Thursday, March 31, 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 ten months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

I may be a little slow to comment this weekend, because I'm in Chicago and will likely only check the Internet at night

On the blog this week -

Reviews

Matched by Ally Condie
Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso

Guest Post

Barbara Casey of The Cadence of Gypsies

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 20 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?

I really can't think of any. There were childish things I did at home when I was a kid, like sticking the silverware in the freezer, but nothing major.

I am not a big fan of pranks. I was the victim of one too many not-so-nice pranks in middle school and am very sensitive to them. Since I know that I overreact to pranks, I figure that it's only fair that I don't participate in pranks against other people.

Follow Friday: What book are you ashamed to admit loving?

As with the previous answer, I can't think of any. I don't feel ashamed of any of the books that I love. For example, I openly and vocally love Twilight. I am not at all shamed about that. I understand that a lot of people don't love it and can also understand why. But just because a book doesn't work for one person, doesn't mean that it's an inherently bad book. If it brings other people happiness and entertainment, then it's accomplished its purpose. That being said, i don't flaunt around my YA books at work. I don't really hide them, but whether I admit to reading mostly YA depends upon the person to whom I am talking.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie
2010; Dutton Juvenile


Summary

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I read the first two pages of Matched, smiled, and said "I'm going to like this." Ally Condie is a fabulous writer. She created a Utopian dystopian love story with strong, likeable main characters.

Cassia is a normal Society girl. She has a rebellious streak, but doesn't really act on her desire to be different. She sticks to the rules, because why wouldn't you? The Society is perfect. Their lives are perfect - thoughtless, easy. Her family is perfect. Her friends are perfect. Things are even more perfect when she is Matched to Xander, her best friend since childhood. The Society always chooses couples who are mentally and genetically perfect for each other - how lucky that Xander is deigned to be her lifelong partner.

This changes when she briefly sees a photo of Ky, another acquaintance pop up as her match. Why would this be? Xander was her match. No one ever has two matches. And the Society never makes mistakes. Curiosity leads Cassia to get to know Ky better. Their friendship blossoms into something more - passionate, desperate love for one another. Meanwhile, Cassia's feelings toward Xander stay the same - he is a beloved childhood friend, but she is not in love with him.

Couples cannot break the match. They cannot choose their own partners. What will happen if Cassia dares to be different?

Cassia is a likeable girl. As I said above, she's a good girl - very smart, friendly, athletic. The girl next door basically. She's very brave and willing to defy convention to do what she knows to be right.

Matched features a pretty normal love triangle. While it may not break any new ground, it still manages to suck in the reader. The choice between Xander and Ky really is difficult. Xander is a fabulous guy. I'm sure Cassia realizes that a life with him would be satisfying and happy. They would have the perfect Society family. But it would be without passion. Ky inspires that passion. He is labeled as an outcast by the Society. Unworthy. He understandably has a chip on his shoulder toward authority figures, but he keeps quiet. What I like best about him and what really distinguishes him from Xander is that he pushes Cassia to be better - to learn, to think. With Xander, Cassia would stagnate. With Ky, Cassia would grow.

Matched is a very user-friendly book. The writing is effortless. It felt like I wasn't even reading - I was just watching the book take place. While I appreciate the talent of authors whose prose is so beautiful that you savor each word just as much as you enjoy the plot, there is something to be said for a book that sucks you in so completely that you don't have to work at all.

I did feel like Ally Condie read The Giver one too many times. I thought it heavily influenced Matched. That's not to say it's a carbon copy of The Giver - the plot is completely different, but there were a lot of similarities between the worlds. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I thought Stephenie Meyer's The Host was inspired in part by the philosophy in Orson Scott Card's Ender series and was a better book for it. In this case, I liked the world Ally created. I love how she created a world that was so happy and idyllic yet you could clearly see terror and horror creeping in from the edges. Still, I got a little irritated seeing so much of The Giver in Matched. It wasn't something that should have bothered me, but it still did.

The action also lagged in a few places. The book never was a page turner, which was fine since so much background material was necessary to establish the plot. I felt like the book was always moving forward, just not as fast as I would have liked.

Regardless of its flaws, Matched was a thoroughly enjoyable book. By the end, I really cared for Cassia, her family, Ky, and Xander. I lived in their world for 366 pages and I didn't want to leave them behind. I cannot wait for the next book.

Rating: 4 / 5

Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso: Guest Post and Review

Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso
April 8, 2011; Flux

-Book provided free for review as part of blog tour

Please welcome Christine Hurley Deriso to Alison Can Read. She was kind enough to contribute a guest post to the blog today as part of a blog tour through Teen Book Scene.

Summary

Summer Stetson lives inside a shrine to her dead sister. Eclipsed by Shannon's greatness, Summer feels like she's a constant disappointment to her controlling, Type A momzilla and her all-too-quiet dad. Her best friend Gibson believes Summer's C average has more to do with rebelliousness than smarts, but she knows she can never measure up—academically or otherwise.

On her birthday, Summer receives a secret gift from her aunt: Shannon's diary. Suddenly, the one-dimensional vision of her sister becomes all too solid. Is this love-struck, mom-bashing badass the same Shannon everyone raves about? Determined to understand her troubled sister, Summer dives headfirst down a dark rabbit hole and unearths painful family secrets. Each revelation brings Summer closer to the mysterious and liberating truth about her family—and herself. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Guest Post:

How is writing for tweens different than writing for young adults?

I think it's more similar than different; I try to understand and respect my characters, regardless of their stage in life. But YA is definitely a bit more liberating. I can explore more mature subject matter, though hopefully always with sensitivity and authenticity. I can use a broader vocabulary (though one of the joys of writing for young children and tweens is challenging myself to speak in their beautiful, innocent, not-fully-developed voices). YA characters aren't as limited by their circumstances as tweens; they're freer to explore their world. YA characters are more multi-dimensional in that they've developed cynicism, sarcasm, arrogance and other shades of gray that add nuance to their personalities. But I hope that it's clear in my writing how much love and admiration I have for all of my characters, even (or maybe especially) the least lovable.

My Review

I had to read Then I Met My Sister on a deadline. A shared ARC was passed around to the participants of Ms. Deriso's blog tour, so I had to read it as fast as I could to send it off to the next reader. Sometimes reading on deadline can be a real drudge - forcing yourself to read page after page when you'd rather be doing something else. Luckily, that was not a problem with Then I Met My Sister. I plowed through this book in a day, having to force myself to put the book down!

I connected with Summer from the first page. She has a sarcastic, dark take on pretty much everything, which is a voice style that I always enjoy. Summer lives in the shadow of her sister Shannon who died nine months before Summer was born. Consciously or unconsciously, Summer has gone out of her way to be everything she thought Shannon was not. Shannon got good grades, so Summer barely gets by. Shannon had a wall full of trophies - she did everything and universally excelled. Summer excels in laziness and quitting. Shannon was kind and obedient to her parents. Summer is outspoken and challenges her mother about everything. It's pretty hard to live up to the perfect sister, so Summer doesn't even try.

The summer before Summer's senior year of high school - when she finally is going to surpass Shannon's age - Summer's aunt gives her a journal that Shannon kept the last few months of her life. It turns out Shannon wasn't so perfect. After overachieving for so long, Shannon finally cracked. She abandoned her good friends and took up with a jerky boyfriend and rebel new best friend, constantly fought her mother, and fought herself. She'd lived for other people for so long that she didn't know who she was anymore.

I thought Summer's family dynamics were fascinating. And I loved how the diary helped Summer learn secrets about her family that tore them down but eventually helped build them back up. Summer's mom is incredibly controlling and can't accept Summer for who she is. The diary helps Summer understand why. Summer's dad is boring yet dependable, but the diary shows another side of him. I love how Summer's relationship with her parents both changes and doesn't change. It was fascinating to see how her parent's flaws affected Shannon's life and how they now affect Summer. I also love how all of the characters grew through the novel, yet essentially stay the same. There was forward momentum but no kiss-cry-everything's-perfect-now endings that usually make me roll my eyes.

The only plot other than Summer's exploration of her sister's journal, was her growing relationship with her friend Gibs. Such a wonderful character. Super smart, kind, thoughtful, handsome, funny. An all around great friend. I love how he supported Summer, but also challenged her. He looked at her family from the outside in and had insights that Summer wasn't capable of seeing. Even better, there's a positively squeal-worthy moment between them on the beach. Look forward to it.

If Then I Met My Sister has a weakness, it would be a lack of action or a strong plot line. The book is really a character exploration. Summer's perception of her sister changing from cardboard cut-out to three-dimensional person and Summer's perception of herself changing from unworthy to full of potential. The only plot is the relationship with Gibs, but even that is a mini-character exploration. Their interactions are dialogue-heavy and often revolve around Shannon and Summer's family. This didn't bother me at all. I loved delving into a family, getting to know their secrets, and seeing them start to turn into something better. But others might get frustrated.

I highly recommend Then I Met My Sister. You'll love Summer's voice. This funny, frustrating, lovable girl makes the book worth reading. Add to that a great guy and a family haunted by their past, and you have a very interesting novel.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Post: Author Barbara Casey of The Cadence of Gypsies

The Cadence of Gypsies by Barbara Casey

Please welcome Barbara Casey to Alison Can Read. She has a new book called The Cadence of Gypsies and was kind enough to guest post on the blog today.

Check out The Cadence of Gypsies!

On her 18th birthday Carolina Lovel learned that she was adopted and was given a letter written by her birth mother in an unknown language. After years of research she travels to Italy on a mission to find the truth about her past. Carolina is accompanied by three extremely gifted but mischievous students the FIGs from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. In an effort to help their favorite teacher, the FIGs will have to use their special abilities to decipher the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, and the one thing that is strangely similar to what Carolina was given. Their search will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined. (courtesy of Goodreads)

THE VOYNICH MYSTERY

Imagine not finding out you were adopted until your 18th birthday. Imagine learning also that
your birth is somehow tied in with the most mysterious document in the world: the Voynich
Manuscript. This is what happens to Carolina Lovel, one of my characters in The Cadence of
Gypsies, and what she discovers changes her life forever.

In reality, my story of Carolina and her three precocious students is fiction. But the Voynich
Manuscript is real. Here are some facts that might interest you:

-Throughout its recorded existence, cryptographers, including some top American and British
code breakers of World War II, have been doing statistical analysis of letter and word use,
repetitive patterns, and other tools in an attempt to decipher the manuscript. All attempts have
failed.

-The parchment pages of the Voynich Manuscript were made from animal skin. In February
of this year, Greg Hodgins, a chemist and archaeological scientist, was able to use radiocarbon
dating on tiny bits of the pages extracted with a scalpel to determine that the book dates back
to the early Renaissance, between 1404 and 1438. This makes the book a century older than
scholars had previously thought.

-The manuscript is small, seven by ten inches, with nearly 235 pages and is made of soft, light
brown vellum. It is believed to have originally contained 272 pages. A quill pen was used for
the text (written from left to right) and figure outlines, and vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red were applied to the figures, possibly at a later date.

- The contents of the Voynich Manuscript are divided into six divisions or sections:

The first and largest section is the botanical. It contains 130 pages of plant drawings with
accompanying text.

The second section contains 26 pages of drawings which are obviously astrological or
astronomical in nature.

The third section contains 4 pages of text and 28 drawings, which would appear to be
biological in nature.

The fourth section contains 34 pages of drawings, which are pharmaceutical in nature.

The last section of the manuscript contains 23 pages of text arranged in short paragraphs,
each beginning with a star. The last page (the 24th of this division) is thought to be the “Key.”

-There have been many theories as to who wrote the Voynich Manuscript. Englishman Francis
Bacon, inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci, occultist and mathematician John Dee, and even
extraterrestrials have been named as possibilities. But to date, there is no proof of authorship, and computer analysis of the Voynich Manuscript has only deepened the mystery.

In The Cadence of Gypsies, Carolina and the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius)
discover what they believe to be the truth about the Voynich Manuscript and how it is entwined
in Carolina’s life. Maybe what they discover is closer to reality than anyone realizes…

Monday, March 28, 2011

Manga Mondays (43): Fruits Basket vol. 20 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 20 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

The cracks start to show as Akito feels her hold over the zodiac members slowly slipping away, with another two members breaking free from the 'curse'.. but how did Akito come to be this twisted in the first place? Is the late master of the Sohma household the cause for the rift between Akito and her mother? As the plot further unravels, Tohru prepares to confess her feelings to Kyo, but Kyo has more than just the 'curse' holding him back - the painful truth about Tohru's mother's death... and one confession that may end their relationship before it has the chance to start... (courtesy of Madman.com)

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 curse is falling apart. Two more members of the Zodiac lose their curse in this volume: Momiji and Hiro. The idea of loss is represented by feathers falling throughout the pages. I don't entirely get what feathers represent as far as loss goes. Perhaps the equivalent of things falling apart, loss of life? It's an interesting artistic choice that sets the atmosphere.

We learn more about Akito and her mother Ren. Talk about Mommy Dearest. Ren loved Akito's father desperately. She couldn't bear the idea of anyone else holding a place in her husband's heart, including Akito. She is horrible jealous and bitter, because she believes that Akito's father loved her more than Ren. She never ceases to ridicule Akito for the "so-called bond" and all her various faults. Akito is in many ways very much like her mother in her volatile temperament.

As the volume ends, we learn more about how Kyo knew Kyoko-san, Tohru's mother. She ran across him one day when he was just a little boy and took a liking to him. They would speak every so often. He happened to be there when Kyoko died and didn't save her. He blames himself for her death.

On the cheery, angsty side, there's a gorgeous page spread with Kyo in front of Tohru asking, "Do you like me?" Wonderful to see the love story moving on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (33)

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

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

For Review


Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
-Thanks to Regal Literary Agency


The Cadence of Gypsies by Barbara Casey
-Thanks to Elizabeth of Gauthier Publications

Bought


Switched (Trylle Trilogy #1) by Amanda Hocking
-Thought I'd give this a try to see what the fuss is about

Library Stash



Hunger by Jackie Kessler



Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson


The Greyfiar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

CD Stash


Catching A Tiger by Lissie

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hopping on the Weekend

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 nine months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

On the blog this week -

Reviews

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 19 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?

Hmmm....

1. Twilight - But only if I could be a Cullen.

2. Harry Potter - Isn't this one rather obvious?

3. Princess For Hire by Lindsey Leavitt - I just finished this one. I'd love to be a substitute Princess.

4. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace - One of my all-time favorite book series. It's semi-autobiographical and set in Mankato, Minnesota (called Deep Valley in the books) between 1900 and 1910. I love reading about Betsy's high school friends hanging out at her house, eating fudge and onion sandwiches (not together) and singing to the tune of a piano. It sounds so idyllic.

Follow Friday: Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100FACTSABOUTME, GIVE US FIVE BOOK RELATED SILLY FACTS ABOUT YOU.

1. One of my favorite things to do is read cookbooks. I got The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser for Christmas. Even though I probably won't make many of the recipes, I love flipping through the pages and reading the stories about the recipes.

2. When I was a kid, I loved picture books that had an accompanying cassette tape. Since my mother got carsick, she couldn't read to me when we were on car trips. I loved listening along to my books. My favorite was The Fox and the Hound (also one of my favorite Disney movies).

3. I will use virtually anything for bookmarks. Actual bookmarks are one of the least frequent things I'll use. I often use the hold receipt from the library. Money seems to be a specialty of mine - cash, checks, receipts.

4. These days, I read mostly YA novels, but for years the majority of my reading was history and biographies. My favorite time period is the Revolutionary War and early American history. I wish I'd majored in history in college.

5. I'm an enabler. When we met, my husband hardly ever read anything other than medical textbooks. He'd loved reading as a kid, but got away from it in college and graduate school. I reignited the addiction. We don't read the same books (although I did get him hooked on White Cat and Red Glove by Holly Black), but we read together all the time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford
2009; Zarahemla Books

-I received a copy of this book free from the author for review.

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)

Review

No Going Back is a brutal, raw, honest look at the difficulties faced by a gay Mormon teenager. Paul is a great kid. Quiet, obedient, a little nerdy, funny. He's the kind of kid that parents hold up as an example. He is an active member of the Mormon church. When he realizes that he's gay, he is faced with a truly horrible choice. Rightly or wrongly, you cannot be actively gay and be an upstanding member of the LDS church. Paul knows he's gay, but he also fervently believes in the tenets of the LDS church. Paul either has to deny his body or deny his soul.

Paul is the main character of this novel, but Paul's mother, best friend Chad, and Chad's parents also feature strongly in the book. The story is told from their alternating points of view. Paul slowly comes out to each of these characters. I enjoyed seeing how each reacted. It felt very real to me. Some were okay with it and some were horrified. All adjusted, but things were different.

I loved the interaction between Paul and Chad. This story is told largely through dialogue. I'm obviously not a teenage boy, but I think Mr. Langford perfectly captured a 15-year-old boy's voice. Reading about Paul, Chad, and their other friends hanging out whether at home or school was truly enjoyable. I loved how Paul and Chad messed with each other, trading barbs back and forth. It added bits of humor to an otherwise serious book. It also allowed them to discuss difficult issues, albeit in the uncomfortable, halting way that boys and men often do.

One of my favorite things about this book was that no viewpoint was glorified. We see various members of the LDS community exhibit homophobic behavior, but others who love and accept Paul unconditionally. Paul's friends in the Gay-Straight Alliance at school challenge him to accept being gay, yet have difficulty accepting Paul's beliefs as a Mormon. Neither group was immune from prejudice. I also didn't feel like I was being preached to. Considering that the characters' religious beliefs were frequently discussed, that's really saying something.

I have a few quibbles with the book, but nothing that makes it worth skipping. The plot was set around the 2003-04 Oregon gay marriage vote. I felt like not enough was done with that time frame. It was introduced but not fully explored. I also thought Sandy's (Chad's mom) story of personal discover, while interesting, did not contribute much to the novel.

My only real concern with this book is not a criticism. Rather, it's the inherent difficulty at marketing this novel. First, it's not really a young adult or an adult novel. The story is told from the viewpoints of adults and kids. The adult perspective was interesting to me, but I wonder if teens would be bored. Second, No Going Back is a very Mormon book. The LDS Church has its own culture with a unique vocabulary and events. No Going Back doesn't provide a glossary or explanation for things like seminary, a testimony, passing the sacrament, etc. If you're already familiar with the Church, this is great. You don't have to waste your time reading about things you already know. If you don't know much about the Church, it might be like diving into the deep end of the pool. However, I have read numerous reviews written by non-Mormons who didn't seem to have a problem with the cultural aspects. So maybe it's not that big a deal. I think this book is targeted toward a Mormon audience. People who would like it are probably fairly liberal Mormons - those who don't mind liberal use of cursing and having to consider ideas with which they might disagree.

I really enjoyed No Going Back. It deals with a very difficult issue that a lot of people have to face. It doesn't sugar-coat anything. There are no easy choices and no easy answers. There are no heroes and there are no villains. There are just a group of people trying to be good people, be true to themselves, and true to their beliefs and the aftermath when these things conflict.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (42): Entwined by Heather Dixon

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

Entwined by Heather Dixon
March 29, 2011; Greenwillow Books
-I've read some positive reviews for this book. It looks super-cute.


Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
March 22, 2011; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

-I received this book free courtesy of the S&S Galley Grab

Summary

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Wither is a true dystopian novel. Dark, dark, dark. Fleeting glimpses of happiness. More darkness. Rhine's world is short and unpleasant. A virus has infected the entire human population so that men only live 25 years and women only live 20 years. At those appointed ages, they all die of a horrible virus. This is a world without parents. Children are left as young orphans, inevitably doomed to a life of horrible poverty. To prolong the human race, society has become obsessed with pro-creation. The wealthy kidnap girls and force them to marry their sons.

Rhine was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up in a van full of girls headed to the marriage auction block. Rhine was one of three girls chosen to marry. The remaining girls were shot in the back of the van. What a cheery start for a novel!

Rhine and her new sister wives are married off to the wealthy 20-year old Linden. I loved the depiction of Rhine and her sister wives. There's Rose, who is as prickly as her name and is on the verge of death. Jenna is a beauty, but even more miserable than Rhine. 13-year-old Cecily dreams of being the perfect wife and mother. She's whiny, ambitious, naive, and very young. The girls develop a true sisterhood - there are some fights and jealousy - but they love and help one another. Their growing relationships were the strongest part of the novel.

Rhine left her twin brother Rowan behind. She is devastated without him and longs to escape her marital prison. She is stubborn, yet also caring. She's the only person who breaks through Rose's shell, the only person nice to the housestaff, and extremely patient and sympathetic toward the difficult Cecily. As determined as she is to hate Linden forever, she is able to put her anger aside and somewhat sympathize with him. Being the determined girl she is however, she cannot forget where she came from or give up the hope of being free.

The love story of the novel is between Rhine and Gabriel, one of the house servants. I didn't totally get this relationship. They became friends as he served her. I liked that their relationship wasn't love at first sight, but I never really felt the power behind it. Gabriel was a likeable guy and willing to make a lot of sacrifices for Rhine. Unfortunately, the romance just fell a little flat for me.

I did like that Wither did not turn into a love triangle. Rhine slowly develops sympathy, perhaps respect, for her husband Linden. I loved Linden. He is as trapped by his evil father as Rhine. His first wife, Rose, was the love of his life and he is lost without her. He's a talented architect and quickly becomes dependent upon Rhine. There was no love between Rhine and Linden other than a friendly yet complicated partnership. Ultimately, I felt more connected to Linden than Gabriel, because we got to know him better.

While I did have some quibbles with the romance of Wither, I quite enjoyed the book. That's really saying something considering that I do not like dystopia as a genre. I find it too depressing. Wither certainly was depressing, but the dysfunctional society, the characters, and the plot all drew me in. It isn't a page turner, but it is a book that consistently has you interested in what's going to happen next.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, March 21, 2011

Manga Mondays (42): Fruits Basket vol. 19 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 19 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

As the Fruits Basket saga continues, the relationship between Tohru and Kyo becomes increasingly complicated, especially since most of the members of the Zodiac seem to look down on him. Tohru comes to the realization that if she wants to save Kyo, she'll have to create some sort of trigger to break his curse. But what, if anything, can cure Kyo? (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.

In this volume, Tohru and Kyo are getting increasingly closer to being "together." Kyo is so in love with Tohru that it's obvious to all the Sohmas and Tohru is finally close to admitting that she loves Kyo-kun. Tohru is afraid that if she loves Kyo, she'll lose the memory of her mother.

Much of the book is about how the other members of the Zodiac look down on Kyo. Their loves are so difficult being cursed that it's nice to know that Kyo's life is worse. There's a great scene with Shigure and Tohru where he's explaining this to her. I love seeing Shigure (1) in Western clothes and (2) acting serious. He is so handsome when he's not joking around. I love that we're increasingly seeing this side of him in the last volumes.

Of course, we revisit Yuki with his student council colleagues: Machi, Kakeru, and Kimi. Kimi is her annoying self as always. Yuki definitely has a thing for Machi. I was really surprised to discover that Yuki views Tohru as a mother-figure. I thought for sure that he was in love with her. Kind of weird, but I suppose it eliminates the competition with Kyo.

Another highlight of this volume is seeing post-puberty Momiji! He sprouted up overnight into a handsome young man. He doesn't wear the girlish sailor suit any more but he's still Momiji with his bunny backpack. Poor kid is in love with Tohru, but realizes that Kyo has the better chance.

Everything is moving quickly in these last volumes as Takaya tries to get in all the mythology, character developments, and conflicts necessary for the big finish.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (32)

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

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

**Super Exciting! I just bought my own domain name!!!! I am now at AlisonCanRead.com. If you type in my Blogspot address, it will still take you to the new site. I feel so professional.

-I highly recommend Parajunkee's step-by-step instructions on how to set up your own domain name. It was really easy with her help. Go here to view the instructions.

For Review


Hex: A Witch And Angel Tale by Ramona Wray
-Thanks to Ramona!


Running From Secrets by Stephanie Void
-Thanks to Stephanie!

Library Stash


Princess For Hire by Lindsey Leavitt


Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt -
-I lucked out and found this on the shelf at the library. Everyone's been raving about it!

CD Stash
Kiss Each Other Clean by Iron & Wine
-I've been waiting for this at the library for months. Super excited!

Thursday, March 17, 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 nine months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

On the blog this week -

Discussion Post

What Books? Favorite Cry Your Eyes Out Books

Review

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 18 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Do you read only one book at a time or several?

I usually have several books going at the same time. Sometimes as many as 4 books, which is what I have going right now. I'm reading Lillibet (a bio of Queen Elizabeth II) by Carroly Erickson. I just finished Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors and am starting Matched by Ally Condie. I'm also reading Running With Secrets by Stephanie Void on my e-reader. I'm also reading Vampire Knight vol. 11 by Matsuri Hino.

I don't have a method on what I read when. I pick up whichever book I'm in the mood for. Sometimes, I'll go weeks without reading one of my ongoing books and other times I'll read one chapter and then switch to a chapter of another book.

Follow Friday: How did you come up with your blog name?

Nothing really exciting. I wanted something that would be easy to remember yet still unique. Honestly, I picked Alison Can Read principally because it was one of the first things that came to my mind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Summary

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents rules;especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father's office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she's tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be the key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.
To improve her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen's sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill's accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything, even Tristen's love just for the thrill of being . . . bad. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Last year I picked up Beth Fantaskey's Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side expecting a silly vampire romance. I was impressed with how witty, complex, and fun the book was. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up Jekel Loves Hyde. Fantaskey's sophomore novel does not live up to her freshman effort, but it was a fun read nonetheless.

Tristan Hyde is cursed with an evil twin - a beast living within him that causes him to act cruelly and violently at unexpected times. He fears that it will soon overtake him. His father and grandfather were similarly haunted by the beast. It was Jill's ancestor, a science genius, who started the beast trait in the Hyde family. Now Jekel and Hyde are together again - in high school chemistry class. Tristan convinces Jill to use old family files to try to find a cure to rid himself of the beast before he is irredeemably changed.

Tristan is a fabulous love interest. Dark and handsome but sweet and caring at the same time. He's not exactly the stereotypical bad boy. He has a definite evil side but is fighting it with ever fiber of his being.

Jill is a typical YA female protagonist. She is smart and driven but not one to veer from the main path. Her father's unexpected death, her mother's resulting breakdown, and Tristan's interest pushes her to take more risks than ever before.

The plot becomes rather silly as the book goes on. Perhaps I would take it more seriously if I'd read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I couldn't help rolling my eyes at the stretched plot points. Tristan and Jill find a formula that can either cure or create the monster. Jill accidentally tastes the formula and unleashes her wild side. Can she and Tristan save each other from the temptations of their ancestors' creations?

Jekel Loves Hyde was a fun book and worth reading, but didn't completely do it for me.

Rating: 3 / 5

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (41): Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers

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

Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers (Personal Demons #2)
July 5, 2011; Tor Teen
-I just finished Personal Demons and really enjoyed it. I can't wait for the next book.


When secrets and old histories come to light, Frannie realizes that nobody is who she thought they were. Hell won’t give up and Heaven won’t give in. Some are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell's grasp.

And not everyone will get out of it alive.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Books? Favorite Cry Your Eyes Out Books

What Books? Favorite Cry Your Eyes Out Books

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
Favorite Books That You Didn't Love At First

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 Cry Your Eyes Out Books

I've always loved books that made me cry. There's nothing a story that pulls you in so strongly that your happiness depends upon the characters' happiness. When nothing is more important in the world than this book. Emotional books are far more memorable than plot heavy action books or serious character studies. I appreciate the latter, but tearjerkers leave a permanent mark on my heart and mind.

Here are a few of my favorites over the years:

Childhood



Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
-I first read this in 4th grade. We were on a car trip driving to Phoenix for a weekend getaway. I sobbed in the backseat for the last few chapters. I've re-read the book many times since.



Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
-I read this in 4th or 5th grade. It's another one that I've read many times.

High School

I devoured Lurlene McDaniel books in middle and high school. They were almost guaranteed to make me cry.


Six Months To Live by Lurlene McDaniel
-I loved all the books about Dawn, a teenager with cancer.


Angels Trilogy by  Lurlene McDaniel
-Not only will this make you cry, but it also features a cute Amish guy. Can't get better than that. I read this over and over.


She Died Too Young (One Last Wish) by  Lurlene McDaniel
-I loved the One Last Wish books. This one was my favorite and probably the saddest.

Current YA

Some of the current crop of Juvenile/YA novels that have left me bawling.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
-Many of the Harry Potter books have tear-jerker moments. I sobbed at Snape's death and then his life-story. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the book that made me cry second most among the books. I sobbed at Cedric's death and when Harry had to retell the story to Dumbledore.


If I Stay by Gayle Forman
-I picked this up because Catherine Hardwicke was at one time set to direct the movie for this book. Since it was sort-of Twilight related, it caught my attention. So glad I found it! I loved this book. I started reading the book in the afternoon and finished it at 2 AM, sobbing in the bathroom so my husband wouldn't wake up.


Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
-I loved how Before I Fall fit together. How each day could be exactly the same, yet still so interesting and unique. The ending was so powerful as Sam grew, learned, loved, and lost.


The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
-Grief and death are frequent themes of tearjerkers. Nelson's book was unusually emotional amongst a crowded field. I think it was the poetry that did it. I loved how Nelson used verse at the beginning of each chapter. It was both visually and emotionally powerful.



Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
-I wasn't sure about this one at first. It was so confusing. In fact, I put it down for a month and only picked it up because so many bloggers raved about it. Everything clicked about 2/3 through the book. By the end, it was one of the most beautiful, emotional books that I'd ever read. I connected so strongly to Taylor and cried at both her grief and her happiness.

Adult Books

A few recent adult books I've read that brought about tears.


The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
-I almost missed a plane because I was standing in the airport bookshop re-reading the most devastating parts of this book and didn't hear the boarding call until the gate door was about to close.


Marley And Me by John Grogan
-I love my doggie. As soon as little Marley started aging, I started whimpering. By the time he died, I had tears rolling down my face and was hugging and kissing my dog.

What books have made you cry your eyes out?

Manga Mondays (41): Fruits Basket vol. 18 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 18 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

As rumors swirl about Machi trying to kill her little brother, Kakeru figures that the only person who can get the truth out of her is Yuki. But when the two of them visit her, they learn a shocking secret. Later, Motoko wants to tell Yuki her feelings before she graduates and leaves the school--and him--forever. But will their parting be such sweet sorrow?(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.

Another volume with lots of Yuki and little Tohru or Kyo. Much of this book focuses on Machi, Yuki's friend from school. Like the rest of the character in this book, her life has been a sob story. She's suspected of trying to kill her little brother. Not true at all. She adores her baby brother. Her parents are convinced that she's horribly jealous and is a monster of a girl. When they saw her placing a blanket over the baby, they assumed she was trying to smother it.

It's interested that Takaya-san goes out of her way to villainize every parent in this series. The only adults that are portrayed positively are Tohru's mother and those adults without children. I wonder why.

The second half of the book is about Rin. If Takaya-san was worried that the reader would pity Akito too much after his/her story was revealed in Volume 17, Volume 18 corrected that problem. Akito nearly killed Rin. He was furious that Rin had the gall to love Haru and that Rin tried to take his beloved treasure box.

The end of the volume was fabulous. Tohru passionately declares her fear that Kyo-kun will be lost if the curse is not broken. Takaya-san does a great job drawing Tohru's anguish.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In My Mailbox (31)

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

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

For Review


Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso 
-Already finished and loved it!


Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

Both ARCs provided by publisher for an upcoming blog tour.

Library Stash


Matched by Ally Condie 
-Super excited for this


Lilibet: An Intimate Portrait of Elizabeth II by Carolly Erickson 
-On a British royal kick after loving The King's Speech

CD Stash


Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
-I've been waiting for this at the library for months. Love it!

Thursday, March 10, 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 nine months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

On the blog this week -

Reviews

Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 17 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?

I often like buying books that I've already read and loved. Since books are so expensive, I don't like to buy them if I might not enjoy them. A book that I really love is worth keeping on my shelf to re-read.

Some books that I've already read and I'd buy if I had $80: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (already own Shiver), the hardcover of New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (only have the paperback), Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, all of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace

A few books I'd buy that I haven't already read: Books about England during WWII and biographies of King George VI and the Queen Mum (on an English history kick after seeing The King's Speech), Where She Went by Gayle Forman (when it comes out), Jennifer Donnelly's other novels, and lots of cookbooks.

Follow Friday: Who are You the Girl, instead of You the Blogger?

Who am I? Let's see:

Age: 29
Occupation: Attorney
College Major: Economics
Resides: I am from Arizona, but I have lived in Minnesota for the past 8 years. I'm moving to California this summer (I love Minnesota and I'm very sad to leave). This weekend, I'm going to be busy packing and cleaning up my house to get ready to put it on the market in a few weeks. If anyone wants to buy a house in the Twin Cities, let me know.
Hobbies: Reading, obviously. I exercise a lot - running is my favorite activity. I love to cook - especially Asian food. I have other hobbies, but blogging and reading has really taken over my life and I've neglected a lot of other things. I don't mind spending so much time blogging as long as I'm having fun.
I am a huge music fan and thankfully have time to listen to a lot of CDs when I can't read or blog. My fav groups are The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, Cloud Cult, Neko Case, Paramore, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, The National, and more...

Iron Daughter by Julia Kagawa

Iron Daughter by Julia Kagawa
2010; Harlequin Teen


Summary

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

Review

I really enjoyed Iron Daughter. Even more than I liked Iron King. The biggest improvement in the sequel is Meghan. In Iron King, I thought she was simpering and boring (Meghan and I got off to a bad start when she went after the football star out of her school who was both a jerk and way out of her league). Now, she is self-confident and strong. She grew into these characteristics throughout the course of Iron King, but I had to slog through pages of annoying Meghan before she turned into a really cool girl. Now we have a great female protagonist right from the beginning.

Iron Daughter is full of action. Some new danger or adventure faces Meghan in every chapter. The conflict in this book begins early when the new Iron King steals the Scepter of Seasons and kills the oldest Winter Prince; Meghan is the only witness. No one believes that the Iron fey are still a presence, and it is up to her to seek the return of the scepter.

Thankfully we see lots of our favorite love interests, Ash and Puck. Ash begins the book by acting horribly toward Meghan. He insisted that all his feelings toward her were merely a farce. The betrayal actually made the book hard to read at first. But things progress quickly from there. I still don't like Puck all that much. He is slightly less irritating than he was in the first book, but I just don't see him as a good love interest. It's probably because the funny best friend stereotype has always irritated me.

I really admire the complexity of the faerie world that Kagawa has built. All the different creatures, lands, and customs turned my head in the first book. I've become accustomed to it somewhat in the second book, but there's still so much to learn. I feel like I could reread this book numerous times and pick out new details each time.

All in all, Iron Daughter is a great sequel to Iron King!

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (40): Jessica Rules The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

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

Jessica Rules The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
January 9, 2012; Harcourt


-We have to wait quite awhile for this one, but I'm super-excited already. I loved Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side and am so happy that Beth decided to write another book.


When Jessica Packwood found out she was a Romanian vampire princess, she had the shock of her teenage life. Turns out that was the easy part. Now, married to Prince Lucius Vladescu, she has to claim her throne and convince a vampire nation she’s fit to be their queen. But Jess can’t even order a decent meal from her castle’s Romanian staff, let alone deal with devious undead subjects who would love to see her fail.

And when Lucius is accused of murdering a vampire Elder and imprisoned without the blood he needs, Jessica finds herself alone, fighting for both their survivals.

Desperate to clear her husband’s name and win his release, Jess enlists the help of her best friend Mindy Stankowicz and Lucius’s mysterious Italian cousin, Raniero Lovatu. But both of them are keeping some dark secrets. Can Jess figure out who to trust – and how to rise to power – before she loses everything, including the vampire she loves?

Full of romance, mystery, and danger, the highly anticipated sequel to Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side shows that sometimes a princess has to earn her “happily ever after” – with a sharpened stake in hand.
 
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