Chihayafuru Vol. 1 by Yuki Suetsugu: review

Chihayafuru, Vol. 1 (Chihayafuru, #1)

Chihayafuru Vol. 1 by Yuki Suetsugu

Series: Chihayafuru #1

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Sports, Josei

Release Date: May 13th 2008

Synopsis: All her life, Chihaya’s dream was to see her model sister become Japan’s best… That is, until a quiet, unassuming transfer student named Arata tells her otherwise. A dream, he explains to her, is something she needs to work at herself. Arata plays a competitive version of a traditional Japanese card game–known as Hyakunin Isshu–in a way Chihaya has never seen before. After taking Arata’s place in a game, Chihaya discovers she has a passion for it. Now Chihaya wants to become number one in the world, the Queen of Karuta. Chihayafuru won the 2nd Manga Taisho Award. Winner of the 35th annual Kodansha Manga Award for Best Shoujo

My thoughts: I loved this manga. I really did. It was touching, humourous, and has some good messages weaved in the story. There is really nothing wrong with this manga so far although it is still very early in the series. I have high hopes for Chihayafuru‘s next volumes! Sadly, this manga has not been licensed in english so I won’t be able to buy physical copies of the Chihayafuru series but there are always the lovely fan translators!

Chiyhaya is a girl who always says what is on her mind. And she also has a dream: to see her sister become Japan’s best model. Well, that was her dream until Arata, a transfer student tells her that a dream is something that she needs to work at herself. She later finds out that Arata plays a Japanese card game known as Hyakunin Isshu. Chiyhaya is fascinated at the way he plays the game. One day she has to take Arata’s place in a game and finds out that she has a passion for it. Chihaya now knows what her dream is: to become the Queen of Karuta.

I have never read a manga with a story liked this. Suetsugu masterfully intertwines the game of Karuta with a sweet story of finding out what one desires. The story glued me into my seat, making me read nonstop until I got to the end of the volume.

This is a character driven story in which we meet an outspoken girl who is always living in the shadow of her beautiful sister named Chihaya (she is what many would call the glue that keeps the group of characters together), a quiet boy named Arata who has a passion and talent for the game of Karuta, and Taichi, a boy who is a genuinely nice person on the inside but is driven to do mean things because of the pressure his parents give him. These characters have a bond with each other and I loved reading about it. Awhile they do work well together they still have those times where they want to be better than one another (even when they are on the same team). Their friendship is very real. It has the sweet moments, the sad moments, the whole bit.

I never knew that Karuta was such an exhilarating game until I read this manga. Karuta requires the player to become “friends” with the poems that are printed on the cards. Karuta requires the player to have quick hands. I don’t think I would be able to do half as much as the group of characters in this manga are able to do.

Chihayafuru is a beautiful drawn manga that I cannot take my eyes off of. I will certainly be reading the next volumes. I want to learn how Chihaya’s story ends.

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The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: review

The Off Season (Dairy Queen, #2)The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Hardback, Paperback

Series: Dairy Queen #2

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary, Sports, Romance, Chick Lit, Realistic

Release date: June 4th 2007

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis: Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. She’s in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, she’s reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. She’s got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, who’s cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then there’s the fact she’s starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you can’t predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers she’s a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought.

This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.

My thoughts: D.J. is back in The Off Season and her life has been pretty good lately. She is becoming friends again with Amber and she is kind of dating the cute guy known as Brian Nelson. She is also the linebacker for the Red Bend High School football team. And then tragedy strikes. The Off Season is one of those books that made me smile, laugh, and cry awhile reading it and then when I reached the end I did a happy sigh. Personally, I think that The Off Season was better than its predecessor, Dairy Queen. I found this book to be much more poignant and engaging. (Although, Dairy Queen is still pretty darn good.)

I love D.J. She feels like a real person to me and I think she is a delightful character to read about. She has a lot thrown at her but she deals with it with determination. D.J. works hard and doesn’t give up. D.J. does have her faults though and she has trouble knowing what to say. But her determination to get through everything is admirable. D.J.’s voice is a very honest, funny, real, and engaging one. I wholeheartedly adore it. I also loved read about the family dynamics. I always enjoy reading about realistic families in books and I always enjoy it even more when there are siblings. The Off Season was able to pull it off amazingly. The Schwenk family is a very realistic one. They are flawed but they truly love each other and they get through all the obstacles. And I found D.J.’s brothers: Bill and Win to be enjoyable to read about. They are easily two of my favorite characters in this book(second only to D.J.).

The Off Season is also about sports just like Dairy Queen but there is more story off the field than on it. And I was not disappointed about that. This book tells the story of D.J. and her family growing and getting through the obstacles that come their way. There were sad moments but it was also heartwarming.

The “small town” element in this book is also something I enjoyed. Red Bend is a small community that has good people living in it. They help each other out and care for one another. I liked-if not loved- all the residents of Red Bend. And one scene that involved almost the whole community of Red Bend and Hawley brought a tear to my eye.

This has been my second time on the Schwenk farm and I loved it. Murdock has exceeded my expections a second time and I have no doubt that she will a third time. It makes me sad that there is only one more book in this series.

*This is my 100th post 🙂

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: review

Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen, #1)Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Series: Dairy Queen #1

Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary, Sports, Romance, Chick Lit, Realistic

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis: When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.
When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.
When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Why didn’t I read this sooner? Dairy Queen is definitely one of the best contemporary books I have ever read. Although Dairy Queen does not get into deep issues it is still thought-provoking in its own way. Plus, there is a farm and a lot of cows in this book. I like that.

The characters are all true to life characters. They are realistic, relatable, and very loveable. D.J.(I admire her so much) is a very well made character. Although she is unsure of herself at times she is very determined to do what she wants to do. D.J. was also a very hardworking character which made me love her even more. I loved her as a narrative as she was funny, serious, and true to herself. D.J. was also very kick butt. Brian was also a very fun to read about character. He had his own set of flaws to but his good qualities balance that out. I found him very crush worthy. I loved seeing D.J. and Brian grow as characters and loved them both very much. The rest of the characters are not to be overlooked. Even though they had only a short time on the pages of the book I was still able to like and care for them. I especially loved how D.J.’s family grew as characters to as we do not really get to see much family in the Young Adult genre. Simply put, the characters in Dairy Queen are marvelous.

The story of Dairy Queen is a very fun story. In the first half of Dairy Queen we are introduced to D.J.’s life on the farm and around the cows. We read about D.J. training Brian over the summer and developing relationship. Reading about their growing friendship was a very peaceful but fun experience. The second half where all the sports and action happens is where it gets the most exciting. I was never a fan of football but Dairy Queen has shown me how great, hard, and exhilarating it really was. I loved reading about D.J. on the football field kicking the opposing team’s butts. I sometimes found myself about to open my mouth and cheer on D.J. but than close it as I was around people(I do not think I would look very normal talking to a book).

Murdock is able to write D.J.’s voice and emotions so very well. The scenes when D.J. was on the field were very vivid and detailed. I could imagine myself as a player on the field running right next to D.J. I loved Murdock’s good humoured but also serious writing.

Dairy Queen is a very fun, cuddly, and exciting read. I really need the next book. Now.

I give Dairy Queen 4 out of 5 Footballs