Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Favorite Fan Fiction

Twilight has spawned thousands of works of fan fiction over the past few years. Only Harry Potter has probably inspired more authors to write fanfic. The quality ranges from truly awful to arguably better than the original. A few stories mesh so well with the books that I forget to separate them from Stephenie's work.

There many different types of Twilight fan fiction.

Canon - Stories that are set before, during, or after the Twilight books. The tales fit in with the plot of the Saga and the characters act in conformance to how Stephenie views them.

Human - Some or all of the vampires and wolves are human. Or Bella is a vampire and the others are human. For example, Bella and Edward are childhood friends; Edward is the new kid at school and meets Bella, Miss Popular. These typically try to keep the basic personality quirks of the characters but imagine how they'd be different as humans.

Alternate-Universe - Partial or complete departures from the Twilight canon. What if Bella falls for Jacob...or Alice? What if Edward is a police officer and saves Bella from an ongoing crime? What if Edward is a wounded Civil War soldier and Bella is his nurse?

Crossovers - These pair Twilight characters with characters from other stories. Harry Potter is the most popular cross-overs, but I've also seen stories featuring Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments, and more. I'm really curious about the more unusual pairings, such as Fruits Basket (my favorite manga!), Baby-sitter's Club, and Gone With The Wind.


These are very important to me. A lot of Twilight fanfic is extremely graphic. Either Mature or NC-17. I prefer Stephenie's version of "graphic sex," so I am careful to not read any M or NC-17 fanfic. I read G through PG-13 stories.

Some Fanfic I Recommend

I go in spurts with fanfic. I haven't read much in a long time, but when I start reading them, I read them actively for weeks. I only read Canon fanfic tales. Perhaps it signifies a lack of imagination, but I don't want to read a story unless it could have conceivably occurred in the Twilight Saga. Also, with a few exceptions, I am picky about writing quality. If I think the writing is bad, I'll give it up after a few sentences - unless it's really funny. And I rarely read fanfic more than a few chapters. I just don't have the time to devote to long fanfic when I could be reading a book. So all my snobbish prerequisites aside, here are some stories I recommend:

All the stories are rated G - PG-13

A New Acquaintance - Perhaps my favorite fan-fiction story. Bella and Edward start the semester at Dartmouth and encounter someone who knows their secret.

Phoenix Rising - We see Edward's story in Twilight from the airplane into Phoenix to saving Bella at the ballet studio. Well-written and keeps very close to canon.

How Esme Got Her Island - A sweet romantic side of Carlisle and Esme we don't get to see in the books. With some fun Alice moments too. A little long (8,662 words) but worth it. 

The Unforgiving Season - A bit of pre-Bella Edward brooding with loneliness at Christmas.

Meeting Jessica Stanley - Ha ha...funny short story about Edward and Jessica's introduction

Metamorphosis - This is a very interesting story about Bella's transformation into a vampire from Edward pov.

Family Therapy Cullen Style - This is just silly fun. It's a lot longer fanfiction than I typically read and not something the Cullens would ever actually do, but it's hilarious.

I recommend Twilight Novel Novice's Fan Fiction Challenge for a consistent supply of quality fan fiction.

Waiting On Wednesday (4) - The Twilight Saga Official Guide - Stephenie Meyer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine spotlighting upcoming releases.

The Twilight Saga: Official Guide - Stephenie Meyer

I have faith that this will be released...someday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Favorite Twilight Blogs

I follow a number of Twilight related blogs. There are tons of fabulous blogs out there. I'm only mentioning a few.

Twilight Lexicon: This is THE Twilight blog. It's loaded with original content including numerous links with personal correspondence with Stephenie Meyer. It's uploaded frequently and very user friendly. I like that they have full RSS feeds, which makes it easy to follow through Google Reader. 

Twilight Novel Novice: A fan site started by a middle school teacher. It encourages teens to read all kinds of books and recently spawned an affiliate book site called Novel Novice. They also feature a lot of downloads - wallpapers, fan art, and fan fiction. They host fan fiction contests that highlights some of the best fan fiction anywhere on the Internet. This is my second favorite blog to Twilight Lexicon. The blog is updated frequently with different posts than many other sites offer. The blog has a sister site that features all kinds of YA books: Novel Novice. I highly recommend both sites.

Twilight Moms: A great site for older Twilight fans. The blog is updated frequently but doesn't have as much original content. It also has a cut RSS feed; I hate being forced to open a site instead of reading from Google Reader. The real draw to Twilight Moms are the forums. They have forums on the movies, books, and in depth character discussions. To join the forums you have to be 25 years old or a mom or be married. Twilight Moms also has a great sister site called Eve's Fan Garden that features YA books and great author chats. 

Twilight Source: I actually don't follow Twilight Source's blog. I don't think it's that different than the other sites out there. But I do like their website. You can customize the theme of the site to be Team Edward, Team Jacob, or Team Switzerland. They have fun lists, fan art, forums, and downloads. I recommend Twilight Source largely because of their podcast, Imprint. I'm a regular listener of Imprint and think it's the best Twilight podcast out there. 

Still Wandering: This is a really interesting blog. It's by a Film PhD student. She was in the right place at the right time and got to view several days of filming of the first Twilight. Since then, she's been involved in premieres and Twilight conventions. She has great insight into the movie process. Here's her Twilight filming posts:

Robsessed Pattinson: My fluff blog. For obvious reasons. It is far from the only Rob blog out there but it's the one I got into the habit of reading. The comments get pretty hot and heavy at times so I generally don't read those. As much as I drool over Rob, I can't understand how someone can have such detailed fantasies over a person they've never met. But that's just me. Regardless, there are lots of good pictures and videos on the website and it's frequently updated.

Eclipse Soundtrack Review

Eclipse Soundtrack Review

One of my great passions aside from reading is music. My musical tastes are quite eclectic, ranging from Broadway musicals to bluegrass to hard rock. Many of the bands I love most are classified as Indie Rock. The Twilight soundtracks are perfect for me - highlighting many of the best Indie bands out there. The Twilight Saga albums are as iconic as the soundtracks to the John Hughes' films of the 80s. All three have great songs that I listen to over and over. My favorite of the three is probably the New Moon soundtrack, because particularly like quieter, more folksy music. But I still think the Eclipse soundtrack is fabulous. Here's my take on the songs (note: I focus much more on a song's sound than its lyrics):

1. Eclipse (All Yours) - Metric: I am a huge Metric fan. I listen to their 2009 album Fantasies frequently. The title track to the Eclipse soundtrack highlights Emily Haines' fabulous voice. It's more ethereal and breathy than my favorite Metric songs, but I think it really captures Bella's psyche.

2. Neutron Star Collision - Muse: I am also a big Muse fan. I have three of their albums, one of which I listened to earlier this afternoon. This is not my favorite Muse song. It's very anthemic...channeling Queen. If you like that type of tune, it's fabulous. I unfortunately, do not like anthems. I enjoyed the song, but of the songs on the three soundtracks, "Supermassive Black Hole" is still my favorite.

3. Ours - The Bravery: This is a fun, upbeat tune that had me dancing. It's fast enough to be a good workout song. The Bravery is new to me. I'm interested in exploring their repetoire in greater detail, but they sound like a lot of other bands to me. Fun music but not something that really stands out.

4. Heavy In Your Arms - Florence + The Machine: This may be my favorite song on the soundtrack. I was already a fan of Florence + The Machine. Florence Welch has a huge voice. When she belts out the chorus "I'm so heavy..." I just lean my head back, eyes closed, enraptured. From the little I listened to the lyrics (like I said, I'm not a lyrics person), I could see Bella thinking these words.

5. My Love - Sia: I love how simple this song is. Mostly piano and Sia. It's haunting and beautiful. Definitely something to listen to when you're in a quiet mood. But...the song does get a little irritating as it goes on. Her voice is beautiful but it starts to grate on me. It if was only 1 minute long, I'd love it.

6. Atlas - Fanfarlo: I discovered Fanfarlo within the past 6 months. I love their Reservoir album. "Atlas" is a typical Fanfarlo song. Folksy; it sounds like something out of the sixties. Lots of harmonies, acoustic guitar, and clapping percussion.

7. Chop And Change - Black Keys: I am not a big fan of the Black Keys but I love this song. It's a dark, heavy-hitting song. Something I'd play to pump myself up before a presentation or a race. I can imagine this playing during the vampire training scenes or scenes with evil, sexy vixen Victoria.

8. Rolling In On A Burning Tire - The Dead Weather: The Dead Weather is a well-reputed newish band with vocals by Alison Mosshart and guitar by the famous Jack White of The White Stripes. I'm not a huge Dead Weather fan and this isn't my favorite song. It's not bad, but the sound just isn't my style. It's a dark, slow-tempo song. Alison's voice is strong but has a bitter tinge (not in a bad way - it's quite fitting). The guitar has just as strong a presence as the vocals. A good portion of the tune is instrumental. This is a good song to play in a dark mood.

9. Let's Get Lost - Beck and Bat For Lashes: I love Bat For Lashes (the nom de plume for a British artist named Natasha Khan). I'm a Beck fan as well, but this song is mostly a Bat For Lashes song. It reminds me of a conflict driven, angsty love song. Just fast enough not to be plodding but slow enough to really emphasize the longing.

10. Jonathan Low - Vampire Weekend: It's cool to see Vampire Weekend on the Twilight soundtrack. I discovered the band around the time of the first Twilight. Given the name, it's only fitting that it joins the Twilight world. This is a little different than a typical Vampire Weekend tune. It's upbeat and fun, but doesn't have as much Afro-beats as many of their songs. I really like Ezra Koenig's voice - it isn't a skilled singing voice but it sounds distinctive in a good way.

11. With You In My Head - UNKLE (feat. Black Angels): This is an interesting song. I can't really think of a good way to describe it. It is dark, as are many of the songs on the soundtrack. It switches between big harmonic choruses and a single, bitter, flat voice singing "When you went down, the men came calling." It's very strange but I kinda like it.

12. A Million Miles An Hour - Eastern Conference Champions: Yet another dark tune. This one is the heaviest rock song on the album. The song starts out quiet but bursts into a loud, electric guitar melody 30 seconds in. The singer's voice is quiet and soft. An interesting contrast to the heavy guitar.

13. Life On Earth - Band Of Horses: I love Band Of Horses. Kristen Stewart has also mentioned it as one of her favorite groups. This is quieter and more folk-influenced than many of their songs. It features acoustic guitar and lots of harmonics. The chorus is appropriately bittersweet: "Life on earth is changing / Life on earth is ending / Time on earth is ending / Time on earth is changing."

14. What Part Of Forever - Cee Lo Green: One of the more poppy songs on the album. It starts with whistling, which I enjoy in a song. The chorus is really peppy. The song has a lot of echoes in it. I don't have a lot to say about this song. It's nice but nothing special.

15. Jacob's Theme - Howard Shore: I didn't love this song. It's a pretty piano tune, but it just doesn't stand out. It's very simple - I imagine I could learn it quickly. I much preferred the score themes included in the Twilight and New Moon soundtracks. Although to be honest, if it was called "Edward's Theme," I'd probably like it better :-)

16. The Line - Battles: The bonus songs on the Twilight soundtracks are just as good if not better than the main tunes. I really like this song. It features an eerie, echoey vocal line with thumpy percussion. It's spooky. I especially love how the percussion gets faster, faster, faster, faster in the middle of the song. My heart speeds up in anticipation for it. Then there's a really long instrumental - the song is just as much percussion and guitar as it is vocals.

17. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep - Bombay Bicycle Club: Fabulous. It starts with a gorgeous, plaintive vocal line that pulls me right in. The main vocals sound like two guys singing together. The tune has a good beat, but it doesn't feel like rock or like pop. Despite the strong presence of percussion, it gives of a sad, emotive vibe.

18/19. Atlas and What Part Of Forever remixes: What was the point of this? I just don't get it. I guess remixes are in style right now but it seems like a waste of space to me. I would much rather have a few more songs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Manga Mondays (4) - Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 - Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret... Beautifully rendered, this first installment of Twilight: The Graphic Novel is a must-have for any collector’s library. 
This isn't really manga but for Week O' Twilight, it's close enough.

I read the Graphic Novel as soon as it came out. At that time, I hadn't read any manga. I thought it was hard to follow. Being more familiar with manga now, I decided to look at the book again. I am more impressed with the book than I was before but my basic feelings are still the same...

As a standalone book, I don't think that Graphic Novel works. The dialogue is too sparse to fully convey the story. If I wasn't fully familiar with Twilight the novel, the graphic version would be very confusing. I did follow it better the second time around, largely due to being more accustomed to manga/graphic novels. But the text still doesn't fully satisfy.

That being said, I love the Graphic Novel for one reason: it is a work of art. The illustrations are beyond gorgeous - truly beautiful. It far surpasses any manga I've encountered thus far. I love the drawings of the characters. The faces are incredibly detailed. Through the eyes alone I can see every emotion expressed. And the hair is wonderful, especially Bella's. I'm always jealous of any girl, real or drawn, who has silky, straight, shiny hair. It's just not fair. Bella looks just like I imagine her. So do Carlisle, Charlie, and Jacob. I was most pleased with Alice. She looked exactly as she should. In the movies, they made Alice's hair too long and not black enough. Edward doesn't look like the Edward in my head...neither does Robert Pattinson. I'm not even sure what the Edward in my head looks like, but I haven't seen anything matching it yet.

The detailed characters drawings are just one reason why I love the artwork in the Graphic Novel. The variation of the drawings to reflect mood is quite impressive. The page just before the car crash and the pages when Edward rescues Bella from the guys in Port Angeles are full of lines reflecting the urgency and intensity of the moment. The dream sequence with Jacob the wolf and Edward the vampire is fascinating: Jacob in human form is wooden and unnatural while Edward is smooth and perfect, even with fangs. When Claire de Lune is playing in the car, lines of music are drawn in the background of Edward and Bella's conversation. She captured so many of the little things that gives Twilight its richness.

I love the subtle use of color. It's only used for symbolic reasons, such as bright red for blood, and for plot climaxes, such as the dream sequence, the meadow scene, and the twilight scene. The twilight page was my favorite of the entire book. Edward tells Bella that twilight is the easiest and saddest time of day, the background is a gorgeous sunset - blue, pink, orange, and yellow. Another fascinating artistic choice was the use of photographs. At various places in the book, such as the Phoenix airport, the beach, and some of the car scenes add texture to the novel.

Twilight: The Graphic Novel was a success for me because of the artwork. Textually, it's ho-hum. But artistically, it's something special. Each time I look at it, I see some nuance I didn't encounter before. For that reason, I'll keep looking at it and keep it on my bookshelf.

Rating - 5 / 5 (very biased rating; probably deserves less but all Twilight-related books get a 5 from me)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week o' Twilight: Ode To Twilight

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will be released on Wednesday June 30. It's hard to turn on the TV or look at the Internet without seeing two or three Twilight references. In honor of the movie release, I thought I'd dedicate an entire week to Twilight-related posts.


My first giveaway!
Review of Twilight: The Graphic Novel and Eclipse (on re-read)
Review of Eclipse the movie
Twilight music posts
and more...

First...the origins of my love obsession with Twilight.

I got hooked on Twilight in October 2008 when I was visiting my parents in Arizona. My dad bought Twilight for my mom on a whim for Mother's Day the previous May. They'd both read it ( dad has actually read the entire series). They thought it was okay; interesting enough, but a little silly. I was intrigued by the book, but wasn't sure if I'd like it. I'd heard so many good and bad things. And my only knowledge of the movie was irritation that it had pushed back the 6th Harry Potter film.

I started Twilight Sunday afternoon. I rolled my eyes at the writing at first, but the story kept me interested. I finished the book at 9 AM on Monday morning and immediately got in the car, drove to Barnes & Noble, and bought the other 3 books. Spending $50 on books at one time is a big deal to a cheap library-girl like me. But I knew I'd dieif I didn't immediately read the other three books. I finished Breaking Dawn on Thursday and immediately started re-reading the series. My parents thought I was crazy.

Twilight has changed my life. It's affected the music I listen to, the websites I visit, the movies I watch, the books I read...everything. I highly doubt I'd be doing a purely YA blog if it wasn't for Twilight. Not since the Babysitter's Club in 2nd grade has a book series changed me so dramatically, although Harry Potter comes pretty close. And I love it!

Why I Love Twilight

1. The Cullen Family - I love the Cullens. I love Bella and Jacob and the wolf pack too. But the magic of Twilight is really about the Cullens for me. Each member of the family is so different but together they form an unbreakable unit. They are the big, mostly happy, loving family everyone hopes to have.

2. Alice and Jasper - If I could have a relationship like of the couples in Twilight, I would go for Alice and Jasper's love. It's quiet, subtle, but unbreakable. Alice is my favorite Twilight character. She is the perfect best friend. She brings light and energy to Bella's more quiet and serious life. But unlike many literary best friends, she doesn't spend all her time joking. She's smart and fiercely devoted and protective of Jasper, Bella, and her family. Jasper is introverted, thoughtful, and troubled by knowledge of his past and the weight of the world's emotions. I relate to him in my quiet moments.

2. Vampire Mythology - Stephenie created a vampire mythology widely divergent from any before. I especially like the addition of special powers - mind-reading, torture by glare, future-telling, emotion-controlling. And the politics and history of the vampire world is fascinating. The dictatorial Volturi add a richness to the mythology that the Cullens alone can't bring. I also think Jasper's back-story is fascinating - the newborn armies and Mexican wars.

3. Edward - Swoon...I'm am totally 100% Team Edward. Funny enough, I would never date a guy like Edward in real life (especially because I'm married :-) ). He's intelligent, kind, reflective, romantic, funny, sarcastic, devoted to family... On the negative side, he is jealous and possessive in a way I would never tolerate. Especially in Eclipse. But he learns from his mistakes; he protects Bella as best he can but learns to give her freedom. In real life, I would be much more attracted to someone like Jacob, but for whatever intangible reason, he holds no magic for me. A lovable sweet guy, but I'm all about Edward.

4. Bella - Bella is a stubborn, determined a good way. Too many Twi-haters only focus on how frequently she capitulates to Edward's viewpoint, but I see her differently. She knows exactly what she wants. She gives in to Edward both because she's the type of person who lives to serve others, but also because she wants to become a vampire. Many of her actions are concrete decisions to further her path toward eternity with Edward and vampire-dom. But I do wish she spent a little less time simpering about Edward's god-like beauty.

5. Carlisle and Esme - Carlisle and Esme are models of generosity and compassion. They hold the family together. Their relationship is subtle and quiet, but feels more mature. They really do seem like the parents. Carlisle's back-story is fascinating. To be so kind and compassionate to turn your back on your body's natural desires is about as admirable as you can get. His only flaw is, I suppose, loneliness. By turning Edward, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett, he gave four people lives they never chose (although Emmett was turned at Rosalie's request). It turned out very well for him but could have gone badly.

6. Rosalie and Emmett - Rosalie is selfish and vain, but has such a sad back-story that I pity her. She's also forthright and outspoken in a way I wish I could be. I like that she protects her family and Bella even when she doesn't really want to. I especially love her sparring with Jacob in Breaking Dawn. Emmett is fun and kind - the paragon of a big brother.

7. Jacob - I love the idea of Jacob as a contrast to Edward. He provides a window into the life Bella gives up. He is Bella's sun. But he does play just as dirty as Edward in Eclipse and holds the same prejudices. I enjoyed seeing him grow and learn acceptance as the series went on. He has a great sarcastic humor. I'm really glad that he will stay in the Cullens' lives. I'd love to see how that works out.

If you are a Twilight fan, what do you like best about the series?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

I didn't do a IMM post last week since I made a quick trip to Oklahoma City and arrived home late late Sunday night. So here are my books from this week and last week. I only picked up 7 books from the library - a "reasonable" number for 2 weeks.

Mistwood - Leah Cypess (already finished)
Pretty On The Outside - Kate Kingsley (already finished)
The Mother-Daughter Book Club - Heather Vogel Frederick (already finished)
In A Heartbeat - Loretta Ellsworth
Prophecy Of The Sisters - Michelle Zink (I saw a preview for the 2nd and got really excited about it. Figured I should read the first book first)

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
The Espressologist - Kristina Springer

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pretty On The Outside by Kate Kingsley

Pretty On The Outside by Kate Kingsley


Alice and Tally have always been the queens of St. Cecilia's. Between jet-setting to Rome and Paris on the weekends and sneaking out of their London boarding school for late night trysts, what's not to love? Enter Dylan, the New York City girl who had a summer fling with Alice's best friend (and new crush) Tristan. Now, the girls must defend their status as their charmed lives spiral into broken hearts, jealousies, and the most vicious of revenge plots. (courtesy of Amazon)


My feelings on this book are really mixed. I disliked Pretty On The Outside, but I don't necessarily think it's a bad book for people other than myself. It is basically Gossip Girl set in England. Alice Rochester and Natalya Abbot are the queen bees of St. Cecilia's. Suddenly there's Dylan, the new girl - an American no less. What's worse is that Dylan had a fling with Alice's greatest love, Tristan. Alice quickly makes sure everyone hates Dylan and does her best to place herself in the forefront of Tristan's mind. The only person willing to hang with Dylan is Mimah, one of Alice's best friends now on the outs with the queen. Can Dylan make a place for herself at St. Cecilia's? Or will Alice knock her down permanently to ensure her reign?

Alice is really the leader of the school. Everyone admires her or at least respects her...she knocks down whoever gets in her way. Tally is a slutty ditz who gets by on her exotic Russian beauty. Dylan is vaguely sympathetic as the lost new girl with a horrific mother and new step-father. But she lowers herself to the level of Alice's crew pretty quickly. Tristan only claim to fame is being able to roll the best, cleanest joint around. None of the characters are likable although I occasionally feel sorry for their awful family lives. Throughout the book they smoke cigarettes and pot, drink like fish, have sex or really wish they were, swear like sailors, and battle each other to be the most cruel and vengeful. They seemingly have no morals. Plus, the writing is formulaic and told in the third person omniscient view. Switching from the thoughts of one character to another in a paragraph felt awkward and confusing. The book just is not for me.

Pretty On The Outside really invites a larger question: What should we expect from a book?

If you want a book portraying a different side of British boarding school life than Harry Potter, this is a fascinating tale. If you want to read about rich British teens living the high life and wearing cool clothes, this is a great book (that was what attracted me to the book in the first place). If you want to read a book depicting the all-too-realistic, no-happy-ending cruelties of teenagers, this is definitely the book for you. And moreover, there is nothing that dictates that YA book should follow strict moral standards - that swearing is bad, that drugs, alcohol, and smoking are bad, that sex is bad. Not unless you're reading a book from the 1950s. It's really a matter of personal preference. I prefer books with characters I actually like who grow in positive ways as the book goes on. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with liking books that aren't all happy-go-lucky, good-two-shoes.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

What do you look for in a book?

Hoppy Hoppy Hoppy!

It's time for the weekly book blogger hops again! A great opportunity to meet new bloggers and say hi to old favorites.

Check out the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy For Books

And also check out Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin


The only daughter of supermodel Katia Summers, witty and thoughtful Lizzie Summers likes to stick to the sidelines.

The sole heir to Metronome Media and daughter of billionaire Karl Jurgensen, outspoken Carina Jurgensen would rather climb mountains than social ladders.

Daughter of chart-topping pop icon Holla Jones, stylish and sensitive Hudson Jones is on the brink of her own music breakthrough.

By the time freshman year begins, unconventional-looking Lizzie Summers has come to expect fawning photographers and adoring fans to surround her gorgeous supermodel mother. But when Lizzie is approached by a fashion photographer that believes she's "the new face of beauty," Lizzie surprises herself and her family by becoming the newest Summers woman to capture the media's spotlight. (courtesy of Amazon)


I love stories about upper-crust societies. I love their clothes, their houses, their private schools ... you name it. But so many of the rich-girl YA books out there glorify sex, drugs, and the "mean girl" mentality. The Daughters by Joanna Philbin is a refreshing departure from these books. It's similar in tone to Jen Calonita's "Secrets of My Hollywood Life" series, another favorite of mine. There are great descriptions of New York, modeling, and fashion, but best of all - zero cattiness. 

I knew I'd love this book from the first two pages, which list the 10 commandments of the Daughters. The girls put a priority on friendship, protecting family, and living the most normal life possible despite growing up in extraordinary circumstances. Not a hint of arrogance. 

Lizzie, the narrator, is the daughter of a supermodel and award winning journalist. She inherited a talent for writing from her father but did not inherit her mother's classic beauty. Hence, she's always thought of herself as an ugly duckling and hates being in the spotlight next to her mother. 

Lizzie's best friends are Carina, the daughter of a billionaire, and Hudson, the daughter of a pop-rock super-star. The girls are starting their freshman year of high school. They're chafing under the pressure of being their parents' daughters. Carina's father only seems to care about training his daughter to be a future CEO instead of honoring her love of the outdoors and sports. Hudson is as talented a singer as her mother, but her mother isn't willing to let Hudson develop the music career she wants; her mother sees a pop-star, not a jazz/soul singer. 

Both of Lizzie's parents love her and are as proud as can be. Her mother pressures Lizzie to appear next to her at fashion events; she likes having Lizzie there. One night Lizzie loses it and makes a major public relations gaffe as only 14 year old can. This results in a huge fight with her parents and oddly enough, an offer to model. Ugly modeling, that is. To everyone's great surprise, Lizzie's "unique" looks are hailed as the next big thing. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of the ugly duckling. 

I loved the friendship between The Daughters. Nothing comes between them - not family, not school, not boys, not careers. I also enjoyed Lizzie's growth through the book. Lizzie really comes into her own - learning to love who she is on the outside and stay true to who she is on the inside. Carina and Hudson don't grow as much in this book, but from the plot, I see great things for them in future books. Joanna also does a wonderful job of making smart kids seem cool. Lizzie and her hot crush Todd are fabulous writers and are obsessed with the Great Gatsby. The literary references were fabulous. 

Admittedly, this book won't change your life and won't be hailed as great literary YA. Don't let that keep you away. Joanna is clearly a very talented writer (just like Lizzie). I thought the book was well-written, well-edited, and fast-moving. Reading this book made my day happier and that, to me, is a good book. 

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin is a great, light read. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a taste of rich-girl lifestyle without the rich-girl personalities.

Rating: 4 /5 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (3) - Sapphique - Catherine Fisher

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine spotlighting upcoming releases.

Sapphique - Catherine Fisher (U.S. release: Dec. 28, 2010)

I loved Incarceron and I can't wait until Sapphique comes out in the U.S.


Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don't even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tween Tuesday (3) - Wishing For Tomorrow - Hilary McKay

Wishing For Tomorrow: A Sequel To The Little Princess - Hilary McKay

Readers may well approach this sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett's timeless novel, A Little Princess, with both skepticism and high expectations. McKay quickly dispels the former and more than fulfills the latter. As she did in The Exiles and its companion stories and in her novels about the Casson clan, the author explores family dynamics—in this case those of the close-knit students left behind at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies after Sara Crewe departs—with humor and insight. Did they not have a story too? What happens next? asks McKay's introduction. Now staying in the south of England with her new guardian and maid, Becky, Sara retains a strong presence in these pages, largely through flashbacks and letters to her best friend, Ermengarde (only once, in an emotional scene in which Sara insists that Becky leave her service to marry her beau, does Sara appear in the present). McKay gives vibrant new life to the school's remaining residents. Earnest, conflicted Ermengarde eases her pain at losing Sara by penning lengthy letters to her—most never posted (writing them was like shedding a heavy cloak. It was like opening a window). At Sara's request, Ermengarde takes under her wing stubborn and unsquashable Lottie, who utters some of the funniest lines; reprimanded for licking the neighbor's cat, she retorts, He licked me first. Additions to the roster include a cheeky but good-humored boy next door and the wise, outspoken maid, Alice. Enhanced by Maland's period illustrations, the novel convincingly evokes the Victorian era, even as McKay interjects a contemporary sensibility. A surprising, dramatic denouement caps this droll and heartwarming tale, a very worthy follow-up to a well-loved classic. (courtesy of Amazon)
Sequels to classic novels are often weak replicas of the original. I thought this was an excellent reproduction and expansion of the world of Sara Crewe and Ms. Minchin's Academy. The book feels like it could have been written 100 years ago. Its language is reminiscent of a fairy-tale. The book begins around the time Sara leaves the Academy and continues the story for several months afterward.

The main narrator is Ermengarde, Sara's best friend. But the strongest characters are Lottie, Lavinia, and Alice, the new maid. Lottie is growing up but continues to be an adventurous trouble-maker, finding new and interesting ways to act up. Lavinia realizes that her education at Ms. Minchin's Academy is lacking and pours herself into learning more. Alice brings a laissez-faire attitude to the academy, lightening up the girls' world. Ermengarde does not really make any new discoveries or have great adventures. She's really the weakest character. We learn more about her sad family life and see her mourn over the loss of her best friend, Sara, and also deal with her jealousy. It's a sad tale of a lonely girl who's lost her best friend.

Two real treasures of the novel are occasional narrators: Melchizedek the Rat and Bosco the cat. I love Bosco's description of the "human slaves." I'm sure my cat would agree.

This is a fabulous continuation to A Little Princess.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, June 21, 2010


Thanks to Niki and Heather for two awards!

Niki of Niki's Book Reviews gave me the Prolific Blogger Award:

"A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content."

I'm passing this on to three bloggers:

Heather of Book-Savvy was kind enough to award me the Versatile Blogger Award.

I actually got this award last week: See here for my 15 blogs and 7 things about me. I apologize for not passing it on again, but it took a lot of work to come up with all those last week and I unfortunately do not have loads of time today. I really appreciate the award though. The blogging community is so nice!

Manga Mondays (3) - Fruits Basket - Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket - Natsuki Takaya

I'll warn you - this is a very long post. But I hope it's informative and gives you a lot of information about a popular manga series.


Fruits Basket was my first foray into manga. Numerous websites recommended the series as a good intro to manga, so I picked it up. I've read the first four volumes thus far. Fruits Basket, also known as Furuba, was published between 1999 and 2006. The series totals a huge 23 volumes! (at least that seems very large to me). It is published in the U.S. by TokyoPop and is rated T for Teen. I think younger teens would be most likely to pick it up.

The series begins with Tohru Honda in a tent. Tohru's mother recently died and her grandfather can no longer house her. She doesn't want to attract attention, so she goes to school like normal by day and lives in a tent at night. One day her handsome classmate Yuki Sohma discovers her hideaway. It turns out that Tohru set her tent down on Sohma land. They work out an interesting solution to Tohru's problems. She will live in Yuki's home in exchange for housekeeping and cooking duties (Tohru doesn't want to be a charity case and the Sohma boys desperately need a girl around). So Tohru goes to live with Yuki and his cousins Shigure and Kyo.

Tohru quickly learns that the Sohma's are no ordinary family. Each member is possessed by a spirit of the Chinese zodiac. Whenever they are hugged by someone of the opposite gender, they turn into their zodiac animal. Tohru discovers this the hard way. Normally, anyone who learns the Sohma's secret has his or her memories erased. But the Sohma's decide to let Tohru in on their secret.

Main Characters

Tohru Honda: The main character. The only outsider to know the Sohma's secret. As nice as can be. Loves taking care of people, cooking, cleaning, and mothering the Sohma boys. A loyal friend to Arisa and Saki, her best girlfriends. Misses her mother terribly.

Yuki Sohma: Zodiac animal: The rat. The first Sohma Tohru meets. Known at school as Prince Charming. Handsome and kind. But shy, lacks self-confidence, and is socially inept. Clearly head over heels for Tohru. 

Kyo Sohma: Zodiac animal: The cat. Brash and short-tempered. But also charismatic and makes friends easily. Orange-hair. A trained fighter. Main goal in life is to beat Yuki (the rat) in a fight. Also head over heels for Tohru. Tohru brings out his soft side.

Shigure Sohma: Zodiac animal: The dog. Owns the house where Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo live. A novelist. Writes trashy romances. His character is described as sometimes perverted but basically a nice guy. "Perverted" in the sense that he often speaks in double entendres - not "perverted" in the common usage.

There are other characters introduced the first four volumes, but these are the main four.

Chinese Zodiac Cat and Rat Story

This classic tale explains the animosity between Yuki (the cunning rat) and Kyo (the tricked cat). My favorite part about Fruits Basket is learning about the Zodiac.

The Rat and the Cat were once best friends. They were inseparable. One day, the Cat learned that the Jade Emperor was going to name twelve animals to represent the twelve calendar years. Of course, he immediately told his best friend, the Rat. He was excited to go to the Emperor with the Rat.

On the day of the meeting with the Emperor, the Cat wanted to be at his best. He took a nap beforehand in order to be well-rested. He asked the Rat to wake him in time to get to the palace. The Rat assured him he would.

But the Rat was greedy and ambitious. He wanted to be among the twelve animals and thought that the Emperor would surely pick the Cat over him. So he snuck off to meet the Emperor and became one of the twelve Zodiac animals.

When the Cat learned of the Rat's betrayal, he was livid. The Cat and Rat became bitter enemies. The Cat swore to the end of his days that he would best the Rat. And to this day, all cats are enemies with all rats. 


This was definitely a great choice for my first manga. The plot is unique and drew me in quickly. Other than looking at the zodiac calendar at my local Chinese restaurant, I knew nothing about the zodiac. This was a great introduction to the mythology. I really liked the story about how the cat was tricked by the rat and kept him out of the 12 zodiac animals. I also loved seeing how each character's corresponding animal influences his or her personality.

Takaya-sensei keeps the plot moving. It would be easy to get bogged down in this series and annoyed with the characters. Tohru is so optimistic, sweet, and self-sacrificing that she could easily drive me up the wall. Yuki and Kyo keep having the same fruitless fight over and over. But Fruits Baskets never gets boring. Each volume introduces us to new members of the Sohma family and takes us further into the Zodiac mythology. The daily activities of school, yearly holidays, and family politics are enough to hold my interest.

It took me a volume or two to get used to the style of manga. Everything is very dramatic. It reminds me of how theater actors have to make all their expressions and movements bigger. Manga has to work a little harder to make up for the lack of words. It was hard to visually distinguish anger from sadness from embarrassment by just looking at the pictures. Maybe it's easy for other people, but it wasn't for me. Also, manga authors like having little side notes in the margin - usually one or two per chapter. Takaya-sensei's notes have nothing to do with the book. She likes talking about her favorite video games. It's fun to read these little comments. I feel like I get to know the author a bit, but it was confusing at first.

The artwork is beautiful. Each character is drawn in great detail. Takaya-sensei especially shines with eyes and hair. I am green with envy over the straight, shiny, perfectly coiffed hair of each character. The background is simple or non-existent. The pictures really focus on the characters and their facial expressions to move the plot along.

All in all, Fruits Basket is a terrific introduction to manga. It's a fun read and leaves me itching for more. I'll provide more reviews of the series as I continue with it...perhaps every 5 volumes or so.

Rating: 4 / 5

Friday, June 18, 2010

Iron King - Julia Kagawa

Iron King - July Kagawa

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart. 
Iron King is a page-turning adventure/romance set in the faery world. I read this book shortly after finishing Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, my first faery book. I'm glad I read Lament first - it only delves gently into faery mythology. Iron King dives right into the deep-end of NeverNever land. If I hadn't had some basic knowledge about faeries, I would have been completely lost. I'd also advise you to read Midnight's Summer Dream before reading Iron King (which I have not done); I think you will appreciate Iron King much more.

Meghan Chase is a pretty boring girl in a small Louisiana town. She lusts after the school jock but will never win that game. She doesn't fit in anywhere, including in her family. Her only friend is Robbie, who is always there to brighten her day. On Meghan's 16th birthday everything changes. She comes home to find her mother collapsed on her floor and her 4 year old half-brother Ethan acting bizarrely. She soon learns that this new, hateful "Ethan" is a changeling, a faery. Ethan has been kidnapped and taken to NeverNever. Meghan can't believe it; faeries aren't real...or are they? Regardless, she'll do anything to save her brother. She heads to NeverNever to find him. With her is loyal Robbie, who is actually the famous Puck of faery legend.

Meghan heads to the Seelie Court of King Oberon. To Meghan's great surprise, she discovers that she is the daughter of King Oberon. This, ultimately, is the cause of all her troubles. She (and little Ethan) is a pawn in a great faery war. Seemingly derailing Meghan's quest to find her brother are the many people who want to kill her. The queen of the Unseelie Court sends her son, the handsome Prince Ash, to deliver Meghan to her. His quest takes a detour when Meghan, Puck, and Ash realize that a new force is present in the faery world, one that threatens them all. The three embark on a journey to rescue Ethan and save the faery world.

I have a few quibbles about the characters in Iron King - they're rather trite. Meghan is best described as "blah." There's really nothing interesting about her other than her determination to save her brother. That, of course, is a very redeemable quality, but she's just boring. Even as she grows stronger and more self-confident throughout the book, I still found her to be a flat character. Puck/Robbie is the classic funny, loyal best friend who is secretly in love with the girl, but she's completely oblivious. Ash is the stereotypical mysterious, handsome bad boy who steals away the heart of the heroine. It's not that the love triangle wasn't interesting - it was...but I've read this plot line 1,000 times. I actually thought the most interesting character was Grimalkin, the giant cat who guides Meghan throughout much of the story. His sarcastic, bemused look on life set added levity but not silliness to the story.

Despite a few misgivings, Iron King was a thoroughly enjoyable tale. The characters encounter a lot of danger along their journey. I kept reading as fast as I could to see what was going to happen next. The faery world is fascinating. Meghan quickly learns how different life is in NeverNever. Things are very black and white. Your word is unbreakable - even if you no longer want to fulfill a promise made. The words "thank you" actually have dangerous significance. Even your name has meaning. Iron King introduces endless mythological creatures. Each creature was interesting in its own right and thanks to Harry Potter and Lament, many were familiar. Iron King ends perfectly set to lead into the sequel; I am definitely excited to read more.

Rating: 4 / 5

Follow My Book Blog Friday

I found another blog hop. It's fun, albeit a little overwhelming, to participate in two blog hops. So many new blogs to find! I highly recommend it. Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee.

To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

1. Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host {} and any one else you want to follow on the list.
2. Put your Blog name &  URL in the Linky thing.
3. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
4. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can.
5. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers.
6. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's time for the Book Blogger Hop again! A great opportunity to meet new bloggers - hosted by Crazy For Books. This is my second week hopping. I had a blast last week discovering so many new blogs. I can't wait to find new fellow bloggies!

Lament - Maggie Stiefvater


Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan, a gifted harpist who regularly plays for weddings and other events, has the kind of stage fright that makes her physically ill before a performance, which is an inauspicious way to start a romance; but while vomiting before a competition she meets a gorgeous boy who comes into the restroom to hold her hair. He is Luke Dillon, a flautist who proceeds to accompany her in a truly stellar performance. As four-leaf clovers start appearing everywhere, Deirdre develops telekinetic powers and encounters strange, unworldly people who seem to bear her ill will. Her best friend, James, also a talented musician; her beloved grandmother; and her mother all are in danger, as Deirdre is targeted by the queen of Faerie. Deirdre eventually discovers that she is a cloverhand, a person who can see the denizens of faerie, and Luke, not the only immortal who has her in his sights, is a gallowglass, an assassin assigned by the queen of Faerie to kill Deirdre but who falls in love with her instead. This beautiful and out-of-the-ordinary debut novel, with its authentic depiction of Celtic Faerie lore and dangerous forbidden love in a contemporary American setting, will appeal to readers of Nancy Werlin’s Impossible (2008) and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Illustrations by Jeffrey are fitting. (courtesy of Amazon) 


Like many people, I picked up Lament after reading Maggie Stiefvater's incredible book Shiver. Lament is not Shiver, but it is excellent in its own right. My favorite part about Shiver was Maggie's writing; it was so stark, fresh, and beautiful. Her sentences felt like winter - ice cold air, untouched snow, icicle-laden trees. The writing in Lament is very different but still wonderful. The prose is lush - bright green, springtime, clover fields. The settings of both books exactly correspond to the feeling I got from Maggie's writing. I'd like to know whether it was intentional.

Lament was my first faery book. It is heavily influenced by Celtic mythology and folktales. Deidre Monaghan is an incredibly talented harpist and singer. She seems to specialize in Celtic music. At a music competition, she meets a flautist named Luke Dillon, a boy she'd seen in a very strange dream, and feels an unexplainable attraction to him. On a whim, they enter the competition with a duet; together their music is simply otherworldly. They bond between them becomes incredibly strong, incredibly fast. Deidre soon discovers that she is a Cloverhand, a human able to see faeries. She is also telepathic and telekinetic. Luke has secrets of his own - he is a gallowglass, a 1000-year old assassin for the Faerie Queen. Deidre was to be his next target, but he falls in love.

Apart from Luke, Deidre has a decent support system. The Cloverhand trait runs in families. Granna has much to teach Deidre. She also has a steadfast best friend, James, who is never without a joke. Her life is made more difficult though, by her overbearing mother and hostile aunt Delia. Deidre relies on James, Granna, and Luke to help her through this new world of faeries.

The fey themselves are fascinating creatures. I particularly like Brendan and Una, two Irish music-loving faeries who are nicer than most but still not entirely trustworthy. We also see humans who have interacted with faeries for so long that they are more a part of the fey world than human. Many fey are evil, using humans and animals as play-things for their sadistic whims. The faerie queen is the biggest force to be reckoned with. She destroys anything that threatens her power and Deidre is the biggest threat to her ever...

Lament only gets four stars from me despite enjoying the book a great deal. I did have some problems with it. I think most of the problems are common first novel issues. For example, Deidre's best friend was flat. He was funny all the time - everything was a joke. Even when he showed a little more depth and ability, it was still all a joke. I wish we saw more of him. Also, Deidre's father popped in and out of the story. For the first half I didn't even realize Dad was in the picture. Everything revolves around her mother. Then suddenly she starts referring to both "mom and dad." But Dad is still just kind of there. The plot would have flowed better if he'd just been gone altogether.

I didn't always like Deidre. Her lightening-fast, icy temper was just weird - normal people do not fly off the wall that often and that quickly for such minor things. She also used the word "friggin" way too much. I almost would have preferred her to just use the actual "F" word despite my general dislike of swearing. There is some swearing in this book. It was unnecessary, but with the exception of "friggin" it didn't really bother me. I also don't like the way she treats James. As soon as she meets Luke, James pales in significance. Even his fairly obvious pining doesn't garner her attention or sympathy. Despite my misgivings about Deidre and some of her choices, she is a caring, kind, and courageous girl. She redeems herself as the book goes on.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (2) - Guardian of the Gate - Michelle Zink

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine spotlighting upcoming releases.

Guardian of the Gate (Prophecy of the Sisters #2)  by Michelle Zink 

Release Date
August 1st 2010 by Little, Brown Young Readers  

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.  (courtesy of Goodreads) 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tween Tuesday (2) - A Faraway Island - Annika Thor

Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme created by GreenBeanTeenQueen, one of my favorite blogs. Surprise, surprise - it features books aimed at Tweens.


Torn from their homeland, two Jewish sisters find refuge in Sweden.

It's the summer of 1939. Two Jewish sisters from Vienna—12-year-old Stephie Steiner and 8-year-old Nellie—are sent to Sweden to escape the Nazis. They expect to stay there six months, until their parents can flee to Amsterdam; then all four will go to America. But as the world war intensifies, the girls remain, each with her own host family, on a rugged island off the western coast of Sweden.

Nellie quickly settles in to her new surroundings. She’s happy with her foster family and soon favors the Swedish language over her native German. Not so for Stephie, who finds it hard to adapt; she feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who’s as cold and unforgiving as the island itself. Her main worry, though, is her parents—and whether she will ever see them again.  
When I was a tween and teenager I devoured Holocaust historical fiction. A Faraway Island is the first thing I've read about Sweden's participation in saving Jews before and during WWII.

In the late 1930s, several hundred children were evacuated to Sweden to live with foster families until things were safer in Europe. This book tells the story of two fictional girls from Vienna, 12-year-old Stephie and her younger sister Nellie (about 7 years old) who come to Sweden in 1939. They live on a remote island in Sweden, populated mostly by fisherman and tourists in the summer with two foster families. The book is told from Stephie's perspective as she struggles to adjust to life in Sweden.

Stephie's story is depressing. It's my main criticism of the book. Eighty percent of the book is one long tale of gloom. Everything is miserable in Stephie's life - her foster mother is harsh, she doesn't fit into Swedish culture, has no friends, is jealous of her little sister, etc. Nellie's life on the other hand seems perfect - she loves her foster family, has loads of friends, becomes more Swedish than just perfectly happy. In many ways, this seems realistic. It's a lot harder for a 12 year old to adjust to a new life, especially because she has more awareness of the horrors back home. But reading a book where every page is just one more sad story after another gets a bit tiring.

Thankfully, things get wrapped up toward the end and seem happier. But the "fix" is so quick that it's awkward. Having everything resolved in one fell swoop rather than having things slowly adjust over the course of the book seems unrealistic - more appropriate in a book for younger readers than this book targets.

Regardless of its flaws, A Faraway Island interests me enough in Stephie and Nellie's lives that I'm really hoping that the remainder of the series are translated into English soon. 

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, June 14, 2010

Manga Monday (2)

American Manga Publishers

Numerous publishers in the U.S. produce English translations of Japanese manga and also American manga. Some of the more popular are:

TokyoPop - Originally founded as MixxMedia in 1997
Viz Media - Publishing manga in America since 1987
Del Rey - A division of Random House 
Dark Horse Manga - A division of the popular Dark Horse Comics publisher
Yen Press - Published the Twilight Graphic Novel

Age Ratings

One of the things that surprised me about manga was that there are many books aimed at the adult audience, with extreme violence and/or pornography. Clearly, I was very naive about the prevalence of manga. Then I learned about seinen and seijin manga, two forms of adult-themed manga. I mentioned them in last week's post. I was worried about picking out manga - how would I know which books contain pornography? I really have no desire to see comic book sex. Not to worry. American publishers commonly put age ratings on the manga.

Here, for example, is TokyoPop's rating system:
All AgesAll ages
Appropriate for ages 6 and up.
May contain cartoon violence and potty humor.
Youth Youth Age 10+
Appropriate for ages 10 and up.
May contain mild language, fantasy violence and bullying.
Teen Teen Age 13+
Appropriate for ages 13 and up.
May contain infrequent and mild profanity, mild violence and gore, crude humor, mild sexual language and themes, nondescript nudity, and mild fanservice, as well as references to tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drug use.
Older TeenOlder Teen Age 16+
Appropriate for ages 16 and up.
May contain profanity and strong language, moderate violence and gore, moderate sexual themes and sexual violence, nudity, moderate fanservice, and alcohol and illegal drug use.
MatureMature Ages 18+
Appropriate for ages 18 and up.
May contain excessive profanity and language; intense violence; excessive gore; explicit sexual language, themes and violence; and explicit fanservice.

Other publishers use different symbols but basically stick to the same ratings. I'm sticking to Teen and under unless an Older Teen manga really looks interesting. The age ratings are very helpful for me and hopefully they will be for you too.
What's Coming Up?

Next week I'll start reviewing actual books. I'll probably review the first few volumes of Fruits Basket or Kitchen Princess. I'm currently reading both.