Saturday, October 30, 2010

In My Mailbox (18)

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for five months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

I picked up a good set of books and CDs this week. I'm currently on vacation so I'm hoping to have loads of time to read. I just started the second Stieg Larsson book today and the fifth Harry Potter book.

Check out my new feature called What Books?, which will feature some of my favorite childhood books or current books in lots of different categories. This week I'm featuring my Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories from elementary and middle school.

Libary Book Stash

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Library CD Stash

Emotionalism by The Avett Brothers

A Thousand Suns by Linkin Park

Lungs by Florence and the Machine 

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Books? Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories

What Books? Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories

I've decided to start a new feature called "What Books?" I have so many book memories from my childhood. Different books touched me in different ways and had came to me at important times. I plan on running this feature from time to time - maybe twice a month? - and feature books that I love(d) for different reasons.

Some topics I've thought of:
1. The first book that really turned you into a reader
2. Books you didn't like at first but now love
3. Favorite books you read in high school English
4. Favorite series from elementary school

Things like that.

Right now, a lot of the topics and books that come to mind feature books that I liked when I was in elementary and middle school more than books I liked in high school and later. So there might be more of a middle-grade focus.

Please feel free to contribute your own favorite books in the comments or post similarly on your blog and link to this. If people like this feature as it gets going, I think it might be a fun meme.

In honor of Halloween, I thought it's start out the feature with my favorite ghost and scary stories.

Betty Ren Wright

I read so many of Betty Ren Wright's ghost stories in elementary school. I've never been a big horror fan (I was too terrified to go on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland when I was 8), but these mildly scary ghost stories were always great fun. It's funny as I look at the summaries of these books that they sound completely unfamiliar to me even though I know I've read them. I guess the idea of them stuck with me more than the actual plots.

Christina's Ghost: Christina's summer in a spooky, isolated Victorian house with her grumpy uncle turns into a ghostly adventure.
Ghosts Beneath Our Feet: During a summer in an abandoned mining town, Katie's relationship with a rebellious stepbrother improves as they probe the past to find out why there seem to be ghosts, literally, beneath their feet.
The Secret Window: Meg is afraid to tell anyone when her dreams literally start coming true, but she needs help before she can learn to use her gift of seeing into the future.
The Pike River Phantom: Thirteen-year-old Rachel and her cousin Charlie become linked with the mad ghost of a fierce old lady, who is eerily involved in the upcoming Sunbonnet Queen contest about which Rachel dreams.




Ghost In The Garden by Carol H. Behrman: Jennie is lonely and finds a ghost that leads her on to a great discovery.












Hopping to middle school...

Christopher Pike


Remember Me: She didn't understand that she was dead...

The Midnight Club: One night, in the middle of a particularly scary story, these five people make a pact with each other that says that the fist one of them who dies is to make every effort to contact the others- from beyond the grave. (This was my favorite Christopher Pike book)


Bury Me Deep: The dead boy would not go away.











R.L. Stine


Fearstreet books - I'm not going to feature any specific books for this one, because I was looking at Goodreads, and I can't remember which ones I've read and which ones I haven't. Overall, I thought Christopher Pike was a step above R.L Stine, so those books have stayed with me more. But I enjoyed the Fear Street as good junk candy now and again.

What were your favorite ghost/scary stories when you were younger?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hopping Time!

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

Check out the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy For Books.


I'm Alison. I've been blogging for almost five months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Right now, I'm in the middle of the 4th book. It's amazing how much new things I learn each time I read the series! Check out my post about the read-through here.

Books Reviewed This Week:

Emma vol 7 by Kaoru Mori (Manga Mondays)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: "What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?" I'd like an e-reader that functions like a Kindle or Nook with Internet access, but allows me to get library books. Something that works instantly from any location (better than the current e-readers that make allow for library downloads - you have to download it to your computer first, I think). I'd want to supply of books to be endless and have no hold times.

Follow Friday: If you have, or would have a daughter, what book would you want your daughter to read? I'd want her to read the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and the Little House on the Prairie books. And of course, the Harry Potter books.

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel


Summary

Lenah Beaudonte is, in many ways, your average teen: the new girl at Wickham Boarding School, she struggles to fit in enough to survive and stand out enough to catch the eye of the golden-boy lacrosse captain. But Lenah also just happens to be a recovering five-hundred-year-old vampire queen. After centuries of terrorizing Europe, Lenah is able to realize the dream all vampires have -- to be human again. After performing a dangerous ritual to restore her humanity, Lenah entered a century-long hibernation, leaving behind the wicked coven she ruled over and the eternal love who has helped grant her deep-seated wish.

Until, that is, Lenah draws her first natural breath in centuries at Wickham and rediscovers a human life that bears little resemblance to the one she had known. As if suddenly becoming a teenager weren’t stressful enough, each passing hour brings Lenah closer to the moment when her abandoned coven will open the crypt where she should be sleeping and find her gone. As her borrowed days slip by, Lenah resolves to live her newfound life as fully as she can. But, to do so, she must answer ominous questions: Can an ex-vampire survive in an alien time and place? What can Lenah do to protect her new friends from the bloodthirsty menace about to descend upon them? And how is she ever going to pass her biology midterm? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I'd been looking forward to Infinite Days ever since I saw the stunning cover a few months ago. But when I read several negative reviews, I started to have doubts. I picked up Infinite Days anyway, and I'm glad I did. It was an enjoyable read. However, I agree with many of the criticisms I read in the negative reviews. Parts of this book drove me crazy. If it wasn't for Rebecca Maizel's writing ability and multi-faceted story, I would have written off Infinite Days entirely.

Lenah is nearly 600 years old. As a vampire, she killed thousands without regret. Killing was the only relief from her pain. She sought power, riches, and glory. She was a vampire queen. I love the rich world that Maizel created. I love that she didn't skimp on the horror. In fact, I'd love to read a book solely about Lenah's past. Lenah yearns to be human again, and her creator/lover sacrificed himself in the performance of an ancient ritual to transform Lenah into a human. Lenah awakes from a deep sleep as a 16 year old girl enrolled in a New England boarding school. She not only has to adjust to a modern human world, but also to the high school cliquishness.

I thought the high school world was poorly done (unfortunately, this comprised much of the book). It was full of stereotypes. The popular girls. The best friend who's in love with the girl. The handsome bad boy who captures the girl's heart. The popular girls, who call themselves "Three Piece," particularly annoyed me. I'm so sick of the evil queen bee characters. In reality, most "popular" kids are much more complex, even if they are mean. And how many cliques in real life actually name themselves? Tony, Lenah's best friend, was a great character - kind, artistic, snarky. Lenah should have picked him. I do like that she worked to keep his friendship even when she pursued Justin. That doesn't happen all that often. Justin was an okay character. He was a "bad boy," but not really. He was adventurous, athletic, and secretly a sweetheart. I like that Lenah had opportunities to get to know him as a person rather than just as an object to lust over, but I didn't really understand the attraction.

Lenah's vampire world and human world, not surprisingly, eventually collide. The plot arcs were more complex than I expected. I can't say that the climax had me glued to the book in nervous anticipation, but I thought it was very interesting. The end of Infinite Days includes an excerpt from the follow-up to the book. This was fabulous. I think I liked it better than any part of Infinite Days. I'll definitely keep reading Maizel's books, flawed though they may be.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (20): The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa

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

The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa
February 1, 2011

My name is Meaghan Chase.

I thought it was over.That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stay by my side. Drag me into the core of a conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

I really love the cover.

Tween Tuesday (16): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

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


Summary

Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys were so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls' bathroom. But then the real trouble begins--someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review*

*This isn't so much of a review as a discussion of my thoughts. I'm assuming most everyone has read this series already, so I refer to connections with the later books. If you haven't read Harry Potter, beware of spoilers.


The Chamber of Secrets has always been my least favorite Harry Potter book. I think it started off on the wrong foot. Harry and Ron find the entrance to Platform 9 3/4 blocked, so they fly Ron's dad's car to Hogwarts. This always struck me as a monumentally stupid thing to do. As McGonagall suggests, they could have sent an owl explaining the situation or waited for Ron's parents to re-emerge from the platform. Instead, they blatantly and thoughtlessly broke all sorts of wizarding rules. I don't mind when Harry breaks rules for a good reason, which he typically does. But with me being a Hermione-like rule lover, such pointless disobedience is irritating. It doesn't work too well when I start the book out annoyed; my attitude subconsciously carries through to the end even if I know it shouldn't bother me. I realize this is a ridiculous reason to dislike the book, but sometimes logic can't overrule first opinions.

If nothing else, the car scene functions as a great literary device. We don't need to read the same train and school arrival scene over and over in all seven (well, six) books. This exposes us to a new part of Hogwarts (the whomping willow) and further illustrates Harry, Ron, Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Mrs. Weasley's characters. Rowling really does a good job in finding good ways to show annual events in a different light with each book. The Deathday party on Halloween also illustrates this.

I love how The Chamber Of Secrets introduces us to so many new elements of the wizarding world that become important later. We learn about parseltongue, see our first horcrux (even if we don't know what it is), polyjuice potion, house elves, the oblivate spell, Azkaban, and more. It's still a very child-like book. Not as much as Socercer/Philosopher's Stone, but you can tell that Harry is still just a boy and that it's aimed at younger readers. At least, Rowling worked out many of the kinks in her writing that were present in the first book.

A few interesting observations and questions that occurred to me while reading:

1. We see Malfoy with his father in Borgin & Burkes (p. 49-53). Even though Lucius Malfoy is curt and impatient with his son, you can tell that they have a strong relationship - Lucius easily could have sent a servant to take Draco school shopping; he promised to buy him a present. Throughout the books, Draco talks "my father this," "my mother that." His parents are always sending him things and keeping close tabs on his school life. They are not nice people, but Lucius and Narcissa love Draco in their own way. This love ends up saving Harry's life.

2. I wonder why Dumbledore hired Gilderoy Lockhart. The book says he was the only person willing to undertake the cursed DADA job. Was this actually true? Surely, Dumbledore knew that Gilderoy was a fraud. Was he really forced to hire him when no one else volunteered?

3. In general, Dumbledore confuses me a bit. How much did he know about the Chamber Of Secrets? Did he allow Harry to get in this situation? I think that the later books will help answer these questions, but I can't remember them right now. In general, I see Dumbledore as so much of a plotter that I'm inclined to believe he knew everything and purposely allowed Harry to risk his life. We know that he did this later on, but I wonder what his awareness of the situation was early on.

Question: Which of the Harry Potter books is your LEAST favorite?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Manga Mondays (21): Emma vol. 7 by Kaoru Mori

Emma vol. 7 by Kaoru Mori

Summary/Review

Warning: My manga "reviews" often contain spoilers. I find it hard to adequately discuss a volume of manga without talking about it in more detail than some might like.


Volume 7 goes all over the place. Emma has been sold into servitude in the Americas - I think in the Caribbean. She goes along with it, not making any attempts to escape. She's lost the joy out of her life without William. Not to fear, William and Hakim learn the reason for her disappearance and travel to rescue her. Emma returns to England and goes to live with William's mother. His mother and Emma's former mistress endeavor to teach Emma to become a lady. She envisions a future with William and does not want to be an embarrassment.

Eleanor meanwhile is miserable over the loss of William. The Count, Eleanor's father, takes his anger out on his daughter. It is her fault that she lost such a catch. He sends her off to a "health spa" to recover from some invented illness. I enjoyed Eleanor's crazy sister, who likes dressing up in risque saris and hanging out with Hakim's dancing girls. She's feisty and fun and fierce defender of her sister.

There's a cute theme that plays out in the book. A poor little girl in the Americas finds Williams hat, which he dropped. She thinks it's a toy, but her family convinces her to send it back to England, to the store where it was bought. It gets returned to William, and he sends her a fancy doll as a thank you. It was a nice touch.

The best part of this book is the beginning of chapter 51. There are some beautiful drawings of Emma and William together. The dark background and wordless pictures perfectly portray the couple's longing and desire.

My one qualm with this volume is that it's too vast. Mori easily could have spent an entire volume on Emma, William, and Hakim's time in America. I would have like to see more of each plot point - Emma learning to be a lady, the reaction of William's family to this new development, Eleanor's predicament, Eleanor's crazy sister, and more. The volume covers too much in too short a time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I posted my review of Mockingjay and then realized that I forgot to post my review of Catching Fire. Whoops. You can read about my disappointment with Mockingjay here.

Summary

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Review

I don't like dystopias. It is my least favorite genre of literature. Despite this, I love the Hunger Games series. I put off reading Catching Fire for a long time, choosing instead to read books in genres I preferred. But I wanted to read Mockingjay, so I had to read Catching Fire. At first, the book was a bit of a chore, not because it was uninteresting, but because the oppressiveness of the government depressed me.

A year after Katniss and Peeta's unexpected joint win of the Hunger Games, life has returned somewhat to normal for Katniss. She's more wealthy now, but still goes out to hunt with Gale every Sunday. Her relationships with Gale and Peeta are suffering though. They are both in love with her. She is not in love with either of them; she doesn't really know what she feels. Katniss and Peeta take a brief detour from their home lives by going on the Victory Tour, a required publicity stunt through each district. There, they realize that citizen discontent is simmering and rapidly rising to a boil. Life after the victory tour quickly becomes more difficult as the government will do anything and everything to keep its citizens in check.

Catching Fire is anything but hard to read. Even though I hadn't read Hunger Games in a few years, I was immediately familiar with Katniss's world. Collins does a great job of getting you up to speed without feeling like the first few chapters are just a recap. The book is full of action, one painful cliff hanger after another. The book never feels like it's dragging. When there isn't a heartpounding moment of action, you're reading about the details of Katniss's fashion and make-up or experiencing every day life in her village. The Hunger Games fantasy world is richly described. Even without all the action, Katniss's world would make a fascinating book.

I love all the characters in this series. Katniss is a three-dimensional character. We see so many of her flaws. She is uncomfortable, awkward, and doesn't allow people in. She often seems to survive on dumb luck alone. But she is also fiercely loyal to her family and friends, brave, smart, and ultimately, good. In Hunger Games, I was thoroughly Team Gale. Now, I am Team Peeta. He is just so wonderful, kind, smart, well-spoken. He is everything that awkward Katniss is not; they play off one another perfectly. But you really can't go wrong with Gale either. Katniss has two fabulous guys to choose from, which makes her life even more difficult. The secondary characters are drawn well. Haymitch is a hardened drunk who is a brilliant and protective mentor when he's sober. Katniss's prep crew are hilarious, yet also far smarter and more knowledgeable than they appear on the surface. I especially like Cinna.

Catching Fire is a fabulous book that causes me to forget that I hate dystopias. I cannot wait for Mockingjay.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Saturday, October 23, 2010

In My Mailbox (17)

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for almost five months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Kidlit Con 2010 on Saturday in downtown Minneapolis. We had a great group of bloggers, authors, and publishers in attendance.  Most of the audience was geared toward younger books than I typically read, but there was still lots of interesting information. 

Some of the sessions:
Blog Touring
Blog Platforms and Best Practices
Poetry Friday
Publicity Panel - Great Q&A with people from Flux, Lerner, and HarperCollins
And the Keynote address by...Maggie Stiefvater!!!!

Maggie was a great speaker. She's upbeat, funny, and rather perky in a way that you wouldn't expect from her angsty books. (I took pictures of Maggie speaking, but they all turned out with her in funny poses, so I'll do her a favor and not post them unless someone else from the conference puts up a decent photo).

I met some great bloggers and authors at the conference:

Authors: Swati Avasthi, Elissa Cruz, Kurtis Scaletta, Blythe Woolston.
Bloggers: Ms Martin Teaches Media, The Wormhole, Jen Robinson's Book Page, From The Mixed Up Files Of Middle Grade Authors.

There were many others there, but these are the ones I actually talked to.

Next year the conference is in Seattle. I'd recommend it!

Here are my books for the week:

Free/For Review

The Hole In The Wall by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (won Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature)

Bought


Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (I've already read this, but I got a signed copy!)
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

I wanted to buy many more from the conference, but this is all the cash I could shell out. I will be checking out  lots of library books in the near future, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hopping Blogs

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

Check out the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy For Books.


Ends October 22! GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Go HERE to enter! 

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for almost five months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Check out my post about it here.

Books Reviewed This Week:

-Reviews are a little light this week. I was in San Diego until yesterday and only had a very slow Internet connection.

Manga Mondays: Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Where is your favorite place to read? I love to read outside in the sun or curled up on the couch in the winter. When I was a kid, my favorite place to read was perched on a 4 foot tall orange tree stump next to our garage. It was small enough to be perfect for a 10 year old, but would probably be really uncomfortable now.

Follow Friday: What are you currently reading? I am reading Keeper by Kathi Appelt and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I'm back in commission. I just got back from San Diego, where I've been for the past five days. I left sunny, warm Minnesota for cold, rainy California. Doesn't seem quite right. I had an Internet connection at my hotel but it was super-slow, so I haven't done a whole lot of blogging. I'm ready to get back to normal.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


I think my review is pretty much spoiler-free.

I came somewhat late to the Hunger Games world, sort of.  I actually read Hunger Games several years ago - before it became super-popular. I really enjoyed it, but it's a genre that I really don't like - dystopia. Even when I think I will like a dystopia book, it is difficult for me to force myself to pick it up. So I didn't get to Catching Fire until about a month ago. I shouldn't have been surprised, after loving Hunger Games, to be thoroughly engrossed by the tale. I eagerly anticipated Mockingjay after finishing Catching Fire. Sadly, I was disappointed.

That's not to say that Mockingjay isn't interesting or engaging. It certainly maintains the page-turning quality of the other books. I like that Collins managed to create a "Hunger Games" like scenario without actually having a third Hunger Games. She managed to stick with a popular theme without making it too repetitive. I like that she doesn't shy away from the horror or violence. Nothing is glorified and no one is safe from death.

I really like Katniss. She is an atypical hero. A lot of people complain about the fact that she doesn't make decisions and that she is so unsure of herself. But that's exactly what I do like. Katniss is deceptively strong. She fights to save herself and those she loves, but it's really impulsive. It's like she's a hero despite herself. She doesn't have Peeta's charisma or even Gale's mature competence (although she's obviously amazingly smart and skilled). She's a loose cannon. You never get a feeling of bravado. It makes her more relateable. She's not trying to be strong and doesn't seek glory. She just snaps and things seem to fall into place. I like that she is no one's woman - other than the very few people she trusts, she is loyal to no one. Neither the Capital nor District 13 can claim her.

Now for what I didn't like...I thought the book petered out. I really didn't like the ending. It's like Collins gave up. It could have been better written. It could have been better plotted. Ironically, much of my problem with the ending is the opposite of the reason whyI like Katniss. She caused the catalyst that brought about the ending, but that was it - she just caused it. Everything else happened by other forces. Katniss didn't have the opportunity to come into her own, develop charisma, or really deal with all the awful things that had happened. And her choice between Gale and Peeta was such a let-down. It didn't feel romantic at all. Throughout the series the tension and romance between Katniss and Gale and Katniss and Peeta was fabulous - so fun to read - but Katniss's ultimate choice just felt like settling. I also didn't like the way Collins handled several of the deaths of prominent characters. Some characters that I really, really liked just disappeared without any fanfare. And others got far too much fanfare, in my opinion. I just thought that certain characters that were never developed as well as they should have been, so when they died, I really didn't care. If you're going to make a death such a big deal, you should work a little harder to really develop the character earlier in the series.

All in all, the Hunger Games is a fabulous series. Mockingjay was good as well, but just could have been better.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, October 18, 2010

Manga Mondays (20): Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki

Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi, and Sashimi by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki

I love cooking and eating. The majority of the food I cook is Asian-influenced. I particularly love Japanese food. I picked up Oishinbo simply to enjoy the depictions of food in the manga. Oishinbo is an adult manga (in that the characters are adults - it's thoroughly PG or PG-13). Yamaoka Shiro is a journalist tasked with creating the Ultimate Menu. He is helped by Kurita Yuku, his fiance, and thwarted by Kaibara Yuzan, his father. Shiro is passionate about food. He has a vast array of knowledge about Japanese cuisine and seeks to find perfectly prepared dishes and perfect ingredients. The book depicts a series of battles: battles to find the best dishes, battles between Shiro and his father, and Shiro's battles with his self-confidence.

Really, the plot is rather silly. The thing that made this book fun was the detailed descriptions of the food. Each volume of Oishinbo focuses on a different aspect of Japanese cuisine. This volume focuses on fish. It's amazing how much one can glean from a bite of fish. For example, one bite of sweetfish merits these comments, "The crisp bones, the soft and sweet meat and the rich bitterness of the guts!" and "Good sweetfish comes from wide and fast rivers, but the amount of water and the water quality differ slightly from year to year...The quality and amount of moss growing on the rocks in the river is the most important point. The flavor of the fish will change slightly depending on that." The book reminds me of episodes from the original Japanese Iron Chef television show. It astounded me how all the judges could wax poetically about every little aspect of a dish.

The drawing is distinct from the other manga I've read. It feels harsher, more grown up and blue collar. The lines are sharp and to-the-point. The artist spends the most detail on the food. Each piece of fish is drawn in great detail, with every scale emphasized.

I don't know that I would read any more of Oishinbo. The plot bored me, and one can only read so many food descriptions, but it was still a fun read.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In My Mailbox (16)

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for four months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.


GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Go HERE to enter!
Ends October 22!


Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Check out my post about it here.

For Review



Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan R. Shickman
Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan R. Shickman

Thank you to Bonnie Lenz of Earthshaker Books for the review copies!

Bought


Home by Bill Bryson (Read a few chapters already. It's terrific.)


Library Stash


Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (Wahoo! So excited about this!)
Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick (Already finished. Very cute)

CD Stash


Light Chasers by Cloud Cult (Been waiting for this for a long time)

For those who haven't have of this band (and I imagine that's most of you), I highly recommend them. They're a Minnesota-based experimental indie rock band that's been around for a long time, but doesn't get much mainstream play. Paste Magazine described their sound as "equally baroque and beat-based, sample heavy and orchestral, and full of lyrical meanderings that toe the line between ingenious and terrible." It's definitely a different sound. I didn't like it at first, but once I started to listen to the lyrics from their Feel Good Ghosts and Meaning of 8 albums, which focus on grief, hope, religion, philosophy, etc, I was hooked. It's hard not to be touched in some way by their songs.

Here is a Youtube video of my favorite song so far on the Light Chasers album: You'll Be Bright (Invocation Part 1)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blogger Hops

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

Check out the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy For Books.


GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Go HERE to enter!

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for four months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Check out my post about it here.

Books Reviewed This Week:

Dengeki Daisy vol. 1 by Kyousuke Motomi
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (very detailed review!)
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: What do you do when  you just can't get into a book? If I feel like a book will eventually get better, I slog through. Other times, I put it down and pick it up a few days later when I have more patience. Or I just give up.

Follow Friday: What is your reading suggestion this week? I highly recommend Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I also just finished Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick and Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Child. Both are cute, sweet fluff.

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

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Summary

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Review

I can't recommend Paranormalcy highly enough. It's one of my favorite discoveries all year long. The book hooked me from the first page. Evie works for the IPCA, an international organization that registers and controls paranormal creatures. She has the ability to see through glamours and recognize paranormals for what they are. This makes her vital to the IPCA. She's lived with them since she was 7 or 8 when they rescued her from foster care. She brings in paranormals to the IPCA, subduing them with her beloved Tasey. It's an exciting life, but Evie longs to be a normal teenager. She obsesses over a high school TV soap opera and glamorizes even the most simple facets of school life, such as lockers. Even though Evie has lots of friends and a caretaker at the IPCA, she is extremely lonely.

The IPCA is troubled by recent deaths of paranormals. At the same time, a mysterious paranormal ends up within the IPCA compound, overtaking several agents. Evie forms a friendship with him. Lend has the fascinating ability to instantly shape shift into any other person, clothes and all. As their friendship grows and the threat from the IPCA becomes stronger, Evie must question everything. Who or what is she? Who cares about her? What is the purpose of the IPCA?

I love the relationship between Lend and Evie. He's a great "leading guy," a nice friendly boy that any girl would love to bring home to her parents. It's nice to see that they become friends before their relationship becomes anything more. I also enjoyed the complexity of Evie's relationship with Raquel, who plays a mother role, but also doesn't, leaving Evie somewhat directionless. My only complaint about the characters or relationships in the book is Evie's connection to Vivian. I understand what it is, but I didn't emotionally relate to it as well as the others.

The plotting in Paranormalcy is fabulous. I was surprised to see a huge plot climax occur only halfway through the book. I'd assumed the entire book was going to be based on the initial plot arc, but Kiersten had lots more in store for us. There were so many different pieces to the story that I never got bored and always looked forward to the next page.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (19): Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

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


Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
February 8, 2011


I'm interested to see what Lisa comes up with after the Wake trilogy.


Summary


The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tween Tuesday (15): Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling


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

This is one of my reviews for the Banned Book Challenge. Go to the main post on StephSuReads' site here and my post discussing the challenge here.

Summary

Readers are in for a delightful romp with this award-winning debut from a British author who dances in the footsteps of P.L. Travers and Roald Dahl. As the story opens, mysterious goings-on ruffle the self-satisfied suburban world of the Dursleys, culminating in a trio of strangers depositing the Dursleys' infant nephew Harry in a basket on their doorstep. After 11 years of disregard and neglect at the hands of his aunt, uncle and their swinish son Dudley, Harry suddenly receives a visit from a giant named Hagrid, who informs Harry that his mother and father were a witch and a wizard, and that he is to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry himself. Most surprising of all, Harry is a legend in the witch world for having survived an attack by the evil sorcerer Voldemort, who killed his parents and left Harry with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. And so the fun begins, with Harry going off to boarding school like a typical English kid?only his supplies include a message-carrying owl and a magic wand. There is enchantment, suspense and danger galore (as well as enough creepy creatures to satisfy the most bogeymen-loving readers, and even a magical game of soccerlike Quidditch to entertain sports fans) as Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione plumb the secrets of the forbidden third floor at Hogwarts to battle evil and unravel the mystery behind Harry's scar. (courtesy of Amazon)

Review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a revolutionary book for so many readers. It was for me, and I didn't read it until I was 18. I grew up hating any and all fantasy. I was not a fan of A Wrinkle In Time and was never interested in reading Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Harry Potter was the first book that really made me like fantasy. It wasn't until reading Twilight that I fully accepted fantasy - paranormal, urban, and high fantasy. I remember being enthralled by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I finished it and immediately read the second and third books.

Surprisingly, the last few times I've re-read the Harry Potter series, I am full of criticism about the first book. It is so juvenile. It plays on stereotypes of children's literature, like the Dursley's who are a level of mean and stupid that feels like something out of a Roald Dahl novel. The writing is a little sloppy. For example, during the quidditch games, the point-of-view suddenly switches from Harry to Hermione and Ron. The plot also flies along. Harry doesn't even get to Hogwarts until page 85 out of 223 (British edition). Months go by in a matter of paragraphs. Some lines sound like a soliloquy. For example, Hermione's famous lines just before Harry drinks the potion to meet Quirrel: "Me!...Books! And cleverness! There are more important things - friendship and bravery and - oh Harry - be careful." This is actually one of my favorite lines in the book and in the movie, but can you really imagine any kid actually saying something like this in the spur of the moment? Other lines are just too kiddish. For example, "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them."

I have to remember to take Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with a grain of salt. On its own, it is a marvelous book. An engaging, fun read. It's only in comparing it to the later books, which are just so much deeper and better written, that the first book seems unworthy. It is a juvenile book, because Harry is a child. He sees and understands the world as a child. And the book is meant to be read by young children, whereas the later books are more geared toward older children and adults. Plus, it was Jo's first book - you have to cut her some slack for beginner's errors.

Harry Potter is a frequently challenged book. Unlike many other books when I can at least understand why a parent might not want their child to read the book, I cannot understand why anyone would have a problem with Harry Potter. There are people who don't like books that positively portray witchcraft and magic. But Harry Potter does not condone witchcraft - it does not condone evil. On the contrary, it is a classic tale of good and evil. It just happens that both the good and the bad people are witches and wizards. Plus, Deathly Hallows, if not the whole series, makes blatant allusions to Christianity, a la C.S. Lewis. Some people have also argued that Harry Potter encourages children to disobey adults and portrays adults in a negative light. This may be true, but this is a classic theme of children's literature. If you don't kill of the adults, you make them stupid or neglectful so the kids can rule the day. Harry Potter goes overboard in its portrayal of the Dursleys, but it also features strong positive adult characters, such as the Weasleys and Dumbledore. As the books go on, all of the adult characters, with the exception of Mr. Dursley, become more complex. The good characters have flaws and the evil characters have valid reasons for their personalities. I can understand not wanting young children to read the later Harry Potter books. It is a level of evil that would terrify many younger kids. But I can't understand how someone can justify that no one should read the books. I think the books are among of the best series of children's literature ever written.

For this read, I tried to focus on the little things in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that become more significant later. I am simply in awe of how well-thought-out the series is. On re-reads you can capture so many things - in people's personalities and little asides - that we reader about in later books.

Rating: 4 / 5 (The book would probably merit a higher rating if the later books weren't so much better).





Tidbits from the Sorcerer/Philosopher's Stone that become significant later: (all page references are from the British edition)

1. Hagrid brings baby Harry to the Dursley's on a bike he borrowed from "young Sirius Black." (pg. 16)

2. "Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them." Harry isn't afraid of Aragog, the giant spider in Chamber of Secrets like Ron is. (pg. 20)

3. Harry spoke with the boa constrictor at the zoo; we later learn that he is a parseltongue, like Voldemort. The snake theme reappears in the serpent in Chamber of Secrets and Nagini (pg. 25-26)

4. When Aunt Petunia is telling Harry about how Lily was a freak, you can just see envy oozing off her like green sludge (pg. 44)

5. Gringotts. "Yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob in," says Hagrid. What do they do in Deathly Hallows? (pg. 50). We also meet Griphook on pg. 57.

6. Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic. "'There's a Ministry of Magic?' Harry asked...'Course,' said Hagrid. 'They wanted Dumbledore fer Minister o' course, but he'd never leave Hogwarts.'" We learn later that Dumbledore chooses not to seek higher positions, because he knows power is his weakness. (Pg. 51).

7. "It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather - just one other." We later learn that the feather comes from Fawkes. Plus, how influential brother wands can be. (pg. 65)

8. We meet Ollivander, the wand-maker who becomes important in Deathly Hallows, and also seems to skirt the line between admiring and fearing Voldemoret. (pg. 63-65).

9. Dumbledore's chocolate frog card, "Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945." We certainly learn much more about this in Deathly Hallows. (pg. 77).

10. During the Sorting, we briefly learn the names of people in other houses who make appearances later, Hannah Abbott; Susan Bones; Terry Boot; Millicent Bulstrode; Justin Finch-Fletchley; the Patil twins; Blaise Zabini (pg. 89-91)

11. Snape: "The hook-nosed teacher looked past Quirrell's turban straight into Harry's eyes." (pg. 94). It was Lily's eyes that Snape was seeing.

12. Bezoar: "A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons." (pg. 103) Comes up again in Half Blood Prince.

13. There are references to Quidditch Through The Ages, which Jo releases a separate book on pgs. 108 and 133).

14. Snape was injured by Fluffy, the 3-headed dog. "One of his legs was bloody and mangled. Filch was handing Snape bandages. 'Blasted thing,' Snape was saying. 'How are you supposed to keep your eyes on all three heads at once?'" (pg. 134). This makes me wonder - if Dumbledore entrusted Snape to protect Harry, why didn't he tell Snape more about how to get past the enchantments guarding the Sorcerer's Stone. At the time, the Sorcerer's Stone wasn't connected to Harry, but surely Dumbledore knew that Harry was likely to discover it and come to blows with Quirrell/Voldemort. At this point, it's difficult for me to understand just how much Dumbledore has planned out.

15. "Snape was in the middle of the stands opposite them. He had his eyes fixed on Harry and was muttering non-stop under his breath." (pg. 140). We know now that Snape was trying to protect Harry; that's revealed later in the book. It becomes even more meaningful when we realize just how hard Snape works throughout the years to protect Harry.

16. Harry receives the invisibility cloak for Christmas. (pg. 148). Harry now has one of the Deathly Hallows, and he doesn't even know it. Dumbledore gives him the cloak. I think this is his first direct intervention into Harry's life.

17. Our first real meeting with Dumbledore comes when he finds Harry obsessed with the Mirror of Erised (pg. 156-57). Once again, another sign of Dumbledore's plotting - placing the Mirror of Erised, which Harry will later need to find the Sorcerer's Stone, somewhere where Harry can find it. We also see Dumbledore tell Harry a white lie about his deepest desires: "'What do you see when you look in the Mirror?' 'I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks.'" (pg. 157). Deathly Hallows reveals Dumbledore to be a much more complicated man, although even Harry realizes in Sorcerer's Stone that Dumbledore was probably lying.

18. "Harry didn't know whether he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went...[he] sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds." (pg. 162). Snape was following him - protecting him. And we learn that Snape can read minds in a way, through Occlumency.

19. Snape threatens Quirrell about the Sorcerer's Stone (pg. 165-66). You might say this is another one of Dumbledore's plottings. Dumbledore seems to know that Quirrell is guilty, as does Snape. But Dumbledore just allows Harry to be put into such a dangerous position. I wonder if Dumbledore already knows that Voldemort has overtaken Quirrell's body.

20. Harry gets his invisibility cloak back, "Just in case." (pg. 190). Dumbledore wants Harry to go after the Stone.

21. "'Professor Dumbledore left ten minutes ago,' she said coldly. 'He received an urgent owl from the Ministry of Magic and flew off for London at once.'" (pg. 194). Dumbledore must have known that the message was fake, meant to lead his out of the castle, yet he left anyway.

22. "'If Snape gets hold of the Stone, Voldemort's coming back!...D'you think he'll leave you and your families alone if Gryffindor win the House Cup? If I get caught before I can get to the Stone, well, I'll have to go back to the Dursleys and wait for Voldemort to find me there. It's only dying a bit later than I would have done, because I'm never going over to the Dark Side!'" (pg. 196-97). "The Dark Side." Ha Ha. Harry's watched too many movies. You see here that Harry has some understanding of Voldemort's threat, but it's still with the mentality of a child. I can't imagine Voldemort would care that much about the House Cup (although maybe he would). And Harry would never get the chance to go to the Dark Side. Voldemort would never let Harry live, but Harry just doesn't know enough about Voldemort yet.

23. The enchantments guarding the Sorcerer's Stone: Flying keys, wizard's chess, potion's riddle (pg. 202-08). A coincidence that the enchantments play perfectly to Harry, Hermione, and Ron's strengths? I doubt it. Dumbledore practically made this for them.

24. "'[Snape] was at Hogwarts with your father, didn't you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you dead.'" (pg. 210). No mention of Harry's mother here. Snape worked so hard to keep any connection between him and Lily away from Voldemort's knowledge.

25. "'The effort involved nearly killed you. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had.'" (pg. 215). Dumbledore is afraid for multiple reasons. Harry's death would leave nothing to stop Voldemort, other than Dumbledore, and ruin all of Dumbledore's plans. At the same time, Dumbledore honestly care for Harry and doesn't want anything to happen to him. Makes it hard to keep purposely putting Harry in harm's way.

26. The invisibility cloak: "'Your father happened to leave it in my possession and I thought you might like it.'" (pg. 217). We learn more about this later.

27. Harry's father saved Snape's life. Dumbledore explains that Snape worked so hard to save him this year, because "'Professor Snape couldn't bear being in your father's debt...I do believe he worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father quits.'" (pg. 217). We know that he protected Harry because that's what Dumbledore said was necessary. But I wonder making he and James "quits" also played into his motivations, or if Dumbledore was just making that up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Manga Mondays (19): Dengeki Daisy vol. 1 by Kyousuke Motomi

Dengeki Daisy vol. 1 by Kyousuke Motomi


Summary/Review


Warning: My manga "reviews" often contain spoilers. I find it hard to adequately discuss a volume of manga without talking about it in more detail than some might like.

Dengeki Daisy begins when Teru Kurebayashi's older brother dies. Just before he passes away, he gives her a cell phone that connects her to Daisy. Daisy will always be there to comfort and protect Teru. And she is in much need of comfort and protection throughout Volume 1. When she breaks a school window and can't pay for it, she is sentenced to indefinite servitude under Tasuku Kurosaki, the school janitor. Kurosaki is lazy, rude, and prickly. Teru is miserable. It's clear pretty quickly to everyone but Teru that Kurosaki is Daisy. Through her cell phone, he provides moral support and comes to her support whenever she's in danger.

On the surface, Teru is a meek, shy girl. But a lot of spunk lies beneath. Teru is inclined to make dramatic pronouncements while holding her fingers in a sideways V-shaped salute. It's a bit silly, but very "manga-ish." She is also kind and brave, willing to go out of her way to protect people who don't even like her. She does manage to get herself in situations where she needs to be rescued. Lucky Daisy/Kurosaki is always there to save the day. While there are legitimate reasons to dislike the weak girl, strong boy stereotype, it does make for a good story. I love the tension between Teru and Kurosaki. There are some gorgeous drawings where you can just feel the attraction between them. It's impressively romantic.

Volume 1 is a good intro into Dengeki Daisy. It's a little confusing, and it took me awhile to feel any connection to the characters, but by the end, I was looking forward to Volume 2. It's a silly shojo manga - pure romance fluff, but there's it's nice to read that every once in awhile.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

In My Mailbox (15)

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for four months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.


GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Go HERE to enter!

I decided to enter Steph Su Reads' Banned Book Challenge. Check out my post about it here!

Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Check out my post about it here.

Library Stash:


Emma vol. 7 by Kaoru Mori
Emma vol. 8 by Kaoru Mori
Emma vol. 10 by Kaoru Mori
But not Volume 9 - agh!


Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
Keeper by Kathi Appelt and August Hall


Access: San Diego (I'm going there next weekend!)

Library CD Stash 


The Courage of Others by Midlake (I'm loving the album)


Wincing The Night Away by The Shins (I already have this album. I love it. I just needed to replace the last two tracks, which skip)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blog Hops

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

Check out the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy For Books.


GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Go HERE to enter!

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for four months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Currently, I'm in the middle of Harry Pott-ober! Throughout October, I'll be doing my Third Annual Harry Potter Re-Read. Check out my post about it here.

Books Reviewed This Week:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Gone by Lisa McMann
Emma vol. 6 by Kaoru Mori

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? I'm basically a water gal. I drink much more than the recommended 8 glasses of water per day - mostly because I grab my water bottle whenever I'm bored at the computer - better than grabbing candy. At night or sometimes in the morning, I like drinking a warm mug of herbal tea. Hot chocolate is my beverage of choice at coffeeshops. Starbucks used to make a fabulous Signature Hot Chocolate, but they discontinued it. Now, Caribou Coffee's hot chocolate is my favorite chain store drink.

Follow Friday: How many reviews do you like to do per week? I usually try to put up 2 to 3 reviews each week.

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

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is one of my reviews for the Banned Book Challenge. Go to the main post on StephSuReads' site here and my post discussing the challenge here.

Summary

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...

Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. The triumphant ending, in which Melinda finds her voice, is cause for cheering (while many readers might also shed a tear or two). After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person--who may be screaming beneath the silence. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Speak is a difficult book to read. It is painful and haunting. Not a book to read on a day you need cheering up or on your birthday (as I learned the hard way). It is one of those books that sticks with you long after you've finished. I struggled to read Speak at the beginning, simply because it is so dark, but pretty soon I was caught up in Melinda's sad world. I ended up glued to my chair for hours at Starbucks until I finished the book.

Melinda is just starting ninth grade. After calling the cops at an end-of-summer party, she is hated by everyone, including her former best friend. The only girl who pays attention to her is Heather, a new girl who is more interested in being popular than in truly gaining Melinda's friendship. Her parents are so caught up in their own troubles, that they don't even notice their daughter struggling.

It is clear that Melinda is in a deep depression. It's like there's a sheer black veil covering her eyes - she can see and function, but everything is dark and blurry. She goes through life seeing the bad in everything, unable to enjoy even pleasant experiences. At first, we don't know why. But as the story progresses, we learn that Melinda was raped at the summer party. She has told no one, but it is always at the forefront of her mind.

The reader really gets into Melinda's head. The book is designed to make you feel as she does. Even the sentence structure, which is short and choppy, makes the book seem dark and harsh. You get hints of the fun girl Melinda once was before the party. I love her sarcastic complaints about the banalities of high school life. It broke my heart to see Melinda trying to enjoy life, but not being able to get through - you could see that she loves art, she wants to have friends, she wants to do well in school, but the depression controls her.

Speak is a frequently challenged and banned book. I can understand a parent's fear of having their child exposed to painful subjects such as rape and depression. But these topics are unfortunately all too real for many teens. Speak is a book that these teens can relate to and is also an excellent teaching tool for all teens. In the afterward to the 10th edition, Laurie Halse Anderson notes, "I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped...I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a young woman." Speak opens a door to discussion and knowledge that no dry lecture from a teacher can.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (18): Official Twilight Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer

Stop The Presses!!!!!

Official Twilight Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer
April 12, 2011
 - It's actually happening!!!!


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

I've already featured the Official Twilight Illustrated Guide as a WoW, but this merits a second glance.

Here's the press release from Little Brown:

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, has announced today at the Frankfurt Book Fair that it will release The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer on April 12, 2011. This definitive encyclopedic reference to the Twilight Saga is the only official guide and is full color throughout, including nearly 100 full-color illustrations and photographs. The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide will be released in hardcover for $24.99 and also be available as an e-book.

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide provides readers with exclusive new material and everything they need to further explore the unforgettable world Stephenie Meyer created in Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. The Guide also includes character profiles, outtakes, a conversation with Meyer, genealogical charts, maps, extensive cross-references, and much more. Originally announced as “The Official Guide,” The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide includes illustrations from several artists, including Young Kim, the illustrator behind the #1 New York Times bestselling Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1.

“I’m always amazed at how many in-depth questions my readers have about my characters and the world within the Twilight Saga,” said Stephenie Meyer. “With The Official Illustrated Guide, I hoped we could incorporate as many details as possible, including character histories, like Alice’s back story. I’m thrilled with the different artistic interpretations done by Young Kim and the other talented illustrators, including Bella’s wedding dress. I hope the fans feel it was worth the wait!”

In five years, Stephenie Meyer has become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. The Twilight Saga’s translation rights have been sold in nearly 50 countries and 116 million copies have been sold worldwide.

Hachette Book Group (HBG) is a leading trade publisher based in New York and a division of Hachette Livre, the second-largest publisher in the world. HBG publishes under the divisions of Little, Brown and Company, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords, Center Street, Orbit, and Hachette Digital.

What do you most want to see in the Official Twilight Illustrated Guide?

I really don't care about the illustrations. I'm most interested in Alice's back-story.
 
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