Thursday, March 29, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #90

Welcome to the Feature & Follow


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View 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!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) 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!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
May 4, 2010; Simon Pulse


Summary

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart. Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. "Almost."

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I eagerly picked up Shade after reading tons of rave reviews about it. Unfortunately, it was not for me.

On the bright side, I loved the concept. After the "shift," an obscure date, every person born could see ghosts. Not every dead person becomes a ghost - depends on how they died. Interestingly, the few people who could see ghosts before the "shift" now can no longer see them. Other than this paranormal element, the world is just like modern day. In the Shade world, however, society has radically shifted to adjust to the ghostly presence. The dead can sue to avenge their deaths and hopefully gain some peace. The government is recruiting teenagers to join their ghost squad. Ghosts can be good, but can go evil - become "Shades" who must be eradicated permanently. These bad ghosts can't find peace; they just disappear.

So you see that the ghostly idea is fabulous. Ms. Smith-Ready does a lovely job in creating a ghost paranormal story like no other. But that's the peak of this novel for me.

I liked Aura. She's a normal teenage girl who loves her boyfriend, is close with her aunt (her parents are dead), and likes hanging out with her friend. She's not a wilting daisy, but nor is she a prize fighter. Logan - the boyfriend - is another story. He's an idiot who thinks he's a big shot, because his band's about to go big. He gets drunk and then is stupid enough to mix alcohol with cocaine, because of which he kicks the bucket. Part of me sees why Aura loves Logan. Both as a human and as a ghost, he has a mix of vulnerability and arrogance that is enticing. He's sweet and you can see that he genuinely cares for Aura and his siblings. But he quickly turns into a whiny, angry jerk when he doesn't get his way.

This is one of those love-triangle stories. Our third leg, Zachary, is a new kid from Scotland. I really like him. He's funny, kind, and smart. He has a hint of danger, but he's one of those good dangerous guys. Unlike many lovers of Highland romance, I don't find a Scottish brogue sexy. I find it rather irritating, actually. Give me an Irish or British accent any day. So the Scottish thing was a turn off. But Zachary is definitely the guy I wanted Aura to be with.

My biggest problem with this book was the plot. Early on, Logan dies and returns as a ghost. Aura meets Zachary and struggles between Logan and Zachary. That's all fine and good, but it didn't feel like a story. I kept wondering when a larger element would show up, as you see in most paranormal novels. It does finally appear, but not until 2/3-3/4 of the way through the book. It's an interesting twist, but the book ends before my curiosity is really piqued. I don't like it when I'm forced to turn the pages of almost an entire book wondering why I should care.

I wish I'd liked Shade more. I know many people did, so I wouldn't steer clear of it simply because of my review. Perhaps if I'd liked Logan better, it would have been different. There was some nice, hot romantic scenes in the story, but romance alone is not enough to carry a paranormal novel for me. I wanted a stronger plot and did not have the patience to wait until the second book to see it fully developed.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Books? Favorite Assigned High School Reading

What is the What Books? Feature?

It's time for another edition of my periodic What Books feature! It's been awhile. I have so many book memories from my childhood. Different books touched me in different ways and had came to me at important times. So with this feature, I'm highlighting books that affected me for various reasons.

See prior editions of What Books? here:

Favorite Not-Super-Popular Book Series
Favorite Ghost/Scary Stories
The Movie Is Better Than The Book - Check out this post for lots of fabulous comments
Favorite Obscure Childhood Book
Favorite Books to Re-Read
Favorite Books That You Didn't Love At First
Favorite Cry Your Eyes Out Books
Favorite Books That Totally Freaked You Out

What Books? Favorite Assigned High School Reading

Required reading is a big staple of high school. The books that you're forced to read in English class often stay with you long after all memories of algebra and chemistry have disappeared. You'll look back and think about how much you loved a book or perhaps hated a book.

My high school reading list was pretty much the standard American and Western European works that every American high schooler reads. A little Shakespeare, a little Dickens, a little Twain, etc. I definitely liked some more than others. Here are a few of my favorites:

Ninth Grade




Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
*I'd read this when I was 11. I understood it much better when I was 14.

I also remember reading Macbeth by Shakespeare, The Odyssey by Homer, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (this might not have been 9th grade), Cry the Beloved Company by Alan Paton

Tenth Grade




Les Miserables (abridged) by Victor Hugo


David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
*We had to choose a Victorian-era novel for a big project in 10th grade. I chose David Copperfield - the longest option.

We also read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It's one of my favorite books now, but I wasn't a big fan in tenth grade. Other reads include A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Eleventh Grade




The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

We also read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I'd like it better now. Other books include The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Billy Budd by Herman Melville, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Twelfth Grade




The Iliad by Homer


Night by Elie Wiesel


Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
*I read this for Academic Decathlon.

We also read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Hamlet by Shakespeare, Beowulf.

****We read other books during high school, but I can't remember them right now. I may have mixed up the grades on a few of the books, but I think most of them are correct****

Books I Hated: Only two: Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Billy Budd by Herman Melville

What were your favorite assigned reading in high school? What books did you hate?


I'm especially interested to see what non-Americans read

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
May 4, 2010; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing


Summary

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is, on the surface, a tale of two teens driving across the country. But really it's about two teens' journeys to discover themselves and ultimately, each other. I've had incredible luck with contemporary fiction lately, and  Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is one of the best. Part armchair travel, part snarky, witty dialogue, part romance, part self-discovery, and part scrapbook. A unique and fun novel.

Amy's voice makes the book. Mourning the recent death of her father, for which she blames herself, Amy is subdued and depressed. This doesn't sound like the formula for a great narrator, but Amy's dour attitude is expressed in black humor and snarky criticisms. I had loads of fun seeing the world through her dark eyes. My favorite quote in the book came in the first few pages [warning, bad language]:
"I could practically hear Mr. Collins, who had taught my fifth grade English class and was still the most intimidating teacher I'd ever had, yelling at me. 'Amy Curry,' I could still hear him intoning, 'never end a sentence with a preposition!' Irked that after six years he was still mentally correcting me, I told the Mr. Collins in my head to off f*ck."
Enter Roger, the childhood friend she doesn't really remember who has been assigned to drive cross-country with her to Amy's new home in Connecticut. Starting in California, the duo slowly meander their way across the country. I loved how the story featured two characters who didn't know each other. It made it so much more interesting than a tale of old friends. Ironically, when talking to a new friend it can some times be easier to let your guard down than with a person who's known you forever and can put every statement you make into context. Not that Amy and Roger immediately start bearing their souls. No - it's a slow get-to-know-you process mostly played through Twenty Questions. But there's a different feeling than with old friends.

I love Roger. I would totally date him. He's different than a lot of YA heroes who have strong personalities. He's a nice guy, but not bend-over-backwards nice. A funny guy, but not unrealistically witty. A strong guy, but one who lets his ex-girlfriend string him along. He's romantic in a laid-back way. He feels like a real person. Best of all, for this story, he's the perfect counterpoint to Amy's dourness. He is mostly upbeat and is great at prodding Amy to reveal more of herself without becoming annoying. I loved seeing how their friendship slowly developed. Their relationship never feels like insta-love, even though the book only takes place over the course of a week. You can get to know each other really well when stuck together for 24 hours a day.

A highlight of this book is the scrapbook format. Interspersed with the writing are pages of scrapbook material: journal entries with witty and factual comments about each state, receipts, playlists, and more. I've never read another book that incorporated non text material so well (with the exception of the poetry in The Sky is Everywhere).

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is a fabulous book. There's only a few things that keep me from giving it a perfect rating. I thought certain issues at the end where resolved far too quickly to be real. Plus, it's hard for me to imagine a good mother leaving her teenage daughter alone in California for a few months and then expecting her to drive cross country to their new home with a teenage boy she barely knows - especially only a few months after the girl's beloved father has died. And one pet peeve...Amy and Roger are such anachronistic names. The characters were probably born around 1992 and 1994. Amy is predominantly a name from the 1970s and 1980s, although I'm sure there are still a few little Amy's running around. But who names their kid Roger anymore? That's a throwback to the 1950s.

You must read  Amy and Roger's Epic Detour . You will laugh, you will smile, you will cringe, you will squeal. Not 100% perfect, but one of the best contemporary fiction novels I've read in quite awhile.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, March 26, 2012

Manga Mondays Meme (95): Dengeki Daisy vol. 9 by Kyousuke Motomi

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 18 months ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my review.

Dengeki Daisy vol. 9 by Kyousuke Motomi


Summary

After orphan Teru Kurebayashi loses her beloved older brother, she finds solace in the messages she exchanges with DAISY, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left her. Meanwhile, mysterious Tasuku Kurosaki always seems to be around whenever Teru needs help… Could DAISY be a lot closer than Teru thinks?

As Teru comes to terms with Kurosaki’s past wrongdoings, Kurosaki searches for the culprit who is trying to resurrect the “Jack Frost” virus he created. But when he learns that Teru might be in danger, will he keep his promise to leave her alone, or will the two be reunited?(courtesy of Amazon)

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 forgot to mention in my review of volume 8 that it does not deal solely with Kurosaki's past. There are also several scenes of Kurosaki hunting for the people who have tried to put the Jack Frost virus back into distribution. We get to see the dangerous, tough guy side of Kurosaki.

On that note, we start Volume 9. Kurosaki is still out hunting and Teru is determined to reel him in. She has forgiven him - not that there was all that much to forgive, in my opinion - and wants him back in her life. She comes up with a rather ingenious scheme to get Kurosaki to run back to her.

Teru and Kurosaki are together and all is well. It's wonderful to see all the worries and tension disappear now that the walls between the two have fallen down. Not that everything is perfect. Teru and Kurosaki have to deal with Daisy. Does Daisy still exist now that everyone acknowledges him to be Kurosaki? If so, how will Daisy change?

Plot wise, this volume is a resolution of the series. But there are future volumes. It wasn't until the end of the volume that I realized there was anything left unresolved. I wonder whether Motomi thought that the series was going to end after Volume 9 and then added a few extra plot lines at the end when she got approval to extend the series. It feels that way.

Regardless, there is great humor between Teru and Kurosaki. We see Kurosaki at his best. Teru is also funny in a way of actually being funny, rather than annoying as she has a tendency to be. There are breath-taking, passionate romantic scenes between the two. Few mangakas know how to draw tender moments like Motomi. These pages alone make the series worth reading.

I wonder where Dengeki Daisy will go from here...

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

In My Mailbox #70

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


Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

*My next book-club read!

Library Stash



Fever by Lauren DeStefano


The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #89

Welcome to the Feature & Follow


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View 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!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) 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!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
May 31, 2011; HarperTeen


Summary

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.(courtesy of Amazon)

Review

Starcrossed is a paranormal/mythology novel that sounds like something we've read a dozen times already, but also manages to feel fresh and enticing. It's the perfect mixture of comfort and excitement.

The novel incorporates elements of Greek mythology along with The Iliad. I've never been interested in Greek mythology, but oddly enough, The Iliad was one of my favorite assigned school reads. So this was a great combination for me.

There are many Twilight elements in Starcrossed: shy girl with a single father; filthy rich, large, good-looking family; strong emotions linking the hero and heroine; big and powerful enemy, etc. But Starcrossed adds a twist to each of these elements. Any time I started to roll my eyes at the hackneyed theme, Ms. Angelini threw in a surprise.

The strong emotional connection between Lucas and Helen manages to be something altogether different: hatred. Not "I'm attracted to you but I want to kill you" hatred. Just "I want to kill you" hatred. The Fates, a force beyond Lucas and Helen transforms two good people into monsters. Surprisingly, the switch from hatred to attraction doesn't feel that unrealistic. A little bit, but no more unrealistic than a book featuring Greek mythological characters come to life would naturally feel.

The characters and the world building make this story. Helen is extremely shy - so much so that she irritated me. But I can see how extreme beauty would drive a person to hide from the world in the same way that a deformity would - it sets you apart from the group. Lucas was a nice guy. He doesn't stand out from the typical YA hero - compassionate, stubborn, strong, mysterious, protective, loyal, etc. But he was likable nonetheless. I adored Helen's best friend Claire. She's a tiny ball of fire. She was outspoken, brave, and kind. Plus, she was always good for a laugh. I loved how she fit into the paranormal world. And then there's the big Delos family. Aside from Lucas, there's Cassandra, Ariadne, Jason, Hector, plus a few others whose names I forget. No matter how often the big family theme is done, I always fall for the variety of characters and the love and angst displayed among the family members. Cassandra is a psychic who I initially thought would be Alice incarnate, but she is a much more tragic figure than Alice and also more powerful. I particularly liked the relationship Jason and Claire built up. Nothing like romantic tension. Helen's father Jerry was your stereotypical clueless YA dad, but a nice guy who tried to do the right thing. I loved seeing his relationship, or lack thereof, with Kate.

Starcrossed does a fabulous job with world building. Greek mythology is always complex, but I had a pretty good understanding of the forces pulling Helen and the Delos family in different directions. It helps if you have some knowledge of mythology and The Iliad but it's not necessary. The concept of the reincarnated characters and the competing houses is wholly original. The idea of fate or predestiny is much more prominent in Starcrossed than a typical paranormal. We can hope that the characters can defy Fate, but we quickly realize that it is unbelievably powerful and manages to snap up the characters' good intentions, chew them up, and spit them back out into the shape that Fate demands. I'm excited to read the sequels to see how Helen and Lucas can avoid Fate.

Starcrossed is a fun read. It doesn't seem like much at first, but the characters, the epic nature of their dilemma, and the fascinating world building quickly sucks you in. I definitely recommend picking this book up.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Submit Your Book Ideas! Read Outside the Box: Biographies and Memoirs

On Monday, I reached out to my readers to see whether you'd be interested in a recurring feature listing the "best" books outside the YA genre, featuring a different genre each time. The response was overwhelmingly positive. I'm so excited that you're interested in my idea!

My first topic is going to be Biographies and Memoirs. The idea for this feature came to me while I was reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I read the 600 biography in five days and it is one of the best biographies I've ever read. I wanted to discuss the book on the blog, but I have a self-imposed rule on staying within the YA genre. An occasional feature is a way I can promote Steve Jobs and other non-YA books I love without changing the focus of my blog.

Unlike most young women, I spent my teen and college years mostly reading biographies and historical and political non-fiction. Lots of people won't touch biographies/memoirs with a ten foot pole, but they are my favorite non-fiction genre.

My plan for this feature is to highlight my favorite biographies/memoirs and my readers' favorite books. I'm not sure exactly how it will shape up, but I'm excited to start this new project.

What are one or two of the best biographies / memoirs you've ever read?

Why?

Email me at alisoncanread@gmail.com with your suggestions.


I'm hoping to post the list in the first week or two of April, so be on the look out for the first edition of Read Outside the Box!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
January 2, 2012; Poppy/Little Brown


Summary

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

If you're like me, your first instinct when hearing about a YA contemporary romance set over a 24 hour period is to stay far far away. It sounds like a million other frothy insta-love stories you've already read. Don't listen to that instinct! The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is magical. It may only be 250 pages and take place over 24 hours, but by the end of the story, it feels like Hadley and Oliver have known each other forever and you've been following their lives for years.

Hadley and Oliver are immediately likeable. At first glance, Hadley seems like the typical sulky teen, but it soon becomes clear that her reticence and complaints are largely justified. After all, if your dad cheated on your mom, divorced her, and then decided to get married to said paramour a year later, wouldn't you be a bit miffed? She handles the drama as well as most teens would. She is a full fledged person: kind, impulsive, funny, angry, regretful, cautious, and more.

Our first impression of Oliver is of a tall guy with dark, longish hair with powdered donut sugar staining his shirt. One of my favorite things about this book is that it's not overly focused on looks. Hadley is attracted to Oliver immediately, but it's his personality that she falls for much more than his looks. There's only a few points within the story where he is physically described at all. Their relationship isn't about smoldering eyes, an awesome smile, or great hair. It's about humor, fun, and understanding.

The book does take place over 24 hours, but it is interspersed with flashbacks of Hadley's year since her dad left. That allows us to understand why Hadley is so upset and why she's traveling to England in the first place. It makes the book feel richer. The flashbacks sometimes felt a bit abrupt, but they weren't overly jarring.

Hadley and Oliver slowly progress from strangers to friends to more than that. Over the course of a long flight, they discuss everything under the sun. While it is a short time period, they probably get to know each other better than a lot of people who have been dating for months. The story is chock full of dialogue as the two banter back and forth. I particularly liked that they sounded smart and funny but not too smart and funny. Some YA novels are so full of witty quips that you'd think the teens were professional satirists. There's a fine line between wit that sounds real and wit that sounds contrived and  The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight did a great job of toeing that line.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a light, sweet, quick read that is sure to put a smile on your face. If I wanted to get picky, I would point out that Hadley's issues with her family evolved a bit too quickly to feel realistic - but at the same time the resolutions didn't seem entirely implausible. Otherwise, the pacing and plotting was incredibly successful for the type of book it is. It's a book I will go back to again and again just for the sheer pleasure of a fly-over romance.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Monday, March 19, 2012

Advice Needed! New Feature Idea

I started reading Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography on Friday. I have not been able to put the book down! This led me to think of an idea for an occasional blog feature:

Read Outside The Box


Recommendations for Standard-Setting Non-YA Books

My blog is a YA fiction blog. I rarely review books outside of that genre and have no plans to change my niche of choice. However, many YA readers enjoy reading a variety of books.

I thought it would be fun to do a monthly post recommending different books. One month may be Biographies, another month Mysteries, etc. If you don't normally read biographies and want to venture into that genre, these lists will help you identify the best of the best.

Part of the feature will be incorporating ideas from readers. There are plenty of genres that I have not read very much of, so it would be crucial to get input from knowledgeable readers to put together a good list.

What do you think about this idea? What genres would you like to see featured?

Manga Mondays Meme (94): Dengeki Daisy vol. 8 by Kyousuke Motomi

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 18 months ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my review.

Dengeki Daisy vol. 8 by Kyousuke Motomi


Summary

After orphan Teru Kurebayashi loses her beloved older brother, she finds solace in the messages she exchanges with DAISY, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left her. Meanwhile, mysterious Tasuku Kurosaki always seems to be around whenever Teru needs help.(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.

So we finally learn why Kurosaki thinks he killed Teru's brother. The eighth volume of Dengeki Daisy is largely set in the past. Starting in Kurosaki's childhood going through Tasuku's (Teru's brother) death just as the series was beginning, the tale of Kurosaki's past is long and twisty.

Rest assured, Kurosaki is innocent. Not entirely - he did create a very powerful virus that did a lot of damage - but his fundamental nature was always good. His criminal tendencies predicated in a desire to avenge those who harmed his father. Kurosaki's father had been wrongly blamed for selling state secrets and it essentially killed him. Kurosaki and a few others were convinced his father was framed. In his youth, Kurosaki was driven by anger. It took Tasuku and his merry band of employees to turn Kurosaki's fury into something productive, when he came to work for their company.

We see both sides of Kurosaki in his past. The abrasive delinquent type who verges on rudeness in his interactions with Teru and others. The quiet, smart, polite type who became friends with Tasuku, his co-workers, and fell in love with Teru. Actually, we see much more of the quiet side. It is sometimes hard to believe the same funny Kurosaki that we see today is the young man who worked at Tasuku's company.

The volume is sadly lacking in romantic moments since Teru and Kurosaki are separated. There are a few cute moments between a junior high aged Teru and Kurosaki, especially because neither realizes their future connection. But Kurosaki's past is so important to the plot of this series, that the lack of romance is forgiveable.

Volume 8 is a plot heavy volume. I enjoyed it, because it answered so many questions about Kurosaki, but also because now that Kurosaki's past is out in the open, we can move on with the story.

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

In My Mailbox #69

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.

Won


By A Thread by Jennifer Estep

*Thanks to Jenny of Supernatural Snark and Jennifer Estep! Now I have to read the whole series.

Bought


Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

*Great deal on Amazon! $3.99 for the Kindle version. I've already read this, but I'm excited to now own it.

Library Stash



The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

*I'm about 200 pages into this book. To my surprise, I can't put it down. I really want to start the John Green book, but I am totally engrossed by Steve Jobs.


Where Things Came Back by John Corey Whaley

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #88

Welcome to the Feature & Follow


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View 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!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) 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!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

The A Circuit by Catherine Hapka, Georgina Bloomberg

The A Circuit by Catherine Hapka, Georgina Bloomberg
May 24, 2011; Bloomsbury USA


Summary

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It's a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.

Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She's used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn's resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there's Zara. She's the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she's ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?

Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The A Circuit takes us into the world of one of the most elite and expensive sports: showing horses. Think of this book as an equine Gossip Girl, but not quite as dirty. Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite teenage riders, each from different backgrounds. Tommi is the daughter of zillionare corporate guru, Kate is working class and gets free stable time by caring for the horses, Zara is the daughter of a rock star and up and coming bad girl.

I liked how the story was told from the alternating points of view of Tommi, Kate, and Zara. Tommi is obviously modeled after the author, Georgina Bloomberg. Even their names are similar. Tommi comes off as a little spoiled, resentful of her father's reluctance to take her riding seriously, but she is also a hard working rider and down to earth. She is nice to those "lower" than her, but not blissfully kind to everyone. Overall, she's a very sympathetic character. Not a huge amount of depth, but I liked her. Kate, the poor girl, is well written. We learn about her troubled home life, her insecurity, her love for horses, her work ethic, and her romantic interests. I particularly liked the descriptions of her mother's OCD. It felt a bit forced at times, but it was a really interesting topic and made Kate's life more layered. Zara is the hardest girl to like. She does horrible things. She's not only spoiled, but she is arrogant and mean. Seeing the world through her eyes made me like her a little bit, because you see her love for riding and her irritation at being in the spotlight. But even her inner mind was conceited. I feel like future books will flesh out her character better.

If you don't know anything about horses, you'll probably be lost at times in The A Circuit. Equine terms are flung about like mud during a stampede. I am one of those people who knows nothing about horses. The new vocabulary didn't bother me though. It was like reading a book set in China. The foreign terms helped set the scene. The book does a wonderful job of making horse shows and horses more appealing. I spent several hours after reading this book looking through equine websites. I loved being transported to a different world.

I would categorize The A Circuit as Gossip Girl Light. However, I wish there'd been a little more name dropping of fashion designs. There was some, but clothes are one of the main things that attract me to the GGL books. There is a decent amount of swearing, alcohol, and sex in this book. I wish there had been less. It was nothing shocking, but if the book had been a little cleaner, it would be great for a young YA crowd. It has a young feel to it, that I think might be tiresome to older YA but the content may not be appropriate for a general junior high crowd.

The A Circuit was a quick, easy, fun read. There's not a lot of depth to it, but I wasn't looking for that when I picked it up. There aren't enough YA horse books and this book does a great job of introducing the equine world. I will definitely keep reading this series.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Get Past a Blogger Slump

*This post isn't so much of an advice post as it is a meandering collection of my thoughts.

How to Get Past a Blogger Slump: What Happens When Blogging Becomes "Work?"


I started Alison Can Read almost two years ago. Since that time, I have posted over 600 blog entries. I put up 5-6 posts per week. I think I took one week off when I went on a cruise, but otherwise I scheduled posts when I was out of town. When I started blogging, I told myself that I would stop blogging as soon as it stopped being fun. I can say without hesitation that I love blogging today far more than when I began.

However...In the last few months, I feel like I'm slogging through my blog. It's not really a chore per se, but more like a job - an unpaid job, but a job nonetheless. I am incredibly fortunate to have grown into one of the larger YA book blogs. Along with the many benefits comes some obligations. For example, as the co-host of Follow Friday, I have my post up at 7 PM Pacific time every Thursday. Last Thursday, I was off doing my weekly mall/Barnes & Noble outing when I realized that I had forgotten to draft and schedule the post. So I cut my shopping trip short to get home in time to have the post up by 7. I could have let it go live an hour or two late, since Rachel's post would be there, but I know a lot of people count on a timely Follow Friday post (and to be honest, I count on it for gobs of blog traffic). It's funny...I didn't even mind leaving early, but it's an example of how my blog has become more than a hobby.

I can't really pinpoint what specific things that are holding back my enthusiasm for the blog. But I do know that I have a whole bunch of reviews I need to write (I like writing once I get started, but I have to force myself to get to it). I've been lazy about e-mails lately. I was out of town a lot the past few weeks so haven't been able to comment as much on the Follow Friday or IMM posts. I did more last weekend, but still not as much as I usually like to do. I also forgot to post a blog tour post yesterday until I was reminded. I was really irritated with myself about that, since I usually have a Google alert reminder for tour posts.

The easiest suggestion would be to take a break. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and stuff like that. But I do not consider than an option. Book blogging is a huge part of my identity now. I can't really think of many other hobbies in my life that I both loved and was really good at. There are four things that has made my blog what it is today: (1) Quality content; (2) Consistent content; (3) Strong presence in the community; (4) A boatload of work. If you want to excel at something, you have to put in the effort. It's not always going to be fun. But you have to push through the tedium and know that the pay off is out there. I feel like if I took a break, all of the good points of my blog would suffer and ultimately, I would be less happy.

Part of my current blog woes may be because I don't have a concrete goal for my blog right now. A few weeks ago, I hit 2,000 followers. Yay!! I know that it's a fairly meaningless number, but I've been working towards it ever since I hit 1,000 followers last May. Now that I've hit 2,000, what do I aim for? 3,000 would be nice, but it doesn't feel as important to me for whatever subconscious reason. It would be nice to make at least a tiny amount of money off the blog if I could do so in a non-obnoxious way. I also want to continue building relationships within the blogging community, with authors, and with publishers. But I don't have a giant target to aim for.

It helps to think about all the wonderful things that blogging has given me. The community is the best part. I've made "friends" who I've never met but feel as real as my local buds. I have a group of people who share my biggest passion. I've discovered so many books that I never would have known about, squealed with people about many wonderful novels, commiserated with my fellow bloggers about the disappointing stories. My love for the community is the reason that I spend so many hours each weekend commenting on FF and IMM posts. I wish I had time to comment on more people's review posts. I try to comment back to anyone who comments on my blog with large, but not perfect success. Unfortunately, I'm not able to spend as much time during the week commenting, so I try to at least visit through the weekend meme's.

Aside from the community, I enjoy reviewing books. I formulate sentences in my head about how I will review the book once I'm finished (many of which I forget by the time I write the review). I like writing. I'm a bit wordy, but I think my reviews are interesting and informative. Reviews are somewhat like exercise. I have to force myself to get started, but I always have fun once I get going. And of course, there's the benefit of free review books. "Free" is a loaded word though, since nothing is really free. I don't get nearly as many review books as many other bloggers, but I definitely do not lack for reading material. I am grateful for any review copies that I receive and just as grateful for my library and local bookstores.

Despite my current apathy, I plan on blogging for the long haul. I love having a purpose behind every book I read and a group of people to share it with. I just hope that I get beyond this slump quickly.

What keeps you motivated to blog?

How do you handle blog slumps?

Do you have any advice for a long term goal to shoot for?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blog Tour: Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler - Tens List

Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler
March 6, 2012; Simon Pulse


Summary

Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

Gabby lived under the radar until her makeover. Way under. But when she started her senior year as a blonder, better-dressed version of herself, she struck gold: Billy Nash believed she was a the flawless girl she was pretending to be. The next eight months with Billy were bliss...Until the night Gabby woke up on the ground next to the remains of his BMW without a single memory of how she got there.

And Billy's nowhere to be found.

All Gabby wants is to make everything perfect again. But getting her life back isn't difficult, it's impossible. Because nothing is the same, and Gabby's beginning to realize she's missed more than a few danger signs along the way.

It's time for Gabby to face the truth, even if it means everything changes.

Especially if it means everything changes.(courtesy of Goodreads)



Please welcome Ann Redisch Stampler, the author of the book Where It Began to Alison Can Read!!



Ann's Tens List: 


It has been suggested that Where It Began presents a perhaps less than charitable view of Los Angeles. In fact, I love Los Angeles, and this is my top ten list of places to write, or be inspired to write, in and around where I live. Actually, as I was coming up with this list, I thought of so many other places. I’ve left out parks! I’ve left out Venice! I’ve left out museums! I’ve left out venues for music! Ad infinitum. It a wonderful city. Apologies to Angelenos who feels dissed.

1.) The walk from the merry-go-round on the Santa Monica pier, along the palisades that overlook the Pacific ocean, north to where Ocean Park Boulevard curves down into the canyon. This is an iconic movie park, my favorite use of it being in The Truth About Cats and Dogs. The sunset. You breathe colors.

2.) The Beverly Hills Public Library. Stunning Spanish building with a great collection inside, and many, many comfortable chairs.

3.) The white couch in my bedroom. Serious Los Angeles view. Down-filled.

4.) The drive all the way from downtown out to the beach on Sunset. Great reminder of what a cool and richly diverse city we’ve got going here.

5.) Aki, on Pico in West L.A.. Quiet Japanese restaurant, perfect mid-day reward, near the last well-staffed post office in the continental U.S. so you can mail things off and feel quite business-like. Happy to serve lunch to solo diners in booths big enough to accommodate spiral notebooks.

6.) Starbuck at the top of Beverly Glen. All right, this is perhaps the world’s most pretentious place to write, industry-wise, but what the hell, that’s part of what inspires all those richly pretentious L.A. thoughts. (Not to mention, I have had a couple of the warmest and most helpful conversations and meetings in my life in this Starbucks, so I kind of like it.)

7.) Point Dume. First there’s the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Point Dume, which in addition to being five kinds of iconic is just objectively gorgeous and romantic and if you open your window you can smell the ocean. Then there’s Point Dume. Broad, glorious beach.

8.) The Fairfax Farmer’s Market, which has been there essentially unchanged for many decades. The best part of this, if you go at a non-touristy time (No offense, tourists.), is the people, of course. Then the produce and the poultry and the fish, which are also beautiful. Then the food in all the little restaurant stalls (did I mention the homemade candy?) And on top of all this, green picnic tables. And candy. Write away.

9.) The Los Angeles flower market. Warehouses of flowers downtown. Flowers everywhere. Rows and rows of cut roses and lilies and peonies. Carts of orchids and pots of bromeliads. Complete sensory overload. Get there early. Fill your house with flowers. Phenomenal.

10.) The walk along Sunset Plaza ending in coffee and a snack or a meal at any one of the restaurants with sidewalk dining. The people watching potential is not to be believed. (Or you could end up with mini-cupcakes at Buttercake which you could take home and think of as motivational pastries.)

Manga Mondays Meme (93): Dengeki Daisy vol. 7 by Kyousuke Motomi

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 18 months ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my review.

Dengeki Daisy vol. 7 by Kyousuke Motomi


Summary

Kurosaki decides that he needs to tell Teru the truth, but little does he know that an unsettling fellow called Akira has other ideas. What is Akira scheming, and how will his actions irrevocably affect Teru's relationship with Kurosaki?(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.

This volume is a turning point for the Dengeki Daisy series. A lot happens that sets up the plot for future books, but I never had the feeling that it was simply a place holder.

Kurosaki can't take the secrecy anymore. He wants to tell Teru not only that he's Daisy but that he loves her (he doesn't say this outright, but that was my impression). He is becoming increasingly protective of Teru and doesn't have as many rude janitor/master moments with her. I missed some of this, but their relationship is growing into a sarcastic bantering one rather than an over the top faux worship and hatred one.

In anticipation of the big reveal, Kurosaki invites Teru out on their "first date." Teru gets to pick where they go. I loved all the choices she contemplated - including painting kokeshi dolls - weird ideas for a first date. She settles on an amusement park. It's hilarious seeing Kurosaki make his way through an amusement park. It doesn't feel like his place.

But alas, evil Akira comes to tear apart the happy couple just before things start getting really good. The volume ends with a huge, heart breaking cliffhanger. I'm sure things will work out in the end, but my heart ached for both Teru and Kurosaki.

On the bright side, there is an incredibly passionate moment between Teru and Kurosaki midway through the volume. I love how drawings of characters just looking at each other can feel much more intimate and passionate than kissing. A big squeal moment.

Another good Dengeki Daisy volume!

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

In My Mailbox #68

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.

*This has been an unusually lucky week. I'm so grateful!

Review


The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

*Thanks to Media Masters Publicity and Harlequin! I can't tell you how excited I am for this one!


The Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond

*Thanks to Teen Book Scene!


Out of Site, Out of Time by Ally Carter

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie Communications and Hyperion! Love Gallagher Girls!!


Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliot

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie Communications!

Library Stash



Hallowed by Cynthia Hand


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han


CD Stash



Cults by Cults



Tramp by Sharon van Etten

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #87

Welcome to the Feature & Follow


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View 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!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) 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!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
February 1, 2011; St. Martin's Griffin


Summary

Demon Trapper Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself—and that’s exactly what Lucifer is counting on…

It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Atlanta is no exception. Fortunately, humans are protected by Demon Trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night. Seventeen-year-old Riley, only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing attraction to fellow Trapper apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving citizens from Grade One Hellspawn. Business as usual, really, for a demon-trapping teen. When a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood, she realizes that she’s caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I went into The Demon Trapper's Daughter with high hopes. It seemed like everyone raved about it. I came out of The Demon Trapper's Daughter disappointed. Not because it was a bad book, but because it didn't live up to the high bar I'd set for it.

Still, the book has a lot of positives. The story is told from the alternating points of view of (1) Riley: the only female demon-trapper apprentice and (2) Beck: The former apprentice of Riley's father who now looks out for Riley. Riley is a brave, funny, sassy girl. Like an early feminist, she has to prove she is stronger, tougher, and better than the guys to get any respect in the Demontrapper hierarchy. She has the inner strength to go for it. She idolizes her father, master demontrapper Paul Blackthorne. Beck left a troubled childhood for the military. Now a veteran of Iraq/Afghanistan, he is haunted by the past. He drinks hard and plays hard, but he also works hard in hopes of being half the demon-trapper that Paul Blackthorne is. He is a crazy guy but when you looked through he is you could see his genuine and hard-working nature. The alternating point of view is fabulous. It's one of my favorite literary tricks. Jana Oliver creates two very different characters who allow us to see different sides of the plot as well as the demon trapper world.

What kept me from liking Riley was how she treated Beck. She was cruel to him. No matter what he did, she constantly assumed the worst of him. The poor guy couldn't get a break. I understand why she felt the way she did. She was nursing a broken pride after Beck shot down a schoolgirl crush. But you have to grow up some time, and Riley refused to get past her preconceived notion of Beck. It was particularly frustrating, because the reader could see Beck's good intentions perfectly clearly. It nearly ruined the book for me.

(One other petty complaint, I hated that Beck said "ya" instead of "you." I get that dialect establishes voice, but I hate the use of dialect in novels. I don't know why. Probably for the same reason that I hate bananas when everyone else loves them. Personal preference.)

I also disliked Simon, Riley's crush. Uber religious and saintly, Simon fell flat. Other than being cute and capable, I didn't see what Riley liked about him. He certainly didn't have the loveable rough edges of Beck, who far better fits Riley's personality. However, I did see glimpses of hope that Simon will be a more full fledged character in later books.

Back on the positive, I loved the demon trapper world-building. You had the basic mythology of Heaven and Hell, complete with angels and demons. The demons are fascinating creatures. They ranged from pests that were so innocuous that you wanted them as pets to utterly evil creatures set upon destroying the world. The methods to destroy the demons are varied and well-described. Plus, I loved the culture of the demon-trappers. The long-standing tradition and the hierarchy of apprentice through master. The world was described fully enough that you almost forget it's not true.

The story is also full of action. It is appropriate that I read most of this book standing in lines at Disneyland, because the first chapter drops you off a high ledge and you alternate between holding on for dear life and raising your hands in the air screaming in excitement. The book moves very quickly as Riley and Beck go from one danger to another. No character is safe from harm, either physical or mental.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter is an exciting read with a well-developed fantasy world. I would have loved the book if only I liked Riley better. I'm curious to see where the series goes and may continue with it.

Rating: 3 / 5

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CAPTCHA: How to Eradicate Evil *Updated!*

*I've covered the evils of CAPTCHA before, but it can never be emphasized enough. So here's my public service announcement:

CAPTCHA.

Like many bloggers, if I had to choose between entering CAPTCHA codes when commenting on a dozen blogs and cleaning up an ant infestation in my kitchen, I would hard pressed in choosing which chore would be more odious.

For those unaware of CAPTCHA, it is the word verification that you must enter in order to post a comment on CAPTCHA-enabled Blogger blogs. Until recently, CAPTCHA consisted of one five or six letter word. This relatively simple, albeit annoying, requirement changed in the past month into something far more irritating.

Now, CAPTCHA requires you to enter two long words. Moreover, the letters that you have to copy are hard to read:

At surface level, CAPTCHA seems like a great idea. As it says, it requires you to "prove you're not a robot." Spam sucks, so it's great to have something to prevent it.

But it's not necessary! In the nearly two years that I've run this blog, the number of spam comments that have gotten through Blogger's behind-the-scenes spam filter can be numbered in less than ten fingers. Pretty much every blogger I've encountered says the same thing.

If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, I think you must get rid of CAPTCHA. There are numerous people who refuse to comment on CAPTCHA-enabled blogs. I'm not one of them, but I can't tell you how irritating it is to repeatedly encounter CAPTCHA when I'm doing mass comments on the Follow Friday and In My Mailbox memes. Often, I comment on 400 blogs over the course of the weekend (Yes, that's right. I don't have a life). The extra second or two required to enter those f*#&$*g codewords adds up quickly. 

A lot of people don't even realize that they have CAPTCHA enabled on their blog. So here is a way to check and get rid of it.

*Edit: Thanks so much to all the people who let me know that my initial instructions may not be enough to eradicate CAPTCHA. I'm updating my post to show both processes.

1) Go to your dashboard:


2) Go to the Old Blogger Interface by clicking on the big asterisk on the right hand corner of your screen and click on "Old Blogger Interface."

3) Once the Old Blogger Interface pulls up, click on Settings



4) Scroll down until you find "Show Word Verification for Comments." Click No.



5) Go back to the Updated Blogger Interface.



6) Click on Settings and then Posts & Comments:


7) Check the circle next to Never for Comment Moderation



Presto! You're done. That wasn't so hard was it? Hahaha! That was incredibly tedious and hard, but so worth it.

Please, please, please! On behalf of all people who love to comment, I am begging you to get rid of CAPTCHA on your blog. My sanity thanks you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
January 17, 2012; HMH Children's Books

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary

I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.

It’s probably hopeless.

But he has to try. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Never Eighteen is yet another example of how the real life can influence a reader's opinion of a book. This book is about a teenage boy dying of leukemia living out his final days - trying to help the people around him live fuller lives. The book is full of sadness and hope. But I couldn't connect with it. I chose to read it on a very bad day. I started it only a few hours after learning that my good friend's 29 year old brother, who had been diagnosed with leukemia only 5 months earlier, had no more options (sadly, he passed a week later). I was reading it as part of a blog tour so I needed to get it finished in a hurry. Otherwise, I would have put it down until my emotions had settled. No matter how sad this book is, it felt artificial compared to real life suffering.

With that said, I will try to give a somewhat balanced review of this book. Austin is, in a way, a very lucky guy. He knows how much time he has left and has the physical strength left to do the things that need to be done and say the things that need to be said. Most of this book takes place over the course of a single weekend. There are a lot of things that Austin could be doing with his dwindling days. He chooses to spend an entire weekend talking to various people in his life who he thinks are not living life to the fullest. This speaks volumes about Austin's character.

I loved how Megan presented the various characters that Austin spoke to. They had a wide variety of problems: loneliness, anger, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, fear. And they weren't just his friends. He even approached a kid he'd bullied in elementary school. Austin knew he couldn't fix their problems, but he thought that if he showed them how they've impacted his life and how important it is for them to embrace life, maybe they'd change for the better. Their reactions were not all tears and sunshine. I was very pleased that Never Eighteen presented somewhat realistic reactions to being told you need to correct something about yourself.

Traveling with Austin on his journey is his best friend Kayla. Austin is brave enough to face death head on, but can he tell his best friend that he's in love with her? Their relationship was a great sideshow from Austin's various meetings. Their conversations and Austin's thoughts about Kayla is how I learned the most about Austin's life and personality. They trajectory of their relationship was the main thing that brought me to tears at the end of the novel.

Now onto the aspects I didn't like. For the most part, I did not emotionally connect was Austin and his plight. I blame this on the simultaneous real life events which were much more tragic in my eyes. So I don't fault the book for that. But I do think the pacing was odd. If I hadn't read the blurb I wouldn't have known that Austin was dying of cancer. It's not mentioned until midway through the novel. You just know that *something* is happening. I also thought certain events were disjointed. For example, Austin tells his mom that he's stopping cancer treatments. It was a two line discussion. No protests, no details, no explanation. I can't imagine a situation in real life where that would happen. Perhaps this book's greatest fault is that it is too short. It is a rare writer who can craft a rich story with fully developed characters in 200 pages. Never Eighteen is well-written and flows very quickly, but it was not able to achieve the fullness that, say, a 300 page novel could.

I'm not giving this book a rating, because I can't come up with a definitive, impartial opinion. Never Eighteen is a good book with heart. Despite my disconnect, I still managed to cry a little at the end - and the prospect of tears is half the reason I read books like this. I greatly respect Austin and loved his relationship with Kayla.

Rating: N/A: See above

Monday, March 5, 2012

Manga Mondays (92): What Is Your Favorite Manga Series

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 18 months ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my post.



No manga review today. I've been getting behind lately. I used to be so good about reading lots of manga and reviewing ahead of schedule. I will try to get back into the habit soon.


In the mean time, here's a question:

What is your favorite manga series?


I think that Sand Chronicles is probably my favorite. It is such a heartbreaking, beautiful love story. I love how real it felt - even though there were some unrealistic scenarios. It didn't feel as silly as a lot of manga. I also loved how it took place over almost 20 years, starting from when the characters were 12 until they were about 30.

I'll always have a special place in my heart for my first manga series: Fruits Basket. I became very attached to the characters and to the complexity of the mythology, especially in the last few volumes.

Another great series is Emma, which is set in Victorian England. It's about a maid who falls in love with a wealthy Englishman. It's written and drawn by a Japanese mangaka who did extensive research about Victorian-era England.










Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!



Saturday, March 3, 2012

In My Mailbox #67

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.

*It's been a few weeks since I've done IMM. I've been traveling a lot. I may forget a few of the books I've received, but I'll try to add them in future weeks.

Bought


Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

*Purchased for Book Club. Finished the other day. Meh. I wouldn't bother. But next month we're reading The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, which I'm very excited to read.

Won


Mistwood by Leah Cypess

*I've already read and loved this book. I won an annotated copy of it - with two chapters that Leah handwrote notes in. It's so awesome! Thanks Leah!

Library Stash

The Rivals by Daisy Whitney


Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Catherine the Great by Robert Massie


Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George


Insatiable by Meg Cabot


Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
 
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