Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (26): Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

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

Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr
February 22, 2011


-Recently, I read Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and her graphic novel Santuary. These books were my introduction to a fantastic author and a enthralling series. I can't wait to read the rest of the Wicked Lovely books and check out the new one.
-Isn't this an incredible cover? I love that flower, the girl in the background, and the little sparkles.

Summary

The Summer King is missing; the Dark Court is bleeding; and a stranger walks the streets of Huntsdale, his presence signifying the deaths of powerful fey.

Aislinn tends to the Summer Court, searching for her absent king and yearning for Seth. Torn between his new queen and his old love, Keenan works from afar to strengthen his court against the coming war. Donia longs for fiery passion even as she coolly readies the Winter Court for battle. And Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is about to make a mistake that could cost his life.

Love, despair, and betrayal ignite the Faery Courts, and in the final conflict, some will win . . . and some will lose everything.

The thrilling conclusion to Melissa Marr's New York Times bestselling Wicked Lovely series will leave readers breathless.

What Books? The Movie Is Better Than The Book

What Books? The Movie Is Better Than The Book

I have 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 every other week and featuring books that I love(d) for different reasons.

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 is more of a middle-grade focus.

See prior editions of What Books? here:

Favorite Not-Super-Popular Book Series
Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories

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.

Today's edition:

What movie did you think was better than the book? Everyone always says that the book is better than the movie. This is usually for good reason. For example, consider The Golden Compass or Cheaper By The Dozen (Steve Martin version). Both were substantially changed, in what I think were bad ways, from the book. Even movies that I enjoy, like the Twilight and Harry Potter films, pale in comparison to their book versions. The flaws in a book-adaptation movie are largely understandable. You can't bring all the lovely details from a book into a film without making it five hours long and five hundred million dollars. Also, a reader has an image in her head of what the actors look like, speak like, and act like. It's inevitable that at least one of the characters in a movie version won't fit the version in the reader's mind.

Very rarely, despite all the perils of movie adaptation, you find a movie that you actually like better than the book. Perhaps it is extremely loyal to the book or perhaps it adds a twist that works better than the book. Or perhaps you saw the movie before reading the book, so it shapes your thinking about the work.

Anne Of Avonlea:

Kevin Sullivan is a genius. He's turned several beloved L.M. Montgomery books into movies or TV shows, including: The Story Girl and The Golden Road (Avonlea TV show) and Jane of Lantern Hill. He is best known for his adaptations of Anne Of Green Gables, Anne Of Avonlea, and Anne: The Continuing Story. Anne Of Green Gables is a fabulous movie with a loyal adaptation and perfect actors (especially handsome Gilbert Blythe). Anne: The Continuing Story was interesting, but not nearly as good as the prior two. Too much time had passed and the script varied too much from the plot.

Annd Of Avonlea the movie actually combines Anne Of Avonlea, Anne Of The Island, and Anne Of Windy Poplars. Characters are both added and omitted. Major plot points, such as Anne's teaching, are changed drastically from the book. There are so many reasons this should be awful, but I loved it. I love seeing Anne teach at Kingsport. I love the character Emmeline Harris, and her prominence to the story. The unlikely friendships with Katherine Brooke and Pauline Harris are also fascinating. I love the development of Anne's relationship with Gilbert and the addition of the dark and handsome Morgan Harris.

Despite my love for the movie in general, I think the real reason that I preferred the movie version of Anne Of Avonlea over Anne Of Avonlea, Anne Of The Island, and Anne Of Windy Poplars is that I saw it first. I didn't read the books until I was in college. By that point, I'd seen the movie multiple times, and it shaped my opinion of the books. It's amazing how influential the order of viewing/reading can be.

A few other movies that I liked as much or better than the book (also because I saw them when I hadn't read, or hadn't read for a long time, the books):

The Secret Garden

A Little Princess


Little Women













What movies have you liked better than the book? Why do you think you preferred the movie?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Manga Mondays (26): Vampire Manga

Happy Cyber Monday!

A day celebrating the Internet (or at least Internet commerce) is very appropriate. I just returned from a weekend in an Internet wasteland. We had a lovely time visiting, site-seeing, and spending 14 hours in the car, but I sure missed posting and reading blogs. We hit up Culvers for lunch in the first decent size town after leaving our hotel on Sunday. I was so excited to see all five bars light up on my cell-phone's Internet status, that I practically jumped for joy.

For Manga Monday today, I'm not going to post a review of a particular manga. Instead, I'm discussing a popular theme for shojo manga (and all kinds of manga). Japanese girls, it appears, love vampires as much as American girls. Loads of manga feature vampires as main characters.

Here are a few vampire manga series:

Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino

Cross Adademy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy's dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!
Yuki Cross has no memory of her past prior to the moment she was saved from a vampire attack ten years ago. She was adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy, and now works alongside Zero to guard the Academy's secret. Yuki believes that vampires and humans can coexist peacefully, but her partner has different ideas... (courtesy of Goodreads).

Dance In The Vampire Bund by Nozomu Tamaki

The most original vampire story in centuries!

After millennia in hiding, Mina Tepes, the princess of the ancient covenant and ruler of all vampires, wants change. Using the vast wealth of the Tepes line, she has paid off the entire gross national debt of Japan and in so doing, gained the authority to create a "special district" off the coast of Japan that is to become the future haven for vampires from all over the world!

Now, on the eve of the landmark press conference announcing the existence of vampires to the world, terrorists and rival factions are plotting to assassinate Mina Tepes. (courtesy of Goodreads).

Chibi Vampire by Yuna Kagesaki

Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire...with a twist. Once a month, she experiences intense bleeding from her nose--we're talking gushers! In other words, she's a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them. If done right, this can be an extremely positive experience that benefits the "victim" as much as the vampire. The problem is that Karin never seems to do things right! (courtesy of Goodreads).

Blood+ by Asuka Katsura

Set several decades after the events in the popular Blood: The Last Vampire anime film, an amnesiac Saya Otonashi lives as a seemingly normal high school student with her adoptive family in Okinawa. Horrible nightmares are the only hints at the violent life she once led, but her past is about to catch up with her and awaken the merciless warrior within. Chiropterans - powerful shape-changing creatures who need and crave blood - threaten humanity once more, and a mysterious organization called the Red Shield needs Saya's deadly sword skills and mysterious powers to aid in the fight against these beasts. As her submerged abilities begin to reawaken and as she seeks to regain her memories, Chiropteran warriors are guided by a mysterious leader to threaten Saya and her loved ones. Asuka Katsura's manga series successfully expands upon the original Production I.G./Aniplex feature, delivering moments of jarring violence and thrilling action in a tale that spans several centuries. (courtesy of Goodreads).

Millennium Snow by Bisco Hatori

17-year-old Chiyuki Matsuoka was born with heart problems, and her doctors say she won't live to see the next snow. Touya is an 18-year-old vampire who hates blood and refuses to make the traditional partnership with a human, whose life-giving blood would keep them both alive for a thousand years. Can Chiyuki teach Touya to feel a passion for life, even as her own is ending? (courtesy of Goodreads).

Bloody Kiss by Furumiya Kazuko

Kiyo is a struggling student who strives to become a laywer and clear her father's name. When she inherits a mansion from her late grandmother, Kiyo thinks she's finally hit a streak of good luck. But she soon finds out that the mansion is already inhabited by a couple of vampires, including the handsome Kuroboshi, who seems to have his eyes set on Kiyo for his new vampire bride... (courtesy of Goodreads).

Canon by Chika Shiom

Suspense and the supernatural collide in the tale of Canon -- the only student to escape the bloody vampire attack that takes the lives of her fellow classmates. But she doesn't get very far before she is captured, bitten and turned into a vampire herself!
Struggling against the terrible needs that compel the undead, Canon commits herself to using her powers for good. She'll do whatever she can to avenge the death of her friends and her own unfortunate fate. Joining forces with Fuui -- a talking vampire crow -- she begins her quest to find Rodd, Lord of the Vampires. (courtesy of Goodreads).

Special Thanks to about.com's Recommended Reading List for vampire manga for inspiration and resources for this post.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'll probably be out of commission for the next few days as I enjoy the long holiday weekend. I hope all the U.S. bloggers have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find lots of good bargains this weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (25): Nightspell by Leah Cypess

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

Nightspell by Leah Cypess
May 31, 2011

-A companion novel to Mistwood, which I absolutely loved.
-I just realized I've been spelling Leah's name wrong all this time. And I even did an interview with her. How embarrassing! It's "Cypess" not "Cypress." I've now corrected the spelling everywhere Leah is mentioned on my blog.

Check out my review of Mistwood here and my interview with Leah here!

Summary

A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed Mistwood. When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother). When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Tween Tuesday (20) - Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

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

Summary

Keeper is a breathtaking, magical novel from National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honoree Kathi Appelt.

To ten-year-old Keeper the moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong ... and so much has gone wrong.

But she knows who can make things right again: Maggie Marie, her mermaid mother, who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that's exactly where Keeper is headed - in a small boat. In the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and seagull named Captain. When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of mexico, panic sets in and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon won't sparkle with mermaids and maybe - Oh, no ... "Maybe" is just to difficult to bear. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I'm not sure what I think about Keeper. The prose is incredibly lyrical, practically poetry. The short sentences made for a fast read. It would be wonderful read out loud. It is told from alternating perspectives of all the characters: Keeper, her aunt Signe, her neighbors Mr. Beauchamp and Dogie, two dogs (BD and Too), a cat (Sinbad), and a seagull (Captain). Appelt does a great job getting in the heads of each character. I particularly liked the animals, even though they felt a bit juvenile. While the reader could hear their thoughts, they still seemed like animals - their thoughts fit those of a dog, cat, or seagull (for the most part, at least). We read about the adults' problems. Dogie is haunted by his time in the war (I'm not sure which one - Vietnam?). Signe is haunted by the burden of raising Keeper and the disappearance of Meggie Marie (Keeper's mother).

Keeper is convinced that her mother Meggie Marie is a mermaid. She's also convinced that crabs can talk. That's what sets off this whole bad day. Dogie brought in crabs for Signe to cook in her famous Blue Moon Gumbo. Keeper is convinced that the crabs called out to her for help, so she sets them free. The day just goes downhill from there - everyone suffers from Keeper's mistakes. Eventually, Keeper escapes in the middle of the night in Dogie's boat rowing over the dangerous waters to the sandbar where she believes her mother, the mermaid, will help her.

As a character, Keeper frustrates me. She is a sweet girl, obviously much loved by the adults around her. She works in Dogie's surf shop polishing to boards, so is at least somewhat responsible. Yet she is convinced that mermaids are real and that her mother is one - so much so that she risks her life to go find Meggie Marie. I just don't know if I believe that a 10 year old could be so immature. Maybe I don't know kids well enough, but that fervent a belief seems more fitting with 6 or 7 year olds, if that.

This book will appeal to kids who like the fanciful writing style of fairy tales. I'm not sure that it actually is a fairy tale, but that's what the writing reminds me of. However, I think the complexity and tone of the story will turn a lot of readers off. Many of the issues in this book seem too mature for most younger readers (early-to-mid-elementary) to understand. And while they might like the rhythm of the story if read aloud to them, I don't know if the plot will hook them. Older readers (middle school/late elementary) will understand and be more interested in the adult plotlines, I think the childish tone of the prose might push them away.

The book has a few illustrations (by August Hall). These are gorgeous and really add to the book's character.

Overall, I feel this book is one that would appeal to the Newbery Committee and adults who enjoy children's novels, but maybe not to kids.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, November 22, 2010

Manga Mondays (25): Emma vol. 9 by Kaoru Mori

Emma vol. 9 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.

Emma officially ended as a series of manga with Volume 7. Volumes 8 through 10 are a series of short stories about smaller characters in the series. Emma isn't in this volume at all, although we do see a younger William. I enjoyed seeing more of the other characters, although I miss the main story between Emma and William.

The volume has five separate stories. The first chapter is an adorable tale featuring Erich, the young son of the German family that employs Emma as a made starting in volume 3. He loses his beloved pet squirrel Theo while at a family picnic. The volume focuses both on Erich's panic at losing his buddy and Theo's panic at being left all alone in the wild. There are some adorable squirrel drawings. Much of the chapter is wordless, as we see Theo journey through his day alone. Mori knows how to draw cute animals.

The second chapter is a further exploration of Mr. and Mrs. Meredith's relationship (they're the German couple who employ Emma). I actually skipped this chapter. The couple is in bed throughout the chapter and Mrs. Meredith is naked. I read this volume of manga at the gym. As weird as seeing nudity in comics is when I'm at home, it is infinitesimally more awkward when I'm reading surrounded by dozens of people.

I loved the third chapter. We discover how William and Hakim came to be friends. As a young boy (about 10 or so), William accompanies his father on a business trip to India. There, he is set up with an Indian prince of the same boy. They can't understand each other, but they bond over spirited games of tennis. Mori says in the afterward that she wanted to explore William and Hakim's relationship further in the regular volumes of Emma, but there just wasn't time. Now I understand why Hakim was seemingly just thrown into the manga.

The last two chapters are a single story about three characters who weren't in Emma at all. It is a love triangle between three opera singers: George, Louise, and Alan. Alan is a relative newbie to the opera scene. He's receiving high praise and is a bit overwhelmed by the craziness. George and Louise are more established stars. All three are good friends. Alan is hopelessly in love with Louise. But it turns out that George is too. Who does Louise love? This was a pleasant story. The plot wasn't particularly unusual or exciting, but it was a sweet tale of three likeable characters.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Summary

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability. (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
.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince functions as an interlude, a waiting period before the last book. Although there are very important plot arcs developed throughout the book, it doesn't feel like an important standalone book in the same way that some of the previous books like Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire do. The book continues with the tone established in Order Of The Phoenix: it is very dark and ominous. I like that Rowling gets right into the book. We don't waste time by summarizing the previous five novels. By the sixth book, the reader has or should have read the previous books. The novel is long enough as it is; I'm glad that words aren't wasted on repetition.

Harry has mostly gotten over his sulky, angry phase that characterized his personality in Order Of The Phoenix. The gravity of Sirius's death and the prophecy have sobered him. Harry spends much of this book with Dumbledore. It's really the first novel in which he's spent large amounts of time with Dumbledore. Despite how much Harry worships his headmaster, he's really only spent snippets of time with him throughout the past five years - mostly a few minutes at the end of each year when Harry finds himself narrowly escaping death. Harry still sees Dumbledore as essentially a perfect person, but also begins to get hints of his personality. We see, for example, his ability to both charm and manipulate.

There is lots of romance in this book - between Ron and Lavender, Ron and Hermione, and Harry and Ginny. The characters are at the right age to have boyfriends/girlfriends, and it provides a little bit of levity in an otherwise serious novel. The relationship between Ron and Hermione is, as usual, characterized by sniping and arguing. And yet again, they have a massive disagreement and refuse to speak to each other for months. Big fights between the three characters is a plot device that Rowling uses is just about every one of the books. I wish she could come up with some other way to develop and test the friendship between the trio.

Half-Blood Prince really belongs to Snape and Malfoy. Snape is, of course, the half-blood prince, although we don't know that until the very end. Through Snape's handwritten notes, we learn about his penchant for the dark arts as well as his brilliance at potions. There is a reason that Dumbledore thought he was qualified to teach potions. At the end of the book, we see Snape's rage at being called a coward by Harry. Nothing could be further from the truth, although Harry obviously couldn't know that.

Malfoy becomes a man in Half-Blood Prince. And to the reader's surprise, he becomes a man who is perhaps not good, but is not evil. He accepts a position as a Death-Eater and the huge task of killing Dumbledore with the enthusiasm of a child eager to please his idol and to gain glory. He quickly realizes the task is not as simple as he arrogantly assumed it would be and that the consequences of failing are huge, both for him and his family. Ultimately, when the opportunity to kill Dumbledore is handed to him, he can't do it. He can't bring himself to murder in cold blood. And that makes Malfoy, for the first time, a character worthy of some respect.

A few other thoughts about the Half-Blood Prince:

1. Slughorn shows a different side of the typical Slytherin house-member. He is not a devotee of the dark arts, but he is selfish and conniving - he'll do anything for personal gain. He is not brave - he would prefer to save himself than to fight against evil.

2. In Chapter Two, "Spinner's End," we see more clearly than ever the love that Narcissa Malfoy has for her son: "'Severus,' she whispered, tears falling down her pale cheeks. 'My son...my only son...'" (pg. 38, UK edition). I don't think the love that the Malfoy family has for each other can be emphasized enough, since it saves Harry's life in Deathly Hallows.

3. Hermione dominates her OWLs, as expected, getting an O in everything other than DADA. She is an incredibly skilled witch, but not as good practically as Harry. Both Harry and Ron who are consistently portrayed as average students at best manage to get Es or Os in all the key subjects. One can argue that this is a convenient plot device to ensure that they stay in all these courses for their 6th year, but it also shows that they are smarter than they let on. (see pg. 100, UK edition).

4. Snape's comment about Tonks's new Patronus is quite unforgiveable: "'I was interested to see your new Patronus...I think you were better off with the old one,' said Snape, the malice in his voice unmistakeable. 'The new one looks weak.'" (pg. 153, UK edition). Tonks has done nothing to deserve Snape's bullying. He must realize that she's in love with Lupin and is targeting her simply because she loves one of his childhood enemies. Or he just likes being a jerk. It's particularly inexcusable since his Patronus also comes from the person he loved. This is a good example of the fact that despite Snape's bravery and ultimate hero status, he still isn't a very nice person.

5. Harry has always jumped to conclusions where Snape and Malfoy are involved, and Hermione has always been quick to calm him down. Both Hermione and Ron are sure that Harry is overreacting to Malfoy's strange behavior and that he is unjustifiably blaming him for everything bad that happens. It turns out that, for once, Harry's suspicions are right on the mark. He doesn't realize that Dumbledore is precisely aware of the tasks Snape and Malfoy are assigned to do, but ultimately, Harry's conclusions are not as rash as they seem.

6. Chapter 26, "The Cave," is remarkable because of the interraction between Dumbledore and Harry. It is perhaps the only time that Dumbledore ever allows anyone to be on an equal level with him, or to see him at in a moment of weakness. Actually, scratch that - Snape is the only person other than Harry who gets to see Dumbledore at a weakness. Snape and Harry are the two people that Dumbledore trusts, to the extent that Dumbledore trusts anyone: the only two people who get to see him as a somewhat of a person rather than a god-like figure.

7. We understand best in Half-Blood Prince just how similar Voldemort and Harry are. Both come from unhappy childhoods. If anything, Harry's was worse than Voldemort's. Both see Hogwarts as their true home. But their essential natures are different. Harry may have a hot temper and act rashly at times, but he almost always seeks to do good. Also, Harry is simply not as intelligent as Voldemort. Even if he did lean toward the dark side, he probably couldn't have achieved Voldemort's level of evil. Harry is fortunate to have love in his life, something that Voldemort always lacked. Even though the Dursley's hate Harry, Harry knows that his parents, Sirius, Lupin, and the Weasleys love(d) him. No one loves Voldemort. Perhaps if someone had truly cared about him, he might have turned out differently.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In My Mailbox (21)

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

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

For Review

Yay again for NetGalley!


Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton


Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Library Stash


The Daughters Break The Rules by Joanna Philbin


Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin


Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hopping Away

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 five months - almost 6! I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Books Reviewed This Week:

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick
Emma vol. 8 by Kaoru Mori
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Check out the latest installation of my feature What Books? This week I featured:
What Books? Favorite Not-So-Popular Series

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!

I'm thankful for a wonderful husband and fabulous parents and an adorable dog and cat. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to go to Arizona to visit my parents twice this year. I'm also grateful to have discovered the book blogging community. I've meet so many cool people and read so many fabulous books in the past year since I started following book blogs.

As for holiday traditions, I normally cook Thanksgiving dinner and otherwise spend Thanksgiving and Xmas relaxing. I love shopping on Black Friday, Christmas Eve, and the day after Christmas - especially at the Mall of America. This year will be a little different. For Thanksgiving, we're driving out to the middle of nowhere in Illinois for a weekend getaway (Nauvoo, for those who know it), so I won't be cooking dinner. And my hubby and I are both working on Christmas day. But we'll have a good time with friends on Christmas Eve, so I'm looking forward to that.

Follow Friday: How long have you been book blogging? Almost 6 months now! I can't believe it's been that long. I started reading book blogs early this year and then started posting reviews to Amazon. I started this blog in June. I've had so much fun!

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

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Summary

The fifth hefty installment to J.K. Rowling's renowned Harry Potter series takes a uniquely psychological and intensely dark turn, bringing the boy wizard at odds with his own identity and friendships as he continues to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now fifteen years old with four Voldemort battles under his belt, Harry feels frustrated about the growing public skepticism about the Dark Lord's return. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic is also voicing its doubt, and all of Hogwarts comes under the watchful eye of an oppressive Ministry representative. Despite the additional problems of looming O.W.L. exams and Hagrid's inexplicable absence, Harry's main preoccupation is his vivid dreams that take him to places -- and make him witness events -- that horrify and intrigue him. These dreams provide a shocking clue to his very existence, and when eventually they lead Harry to confrontation, the wizard must cope with a tragic death and a telling prophecy about his future. Intricate in plot, charged with unease, and deeply fulfilling on every level, Rowling's continuation won't fail to leave fans open-mouthed and breathless for what's to come. (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
.

I wasn't thrilled with Order Of The Phoenix on my first read or even my second and third. I placed it second to last in my list of favorite HP books, just ahead of Chamber Of Secrets. But the more I think about the book, the more I like it. In this year's read, it may be my third most favorite book. The book is frustrating primarily because of Harry - he's moody and annoying. It's just not that fun to be inside his head. But what 15 year old boy who's just witnessed a murder, nearly been killed himself, and seen his biggest enemy rise to power would really be a joy to be around? It's so tempting to make your heroes seem happy, brave, and plucky all the time. I admire Jo for not just giving us a Harry who skips blithely through life; instead, she gives us a real person. Harry has always had a bad temper and is quick to jump to conclusions. Combine that with teenage hormones and recent trauma and you have one irritating kid.

In Order Of The Phoenix we meet one of the most evil characters in the series, Dolores Umbridge. In some ways, she is the most evil character. Voldemort obviously is the epitome of evil. But even he is described as charming. When we hear him speak, he often softens his fury with words that inspire pity or sound as though he's humbling himself. Voldemort has no real good qualities, but a person who didn't know better may be fooled by his rhetoric. I don't think anyone likes Umbridge or is fooled by her sticky sweet speech; those who are nice to her are the people who think she's useful (like Malfoy) or Ministry suck-ups (like Percy). It's even more interesting that this pure evil character is technically on the good side. I like that Rowling makes good versus evil a bit muddled. The "good" people can be as bad as the true villains.

One of my favorite things about Order Of The Phoenix is that it's dark. It's not a kid's book anymore. Fear, death, selfishness, greed - it's all there. None of it is sugar-coated. Since I wasn't a kid when I read Harry Potter I don't know how I would have reacted to a book like this - or to any of the last three books. Would they have scared me? Would the dark parts have gone over my head? I don't know. How do kids you know (or you if you were pre-teen when you read the books) react to the latter HP books?


A few thoughts about the Order Of The Phoenix:

1. Did you know the name "Dolores" means "sorrow" or "aches" in Spanish? Fits Umbridge well.

2. We see a little of Petunia's personality in this book. For the first time, you get hints that she cared about Lily and wasn't ignorant about the wizarding world (see. p. 39, UK edition). But with her zeal to be normal (born out of spite and jealousy), she's convinced herself that it's wrong or at least worthy of ignoring. Vernon, on the other hand, is just an ignorant jerk who hates anything and everything "abnormal."

3. I love how Tonks is clumsy and seemingly goofy, yet we know that she must be a skilled and brave wizard to be an auror. It's fun seeing how the aurors have different personalities - from Mad-Eye to Kinglsey to Tonks to Dawlish to Scrimgeour.

4. The locket - Harry finds a horcrux in Sirius's house without even knowing it! (p. 108, UK edition)

5. Once again, I wonder if Lupin would have been a better godfather to Harry than Sirius. Lupin is so much calmer, more mature...more adult. Sirius and Harry are alike in some ways: adventurous, hot tempered. They seem to feed off each other. But then again, I think Sirius understands Harry's frustration and mindset better than Lupin.

6. It is odd that Harry has so much trouble with Occlumency. Understandable, of course, given his conflict with Snape that he can't learn well from him. But a boy who is so good at repelling the Imperious Curse and even the veelas would logically be good at Occlumency. I wonder if Dumbledore had taught him or almost anyone other than Snape, if Harry would have done better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (24):There's No Place Like Home by Jen Calonita

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

Secrets of My Hollywood Life: There's No Place Like Home by Jen Calonita
March 1st, 2011


-I absolutely adore the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and cannot wait for this book to come out. I'm only sad that it's going to be the last one.

Summary

Like your favorite TV show, we all take a summer hiatus (that's TV lingo for a well-needed short break from filming) but don't worry, I'll be back. I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me, and I know I'm up for the challenge...or am I? Is Hollywood where I really belong? Am I finally ready to embrace my inner Meryl Streep and declare acting my lifelong passion or will I watch Liz and Austin fill out their college applications and question my calling again?

One thing is for sure, I've got to make a decision about my celebrity life and stick with it once and for all. This time it looks like fate is going to step in and help me me make that choice by asking me to picture my life if it weren't in Hollywood. Will I like that world better than my own? Or will I give my my best Louis Vuitton bag to get back my old life? There's only one way to find out.

Tween Tuesday (19): Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick

Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick


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


Summary

Right before the start of their freshman year, the mother-daughter book club faces yet another challenge when Emma’s family unexpectedly moves to England. Leave it to the resourceful girls, however, to find a way to continue meeting and discuss a particularly fitting choice, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

In England, Emma encounters a new queen bee, Annabelle, who sets out to make her life miserable. Back in Massachusetts, meanwhile, Annabelle’s cousins swap homes with Emma’s family and are causing some major distractions. Cassidy clashes with moody Tristan, a modern day Mr. Darcy, while her friends swoon over Tristan’s younger brother Simon. As the year progresses, the girls each discover new talents, and when they cook up a plan to bring Emma home for a visit by holding a bake sale, it grows into a thriving business, Pies & Prejudice. After their sweet scheme looks like it’s going to fall short, though, they’re left wondering if the club will ever all be together again (courtesy of Heather's website).

Review

I enjoy the Mother Daughter Book Club series more with each book. I'm sad that there's only going to be one more. Pies & Prejudice is an excellent continuation of the series. Emma, Megan, Cassidy, and Jess are now in 9th grade. This year, the book club is reading Pride & Prejudice. Quite appropriate since Emma's family moves to England for the year.

Like all the MDBC books, Pies & Prejudice loosely follows the plot of the book club's yearly read, Pride & Prejudice. Actually, I thought it followed the plot more closely than the other books. They don't talk a whole lot about Pride & Prejudice as a book, but you get a good introduction to the story through a modern retelling. Cassidy and Emma's stories most closely resembled P&P - the modern Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, Mr. Bingley, and Caroline Bingley affect their lives most. Of all the characters, Cassidy most resembles Elizabeth - she's just so stubborn. But you also see Lizzie's wit in Emma and Megan. Cassidy comes into her own in this book. She's always been my least favorite character, but you really see her good heart shine here. One thing I noticed is that the parents don't play as large a role anymore. They're still central to the book, but you don't see one parent doing something silly that becomes a major plotline. The moms and dads are now more background players, supporting their almost grown-up daughters.

I love how Frederick manages to make the lives of 15 year old girls relatable to middle-grade readers. Even though the girls are getting their learner's permits, their lives are still appropriate and interesting for 11 or 12 year old readers. I also like how this book is about normal girls with normal lives. There aren't that many books like this out there. Pies & Prejudice is a fun read. There's nothing really deep about it and some of the plot lines are a tad too good to be true, but you get to know and love each character as well as the book the story is based on.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, November 15, 2010

Manga Monday (24): Emma vol. 8 by Kaoru Mori

Emma vol. 8 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.


Emma officially ended as a series of manga with Volume 7. Volumes 8 through 10 are a series of short stories about smaller characters in the series. I like seeing different parts of the Emma world, but I wish there had been a few more volumes of Emma as a series. It ended in volume 7 with Emma and William together and planning to marry some day. So incomplete. (They do apparently get married in volume 10, but why isn't that part of the series proper?) My assumption is that Mori had to finish the series early for some publishing or financial reason...but who knows.

The first two chapters of volume 8 focus on Kelly and Doug Stowner (Mrs. Stowner was Emma's employer and William's former governess) when they were young newlyweds. It was 1851 and London was atwitter about the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. The Stowners are dirt poor, but they scrimp and save and are able to visit the Crystal Palace. This was a fun chapter simply for the historical information. I've just been reading about the Crystal Palace in Bill Bryson's book At Home. Mori does a fabulous job drawing and writing about the little details of the Exhibition. The story itself isn't that interesting, but I love the history.

The next two chapters feature Eleanor, William's thwarted love. She goes to a beach resort in Brighton (think Lydia Bennet but 50 years later and eons classier) to "recover" her health. Brighton looks like the idyllic Victorian resort town. The women are in elegant dresses, the men are genteel, the weather is warm but not too warm. I have this vision of laying on a lounge chair drinking lemonade. Eleanor runs into a handsome young bachelor who is kind, classy, and eligible. I think she'll be just fine without William.

Next, there's an odd chapter about the London Times. It highlights several classified ads in the paper and how the character are affected by them. I didn't really get this chapter. The ads were very hard to read, and it all seemed rather pointless.

Finally, we have a cute chapter with Tasha, Emma's maid friend at the mansion. She's gone back to visit her family for a few days. She's just as clumsy and useless at home as she is at work. Everything she touches seems to break. Poor Tasha - everyone in her family is going somewhere or has ambitions to do so. Tasha doesn't really have any plans - she can't imagine herself married - she's reasonably satisfied as a maid. She happily spends a few days with her family, but is thrilled to get back to the mansion where she feels needed and productive.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling


Summary

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling offers up equal parts danger and delight--and any number of dragons, house-elves, and death-defying challenges. Now 14, her orphan hero has only two more weeks with his Muggle relatives before returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yet one night a vision harrowing enough to make his lightning-bolt-shaped scar burn has Harry on edge and contacting his godfather-in-hiding, Sirius Black. Happily, the prospect of attending the season's premier sporting event, the Quidditch World Cup, is enough to make Harry momentarily forget that Lord Voldemort and his sinister familiars--the Death Eaters--are out for murder.

Readers, we will cast a giant invisibility cloak over any more plot and reveal only that You-Know-Who is very much after Harry and that this year there will be no Quidditch matches between Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Instead, Hogwarts will vie with two other magicians' schools, the stylish Beauxbatons and the icy Durmstrang, in a Triwizard Tournament. Those chosen to compete will undergo three supreme tests. Could Harry be one of the lucky contenders? (courtesy of Amazon)

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.

In Goblet of Fire, Harry sees a huge jump downward in his life, an avalanche from happiness to misery and fear. Harry starts out the book as happy as he's ever been. His life isn't perfect, of course: Harry's life is always fraught with worries, annoyances, and danger, but it's about the closest to happiness that Harry will ever see in his childhood. Harry has a godfather who loves him and watches over him. Finally, when Harry has a nightmare or twinge of his scar, he has someone to tell who cares and knows how to react. What's more, Harry gets to go to the Quidditch World Cup with his best friends and his favorite family, the Weasley's. Then as the book gets going, Harry hits a snag when he's selected to be a champion in the Triwizard Cup Tournament and temporarily loses the friendship of Ron, due to Ron's jealousy. But things seem to clear up after awhile. Harry and Ron make up, and Harry is doing well in the Triwizard tasks. Finally, we get to the end of the book. Harry's good fortune plummets. With the death of Cedric and the rise of Voldemort, Harry's life becomes impossibly more difficult. Harry's in for quite a ride.

The Goblet Of Fire is the last of the "fun" Harry Potter books. It's really the last time for Harry to be a child. Once Voldemort rises, many of the joys in Harry's life are superseded by more immediate concerns. Harry's at a good age in this one, too. He's starting to get interested in girls, but is still pretty clueless and immature. I love how terrified he was of asking Cho to the dance and his ensuing awkwardness. We also see the first signs of a budding romance between Hermione and Ron.

The last one hundred pages of The Goblet Of Fire is a true page-turner. Seeing all of Harry's fears come to fruition was both fascinating and terrifying. Add to that the horror of Cedric's death (who I can now never see as anyone other than Robert Pattinson) and hardly anyone will be able to steal themselves away from the novel. When I was reading the book for the first time, the phone rang when I was at page 675. I got up to answer it, and it was a telemarketer. If I could have wrung the man's neck at that moment, I would have. Even a minute away from the book was killing me.

A few (well, more than a few) thoughts about the Goblet Of Fire:

1. It's interesting that Voldemort refers to Pettigrew as "Wormtail" (p. 13, UK Edition), the name he used with his friends as a schoolboy. I wonder how Voldemort even knew it. I wouldn't think that Peter, who loved being close to power, would have told Voldemort of the nickname or would want to be known as Wormtail by the Dark Lord. It sounds rather undignified.

2. Why does Harry keep Hedwig in a cage? It's not like she's going to fly away and not come back. You'd think these magical, super-intelligent owls could just reside on a perch with a tray beneath it to catch the droppings (or they'd be smart enough to relieve themselves outdoors).

3. When the Weasley's encounter Amos and Cedric Diggory at the portkey going to the World Cup, it seems like the families don't know each other well. Arthur and Amos knew one another from work and the kids knew each other from school. But you'd think that two wizarding families who live within relative close proximity (a few hours' walk) would know one another better (p. 67, UK Edition)

4. The World Cup is amazing simply because we learn how many wizards there are throughout the world. We see references to American wizards for the first and only time. We also see wizard children for the first, and basically only, time (e.g. Kevin engorging a slug; two little girls flying on toy broomsticks). (p. 75, UK Edition)

5. We again see how close Draco is to his parents. He goes to the World Cup with his mother and father (p. 91, UK Edition). Also, he didn't go to Durmstrang, because "Mother didn't like the idea of me going to school so far away." (p. 146, UK Edition). A wealthy family like the Malfoys surely could have had a nanny take care of Draco while the parents went off to have fun. But we see again and again just how the parents treasure their son, in their own unpleasant way. It is yet another example of the importance and the power of love.

6. Harry can resist Veelas' siren-like charm a lot better than Ron (p. 113, UK Edition). Perhaps it's similar to how he can easily repel the Imperious Curse (p. 204, UK Edition).

7. I love the theme throughout the series of the tendency of the media to distort the truth. The Daily Prophet rarely gets things right. And when it does, it sensationalizes the truth into something better or worse than it was.

8. Another thing we see throughout the series is references to the Weasley's relative poverty. Harry has loads of money and would be more than happy to share all he has with the Weasley's. But none of them, including Ron, would ever think of asking or accepting money. Ron wore that dreadful dressrobe (p. 139, UK Edition), and Harry practically had to stuff his prize money down the Weasley twins' throats to get them to take it. I think their refusal to benefit from Harry's wealth speaks partially to the family's pride (they don't want to be a charity case), but also demonstrates their character. They never even consider taking advantage of Harry's wealth or fame.

9. I love S.P.E.W. (which I can't help but pronounce "spew"). Hermione is at the age where so many teenage girls get hooked on a cause. SPEW serves as a good vessel for exploring Hermione's personality. In the first three books, she's mostly defined by her book smarts, bossiness, Type-A personality, and bravery. But now we see that she cares deeply about those with less power and fiercely defends anything and everything that's important to her.

10. Again in this book, I wonder about Professor Trelawney. She says, "I fear the thing you dread will indeed come to pass...and perhaps sooner than you may think." (p. 176, UK Edition). Like most psychics, her prophecy is so general that it could refer to virtually anything. It might refer to Voldemort's rise to power or to Sirius's death. But it turns out that both of these things do come to pass, in 9 months and 21 months, respectively. Perhaps Trelawney is unwittingly accurate.

11. The DADA position has long been cursed. No teacher has lasted longer than a year. But technically, Mad-Eye could have stayed a second year had a chosen to do so. He wasn't the teacher in GOF - Barty Crouch, Jr. was. Of course, he had more important things to do once Voldemort returned.

12. It does seem odd that Dumbledore's enchantments on the Goblet Of Fire could be so easily hoodwinked. You'd think he would have thought to require the potential champion to enter the name him/herself. Otherwise, what would have stopped dozens of students from getting an older kid to throw in their name?

13. Why did Dumbledore want this Triwizard Tournament in the first place? I assume it's because he wanted to encourage friendship and unity. It's ironic that this was done by creating a tournament that pits the schools against one another. But simply the exposure to foreign students fosters a familiarity and acceptance that wouldn't be there otherwise. Although this unity really doesn't help Harry beat Voldemort, with the exception of Krum, Fleur, and Madame Maxine. You don't see any Durmstrang or Beauxbatons students at the final battle.

14. When Sirius and Snape meet again (p. 619, UK Edition), both are furious and disgusted. They are alike in many ways. Both of their lives were destroyed by Voldemort and the deaths of Lily and James Potter. Since this happened when they were quite young, neither has really grown up - or at least not to the point where they let go of childhood rivalries. There is legitimate anger on both sides, but I wonder if the Potters had not died if their relationship would have been more like the grown-up Harry and Draco, who can at least acknowledge each other with a respectful nod.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In My Mailbox (20)

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.

For Review

I've discovered the wonders of NetGalley!


Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

Library Stash



Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen


Misguided Angel by Melissa De la Cruz


Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry


Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

What Books? Favorite Not-Super-Popular Book Series

What Books? Favorite Not-Super-Popular Book Series

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.

Today's edition:

I think that every American girl in her late 20s or early 30s probably read a few Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley Kids/Twins/High books. I certainly read loads of them. But there were lots of other series out there that kids read and enjoyed. Here are two of those series that I particularly loved:

Sleepover Friends by Susan Saunders


This was a series that ran about 40 books around 1989 and 1990. As I'm writing this, I realize that my memory about the series is a little fuzzy. The series was about a group of four girls, I think they were in 5th grade, who had sleepovers every week. The books were about their sleepovers and their friendship at school and throughout life.

The Gymnasts by Elizabeth Levy


I am a huge gymnastics fan. I took lessons for years, but only truly excel as a spectator. I've always had too great a sense of what might hurt me to truly be decent at gymnastics. But I could live vicariously through this series. The Gymnasts was a series of 20 books published between 1988 and 1991. The girls were a group of 5th and 6th grade gymnasts who lived in Denver, Colorado. For the most part, they weren't super-good, but they worked hard at gymnastics, had a lot of fun, and were best friends.

What are some series (not the really popular ones, whichever they were when you were a kid) that you really liked?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hopping at the Weekly 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.


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

Books Reviewed This Week:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - I loved this book. And I'm really proud of my review. Check it out!
Zan-Gah by Allan Richard Shickman
Love*Com by Aya Nakahara
Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title? Definitely. It's confusing any other way. The only exception I can think of are the Narnia books, where there are arguable two "best" orders in which to read the series.

Follow Friday: What is your monthly book budget? Very little. I get almost all my books from the library. Since I've started blogging, I have spent more money on books that I sudden must have. But still, I don't spend more than $40-50 a month.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Summary

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Words cannot describe how much I love Jellicoe Road. It is simply unbelievable. The plot is difficult to summarize without giving anything away. Basically, Taylor Markham, a senior at a boarding school, is selected to be the school leader. As such, she represents her school in the annual territory wars between the Townies, the boarding school, and the Cadets (a group of military schoolkids who camp nearby for 6 weeks). The leader of the Cadets is Jonah Griggs, a boy with whom Taylor has a difficult history. While the war is going on, Taylor is worrying about the disappearance of Hannah, the house mother who looks after her. Hannah has left behind a manuscript telling a tale of five kids who were brought together under horrible circumstances and were the best of friends. Everything collides as Taylor tries to manage the war, find Hannah, and delve into the manuscript. More than plot, Jellicoe Road is about themes: love, loss, pain, loneliness, and more.

When you begin reading Jellicoe Road, you will not understand what's going on. It will seem confusing, frustrating, and somewhat uninteresting. Be patient. It will make sense eventually. The book actually took me two tries to get through. The first try, I read about 60 pages but just didn't have the time to devote to the book. I only picked it up again, because everyone raved about it. I pushed through the confusion and am so happy that I stuck with it. I would recommend not reading this until you really have time to be patient. Otherwise, it won't work.

As soon as I finished the book, I started re-reading it again. It's very rare that a book affects me so strongly that I simply have to re-read it immediately. The second time around, everything made sense. You really understand the genius of Marchetta's prose. Every sentence, ever word in this book is important. What seems pointless at the beginning is a little hint to the bigger picture.

Taylor is a wonderful character. She is hard and unlikable on the surface, but with the reader's insight into her thoughts, you can't help but love her. She is horribly damaged - longing to love and be loved but not willing to trust anyone. Jonah is basically a male version of Taylor. He's built up walls to shield him from everyone who's hurt him in his past. Their relationship is one of the best depictions of passion and romance that I've read in a long time. You don't read their professions of undying love; instead, you feel it. Marchetta has mastered the art of showing, not telling. All the other characters, Chaz, Ben, Richard, Raffey, Hannah, Webb, Narnie, Tate, Jude, Fitz, the Brigadier, Jessa, and more are fully described. You get the feel of who they are and how they contribute to the story. It's simply stunning how she put everything together.

One of my favorite things about Jellicoe Road is its intelligence. This is definitely not an easy book to read. I love that Marchetta did not attempt to dumb the book down to appeal to a wide audience. It's so tempting to make a book full of action and light on characters to suck readers in. These books aren't bad, but just don't take you to the level that a book as complex as Jellicoe Road does. Jellicoe Road is like a square of 85% dark chocolate whereas most YA books are like a bag of M&Ms. The M&Ms are delicious, sweet, and addictive. Fine dark chocolate is bitter, hard to taste at first, but if you leave it on your tongue long enough, you'll savor the subtle sweetness; ultimately, it satisfies you much more than the M&Ms.

Rating: 5 / 5

Waiting On Wednesday (22): The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

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

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
February 8, 2011


-I love this cover!

Summary

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tween Tuesday (18) - Zan-Gah by Allan Richard Shickman

Zan-Gah by Allan Richard Shickman

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

Summary

The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people. Themes: survival, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature's wonders and terrors. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I wasn't sure about Zan-Gah at the beginning. It was wordy and had a tone that felt wondrous, impersonal, and unrelatable. I think it was trying to establish that this is a time long, long ago. The book begins with Zan going on a lion hunt. He ends up killing the lion and being honored by his clan. Having a third person point of view also made it more difficult for me to relate to Zan. But by the end of the first chapter, the story drew me in enough to keep reading.

Zan, who is given the honorific Zan-Gah, goes from one dangerous adventure to the next after he kills the lion. The main plot of the book is the journey (a very lengthy journey) that Zan takes to rescue his twin brother Dael, who has been missing for over a year and is widely presumed to be dead. Zan is sure that Dael is still alive and sets out to find him. The plot moves fast as Zan's fortunes swing up and down. Kids will be fascinated by Zan's life in prehistoric times. He has so little to work with - he has to find his own food, he has no shelter, no established society to help him, potential warfare at any moment, and few things that we now think of as elementary items. It's hard to imagine when a "sling" was a novel weapon, but here it is. At the same time, kids will be interested in how Zan's life is like our own - mostly in relationships. He loves his family, especially his brother. He forms friendships, allies, and makes enemies just as we would today. The author does a good job at making it very clear that Zan's life is not just like that of a modern youth. You knew that Zan's mindset and abilities were very different than ours, but he still has the basic human qualities that make him relatable.

If kids give Zan-Gah a chance, I think they will be captivated by the rollicking adventure story. My one concern is the wordiness. The paragraphs are huge - several are actually a page long. There is very little dialogue. Most books today are characterized by short paragraphs. They're just easier to read. Even though the story is fast moving, I'm afraid the huge paragraphs and sparse dialogue will scare kids away. This might be a better book read aloud so kids don't have to view the long paragraphs as much.

Rating: 3.5 / 5


Disclosure: I received this book from  the publisher for review.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Manga Mondays (23) Love*Com vol. 1 by Aya Nakahara

Love*Com vol. 1 by Aya Nakahara

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.


Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Otani are a variation on the classic odd couple. The tallest girl in school and the shortest guy always end up together. They're unintentional friends - they always end up in the same situations, keeping each other company. They're also an unintentional comedy act. Each is full of one-liners and when they're together, they put on a show for all to see. Their chemistry, comedic timing, and the sheer amount of time they're together, reasonably leads everyone to assume they're a couple. But they are each obsessing over a different classmate. Risa and Otani work together to acchieve mutual goals - Otani will help Risa get her crush Suzuki and Risa will help Otani get his crush Chiharu. But everything seems to go wrong, despite their best efforts. They still end up together. It seems like everyone other than them realizes that they're perfect for each other.

Love*Com, which stands for Lovely Complex, not Love.Com is a cute manga. I was turned off at first by the overuse of slang. The characters sound like stereotypical valley girls and surfer dudes. I wish I could read the original Japanese to understand how the slang should sound. It also took some time to get used to Risa and Otani's sense of humor. They came off rather shallow at first, both obsessing over their heights and their crushes. I suppose they remain rather shallow throughout the book, but I got used to them. Like most manga I've read, I became more comfortable with the characters and the style of the dialogue as the volume went on and by the end, I was drawn into the story.

This is a manga that I may continue reading. I don't feel any great need to see what happens after this - I foresee their little act getting old - but it's cute enough that I'd probably enjoy another volume or two.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Summary


My first try at doing my own summary:


Rae Siddon is a young woman, about 19 or 20, who happily works as a baker in her step-father's coffeehouse. She lives a very mundane, ordinary life and aspires to no more. One night, she goes to her family's lake cabin and is kidnapped by a group of malicious vampires. Instead of being drained, she is locked up in a mansion with another vampire, who is also being held captive. A very unusual situation. By even more unusual circumstances, Rae and the vampire escape their captors together. This sets off an unprecedented partnership. Rae and Con (the vampire) have a mutual enemy and can only defeat him by working together. 

Review

I picked up Sunshine, because Nancy Pearl said it was the best vampire romance out there for young adults. I don't know that I agree with that - it wasn't a normal romance novel and it also was more of an adult novel. But that being said, I really enjoyed Sunshine for what is was - an edgy, fun urban paranormal.

In the fantasty world of Sunshine, vampires are an accepted part of reality. So are werewolves, sorcerers, magic-handlers, demons, ghouls, trolls, and even were-pigeons. Collectively, they are known as "Others." Many humans are actually part-bloods. Apart from this, Rae lives in a normal small town, in a world that very much resembles reality. I love books that twist reality in just a tiny way - bending the normal world, with its culture and history, to include supernatural creatures - specifically where the twist is just slight enough that you could almost believe it's real. Sunshine felt very real, even though it was full of supernatural creatures, wars (the Voodoo Wars), police forces (SOF - Special Other Forces).

Sunshine was a fasincating tale, keeping you interested as Rae got herself into one situation after another, whether the enemy was a vampire or SOF. I loved seeing how the relationship between Con and Rae developed, although, as I said, it was never a conventional romance. There was still a tension, a sensuality that made the book a lot of fun to read. The book did drag a bit at times, but something interesting would always happen before I grew too bored.

My only real complaint is that McKinley is a horrible, chronic user of run-on sentences. There's nothing inherently wrong with a run-on sentence if it's done well, but this was ridiculous. Some sentences were as much as ten lines long! I had to read several of them numerous times before I understood what they said. Without commas, it was hard to tell where the natural pauses belonged in sentences (the commas weren't gramatically necessary, but the length of the sentences just made them hard to follow).

Although I don't think Sunshine is the best paranormal romance or really even a young adult book, I do think it's a fun romancey-ish novel that is appropriate for older teens.

What Robin McKinley book should I read next?


This was my first Robin McKinley book and despite our grammatical differences, I'd love to read more. It looks like her other books are of the high fantasy genre rather than urban paranormal. I'm disappointed that she hasn't written any more in the latter genre and that she doesn't plan a sequel to Sunshine. What is your favorite Robin McKinley book - which of her YA fantasies should I try next?

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In My Mailbox (19)

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've been on vacation this week, so I've had lots of time to read! It's been a wonderful time.

Library Stash - All of which I've already finished!


Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susan Nielsen-Fernlund

Faithful by Janet Fox

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black



The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
 
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