was an outsider to the group. It was like the author had to put the characters on a pedestal to make the series work, which wasn't necessary. It seemed almost like the group was discriminatory towards anyone not of wealth, and when I say discriminatory, i mean they behaved like elitists rather than hateful. Hikari was an exception from an early age, mind you.
All in all, Special A was a comedic read that was pleasurable and realistic. It had good momentum until the end, and was interesting to see how the schooling system works in Japan. I would give it more stars if not for the misleading paneling.
I will now conclude with my favorite quote from page 10 of volume 12:
"Ryu: YOU DON'T GET TO PICK! And why a mountain?!!
Tadashi: A MOUNTAIN WOULD BE ANY GUY'S DREAM!!
Ryu: Go eat a s'more.
Tadashi: That's amore.
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Start Date: May 26th, 2014
End Date: June 8th, 2014
PUBLICATION: October 22, 2013
GENRE: YA Dystopian, YA Romance, YA Action & Adventure
SYNOPSIS: *WARNING: Review and Synopsis contains spoilers of Insurgent. BEWARE*
The city of factions is no more: Jeanine Matthews is dead, the factions have been disbanded, and the factionless now control the city, led by Evelyn Johnson, Tobias's mother. The secret, guarded by Abnegation leaders and Jeanine, is out to all: A world exists outside the fences.
The city is now divided by those who want to believe in a factionless government, those who see the factions as the best way to live, and those who want to see what the truth is. A group called the Allegiant is formed, and Tris has a chance to see what the purpose of the city was and why the Divergent are important to a vague plan. Followed by her friends, Caleb and Tobias; they leave what they have known to find out what is beyond the perimeter, and save the city from a new dictator.
REVIEW: Because it has been so long since I've read Insurgent, I re-read Divergent and Insurgent. Reading them one after the other solved the lacking synopsis issue Insurgent has. It ends up flowing nicely into one another.
That being said, I ended up spoiling a major plot twist looking up some info on Tris's family lineage. However, the plot twist was so... twisty... it kind of helped in coping with it. I'll get to that later.
In re-reading the books, I've picked up on Roth's pattern; she writes in a way that does not allow for some calm moments. Every page turn comes with a new climactic problem that takes the focus, gets resolved, or somewhat resolved; and repeats. Its because of this action-packed style that the books are fast-paced and successful. I feel that she strays from this style to create more down time amongst the main characters, maybe to fully take in the new environment. Even so, Allegiant did not have the smooth flow that the previous books had.
Another change was that we hear half the book from Tobias's perspective, instead of just Tris's. Every chapter would switch between the two, which was confusing at the time, but useful. I do not know if it was as necessary to the storyline to do it, as it was annoying.
Now to the story: I felt like the characters in the story, in that the new environment was strange- strange enough that I was not a fan of taking the book in this direction. The series took a hard turn in that it was no longer about how the factions function in a government, but how they were a project in the genetics war. Call me stuck in my ways, but the series was enough with understanding the idea of a faction-based society in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. Adding this contrast made the book harder to visualize, but it did make me think of how foreign our ways could be to others.
Now the plot twist: killing Tris. As any fan would be, I was devastated by her offing. However, Roth managed to craft her end in such a way that all the ends were tied up and the series remained about her to the end. It was not abrupt, and respectful of her importance in the series. I also really appreciate how Roth depicted death- a string pulling her to sleep- and how Tris saw her mother again. Be brave!
After the death, Tobias was broken, as any boyfriend would be. His grief, however, was portrayed both well and poorly: It didn't linger on his grief, dragging it on and on, but it also didn't linger long on his grief. I don't just mean how the epilogue was a two-year jump forward, but the book just did not bring up the grief as much as typical YA Realistic books of this nature would.
All in all, Allegiant proved to be a useful way to tie up the loose ends: Tobias moves back to Chicago and they rebuild, now that the genetic discrimination is ending. It was my least favorite because of this change from the factions to a larger, more dystopian idea of discrimination that was more vague compared to the reader's knowledge of the faction system. I'm excited to see what series Roth will do next, if she can pull herself from the world of Divergent and its numerous prequels...
2014 Reading Goal Met!
My Readers! Rejoice!
Summer is here and I'm going to try to start reviewing. Lets see how this goes!
PS I've updated my Bio since I have grown!
Check the Blog!
I'll try to keep blogging regularly. Check it out above!