Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #99

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.

Blog Tour: Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham - Tens List

Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
June 12, 2012; Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers


Summary

1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?(courtesy of Goodreads)

Meet Hilary

Hilary Weisman Graham is an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and novelist.  She lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband and son, roughly thirty minutes away from the nearest grocery store.


Tens List: Best Concerts Hilary Has Attended:

Please welcome Hilary Weisman Graham to Alison Can Read! I'm so jealous of all the fabulous concerts she's seen.

1. Sting (first concert)

2. James Taylor (on the way out of the parking lot, he waved at us from his tour bus)

3. Radiohead (Saw them in a small nightclub in Boston way back when they were the opening act for Belly. Crazy.)

4. The Cure

5. The Pixies

6. Morrisey

7. Rufus Wainwright

8. Cowboy Junkies (the only concert I ever cried through—their songs are just so sad)

9. The Grateful Dead (wasn’t really a fan but a hippie friend on tour gave me a “miracle” ticket)

10. Michael Franti & Spearhead (most recent)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
November 21, 2011; Razorbill


Summary

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

What year were you born? Your reaction to The Future of Us will likely vary widely based on your age. Josh and Emma, the main characters in this novel were born in 1979 or 1980. I was born in late 1981. The book is set in 1996, the year I finished 9th grade and started 10th grade. The Future of Us was pure nostalgic joy.

If you were born post 1990, I don't know whether you'd enjoy this book nearly as much. Just like I wouldn't fully appreciate a book full of 1980s nostalgia, I don't think the 1990s throwbacks will mean as much if you're older. And that's such a big selling point of this book.

I sit here typing in the kitchen on my slim laptop with my super speedy cable modem and wireless router, but I can hear perfectly the "Ssssshhhhhhh" of my old 14.4 dial up modem, how it would suddenly shift to "Hhhheeeeee," and then briefly lapse into silence before the cheery robotic male voice quips "Welcome. You've got mail!" The wonders of the early Internet are permanently etched into my mind. I'd forgotten about the old AOL CDs (Did anyone have Prodigy? We only had it for a few months, but I loved it). The Future of Us reminded me of so many parts of my youth: rollerblades, pay phones, the music, YM magazine, and more.

The problem with The Future of Us is that the nostalgia is better than the story. The idea of two teens discovering their future selves on Facebook is fantastic. What teen hasn't wondered what their lives would be like in 15 years? What 30 year old hasn't wished they could go back and have a chat/lecture with their teen selves? In addition to the Facebook concept, The Future of Us is about a fractured friendship between Josh and Emma, Emma's dating life, Josh's love for Emma and embarrassment about being dissed by her, and more. It's not actually an overly ambitious plot, but it still managed to feel like the authors tried to do too much and ended up not fully developing anything.

The concept of the future is great in The Future of Us. It's always changing. Deciding to go to college in one state versus another changes who you might marry, what you study, etc. Emma figures this out quickly and it was both fun and frustrating to see how her life changed as she manipulated the present to change the future.

I loved Josh. He's a nice guy. I like how he interacted with the future. Emma on the other hand is much harder to like. She constantly wants something better. When she sees that her future life appears to be imperfect (as far as you can tell from a Facebook status), she's determined to change it. And then change it again when the new future isn't good enough. Nothing can ever satisfy her. What a surprise that her future self is also unsatisfied? I don't always mind unlikable characters, especially because I can see the world through their eyes in the story. Despite "understanding" Emma, I couldn't like her. She was too whiny.

In the end, The Future of Us left a lot of unanswered questions. I'm all for open endings, but this felt more like the authors gave up. Well, not exactly, but there are good open endings and frustrating open endings. This fell into the latter category. I wanted to know more about Josh and Emma's future lives. I wanted to see how their present actions affected their future more than I did. I also wanted more access to their Facebook pages. The status updates were too infrequent for my taste.

If you're looking for a 1990s road trip, you must pick up The Future of Us. If you're picking up the book expecting a book as fabulous as Thirteen Reasons Why, don't bother (horror of horrors - I still have not read this iconic novel!). From what I know of Thirteens Reasons Why, this is entirely different. The Future of Us is an imperfect book, but I loved the concept and the memories it brought up.

Rating: 3 / 5

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
January 10, 2012; Harcourt Children's Books


Summary

It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I picked up Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side several years ago in my phase in which I read anything and everything to do with vampires (I guess I'm still in that phase). Given the stupid title, I wasn't expecting much. Boy, was I surprised. It was a great book with a lot of humor, fabulous characters, and a strong, unique plot. I was thrilled but a little wary of reading the long-awaited sequel. What if it disappointed, as so many second books do? Not to worry. Jessica Rules the Dark Side is fantastic.

The story is different from many YA novels in that Jessica has graduated high school, is now married, and living in Romania with Lucius. Like many "second books," there is a plot twist that takes Lucius away from Jessica. In this case, he is accused of committing murder and is thrown into the dungeon to await trial. It's up to Jessica to uncover the real murderer. Luckily, she's not alone. Her plucky friend Mindy arrives from Pennsylvania to help, as does Lucius's close friend Raniero. Thankfully, this book avoids the ubiquitous "second book" love triangle plot angle.

I wasn't thrilled with Jessica at first. She's not the strong, stubborn girl I remembered. Instead, she is timid and shy, looking to Lucius for everything. This is frustrating to read, but in context it makes sense. She just moved to Romania, doesn't speak the language, didn't grow up training to be a queen, and is living with people who have hated her ancestors for thousands of years. I would be a little hesitant too. Thankfully, she grows throughout the novel, becoming not necessarily the Jessica we remember, but a mature, logical, competent woman. A true queen.

The book alternates between points of view of Jessica, Lucius, Raniero, and Mindy. Their voices are so different that this never becomes confusing. Similar to the first book, we get the male point of view through letters and e-mail. Lucius's letters were my favorite part of the first book, and they are one of my favorite parts about this book. Lucius's dry humor always makes me smile. His good nature, love for Jessica, and even his arrogance (or self-assurance) shows through his writing. Mindy is also a breath of fresh air. Even when she's complaining or sulking, I feel happier when I read her point of view. She's such a funny, ditzy type of girl who also manages to be strong, capable, and calculating. She's a crucial character.

Then we have Raniero, the mystery man. I love how Beth used Raniero. He is sexy and dangerous. But we aren't sure whether he's dangerous in a good way or in a bad way. Just when we think that we've figured it out, Beth throws a twist into the plot that has us distrusting our assumptions. Whether he's good or bad, Raniero is a great character. A goofy, thoughtless, zen-like surfer dude...at least on the surface.

Jessica Rules the Dark Side is a fabulous follow up to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. The murder mystery keeps you on your toes as you wonder "whodunnit" and whether Jessica will be able to figure out the mystery in time to save Lucius. Plus, it features four distinct characters. Best of all, there's plenty of Lucius's dry wit - my favorite part of both books. I highly recommend this novel.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, May 28, 2012

Skip Beat! vol. 6 by Yoshiki Nakamura

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 2 years 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.

Skip Beat! vol. 6 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Summary

Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he's casting her out now that he's famous! Kyoko won't suffer in silence--she's going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!

Superstar Ren's manager Yashiro comes down with a nasty cold, but Ren is in the middle of an important shoot and needs someone to look after him. In a feverish fit, Yashiro dares Kyoko to take over his job. (courtesy of the back cover)

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.

The last two volumes of Skip Beat have had similar formats. Both have six acts. The first act is kind of a story on its own. The remaining five acts comprise the main plot of the volume.

I loved the first act of Volume 6. Kyoko and Moko finally transform from enemies to compatriots with a common goal to close friends. They have a relationship built on trust and mutual interests. This is handled through comic relief in the first act. Erika is trying to sabotage Moko so she won't be able to perform the commercial. But each time she or her lackeys try to attack her, Kyoko moves her out of the way in the nick of time. Not on purpose - she just happens to pull Moko in a different direction when she gets excited and wants to show her something.

The main part of this volume involves Kyoko's attempt to serve as Ren's manager. Ren and Kyoko are starting to like and trust one another. That's not quite true yet. I suppose it's more accurate to say that the walls between them are starting to crumble. Ren has a grudge against Kyoko, because he thinks she's only trying to become a celebrity to show up Sho. That may have been Kyoko's initial reason, but she's advanced beyond that. She really wants to be a good actress.

Both Ren and Kyoko are incredibly hard workers, stubborn, and persistent. When Ren falls ill with a bad cold, he insists on working through it. Kyoko similarly goes to extreme lengths to make sure that Ren's cold is treated quickly and his symptoms are decreased. Ren can't help but notice Kyoko's kindness and indefatigable spirit. Similarly, he's realizing that Kyoko is actually talented. He's starting to respect her both as an actress and a person.

Now that Ren and Kyoko are thawing and we're discovering Kyoko's talents, I am super excited to see where the next volumes takes us.

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bookish Recap

I'm joining Tynga's Reviews' meme Stacking the Shelves today. Thanks for hosting Tynga!

On the Blog This Week


Manga Mondays:


Reviews:



Blog Tour:

Read Outside the Box - Book Ideas Needed!

Books I Read This Week



Delirium by Lauren Oliver
-It took me a month to finish this book. More on that in my review.


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin



Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

Books Received This Week


Library Stash


Destined by Aprilynne Pike
-I just started this one 


Books For Review:




Vertigo by Kristina Dunker




Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Bookish Related Web Obsession


A blog (I'm sorry I don't remember which one) linked to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries the other day. It's a series of short Youtube videos modernizing Pride and Prejudice. It was created by Hank Green (brother to John). I started watching this on Tuesday and am now obsessed! You must check this out!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #98

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.

Book Ideas Needed: Adult Historical Fiction for Read Outside the Box

The first two editions of Read Outside the Box were great successes. Check out my and my readers' favorite Biographies/Memoirs and Adult Mysteries if you haven't already!

I'm getting a late start on next month's topic, but I'll post it late because of BEA. Here's the topic:

Adult Historical Fiction


Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres, so I'm really excited to share my favorites and find some new reads from you!

What are one or two of the best adult historical fiction books you've ever read?

Why?

Leave a comment or email me at alisoncanread@gmail.com with your suggestions.

I'm hoping to post the list in mid-June, so be on the look out for the newest edition of Read Outside the Box!!!

Blog Tour: Body and Soul by Stacey Kade

Body and Soul (The Ghost and the Goth #3)by Stacey Kade
May 1, 2012; Hyperion


Summary

The final book in The Ghost and the Goth Trilogy!

The Ghost
I’ve been trapped in the body of Lily “Ally” Turner for a month now. Talk about a fashion crisis on an epic scale. What worries me more, though, is sometimes I catch Will looking at me like he thinks I’m Lily...or that he wishes I were. Without the good looks of my former self, I don’t know who I am, or if who that is is good enough. I need out of this mess. Now.

Will and I have been looking for a solution, one that would separate me from Lily without killing her. But it’s not going well. Then, when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, we run into Misty, my former best friend and boyfriend-stealer extraordinaire, who claims she’s being haunted...by me. Seriously?

I’m determined to get to the bottom of who’s pretending to be the spirit of Alona Dare (while I’m pretending to be someone else) and then get the heck out of this body. Or die trying...

The Goth
I’ll admit it. It’s really weird to look at Alona but see Lily. I do know the difference, though, contrary to what Alona might be saying. And Alona is more than a pretty face to me, not that she would believe that.

Our one lead for some help in this messed up situation might be a page torn from the yellow pages-—the “Psychics” section-—I found in my dad’s stuff. One of the “fakes” seems a bit more real-—and odd-—than the others. Before I can investigate further, though, Alona is off and chasing a ghost that’s probably nothing more than a figment of Misty’s guilty imagination. Now Lily’s family is freaking out because she didn’t come home, my mom is ordering me to stay out of it, and something is definitely wrong with the person formerly known as Lily “Ally” Turner...(courtesy of Goodreads)

Character Word Associations: Will

Please welcome Will (the Goth) from the Ghost and the Goth series to Alison Can Read!!

What is the first thing that comes to your mind each word/phrase:

Ice cream: Chocolate

Clouds: Black

France: Wine

Vampire: Dead

Airplane: Never (I’ve never been on one; not saying I wouldn’t ever fly.)

Disneyland: Depressing

Column: Greek

Book: Escape

Salad: Alona (She’s always talking about what she wants to eat, but all I ever saw her eat was salad.)

Purse: Gucci. (Oh, my God, I’m spending way too much time with Alona, aren’t I?)
Life: Short but beautiful

Grief: Knowledge (I think if people knew what I know, they’d still be sad when they lose someone they love, of course, but they might also have more hope for what comes after.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
May 5, 2009; Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers


Summary

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

So many bloggers rave about Jenny Han's Summer series. After finishing The Summer I Turned Pretty, I have two questions. Why does everyone love the series? Does it get better? I liked The Summer I Turned Pretty, but it wasn't the kind of book that makes me run around screaming the title to all of my friends. What did I miss?

Belly is a controversial character. I have mixed feelings about her. Because I was seeing the world through Belly's eyes and thoughts, I sympathized with her emotions and the events going on in her life. However, she was often infuriating. Selfish, whiny, and naive. She felt younger than 15 years old. But I think that was also a factor of being the perennial little kid around her brother, Conrad, and Jeremiah. It made her seem more immature than she would at home. We get the impression that she's a smart, fun, nice girl during the school year, but she doesn't act that way at all during the summer.

I enjoyed seeing how her relationships with Conrad and Jeremiah evolved. Conrad is the moody, quiet type of guy I normally like. But there's good moody and there's annoying moody. He was annoyingly moody for almost the entire book. At the end, I started seeing why Belly adored him so much. I wish Conrad's good side had shown up a little sooner. Jeremiah is the sweet kid that everyone likes. Funny, outgoing, friendly - he is Jacob to Conrad's Edward. It's a hard choice between the two.

On the bright side, Jenny Han does a wonderful job of setting the beach town scene. I've never spent a vacation at the beach, but this is the idealized vision that I've always had of it. Warm sand, midnight swims, beach parties, lifeguarding. You can almost smell the ocean when you read this book. I also liked how serious the book was. I was expecting a light beach read, but there was a lot of drama and anguish. It isn't necessarily what I want to read on a beach, but I'm a fan of angst.

Unfortunately, the setting is the best written part of this book. Jenny spent far too much time telling us why Belly was in love with Conrad or Jeremiah and not nearly enough time showing us. I also didn't like how the flashbacks were structured. The back and forth felt so abrupt so I had literary whiplash from trying to figure out what was happening.

Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is an entertaining story. I was disengaged for much of the book, but it hooked me at the end when Jenny Han found her footing. I didn't love this book, but the last third made me want to continue the series.

Rating: 3 / 5

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls #5) by Ally Carter
March 13, 2012; Hyperion Book CH

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

Summary

The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan--an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home.

Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It’s a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The fifth Gallagher Girls book is a story filled with mystery, confusion, fear, tension, and sadness. The Gallagher Girls series started out as a fun, sweet romance of a young girl in spy school. With each book, the series has become more mature and the danger more visceral. It is a series of friendship and family with some romance as well.

Out of Sight, Out of Time is very confusing at first. The fourth Gallagher Girls book came out two years ago. If you haven't read the series since then, I highly recommend re-reading the books (or at least the fourth book) before picking up Out of Sight, Out of Time. I did not do this and was quite lost at the beginning of the book.

On the other hand, the feeling of being lost and confused is part of what Ally was going for in this book - at least I think so. Cammie wakes up with no memory of the past five months. She is as mixed up as the reader. The plot of the book is not only about what she did over the summer, but what caused her to forget it.

Out of Sight, Out of Time is the type of book I find most frightening - a psychological thriller. Cammie's biggest threat isn't necessarily a bullet; rather it is an unknown source that has attacked her mind. There isn't nearly as much humor in this book than in prior volumes of the series. There also isn't a lot of romance. Zach is present, which is wonderful. He is a sweet guy with a delightful hint of darkness. But his role in this book is to help Cammie rather than to build their relationship.

It wouldn't be a Gallagher Girls book without help from Bex, Liz, and Macey. Plus Zach. Cammie tries to act on her own, but she relies on the physical and emotional support of her friends. And her family. I've always loved the strong role that Cammie's mom plays in this series. It's one of the best portrayals of a mother/daughter relationship I've read in recent YA. Her aunt is also a crucial character as well. Cammie and the adults in her life get along well and work together, instead of against each other.

"Fun" isn't a word that describes Out of Sight, Out of Time well. It is so tense and scary at times that I was biting my nails in anticipation. That's not to say that it isn't good. On the contrary. I think it's the best Gallagher Girls book yet. It's grown up and disturbingly dark. Very few YA thriller books go to the level of depth that Gallagher Girls does. I can't wait to see where the series goes from here. I highly recommend Out of Sight, Out of Time and the entire Gallagher Girls series.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, May 21, 2012

Skip Beat! vol. 5 by Yoshiki Nakamura

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 2 years 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.

Skip Beat! vol. 5 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Summary

Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he's casting her out now that he's famous! Kyoko won't suffer in silence--she's going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!

Kyoko lands a regular role on a TV show...as a giant chicken. Not content to settle for poultry recognition, Kyoko tries out for a big commercial. At the audition she runs into her Love Me rival Moko, who's having rival woes of her own. With a jealous rich girl out to bring them down, can Kyoko and Moko overcome their difficulties and act as a team to trounce the competition?(courtesy of the back cover)

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.

Kyoko and Moko establish a strong working relationship that is leading into a friendship in this volume. They both end up auditioning for the same commercial. It turns out that the commercial calls for two actresses and Kyoko and Moko are paired for the audition.

They fight a common enemy. Erika is a filthy rich girl who buys her way into acting jobs. Moko beat her for a part in the school play in 3rd grade and Erika has sought revenge ever since. It's ironic that Kyoko is celebrated in a way for her eternal grudge against Sho, while the reader immediately demonizes Erika for seeking vengeance at Kyoko. The key difference is that Kyoko is an essentially kind person and a hard worker while Erika is a snob. Plus, trying to get revenge at a guy just doesn't have the same level of cruelty as girl on girl meanness.

Kyoko grows as an actress in this volume. Not only is she able to play off Moko's lead (who has a lot of acting ability), but she shows the ability to lead others as well. Kyoko can get into the head of a character and make the emotions feel real. She even surprises herself I think. I like seeing Kyoko's talent. It shows that she has the potential to be Ren's equal as far as acting goes.

Ren plays only a small role in this volume and Sho plays none at all. Ren only appears in the first Act (this manga breaks each chapter into acts). Kyoko and Ren's relationship is still uneasy. It's made even more awkward by the fact that Ren showed a kinder side of himself in volume 4. Kyoko is started to be attracted to Ren without even knowing it.

From my review this volume doesn't sound that impressive, but I really liked it. Kyoko clearly grew as a character and I like that Moko is playing a bigger part. Erika was hilarious in her stuck up rich girl role. A clear caricature, but fun nonetheless.

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bookish Recap

I'm joining Tynga's Reviews' meme Stacking the Shelves today. Thanks for hosting Tynga!

On the Blog This Week


Manga Mondays:


Reviews:



GIVEAWAY!!!!:

Books I Read This Week

-I didn't post a recap last week, because I was out of town, so this comprises the last two weeks.


Black Heart by Holly Black


Until I Die by Amy Plum



The Expats by Chris Pavone


Goddess Interrupted by Aimeé Carter


Belles by Jen Calonita

Books Received This Week


From My Parents - Actually Books I Bought My Parents and They're Giving Back to Me:



Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean




Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker


Book I Bought My Mother for Mothers Day and Read Before I Gave It To Her:




The Expats by Chris Pavone

Library Stash




The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin



Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
-If you haven't read Jacobs' book The Know-It-All, you really must.

CD Stash


Port of Morrow by The Shins

-I'm a huge fan of The Shins and so happy that they have a new album.

-Check out my favorite song "Simple Song" (the video is a real trip - anything but simple).




Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes

-Since I am obsessed with Jack White's new song "Love Interruption," I am checking out old White Stripes albums. I really like this one. I want to get his other albums too. And try The Dead Weather and Raconteurs again.

Video for "Love Interruption" by Jack White (single from his new album Blunderbuss)

-I posted this in my last Bookish Recap, but I'm including it again, because I'm still obsessed with it. I literally watched three different Youtube videos of the same song in a row today - the video and two live performances. The video is my favorite, because of White's facial expressions. It's funny how dark and creepy can be so sexy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #97

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.

GIVEAWAY! Blog Tour: Goddess Interrupted by Aimeé Carter


Welcome to the penultimate stop in The Goddess Interrupted Blog Tour! You can view all the stops HERE.

The Goddess Interrupted by Aimeé Carter
March 27, 2012; HarlequinTeen
Purchase: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Harlequin; Indiebound

Summary

Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future. Henry's first wife, Persephone.



Get to know Aimeé Carter

Aimée Carter was born in 1986 and attended the University of Michigan. She started writing at age eleven, focusing first on fan fiction and later on original work, and hasn't stopped since. The Goddess Test trilogy is her first series. Check out her website at www.aimeecarter.com.

Please welcome Aimeé to Alison Can Read!!

What Summer Means for Aimeé


I have a confession: summer is my least favorite season. The first few weeks or so are always a nice change of pace from the cold months. But when we get into the part of summer that’s sticky-hot, that’s when I start longing for autumn. Sunburns, mosquitoes, and humidity? Give me sweaters, snow, and hot chocolate any day.

Because I’m not a huge fan of heat, I tend to stay indoors, which means I write. In fact, The Goddess Test was written over a summer – one of my favorite summers in recent memory, which is a little strange, because I don’t remember anything else about it other than writing that first draft. That summer changed my life though. It brought me Kate, Henry, James, Ava, and new hope that I might actually have the chance to do what I love for a living – write.

Summer might not be my favorite seasons (purely for superficial reasons!), but it is the season that best represents hope for me. Everything’s a little brighter during the summer. A little happier, a little more promising. When I was a kid, my favorite thing about summer was that I had time to read the piles of library books I checked out each week. When I was in college, my favorite part was not having to worry about essays and exams. Now, as an adult, my favorite part is the reminder that one summer can change everything. Not every summer can be spectacular, but every summer can mean something, even if that meaning comes from the place we least expect it.

I have high hopes for this summer – I’m going to Book Expo America for the first time, I get to meet my wonder editor and agent, and in July, I’m going to Ascendio, a Harry Potter convention, where I have the privilege of being on panels with authors so big that I can’t believe I’ll be breathing the same air as they’ll be. It’s been four years since that summer I can only remember in characters and story, but that summer changed my life, and it’s affected every summer since. I might not like the heat and humidity, but I can never really dislike summer, not when it’s always so full of possibilities.



Please visit http://allthingsurbanfantasy.blogspot.com/ tomorrow for the final stop on Goddess Interrupted Blog Tour and Summer Goddess Giveaway.



GIVEAWAY!



Celebrate the release of The Goddess Interrupted with an incredible giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Wings of the Wicked (Angelfire #2) by Courtney Allison Moulton
January 31, 2012; HarperCollins / Katherine Tegen Books


Summary

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined. Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned. Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed. Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Second books are typically place holders. They clear up a few things from the first book, introduce a few new complications that will be resolved in the third book (often a competing love interest), and have somewhat of a plot. They generally disappoint. Wings of the Wicked is one of the few second books that outdid the first book in the series.

I was reluctant to read Wings of the Wicked at first. I enjoyed Angelfire, but there were numerous things that I disliked about it. All those elements were still present in Wings of the Wicked. I started out not enjoying the book all that much.

My problems with the book/series? First off, I don't like angels/demons. Ironically, they are the paranormal creature that I have the most difficult time believing in. Ms. Moulton has created an interesting set of demons in this series and I like the idea of a super-powerful Preliator who lives again and again to fight evil creatures. However, whenever these demonic reapers open their mouths, their words make me laugh rather than quake in fear - at them, not with them. Ellie's fighting dialogue is just as bad. It's much harder to take paranormal creatures seriously when you spend much of the book rolling your eyes at them.

I also think that Ellie is immature in many ways. She spends much of her free time hanging out with her friends and partying. Pretty typical teenager, but she does this at the expense of fight training of hunting for demonic reapers. Part of my applauds her for maintaining balance in her life. It shows that she has a strong sense of self unlike many girls involved in paranormal novels who throw their former lives away. But the other part of me sees her as naive and irresponsible. Damned if you do, damned if you don't I suppose.

Onto what I liked about the novel. The action is fantastic. If you ignore the dialogue, there are many great fight scenes. I love how Ellie is in the middle of all the fighting and the strongest, most powerful person around - far outstripping the boys. Girl power! The action is very well written. The sword and hand-to-hand combat is described in vivid detail and Ms. Moulton knows just how to structure a scene so that the suspense peaks at the perfect time. The book flows very well, mixing character development and action scenes. It allows you to quickly read a 500+ page novel, because the pages speed by.

As I expected, Wings of the Wicked takes care of several plot holes leftover from the first book. One in particular wasn't a big surprise, but how it was handled was shocking. That's what I liked most about this book. Ms. Moulton wasn't afraid to take the plot in directions that I never expected. She was ruthless with her characters. The book started out plodding along in typical second book fashion and then...BOOM! By the middle of the book, any skepticism about the second bookishness of Wings of the Wicked disappeared. Then I held on for a wild ride.

Will continues to be a kind, loyal leading man. He's a little boring at times. So serious and focused. But he did manage to forget himself often enough to bring about some fabulous, hot kissing scenes. Thankfully, we see a lot more of Nathaniel, who was my favorite character from the first book. He's so kind, smart, and funny. He was a great big brother type figure for Will and even Ellie. Cadan is a new character - a demonic reaper who is actually trying to help Ellie. Or is he? Ellie and the reader puzzle over his motives and whether he is being truthful. He is the bad-boy, sexy, dangerous types that I always fall for in paranormal novels. But fear not...there's not a love triangle per se. Mostly a charged partnership.

The Angelfire series is not perfect, but Wings of the Wicked made my attachment for the series grow. I'm still not the biggest fan of the characters or the paranormal element, but the plot is so fantastic that I definitely recommend it. If you like books that take you on a wild ride in directions you never expected, you must pick up Wings of the Wicked.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
September 13, 2011; Scholastic Inc.


Summary

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

It's not often that an author does something truly groundbreaking. Brian Selznick is rewriting the possibilities of children's literature. Picture books are no longer confined to the infant and preschool set. Illustrations do not simply support a story, they tell a story. Wonderstruck is a fabulous novel that illustrates just how far you can with words and illustrations.

Wonderstruck tells two seemingly unrelated stories. Ben's story begins in Minnesota in the 1970s. It is told through words. Rose's story starts out in New Jersey in the late 1920s. It is told entirely through photos. Ben is mourning the death of his mother and wants to learn more about his past, including his father, who he has never met. Rose is a deaf girl who longs for people and a world, that for various reasons have been closed off to her. Both characters set off on journeys to New York City to hopefully find what they think they're missing.

From an adult perspective, Ben and Rose's stories are quite melancholic. There is death, mistreatment by adults, frustrating friendships, and more. All this is framed around exciting adventures. I wonder if kids pick up on the sadness or if they mostly focus on the excitement of the characters' quests.

The book partially feels like an homage to The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. Selznick even credits the book at the end. Much of it is set at the Museum of Natural History which Ben explores extensively. The book also takes us to parts of New York City that the casual tourist is unlikely to find. I loved how Ben and Rose's stories eventually meshed up. I definitely did not expect the connection...although to be honest I hadn't spent much time pondering the possibilities. It makes a rather depressing book feel uplifting an hopeful. The only criticism I have of this book, other than being sad, is that it's a bit unrealistic. Not impossible that the various plot points could occur, but I highly doubt it. But I will gladly suspend belief for this book.

The illustrations are amazing. There are over 400 drawings. Each are made with such detail that I wanted to cut them out of the book and hang them on the wall. It's amazing how well they conveyed Rose's story. Not only that, but they reflected the characters' emotions as well or even better than words could have. I thought it was appropriate that Rose, who had no hearing, was the character whose life was featured in a richly detailed albeit silent world.

You must pick up Wonderstruck. It's a very quick read that packs a big emotional punch. A sweet story about discovering your roots, but most importantly discovering yourself.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, May 14, 2012

Manga Mondays (102): Skip Beat! vol. 4 by Yoshiki Nakamura

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 2 years 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.

Skip Beat! vol. 4 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Summary

Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he's casting her out now that he's famous! Kyoko won't suffer in silence--she's going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!

Kyoko helps the LME president's granddaughter heal from a childhood tragedy, and in return she should have earned a free ride through the LME training school. But the other students throw a fit, and now she still has to pay. In order to support the high cost of the program, Kyoko gets a job as a seat filler on a TV show. But when one of the characters gets sick, Kyoko has to fill in - in a chicken suit! To make matters worse, Sho is the guest star! Will Kyoko destroy her only chance of revenge?(courtesy of the back cover)

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.

It's finally happened. Skip Beat hooked me in. It took four volumes, but I am now firmly entrenched in the story and love Kyoko, Sho, and Ren.

I love that nothing ever turns out the way Kyoko intends it to, but it still ends up working out in Kyoko's favor. I love that Kyoko never loses her spirit - that is, her optimistic yet crazed vengeful spirit. She learns to rely more on herself in this volume and not on the superstitious symbols of good luck that she's counted on in the past. Ren helps her get past has superstitions, although in a way that infuriates her, as Ren has the habit of doing.

I finally am seeing the reason that Ren is a romantic figure. He's shown his good side at a few points in past volumes, but it comes out more clearly here. He is kind, sensitive, smart, and thoughtful. And Kyoko briefly realizes it. Then he goes back into his shell and once again becomes cold, hard Ren that brings out all of Kyoko's anger.

The scenes with Kyoko in the chicken suit made me laugh. She will do anything to ruin Sho's life. Yet it always backfires. Sho is starting to figure out that Kyoko isn't the sweet, meek spirit he thought she was. I'm curious to see how their relationship will develop from her.

Can't wait to read the next volume!

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #96

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 Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond

The Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond
May 1, 2012; Sourcebooks Fire

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

Summary

Is he or isn't he? Brigitta's best friend is convinced that Brigitta's new crush, Luke, is actually egotistical teen heartthrob Trent Yves, hiding from his fans in their tiny town. But Brigitta actually likes Luke, whereas Trent is an arrogant jerk. As the two spend the summer together raising orphaned cougar cubs, Brigitta still can't be sure of his true identity. But then again, since her grandparents' death, her father's sudden urge to give away all their possessions and become a shaman, and her own awkward transition from girlhood into a young woman, what can she be sure of?(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I expected The Summer of No Regrets to be a light, sweet romance. And it was. But there was more depth to it than I expected. Brigitta is caught between two worlds. She is the daughter of two hippie dippie parents, is homeschooled, and lives at the spiritual retreat her parents run. Yet she’s also a typical teenage girl who likes celebrity gossip, sulks over the loss of her sort-of boyfriend, and hangs out with her goofy friend. Enter Luke. The oft played theme of a mysterious new boy whose family buys the town mansion. Luke looks oddly like Trent Ives, the bad-boy teenage heartthrob movie star. Brigitta’s best friend is convinced. But then again, she thinks everyone from the patron at the cafe to the town janitor is a celebrity in hiding. Brigitta and Luke’s paths run into each other (literally) and they become fast friends.

I loved the charisma between Brigitta and Luke. Whether Luke is Trent or not, there is a lot about his life that is mysterious. Both he and Brigitta feel like outsiders from others their age. I loved how they connected over the cougar cubs they discovered. I liked their banter. It was casual and funny, but never so funny that it felt contrived. They were both deep thinkers about life, sadness, and art - each in their own way. I particularly liked that both Brigitta and Luke made mistakes. Luke was unreliable, somewhat moody, and had a tendency to disappear. Brigitta created a blog in which she mostly made fun of her best friend’s tendency to obsess over celebrities. I like seeing portrayals of fundamentally good people who are not 100% kindness.

The book delves into spirituality and death. Brigitta is mourning the recent death of her grandparents, with whom she was very close. In the wake of their deaths, her family has fallen apart. Her father is on a spiritual quest. In turn, Brigitta spends much of her time exploring different religions and schools of thought. It’s an odd subject for a YA novel, but I liked that the book ventured into fields that most books don’t touch. It’s funny that Brigitta and her family seem to look for every way of dealing with the aftermath of death other than acceptance.

Is Luke really Trent Ives or is he not? Until the end, I wasn’t sure. Brigitta doesn’t think he is. But then there are so many about Luke that are unknown. He looks a lot like Trent. He also knew a lot about movies and was in and out of town. But Trent Ives was always so arrogant in interviews, had massive PDA sessions with his celeb girlfriend, and was generally rude to everyone. Luke was nothing like that. The book does a great job of keeping everyone in doubt of Luke’s identity.

I did have a few issues with the book. Since I read an ARC, perhaps some will be resolved. Luke called his mother “mum,” but otherwise it didn’t mention whether he had an English accent - or if it did, it was buried. I also thought the book could have better explained why Brigitta and her family was so close to her grandparents when they lived halfway across the country. Brigitta also struck me as immature. She was 16 or 17, but I kept thinking she was only 14. She seemed young.

For the most part, The Summer of No Regrets is a delightful tale of self-discovery and of burgeoning romance. I recommend picking it up!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Death and YA Literature

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a, bed of roses
Sink me in the river, at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

"If I Die Young" by The Band Perry was playing on the radio as I was driving into work last year. When the song ended, the DJ (Minnesota's attempt at a shock jock - a happily married man with college-aged children trying to sound edgy) came on the air and commented that this was a terrible song. I was puzzled, because I thought it was quite catchy. He said it glorified dying young and that was a horrible message to send to teen listeners in particular. The more I thought about it, the more I thought he was right.

When you're a teen, dying somehow sounds romantic. Why else is the phrase "Live fast, die young" so iconic? Not that the innate fear of death or the desire to live is absent. But it seems so wonderfully dramatic. You fantasize about who would go to your funeral. How the boy you've been crushing on for years will break down and confess that he always liked you but never had the courage to say anything. Your friends will be devastated and will sob dramatically. Your enemies will be overcome with remorse.

Most teens ignore the reality of death - or at least gloss over the most significant aspects. There's the part about being dead, of course, which would be lousy for many different reasons. I don't think most teenagers comprehend the complete devastation their families would experience if they died. Realistically, a teenage boyfriend will not spend a life of celibacy mourning your loss. Your friends will grieve, but they will grow up, meet new people, and have different experiences. You will fall back into the recesses of their mind, recalled only occasionally with a twinge of sadness. But your parents and siblings will never recover. Will never be the same. There's nothing romantic about the death of a child or a sibling.

Death is one of the most prevalent topics in YA literature. To be fair, it is an ever-present topic in all genres of literature, both modern and ancient. We need look no further than Romeo and Juliet to see a tale lauding the beauty of dying for young love.

In the modern YA realm, far too many novels romanticize death, but a surprising amount also realistically describe the devastation of a teen's death. In a sweeping over-generalization, the romanticizing books can be broken down into two categories: (1) Fatal disease and (2) Self-sacrificing.

Sentimental Treatment of Death

Fatal Disease

The best representation of the fatal disease category is Lurlene McDaniel, but many other authors have written similar books. How I lapped those books up as a teen! These characters had cancer, diabetes, heart defects, AIDs, and plenty of other problems, but they all had such drama filled lives. Even when they were suffering and dying, the pain seemed uplifting and hopeful. And there was always a handsome, sensitive boy involved. It made me lament that my body was so stubbornly healthy.

Self-Sacrificing

The self-sacrificing category sends a much more troubling message. I'm not talking about teens who risk their lives to save the good of mankind or stories about people taking incredible risks during wartime. I'm talking more about teenage girl characters who are willing to die to save their boyfriends. As a fantasy, throwing yourself on a pyre for love is laudable and certainly makes for an enticing story. But few of these books focus on the harsh realities that the departed heroine would leave behind.

Let's consider Twilight, for example. Bella does all sorts of stupid, dangerous things over the course of the series, including being willing to sacrifice herself to save Edward (and also her mother). She rarely thinks about the effect her death would have on Charlie or her mother (other than the time she's thinks she's saving her mother). It's all about helping the love of her life. Similarly, in the Iron Fey series, Meghan disappears into the Never Never. Granted, she is going in there to save her little brother, which is admirable. But the series focuses barely touches on the horror her mother and stepfather must have felt at her absence.

Realistic Discussion of Death

In some cases, YA novels deal with the aftermath of death quite well. Generally, these are books where a sibling has died (or a parent). One of the best examples I can think of is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Ms. Nelson's skillful prose portrays a forever changed family after the death of Lennie's sister Bailey. If I Stay by Gayle Forman is another heartbreaking book. We feel the horror and grief of Mia's potential death and the loss of her parents and little brother. I haven't read Where She Went yet, but I imagine it also deals with the hard reality well. Another book that I presume is a realistic portrayal of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher which I have not read.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is getting a lot of attention lately. Everyone, including me, loves it (my review). In some ways, it glorifies cancer through Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac's frequent gallows humor that makes cancer and death seem funny. But by the time you finish the book, you won't think cancer or death is "cool" at all. Unlike most books, the characters' physical and mental pain is never sugarcoated. It strips away your dignity, your hopes, your simple pleasures. Mr. Green also painted a visceral portrait of how the characters' illnesses impacted their families. What happens when "you're not a mother anymore?" When you see your friends die? The readers' hearts are torn apart in this book. You wouldn't wish this life on your worst enemy.

The treatment of death as a theme in YA novels is mixed. While I dislike an unrealistically romantic view of death as a message, I would never advocate censoring novels or even discouraging a teen from reading such a book. These books are a wonderful opportunity to broker a discussion about what death really means and how grief will effect one's life. It would be a fascinating topic for a book club or English class - to read one book portraying death sentimentally and one showcasing its aftermath.

How do you think the YA genre generally handles death?

What books over-sentimentalize death? What books portray death realistically?/

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
January 10, 2012; Dutton Books


Summary

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.(courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I was skeptical about picking up The Fault In Our Stars. Everyone - and I mean everyone - raved about this book. I can't remember the last time I saw so many people drooling over one book (even more than Stephanie Perkins' books). It couldn't really be that great could it? My skepticism continued as I read  The Fault In Our Stars . It was good, but I didn't see why everyone was declaring it to be the greatest thing since the discovery of chocolate. Fast forward to a day or two after I finished the book. A line from the book popped into my head that I liked. Then another one. Then an entire scene. Soon, I was reminiscing with great fondness and sadness at the glory of every word in this book. John Green's spell took awhile to catch on, but within a week after finishing  The Fault In Our Stars, I had fallen for the book hook, line, and sinker.

In some senses, there's nothing overly special about  The Fault In Our Stars. It deals with cancer, along with 10 million other YA books. People die, as they do in practically every YA book. You don't know how the plot will unfold at the beginning of the book, but it's not hugely surprising. And while it is poignant and sad, it did not actually make me cry (shocking, since I cry at toilet paper commercials).

In more lasting ways, it is an incredible book. Every page has lines that are quotable. You need to read the book with a pen ready to underline (unless, like me, you are reading a library copy). A "character" in  The Fault In Our Stars is a book called "An Imperial Affliction," a book about a girl with cancer that Hazel and Augustus are obsessed with. They quote it all the time and go to huge lengths to find out more about it. John Green wrote a book like the made-up "An Imperial Affliction", one that is mean to be thought about over and over. Most plot heavy books where I eagerly turn the pages to find out who the villain is or if the hero will survive are done when I read the final page. I know the ending so I don't care to look back at it. A thoughtful book like  The Fault In Our Stars is just beginning at the last page. I could read  The Fault In Our Stars 300 times and still see something new. It is that kind of book.

Hazel and Augustus are inherently likable characters. I especially adore Augustus. He is hilarious, thoughtful, daring, and arrogant in a very attractive way. Hazel is a bit harder to pin down personality-wise. She is also smart and thoughtful and easily holds up on her side of Augustus's banter. She is stubborn, dour, yet passionate. She is a good daughter. Isaac is another star. He is your stereotypical sex-crazed teenage boy who turns everything into a double entendre. Hazel's parents are significant characters in this novel. I loved their inclusion. Hazel is closer to them than most teenagers, partly because she is stuck at home but largely because both Hazel and her parents realize that time is limited and every day together could be their last. It puts things into perspective.

Would you find teens in real life who talk like Hazel and Augustus? Probably not. They spend large amounts of time pondering the meaning of life and discussing philosophy. Every word that comes out of their mouth sounds like it was carefully scripted by someone smarter than me. But I don't really care. When you're reading it, it feels real. The emotions feel real. As a reader, you ponder and grow with every page. Hazel and Augustus's overly wise musings worm their way into your heart.

Many scenes in  The Fault In Our Stars are permanently etched into my mind. A few (non-spoilery) scenes that I enjoyed most are (1) the trophy toss; (2) car egging; (3) Anne Frank; (4) car outside the gas station. Some of these scenes are funny, some of passionate, some are heartbreakingly sad. All are beautiful.

The Fault In Our Stars is an exceptional book. It's not the kind of novel you read to have a good time, although there are plenty of places where you'll laugh. It's a book you read to fall in love, to learn, and to grow.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, May 7, 2012

Manga Mondays (101): Old Friend Manga Series

New Manga Mondays Meme!

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 2 years ago. It started out as a personal feature, but I've turned it into a meme in the past few months. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim that I own 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.

Old Friend Manga Series: Becoming Attached to New Series


I was planning on posting my review of Skip Beat volume 4 today. I finished it Sunday morning. When I finished Volume 4, I immediately wanted to start Volume 5. This was the first volume of the series where I felt so into the plot, that I was overcome with excitement to read the next volume.

This led me to think about the adjustment time to other manga series. Most series have taken three or four volumes for me to get into. There have been a few that I loved right away and some that I knew from the first volume that I didn't want to continue, but mostly I form slow attachments to manga series.

Getting into a good manga series feels like getting into a friendship. When you first meet a friend, you enjoy spending time with her, but it's often work developing a relationship. Sure, there are those with whom you form such strong, immediate attachments that you're dishing out life-long secrets within an hour. But mostly, a new friendship takes time. Going out to lunch with a new friend doesn't have the same, comfortable feeling as meeting up with an old buddy. At some point, your "new" friend becomes an "old" friend. There's no invisible barrier between you, neither of you feel the need to maintain a face. Your relationship is easy, happy, and fun.

Volume 4 of Skip Beat was when the series turned into an old friend. I feel comfortable with the characters, the plot, the artwork, and the writing style. It no longer feels like work reading the series. Starting Volume 5 feels like meeting up with a long-time pal to chat.

I have more trouble getting into manga series than I do books. Usually I can tell within the first 50 pages of a book whether I'll enjoy it. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 volumes of a manga series to decide whether I'll like it. Why the difference? There are several reasons, I think.

First is the cultural difference. I know more about Japanese customs and culture than many people, since I've been there and my husband lived there for several years. But the Japanese are, in many subtle and not so subtle ways, very different from Americans. The ways they interact can be jarring. As can references to things like popular TV shows, Buddhist sayings, traditional proverbs. Side references to these things make total sense to the Japanese, but are confusing to an American. I've also found that Japanese characters often start out more closed than American characters. It's like they're shy or mistrusting of a reader until they know the reader is going to stick around. Finally, each other has her own style of drawing and of writing. Some series are dialogue heavy and some rely more on the drawings to convey emotion and plot. Sometimes the characters and names look or sound very alike and it's easy to get confused. Just like with any new friend, once you get used to their way of talking or their sense of style, it becomes more pleasant to spend time with them.

Have any of you noticed a similarly slow adjustment to manga series? Do you agree with my developing friendship analogy? Do any other comparisons come to your mind?

Sign up for the Manga Mondays Meme!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bookish Recap

On the Blog This Week


Manga Mondays:


Reviews:



Read Outside the Box!:

GIVEAWAY!!!!:

Books I Read This Week

-After last week's busy week, I've had a light reading week this time.


Delirium by Lauren Oliver

-I can't believe it's taken me this long to read Lauren's popular novel. I thought it was pretty good, but have some major complaints as well. I'll expound upon this in my review.



The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

-Reading this for Book Club. Actually, it's going to be a DNF. I'm halfway through and can't stand to read any more. Too boring.

Books Received This Week


Books for Review



Until I Die by Amy Plum

-Thanks to Edelweiss!!! I have to read it before it expires on Tuesday.



Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

-Thanks to Simon & Schuster. For an upcoming blog tour.

Library Stash


Belles by Jen Calonita

-Haven't started this yet, but I love Jen's books so I'm excited.

CD Stash



My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men

-An Icelandic group (sings in English). If you like Mumford & Sons or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros...

-Check out my favorite song "Little Talks" (although the video is really strange).





"Love Interruption" by Jack White (single from his new album Blunderbuss)

-I've never been a huge Jack White fan, but I am obsessed with his new single. The lyrics are extremely dark, but make you think. And the sound is captivating.

 
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