February 28, 2011

Manga Mondays: XXXHolic

"XXXHolic" Vol. 1
by CLAMP, William Flanagan, Anthony Gerard, Dana Hayward


Pages: 208
Pub. Date: April 27th, 2004
Publisher: Del Rey

Synopsis: Watanuki Kimihiro is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. Seemingly by chance, he encounters a mysterious witch named Yuuko, who claims she can help. In desperation, he accepts, but realizes that he’s just been tricked into working for Yuuko in order to pay off the cost of her services. Soon he’s employed in her little shop—a job which turns out to be nothing like his previous work experience!

Most of Yuuko’s customers live in Japan, but Yuuko and Watanuki are about to have some unusual visitors named Sakura and Syaoran from a land called Clow. . .

This manga was really awesome.  XXXHolic combines a witch, philosophy, a medium, some annoying children, and a bit of romance to create a fascinating storyline.  Yuuko is really interesting because she is seemingly trying to help people by fulfilling wishes, but her methods seem pretty depraved.  She is a complete seductress, I picture her having a husky voice, and everything from the artwork to the dialogue creates her vibrant character.  Even though Yuuko works Watanuki like a slave, it is pretty funny to see the chores she makes him complete.  It should be annoying that there are two kids mocking Watanuki throughout the manga, but it makes it even more amusing.  Watanuki is just one of those characters you can’t help but love seeing him suffer, even though you want good things for him!

I love the situations that Watanuki finds himself in.  I like the idea that people are pulled around life by a force they can’t describe or even begin to comprehend.  Yuuko spouts all these really interesting philosophies and some seem to even conflict with one another, but it is still really interesting.  I found myself stopping and thinking about what she was saying a couple of times while I was reading, but then I wanted to find out where the philosophy would take them next! 

This manga is very fast paces and I read it in one sitting.  I think it only took me an hour and a half to read it.  I like the fact that it is a crossover by having Sakura and Syaoran crash the story.  I used to watch Cardcaptor Sakura when I was a kid, so I was excited she made an entrance.  I have already started “Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles” to see how the stories intersect!  I definitely recommend this manga to people who enjoy the kooky aspect of manga and people who have a bit of cynicism. 

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February 27, 2011

On My Chair: February 27th 2011

Here are the books I am currently reading, books I have bought, borrowed or have been sent to me, and books I am planning on starting this week (this post was inspired by The Story Siren's In My Mailbox).  I have a bunch of books that I bought this week!  I love sales!

I would like to apologize to Julie Kagawa for pretty much butchering her name...  I am pretty sure it came out as mucked up word vomit.  He books are amazing, so check out "The Iron Fey" series!

To everyone else, feel free to post links to your equivalent post!

Review of "Candor"

Pam Bachorz


Pub Date: September 22, 2009
Pages: 256
Publisher: Egmont USA

Synopsis: The picture-perfect new town of Candor, Florida, is attracting more and more new families, drawn by its postcard-like small-town feel, with white picket fences, spanking-new but old-fashioned-looking homes, and neighborliness.

But the parents are drawn by something else as well.  They know that in Candor their obstreperous teenagers will somehow become rewired - they'll learn to respect their elders, to do their chores, and enjoy their homework.  They'll give up the tattoos, metal music, and partying that have been driving their parents crazy.  They'll become every parent's dream.

I LOVED "Candor"!  This may sound crazy, but the plot seemed completely plausible to me- parents sick of their teenagers misbehaving and bringing them to a community where they will become perfect citizens.  It just seems like there is so much stress on children to be perfect from a young age and it seems like some parents would do anything/ pay anything to make their children perfect.  A community promising to turn your troubled teen into someone who is polite, who enjoys to do homework, that seems too good for many parents to pass up.  It was really creepy to see how fast teens' attitudes changed once the messages sunk in and how no one seemed to notice how everyone was the same.  It would drive me nuts being in a community where everyone had the same scripted reaction to any question or situation.

I really enjoyed Oscar and Nia's characters; even though there were times where I wanted to shake Nia for not being more aware of the danger she was putting herself in and slap Oscar for being kind of a dick.  Oscar is the main character of the book, but he isn't exactly the white knight you expect; he takes advantage of the people he is trying to help, especially the beautiful girls, but he does put his life on the line to help Nia even though she will bring him trouble.  Nia is a very vibrant character- she may do stupid things, but I really enjoy waiting to see what crazy thing she’ll do next.

I feel like "Candor" packs a lot of punch in an average length book.  There are so many teen books now that are over 400 pages, that it is nice to see an author choose to say a lot without over writing.  I also like that the book only takes place in a matter of a few weeks, making the changes you see in the characters even more shocking.  I also really loved the ending of the book, it wasn't the typical ending I would normally expect from a dystopian fiction, but I didn't mind it one bit.  I couldn't really picture the book ending in another way.

This is a book that both boys and girl would pick up and enjoy.  The main character is male, but the two main female characters are interesting enough for girls.  I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed "The Hunger Games" and "Matched". I can't believe it took me so long to pick up this book, but I am glad I kept it on my list!

Amazon.com BN.com

February 18, 2011

Review of "Eighth Grade Bites" by Heather Brewer

"Eighth Grade Bites"
Heather Brewer

Pub. Date: August 16, 2007
Pages: 182
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books

Synopsis: Junior high really stinks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has a secret: His mother was human, but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers and no one to teach him, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a strange substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he realizes he has a much bigger problem: He’s being hunted by a vampire killer who is closing in . . . fast!

I have to say that I was shocked how much I ended up loving this book.  I have been staring at this book for years and always played with the idea of reading it, but it took me finding the book available on CD to finally give it a chance.  I love Vlad's character; he is kind of a dork but brave at the same time.  He just seemed very believable.  He did some brave things, but was scared and cried when he got upset.  It was nice to see a male character that could show real emotions.  Another good touch was that he wasn't the typical gorgeous vampire that girls and women drool over.  I like that Vlad was kind of a misfit; it made him more relatable.

Even though the story seems fairly typical- teenage vampire, or half vampire in Vlad's case, trying to find a way to blend in with the rest of the junior high student body.  He deals with the same problems that many teens deal with, but he also has to worry about people discovering that he is part vampire.  I like how cleaver Heather Brewer was with solving the problem of Vlad eating during school- she could have gone the whole Vlad not eating route, but that would definitely raise suspicions at any high school.  If people gossip about what clothing people wear, then I think it would be hard for them to ignore the fact that a teenage boy NEVER ate!  I also like how the story wasn't just about Vlad trying to fit in with other students, even though that was a sub plot, but it was also about the death of his family and trying to figure out who is trying to kill him.  It added more drama to the story making it have more appeal for readers.

Brewer did a great job introducing the characters and setting up a plot that can continue on through the rest of the series.  Even though some mysteries were solved, there are a lot more questions to be answered leaving me craving for more.  I will definitely be continuing with this series.  I recommend "Eighth Grade Bites" to anyone who enjoys vampire books, especially for people who don't want something that focuses on romance.

Amazon.com BN.com

February 7, 2011

Manga Mondays: Fairy Tail Volume 1

Fairy Tail Volume 1
Hiro Mashima


Pub. Date: March 25th 2008
Pages: 208
Publisher: Del Rey

Cute girl wizard Lucy wants to join the Fairy Tail, a club for the most powerful wizards. But instead, her ambitions land her in the clutches of a gang of unsavory pirates led by a devious magician. Her only hope is Natsu, a strange boy she happens to meet on her travels. Natsu’s not your typical hero–he gets motion sickness, eats like a pig, and his best friend is a talking cat. With friends like this, is Lucy better off with her enemies?

"Fairy Tail" was recommended to me by one of my friends and I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I am happy to report that it was pretty great!  It was a very entertaining mixing comedy with adventure.  I liked the mystery of Fairy Tail and how it seemed like this very posh guild for wizards, but it turns out to be the exact opposite of what I expected- kind of like Natsu.  It is really funny to see the different sides of his character; one minute he is really funny and a bit of a pig, and the next he is a total bad ass.  Natsu's character is complex and it adds some depth to the story.  Lucy is a fun character because she is pretty shy, but she doesn't run screaming from fights.  I really enjoyed learning about Fairy Tail and other wizards with her.  Happy, the talking cat is priceless and I couldn't help but adore him. 

The artwork was perfect for the tone of the manga.  It was a good balance between goofy and violent depending on the scene.  The characters' expressions were fantastic and added to the humor.  Lucy did have the stereotypical ginormous breasts that all graphic novel females seem to possess, but I liked her character too much to let this annoy me too much.

I definitely would recommend this manga.  It was fun to read, fast paced, and kind of kooky- just like good manga should be!  I think this series would appeal to males and females.  The story line is full of action and some of the characters are kind of rough, but Lucy is a great female character that will charm any reader.  I'd say more about "Fairy Tail", but it would get kind of repetitive.  Just read it!

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February 6, 2011

I'm Reading a Book Video

I saw this on Jess's (The Cozy Reader) blog and I just had to share!

February 5, 2011

Review: "Before I Fall"

"Before I Fall"
Lauren Oliver


Pub. Date: March 2nd, 2010
Pages: 470
Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis: Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance.
Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death-and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

I've had the ARC of "Before I Fall" sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I am so happy I finally took the time to read it. Even though the book is pretty hefty, it is amazing how fast the story progresses. I read hundreds of pages at a time and had no problem staying up super late reading this book multiple nights in a row.  It was worth being tired at work to get the book finished!

Samantha Kingston is a character that grows on you. I didn't hate her at the beginning of the book, but I didn't necessarily think she was a good person. She was your typical popular girl who rags on others to look cool to her friends, but that doesn’t mean that she thinks what she is doing is right. I actually found it fascinating to see how she justified her actions and those of her friends; I hate to say it, but a lot of her commentary about bullying made sense and were probably spot-on. It was interesting to see how she developed throughout the story, but even with the changes, I still didn't see her final action coming.

Even though it may sound very repetitive having to read the same day seven times, Lauren Oliver skipped over any parts of the day that were not unnecessary to the plot, making each day feel completely different.  I like how Sam spent her days with different people, she made some of the same mistakes multiple times, but it didn't take long for her to change her usual habits.  Some of the people Sam chose to spend her final days with were pretty unexpected.

Not only is this book highly entertaining, but it is also a great commentary on the effect of bullying.  Bullying seems to be in the news all the time and I’m sure a lot of teenagers maybe sick of hearing about it, but it is horrifying to see new ways in which students torment each other, even documenting these acts as proof of their horrible conquests to brag about later.  This may be a problem that will never be solved, but it is nice to see that not everyone is ignoring it.  I can see this book being a great book club selection. I think I might have to start one on my library’s Facebook page! 

Buy from Amazon.com Buy From BN.com

February 1, 2011

Review "The Mockingbirds" by Daisy Whitney

"The Mockingbirds"
by Daisy Whitney


Pub. Date: Nov. 2nd 2010
Pages: 332
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way—the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds—a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone—especially yourself—you fight for it.

I really loved reading this book. I liked Alex as a narrator and think that Daisy Whitney did a great job portraying how your memory after a blackout slowly pieces back together after days. I'd only imagine that if you were trying to block out an event, like a rape, it would take you even longer to recall the events of the night. I like how little triggers slowly unraveled more and more of the story. I really felt for Alex as a character because she had to see her rapist almost everyday. She had a class with him and if that weren't bad enough, he actually tried to make contact with her. Alex may not seem like the strongest character, but when you really think about the inner turmoil she went through every day and think about the fact that she chose not to leave the school, you realize that she is pretty tough. I don't know if I could have gone through what she went through. If her character wasn't interesting enough, there are some amazing supporting characters.

The magic in this book for me was not any of the individual characters, but The Mockingbirds- the secret organization that was built to bring justice to the wronged of Themis Academy. I really loved seeing how the group functioned and the power they had over the lives of the students. They didn't abuse this power, but used it so that students they were accusing took them seriously. I give props to Whitney for not going over the top with the wrath of The Mockingbirds. She kept The Mockingbirds's antics realistic making the story believable. I bet it was pretty hard not to go over the top making them into some kind of A-Team or Justice League whose purpose was to protect the Themis student body no matter what the cost.

Part of the reason I think I enjoyed this book so much is that I know people in college who had similar experiences and found the administration to be unhelpful, to say the least, so I loved reading about a group that helped students when the administration failed to take notice. I know that date rape is taken seriously at many schools, but some administrations would rather shame girls into retracting charges then having to report accurate statistics of rapes happening on their campuses. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox.

"The Mockingbirds" is a wonderful story with great characters and an interesting plot. It portrays the shocking truth how great schools can turn a blind eye to the suffering of students to protect the administrations best interests. I would definitely recommend this book, but I would warn that it does deal with disturbing topics. Even though the book could be more in your face, the reader does get a fairly graphic description of the rape. It wasn't violent, but it is still hard to read.

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Teaser Tuesday Feb 1st 2011

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"The Truth About Forever"
by Sarah Dessen

"After I scanned the first two lines, though, it was clear that my self-esteem and general emotional well-being were, to Jason anyway, secondary. After your last email, he wrote, I'm concerned that you're not putting your full attention into the job." (Page 47)