Monday, February 28, 2011

Are You A Genre-Ist?

All right ladies (and a few gentlemen), be straight with me here.

Have you ever looked at a book and said, "Oh, that's a [fantasy, thriller, contemporary, etc]. I hate those books" and promptly set the book back on the shelf? I know I have.

I confess. I do not like the following genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Mystery, and Thriller. If a book is labeled as one of these genres, I am far less likely to read it. Is that fair? Should a book be judged by its genre alone? Certainly not.

Case in point: Until 2000, I would not touch a fantasy novel with a ten foot pole. I had no interest in the Narnia books nor Lord of the Rings. Then came a little series called Harry Potter. I was working at Barnes & Noble one summer and everyone kept raving about a book featuring a young wizard. I borrowed a copy from the store (my favorite perk of being a B&N employee) and proceeded to fall in love with J.K. Rowling's world. I plowed through the Harry Potter books as soon as each one was released. I was then inspired to try C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. To my surprise, I enjoyed them (although I'm not a huge Tolkien fan). I was now willing to try fantasy. The next big break came when I read Twilight. No longer was I just willing to try fantasy. I craved it. Paranormal. High Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. In ten years, I went from reading no fantasy, to a little fantasy, to reading a majority of books with at least some fantasy element.

It's amazing how one or two books can open up an entirely new world.

Now back to Alison the hypocrite. As much as I know how important it is not to judge a book on genre alone, it is still hard for me not to do so.

Dystopia is a particularly strong example of my genre-ist tendencies. I dislike dystopia because it's depressing. I like feeling uplifted by a novel. I don't need everything to be hippity-hoppity-happy (I love a good cry), but I don't want to finish a book with the urge to lie in bed for a week with the pillow over my head. That's how I felt when I finished books like Fahrenheit 451; 1984; and The Handmaid's Tale. As with every bright line rule, there are exceptions, of course. The Giver by Lois Lowry ranks among my top five books of all time. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy. I just finished and enjoyed Wither by Lauren DeStefano. That being said, if you tell me that a book is dystopia, the chance that I will read it plummets.

Two Discussion Questions:

1. What genre(s) do you dislike?

2. What are some books that will turn me into a lover of (a) Dystopia; (b) Science Fiction (other than Ender's Game and The Host, both of which I loved); (c) Mystery/Thriller?

Manga Monday (39): Fruits Basket vol. 16 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 16 by Natsuki Takaya



Summary

Tragedy continues to smother the Sohma family. It seems to be spreading to those connected to the Sohmas. Kyo has met Tohru's mother in the past. His memory involves Tohru's birth. Is she ready to hear the truth about her mother and father. Meanwhile, Yuki declares his independence from the actions of others. Akito about his own actions. How will Akito handle Yuki's declaration? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review*

*My "reviews" of manga are a combination of a summary and a review. It's hard for me to really talk about a volume of manga without going in depth with the plot. So if you're really concerned about spoilers, beware.

The character story for Volume 16 is Kyoko, Tohru's mother. We already know a little bit about her from an earlier volume. She was pretty wild as a teenager - in a gang where she beat up people and got beat up. Her parents hated her and she hated herself. All this changed when she met Katsuya Honda, a student teacher at her school. He restrained himself from getting involved with her while he was working at the school, but there was obviously an attraction. He was the only reason she went to school at all. As soon as Kyoko graduated, they got married. They were so happy. Pretty soon little Tohru arrived. Everything was wonderful until Katsuya died suddenly of an illness. Kyoko was devastated. If it wasn't for Tohru she never would have survived.

The summary plays up the idea that Kyo met Kyoko when he was young, but I didn't get that part. I think I saw where it was in the book, but it seemed insignificant to me. I thought it was unnecessary to involve Kyo. Kyoko's story stands on its own.

Next up is another student council interlude featuring Machi. She has a crush on Yuki and he seems to like her too. She's not as flighty as the other girls in love with Yuki. For the most part thought, I think the student council plot arcs are pointless and introduce too many new characters. I get confused over who is who.

The book ends with Yuki's new year's visit to Akito. Yuki insults Akito. I wasn't exactly sure how. He tells Akito that he forgives him...or maybe he doesn't forgive him. Then Akito ponders Yuki's eyes and loses it. He goes completely nuts and attacks Yuki. Poor Yuki. The guy can't get a break. I wish Takaya had explained the reason for Akito's anger better. It was confusing.

Another interesting volume although I felt that some connections were missing. Maybe things will make more sense when I'm finished with the series.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (29)

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for almost 9 months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

For Review

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford (received from author)
-Jonathan was kind enough to send me an e-copy of this book last month. I finally had time to start reading it this week. I'm almost done with it and am quite enjoying it thus far.
-Summary: A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In No Going Back, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties (courtesy of Goodreads)

Library Stash

Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
-This sounds really good. I haven't heard much about it on the blogosphere. I'm looking forward to it.

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors
-This was a lucky find at the library. I've read a bunch of reviews of this book lately and every seems to really like it.

Across The Universe by Beth Revis
-Excited to finally get this book!

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
February 15, 2011; HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books


Summary

This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Until her 17th birthday, Ellie is an average teenage girl. Or rather, your very wealthy, average teenage girl. She goes to school, hangs out with her friends, buys expensive clothes, gets an Audi for her birthday, etc. The only thing that sets her apart are frequent disturbing nightmares in which she's being chased by monsters and having to fight them off with swords. Right around her 17th birthday, a mysterious boy named Will appears seemingly from out of nowhere. On an evening walk together, Ellie and Will are attacked - just like in Ellie's nightmares. To Ellie's great surprise, she fights them off using swords conjured from thin air with angelfire. She knows what to do, because she's done it a thousand times before. Ellie is the Preliator, made to destroy evil reapers with angelfire. She is mortal, but is reincarnated every time she dies. Will is her guardian, sworn to comfort and protect her constantly. They have been compatriots for hundreds of years. As Ellie becomes acquainted with her new (or old) powers, she and Will are continually challenged by reapers who seek to kill her. Then suddenly, they discover something that might possibly kill Ellie for good - no more reincarnation, no more Preliator. Can Ellie and Will get rid of this "thing" before the reapers get their hands on it?

There are so many reasons for me to dislike Angelfire. First, I don't like angels as paranormal creatures. The fall between Lucifer and God, nephilim, devilish creatures, etc. bores me. I don't know why. So that was one huge hit against Angelfire. Second, a lot of the dialogue during the fight scenes, when the reapers are taunting Ellie and Will, is bad. It's like something out of a B-grade movie. Or a C-grade movie, if such a thing exists. Third, Ellie goes out of her way to remain a normal teenager. That's laudable for many reasons, but if I suddenly discovered that I was a Preliator and would soon be facing devilish creatures with far more fighting experience than me, I think I'd focus a bit more on training than partying. Fourth, there were a few plot points that seemed like they were going to play a role in the ultimate conflict, but went nowhere. I don't know if these were red herrings or if they'll be significant in future novels. This isn't really a complaint, but it struck me as odd.

Ultimately, Angelfire gets a good rating for me for one reason: I couldn't put the book down. There were times when I was groaning over things I didn't like, but when I would walk away from the book (or actually, my iPod e-reader) I missed it. Suddenly, I was reading Angelfire at the gym, at my breaks from work, at times when I would normally be playing on the Internet. It wasn't that the book was so suspenseful that I had to instantly know what was going to happen. I just enjoyed Moulton's writing and being in Ellie's world, even when that world annoyed me.

A few other good things about Angelfire... Will is a great love interest. He is quiet, sweet, very protective without being controlling, and incredibly devoted to Ellie. He was different than a lot of other leading guys - he wasn't sarcastically funny, he didn't have powers that placed him at a higher level than Ellie, he was haunted by the past without being emo. He was just an enjoyable, cool guy. I liked the dichotomy between Ellie's very normal life and her fighting. I said in the above paragraph that I thought she didn't take her situation seriously enough, but I did enjoy reading the interraction between Ellie and her friends. They seemed like very normal teenagers, in a way that I was never a normal teenager, so I can only assume they are normal. Kate and Landon were great friends - not just wacky goofballs like so many literary sidekicks. Their dialogue was casual without being overrun with slang. And Ellie will likely be a happier person if she can balance her duties as Preliator and being a normal person. Some people might quibble about Ellie's wealth and how buying expensive clothes and fancy cars are made to seem like no big deal. There's a place for all socioeconomic levels in YA. I know plenty of people who grew up with similar amounts of wealth and her life seemed believable in that context. Your all-American wealthy teenager, as opposed to your Gossip Girl teenager. Also, the angel mythology was well-developed. You understood how the fall between Lucifer and God, regular angels, fallen angels, reapers, nephilim, etc all fit together. The reapers were interesting, complex creatures. There were lupine reapers, bearish reapers, and human reapers, and you learned a lot about them. Ellie's slow recollections of her past help both Ellie and the reader get caught up with the mythology.

Even though I have plenty of quibbles with Angelfire, I was quite enthralled with the book and cannot wait to read the next book.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blog Hops

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

Crazy For Books' Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday.




I'm Alison. I've been blogging for almost 9 months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

On the blog this week - 

Reviews

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 15 by Natsuki Takaya

Discussion Post

What Books? Favorite Books That You Didn't Love At First

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?

Not really. At first, I planned to name it Snowbird Reads, after my dog and have cute pictures of my doc staring at (or eating) a book. But I decided that Snowbird wouldn't sit still for the pictures and the name would be confusing. I didn't put a huge amount of thought into Alison Can Read. It was just a name that came to me and sounded good enough. I rather like it.

Follow Friday: Share your current fav television show! Tell us a bit about it...

I'm so boring...I don't watch TV. We got a new digital cable box in November and I haven't been able to turn on the TV since! It's a complex 3-button process. Goes to show how much TV I watch that I haven't made the effort to remember how to do it (or to go watch the TVs upstairs or in the basement). The special rate we were getting ended this month, so we just cancelled cable completely and returned the box. Now, my TV is just a vessel for the Wii and the Blueray player.

What Books? Favorite Book That You Didn't Love At First

What Books? Favorite Book That You Didn't Love At First

What is the What Books? Feature?

I have so many book memories from my childhood. Different books touched me in different ways and had came to me at important times. My goal is to run this feature every other week (although life has gotten in the way lately) and featuring books that I love(d) for different reasons.

See prior editions of What Books? here:

Favorite Not-Super-Popular Book Series
Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories
The Movie Is Better Than The Book - Check out this post for lots of fabulous comments
Favorite Obscure Childhood Book
Favorite Books to Re-Read

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.

Favorite Books That You Didn't Love At First

A book never reads the same twice. Sometimes, the first time you read a book, it may be completely meaningless, but if you pick it up a few years later, it's like an entirely different book. Perhaps you were in a bad mood when you first read it, perhaps you weren't old enough. Whatever the reason, a person's opinion of a book can change drastically over time.

Two books came to my mind when I thought of this category. My opinions of these books turned from "blah" to "yay!" over time for different reasons.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

-Jane Austen's classic novel is one of my most treasured books. I read it every December. But it didn't start out that way. I had to read Pride and Prejudice for my 10th grade English class. I remember thinking the book was interesting at the beginning, but everyone else in my class hated it. After hearing my classmates complain incessantly about the novel, their negative views overtook my thoughts. In addition, we had a student teacher for my English class that semester who was nice, but very young, very pregnant, and who didn't always teach the way I wanted to be taught. I finished off Pride and Prejudice not hating it, but with few positive memories.
-When I was in my early 20s, I fell in love with the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice (although I don't drool over Colin Firth - he's almost old enough to be my father). I thought it was time to try the novel again. What a difference eight years makes! I instantly fell in love with the book, with its humor, astute social commentary, and its heart-stopping love story. I wasn't ready for Pride and Prejudice at 15, but at 23 it was the perfect book for me.

The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White

-I ordered this classic 80s novel off a Scholastic book order form when I was in 7th grade. It's about 16 year old Meghan Powers whose mother becomes President. Her life changes as she moves to Washington DC and becomes a reluctant celebrity as the daughter of the President. She has to navigate a new school and all the family trauma inherent with such a big life change.
-When I read this in 7th grade, I thought it was okay. There's a good plot and Meg was funny, but it wasn't a novel that stuck with me. I finished the book, stuck it on my shelf, and promptly forgot about it. Two years later, I suddenly became obsessed with politics. I watched and read anything and everything political that I could get my hands on. I vaguely recalled The President's Daughter and decided to re-read it. It was an entirely new book. The plot was still interesting, but what I really loved was all the details about life as a President's daughter (although I'm guessing they were far from reality). Being 14 instead of 12 made a big difference as well. I understood Meg's dry sense of humor better, appreciated the 80s cultural references (even if I was too young to really get them), and could better empathize  to her complicated relationship with her mother. The President's Daughter quickly became a book that I read again and again, often just turning to a random page to read a few well-loved lines (I'd also highly recommend the sequels: White House Autumn; Long Live The Queen; and Long May She Reign).

Which Books Did You Not Love At First That Later Became Favorites?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (38): Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

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

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
July 12, 2011; Scholastic Press
-I just remembered that I haven't listened to Maggie read from Forever. Go here to check it out! I need to do that ASAP!


The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater

In Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. In LINGER, they fought to be together. Now, in FOREVER, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
2010, Delacorte Books for Young Readers


Summary

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Revolution is a must read for history lovers, music lovers, and contemporary fiction lovers. The book begins with Andi, a wealthy New York City senior in high school. She is angry at the world, particularly her father, and still devastated at the death of her brother a few years before. It sent Andi spiraling into a deep depression, which she treats with higher and higher doses of medication. Andi's father forces her to accompany him to Paris for Christmas break where she must work hard on her senior project to not fail out of school.

Andi's senior project seems boring at first. She is exploring how Mahlerbeau, a made-up composer, compares to and influenced modern music. He was the first composer to actively use atonal chords. The sections about Mahlerbeau become increasingly interesting as they become intertwined with the drama of the French Revolution and Alex's life.

In Paris, Andi discovers an ancient diary written by Alex, a girl about her age at the height of the French Revolution. The book now switches between Andi and Alex lives. Alex was from a poor family that lucked out and functioned as court jesters for the royal family. Alex became especially close to little Louis XVII. Much of the diary details her increasingly dangerous attempts to do anything to bring happiness to the imprisoned little boy.

Meanwhile, we get to read about Andi's life. Like Andi, her parents are in a downward spiral. Her father throws himself into work and his new girlfriend, and her mother has been hospitalized for severe depression. Andi is staying with her parents' friends. G is a huge revolution fanatic. He is on the verge of identifying little Louis XVII's heart. We even get some love in this story. Andi meets Virgil, a talented musician and local cab driver. He comes from a very different background than Andi, but is upbeat and hopeful where she is desolate. He brings happiness into her life.

I love the voice in this book. Andi is depressed and bitter, which makes her hard to read - I definitely would not read this book on a day when you need to be cheered up. But I love Andi's dry wit and her skeptical outlook on life. Even though she isn't a joy to be around, I understood her pain and felt that her voice was reasonable given her story. I loved her friend Vijay and his "mom-isms." They were a little too frequent and smartly witty to be real, but they were enjoyable nonetheless.

My favorite voice was Alex. It is so, so difficult to do historical fiction well. Often, the author writes in a flowery style to fit the time period. This sets the atmosphere but does so at the expense of readability. Alex's voice was just as stark and clean as a modern character yet it didn't feel out of sync for its time. Rather, I was sucked into the story of a devastated young woman living in a terrible time. I wish more authors realized that a book can still feel "historical" without using fancy, stilted speech and spending inordinate amount of time describing the scenery.

Revolution was a beautiful, well-written book. It's a little long, but once you get into it, you'll savor every page.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, February 21, 2011

Manga Mondays (38): Fruits Basket vol. 15 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 15 by Natsuki Takaya



Summary

Yuki's past finally is revealed! But is it all too much to bear? His sickness takes a turn for the worse, and after Akito reminds Yuki how loathed he is, his will to live might finally be drained... Meanwhile, as Tohru is getting ready to perform in Cinderella, the class decides that they have to rewrite the play. But no amount of revision will prevent Tohru from improvising her loving feelings for a certain someone. Just who is the mystery man? (courtesy of Amazon)

Review*

*My "reviews" of manga are a combination of a summary and a review. It's hard for me to really talk about a volume of manga without going in depth with the plot. So if you're really concerned about spoilers, beware.

Yet another Yuki-heavy volume. As much as I love Yun-Yun, I'm really missing Kyo. We learn more about Yuki's childhood in this volume. He was placed with Akito at an early age. Akito must not be much older than Yuki, because they were both children together. Even as a child, Akito was selfish, needy, and cruel. He made sure that Yuki understood "his place." He was worthless. No one wanted him. The one time Yuki tried to make friends in school, he accidentally turned into a rat, and all his new friends' memories had to be modified. This only served to reinforce Yuki's isolation and feelings of worthlessness. Tohru managed to unknowingly boost Yuki's self-esteem before she even knew him. When they were both small, Tohru wandered away from her mother; Yuki helped her find her way. In that moment, he felt needed.

Yuki finally realizes his feelings for Tohru. This is super-weird to me. He thinks of her as his mother. The only person who ever cared for him. I find this a little hard to believe. How many 18 year old guys decide that a pretty girl whom they adore is the functional equivalent of their mother?

The rest of the volume as another attempt at levity. Tohru, Yuki, Kyo, Uo-chan, and Hana-chan are starring in the class production of Cinderella. This was the best Cinderella production I've ever seen. It's specifically called "Sorta Cinderella." They had to change the story since Tohru is incapable of being an evil stepsister, Kyo isn't exactly prince charming, and goth Hana-chan is far from sweet Cinderella. My favorite part was when Yuki, the fairy godmother asked Cinderella if he could grant her a wish and she requested to "burn the palace down." Cinderella was more interested in eating dinner than dancing with the prince. A lot of Fruits Basket funny moments fall flat for me, but this was fantastic.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In My Mailbox (28)

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

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

Library Stash

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
-Can't wait to get to this!

The Radleys by Matt Haig

Fruits Basket vols. 22 & 23
-I'm going to finish the series!!!

Vampire Knight vols. 5-11
-I'm going to get as current with the series as I can
-So excited that my library happened to have all of these just on the shelf

Library CD Stash

Hair - Original Broadway Cast
-I saw this show a few months ago and loved it. The music was great, but I most loved the atmosphere of the play. The cast came out into the audience repeatedly and I even shook hands with Claude (a main character) while he was singing! They handed out carnations and brochures to a Peace-In. Definitely not a show for kids or the easily offended, but it was really well-done.

Phantom Of The Opera - Original Broadway Cast
-I own the cassette tape of this, but wanted to listen to the CD.

How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford

How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford
2009, Scholastic Press


Summary

New to town, Bea is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

This is one of the strangest books I've ever read. The characters are all damaged in some way. Pages are taken up by a "transcript" of a very weird radio show. The plot is less important than the characters themselves. Despite the oddness of the book or perhaps because of it, How to Say Goodbye in Robot was fascinating.

Bea moves to Baltimore from Ithaca when her professor father accepts a new job. She is a nice girl but very detached. I imagine she's rarely had or felt the need for a lot of friends. She is like her father in many ways. They both watch her mother descend further into mental illness from the background, seemingly without emotion or reaction. They're bothered by her depression and weird/embarrassing actions but they don't do anything about it. I thought that was very odd.

On the first day of school, Bea is polite to Jonah a.k.a. Ghost Boy, the school outcast. He brushes her off but then sends her a cryptic note to listen to a radio show that evening. The radio show is really cool - I wish I knew of a real one like it - a regular group of misfits call in and just talk, about Elvis, time travel, flying carpets, singing, everything. It's like a group of friends chatting every evening. Bea and Jonah bond over this show and become fast friends. I did think that the quickness of their friendship was unrealistic. I never understood why Jonah reached out to Bea when he never reached out to anyone else. And their friendship just seemed too strong too fast.

The book meanders along with various plot points that I won't give away but it's really about these two characters, with side appearances from their classmates and rather disturbed parents. The detached Bea is clearly very attached to Jonah, but still keeps her emotions hidden away. Jonah is a very complicated character. He was damaged forever after a car accident took the lives of his mother and twin brother, leaving him only with a jerk father. Jonah is depressed and angry at the world. He really cares for Bea but often masks that with mean sarcasm. Bea either finds this amusing or ignores it. I liked Jonah because I felt sorry for him, but sometimes he came close to cruelty.

The book is the same from the beginning to the end - depressing, bittersweet, and thoughtful. It's one of those book that grows on you with time. When I finished this months ago, I rated it a 3.5. Good but not great. But I can't get the book out of my head. It stuck with me as something special, going from good to nearly great. A very strange book, but an excellent one.

Rating: 4 / 5

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hopping Time

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

Crazy For Books' Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday.



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

On the blog this week - 

Reviews

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 14 by Natsuki Takaya

Guest Post

Author Laura Kreitzer of Phantom Universe on Human Trafficking

Discussion Post

How old are YA bloggers? - I'll post the results in a few days!

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: What books would you like to see turned into a movie?

That's a hard one, because it's almost impossible to perfectly turn books into movies. The Harry Potter books are pretty close, but even they don't make it. I am a fan of the Twilight movies. They aren't nearly as good as the books - there's lots to complain about of the films - but I don't know how it really could have been done better. I think some books are just hard to translate onto screen no matter how good of a script, director, or actors you have.

That being said, here are a few books I'd like to see as movies, for better or worse:

1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
2. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
3. Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter
4. White Cat by Holly Black

I could go on...

Follow Friday: If you are a fan of Science Fiction what is your favorite book? If you haven't read Science Fiction before...any inkling to? Anything catch your eye?

I have never been a science fiction fan, but I'd like to change that. Until a few years ago, I hated fantasy (thank you Harry Potter!) and paranormal romance (thank you Twilight!). I don't think one should necessarily discount any genre. One good book could get you hooked.

The only science fiction book that comes to mind that I enjoyed was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and the companion Bean books. I'd like to read Robert Heinlein at some point, but haven't. What books do you think could convert a sci-fi hater like me?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
2008, Walker Books for Young Readers


Summary

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

"Uptown girl
She's been living in her uptown world
I bet she never had an back street guy..."

Perfect Chemistry is a story that's been told time and time again, from Grease to Billy Joel. But that doesn't necessarily mean that a new take on the classic tale can't be fresh and interesting. Perfect Chemistry was an entrancing, page-turning romance.

Brittany Ellis and Alex Fuentes are two people you'd never expect to get along. Brittany is the girl with everything - looks, money, grades, popularity. Alex is poor, stand-offish, and a gang member. Much to their horror, their chemistry teacher makes them partners for their senior year. They soon learn that there's more to each person than it appears on the surface. I think it's the fact that both of have secret inner lives that attracts them to one another. Brittany doesn't really want to be perfect; she chafes under her mother's pressure. She cares most about her sister with cerebral palsy. Alex doesn't like being a gang member. He wants to succeed in life - professionally and personally. First and foremost though, he wants to protect his family.

I love the style of this book. It's told in short chapters alternating character. Elkeles creates distinct voices for Brittany and Alex, but both seem entirely in keeping with their characters. Alex's voice is particularly interesting. Dialogue is interspersed with Spanish. His life of poverty and violence seems very realistic. I particularly loved the portrayal of Shelly, Brittany's sister. There aren't nearly enough good portrayals of mentally disabled characters in YA lit. Through Brittany's eyes we see not only Shelly's disabilities, but also her fun, vibrant personality. Alex and Brittany's relationship does develop quickly but not instantaneously. Each page of the book was another step that brought them closer together; there wasn't just one magic falling in love moment. It seemed much more realistic than many books.

I have a few quibbles about the story. Primarily, I thought sex was too important to the story. I liked how Brittany didn't want to have sex until it felt special and right. But the book still makes sex seem like the most important part of a relationship - the pinnacle. I'm not opposed to sexuality in YA lit, but I don't think it should be glorified as the end-all, be-all. But then again, YA lit isn't meant to be moralistic tales and the attitude toward sex reflects how many teens feel.

*Minor Spoilers* - Highlight to read

Several reviews I've read don't like the ending; many said things were just wrapped up too neatly. I agree, but I really liked how Brittany and Alex's relationship ends up. I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I did not like how Brittany and her parents settled out their issues. It just seemed too fake and TV movie-ish for me.

All in all, an excellent book with two likeable characters. I cheered for Brittany and Alex from the first to the last page.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (37): Bite Club by Rachel Caine

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

Bite Club by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #10)
May 3, 2011; NAL Hardcover


-I'm almost done with the 4th Morganville Vampires book. They are so addicting. Every time I start to think the series is rather silly, there's some plot twist that has me glued to the pages.


After discovering that vampires populate her town, college student Claire Danvers knows that the undead just want to live their lives. But someone else wants them to get ready to rumble.

There's a new extreme sport getting picked up on the Internet: bare- knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against each other-or humans. Tracking the remote signal leads Claire- accompanied by her friends and frenemies-to discover that what started as an online brawl will soon threaten everyone in Morganville...

Guest Post: Author Laura Kreitzer of Phantom Universe

Hello Literary-Folk!

My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.

As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate.

I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)



A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they're real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.
“I admired Summer's strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”
Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.
“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”

—From DNA Foundation’s Website
I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Manga Mondays (37): Fruits Basket vol. 14 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 14 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

Isuzu loves snooping through Shigure's life, especially when she's totally convinced that he is hiding something. But when Tohru finds a passed-out Isuzu in the house, she tries to drag Isuzu to the hospital. Meanwhile, Yuki goes to the ASB council room only to find it trashed again! But as the secrets of who vandalized the room come out of the closet, Yuki accidentally gets locked in one. Who will be the one to help her get out? (courtesy of Amazon)

Review*

*My "reviews" of manga are a combination of a summary and a review. It's hard for me to really talk about a volume of manga without going in depth with the plot. So if you're really concerned about spoilers, beware.
Fruits Basket volume 14 has another big character study. It's Rin's turn. Like most of the members of the zodiac, she has had a horrific life. Her parents were repulsed by her. For years, they put on a happy show, but one day the switch just flipped and they made sure she understand how awful she was and how no one wanted her. But it turns out that one person did want her...Haru. They were in love. I love how Takaya drew them together. Full of passion and painful desperation to be together. Their relationship was short lived. Akito wouldn't stand for it. And as the god of the Sohma world, what Akito says goes. Rin is now haunted. She shuts out the world, because so no one will get close to her.

Leave it to Tohru to worm her way into someone's life who wants to be left alone. Tohru won't give up Rin. When Rin is in the hospital, Tohru insists on visiting her no matter how unwelcome Rin makes her feel. Tohru does this out of her innate goodness, but also because she recognizes that she and Rin have something in common. Rin wants to break the curse just as much as Tohru and appears to be the only Sohma member who is actively looking for a way to do it.

The rest of the volume is scenes from Yuki's student council meetings. I'm not a big fan of these meetings. They detract from the main plot and introduce lots of extra characters. It's getting to the point that I'm having trouble keeping track of people.

I missed Kyo in this volume. He hardly showed up at all. Volume 14 isn't my favorite, but it still develops the story.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (27)

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

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

GIVEAWAY - Ends Feb. 14!!!

Win a fabulous Goddess Girls' swag pack!

Check Out My Poll!

How Old Are YA Bloggers?

Won


Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Thanks to La Femme Readers!!

Library Stash


The Lost Saint by Bree Despain 
-Isn't the cover gorgeous?


Dengeki Daisy vol. 3 by Kyousuke Motomi


Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford 
-Loved How To Say Goodbye In Robot. Can't wait to read this one.

CD Stash


Ugly Side of Love by Malachi 
-I actually picked this one because I love one of their songs ("Snowflake"). I hope the rest of the album is as good.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Poll: How Old Are YA Bloggers?

When I started becoming active in the YA blogging community, I was surprised that most of big blogs were written by people in their 20s - think The Story Siren, Persnickety Snark, GreenBeanTeenQueen, StephSuReads, and more. Some of these people are teachers or librarians, but others are just adults who love YA.

As I've become completely immersed obsessed with blogging, I've discovered many more YA book blogs. There are many excellent blogs written by teens and even pre-teens (Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf, Reading Vacation, The Book Scout, etc. They read and write far better than I did at that age. Still, I think most blogs are written by people in their 20s or beyond.

Why do you think this is?

Here are some of my thoughts:
  1. Teenagers are busy with school, homework, extracurricular activities, and afternoon jobs
  2. Teenagers tend to use IM and Facebook more than other social media (my conjecture - correct me if I'm wrong)
  3. Most teenagers don't have the discipline or writing skills to keep up a blog (I know this is not universally true, but think it is true for many)
  4. People in their 20s+ don't have real-life peers who read YA books, so need to find another outlet to share their reading love
  5. People in their 20s+ probably already read a lot of blogs and have friends who blog, so it makes sense to start their own
  6. People in their 20s+ are not quite as afraid to market their blog and to reach out to authors or publishers for interviews, guest posts, giveaways, etc.
Poll: If you're a predominantly YA blogger, how old are you? If you don't want to tell me exactly how old you are, give me a decade.

Post your answer in the comments. I'd also love to hear why you think YA bloggers tend to be older.

I'll start...I am 29 years old. I will be 30 in September. I think I'll allow myself to turn 30 once, and then I'll go back to being 29 for a few years.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekly Hops

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

Crazy For Books' Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday.





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

On the blog this week - 

GIVEAWAY

Win a fabulous Goddess Girls' swag pack!

Reviews

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 13 by Natsuki Takaya

Discussion Post

How do you comment?

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!

I reviewed Nightshade by Andrea Cremer this week. It's a very popular book amongst the blogosphere. At first, I really struggled to get into it. I actually put it down for a few weeks while I read other books. But I went back to it because I knew so many other bloggers loved it - just knowing other people like a book helps me persist - and after a few more chapters, I was in love with the book. I highly recommend you pick it up.

Two other discussion posts I've done recently that have received a lot of wonderful comments:
How Do You Comment
I LOVE Twilight And I Am NOT ASHAMED!

Follow Friday: What is your favorite romance hero-type? Stereotype wise. Do you like the strong silent type or the brute macho man?

I go for the emo-sensitive, angsty guys in paranormal. For example, I'm Team Edward, not Team Jacob. And I love Sam in Shiver/Linger. But in contemporary, I like guys to be as close to normal as possible. Like Etienne in Anna and the French Kiss.

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
2002, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Summary

Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.
There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life--if only she doesn't get caught. . . . (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Bloody Jack is a rollicking adventure story. Mary Faber was born into a good, working class family in 19th century London. Upon the sudden death of her parents and sister, she was left to the streets. She quickly fell into a street gang of kids who looked out for and fought for each other. A few years later, the leader of her gang was murdered and Mary was once again left without direction. This time, she set out on her own. She cut her hair, put on a pair of trousers, named herself Jack Faber, and found a job as a ship's boy on a navy ship.

Mary aka Jack's life on the ship is one adventure after another. When she and the other shipboys aren't getting themselves into trouble, Mary is dealing with pirates, bullying midshipmen, puberty, and falling in love with one of her "brothers."

I really liked Mary. Despite the hard life she's lived, she has a certain innocence to her. Or maybe it's more a sense of optimism than innocence. She witnesses and experiences horrible things but takes it like a man, so to speak. She never complains and goes overboard with worrying and self-pity; she just keeps going. I also liked that she didn't decide to become a ship's boy to prove that a girl can do it. All she wanted was to create a better life for herself. And even though she disguised herself as a boy, she never lost the image of herself as a girl. I liked how the author portrayed Mary as brave and equally worthy or superior to the boys, but still very much a girl in her thought processes.

The book is told in Mary's cockney accent. This takes some getting used to. At first, I thought it would really drag down the book, but after a chapter or two I barely noticed it. The use of dialect decreases as the book goes on and Mary matures.

If you're at all interested in ships or the sea, you will find this book fascinating. On the other hand, if boats bore you to tears, don't worry. The book goes into a lot of detail about the workings of a 19th century ship, but never to the point that the plot suffers. The information fits seamlessly into the shipboys' adventures.

Bloody Jack was a fun, adventure-filled book. It's not one of those books that feels like it could have actually happened. There are just too many coincidences, calamities, and miracles to be at all realistic. At times, I had to roll my eyes as Mary was yet again thrown off the proverbial cliff and landed gently on her feet. It's like watching an action movie - you go for the special effects and martial arts, not for Oscar quality dialogue or emotional conflicts. Bloody Jack is a little silly, but it sure is a fun ride.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (36): Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

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

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
August 23, 2011, Razorbill


-I suspect this is going to be a popular title for WOW this week. I just couldn't resist.

Richelle Mead has graduated from Vampire Academy, her popular YA series that wrapped up in December with the release of its sixth and final book, and now she’s moving onto new territory. Well, somewhat new: Bloodlines will be a spin-off of VA, moving the previously tertiary character Sydney, a human alchemist, from the sidelines to the forefront. It will also be set in a sunny Californian high school instead of that rigid, preppy-bloodsucker academy, which I imagine will be like transferring from the Undead Poets Society to Bayside High. (from EW.com)

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
2010, Philomel

Summary


Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The many paranormal romances I've read can be divided in two categories. First, where the narrator is new to the paranormal world. And second, where the narrator is already part of the paranormal world. The first type of story slowly introduces the reader to the supernatural element. You get the feeling that there's something very strange going on, but don't know what. You learn as the narrator does and know no more than he or she. With the second type of book, you dive right in to the paranormal. The narrator is part of what's going on, so doesn't necessarily bother to explain. You quickly see the inner workings of the magical world, but with no context. I find the second type of paranormal much more satisfying. Initially, it is very frustrating. I had a lot of trouble getting into Nightshade. I had no idea what was going on and was irritated rather than fascinated. Calla has been a werewolf her entire life. References to Keepers, forbidden texts, wraiths, etc are so natural that there's no need to explain it until newcomer Shay is in the position to be taught. Fortunately, Calla does a great job of explaining things to Shay slowly enough to keep the mystery going but thoroughly enough to relieve the initial confusion. The beginning of books like Nightshade are often difficult, but it is so much more satisfying to see the paranormal world from an insider's point of view. You get a much more complex and developed world. If you'll forgive the Twilight reference, it is the reason that Midnight Sun is so much more interesting than Twilight to me.

Calla Nightshade was born to a great destiny. To become an Alpha wolf guardian. To mate with Ren, the handsome yet arrogant alpha male wolf. To protect the Keepers, who provide her family with everything in return for their service. She's never questioned her fate. Or who is good or evil in her world. Keepers are good, guardians are good. Searchers are bad. But a new boy comes to town and makes her question everything. Shay is handsome, curious, fearless, sexy, and fun. He and Calla are instantly attracted to one another. Instead of shutting out the world to focus on their newfound love, Shay pushes Calla to learn more about who she is.

I love Calla. She is a powerful, kick-butt girl. It's she who does the saving. She's also a good friend, daughter, and sister. She's not one to rock the boat for the sake of rebellion, yet ultimately she is willing to stand up for what she knows to be right. I love how she is portrayed as brave and strong, but not macho. We understand that she is terrified every step of the way and doesn't instantly know what to do.

An intense love triangle develops between Calla, Ren, and Shay. As overdone as the love triangle theme is, this story still manages to feel fresh and fun. I love Shay. He is funny yet serious enough to ask questions about the werewolf world that no one else does, confident though not arrogant, sweet yet also capable of acting foolishly. Ren is a harder character to love. He is destined to be with Calla and sees her as his property. He is arrogant and entitled. Yet he also is a basically good person raised by an ogre of a father and truly wants to be happy with Calla. He grows on the reader. The other wolves in Calla and Shay's packs are great side characters. I especially loved Calla's brother Ansel. I was always amused by Mason and Neville and intrigued and saddened by Sabine's story.

Nightshade only gets better as the book goes on. By the last page, I was devastated that the next book wouldn't be out for months. Seeing the world through Calla's wolf eyes is so much richer than seeing it through an outsider's (like Shay) eyes. We see the little subtleties that people new to a fantasy world will miss. By the end of the book, the reader has a good understanding of werewolves and the legend behind them. I grasped Keepers, Searchers, and the origin of the werewolf. There is still a lot to learn in future books, but I feel comfortable at where I am now. Nightshade leaves you knowing and experiences just enough that you yearn for more.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, February 7, 2011

Manga Mondays (36): Fruits Basket vol. 13 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 13 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

The time for Yuki's parent-teacher conference has finally arrived, and Yuki must learn how to make his own decisions if he wants to have a say about his future. Later, Tohru sets off on a quest to find out if Kureno Sohma is the same person Arisa has been in love with all this time. But along the way she will discover a tragic secret about Momiji's sister Momo... (courtesy of Amazon)

Review*


*My "reviews" of manga are a combination of a summary and a review. It's hard for me to really talk about a volume of manga without going in depth with the plot. So if you're really concerned about spoilers, beware.

Volume 13 gives us yet another reason to feel bad for Yuki. His mother shows up to his parent-teacher conference. She may not be cursed as a Zodiac, but she's definitely a real witch. Her treatment of Yuki in front of his teacher is beyond cruel. Luckily, Ayame, Yuki's outlandish brother arrives to save the day. Yuki survives the parent teacher conference only to get stuck in another awful student council meetings. Yuki just can't get a break.

Uo-chan has been pining over her mystery suitor for months now. She mentions that his name is Kureno and Tohru wonders if he is Kureno Sohma, Akito's trusted assistant. Kureno lives far inside the Sohma compound. Even though it is dangerous for Tohru to go so close to Akito, she is determined to confront Kureno.

On the way, she runs into Momo, Momiji's sister. The poor little girl adores her brother but has been kept away by their mother. Momiji's status as a cursed zodiac member makes him persona non grata within his own family. It is just another instance of where even the nicest Sohma family members are treated horribly. It truly is a curse. Tohru is more and more determined to break it.

It turns out that Kureno Sohma is Uo-chan's mystery man. He comes off as unapproachable and reluctant to involve himself with Uo-chan again. But you can tell that he admires Tohru's courage to speak to him.

I really do like Tohru's character development. She seems like such a good-two-shoes - a weak, overly nice girl who lives only to please others. That's true to an extent, but she also is bound and determined to get what she wants. She's a selfless creature, so hePublish Postr wants invariably benefit others. I admire her tenacity and her strength.

The volume ends with a class visit to Kyoto. I think the also go to Nara, because deer are coming up to them trying to get food. It was fun to go to places in a book that I visited in person last year! I loved the deer in Nara - they roam free and will headbutt you for food.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In My Mailbox (26)

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

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

GIVEAWAY

Win a fabulous Goddess Girls' swag pack!

Won


Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Thanks to The Book Scoop!!

Library Stash


Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead (Eeeek!!!! So excited! I haven't started it yet, but I will ASAP)


Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #4)


Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires #3)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time to Hop!

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

Crazy For Books' Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday.




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

This Week's Reviews

*I missed last week's hop because I was out of town, so I have extra reviews to list here.

GIVEAWAY

Win a fabulous Goddess Girls' swag pack!

Reviews

Hush by Eishes Chayil
Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
White Cat by Holly Black
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

Manga Mondays

Vampire Knight vol. 4 by Matsuri Hino
Fruits Basket vol. 12 by Natsuki Takaya

Discussion Post

How do you comment?

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: What are you reading right now and why are you reading it?

I am reading Fruits Basket vol. 17 by Natsuki Takaya. I'm reading it because I'm desperate to finish the series. I just finished Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (wonderful!). I read it because I loved Jellicoe Road. I'm about to start Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. I want to read it, because so many bloggers have said wonderful things about it.

Follow Friday: What is the book you are currently pushing?

I will always encourage people to read the Twilight series (with an open mind). Better to read it and dislike it than to just dismiss it because it's "uncool."

I also would love for everyone to read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. It's complex and beautiful and can be read again and again. Also, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, because it's just wonderful.

Other books I encourage people to read are those that I think haven't gotten enough blog coverage - where they hype has died down or where the books slipped under the radar entirely. Books like the Sucks To Be Me series by Kimberly Pauley, Don Calame's books Swim The Fly and Beat The Band, and Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser

Hush by Eishes Chayil

Hush by Eishes Chayil
2010, Walker Books for Young Readers

Summary


Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.
A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.

Review

Hush is a powerful book that you won't soon forget. Tons of books deal with child molestation and its painful aftermath, but Hush stands out. Gittel is growing up in the Chassidic Jewish community in New York City. Although she lives in the middle of the biggest, most sophisticated city in America, her world is incredibly small and sheltered. It's truly like going to a different country a hundred years ago.

When Gittel was 9 years old, she witness her friend Devory being molested. She didn't know what was happening, but she knew something was wrong. The book fluctuates between Gittel narrating the story as a 9 year old and as a 18 year old. We watch Devory as she slowly withers away from the trauma of her molestation until her death and then see Gittel as a new adult just starting to understand what really happened.

Chayil does a marvelous job showing how devastating the molestation is on Devory. She alternates between acting wild and crazy and then withdrawing completely. It's horrifying to see all the adults in Devory's life blame her - call her a horrible child - place all the blame on Devory. They don't know why Devory is acting this way, but never bother to think there might be a reason behind it.

Gittel observes all of this with concern and uneasiness, but is too young to have any conception of what's wrong. She is a confused bystander. Devory's awful death in some ways only makes things worse for Gittel. The community knows about the molestation but hushes it up. Even Gittel's family forbids her to speak of it, knowing that her awareness would destroy her chance of a successful marriage.

I think that the author chose to have Gittel narrate the book as an 18 year old newlywed because she doesn't understand what actually happened to Devory until she gets married. Gittel's life is incredibly sheltered. She's never been exposed to media or to the outside world. Until her wedding night, she doesn't know where babies come from. This new awareness brings Devory's molestation and death back to the forefront in her mind until the sadness and anger nearly destroys her.

The main focus of Hush is on the devastation of child molestation and the suppression of it by an entire community. But on a lighter note, the book is a fascinating cultural study. The author goes to great lengths to portray Chassidic culture. We learn about traditional family structure, schooling, religious practices, arranged marriages, and more. The book is filled with Yiddish phrases and has a large glossary at the end. I've been interested in Chassidic Jews ever since doing a paper about them in college, and I loved learning so much about their lives in Hush.

I liked how the portrayal of adults was both good and bad. You had Devory's parents who were just horrible. Gittel's mother was like a lot of mothers - in her zeal to see her daughter raised correctly, she came off as harsh and overbearing. But I felt she was only trying to help her daughter in her own way. Gittel's father was wonderful - funny, caring, and understanding. It was sad to see even him complicit in the cover-up of Devory's molestation and death. Kathy, Gittel's Gentile neighbor served as a mentor to her - a positive influence who never tired of telling Gittel that she was wonderful. I also grew to love Gittel's husband.

The effect of the Chassidim's self-imposed isolation is really fascinating. Given the history of persecution against the Jews, it's understandable why they want to keep to themselves. But it's not only that. Gittel goes to a school only with her specific sect of Chassidim - even other Jews are foreign. If it wasn't for Gittel's Gentile neighbor, she would never interact with any person who was not Jewish. This self-imposed segregation keeps the culture safe, but at a price. Anyone not like them - especially Gentiles but even other Jews - are scary and bad. They can't be trusted. This leads to situations where the community refuses to turn one of their own into the police, even if it means he is sure to commit more atrocities.

I highly recommend Hush for a book that is not only painful, intense, and beautiful, but also takes you to another world.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (35): Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

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

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
July 21, 2011; Razorbill/Penguin


-This book intrigues me based on the cover alone!

Lexi is cursed with a dark secret. The water calls to her, draws her in, forces her to sing her deadly song to unsuspecting victims. If she succumbs, she kills. If she doesn’t, the pain is unbearable. To keep herself and those she cares about safe, she shuts herself off, refusing to make friends or fall in love—again. Because the last time she fell in love with a boy, he ended up dead.

Then Lexi meets Cole. Against her better judgment, she finds herself opening up again, falling in love when she knows she shouldn’t. But when she’s offered the chance to finally live a normal life, she learns that the price she must pay to be free of her curse is giving him up.

In Ripple, Mandy Hubbard spins a sea-ravaged tale of melancholy beauty, and the choices one girl makes between land and waves, love and freedom, her future—and her heart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Goddess Girls Giveaway and Athena The Brain Review

Athena The Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Goddess Girls #1, Aladdin, 2010


Summary

Everything changes for 12-year-old Athena the day she is summoned from Earth to Mount Olympus by none other than her (surprise!) dad, Zeus. She enrolls at Mount Olympus Academy, a place of godboys and goddessgirls, where classes like Hero-ology, Spell-ology, and Beauty-ology complete a proper goddess education. Jealous Medusa tries to sabotage Athena, but quick thinking and good friends help her prevail over the bitter girl with the weird hairdo. (courtesy of Amazon)

Review

Athena The Brain is an adorable, light take on Greek mythology. Athena has grown up as an orphan on Earth, living with her friend's family. She's always been different - smarter, better. Now she knows why. She's the daughter of Zeus! She is summoned to attend Mount Olympus Academy with all the other goddessgirls, godboys, and a few errant mortals.

Athena's story is relatable to any girl who has started a new school. She's scared and excited. Even though she's brilliant, Hero-ology, Beast-ology and other classes are new to her. Plus, there's all these new people. Nice girls like Aphrodite, handsome boys like Poseidon, strange girls like Pandora, and mean girls like Medusa. Plus Zeus, her dad, can be just as difficult as he can be charming.

This was such a fun book. It takes all the elements of Greek mythology that we all learn in school and turns it into a cute, fluffy story. I haven't studied Greek mythology since 6th grade and never really liked it that much, but I had no trouble keeping up with the characters and the stories. I especially enjoyed Pandora, whose incessant curiosity made her a nosy yet loveable character.

I don't have any major problems with this book. It's meant for fun (and enjoyable education), so it's probably not going to be up for the Newbery prize, but that doesn't make the book any less worthy. The only thing I wish had been done differently was a better depiction of Athena's life prior to going to Mount Olympus Academy. The beginning threw her into the plot too quickly. But such a preface probably would have just added unnecessary pages and plot set-up, so I'm not too troubled.

The story very loosely follows Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, two epic poems that I really liked in high school. The kids were playing with mortals in hero-ology and inadvertently create a huge conflict. It was fun to see how every little detail connected to Greek history and mythology. Learn the "real" idea behind the Trojan horse.

The first Goddess Girl book is a quick, easy, light read. It's a must read for lovers of Greek mythology, but even people who have no particular affinity for it will find something to enjoy. I think it would be ideal as a co-read for students learning mythology in school.

Rating: 4 / 5

Check out all the Goddess Girls books!

Athena the Brain

Persephone the Phony

Aphrodite the Beauty

Artemis the Brave

And now for a giveaway!


In honor of the recent release of the fourth book in the Goddess Girls series, Artemis The Brave, the authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have graciously put together an awesome swag prize pack.



























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