Les Miserables (Manga) by Victor Hugo, Crystal Silvermoon (adaptation), and SunNeko Lee (art)

I had previously reviewed the Manga Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice here. When I had the opportunity to check out Les Miserables, I took it, mostly out of curiosity.

Les Miserables (Manga) Front Cover

Les Miserables (Manga) Front Cover (Udon Entertainment)

 

THE PLOT: This manga is an abridged version of the classic book, and I’m summarizing a great deal here. In 1815 France, Jean Valjean is released from prison (for stealing a loaf of bread) and finds that he can’t find honest work. Thanks to a kindly bishop, he is able to break parole, open a factory, and eventually become mayor of a town. One of his factory workers, Fantine, is unjustly fired and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter, Cosette. Valjean finds a dying Fantine and promises to care for Cosette, but his identity is discovered by Inspector Javert, who has been hunting for him. Valjean takes Cosette from the Thernadiers, the horrible couple who bilked Fantine for every penny, and finds sanctuary at a monastery.

Years later, Valjean and Cosette live in Paris as father and daughter. Teen Cosette catches the eye of Marius Pontmercy, a young man who takes part in the June Rebellion. Valjean has to come to terms with eventually losing Cosette to marriage as well as facing his past, and his old enemy Javert.

MY TWO CENTS: It’s been many, many years now since I read Les Miserables, and the manga includes a bit more story than you get in the musical version, but not much. The art is very interesting. Cosette and Eponine are drawn in traditional big-eyes format, as is Fantine as a factory worker. As Fantine’s fortunes fall, her image becomes more realistic. Jean Valjean and Javert are drawn more lifelike, so sometimes the combination of different styles can be jarring. Javert is a little too sneery for my taste (we know he’s “the villain,” but he operates from an overdeveloped sense of self-righteousness.) Eponine is far, far too buxom for a starving waif!

In the end, I didn’t feel like this version brought much that is new to my “Les Miserables” experience. It’s interesting, to be sure, but not a “must-have.”

BOTTOM LINE: A new (abbreviated) take a on well-loved story; check it out if you’re curious, but will probably be most-enjoyed by die-hard Le Miz fans.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in hardcover and paperback.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Trade Me (Cyclone #1) by Courtney Milan

As a rule, I generally don’t care for contemporary romance. I much prefer historical settings, and I usually feel like contemporaries end up being much more about sex than romance. (Jude Deveraux is my exception.) But I have recently chosen to read two contemporaries  written by two of my favorite historical romance authors. The first is Trade Me, a New Adult by Courtney Milan and the first in her new Cyclone series.

Trade Me Front Cover (Femtopress)

Trade Me Front Cover (Femtopress)

THE PLOT: Tina Chen is a really poor, struggling college student. She lives on rice in order to send money to her family…and then her mother gives it all away to other people. Tina is pretty fed up when she loses it over comments made by classmate Blake Reynolds, the pampered son of the super-wealthy owner of Cyclone, a Fortune-500 technology company. Blake has been interested in Tina for a long time, but he’s been dealing with a lot of issues…including how to avoid taking over the company from his father. For him, college is a deflection, NOT the only way to a better life like it is for Tina.

After the blow-up, Blake starts bonding with Tina. As her learns about her, he offers to trade lives with her for a short time. She can write the script for the reveal of Blake’s incredible new Cyclone product, live in his house, drive his car, and earn his salary. He’ll live in the garage she calls home, washing dishes for a job and living on Tina’s meager salary. Tina agrees under the condition that when time’s up, they have no relationship whatsoever…no friendship, no romantic involvement. Mutual attraction will play havoc with this plan, though.

MY TWO CENTS: I couldn’t stop reading this book. Yes, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but that didn’t bother me. Blake is a likable character, and he wrestles with a problem you don’t usually see with male characters. Tina and her family are so well-written that they might actually exist. I could feel Tina’s anguish in dealing with her mother, as well as her sense of responsibility for the family.

As usual, Courtney Milan makes the reader believe a real relationship is developing between two characters. It’s never just, “Poof, we’re in love. Ta da!” It grows gradually throughout the story.

BOTTOM LINE: I really enjoyed this story and both main characters. I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2 in the series, Hold Me, which will include a transgender character (Tina’s best friend and roommate).

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book is available now in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford

I’d never read a Jane Ashford book, and the premise sounded interesting…two “normal” people readjusting to marriage after a prolonged separation. But I think I wanted it to be more interesting than it actually turned out to be.

Married to a Perfect Stranger Front Cover (Sourcebooks)

Married to a Perfect Stranger Front Cover (Sourcebooks)

THE PLOT: John and Mary were more or less bullied into an “acceptable” marriage by their overwhelming, managing families. Then John goes on a business voyage to China and is gone for 180months. Mary settles into managing her own life and becomes self-sufficient. John comes home, expecting a meek, submissive wife, and is surprised with someone who reminds him unpleasantly of their mothers. They have to come to terms with their marriage and possibly find happiness while overcoming obstacles such as John’s work nemesis. Although Mary is a talented portrait artist, putting her on the spot at a ball results in her insulting her hostess, who just happens to be Lady Castlereagh. This causes more problems for John at work, just when he is hoping to move up to greater importance.

MY TWO CENTS: First let me say that this is almost a clean romance. It’s not QUITE as clean as a Christian romance, but there are no detailed descriptions of intimacy. If that’s something you’re looking for in a romance, then check out this book. If you prefer romance that borders on erotica, this probably isn’t the pick for you.

Second, while I really liked the idea of two “normal” people solidifying their relationship, I felt like something was missing. Their romance was cute, but I didn’t feel a connection really building between them. It seemed like I couldn’t get involved with the characters; they were too standoffish to me, the reader, as well as each other.

BOTTOM LINE: I wanted to like this book much more than I did. It was a pleasant read, but I don’t know that I’m running to pick up more Jane Ashford.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and eformats on March 3, 2015.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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