Saturday, July 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (46)

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

I'm Alison (on the off chance you couldn't guess that from the name of my blog). I review Young Adult novels with a few Middle Grade books and a weekly manga feature.

Bought

I went to two signings this week! Minneapolis has been a lucky town to have so many great YA authors visit recently. Usually, I feel like we always get skipped.

I got to hang out with Liz from Consumed By Books again. And meet Maggie of Bibliophilia - Maggie's Bookshelf, Mariya of Mystifying Paranormal Reviews, and Looksie Lovitz. It was so much fun!

Maggie was so great. Liz and I were both having trouble with our cameras, so we stayed until the end to try taking photos again. Maggie and Tessa took a ton of pictures with us. Maggie and her husband even fixed my camera for me. She and Tessa chatted with Liz, Maggie, and me for quite awhile. Then Maggie's husband even moved Loki so Maggie, Liz, and I could get a good picture with it.

Andrea was great too. It was the launch party for Wolfsbane, so they had cake and wine. The cake was really yummy. Andrea was super nice and gave thoughtful answers to questions. I was surprised that there were only 1 or 2 teens there. Everyone else was at least in their twenties. I don't have my photo with Andrea yet. I'll post it when I do.

Tessa Gratton, me, and Maggie Stiefvater
Liz, Me, and Maggie



Forever - Maggie Stiefvater


Wolfsbane - Andrea Cremer

I also bought a cookbook written by my favorite vegan food blogger (my favorite food blogger period) - Mama Pea of Peas And Thank You! I'm so excited that this finally came out. Sarah creates the best recipes, whether or not you're vegan.


Peas And Thank You - Sarah Matheny

CD Stash



Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars


Epic - Sharon van Etten


The Reluctant Graveyard - Jeremy Messersmith

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #56

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com

If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger. If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list! It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.

Our Feature - The Little Book Blog



I'm 18, just graduated from high school and I LOVE reading! Reading is my escape from reality. I also love movies, music, and writing. I love any type of movies as long as their good. I also love any type of music but I prefer Indie Rock. I'm addicted to Pepsi and Coffee. I love sleep, so much that coffee has no effect on me anymore. In fact, coffee makes me sleepy. I'm very funny or at least I think so. My favorite books are The Hunger Games Trilogy, Twilight Saga, The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy and a couple more.

The first reason I started blogging is because I wanted to keep track of what I've read and my opinions on it. I had a journal but it started to rip and I would lose it all the time. So, I thought a blog would be a better option. The second reason is that I want to share my opinion on books. I haven't found one other person who loves to read as much as I do. None of my friends or family members really understand why I love to read so much. I have no one to talk about books with, so I was hoping that with the blog I could put my opinion out there and get others opinions back as well."

Q. Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?


I'm going to cheat here because I can't think of any T-Shirts that describe me. Instead, I'm going to post some CafePress T-shirts I like:

Update: Just had to add one of my favorite slogans - 








Now for the Follow Fun!








RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & The Little Book Blog
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!
*********

Epic Fail by Claire LeZebnik


Epic Fail by Claire LeZebnik

August 2, 2011; HarperTeen
*Free copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to Teen Book Scene for allowing me to participate in Epic Fail's blog tour!

Summary

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. In fact, I re-read it every year. I love a good modern re-telling. Epic Fail is the third Pride & Prejudice re-telling I've read in the past year (the others are Prom And Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg and Pies And Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick).

It's difficult to write a good re-telling. You have to play to the fans of the classic novel - recreating elements of the plot and making sure the modern characters resemble the originals. At the same time, you don't want to alienate people who have never read the classic novel. The story has to be able to stand on its own in terms of plot, writing, and characters.

Epic Fail succeeds as a re-telling and a stand-alone novel. The P&P connection aside, I love that it features uber-wealth, Hollywood, and fashion but does not feature a cast of completely amoral characters (with the exception of Webster/Wickham). It falls into my (broadly defined) Gossip-Girl light category.

Elise and Derek are witty, smart characters. Just as I did with the original Elizabeth and Darcy, I loved reading Elise and Derek's astute, sometimes biting, funny views of life. I wish I could just come up with snarky quips off the top of my head like they do. I loved how Juliana, Chase, and Layla were all loyal to the personalities of their doppelgangers, but not as cardboard as the Jane Austen characters. Juliana, for example, is an extremely nice girl, but not incapable of a negative thought.

I liked how Elise and Derek's relationship slowly evolved into something real and that, as modern characters, they had the freedom to actually talk to one another without a roomful of listeners. At the same time, if this was a stand-alone novel, I probably would have thought their relationship made big, unrealistic leaps. Their path to love made perfect sense to me, because I knew how the story was supposed to go. If I hadn't known, I probably would have thought it undeveloped.

Some re-tellings play out every scene from the original novel in a new form. Epic Fail didn't do that. It was definitely loyal to Pride and Prejudice and there were tons of little references that will please fans. However, there were key elements of the original's plot that were skipped or hardly broached. I think the book would have felt stilted if it tried to incorporate everything, yet at the same time, the little things of Pride and Prejudice combine to make it the complex, fun classic romance novel that it is.

Epic Fail isn't a perfect book, but it is a fun one. I thought it was adorable and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you're looking for a great light read, you definitely need to get Epic Fail. Any Pride and Prejudice fan will enjoy it and it has a distinct story that will still drawn in those who haven't read Jane Austen.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Mistakes Are Acceptable In A Book?


What Mistakes Are Acceptable In A Book?


Can you name a flawless book? A book that gets it all right. Fabulous characters, great plot, skillful yet readable prose, without any errors in grammar? They exist, of course, but are few and far between.

My post today is focusing on the little niggling errors that authors and editors miss. You know what I'm talking about - you proof-read your paper 50 times, turn it in, and then get back a big red mark showing that you spelled "controversy" as "controvery." (I misspelled that exact word today in an email to a client. I looked like an idiot and went back and forth with her all day trying to make up for it.)

Published books are revised again and again by authors and editors, but things still slip through. Some are pure typographical or grammar errors, others are poor word choice or plot holes. Even a wonderfully crafted novel usually has a mistake or two.



Let's examine a few:

1. Grammatical and spelling errors:

Ooops...someone didn't proofread thoroughly enough.

I am more forgiving of grammatical and spelling errors than any other mistake. As I said above, you can have a dozen people read a draft a dozen times and errors can still slip through.

A few spelling errors are natural. A lot is unprofessional. If you don't bother making sure your words are spelled correctly or your sentences follow accepted standards, then what else have you let slip by? A substantively perfect book looks sloppy if it's riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

Oddly, I love finding spelling and grammatical mistakes in books (assuming they're rare). I feel like I caught the author doing something naughty. Makes for a good laugh.

ExampleHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, in Chapter 1, on Page 10, end of the 8th line (US edition), "sight" is misspelled as "site." I think this was corrected in later editions. (Source: hp-lexicon.org)

2. Word Choice/Overused Themes

Every writer has words and even ideas that they overuse. I can hardly write a sentence unless I include the words "just" or "really" in it. I end up erasing these words when I proofread my pieces.

One of the purposes of an editor is to call a writer out on her bad habits. To notice flaws where she doesn't. I see so many books with poor word choice or certain themes repeated over and over. Why? Did the editor miss them? Were there so many errors in the writing that the editor let these slide? If so, why did the book get published? Was the editor being careless because he/she didn't think anyone would buy the book?

Example: Twilight (Yes, it's hard for me to believe that I'm criticizing my beloved Twilight too).

Not even halfway through Twilight, I was sure that if I read one more time about Edward's godlike beauty, my eyes were going to roll right out of my head.

As for word choice, Edward "chuckles." He doesn't laugh, he doesn't giggle, he doesn't guffaw. He chuckles. I hate the word "chuckle." It's an irrational hatred, but every time I saw the word "chuckled" in Twilight (which was quite often), I groaned.

The overuse of certain words and even the belabored descriptions of Edward's appearance was most prominent in the first Twilight book. Why? Did the editors take the books more seriously after Twilight's success and actually concentrate on fixing Stephenie's errors? Or did Stephenie become a better writer? Methinks it's a bit of both.

Twilight is an example of when the editorial lapses distract from the substance of the book. It obviously didn't kill my affection for the series, but there's a serious problem anytime a reader laughs at the book instead of with the book. Hopefully, the underlying story can make up for the surface problems. I saw enough good in Twilight that I mostly overlooked its problems. Other books don't have a strong enough plot to make up for their errors.

3. Consistency Errors

Problems with consistency occur most often with a series. If a series has a complex background, it's easy to forget a detail or two, even if you're the author. This is where the editor comes in - to make sure that everything is consistent. But the bigger the book and the more plot details there are, the harder it is for even the best editor to keep up.

A book riddled with consistency problems is a telltale sign of a poor quality novel. You wonder if the author stopped caring. But I don't mind an error or two. Like spelling mistakes, I tend to giggle and marvel at the fact that I caught something the author missed.

Example: Harry Potter

In the first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in the graveyard, James' ghost comes out of Voldemort's wand before Lily. Since the spirits pop out of the wand in reverse order, this would be a problem. James died before Lily. Later editions corrected this mistake.

4. Where'd That Come From?

Sometimes you read a book and something jumps out at you. It might be a writing issue. For example, a story switches from first person to third person point of view for a few pages. Or a substantive issue. A character does something that doesn't seem...well...in character. A substantive "out of the blue" moment can be a sign of genius. A tiny piece of foreshadowing that will make sense once the book is done. Or it could just be a moment where the author wasn't thinking.

Example 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Harry Potter books are told in third person, from Harry's perspective, with a few exceptions. Other than  the very beginning of the Sorcerer's Stone, the first book is told entirely from Harry's perspective. Except...for the first quidditch match. We switch from the limited third person point of view to the omniscient third person point of view for a few paragraphs (around pg. 139-140 of the UK edition). We're seeing the quidditch match through Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid's eyes as well as Harry's. Completely out of whack with the rest of the book.

I also saw similar perspective problems in a few of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instrument books.

Example 2: Illusions by Aprilynne Pike

I just finished Illusions on Monday (There! Did you see it? I couldn't help using "just"). I really enjoyed it. It was much better than Spells and almost as good as Wings. But one thing bothered me. A little more than halfway through the book, one of the characters did something that made no sense given what I previously knew about her. It wasn't anything big. In fact, it was probably only a three or four word sentence. But it stuck out. I thought maybe it was a hint for something that would be revealed at the end of the book. Nope. No later reference, no clarification. It made me wonder if Aprilynne forgot something.

(Sorry to be so vague. Any specifics would spoil a big part of the book)

What do you think?


At what point do mistakes take away from the book's quality? Any mistake? Tons of mistakes?

Can you think of any particular editorial mistakes that are either funny or maddening?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller


The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

June 14th 2011; Atheneum

Summary

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand--first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand dutchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together--sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.

But in a gunshot the future changes for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny, and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naive and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


I have been fascinated by the doomed Romanov children for years. I think it's because they took so many photos of themselves. The photos make the imperial family in their pretty dresses and sailor suit with the occasional smile (unusual in pictures of that era) make them look approachable and real. It makes their ending seem even more horrible.

The Lost Crown covers the last four years of the imperial family's life. It starts out at the beginning of World War I, when things are basically fine, with just an undercurrent of problems to come. The imperial children have a charmed, happy life, marred only by Aleksei's hemophilia.

The book is told from the alternating perspectives of the four girls: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The author does a good job to give each character unique personalities, but having four voices going through basically the same things does make the book a bit confusing.

It is easy to forget that the girls were in their late teens and early twenties during this time period. Throughout the book, they seem much younger than their actual ages. They've been so sheltered throughout their lives, that they are more children than young women. They keep this naivete even as things go increasingly sour. While it seems odd that people of their age would be so immature, I am guessing this may be fairly realistic. They really weren't exposed to the real world.

I was surprised the book was as long as it was. The author did a good job of switching things up, showing things from different points of view, having events move steadily forward, but I still think you easily could have docked 50-100 pages. That being said, I was impressed with how she managed to add plot and drama to the girls' lives in captivity when every day was really more of the same.

The main problem with this book can't be helped. It is Depressing, with a capital "D." Not because the author makes it that way, but because it's reality. I became attached to these characters throughout the book. They were sweet, innocent, and loved Russia. But I knew there would be no happy ending. No last minute hero coming to rescue them. And I desperately wanted that. They lived every day completely ignorant that it was one day closer to their last - and I knew going in when that last day would be. I was very impressed with the book's ending. She wrote the Romanov's deaths in a way that was simple and poignant. It brought some closure to an otherwise horrible tragedy.

The Lost Crown is a great book for anyone interested in the Romanov family. It's not a super-speedy read and it is very depressing, but it is consistently interesting and sweet.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, July 25, 2011

Manga Mondays (60): Kekkaishi vol. 1 - Yellow Tanabe


Kekkaishi vol. 1 - Yellow Tanabe


Summary

By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a "kekkaishi" - a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori's got some other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori's pretty 16-year-old neighbour and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the true practitioner of the art. Yoshimori couldn't care less about catching demons...until he realizes that his apathetic attitude is taking a toll on his friendship with Tokine. Just as he decides to take matters into his own hands, a couple of amphibious demons and the pesky ghost of a pastry-chef show up to complicate matters! (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.

Kekkaishi is my first shonen manga - manga targeted more to boys than to girls. It's refreshing to read about something other than romantic tension once in awhile. Kekkaishi is the tale of the Hatfields and the McCoys...err the Capulets and Montagues...err the Sumimuras and Yukimuras. Aren't all family rivalries essentially the same? Both are demon fighting families and have been so for centuries. Despite living next door, they hate each other. Or at least the grandma and grandpa do. The younger generation - Yoshimori and Tokine (a girl a few years older than Yoshimori) are friendly rivals.

The story begins when our hero Yoshimori is nine years old. Despite his young age, he's already fighting demons. He seems quite capable but hates being a fighter so makes sloppy errors. Tokine has to come save the day. One day while rescuing Yoshimori yet again, Tokine gets hurt in destroying a demon. Yoshimuri can't bear to see Tokina hurt on his behalf. This is demonstrated clearly as he gets older. Fast forward a few years when Yoshimori is 12-13 and Tokine is 16 and the story is much the same. Yoshimuri doesn't like fighting and Tokine steps in to help him. Only now, Yoshimori goes out of his way to protect her.

Like many first volumes, this is largely comprised of set-up. I can tell that the demonology is quite complex. There are multiple types of demons and a detailed set of rituals to destroy them. There is also a strong mythology establishing the Sumimura and Yukimura families as demon slayers. I don't entirely understand what's going on, but I think it will become clear as the series continues.

Yoshimori isn't a particularly unique character. Your stereotypical wimpy guy who also happens to be a hero. But he's quirky in a way that I like. He's obsessed with coffee-flavored milk and loves to bake elaborate cakes. He's also constantly battling his crotchety grandfather. Not exactly a "respect your elders" relationship.

There are multiple action scenes in this volume, a few scenes that hint (but don't entirely achieve) heartfelt emotion, and a few good laughs. I particularly liked Yoshimori's Latin lover doppelganger.

I'm not in love with Kekkaishi after the first volume, but I'm definitely intrigued. This is the type of series that I might get sick of after a few volumes or might become completely obsessed with. We shall see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (45)


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

I'm Alison (on the off chance you couldn't guess that from the name of my blog). I review Young Adult novels with a few Middle Grade books and a weekly manga feature.

Library Stash


Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs


Ruby Red by Kerstin Geier


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
*Stayed up until 2 AM Thursday night/Friday morning finishing it. Very powerful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #55

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com

If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger. If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list! It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.

Our Feature - The Bloggers of: A Novella's Tale

Lauren is my name :) I started blogging because I needed a way to somehow drain all my book wormish-ness. Probably my first 'serious' read was, like many others, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. When I was the toddler though, I'd see bits and pieces of Potter merchandise everywhere and be like: "Ew! No way will I EVER like Harry Potter!" I certainly proved myself wrong, though. Why I hated H.P. is still a mystery yet to be solved...

These days though, I do explore other universes apart from the wonderful world of Harry Potter. I naturally find it difficult to pick and choose favourites, but if I had to decide on my three favourite books, they would be 'Before I Fall', 'The Hunger Games' and 'Wintergirls'. I mostly read young-adult fiction, but what I really love about this genre is the wide variety of themes that fall into it. For example, my three favourite books of all time are about time travel, a dystopian world and anorexia, respectively.

On my currently reading shelf is 'Divergent'. I do understand that I'm considerably late to reading it, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. Here's a bit of trivia: if I belonged to a faction in the Divergent-world, I think I would be in Amity. Anyway, I hope they make a movie adaption of it!

Finally, I'm really looking forward to life later on (and I've still got ages to go, I can tell you that!) and not only future book releases, but EVERYTHING in general. There's so much to look forward to in one day, that you almost forget that there are many, many other ones there for you to spend later on.

Happy reading, and happy Friday!

Q. Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

Two of my answers are going to be boring: Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling. I desperately want to meet both of them. They've inspired me so much as a reader and a writer. I'd want to get a few writing tips from them. But mostly I'd just want to know secrets. I'd probably spend the entire meal grilling Stephenie about all the nitty gritty details about the Cullens. As great as the Twilight Guide is, most of my questions were left unanswered...Grrr... I also have lots of little questions about the wizarding world that I desperately want to know. My meal, no matter how tasty looking, would definitely go untouched.

I'm going to try to be somewhat unique for my third author and answer Jennifer Donnelly. Revolution was one of the best books I've read so far in 2011. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I loved how Jennifer combined contemporary and historical fiction into her book. Plus, her writing is both beautiful and readable - a perfect combination. I'd love to learn how she researches her stories and get some writing tips.




Now for the Follow Fun!






RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & Unrequited Desire
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!
*********

Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins


Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins

March 1, 2011; Disney Book Group

Summary

Sophie Mercer's first mistake was thinking that she is a witch. Actually, she's a demon. Her second miscue was developing a throbbing crush on Archer Cross, a secret agent hell-bent on destroying her and her classmates at Hecate Hall (a.k.a. Hex Hall). In this second series installment, Sophie takes off on a transatlantic summer break project designed to de-demonize her; which, unfortunately, is a gnarly process complicated by a very new conspiracy. An entertaining ride for young paranormal fans. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


*Don't read this if you haven't read Hex Hall. Contains spoilers for the big surprise in the first book.

Can you say cliffhanger? Demonglass ends on one of the biggest cliffhangers I've read in quite awhile. Now every time I think of the book, "cliffhanger" is the first thing that comes to mind.

Of course, Demonglass is so much more than its ending. It is a great sequel to an excellent first book. The setting changes from Hecate Academy to a big house in London where Sophie spends the summer with her father, the Council, two demons, and her friends Cal and Jenna. It's an opportunity for Sophie to learn a little more about demons, who up to now she only sees as evil, unthinking killing fiends. She wants to go through the Removal procedure to rid herself of her own powers in fear that she will one day turn into the demon she hates. The summer gives her the opportunity to get some context before making a decision.

Demonglass avoids the second-book syndrome by changing settings and opening up so many new plot opportunities. It was a brilliant choice by the author. At the same time, we still get to revisit characters and themes that we loved from the first book, including cute Jenna and swoon-worthy, maybe evil Archer Cross.

The book moves smoothly and is easy to read. It definitely becomes a page turner at the end, but there is plenty of action and danger interspersed throughout the book. I always like books that don't make me wait until the last 50 pages for things to start happening.

The highlight of Demonglass for me is the same as it was in Hex Hall. The humor and sarcasm. Sophie always has a snarky comment at the tip of her tongue, whether or not the time is really appropriate for sarcasm. It lightens an otherwise serious subject. A good sense of humor is so rare in paranormal romance that any book that employs it frequently is a welcome change. Demonglass definitely does that.

I continue to love Sophie. She starts out bound and determined not to become the thing she hates, but then is willing to consider other options as she learns more about what she is. She continues to be a good friend to Jenna, but also is not immune to jealousy and a quick temper. The book does a great job of showing how conflicted she is about Archer. Her inherent trust mixed with distrust of Archer and the things it leads her to do drives much of the book. And as I said, Sophie always has a witty comment to lighten an otherwise serious moment.

My only qualms with this book was a few of the secondary characters. Particularly Daisy and Nick, the other demons. I thought their characters could have been explored more fully, especially Nick's oddities that were introduced but not developed as well as I would have liked. I also would have like a little more Jenna time. She does play an important role in the book, but I thought there were a few loose ends. Perhaps that was on purpose.

Demonglass is another demonstration of Rachel Hawkins' talent as a writer. I highly recommend this series to anyone who has not yet read it.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley


Chime by Franny Billingsley

March 17th 2011; Dial

Summary

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Shaking my Magic 8 Ball here...Will Chime win any literary awards? "Without a doubt." Will YA readers flock to Chime? "Don't count on it."

Some books are meant to be appreciated as much as they are to be enjoyed. There aren't many YA books of literary quality (there aren't that many adult books of literary quality either). Of the books I've read in the past year, only Jellicoe Road; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; and Revolution come to mind. Literary books take work to read. You can't just be immersed in the plot. You have to think while you're reading to absorb the careful meaning the author places in the prose. While more difficult, this can transform a book from interesting to extraordinary. I enjoyed Chime once I got used to it, but it never made that leap from a well-written book to something that made an indelible mark in my mind like Jellicoe Road and Revolution.

Briony, our narrator, is one of the most miserable characters you'll find. Convinced that she's an evil witch who hurts everyone around her, she despises herself. She holds everyone back, so she can't hurt them. Eldric, the new lion-boy, refuses to stay away. He brings light into her life and that scares her. Pretty soon, she has to decide not only if she'll open herself to Eldric, but if she's willing to brave the witch-hating townspeople to save her village and sister from the evil swamp spirits.

The plot sounds crazy, but Briony's world really is fascinating. There's just a hint of fantasy and the rest reads like a historical novel. It took me a long time to understand what was going on, but once I did, the plot flowed pretty smoothly.

The characters and writing are much more important than the plot for Chime. The prose is beautiful. The author clearly put great thought into every sentence she wrote. It reads like poetry. Chime is basically written in a stream of consciousness mode. The book shows every thought that's going through Briony's head. Like anyone else, Briony's thoughts often veer into tangents that seemingly have nothing to do with the current situation, but are somehow linked in her mind. It makes the book confusing and choppy, but so insightful.

Briony is a fascinating character. Her self-hatred colors all her thoughts, making her an unreliable narrator. At the same time, she carefully observes life around her. Her comments about her father, deceased stepmother, sister, the village-people, Eldric, and even about nature were very different than the way most people think. It was like putting on a pair of glasses with too high of a prescription. Everything you see is sharpened yet distorted. I also loved her sister Rose. Rose is mentally disabled in some way. Despite her limitations or perhaps because of them, she sees people clearly. Her simple statements were often more insightful and accurate than Briony's.

Chime is a beautiful book with well-developed characters, a complex plot, and incredible prose. It is one of those books that can be read over and over just to contemplate the wording. While I appreciated the literary quality, Chime just never made the leap from being appreciated to being loved.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Iron Queen by Julia Kagawa


Iron Queen by Julia Kagawa
January 25, 2011; Harlequin Teen


Summary

My name is Meghan Chase.

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

This time, there will be no turning back. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review


*This review has spoilers for Iron King and Iron Daughter. Also, I do summarize a few plot points from Iron Queen that may be spoilery, although I tried not to reveal anything crucial to the plot.

Meghan Chase has come a long way in three books. My main complaint about her in the first book, Iron King, was that she started out so boring, so passive. But she steadily improved throughout the first two books. Now, she is a woman, no longer a girl. Instead of looking to Ash and Puck for help, it is Meghan who tells the boys what to do. She is a strong, kick-butt protagonist.

Iron Queen is loaded with action. Not even twenty pages into the book, there is a big fight scene. And the battles continue throughout the book. There are new enemies and new allies. I like how Kagawa consistently creates allies for Meghan out of people who should be her enemies. We saw that with Ironhorse in Iron Daughter and we see it once again in Iron Queen.

The romance is great as well. I've always been Team Ash, so I'm thrilled to see so many great Ash moments. He is every more devoted to Meghan and more human, more open - less icey. I like that Puck has largely accepted the fact that Meghan and Ash are going to be together. Instead of him posturing to win Meghan's heart, we see him acting as his normal snarky self and fighting to save his friends (I say plural because Ash is his friend too, even if he won't admit it).

The only part of this book I didn't like is the time they spend at Leaninsidhe's cabin with Paul, Meghan's erstwhile father, trying to help him regain his memories. I understand that this is important to Meghan's history of missing her father and also used as a time for Meghan, Ash, and Puck to prepare for the big fight in the NeverNever. However, I thought it dragged the middle of the book down significantly. I was happy when they moved on.

I really enjoyed the ending. It had that nice combination of summing up the trilogy while leaving room for more. I've read a few people didn't like the ending. I think I understand why, but I thought it was really interesting. Satisfying, yet not saccharine sweet.

Iron Queen is a must read for any Iron Fey fan. For those who have not yet read the series, I highly recommend it. It only gets better with each book.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, July 18, 2011

Manga Mondays (59): Manga Magazines


I've fallen a bit behind in my manga reviews lately, so today's Manga Mondays post is more of a question for all you manga lovers.

Do you read manga magazines? If so, which ones?

I have actually never picked up a manga magazine. Manga is still relatively new to me (I've been reading it for about 18 months), so there are plenty of things that I don't know about or haven't experienced. One of those things is magazines about manga.

What manga magazines do you like?

A few I've heard of are Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump. But I don't know what's out there beyond that.

What is in a manga magazine?

Are there previews of manga? Original content? I'm assuming it's a bit of both. I'm also guessing there are spaces for readers to send in their own drawings. What is the main part of each issue?

Please share your knowledge of manga magazines with me and maybe I'll pick up a few and comment on them in future Manga Mondays

Margie Gelbwasser (Author of Inconvenient) This or That



I'm so happy to welcome Margie Gelbwasser who wrote the wonderful book Inconvenient to Alison Can Read as part of Teen Book Scene's blog tour.

Margie is doing a This or That post today.

1. Paper book or E-reader

Paper book, hands down. I just can't stare at the screen long to read, and I love how a book feels.

2. New York City or Los Angeles

I have never been to LA, so it's gotta be NY. :-)

3. Computer or Television

Both? That's cheating, I know. But I like computer for games and e-mail and TV to watch shows. I HATE watching shows on the computer.

4. Writing or Reading

That's like a chicken or egg question! If no one wrote, nothing to read. So, I'm going to be lame, and say both again. Reading is great for escape and relaxation. Writing keeps my brain moving.

5. Watch a movie in the theater or Watch DVD at home

I have a 4 year old, so it's DVD or I see no movies. :-)

6. Cookies or Brownies

Cookies! So many more choices for cookies. AND they make brownie cookies so win-win!

7. Realistic Fiction or Fantasy/Paranormal

There have been fantasy/paranormal that I have loved (shout out to Harry Potter!), but I'm usually a realistic fiction girl.

8. Facebook or Twitter

Definitely FB. FB has games!

9. Check out book from library or Buy book from store

Both. I LOVE libraries and always want that option, but I like to own books too, especially if my friends wrote them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser


Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser
2010; Flux


Summary

In fifteen-year-old Alyssa Bondar's Russian-Jewish culture, having a few drinks is as traditional as blinchiki and piroshki. So when her mom's midday cocktails turn into an all-day happy hour, it seems like Alyssa's the only one who notices—or cares. Her dad is steeped in the nightly news—and denial—and her best friend Lana is too busy trashing their shared Russian heritage so she can be popular.

Alyssa would rather focus on cross-country meets and her first kiss with her running partner, Keith, but someone has to clean up her mom's mess. But who will be there to catch Alyssa when her mom's next fall off the wagon threatens to drag her down, too? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Inconvenient is a painfully real book about parental alcoholism, immigrant life, and just growing up. Alyssa is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She is proud of her heritage, but hates being subjected to Russian stereotypes by the kids at school. Soon, schoolyard teasing is the least of her concerns as her mother slowly falls under the throes of alcoholism. Her mother's disease destroys the entire family. Alyssa now has to worry about getting to school, her mother's vast mood swings, her father's denial, whether her mother will be drunk in public and embarrass her, whether people will find out, and more. At the same time, Alyssa still tries to live a normal teenage life: first boyfriend, cross-country, friends.

YA (and literature generally) often takings things to extremes. Your love interest is perfectly attuned to your wants and needs. If you have a friend who leaves you for the popular group, she suddenly becomes evil and will stop at nothing to make your life miserable. Inconvenient doesn't limit itself to black and white. This is jarring at first. When Alyssa's boyfriend seemed more interested in making out than delving into her psyche, part of me wondered what was wrong with him. Why wasn't he more sensitive? Then I remembered...he isn't Edward...he is a teenage boy. Similarly, Alyssa's best friend Lana desperately wants to be part of the popular group. I kept waiting for her to do something horrible to Alyssa to show the break in the relationship, like broadcast embarrassing videos in front of the whole school. But it didn't come. I love how the author made the characters seem like real teenagers. Just when you expect them to act one way, they don't. Keith shows surprising sensitivity. Lana does do something mean (unintentionally) to Alyssa. The characters are neither good nor evil. They feel like normal people. It's nice to know that good, interesting books can be written without resorting to extremes.

Similarly, I really liked how the author didn't insist upon a completely resolved story. Alcoholism has no easy solutions and neither does this book. Everything doesn't end "happy, happy." The book and characters grow as the plot goes on, but never in ways that seem unrealistic. Alyssa makes some bad choices, but nothing really bad. One particular thing she did at the very end of the book really bothered me, almost to the point of ruining the ending for me. But I understood why she did it. It's interesting how choices you personally disagree with can have such a big effect on one's opinion of a book.

As someone who is fascinated by Russian culture, I was hoping to get big dose of Russian life in Inconvenient. Alyssa's Russian heritage is always present in the book, from the food she eats, to her religion, to her language, to her family. It wasn't quite enough culture for me - I would have been happy with a book that required a glossary and delved into every facet of Russian immigrant life. But really, Inconvenient got it right. The book I wanted would have no story to it. Inconvenient managed to infuse Russian culture into the story without dragging the plot down. The focus of the book was, as it should be, on the story. The Russian Jewish aspect was a strong supporting character, but didn't upstage the main players.

I highly recommend Inconvenient for someone who is looking for realistic fiction that actually manages to be realistic. A tale of a normal teenager's life. A story without a perfect ending. Likeable characters who are neither perfect nor evil.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (44)


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

I'm Alison. I review Young Adult novels with a few Middle Grade books and a weekly manga feature.

Borrowed

This has been my lucky week. I was fortunate enough to receive copies of two of the books I'm most looking forward to from two different bloggers. I am so grateful!



Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
-Already finished and adored it. It's going to kill me to wait until next March for the next one. Two words: Sydney. Adrian.


Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
-Halfway through this one. I'm really enjoying it too. Like Anna and the French Kiss, it's one of those books that gets better as it goes on.

Purchased

Another lucky week. I got to meet Meg Cabot! She signed The Princess Diaries for me, which I am now giving away.



Library Stash


Kekkaishi vol. 2 by Yellow Tanabe


Kekkaishi vol. 3 by Yellow Tanabe

CD Stash


Destroyed by Moby

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Hops

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 

GIVEAWAY: Win a SIGNED copy of The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

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

I have a new FACEBOOK page. Check it out!

On the blog this week:

GIVEAWAY:

Win a signed copy of The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot and read about her Minnesota book signing.

Reviews:

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Manga Mondays

Sand Chronicles vol. 1 by Hinaki Asihara

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap?

I get the vast majority of my books from the library. I check my library website (actually two different libraries' websites) daily and have dozens of books and CDs on hold. I check the sites so often that I have two 15 digit identification codes memorized :-)

I get a few books from bookstores - a mixture of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I get a few review books, although not many. Some come from authors or publishers, but most come from NetGalley or Galley Grab. I've also been lucky enough to win some great books in giveaways recently.

Follow Friday: What do I do when I are not reading?

You mean there's life other than reading or blogging?

On rare occasions I do tear myself away from a book or the computer. I love running. I run for about an hour every day - between 6 and 8 miles. On days I don't run, I love doing yoga.

I'm also really into cooking. I spend hours looking at cookbooks and recipe sites. A large part of my daydreaming concerns what I want to make for dinner. Tonight, for example, I made Mexican pizzas with black beans and pineapple. Plus a big salad with homemade strawberry basil pesto for dressing.

My reading and blogging habit have largely eclipsed my other hobbies, but I don't mind. I do enjoy making jewelry, particularly ones that look like this (Well, not quite like that. Chan Luu is much more talented and expensive than my bracelets):

Giveaway: SIGNED Meg Cabot The Princess Diaries!!!!

I'm even wearing pink. I match my blog :-)

I was incredibly fortunate to go to a signing with Meg Cabot on Monday.

I first picked up a Meg Cabot novel in 2001 shortly before The Princess Diaries movie came out. I adored The Princess Diaries. The main character Mia is funny, nerdy, awkward and a Princess. She's the teen we all were (or are) but also gets to be something every girl dreams about being at least once in her life. I continued to read and enjoy the series (until it became a little too silly for my taste).

It's funny...I've never considered myself a diehard Meg Cabot fan. I've generally liked but usually haven't loved her books. But I checked my booklist on Goodreads. I've read thirteen Meg Cabot novels! By sheer number alone, I suppose I am a diehard fan.

Meg was a star on Monday night. She spoke for a long time, talking about her books, her life, and answering questions. She definitely has her schtick down. Her stories were silly and outlandish and guaranteed to get laughs. At times I thought it was almost a little too rehearsed, but regardless, I laughed tons and two days later, am still regaling my husband and parents with her stories.

Don't you think that's a great dress?

I also had the great opportunity to meet Liz from Consumed By Books. We both showed up over an hour early to the signing and sat next to each other in the front row. The hour passed super fast as we chatted about books and blogs that we love. It's so fun to meet bloggers in real life!

I bought one copy of The Princess Diaries and had Meg sign it. When I went up to her, I told her that there was a Frida Kahlo book right behind her (you'll understand the significance if you've read her Airhead series). Meg laughed. I also asked her where she got her gorgeous dress. It was a Kate Spade dress - maybe I can find it on eBay. Still drooling over it.

As much as I would love a signed copy of The Princess Diaries, I don't feel like I need it. The experience of the signing was enough fun for me. Plus, since I'm moving in a month, I'd rather not add another book to my pile. In fact, I'll probably have more books to giveaway soon.

If you're not already familiar with The Princess Diaries, here's the synopsis:



She's just a New York City girl living with her artist mom…

News flash: Dad is prince of Genovia. (So that's why a limo always meets her at the airport!)
Downer: Dad can't have any more kids. (So no heir to the throne.)
Shock of the century: Like it or not, Mia is prime princess material.
The worst part: Princess lessons from her dreaded grandmere, the dowager princess of Genovia, who thinks Mia has a thing or two to learn before she steps up to the throne.
Well, her father can lecture her until he's royal-blue in the face about her princessly duty no— way is she moving to Genovia and leaving Manhattan behind. But what's a girl to do when her name is PRINCESS AMELIA MIGNONETTE GRIMALDI THERMOPOLIS RENALDO? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
2010; Riverhead Hardcover


Summary

When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Girl In Translation is a beautiful, thought-provoking book that captivated me from the first page of the prologue. The book starts out with the character observing a little girl sitting by a mannequin in a bridal shop, knowing exactly how her life would play out, inescapably trapped in the sweatshops of New York Chinatown. I instantly was rooting for this little girl and soon for Kimberly, the protagonist. There has to be another way; I can't bear to see either one suffer.

Kimberly Chang (11 years old) and her mother come to Brooklyn from Hong Kong with great hopes of life in America. These hopes are almost instantly dashed upon arrival. Her mother's sister runs a sweatshop and has the "kindness" to give Kimberly's mother a job and a roach-strewn, freezing apartment. To pay off her many debts to her sister, her mother has to toil in the sweatshop for long hours each day to fulfill her quota.

Kimberly has to make her own way in the world. She begins school knowing no English and nothing about America. No one will help her; not even her teacher. Only one person is kind to her - Annette, her faithful best friend. Kimberly is lucky to be gifted with extreme intelligence. She catches on to English quickly and gains admittance and a full scholarship to a prestigious private school. But she still goes to the factory each day after school to help her mother meet her quota and make enough money to survive. Her life is split into two distinct worlds, each of which are challenging. She's successful at school but everyone, including the staff, are suspicious and jealous over her amazing intelligence and skill at school. She also doesn't fit in with her wealthy classmates. At the sweatshop, Kimberly's success makes her aunt green with envy and only makes life more difficult.

I love the relationship between Kimberly and her mother. Kimberly's childhood ends as soon as they come to Brooklyn. She's the English representative for her mother. She also is outraged by the obvious injustices brought upon them by her aunt and much more eager to share her feelings than her mother. Kimberly's mother is a fabulous character. A refined musician in Hong Kong, she is just as unhappy as Kimberly with the struggles in her new life, but she never shows it. She seems to accept the difficulties of this life and cruelties of her own sister knowing that Kimberly's future will be bright. Throughout the book, you can also see how wise and funny she is through her advice and teasing of Kimberly (especially about boys). Jean Kwok said this book was written especially to show how wonderful her own mother is.

Kimberly can't seem to fit in either of her worlds; she is constantly pulled between each. She loves school and wants to build a successful life for her and her mother. But she clearly doesn't fit in with peers who have lived a carefree life; she had to grow up very quickly. She hates the sweatshop culture of Chinatown and her aunt's cruelty. But her love for one boy - kind, smart, handsome Matt - pulls her back toward the factory world. Which will she choose - love or success? And what are the consequences of that choice?

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
July 4, 2011; Harcourt Children's Books


Summary

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Lost Voices is my third mermaid/siren novel. I'm really enjoying this genre. Mermaids are such versatile paranormal creatures. They can be cute, fun-loving human-fish; breathtaking beauties; or evil man-killing monsters. The characters in Lost Voices basically fall into the third category.

The mermaids in Lost Voices are young girls who have had horrible lives - sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse. Some horrible trauma flips the switch to magically change them from human to mermaids. It's an odd concept and not explained well at first, but by the end of the book, I felt that I understood the basics pretty well. Not surprisingly, many of these girls are bitter towards humans, especially men.

And then you have Luce. She lived a happy life with her father, even if he was poor and a criminal. Then he disappeared leaving her with her abusive uncle. When he tried to rape her one night, the switch flipped and she was suddenly in the ocean with a new life as a mermaid.

Luce is now unbelievably powerful. With her voice alone, she can lead dozens of men to their deaths. The other mermaids try to convince her that this is a good thing - humans are useless, evil creatures - but Luce isn't sure. She's known both love and hate.

Lost Voices is more than just a killing spree. The mermaids are a fascinating group of girls. Their culture promotes love and loyalty and forbids hurting one another. In practice, things are a bit more complicated, but I love the idea that abused girls now have a supportive girl-power group they can always rely upon.

This book was a mixed bag for me. On the up side, the book is well-written and the mythology is fascinating. I liked Luce, sympathized with her, and understood her character well enough to relate to her. On the down side, I felt the plot floundered (purposeful fish misspelling). More and more mermaids were created and more and more killing occurred. It felt directionless. Perhaps it will make more sense in the later books. Also, Catarina, the leader of the mermaids, was really inconsistent. She loved Luce and then she hated Luce. I partially came to understand the mood swings, but not entirely.

The biggest issue with Lost Voices is neither a down nor an up...it just is. This book is dark. There is carnage without purpose, there is emotional cruelty, horrible treatment of children, and no happy ending. I admire the author for being willing to go so dark when few modern fairy tales do so. Still, as a sucker for happy endings, the book is rather hard to take. The darkness is something a reader should be aware of before picking up the book.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, July 11, 2011

Manga Mondays (58): Sand Chronicles vol. 1 - Hinaki Asihara

Sand Chronicles vol. 1 - Hinaki Asihara


Summary

After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can't get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother's hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness. (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.

I've read a string of manga series lately that focus on the embarrassing, silly, humorous side of love. Unfortunately, most of the attempts at being funny come off as stupid to me. Perhaps it's a problem with translation or perhaps I don't appreciate the series' sense of humor. Either way, Sand Chronicles is a welcome change from the stupid funny manga I've read recently.

The first volume of Sand Chronicles starts when Ann is 12 years old and moves with her mother from Tokyo to the small town where her mother grew up. Ann is lonely and angry about moving. Her mother is miserable - seriously depressed. Ann's strict, over-bearing grandmother only makes things worse. Not too long after they arrive, Ann's mother kills herself.

Ann is of course devastated at her mother's death. But slowly she finds a group of steadfast friends and a place in this rural community. Her best friend is Daigo. She's also friends with Fuji and Shika, two kids from a wealthy family.

The volume advances two years to the point when Ann is 14 years old. Her friendship with Daigo is on the verge of something more. Both Ann and Daigo are just discovering it. But of course, there are those "mean girls" who want to thwart Ann's chance for happiness.

My only complaint about this volume was that I often had difficulty telling the characters apart, particularly the boys Daigo and Fuji. At this point, I'm not too upset about that, because it often takes me a few volumes to grow comfortable with the characters in a manga series.

I loved the emotion in this book. It felt real. Even the attempts at humor or the various troubles Ann got herself into brought out emotional reactions from me as opposed to rolling my eyes at one farce after another. The first volume is a heartfelt, serious beginning to what I think will be a wonderful tale of friendship and love.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (43)

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

I'm Alison. I review Young Adult novels with a few Middle Grade books and a weekly manga feature.

Won



Wynter Chelsea by Becca Ritchie
*Thanks to I Swim For Oceans!


Divergent by Veronica Ruth

Library Stash


Illusions by Aprilynne Pike


The Daughters Take The Stage by Joanna Philbin

CD Stash




City Of Refuge by Abigail Washburn
 
Template: Blog Designs by Sheila