Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekly Blog 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 eleven months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

On the blog this week -

Discussion

Library Lust

GIVEAWAY

Swag pack for Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

Review

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Manga Mondays

Vampire Knight vol. 5 by Matsuri Hino

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop:

Follow Friday: Keeping with the dystopian and apocalypse theme that seems to be running rampant on parajunkee.com, I have one very hard question for you: If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

That's a tough one. Hmmm...

1 & 2. Harry Potter books 3 and 7 (my favs)
3. Eclipse
4. War and Peace (I'll definitely have the time)
5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (old fav)
6. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (can read this again and again)
7. Teach-yourself-Japanese (I'll have the time)
8. Teach-yourself-Russian (I really want to learn this language too)
9. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (old fav)
10. The Scriptures

Library Lust

Just a quick little post this morning. I haven't been spending as much time as usual in the blogging world the past few days. We're trying to sell or rent our house. Someone wants to look at the house tonight, so we've been on a mad cleaning spree.

Anyway, what I want to talk about today is a "painful" incident at the library yesterday. I was there to pick up Dark Lover by J.R. Ward from the hold shel (yay!). I made the mistake of going back to the YA section. I was dismayed to see a good dozen books on the shelf that I'm dying to read - including Demonglass, Entwined, Daughter of Xanadu, Mostly Good Grils, The Jumbee, and more.

Normally of course, this would be a cause for cheering and subsequent book gorging. But I'm in the unfortunate/enviable situation of having way too many books sitting at home to be read - specifically, review books that I "need" to read. So I left all those wonderful books on the shelf and trudged home to my bulging bookshelf.

Has anything like this happened to you - where there was an incredible book just begging you to pick it up, but you couldn't?

Also, I'm incredibly fortunate to have a fabulous library just down the street. How is your library's YA collection?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
2011; Knopf Books for Young Readers


Summary

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


In The Running Dream, Jessica the sprinter learns that life is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. Jessica loses her leg after a tragic car accident. Jessica lives to run - she starts her day with a long run with her dog and she ends her day with track practice. Without her leg, she may still be alive, but her life is over.

The author does a wonderful job of portraying the physical and emotional aftermath of losing a limb, especially for someone who defines herself by her physical abilities. Jessica does not wake up from the hospital geared up and ready to start her new life. Of course not. Who would? She's despondent. Then she's angry. Then she's sulky. She basically goes through the classic steps of grief. Additionally, it is fascinating to learn about the physical aspects of losing a limb. The idea of phantom limb pain is explored as well as many details about prosthetic limbs. The reader is entertained while subconsciously educated.

When Jessica goes back to school she can't fit beneath a desk in her wheelchair, so she is assigned to sit with Rosa, who has cerebral palsy. Rosa has always been there, but she was invisible to the healthy, happy Jessica. Just like she is invisible to everyone, inside and outside of school. They develop a slow friendship. At first, Jessica is mostly just being polite to Rosa, but soon she discovers she truly cares for Rosa and looks beyond her disability. I love how Rosa was portrayed. She was not just a kid with cerebral palsy. She was a math genius. She was funny, caring, and thoughtful. She wanted more out of life. Physical disabilities are so rarely portrayed in YA literature. The author did a wonderful job in creating a character who was only partially defined by her disability.

Slowly, Jessica starts to heal, physically and emotionally. Rosa was a big part of that process. Jessica realizes that she is lucky in a way Rosa can never be. She can walk again - with a prosthetic limb she can even run again. She has tons of friends and supporters. She will never be invisible. Jessica heals not only for herself, but for her family, her friends, and for Rosa.

There is a little romance in this book. It's really a side plot. Perhaps thrown in there to meet the quasi-requirement of a crush in a YA novel. While it wasn't necessary, it was sweet and moved the book along.

Wendelin's prose was excellent. The book moved quickly and smoothly. The prose was simple yet elegant. You really felt Jessica's emotions and healed alongside her. At the same time, it didn't go overboard. It never felt like trumped up drama. I could easily be stepping into a real person's life, thoughts, and emotions.

The Running Dream is a well-written, enjoyable novel. It is a serious book, but will leave you feeling uplifted.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Blogger Directory Blog

I am one of the moderators for the Book Blogger Directory. If you haven't checked this out yet, you must get over there ASAP! It's a place for book bloggers of all genres to link to their blogs. There are a lot of YAogs and also a lot of Adult Fiction blogs, plus blogs featuring other genres.

The BBD also has a Blog. One of my main goals for the Directory is to feature and help promote new blogs. I'm starting a series of interviews with blogs that started within the past several months. If you'd like to be featured, shoot me an e-mail.

The first interview is with Magnet4Books' Reviews, a great YA blog. Here's the link.

Manga Mondays (47): Vampire Knight vol. 5 - Matsuri Hino

Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

GIVEAWAY: Win a Swag Pack of Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Vampire Knight vol. 5 - Matsuri Hino

-Now that I'm done reviewing all 23 volumes of Fruits Basket, it's time to return to an old favorite: Vampire Knight.
You can see my reviews for volumes One, Two, Three, and Four back in December and January.

Summary

Zero smells blood, and a panicking Ichiru runs to Shizuka's side. Kaname had disappeared, so Ichiru assumed that Zero was the one who killed Shizuka because he had shot her with his gun...
The Night Class reports to the Vampire Senate that it was Zero who killed Shizuka Hio, and they send assassins to take care of him. Kaname interrupts, and stands against the Senate...
Later, a Day Class student collapses, with fang marks in her neck. Kaname openly suspects Zero, and Yuki shouts at him, saying that she won't talk to him again until he admits that Zero is innocent. Kaname discovers the culprit, while Zero has a vision of himself accidentally killing Yuki. Yuki asks him what's wrong, and he, rejoiced that she was still alive, leans in to kiss her... (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.


At the end of the last volume, it was revealed that Shizuka, the vampire who turned Zero, was inhabiting the body of Maria. Shizuka tried to attack Yuki but Zero saved her, at great personal expense. Drinking Shizuka's blood could have kept Zero from going insane as a Level E vampire. But he chose to save Yuki instead.

Kaname kills Shizuka. He is not just motivated by revenge. Combining her pureblood blood with his own makes him a much more powerful vampire. It amazes me how much killing there is in this series. And it's done without second thought. It's a rather fun departure from the typical reluctant hero story.

Even thought Kaname killed Shizuka, other vampires are blaming Zero. He certainly had an axe to grind with Shizuka. Killing pureblood vampires is a particularly heinous crime and the Senate wants Zero's head on a pole. Kaname stops them, but doesn't reveal that he is Shizuka's real killer.

Yuki doesn't know that Kaname killed Shizuka, but she knows that he is very influential. She refuses to speak to him until he affirmatively admits that Zero is innocent instead of just hinting at it. I love how courageous Yuki is. She worships Kaname, but will stand up to him to protect Zero. She also offers her blood to Zero so he will not be in pain. Her courage is founded in love.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blog Tour/Giveaway: Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe



Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe
May 3, 2011; Balzer + Bray


Summary

Today has to be perfect.
Magic.
I look at the clock.
10:14 am.
Ten fourteen. One plus one is two plus four is six plus ten is sixteen minus one is fifteen minus two is thirteen. OK.
I turn from the clock and walk into the hallway. "Ready.”

Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose, because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because getting it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister, Kasey, to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if it doesn’t work?

What if the numbers never go away?

Acclaimed author Heidi Ayarbe has created an honest and riveting portrait of a teen struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder in this courageous and breathtaking novel.
(courtesy of Goodreads)

Guest Post: Tens List

*Just a heads-up that there are some swear words in this post, but it fits with the character's point of view


Please welcome Heidi Ayarbe to Alison Can Read. She's kindly provided us with a Tens List for Tanya, one of the main characters of Compulsion.

Tanya is, in her own way, a tragic character. I could write a whole novel with Tanya as my mc. So much goes beyond the Tinkerbell Tatoo surface. The more I thought about her top ten list, the more I thought about who she really is as a person – as opposed to the person other people see. (And maybe, as opposed to the person she shows other people.)

So I wanted to do a list of Tanya’s top ten wishes.

(List found in the margins of her math book)

10. I wish this calculus class didn’t totally suck.

9. I wish I felt more like an antiderivitive – the indefinite integral of the school – instead of like I’m a fucking fundamental theorem.

8. I wish I could move forward instead of feel like I’m always sliding backwards down a sloped tangent line.

7. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I wish Reese’s never came up with that stupid ad. It ends “perfect”. I’m not that Reese’s – never perfect.

6. I wish Jake liked me – for real – and we could do that Hannah Montana boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, hold hands. Maybe I could even wear his Varsity jacket.

5. I wish I didn’t want to want those things. It’s easier not wanting.

4. Calculus is all about change, right? Why can’t I? I wish I was that formula – the one that calculates infinity, possibility. Can anybody plug me into a formula and make me into somebody else – the person I was supposed to be?

3. Wishes suck. Wishes don’t change anything except make me feel like total shit. There’s nothing wrong with me.

2. I wish I didn’t care what people thought. Like Mera. I hate, hate, hate wishing I was like a person who has the personality of a Brillo pad soaked in lye. She looks like a Brillo pad soaked in lye.

1. I wish I’d never had those beers at that party when I was a freshman – never got that drunk – never said yes. Too bad calculus can’t change what’s passed. (I wish I didn’t write that, or any of this. Who gives a shit? Next year some kid will read this and have something to do in this shit class other than figure out the highest feasible sales from the sales of some toys made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh. Fuck it.

GIVEAWAY

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (36)

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for 10 months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

For Review


Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers
-Received for a blog tour


Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
-Thanks to Sourcebooks


Queen of the Dead (The Ghost and the Goth #2) by Stacey Kade 
-Thanks to Netgalley

Library Stash


William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Andersen
-Totally fascinated by the royal wedding. I'm going to a Champagne Breakfast Party to watch the wedding at 4:30 AM!


Chime by Franny Billingsley


Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning
-I picked this up as a result of my Pick My Vacation Read post. I'm also planning on getting Dark Lover by J.R. Ward and maybe some others.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weekly Blog Hops


Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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.

On the blog this week -

Big Review!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer

-Actually, this was from last week, but I'm leaving it up for people who are interested.

Giveaway

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Reviews

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay and Susan Griffith
Red Glove by Holly Black
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Advice Needed

Pick A Read! Help Me Choose a Vacation Book!

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?

Yes, although not necessarily right away. I have so many books to read, I generally can't just drop my scheduled books to read everything by a particular author. But I'll pick them up as I go along. For example, I fell in love with Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta last September. Since then, I have periodically picked up her other novels. I'm reading Piper's Son right now and have read all her other books except for Looking for Alibrandi.

Follow Friday: What is on your current playlist right now?

Love this question! I am almost as obsessed with music as I am with books.

Current fav songs:

1 (tie) . Helplessness Blues; and Blue Spotted Tail by Fleet Foxes (New Helplessness Blues album comes out May 3!)
2. Walking Far From Home by Iron & Wine (Kiss Each Other Clean album)
3. Down by the Water by The Decemberists (The King is Dead album)
4. Mine by Taylor Swift (Almost as good as You Belong to Me)
5. Blow by Ke$ha (Pathetically catchy)
6. Vesuvius by Sufjan Stevens (Age of Adz album)
7. Running With the Wolves by Cloud Cult (Light Chasers album)
8. The Field by Mason Jennings (Blood of Man album)
9. Sun Hands by Local Natives
10. Terrible Love by The National
*Edited to add
11. Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More album - listen to this all the time)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay and Susan Griffith
2010; Pyr Books

Summary

Vampire predators run wild in this exciting steampunk adventure, the first in an alternate history trilogy that is already attracting attention. In 1870, monsters rise up and conquer the northern lands, As great cities are swallowed up by carnage and disease, landowners and other elite flee south to escape their blood-thirsty wrath. One hundred fifty years later, the great divide still exists; fangs on one side of the border, worried defenders on the other. This fragile equilibrium is threatened, then crumbles after a single young princess becomes almost hopelessly lost in the hostile territory. At first, she has only one defender: a mysterious Greyfriar who roams freely in dangerous vampire regions. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay and Susan Griffith is one of the best books I've read thus far in 2011. It's one of those books where I keep going back to re-read my favorite parts again and again.

It is a subtle novel. There is so much going on and such complex world building that it took me several chapters before I really connected with the characters or stories. But once I did, I was hooked.

The Greyfriar vampires are just the kind of supernatural creatures I like. Unlike many novels which envisions vampires as hyper-sexualized creatures, the Greyfriar vampires are dark and violent, more like animals than humans. They do not interact with humans other than to feed or enslave them. Like almost all vampire legends, they are also extremeley intelligent and have a complex political and clan structure. As the book goes on, our opinion of vampires becomes more layered. Perhaps the barbaric views all humans hold of them is unjustified...or perhaps there are only a few very odd exceptions. Regardless, the authors hammer chips into Princess Adele's and the reader's preconceived notions.

It took me awhile to warm to Adele, the main character. At first, she seems naive and spoiled, having lived a sheltered royal life. At the same time, I sensed an underlying wish to be someone, tempered by a strong sense of duty; she was willing to marry a strange, brash American Senator for the political needs of her kingdom. I admired her for being so selfless. However, she was closed - I didn't connect to her emotionally. This changes as the book goes on. Once Adele is captured by the vampires, we see the true Princess emerge. She is brave, passionate, stubborn, and loyal. She is slow to change, but also open minded enough to know what is good when she sees it. She truly is a heroine.

Greyfriar was one of the best characters I've read in a long time. He starts out shrouded in mystery, for reasons that become clear soon enough. He is unbelievably brave. I loved the contrast between his gentle, kind nature and his capacity for extreme violence and vengeance. A complex character if there ever was one.

The plot is fabulous. A mixture of suspenseful action scenes with a slow-building romance will satisfy readers of multiple genres. Adele goes from one dangerous situation to another. Interspersed with her death defying escapes are scenes laying out the complex political world in the Vampire Empire universe. The vampires are plotting, the Americans are plotting, the Equatorians are plotting, and even Adele's tutor has an underground political network. The political maneuvering is sure to become more involved as the series continues. Meanwhile, a sweet and surprisingly gentle romance grows between Adele and Greyfriar. There's no love at first sight in this novel. Rather there are shared experiences, both positive and negative, that create a romance out of trust, shared respect, and ultimately deep love. It was the romantic scenes that I went back to re-read.

The Griffiths' prose does a fabulous job setting an atmosphere that feels dark and oppressive. Like a cloudy, humid day, you can almost feel the tension in the air. The writing is neither easy nor hard. The reader's eyes do not fly along the page - there are too many words on the page and none can legitimately be skipped - but the prose is steady and readable.

I highly recommend The Greyfriar for anyone who loves (a) vampires, (b) darkness, (c) true romance, (d) fabulous world building, and (e) a terrific story.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Pick A Read! Help Me Choose a Vacation Book!


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I'm leaving on April 30 for a week of relaxation in Hilton Head, South Carolina and Augusta and Savannah, Georgia. Since the vacation will hopefully involve doing a lot of nothing on the beach, I am in the need for the good reads.

The majority of my reading is in the YA genre. I am woefully inexperienced with adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy. I keep seeing bloggers talking about series that they love, and I want to love them too.

Here's where I need help...

I want to start a new adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy series on my vacation, but I can't decide which to choose.

*Of course, I'll also bring along a million and one YA books to read. I have to have at least one book to suit every mood. Plus, a fifty pound backpack is a built-in weight-lifting routine :-)

Which of the following do you think I should pick and why?

*Some thoughts:
-While I love all paranormal creatures, I am at heart a vampire girl
-I don't mind having sex in the book, but I'd rather it not be overly graphic or have the book be sex with an occasional plot


Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward


Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning


Georgia Kincaid (Succubus series) by Richelle Mead


Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost


Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs


Shifters by Rachel Vincent


Dark Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon


Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane


Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Red Glove by Holly Black


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Red Glove by Holly Black
April 5, 2011; Margaret K. McElderry
-Copy received free for fair review courtesy of S&S Galley Grab

Summary

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*This review contains spoilers for White Cat.

If you loved White Cat, you will love Red Glove just as much, if not more. Cassel's adventures continue and his choices become harder and have more consequences.

The plot of Red Glove revolves around two big questions: What kind of person is Cassel? What kind of person should he become? Through all the plot twists and turns, Cassel's decisions rest upon these questions.

Cassel is more likeable in Red Glove. He came across as arrogant and stand-offish for much of White Cat. The reasons were understandable, of course. He thought he had killed his best friend, and he felt inferior being the only non-Worker in his powerful family. Now Cassel knows that he is an incredibly powerful Worker, has done terrible things, and has been betrayed by his family. You'd think this would make him harder to like and relate to, but the opposite is true. He doesn't need to compensate for his feelings of inferiority anymore. While he can't trust his family, he has a group of friends he can trust.

Cassel is going through the same journey of self-discovery as all teenagers, but the stakes are much higher for him. He needs to decide now whether he will join the Zacharov mob, whether he will help or hurt his family, or whether he will help the government. Each of his choices will have consequences good and bad.

I love how Cassel slowly transforms into someone who needs nobody to someone who relies upon his friends Sam and Daneca. Both are great characters - resourceful, dependable, and passionate about their own interests. Daneca especially surprised me.

Lila is an important character. Cassel's mother made Lila fall in love with him at the end of White Cat and now she won't leave him alone. As much as Cassel is in love with her, he tries as hard as he can to resist. He just can't bring himself to use a girl who only loves him on false pretenses (or does she?). His refusal to use Lila is an indication of Cassel's innate goodness and something that further separates him from his mother and brothers, who would stop at nothing to get what they want.

While my review of Red Glove is more of a character study of Cassel, the book really is plot heavy. Cassel goes from one dangerous situation to another. I loved seeing how he used his charm, sarcasm, resourcefulness, and cunning to get out of each one. The book ends at a great point. It resolves the story, but still leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, April 18, 2011

Manga Mondays (46): Fruits Basket vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Fruits Basket vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

THE FINAL VOLUME! Curses have been broken and the eternal banquet has finally come to a close. But there are still some loose ends to be wrapped up before the last page of Fruits Basket arrives! How will the members of the Zodiac deal with their newfound freedom? Can forgiveness come in the wake of Akito's past actions, and a new surprising revelation? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Here we are! The final volume. I wonder how many manga make it to 23 volumes. I'm assuming not that many have a story complex enough to last that long unless they're the functional equivalent of sitcoms, with each volume being a stand-alone story.

The curse is broken. Kyo and Tohru are officially together. Yuki and Machi are officially together.

All of the former Zodiac members gather for a banquet with Akito. There Akito reveals that she is in fact a woman! Shigure, Hatori, Ayame, Kureno, and Tohru were the only ones who knew this. Now that Akito is no longer god, she is going to begin living as a woman and try to create a life for herself.

But Akito won't be alone. She and Shigure are happily in love (although with Akito's temper, I bet it will still be rocky). Shigure is content to be with Akito and is no longer writing cheesy romance novels and making off-color jokes.

Yuki, Tohru, and Kyo are all graduating high school. Yuki will be going to college with Machi nearby. Tohru and Kyo will be leaving to live and work in a dojo far away. Kyo wants to live - to see things. He feels terrible for taking away Tohru from the Sohmas. We see just how much every member of the family loves Tohru and what a stalwart she is for all of them. More of a god-figure than Akito, in many ways. Tohru loves the Sohmas as well, but is happy to do whatever makes Kyo happy.

The volume ends with a cute little happily ever after scene.

A good end to a fabulous series. While the ending is a little too clean and happy to be believable, it's still sweet and a nice reward for people who've had such hard lives. I definitely understand why this is the most popular shojo manga.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wings Read Along Challenge: Questions


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Only a few more days to get your free copy of Wings! Check out the link above if you haven't picked it up yet.

I read Wings about a year ago. I'm having a blast re-reading the book and am enjoying it just as much as I did the first time. I hope you are too!

Here are a few questions that I thought about while I was reading:

1. Wings has its share of angst and drama, but on the whole it is not as dark or edgy as many YA paranormal books. Do you like your books darker or more innocent? 

I think I prefer dark on the whole, but the occasional sweet book is refreshing.

2. Laurel has always preferred eating fruit, vegetables, and sugar - no fat or processed foods. What are your favorite fruits and vegetables?

I love blueberries and apples (especially Honeycrisp, a Minnesota creation). I'm a big vegetable person. I especially like spinach and broccoli.

3. Aprilynne's faeries are actually plants. It's a unique twist on faerie mythology. Do you prefer books that stick to traditional legends about paranormal creatures (e.g. vampires, zombies)

I love when authors take create original creatures. I think making faeries plants is ingenious. They are known for being in touch with nature - making them actually part of nature is a fascinating choice.

4. As a plant, Laurel breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen. She can also hold her breath longer than humans. She held her breath for 3 and a half minutes and only quit because she was a little uncomfortable and bored. How long can you hold your breath?

I made it 50 seconds. I should do breath-holding training.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (35)


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for 10 months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

Bought



The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer - So excited about this!


I have really long, detailed review here

For Review


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, Jane Austen
-Thanks to Quirk Books!


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, Jane Austen
-Thanks to Quirk Books!


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After  by Steve Hockensmith, Jane Austen
-Thanks to Quirk Books!


Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton
-Thanks to Sourcebooks 


Exposure: A Novel by Therese Fowler 
-Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie Communications 

Library Stash


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

CD Stash


Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
-Squeal!!! An acquaintance got an early copy of this CD and passed it on to me. It comes out on May 3. I already love it!


The Wild Hunt by Tallest Man on Earth


Now That's What I Call Music 36
-Love Top 40 music for working out

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
2010; Harper Teen

Summary

I had a life anyone would kill for.

Then someone did.

The worst part of being dead is that there’s nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It’s enough to kill a girl all over again. But I’m about to get something no one else does—an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet.

Now Emma’s desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me—to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she’s the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, carefree daughter when she hugs my parents good night? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?

Let the lying game begin. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Have you ever wished that you had a long-lost twin sister? I think most of us have. The wish is even more poignant for someone like Emma, who has spent most of her hard, lonely life in and out of foster homes. The idea that someone would know you intimately and love you unconditionally is understandably enticing to Emma. And her wish comes true! She discovers that she has a twin sister named Sutton in Tucson. Her dreams are quickly dashed when she goes to meet Sutton only to discover that Sutton is dead and the killer is after her too. Emma has to pretend to be Sutton to stay alive.

Emma is a simple, likeable girl. Despite her hard life, she's kind, timid, and relatively innocent. She makes a good vessel through which the story can be told. The reader can't help but root for Emma.

Sutton is essentially two different people. Part of The Lying Game is told through Sutton's eyes from the beyond. Somehow when Sutton died, her memories were completely erased. She's viewing her own life as a stranger. In death, Sutton seems like a nice, quiet girl. A big contrast to the living Sutton. She was the sterotype of a mean girl. Pretty, popular, athletic. But principally, mean. She and her friends concocted a Lying Game each year where they would basically torture each other for fun. That's in addition to the cruel jokes they would play on other people. Sutton was rude to her classmates, her friends, and her family. Definitely not a likeable character. It's interesting to see Emma, certainly not a "mean girl" have to transform into Sutton while still remaining true to herself.

The story moves quickly through Emma's introduction into Sutton's world. It becomes clear quickly that someone is still after Sutton. There are so many people who it could be - Sutton wasn't short on enemies. Could it be a stranger, a friend, or even a family member? All seem possible. The Lying Game takes the reader on a ride as we try to figure out who, if anyone, Emma can trust.

My main problem with this book is that it is so incomplete. The Lying Game is the start of a series. The reader is left with tons of questions at the end of this book. I don't mind being left wondering about certain aspects of a world, but I like a book that can somewhat stand on its own. This definitely cannot. There are a lot of crucial pieces of information that I didn't know by the end of the novel. Not cliff-hanger material, but big background information. I prefer first books that build the world substantially, not just introduce it. I'd rather be enticed to read the next book with a cliff-hanger than unanswered questions.

My issues aside, The Lying Game was a quick read, full of mystery and suspense. I'm excited to read the next one to learn more about Sutton and Emma's worlds.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blog Hopping


Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read 

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win two copies of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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.

On the blog this week -

Big Review!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer


Giveaway, Interview, and Review

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Manga Mondays

Fruits Basket vol. 22 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: Pick a character from a book you are currently reading or have just finished and tell us about him/her.

I recently read Lindsey Leavitt's Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment. The main character is Desi Bascomb. She's just a typical 8th grader from small town Idaho. Her mom may dream of Desi being a pageant beauty queen like she was, Desi prefers to spend her free time designing funny T-shirts and watching classic movies. She's not very popular and has the typical low self-esteem of a young teenager.

This all changes when she discovers she has magic potential and becomes a Sub for princesses who need a break. While she helps young princesses get through state dinners and deal with royal princes, she discovers that she is a strong girl who is able to stand up for what she wants. The Princess for Hire books are super-cute. I highly recommend them.

Follow Friday: Do you have anyone that you can discuss books with IRL? Tell us about him/her.

Hmm...yes and no. My dad shares my taste in books about history and some of the adult fiction I read. My mother and I read a lot of the same adult fiction books. I've pawned a few books like The Mortal Instruments series and White Cat/Red Glove off on my husband, making him a fan of both series. I have one friend at work who is really into Twilight so we had a squealing coffee break on Wednesday to discuss The Twilight Guide. Otherwise, I don't have anyone who is as obsessed with young adult books as I am.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide: My Thoughts

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer

Hallelujah, it's finally here!!!!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (hereinafter "the Guide") was released today. I have been looking forward to this for almost three years. Today felt like Christmas in April. I even took a half day at work so I could have plenty of time to digest the Guide. After a lunchtime yoga class and a trip to Target, I was happily ensconced in an armchair at my favorite coffeeshop with a cup of hot chocolate. There I remained for the next four hours, until I finished the Guide.

What do I think?

I am evenly split between happiness and disappointment. There were so many wonderful bits of information in the Guide, things I never thought to wonder about and answers to numerous niggling questions. However, so many things were left out - things that I'm sure Stephenie knows and are really essential pieces of information for any Twilight lover.

On the bright side, the paucity of information means there's lots left to the imagination. Readers and writers of Twilight fan-fiction will not lack for story options. I also wonder if the major holes in various characters' biographies (specifically Alice and Jasper, as well as Renesmee and Jacob) were done in purpose to leave room for future books. I already know that she won't answer certain questions about Nessie and Jacob in case she explores it later, but there was so much left out of Alice and Jasper's early lives that perhaps Stephenie envisions another story (I doubt it though).

I'll go over the good and bad points. I am making an effort not to put any spoilers in my review (e.g. the substance of Alice's story), but I'll be referring to what is and is not in the Guide. If you're as picky about spoilers as I am, you might want to be careful. Also, given the level of my emotional investment obsession in Twilight, my criticisms will likely not be as diplomatic as I normally try to make them.

The Good

1. Vampires Generally: I learned almost everything I wanted to know about the physical qualities of vampires. I already knew much of the information, but there was just enough new to keep me happy.

2. Alice's Human Life: Brava, Stephenie! You told me everything I wanted to know and so much more. Alice's human life was fascinating from beginning to end, although not in a good way. In some ways, it's better that Alice doesn't remember any of it. One of the highlights of the Guide.

3. Edward's Life: Not entirely complete, but I loved learning more about Edward's relationship with his parents, particularly his father. I already knew that his father was an attorney and they were fairly wealthy, but I loved filling in the gaps in Edward's story. It was also fabulous to learn what degrees Edward has received over the years. I was happy to get a little more information about Edward's years as a traditional vampire: specific dates and one tidbit I'd always wondered about.

4. Other Vampire Biographies: While I was largely disappointed with the new information, or lack thereof, in the Cullen's stories, I was beyond impressed with the biographies of the Volturi, the Denalis, the Romanians, the Egyptians, the Amazons, and the Nomads. There was tons of information here, all new. We get detailed biographies of each major character's human and vampire life. The Guide was worth buying for these stories alone. They were the highlight of the entire book.

-The Volturi: From the books and the Twilight Lexicon, we already knew a little background about the Volturi, but the Guide tells us so much more. Detailed histories of Aro, Marcus, and Caius which give us insight not only to specific events of their lives, but also to their personalities and motivations. I was so happy to learn about Alec and Jane's histories. Chelsea's biography was much more interesting than I expected it to be. The way the Volturi's motivations for ruling and claiming themselves as keeper of the law was skewed; I think Stephenie would root for a vampire coux.

-The Romanians and Egyptians: I'm combining these categories, because they are both ancient covens. I loved learning about how millennia of ambition and warfare built these covens and tore them apart. Amun's story was particularly interesting, especially how he has interacted or hidden from the Volturi over the years.

-The Denali's: There wasn't a huge amount of new information here, but the sisters' stories were fleshed out. I was very happy to get a better idea of when the Cullens' first met the Denali's.

-James and Victoria: Fabulous. Especially Victoria's stories. I don't like either character any better after knowing their backgrounds (if anything, I like James even less), but I definitely understand them better. Victoria's human life and then how her talent for escape worked as a vampire was really interesting.

-Alistair: Perhaps the most fascinating story of all. I really wanted to know more about Alistair and Stephenie did not disappoint. It would be hard to top the betrayal and horror of Alistair's transformation into a vampire. I was also happy to learn how Carlisle and Alistair became acquainted. It could have been fleshed out a little better, but I was still happy.

-Peter and Charlotte: We learn more details about Peter and Charlotte's escape from Jasper and Maria and Peter's return for Jasper. We also get excellent insight into Charlotte's character and feelings for Jasper and Alice. Through Peter and Charlotte's stories, we learn a lot of new information about Jasper. I would have liked a better explanation of why Peter and Jasper got along so well as well as information about Peter and Charlotte's human lives, but the amount of new information made up for what was lacking.

-Makenna: Makenna is a nomadic vampire I barely remember from the books. However, her story is fascinating. The circumstances under which she became a vampire were unique in the Twilight world. It was something I thought wouldn't happen in Stephenie's vampire mythology. The story was interesting and well done.

-Joham: Tons of information about Joham. His motivations, his relationship with his children, his selfishness and cruelty. I also enjoyed getting to know a little about his children.

5. The Wolves: I've made it pretty clear that I'm not nearly as interested in the Wolfpack as I am in vampires. Still, I found a lot of the information about the wolves fascinating.

-General Mythology: I loved learning more about "real" werewolves versus the Quileute shape-shifters. There was also good information about the physical attributes of the Wolfpack. I got a better understanding of their appearance and supernatural capabilities both in wolf and human form.

-Billy's Story: I loved learning more about Billy. We learn about his knowledge of vampires and werewolf legends, his thoughts on being a missed wolf generation, and his feelings toward the Cullens.

-Sam, Leah, and Emily: Now this is drama. From the books, we know the basics of how Sam dropped Leah when he imprinted on Emily. Here we learn exactly what happened - Leah's bitterness, Sam's regret, Emily's surprise. We learn just how Emily received her scars. Leah's story definitely makes me sympathize with her more. On a side note, we learn what triggered Harry's heart attack. Very interesting, although I think I like how the New Moon movie portrayed it better.

The Bad

1. The Cullens' Stories: The lack of new information about the Cullens' in their bios was the biggest disappointment for me in the Guide. There were little tidbits I didn't know, but on the whole, their bios were just paraphrased from the books. I already know the biographical information in the books. What I want to know is what wasn't in the books. If the information didn't come from the books, it likely came from Stephenie's website or from the Lexicon interviews. I keep reading the same pages over and over in the hope that the letters on the page will magically rearrange themselves into new sentences. A huge, huge disappointment.

2. Alice's Vampire Life: As I said, I loved the story about Alice's human life. But there was virtually nothing about her life as a vampire prior to joining the Cullens. It's not like she found Jasper and the Cullens within the first couple of weeks of her new life. It took thirty years! A lot of things surely happened during that time period. What were they?

3. Esme's Story: What did she name her baby? Why, oh why wasn't this included? Such a simple piece of information that so many people want to know (or at least I do). Otherwise her story was fine. Nothing I didn't know from the Lexicon interviews, but interesting nonetheless.

4. Jasper's Story: I wanted to learn more about his human life. What was his family like? Was he in school prior to joining the army? Absolutely nothing about his vampire life that we don't know from Eclipse. His relationship with Maria was not adequately fleshed out. Nor do we learn much about his early years with Alice and the Cullens. Also, there is nothing about the scope of his power to manipulate emotions. Three of the things I most wanted to know.

5. Carlisle's Story: Not enough information. It was a rehash of what we already know from the books - practically word for word of what Edward and Carlisle told Bella in Twilight and New Moon. There were some interesting tidbits spread throughout the Guide, but not nearly enough. I wanted to know more about his human life and more about his early relationships with Edward (both before and after he turned him), Esme, and Rosalie. We didn't get a firm idea of when he started practicing medicine or just how hard it was training to handle blood. No idea where Carlisle learned to fight so well.

6. Edward's Story: I was largely satisfied with Edward's story. There was enough new information to make up for what was lacking. Or almost enough. I really wanted more information about how Edward, his mother, and Carlisle became close in the hospital. I wanted more information about Edward's first few years with Carlisle and Esme and whether he was initially resentful that Carlisle turned him. Also, I would have loved an outtake of Edward's prodigal son moment.

7. Rosalie and Emmett's Stories: There was virtually nothing new about Rosalie. I might as well have just re-read Eclipse. I wanted to know more details about how and when she kills Royce and his cronies. I was especially disappointed that I didn't get a better feeling of Rosalie's relationship with Carlisle. Emmett's bio did have new, interesting information, but not enough. What did he do as a human? Where did he work? It's interesting to know that he slipped often in his early years, but I want to know specific details.

8. J. Jenks' Story: We don't really get any new information about Jenks. I wanted to know specifically how Jasper terrified him so much. I would also love to know whether Bella can convince Jasper to let her handle that relationship post-Breaking Dawn.

9. Maria's Story: Sadly lacking. Unlike the other vampires, we learned nothing about Maria's human life. There was some new information in her bio, but not nearly enough. I wanted to know more about her relationship with Jasper. Also, I was disappointed that we didn't learn more about Maria's visit to the Cullens in Calgary and why they had to leave immediately.

10. Wolves Sleeping Around: We don't find out who Embry's father is. Come on, Steph!

11. Interview: The Guide starts out with an interview between Stephenie and Shannon Hale. The interview is really interesting. It's more of a conversation than a traditional interview between two authors/friends. It covers everything from the origins of Twilight, to Stephenie's reaction to the books' success, to Stephenie's writing process. My main problem with this interview is that it was 65 pages long! While it was interesting, it didn't tell me anything groundbreaking. Plus, Shannon Hale inserted a lot of herself into the questions. I am not a big Shannon Hale fan, so I really didn't care about what she had to say. Those 65 pages could have been used for more back-stories, more outtakes, more things important to the Saga. (You could also argue that the extensive cross-references, playlists, fan art, and international covers were wasted space, but I can understand their relevance to the Guide)

12. Sloppy: I was extremely irritated with the mistakes in the timeline for Jasper, Peter, and Charlotte's lives. The Guide states that Peter's age ranges from 1860-1920. Two pages later, it says Peter was 3 years old when he ran away with Charlotte. If you follow Charlotte's bio which says she was turned in 1938, they left in 1939. However, the timeline later in the book says that Jasper left Maria in 1938. Hmmm...problem here. Even more mixed up, it specifically states in Eclipse, that Peter came back for him five years after he and Charlotte fled. Clearly someone dropped the ball here. I blame the Twilight Lexicon for this (who helped with the Guide). Their timeline wrongly states that Jasper left Maria in the last 1800s. From Eclipse and Midnight Sun, this is obviously incorrect. The screwed up dates carried over to the Guide. (To be fair, the Lexicon is no more to blame than Stephenie and her editors for this large error).
A smaller error appears in Angela Weber and Ben Cheney's biographies. In Angela's, it states that they both plan to attend University of Washington. In Ben's, they are suddenly going to Washington State University. Two different schools.

What did you think?

Monday, April 11, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell: Interview, Review, and Giveaway

Current Giveaways on Alison Can Read

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!


Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
March 22, 2011; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing


Summary

Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation--and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.

It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment.

Frances O’Roark Dowell’s fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell’s relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated…and normal is WAY overrated. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Interview

Please welcome Frances O'Roak Dowell to Alison Can Read. Thank you so much for answering my questions!

1. Janie is at the age where everything your family does is humiliating. Things that you won't care about in two years seem incredibly embarrassing around age 14. Was there anything that your mother and father did that really embarrassed you as a kid?

Well, they existed, and I found that highly problematic. But other than cheering too loudly at my volleyball games, they showed a lot of self-control for parents.

2. I love that Janie's mom has a popular blog. The mom/house-wife blogging community is huge. What are some of your favorite blogs in that genre?

I love the Pioneer Woman, and there’s a British blog called Domesticali that I adore. For a different take on the mommy blog, there’s Irretrievably Broken, an incredibly well-written blog by a woman who’s just been through a pretty painful divorce. She writes like a dream. And I’ve grown attached to Shiny Red Houses, a hilarious blog written by a homeschooling mom.

3. What do you think Janie will be when she grows up?

The first thought that popped into my head was “set designer.” I have no idea why. She’s definitely creative, but more of a behind-the-scenes sort of person. Maybe she’ll make documentary films about people who are trying to change the world. Maybe she’ll try to change the world her own self.

4. What is your writing process? Are you an outliner or a spontaneous plotter?

Spontaneous plotter. I just sort of feel my way along blindly until I figure things out. I couldn’t outline my way out of a paper bag. It used to drive me crazy in school when we had to outline papers before we wrote them. How could I know what I was going to say until I said it?

5. The other books you've written have mainly featured younger characters. How is writing for middle grade different than young adult?

You have more freedom in writing for young adults. You can confront the realities of life a little more directly. You have to be more careful writing for middle graders. You want to be realistic, but not disturbing. l You can use profanity in YA, although I didn’t, unless you consider “sucks” profanity, which I sort of do. Kids who are reading middle grade fiction are often in that strange place between the dreamworld of early childhood and the larger understanding that young adult will have. Middle grade characters need to occupy that space as well.

6. Please name two books that people should read after finishing Ten Miles Past Normal. Preferably one older novel (perhaps something you liked as a kid) and one contemporary novel.

A book I loved as a kid is The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, a wonderful story of friendship and imagination. One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years is The Known World by Edward Jones. Amazing. All of his stuff is amazing.

Review

Ten Miles Past Normal is a delightful book, refreshingly different. From the moment, I began reading the book, I loved Janie's voice. She feels so real. She's right at that difficult age. Where you don't know who are you or who you want to be, but you know that you're not nearly as cool as you should be. Janie is navigating her freshman year with varying degrees of aplomb. She's at an immediate disadvantage, because she lives on a farm. She starts out the year by accidentally coming to school with goat poop on her shoe and stinking up the entire bus.

Janie can be a somewhat frustrating character. She is fixated on the goat poop incident and all the various little things that make her uncool. It makes her afraid to do anything in high school. And she is convinced that living on the farm is the worst thing ever, which turns into complete disdain for her family. As annoying as that can be, doesn't it feel just like a 14 year old?

I enjoyed watching Janie begin to break out of the mold. She makes new friends in the library, learns to play the bass and joins a band, and meets some interest guys, both good and bad. I liked the relationship between Janie and her long-time best friend Sarah. Janie slowly starts to realize that their friendship is and perhaps should change, that Sarah isn't right all the time.

The side characters were interesting. Sarah had a very forceful personality. It was interesting to see her image change as the book went on. She didn't go from a hero to a villain, but she went from perfect to someone who Janie liked but didn't absolutely rely on. Sarah's wild older sister Emma was also an interesting person. Her character wasn't really developed, but I liked seeing how both Janie and Sarah went from idealizing her to thinking of her as a real person. Monster (real name) was a very cool guy - wise and kind. I hated that he used poor grammar (e.g. "they was"). It bugs me when authors use poor grammar to give a stereotypical hick character (who often has real depth hiding inside) a unique voice.

On the down side, this book doesn't have much of a plot. The various incidents in the book are only loosely connected. I actually had to look up the summary of the book when I was more than halfway through, because I still couldn't figure out what it was about. I don't fault the book too much for that though. It's really a character study of a girl growing up. Normal life doesn't have a plot yet it can still be interesting. I enjoyed seeing Janie ride through the bumpiest road of teenager-dom and then emerge on the other side - concrete plot or no.

Rating: 4 / 5

Giveaway

Manga Mondays (45): Fruits Basket vol. 22 by Natsuki Takaya

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!



Fruits Basket vol. 22 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

Kyo finally makes the decision to stop running from his fears and confront his birth father. But how will he react to his father's pressure to accept an unwanted truth? Meanwhile, as Akito's control over the Sohma family slips away, will the last vestiges of her sanity and reason slip away as well? (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.

Following one of my least favorite volumes of Fruits Basket, we have Volume 22, which I think is my favorite volume.

Kyo begins the volume by confronting his father, who is a hateful person, like all the adults in this story. Kyo essentially tells his dad that he's going to live his life the way he wants to. Then Kyo confronts Akito, and she essentially sets him free. His curse isn't lifted at this point, but she tells him that she won't confine him and makes plans to destroy the cat's isolation room.

Tohru gets out of the hospital and Kyo finally gets to see her. Poor Tohru is convinced from their last conversation that Kyo doesn't want her. He has to work pretty hard to convince her otherwise. Meanwhile, they realize that Kyo's curse has lifted. They can safely embrace. Kyo breaks the beaded bracelet that was holding in the monster within.

The curse lifts on all the Zodiac members at the end of the volume. It's heart-wrenching to see the sadness and loneliness that overtakes them. The Zodiac was a bond as much as it was a curse. None of them know how to live free and alone. I loved the facial expressions that Takaya drew.

The best part of this volume is the very end, when the real story of the Zodiac is told. The one that all the cursed members had forgotten. The cat wasn't the foolish one at all in the real story. The cat was the smartest, the most loving, and the bravest. The others turned against the cat when they realized that it made the decision they should have.

This volume was an emotional roller coaster. It pulls on the reader's heartstrings. But it's the best kind of emotional book - you go up and down, but end up feeling satisfied and positive.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (34)

Want a free copy of Wings by Aprilynne Pike? Join my team on the Wings Read Along Challenge!

GIVEAWAY: Win a copy of Hex, A Witch and Angel Tale by Ramona Wray


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

I'm Alison. I've been blogging for 10 months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

For Review


Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
-Thanks to Simon & Schuster
-I actually got two copies of this by accident.
-Review, interview, and giveaway will be posted shortly. I highly recommend this boook!


Shine by Lauren Myracle
-Thanks to NetGalley
-I've had this one for awhile but forgot to put it on IMM. It's pretty good. A little slow, but it's getting a lot better.

Bought



Wings by Aprilynne Pike

-Download Wings for free using these links!
-Join my team for the Wings Read Along Challenge!
Amazon: http://amzn.to/feumGE
Sony: http://bit.ly/gUVhyh
Kobo: http://bit.ly/hjVAem
B&N: http://bit.ly/eIpUPr




Where She Went by Gayle Forman
-Squeal!!!!

Library Stash


Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
-I love this cover. I hate that they de-Asianized the paperback cover. It's a real shame.


Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
-Love all things by Melina Marchetta, although I can't imagine it will live up to Jellicoe Road.


Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer
-This sounds so cute. I'm looking forward to it.


Shadowspell by Jenna Black
-I loved Glimmerglass. I'm looking forward to this one too.
 
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