Review: Paradox by A J Paquette

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

   Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

   Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth.   They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?


Review:

I was excited to dive into Paradox by AJ Paquette for a number of reasons.  First, Paquette wrote one of my favorite reads from last year, the moving Nowhere Girl.  Second, it’s a science fiction novel, and there just aren’t enough of those to go around.  And third, the premise sounded fascinating.  Was it?  Yes and no.

Ana wakes up strapped to a chair in a rocket ship.  She has no memories or recollection of her past.  She doesn’t even know what she looks like.  She only knows her name because she has a name tag pinned to her jumpsuit.  She finds a note instructing her to Experience.  Discover. Survive.  Talk about a bare-bones mission statement!  At least she’s well supplied, with a massive backpack that seems to contain her every need.  Whoever packed it must have been a boy scout.

In rapid succession, she is attacked by a monstrous, dagger-toothed worm, discovers that she wasn’t the only one on the rocket, and learns she has a limited amount of time to accomplish her goal, whatever that is.  Ana’s lack of memories and knowledge of her past made for a tense, gripping read.  It also led to a great deal of frustration on my part when it’s revealed that her companions have retained all of their memories, and that they know exactly what’s going on.  While that was crucial for her mission parameters, it’s one of my least favorite tropes in YA fiction.  It’s almost as though the other characters think the protagonist is too stupid to be trusted with the knowledge needed to know what’s going on.  Instead, our intrepid little heroine stays alive through a mixture of luck and  sheer determination, marching towards the end of the book.  I felt the same way here, and maybe it’s because the other characters make no secret that they know what’s going on, and keep insisting that they’ll fess up the details at the end of their journey.  Should they ever arrive at that destination.

Along the way, they are attacked repeatedly by that scary worm thing.  It was stalking them.  I was hoping for a guest appearance by Tremors’ star, Kevin Bacon, which would have proven beyond a doubt that all steps truly do lead to Kevin.  Ana and company are also in a race against time.  Ana awakens wearing a timer that is counting down the hours until the end of their mission.  What happens when the timer reaches 00?  Nope, we don’t know that, either, but it must be pretty awful.

I found Paradox hard to put down.  It is a runaway freight train of adventure.  Danger! Danger! Will Robinson! It’s everywhere!  The writing is tense and in the moment.  At first the third person present tense narrative turned me off, but I quickly grew accustomed to it.  It kept me engaged in the story, running frantically with Ana and Todd as they navigated the strange, deadly world they found themselves on.  I wanted to know what the heck was going on, and how Ana was going to survive, given her massive deficiencies.  And the counter was always there, steadily ticking toward…what? Doom?  Rescue?  Dinner??

There is one caution I will give, and that is that Paradox reads more like a middle grade novel than YA.  Since I enjoy reading both, I wasn’t put off by the fact that I thought this book skewed to younger readers than I had expected.

Looking for a frenzied summer read?  Paradox flies along like a summer action flick, offering tons of adventure and excitement.  There’s running!  There’s mountain climbing!  There’s a scary jaunt through a dead forest!  And did I mention – killer worms?  Yeah, it’s got those, too.  So, my verdict for Paradox by AJ Paquette is just one word – FUN.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Rockstar Blog Tours

Interview with Cole Gibsen, Author of Senshi

Cole Gibsen is visiting the virtual offices today.  I loved Katana, so I’m delighted that she could drop by to answer a few questions about Senshi, the next book in the series.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Cole Gibsen] I’m a wannabe superhero who loves sewing, comic books, and Chinese food. My nail polish is always chipped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Senshi?

[Cole Gibsen] Senshi is the sequel to my debut novel and ohmigosh, did I have fun writing it. Not only does Rileigh accept the role as a warrior, but Quentin gets a chance to prove his worth, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Cole Gibsen] It was my love of martial arts and Bruce Lee movies that inspired me to write the first KATANA.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Rileigh?

[Cole Gibsen] Fearless, snarky, and stubborn. So I guess that would be fenarkorn. You know, I think we’re on to something here. I’m calling the people at Webster to get this recognized as a word!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Rileigh had a theme song, what would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I wrote the first book I had Rebirth by Skillet playing on loop. There couldn’t be a more perfect song for Rileigh.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Quentin won’t leave the house without.

[Cole Gibsen] His sunglasses. I always imagined him to be very much like me in that respect. My eyes are super sensitive to light so I have to wear my sunglasses at all times or else I have to do the squinty eye thing while I drive which is really no fun.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Kim’s pockets?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A pocketknife—really, why bother with anything less than a sword?

2. Gum—Rileigh makes him clench his jaw enough, no need to add to the strain.

3. Fast food receipt—As focused as Kim is with training, I don’t think he’d eat anything that wouldn’t keep him in optimum condition. Rileigh on the other hand…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Cole Gibsen] Stan Lee. Comic books were my life growing up. And I’m not ashamed to admit I still read them.  My goal when writing KATANA was to see if I could take a comic book concept and put it into book form.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A mug of hot tea.

2. My kitty thinks I need her on my lap.

3. NO INTERNET

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Cole Gibsen] Does comic book count? I just read Amazing Spiderman #700 and the ending, I won’t go into it because it’s a major spoiler alert, made me cry. When you invest so much time into a character, they become almost like family. So when they die, it makes an impact.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I was seventeen I found myself homeless and living out of my car. Back in those days there were no cell phones so my only source of entertainment were the books I checked out from the library that I read in my car with a flashlight. I remember the first book I ever read that really transported me to another world so viscerally was Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I’d loved how this poor girl who suffered and was abused terribly by her father, was able to rise above her past and become so much more than she’d ever dreamed. To this day, that book still haunts and inspires me. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Cole Gibsen] So many things! I like to sew and craft things out of felt. I also play the harmonica and sing in an eighties –themed rock band.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Cole Gibsen] My website: www.colegibsen.com

My twitter: www.twitter.com/colegibsen

My facebook: www.facebook.com/colegibsen

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Senshi from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below.

About the book:

Is Rileigh’s only hope for salvation to team up with her sworn enemy?

Rileigh Martin just wants to do normal teenage things, like go on romantic dates with Kim, her boyfriend and past life soul mate. Although that seems impossible when she’s the reincarnation of Senshi, a fifteenth century samurai warrior. After a ninja ambush leaves her unable to control her ki powers, Rileigh vows to get them under control before her friends lose more than their eyebrows. But when Kim leaves her for his past life betrothed and the other samurai stop talking to her, Rileigh realizes she doesn’t have any friends left to worry about.

As the ninja attacks increase, Rileigh learns that the reincarnated kunoichi, a powerful female ninja, wants to kill her in order to reclaim her destructive powers. Alone and with increasingly unstable powers, Rileigh’s only offer of help comes from Whitley, her sworn past life enemy. Rileigh knows she doesn’t stand a chance against the kunoichi by herself, but Whitley’s sudden allegiance might be hiding a much deadlier agenda.

Weekly Shonen Jump–January 28th Edition

This issue clocks in at 171 pages.

First up is Toriko Chapter 219- I guess there is nothing as intimidating as group of pissed off chefs.  As the Gourmet Corp launches a fearsome attack during the cooking competition, Toriko and his buddies counter with some powerful, yet ultimately useless attacks.  Oh, my!  Komatsu is in trouble!  I don’t think all the cooking skills in the world are going to help him save himself from the freaks attacking him.  It’s a good thing the other chefs seem more competent at defending themselves.  Plus they will probably get pissed if their carefully prepared dishes are ruined.  This series is still not one of my favorites, but at least there were lots of speed lines and attacks to keep me somewhat entertained.

One Piece – chapter 696 – Lots of eating and celebrating their escape from the island.  The rescued kids are going to go with the Navy, and Luffy has big plans! He’s going to crush all four emperors! Hopefully this wraps up all involvement of Caesar, because I thought he was obnoxious and I’m not going to miss him much.

Naruto – Chapter 617 – Naruto hands out chakra like it’s candy.  The ninjas get ready for an all out attack.  Naruto’s shoulder is dislocated!  But wait! Now it’s not!  Can Naruto’s buddies keep Neji’s death from being a tragic waste?  Maybe we’ll find out next issue!  Nah, probably not, but maybe the fighting will start again?

Nisekoi - Chapter 59 – Christmas chapter! Chitoge’s mom is coming home for the holiday!  She’s a terror, too.  Everyone is terrified of her, despite her less than imposing appearance.  When her secretary collapses, she quickly lassoes Raku in to handle the job until Christmas Eve.  Poor guy!  She wants to see what he’s made of, and I think his work experience with her won’t be pleasant.  I am curious to see just how bad Chitoge’s mom can be!  If he can stick it out, she’ll reward him with a stay for two in a penthouse suite at a deluxe hotel.  Can he make it that long?

One-Punch Man – Chapter 2 – Another short chapter, giving more background on Saitama.  He became One-Punch Man after taking on a crab dude, and then trained like a fiend, losing his hair (as well as his good looks) in the process.  I am a bit disappointed with the length of the chapters so far, and the lack of a story.  Maybe we’ll get a story next issue?

Bleach – Chapter 524 – Oh MY!  The battle between Unohana and Zaraki rocks!  That is all.

Cross Manage – Chapter 18 – Soccer team manager Chiumi drops by to watch the lacrosse teams’ second game, and she has a crush on Sakurai!  She’s studied up on lacrosse, and she’s all ready to wow him with her knowledge of the game and  the team.  She knows Sakurai has some problems communicating with girls, and she’s going to help him with that, and earn some brownie points at the same time.  This chapter was bogged down with lacrosse rules, and it didn’t hold my attention like previous chapters. 

Kintoki One-shot – Cute color splash page!  Though I enjoyed this one-shot, it’s more a throw away chapter than anything else.  Great art but not much substance.  It did get a few chuckles from me, and that’s saying a lot since I am sick as a dog today.

Oh, they will start running a colorized DBZ starting next issue!  And there will be new series announcements next week, too!

Weekly Shonen Jump–January 21st Issue

Last week I was dealing with a house full of sick people (including me!) so I didn’t get a chance to read the January 14 issue of WSJA until today, so I’m just going to skip a recap of it and jump right into the January 21 issue.  This is the first issue of the simulations release with the Japanese magazine, and the magazine has been renamed Weekly Shonen Jump.  Good-bye Alpha and good-bye waiting for an English translation! 

This week’s issue is 185 pages, and introduced One-Punch Man to the line-up.  I have also discovered, much to my chagrin, that my by beloved Kenshin will only appear monthly as it is actually published in Jump Square.  Boo hoo!  But let’s put that disappointment behind us, and dive into this week’s issue of WSJ!

Naruto Chapter 616 – Nice color spread this issue and a congratulatory message from creator Masashi Kishimoto for going simultaneous!  After getting a pep talk about not letting Neji’s death be in vain, Naruto gets a second wind (or probably 4th or 5th with as long as this battle has been going on).  His chakra recharges and he quickly shares his renewed energy with the other ninja.  Yay!  We also get brave, determined declarations that he will never give up trying to save his comrades, and that despite loss and heartbreak, ninja will endure!  Very motivating!  These last two chapters have been my favorite since I have been reading the magazine, and the plot is starting to make more sense.  All of these quick battle chapters can get confusing when you just get dumped into them, and they last for, what, over 2 months now?

One-Punch Man Chapter One – New series!  Uhhhh.  Short chapter.  Saitama is a hero for fun, and he’s looking for an opponent who he can’t beat in one punch.  Uhhh…  Not sure about this one.  I like the art, but I don’t like Saitama’s character design.  He looks like a dork with an egg for a head.  This chapter was so short that I don’t think it was a good intro to the series.  Maybe next week’s chapter will knock my socks off?

One Piece Chapter 695 – Finally!  Luffy and the gang has escaped from the lab!  They are out in the fresh air and they won’t be victims of the poison gas!  Buffalo and Baby 5 scoop up Caesar and try to make a break for it, but no-uh-uh!  Usopp isn’t having any of that!  This is a quick, fun chapter with lots of great art and great poses.  I was getting bored of the lab drama, so I am looking forward to their next adventure!

Nisekoi Chapter 58 – Miyamoto has lost her glasses!  Ichijo and Onodera help her look for them, and Ruri, frustrated that they like each other, but won’t confess their feelings, tries to get them together.  Since Ichijo is so dense, her efforts don’t pay off.  Not a very original chapter, but the expressive art and the clueless Ichijo made it a fun read.

Bleach Chapter 523 -  Very cool color page get things kicked off.  Ichigo and Renji get to play with Oh-Etsu Nimaiya, the creator of Zanpaku-to!  More accurately, he gets to play with them.  He throws them in the middle of a horde of angry Asauchi, which are the ultimate Zanpaku-tos that can become anything.  They are pissed at how Ichigo and Renji have been using their Zanpaku-tos.  Quick shift to  Yachiru and Zaraki, who are facing off in the Soul Society’s underground prison.  These guys are so serious!  Someone is going to get hurt!  And then – the chapter ends!  This is a great setup for next week, and has  me re-engaged in the story.  I love Ichigo, but I am intrigued by Yachiru and want to see her and Zaraki cross swords.  I am sure it will be an epic confrontation!

Cross Manage Chapter 17 – I love this one.  The team is playing their first match, and after a motivating (more accurately, embarrassing) pep talk from Sakurai, the girls have been given the confidence to play all out!  This is a feel good series, and I have enjoyed it every week.  I keep gushing about it, but I love sports manga and wish there were more series available for me to read.  When are we going to get more Crimson Hero? 

Toriko Chapter 218 – Gourmet Corp is invading!  Their giraffe birds and other weird creatures are out for blood!  Starjun tries to make a grab for Komatsu, but Toriko is there to save him!  While this hasn’t been my favorite manga, this week’s was pretty good, probably because I wasn’t inundated with a billion new chef’s and their specialties.  The constant character intros has been driving me nuts!  Wow, I might not cringe next week when I come to the next chapter.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Chapter 26 – I just don’t get this one.  It is boring and I can’t force myself to get interested in the plot.  I like the art and the character designs, but the story itself – yawn.  I don’t get the rules of the game, and so I find myself just skimming this one every week. 

And that’s it for this week!  Next week there’s a one-shot by Akira Toriyama!

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha–January 7th Edition

Let’s take a peek through the pages of this week’s WSJA!  I had a crazy busy week so I didn’t get a chance to read it until today!  This week’s issue clocks in at 153 pages, and once again, my favorite manga, Kenshin, is not included.  Boo hoo! Maybe next week?  There’s an announcement at the beginning of this issue that previous issues of the magazine will no longer expire.  Previously, WSJA was subject to a one year rental.  Now, your issues will never expire!

One Piece Ch 693 – Luffy and the gang are still in deadly danger!  They are still trying to escape the lab with the kids.  Baby 5 and Buffalo are performing weird morphosis to try to retrieve Caesar.  Just let him go!   I have only been reading WSJA for a few issues, and I am already sick of Caesar!  He is gloating with his weird wavy hair, delighted to have Smoker’s heart.  Shu ho ho!!!  Stop stealing page time and just go away!  If Luffy could take you out with one punch, you are unworthy of so many weekly panels!  But since Luffy was supposed to capture him, not punt him into next week’s issue, I fear that we will have to put up with his clowny face for several more chapters!  And, oh, yeah, Luffy, you had better run, because someone is planning on blowing up the lab and the island!!

Naruto Ch 614 – The battle has gotten grim!  Naruto and the ninja forces can’t catch a break! Ten Tails is obliterating the good guys!  Obito and Madara are sniping at each other, and it appears that Obito has the upper hand for the time being.  As Naruto’s allies fall all around him, he finally gets the “look’”!  That look that promises defeat to all of his enemies!  Just wait, Obito and Madara! You will soon be toast!!  Well, okay, probably not for another handful of chapters, but your downfall is now only a matter of time, because you have royally pissed on Naruto’s Wheaties!

Nisekoi Ch 56 – It’s that dreaded time in the lives of Japanese school kids – class grade point rankings have been revealed!  Tachibana has done terribly, and she recruits Raku to help her study.  Chitoge tags along, not happy with the thought of Raku and Marika having an all nighter together without supervision.  This chapter was a disappointment.  I feel like I have read it a hundred times before, and there was nothing new added to keep it from being stale.  Hoping for better next time.

Toriko Ch 26 – Phooey.  After sitting through the endless character intros for the cooking battle, the preliminaries are covered in just a page.  One page!  Instead of seeing how Komatsu rises to the challenge of his first cooking festival, we are told that he made it to the finals.  Ugh!

Cross Manage Ch 15 – The bet with Ryo wraps up, and Sakurai finally discovers Misora’s strong point!  Just in time, too, because the tournament starts in one week.  I love this series so far.  Clean, expressive art, fun characters, and plenty of sports angst!  I didn’t even mind the explanation of the tournament rankings and rules.  The tension is cranked up for the lacrosse team’s first game, which kicks off in the next chapter!  Yay!!

Bleach Ch 521 – Okay, so Ichigo and Renji eat in this chapter.  Yes, yes, they do.  They eat a lot.  They stuff their faces with tons of delicious, though weird looking, food, to prepare for their next phase of training!  So, yup, that’s about it for this one.  Sigh.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal  Ch 25 – This series, unfortunately, doesn’t interest me at all.  Reading about  kids playing a dueling card game just doesn’t do it for me.  Some of the illustrations are cool, but the whole concept bores me.  The rules make no sense, the stats don’t impress, and I usually flip through these pages as quickly as possible to reach the end of the chapter.  The numbers game as begun!  Kaito is dueling a numbers hunter brought by Kyoji, so he’s after both Kaito and Yuma!  Cards are destroyed!  There are lots of special effects!  We are on the last page!  Maybe it will make more sense next time around?

One more week until the simultaneous release with the Japanese version of WSJA!

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha December 31st Edition

So after last week’s epic 220+ page issue, this week’s weighs in at – 118 pages.  Kind of a let down for the New Year.  Anyway, let’s see what’s in this issue of Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha!

One Piece Chapter 692 – The fight between Luffy and Caesar Clown was a bit of a let down.  One punch and it was over.  Sigh.  All that build up, and one punch sends the guy flying into the stratosphere.  There’s plenty of commotion around the New World with the news of Caesar’s defeat, and Luffy and his gang are still trying to escape from the deadly poison gas, so I’m sure that they won’t get much rest, but still.  I wanted more.  Not a Naruto length fight, but a couple pages at least?  Hopefully the next set of villains will give Luffy a little more trouble.

Bleach Ch 520 – I had a little trouble following this chapter, due to my Bleach reading gap.  Shunsui Kyuraku has been appointed Captain General and  Squad One captain, and for his first task, he wants to teach Kenpachi Zaraki zanjutsu.  That doesn’t go over well, but Shunsui argues that with so many headed to Reiokyu, the Soul Society is practically defenseless.  To keep this somewhat spoiler free, he wants the “first” Kenpachi to teach him.  Argh!  I know that this must be an epic moment in the story, but because I haven’t been following it for – uh about a billion chapters, I have no idea the significance of this revelation.  The thought of jumping backward and trying to catch up is too daunting to consider.  And, oh, yeah, Ichigo didn’t rot, corrode, or combust in Tenjiro’s magic ponds, so he’s good to go for his next adventure! 

Naruto Ch 613 – Oh. My! The battle with Obito and Madara continues!  Ten Tails proves more problematic than the combined ninja force anticipated.  Things are looking grim!  Ten Tails is fighting back, and Naruto and his allies are helpless against the assault.  No! Injures are mounting, deaths are escalating, and the battle seems hopeless!  Just the way I like it!  How will the forces of good ever defeat the forces of evil?!  It might take another 10 chapters to find out, but I’m there all the way.

Toriko Ch 215 – This is the first chapter of Toriko that I found somewhat engaging.  I guess sparkling food always does the trick for me.  Brunch is spitting fire after a heated confrontation with Zebra, and he’s determined to beat Komatsu’s butt.  Komatsu’s hero worship takes some of the wind out of his sails, and when he sees how happy the remaining ingredients are and that Komatsu can hear their voices, he develops a new admiration of the runty little chef.  I still find the art bizarre, but Brunch’s sudden change of heart about Komatsu has me intrigued.  Will he just use the trusting little Komatsu to elevate his own position in the competition, or will they form a friendship that lasts beyond the cooking battle?  For a change, I ‘m invested enough in the story to look forward to next week’s chapter.

Nisekoi Ch 55 – The steal a kiss from Raku contest wrapped up in this chapter, and I hate to admit it, but it was pretty fun.  Tsugumi is unbelievably flustered at the thought of kissing Raku, and not just because he’s Chitoge’s boyfriend.  Paula is pulling out the stops to prove that she is every bit as skilled as Tsugumi, and because Tsugumi is so freaked out at the thought of kissing Raku, Paula quickly gains the upper hand.  Until Paula makes off with Raku, and Tsugumi begins to process her feelings for him.  Then – KABOOM!! She snaps.  I loved her solution to the whole kissing thing, and her reaction to Paula after the contest ended.  The art is generic, but I like the clean lines.  I just wish that Raku and Tsugumi didn’t look so much alike to me.

Cross Manage Ch 14 – I like this series a lot.  The non-date that might be a teeny weeny bit like a date continues!  Toyoguchi and Sakurai arrive at the sporting goods store, where Toyoguchi introduces Sakurai to Ryu.  Ryu is a jerk.  He plays lacrosse on a college team and is also a member of the national team. While he adores Toyoguchi, he thinks that Sakurai is being cruel by encouraging her to try to improve her lacrosse skills.  Ryu totally rubbed me the wrong way, and I so badly want to see him eat a huge serving of humble pie.  He is so dismissive of Toyoguchi’s ambitions to become a better player, and he comes across as a giant schmuck.  He wants Sakurai to quit as the team manager, and to ensure that he does, he challenges him to a lacrosse contest.  Because all disagreements and confrontations are settled by a contest in manga.  Usually an extremely one-sided contest, where the hero has zero prospects of winning.  Could you imagine what would happen if this was a trend in real life?  Obama could challenge Boehner to a one on one basketball match (or any athletic competition, for that matter), and that fiscal cliff impasse non-sense would be over!

No Kenshin this week *sob* 

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha–December 24th Edition!

Wow!  Super huge, 220+ page issue!  We have two new for me series, too!  Kenshin Restoration and Blue Exorcist!

One Piece Ch 691 – Now we’re talkin’!  Luffy has hit berserker mode!  That naughty Caesar Clown dude better watch the eff out!  Once Luffy is pissed, there is no stopping him!  I really like how angry Luffy gets when he discovers that someone has been treated unjustly.  When Caesar orders his men to open the vents and let the death gas in, they stupidly comply, thinking that he has some trick up his sleeve.  Yup, he does, but it doesn’t involve saving, or caring the slightest bit, about the lives of his men,  his “guinea pigs,” as he calls them.   Oops!  Talk about needing a union to ensure fair treatment by the boss.  Too late!  Most of his workforce has been sacrificed to save his own unbelievably ugly hide.  Sadly, the big confrontation between Luffy and Caesar Clown won’t go down until the next issue of WSJA!

Hunter x Hunter One Shot – Kurapika’s Memories Part Two – Kurapika’s final challenge is underway!  Can he visit the town, get the village’s shopping completed, and keep his friend Pairo safe, all without losing self-control and revealing his scarlet eyes?  Um, no, but thanks to Pairo’s cleverness, nobody is going to be the wiser of the boys’ great adventure to the outside world.  This one shot is a great introduction to the Hunter x Hunter series; at least it was for me.  Got me interested in a series I would have otherwise not given a second glance, due to the length and Yoshihiro Togashi’s frequent breaks.

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration Ch 6 – Ah, I just love Kenshin, so this rehash is such a treat.  I love Watsuki’s expressive and dramatic art; I never have to guess how Kenshin and company are feeling.  The setting is also elegantly illustrated.  Clothing, buildings, food – it all comes to life with just a few masterful lines.  The use of fonts for the sound effects and the careful use of special  effects all work together to tell a visually pleasing story that joins seamlessly with the dialog.  This is my new favorite in the magazine.

Cross Manage Ch 13 – This chapter chronicles the date that’s not a date – or is it?  Sakurai and Toyoguchi make plans to meet and shop for needed equipment for the lacrosse team.  Sakurai wonders if their impromptu shopping trip is really a date in disguise, and ever the planner, he carefully chooses his attire for the day.  When Toyoguchi shows up at their meeting place, she’s dressed in the school jersey.  Definitely not a date!  Until they share some snacks and a bottle of water.  Whoa!  It’s that indirect kiss thing that gets manga and anime characters in all genres too flustered to even speak!  So cute here!  Toyoguchi is kind of clueless, which makes her reaction very endearing.

Bleach Ch 519 – So let’s see – Ichigo soaks in a magical hot spring with Tenjiro.  Byakuya and Renji are there, too, but they aren’t conscious, so I don’t know if that counts.  Lord Reio makes an almost appearance.  This chapter was so short that I felt a little ripped off.  Hopefully there will be more going on in next week’s issue?

Toriko Ch 214 – I just can’t get into this series.  There are too many characters, and too many of them look like freaks.  So far, I am not connecting with the characters, the plot, or the awkward, odd art.

Nisekoi  Ch 54 – Oops! Another over-used, though amusing trope is set into motion in this chapter.  Tsugumi, AKA Black Tiger, has been hunted down by her rival, Paula McCoy, otherwise known as the assassin White Fang.  Disappointed that Tsugumi has lost her edge, Paula challenges her to a no holds barred contest.  The rules are simple – the entire town is their playing field, the contest will last one hour, and the winner is the first to –wait for it-steal a kiss from Ichijo!  The first to steal his skivvies would have been more fun, but it is what it is.  I’m kind of wondering how much of a fight Raku’s going to put up, but seeing as how both girls could beat the crap out of him without breaking a sweat, maybe he should start running.  Like, right now.  This series is very hit or miss with me, and this chapter was mostly a miss.

Naruto Ch 612 – Never ending epic battle hasn’t ended!  The combined strength of Naruto’s ninja buddies is let loose on Madara and Obito, giving rise to such attacks as Lighting Style! Flash Pillar!! and Storm Style! Laser Circus!!  And guess what? Even after the allied shinobi forces jutsu!! the battle is – still not over!!  Oh! MY!! See you next week, fierce ninja warriors!

Blue Exorcist Ch 41 – This chapter features a battle with a bathroom ghost.  This is my first exposure to this series, and I don’t think that I got a very good idea of what it’s about.  Nothing about the characters or the setting, a training academy for young exorcists, stood out or made me want to learn more.  Hopefully next week’s chapter will be more engaging?  The only real impression that I came away with here – Izumo needs to do something about her eyebrows.  Seriously.

And that’s it for this week’s WSJA!

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha–December 17th Edition

Oops!  I’m a week behind! The holidays are taking a toll on my reading, so here’s a quick, quick recap of last week’s WSJA -

First up – Hunter x Hunter Special One Shot – Kurapika’s Memories Part One – I liked this chapter a lot, and since I‘ve only read the first volume of Hunter x Hunter, I was surprised by how easy it was to become immersed in this story.  Kurapika, young and brash, wants to leave the forest and venture into the outside world.  It’s forbidden by his people, though, so he argues continuously with the village elder about getting permission to go.  A whimsical art-style with lots of soft, rounded edges made this a visual pleasure, and, despite relying on overused tropes, the characters are engaging and the dialog moves the story steadily along.  Looking forward to reading Part Two!

Naruto Ch 611 – More fighting!  More building of chakra!  More ominous threats from the villain!  And more reinforcements to ensure more fighting for chapter 612!

Bleach Ch 518 – Ichigo, with a little help from his friends, decides to make the journey to the Royal Palace.  Yes, that is all that happened in this chapter!

One Piece Ch 690 – Epic battling continues as fatal petrification gas closes in on our heroes!  This is news to me! Somehow I missed that there is a cloud of poison gas ready to deliver its fatal payload to our Straw Hat pirates and anyone else who gets in its path.  Smoker and Vergo are duking it out!  Why do so many of the characters look so much alike?  And why do the One Piece chapters always seem so short?

Cross Manage Ch 12 – I really like this story.  It’s easy to follow, it’s character driven, and there is no magic or epic dueling (not that I dislike magic or epic dueling).  It’s just basically about a group of high school students with completely different goals, backgrounds, and life expectations trying to get along, build a lacrosse team, and have fun while they do it.  Since Sakurai chased off three team members with his tough as nails training regimen, they no longer have enough players to field a team.  Desperate to fix what he’s done, Sakurai and Toyoguchi  get the ex-players together for a super-intense training session – without letting them know why they asked them to spend the three-day weekend with them.  No wonder Kato gets so angry and suspicious of him!  I thought this was nice chapter because instead of dwelling (mostly) on their faults, Sakurai pointed out their strengths and why he wanted them to come back to the team.

Nisekoi Ch 53 – This was another silly chapter that I enjoyed because it required zero brain cells.  Ichijo and Onodera hear their horoscopes for the day, and even though they don’t believe in that superstitious nonsense, they both go out their way to follow the advice for their lucky, or in one case, unlucky, day.  As Ichijo tries to interact with Onodera and Onodera attempts to avoid Ichijo, hijinks ensues and confusion abounds.  The ending was very cute, too.

Toriko Ch 213 – I just don’t get this one.  All of these needless, weird-looking chefs talking about oil and the need to be fit to compete in the cooking battle.  Most of these guys look like they would would struggle climbing a flight of stairs, and they are expected to compete in a triathlon to gather up their ingredients?  Only consolation – 50% of the competitors will be eliminated after the Swimming!  Biking!!  Running!!! Food Stamina Race!! portion of the battle.

That’s it for this issue, so see you for the next issue of WSJA.  I’m looking forward to catching up with Kenshin!