Saturday, May 28, 2011

MAOH: Juvenile Remix: Volume 3

by Kotaro Isaka (original story) and Megumi Osuga (story and art), 186 pages

Ando is still reeling from interfering in Inukai's latest attempt to turn public opinion against a new commercial district's construction when the young man himself seeks Ando out for a face-to-face chat. Strangely, Inukai doesn't seem angry at being foiled. Instead, he's intrigued, almost excited. He sees Ando's countering his intentions as a referendum from fate. If in the end Ando succeeds in stopping him, Inukai will be proven wrong. If the boy doesn't, then everything Inukai has believed and done and fought for will be justified.

Unnerved and uncertain of his next move, Ando encounters further complications with the introduction of a new student at school. Friendly, easy-going Anderson doesn't have to manipulate anybody, including Ando, into liking him--which wouldn't be such a problem if he weren't the son of the heartless, greedy CEO of the Anderson Company, the force behind the huge, local-business-killing commercial project and the object of all of Inukai's hatred.

Meanwhile, another assassin is loose on the streets, only this one is targeting Inukai's Grasshopper foot soldiers...and anyone else unlucky enough to see her face.

Aw, Anderson's sweet and starts up an immediate friendship with Ando ("Anderson" and "Ando-san"--the American boy thinks this is hilariously clever). How did such a creep raise such a nice kid? Another study in contrasts, the new assassin is both hokier (with her gothic Lolita frills and affected speech) and scarier than her predecessor. And Inukai's accomplice, while perhaps saner, doesn't seem to share his partner's interest in cosmic approval. Is that good or bad? By the end of the volume, even Ando is still having a hard time deciding whether Inukai is a "majestic god" or a "demonic tyrant: a maoh."

So far, so good. It's a little over the top sometimes, and still a bit fogged from overly much grey, but I'm enjoying this series as it keeps the reader from forming cemented opinions about who's good and who's evil.

MAOH: Juvenile Remix: Volume 2

by Kotaro Isaka (original story) and Megumi Osuga (story and art), 189 pages

After a near-miss amusement park accident, Ando knows he's been sent a warning. But by whom? And against what? He has little time to contemplate the answers before becoming the target of not so much another warning as a hired hit.

Accustomed to dispatching syndicate bosses and henchmen with no questions asked, Semi is deadly efficient with a knife and aims to take care of Ando and get on to the next job. But even he has to wonder why someone would want to take out such a useless nobody.

Backed into a corner, defenseless Ando falls back on the first thing to pop in his head.

"What would MacGyver do?!"

Ha ha ha! Seriously, Ando goes into "Think!" mode just like his hero, the master of making do in a pinch with what's at hand. And he doesn't do too shabbily, either. He even works in a Gamera reference (that's the giant, spinning, flying turtle from Japanese monster movies). But it will take more than pop cultural references and clever use of his ventriloquism skill to get the persistent Semi off his case; for having now seen that his victim isn't so useless as he'd suspected, the curious assassin is all the more interested in his target...and in his unknown client's motives.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 28

by CLAMP, 276 pages

The journey is over. Only it isn't.

Fei-Wang vanquished. Stopped clocks restarted. The circle complete. And a new dream, a new journey, and an unknown, hope-fueled future embarked upon.


I don't even know where to start trying to explain this "concluding" volume or my reaction to it, so let's just say that I am already nostalgic for it, hoping for revealing after-story snippets (or wholesale continuations) in future CLAMP tales, but also content to envision said snippets (or wholesale continuations) for myself. The understanding and in-jokes and unbreakable ties that come to link these characters together over their shared experiences have sneakily worked their magic on me, too (reading an involving, quality story over the course of a long period of time will do that to a person). After an initial agitated once-through, I re-read this volume at a more relaxed pace in order to pay more attention to the mechanics and logic and connecting details, and realized that I'd caught it all the first time, I'd just been so caught up in it that I couldn't process it until later. This time I felt comforted, laughed to myself, and cuddled my borrowed book (I do that sometimes, cuddling good books, even if they're not mine--shhh, don't tell anybody) and tried to will my next ILLed volume of XxxHolic to come in magically quickly so I can again submerge myself in that crossover world and see how the other half of the story continues to unfold. Reading the rest of that series will put off parting with it all that much longer, although even after I (reluctantly) give the books back the story and the characters will stick with me, to be revisited again and again whenever I need them. Besides, if get desperate, I can just re-request them, no? :)


13th Boy: Volume 6

by SangEun Lee, 183 pages

Hee-So goes about trying to make the most of her new, happy, boyfriend-enabled life, but Sae-Bom's finally figured out a few things about herself and, taking Toe-Toe's advice, starts to go after what she wants. Meanwhile, Won-Jun is growing emotionally and getting confused by Sae-Bom's finally doing the same. And Beatrice (in cactus form) seeks out his Master, Whie-Young, for a heart-to-heart about the apparently unattainable girl they both like.

A cactus and his creator are love rivals! And a dearly departed stuffed bunny's last words encourage his person to action! Hearts and friendship and, in at least one instance, lives are on the line as everybody learns to grow up and look more closely at themselves and one another.

XxxHolic: Volume 14

by CLAMP, 184 pages

Watanuki starts teaching Kohane how to cook and, under orders from Yûko, takes on a shop customer as a student, as well. Both are naturals in the kitchen, but the smiling older woman seems a little empty and detached from what her hands are creating. As Watanuki keeps moving forward for his own sake, he determines to try to help her do the he does for all those around him.

Yay, Watanuki is on the front cover for the first time since Volume 1! (He's usually on the back.) That must mean things are getting Serious. :) I love how the subtle little changes in relationships and outlooks have been building all this time. It's not till someone on the outside asks about it that the reader realizes just how far everyone has come since the beginning of the story. Mmm mmm good.

Maid Sama!: Volume 8

by Hiro Fujiwara, 192 pages

Student Council elections are coming up and Misaki takes them more seriously than one might expect, even going so far as to encourage her competition. She doesn't want to lose, but she wants the students to care enough to get involved, even if that means letting them conscript a first-year shrinking violet to be her rival.

At heart, Misaki is a protector, even of the oh-so-teenaged schoolboys she's determined to whip into shape--not that they see it that way, of course (they do call her the Demon President, after all). She makes them leave their porn at home, keep the locker room clean, and behave in the halls--what kind of monster is she?! Poor Kanou, hoody-shrouded recovering misogynist that he is, would rather just watch the world from the sidelines, but he can't say "no thank you" loud enough for his fired-up supporters to notice. Surprised but thrilled by their exuberance, Misaki accepts the challenge.

And speaking of challenges, Usui and Hinata seem to be taking one another pretty seriously, too. They actually bark at each other. Hee! When they face off, the others have to blink back visions of them as a fluffy shiba inu (Hinata) and a toned Doberman (Usui). The former's earnestness demands sympathy--how can you not like such a sweet thing? But even Dobermans can make puppy dog eyes that tug at your heartstrings.

Last but not least, another challenge gives the Idiot Trio (a formerly delinquent threesome who stumbled upon Misaki's secret and are now her most loyal maid café fanboys) the chance to finally get some love and respect from the author, who for once condescends to draw them realistically instead of in their perpetual chibi (super cutesy abstract) forms and gives them a sweet story of tough-boy bonding. She still makes fun of them--otherwise they wouldn't be the Idiot Trio--but she does so with affection. How much you wanna bet there'll be shouts of vindication from the character sidebars in the next volume? :P

Maid Sama!: Volume 7

by Hiro Fujiwara, 189 pages

Misaki Ayuzawa has her hands full as class president at her formerly all-boys high school, where she has been forging order from chaos and looking out for the interests of the female minority. To keep the boys in line and maintain her authority, she has developed a bullet-proof reputation as a no-nonsense, hardworking enforcer who holds herself to the same sometimes draconian standards she demands of others. She's all work and no play and even has a part-time job to help make ends meet at home. But Misaki worries that if anyone at school finds out she works at a maid café, they'll no longer take her seriously and everything will slide back downhill, so she spends what little energy she has leftover trying to keep her secret. When classmate Takumi Usui stumbles on the truth, he agrees to hold his tongue, but only so he can sit back and watch the show as she scrambles to keep it all together.

Or so he says. For someone who claims to be a disinterested party, Usui has become awfully involved in Misaki's life and surprisingly confrontational with her newly surfaced childhood friend Hinata, who has openly professed his love for her. Misaki can't figure out why Usui hangs around her all the time or why she hasn't made too great an effort to make the "perverted space alien" go away. But when the two inadvertently get sucked into a "love trial" at a local school festival, they may finally get some answers.

Maid Sama! is fun and Misaki is a great female lead. She's strong, smart, proactive (well, in all areas but one) and cares about other people. She's no damsel in distress (she once beat up her own assailant), but neither is she an indestructible superhero. When she does need Usui, it usually isn't how a princess needs a knight in shining armor, it's how a person needs another person. And for all his professed detachment, he seems to need her the same way. In fact, the more he draws Misaki out, the more the reader realizes Usui's been holding back and that neither she nor Misaki knows much of anything about him. The discrepancy hints at drama in the future.

This series sports snappy, thoughtful dialogue, pleasant visuals, engaging characters, silliness tempered with a wee touch of sincere drama, and a story with a little something for everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

InuYasha: Volume 56

by Rumiko Takahashi, 206 pages

The battle appears to be over, but the final card is still in play. The Shikon jewel is determined to cling to life and wreak chaos once again, but the future (and, technically, the past) rests on Kagome's shoulders. The well that connects her time to InuYasha's has vanished and, for a little while, she is in neither. What choice will she ultimately make? And will she be strong enough to see it through?

All done! My one grumble here in this final volume is that, after Kagome makes her climactic wish, the author pulls one of those "three years later..." deals and doesn't let you see the big emotional events in the interim. Other than that, though, I'm mostly satisfied with the way things turn out, which is good, considering how much time I've invested in getting there. After 56 volumes, I can finally say I've read the whole thing--woohoo! It was fun and I'm glad I stuck with it. Now I just have to get around to watching the rest of the animé series and movies. But no rush. :P

MAOH: Juvenile Remix: Volume 1

by Kotaro Isaka (original story) and Megumi Osuga (story and art), 196 pages

11th-grader Ando is an incredible ventriloquist. But the vehicles for his thrown voice aren't wooden puppets. Ever since he was little, he has suspected that he's not quite normal, but even he's surprised when one day he speaks up for the timid victim of a groper on the train--through her own lips. For the first time, Ando's rather proud of his weirdness, having used it in pursuit of justice; yet he worries that making a habit of such interference would be dangerous and border on manipulation of other people's free will. He'd been inspired to help by the words of another young man, Inukai, the charismatic leader of a growing community action and peacekeeping organization called The Grasshoppers. But the more Ando learns of Inukai, the more he suspects him of vigilantism and abuse of a manipulative power even greater than his own.

This manga adaptation of a psychological mystery novel plays on the notions of self-determination and of citizen action and where exactly one draws the line between combating crime and committing it. And that's not always an easy distinction to make. On the surface, Inukai's words of empowerment really do make a positive difference, as does the intervention of his group members when it comes to keeping the neighborhood streets safe. But he doesn't leave it at that. His recruitment methods are questionable, at best, and his persuasive words motivate his adherents to do far more than just pick up litter or make citizens' arrests. He's a dangerous dreamer because he knows how to mix truth in with something else all together until the two are indistinguishable. If Ando is going to involve himself any further without losing his own ability to judge right from wrong, he'll have to keep his wits about him.

Visually, Inukai's permanently dark lips (is that black lipstick or are they naturally blood red?) and silvery locks give him a convincing creepy factor while Ando's (and his little brother Junya's) perpetual bed-head lends him an air of unpolished, innocent energy. The art here can go a little heavy on the use of mid-range grey screentone, limiting the contrast, but I suppose one could make the argument that that's just another indicator of the moral grey area through which Ando finds himself navigating...? *makes doubtful face* Art aside, we'll see if future volumes maintain as strong a sense of moral ambiguity as this one, as I think it would lose something if the story's tone resolves too cleanly into easy black and white.

X/1999: Volume 7: Rhapsody

by CLAMP, 184 pages

The traumatic revelation of the previous volume leaves Kotori's mind unhinged as she retreats inward and communes through dreams with another seer. What she learns there isn't exactly comforting. Meanwhile, in the waking world, the first of the Dragons of the Earth has made his move and triggered a major earthquake, drawing the attention of his dogged pursuer.

Poor Kotori, going all Danish prince with her soliloquizing while cradling a freshly detached head (!). And poor confused Kamui, trying to help her and keep up with Fuma's spontaneously presenting identity disorder at the same time. Will Subaru, hot on Seishiro's trail, be able to take things down a notch?

X/1999: Volume 6: Duet

by CLAMP, 182 pages

While talking beneath a blooming cherry tree, Kamui and Kotori are suddenly attacked by a smooth-talking, powerful stranger. If not for the last-minute intervention of Fuma, the two would most likely be dead. Kamui is understandably grateful, and he ponders their childhood promises and present circumstances as the three return home to recuperate. But they'll find little reprieve there as they are quickly faced with dark dreams, inexplicable awkward moments, and a shocking, violent truth.

Seishiro Sakurazuka makes an official appearance and shows himself as coldly cocky as ever, laughing off his momentarily interrupted evil-doing. With his absence, the characters try to gain a few moments of peace and optimism, but the dire mood only deepens and the road ahead looks even gloomier than it did before. And if that weren't enough, something is clearly up with Fuma....

The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution

by: Susan C. Pinsky, 223 pp.

This was a desperately needed book for my house! I enjoyed this one for sure due to the fact that Pinsky points out the five steps for each individual room! You can enjoy a time saving and a stress-free home by time you are through reading and taking notes from this book!

The Grand Finale

By: Janet Evanovich, 246 pp.

I am really liking Janet Evanovich's books - whether it be her Stephanie Plum or her individual romance novels - they are good in my book!

The Grand Finale does, however, drag on a bit, but it is cute. Berry owns a pizza business called The Pizza Place in the not so good area of town and she is in desperate need of a pizza delivery person, but wound up with (or rather adopting) three old ladies. Needless to say, Berry ends up being her own delivery person while the ladies stay in the shop and do the baking and serving.

One bad thing after another, beginning with one night's pizza delivery. Berry decides to help a kitten out of tree at one of the delivery places. The customer does not seem to be home, so why not? While up in the tree, the customer comes home; and then begins the romance that Berry has always said she did not have time for.

"Dangerously Alice" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

294 pages

In this 19th book of the Alice series, our young heroine is 16 and a junior in high school. She's tired of everyone thinking she's a goody two-shoes, so she decides that it's time to start rebelling a little. As she sneaks out at night, rides a motorcycle, and dates a senior who's more "fast" than she is, she discovers that there's more to being bad-to-the-bone that she thought. First things begin to get tense at home with her dad and stepmom, Sylvia, and then Alice finds herself taking more and more dangerous risks.

I thought that this was one of the funniest Alice books I've read so far. Alice's older brother, Lester (who was already one of my favorite characters), is especially charming and funny. I like the way that Naylor gets her points across in her books--and they're good points--without being too preachy. My only complaint is that at parts the dialogue is a little too "squeaky clean" and a bit outdated. Other than that, I think this is a fun, light-hearted book that's good for reading when you want to remember your own adolescence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vagabond: Volume 14

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 198 pages

Having long ago given up the sword, aging master and social outsider Kanemaki Jisai sits beside the sea and resigns himself to death. But the sea and fate have other plans for him as a small boat washes violently in on the surf and leaves in his care its only survivor--his former student's infant son, Sasaki Kojirô.

Watching Kanemaki run about repeatedly depositing Kojirô with neighbors, certain he cannot raise a child himself, and then frantically rushing back to retrieve him, certain no one else can do the job but him, is both touching and hilarious. As he comes to understand his adopted son's condition--the boy is deaf--he grows even more protective and takes it upon himself to teach Kojirô what he can and raise him to be a good man who does not live by the sword the way his true and adopted fathers both have. But since the child reacts to an unusually long sword that washed up the same day he did the way a normal child would to a favorite stuffed animal or security blanket, Kanemaki has his work cut out for him.

This volume's story takes place 17 years before the Battle of Sekigahara, which opens Musashi's tale in volume 1. I hadn't thought much at the time about the man behind the name Matahachi takes as his own, but now I care as much about Kojirô as I do his imposter. How did he come to gain the reputation of greatness that has proven both a blessing and a curse to Matahachi? And how did he come to give it up to a thoughtless passing youth? It's been so long since I read the volume where Matahachi absconds with Kojirô's papers that I can't remember the exact circumstances other than they were sad and that Matahachi was probably biting off more than he could chew. Now, having seen little Kojirô shuffling down the beach, contentedly sucking on the thumb of one hand while the other clutches his sheathed sword, its tip dragging along in the sand behind him, all as though it were the most natural thing in the world, it is clear Matahachi couldn't have chosen more difficult shoes to fill.

Vagabond: Volume 13

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 212 pages

Musashi and "Shishido Baiden" take their weapons demonstration to the next, deadlier, level. Old nicknames resurface and it's the God of Death and the Demon Child all over again. Has either of them really changed that much in the intervening years since their last encounter? And what of their confrontation's two anxious witnesses?

This volume, as does the one before, intersperses the present plot with a good deal of backstory. Inoue employs his skills of silent understanding to show blood-soaked Tsujikaze and the child Rindô's almost wordless bonding as the former changes from enemy to family, from student to master. We see their horrible origins and how life has made them what they are...and how, now that they have come together, they are the only things keeping each other from falling back into that hopeless cycle of revenge and blood and death.

Names have become a major theme in this series. There are names we are given, names we shed, earn, choose, or vow never to forget. One such name is that of the first man to defeat Tsujikaze--and the man whose name Matahachi has stolen: Sasaki Kojirô.

Vagabond: Volume 12

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 214 pages

Matahachi's and Musashi's feet carry them to the territory of Shishido Baiden of the Sickle and Chain, a deadly-skilled weapons master. But is the legendary man a man, a child, both, or a ghost? Whatever the answer, Musashi gets his strength-building challenge, but not quite under the circumstances he expects.

Matahachi seems to do nothing with his life but run away--from his former best friend, from his own mother, from himself. And the costs of fleeing are only getting higher. It's such a contrast to the flashbacks of the fresh-faced friends eagerly running toward the battle they believe will make their names--names they both ultimately leave behind there, instead.

Not an easy volume to read, this. Matahachi has so much ground to cover in order to catch up to Musashi's level of self-awareness and slow but steady maturing. It's painful to see him suffer from insecurities and hide behind a stolen name he doesn't believe he can live up to. I just hope he grows up and accepts himself soon so the two can someday meet again as equals.

Ten Things I Love About You

by Julia Quinn, 377 pages

Gentleman rogue Sebastian Grey's uncle, Lord Newberry, hates him so much that he is on the lookout for a young wife solely for the purpose of siring an heir and thereby cutting Sebastian out of his inheritance. For his part, Sebastian couldn't care less, as being up or down an earldom won't make much difference in his circumstances: he'll still be handsome, popular with the widows and bored married ladies of the ton, and happily supporting himself writing pseudonymous gothic novels. But when his smarmy uncle sets his sights on Annabel Winslow--a smart, vibrant, forthright innocent whose large family has fallen on hard times and could use the financial stability such a match would bring--Sebastian finds himself rather more irritated than he expected. Perhaps thwarting his uncle in just this one instance would be worth all the trouble it's bound to stir up.

This is the latest in a series of novels centering on a handful of loosely connected characters wandering in and out of the London social circles (the others being The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever and What Happens in London). Quinn does a good job of fleshing Sebastian out and making him as contrary and quirky as suggested by his peripheral appearances elsewhere in the series, although his clownishness has been toned down a bit for his role as a principal, which I find a little disappointing. Annabel has some clearly defined personality traits, as well, what with her filter-less way of speaking and her family's penchant for voting its members "Most Likely" to accomplish various tasks, such as "The Winslow Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Church" (Annabel) and "The Winslow Third Most Likely to Outrun a Turkey" (also Annabel). The couple's dynamic is fun, though it's harder to maintain when things get more serious and confrontations arise, as sometimes the drama feels contrived and the reader's not even sure why the two are fighting. I also found the pair's shared habit of listing things in tens (or elevens or twelves, they seem to have difficulty counting) to be inconsistent and artificial, as though a mere characterization gimmick hastily added in later simply for the sake of having a gimmick. But overall the story works well enough for what it is, a light historical romance with a pair of smart-alecks at its heart.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 27

by CLAMP, 174 pages

Fei-Wang and Yûko both put into play long-germinating plans as the companions multiply their numbers and join forces to save all the worlds through which they've travelled and maintain the laws of space and time that Fei-Wang would subvert and destroy.

It's magic against magic and secrets against secrets in this action-filled penultimate volume of the series. At the root of everyone's tragic histories and present problems lies Fei-Wang's bottomless, fragile ego. He has heartlessly confounded physical and temporal laws purely for the satisfaction of accomplishing what he believes Clow Reed--his long-time rival and ancestor to a portion of the companions--could not: to bring the dead back to life.

Shared faces, shared genes, and variously crisscrossed and converging paths make for some reader confusion amidst a highly emotional show-down. Will it all make sense in the end? Will it bother me too much if it doesn't? :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart

by Alice Waters
(2010 | 151 p)

"There is enormous pleasure in cooking good food simply and in sharing the cooking and the eating with friends and family. I think it is the best antidote to our overstressed modern lives. And there is nothing better than putting a plate of delicious food on the table for the people you love." -- Alice Waters

Food activist Alice Waters delights in demonstrating how simple it is to prepare delicious, local food. "In the Green Kitchen" showcases recipes and cooking techniques collected by Waters from cooks around the country. The focus is not on complicated "foodie" recipes, rather "In the Green Kitchen" aims to bring practical cooking know-how to the rest of us. Waters believes that a foundation of basic cooking techniques leads to comfort and inspiration, and that's what this book is all about.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

2010/400 pgs

About the Book: Frederick is an apprentice in a clockwork shop who is secretly working on his own clockwork man in the hopes of making journeyman.

Hannah is a maid working at a hotel trying to raise money for her family and sick father. When she hears of the possibility of a treasure, Hannah decides to seek her fortune.

Giuseppe was kidnapped from his home in Italy and works as a street musician. He dreams of returning home and when he finds a green violin, he wonders if it holds to key to his passage.

The stories weave together and the three learn that they must work together to help each other solve their problems.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The Clockwork Three was a book I picked up at ALA last year and even heard the author read from, but nothing about it really sparked my interest. Then I had to read it because of committee reading, so I picked it up.

I liked the book to start and I really enjoyed all three characters. They were engaging and interesting. I did listen to part of it on CD and I was a bit annoyed by the narrator's voice for Frederick-he made him sound "nerdy" which was somewhat distracting. But I think that only came through on audio since I didn't get that when I read portions of the book.

I really liked how the author ended up weaving all three storylines together, although it did take awhile for it to happen, so readers might need some patience to get there. I also felt the ending sort of fizzled out. The explanation of Hannah's treasure, the clockwork man Frederick has been working on, and Giuseppe's green violin all seemed to contrived and coincidental. This annoyed me since I thought once the book got going, it was really interesting and I was eager to see how everything turned out. Instead it just sort of quietly ends and in some ways it felt like the author was trying to wrap things up too quickly (which is odd for a book that's 400 pages long!) I would have liked less build up and a more fleshed out ending.

I do think The Clockwork Three would be a great book for tweens who are "reading up" and looking for something a bit heavier to read. I also think it might hold interest for young readers starting to become interested in steampunk. While this isn't necessarily steampunk, the storyline with automatons and the clockwork man might be of interest to steampunk readers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Living Dead" edited by John Joseph Adams

487 pages

This collection of zombie tales includes short stories from Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and many more. Each story is unique and there's incredible variety in the collection as a whole. Some of the tales made me laugh, some made me cringe, and many made me think. There's everything from the traditional make-you-jump gory horror story to tales with political and sociological slants. With the exception of a few, I enjoyed each of these stories. Many of them look at the living dead from an unusual perspective. There's something for everyone here--everyone who likes zombie stuff, that is!

Akata Witch

by Nnedi Okorafor, 349p.

Sunny doesn't quite fit into her Nigerian community.  It doesn't help that she's American-born, or that she's albino but there's something else different about her... which her new friends help to coax out of her.

Sunny learns that she is in fact a witch of the Leopard People, along with her new friends who help her along way.  But while Sunny is just learning what is means to be a witch, she and her friends must stop a serial killer targeting kids on their way home from the local school.

While it took me a while to get used to Nnedi Okorafor's writing style, I really grew to love this book.  I especially enjoyed how she was able to convey the cultural tensions between black Americans and Nigerians.  I feel like that was a touch that makes Akata Witch transcend the "strictly teen fiction" and offers lessons of understanding (and awesome female role models) to readers of all ages.

Fat Cat

by Robin Brande,  330 p.

For her Research Science class, Cat is undertaking the most impressive science experiment of all - herself.  As she makes over herself others start to notice, but the attention has some very unintended consequences.

I really, really loved this book.  In fact, it was one of those rare titles that I just couldn't put down.  I will say that normally I shy away from award-nominated books (sometimes I feel like they are way overrated), but Fat Cat is awesome.

Family Affair

By: Debbie Macomber; 102 pp

I usually do not enjoy romance novels by Debbie Macomber much, but this one was cute.
Lacey Lancaster moved to San Francisco when she got divorced over a year ago and her new friend keeps trying to get her to go out with her neighbor, cute Jack Walker. However, Lacey still does not think she is ready for a romance; besides she has no time.
Lacey's cat, Cleo, has been a comfort to Lacey so Lacey feels she does not need a man anyway.
Besides Jack is always arguing with his girlfriend, Sarah. Then Lacey finds out Sarah is not Jack's girlfriend, but she is his sister. This changes things a bit for Lacey.
This turns into a romance any way for Jack and Lacey, and just when things are going great, Jack gets a promotion and has to transfer to Seattle! Lacey knows that long distance relationships will not work out for her - so does this mean their relationship is over?

Dead Reckoning

by Charlaine Harris, 325 pages

Sookie is working at Merlotte's one afternoon when a molotov cocktail is launched through the window.  Although she doesn't get a good look at the culprit, she's pretty sure one of the two-natured is responsible.  This hairy threat is quickly followed by attempted abductions, murder plots, and stress from all corners: vampires, fairies, and shifters.  What's a simple human to do with all this excitement?

Harris's books are always good for a quick, fun read.  There's lots of action and imagination.  In case you haven't heard, yes, this is the series that HBO's Trueblood is based on, but if you'd like to read ahead to find out what'll happen next season, you're out of luck.  The books are great, but very different than the show, with diverging story lines.  You also pretty much need to start at the beginning of the series, because if you pick up this book without reading the previous, you probably won't have any idea what's going on.  That being said- if you like funny, off-beat stories and don't mind the paranormal give this one a try!

Marrying Daisy Bellamy

Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs 428 p

Daisy Bellamy and Julian Gastineaux met as kids at summer camp and knew from the beginning they were destined to be together. But as is often the case timing keeps getting in the way. Daisy messed up by getting pregnant her junior year of high school. Julian ends up in the military thought to be dead in a covert op that went bad. Daisy marryied her babies father even though there is no chemisty between them. Then Julian reappears and life gets really confused. But, when love prevails Julian and Daisy finally do get married and they all live happily ever after.

Chasing Fire

by Nora Roberts, 472 pages

Rowan Tripp followed in her famous father's footsteps and risks her life through the Montana dry season as a smoke jumper.  She has a rule to never get romantically involved with anyone on her team and follows it religiously until she meets one of this year's new recruits, Gull Curry.  Gull tempts her to break her rules, and a little back up is just what Rowan needs as an already dangerous job heats up with a little man made destruction.

This book was excitement from beginning to end.  I'm always amazed at how quickly Roberts sells me on her characters- it never takes more that a couple of chapters before I'm hooked.  I had a pretty good idea of whodunit midway through the book, but that didn't stop the suspense from building.  This is a great summer read, so pick it up if you're headed on vacation (or just wish you were!)

The Tao of Pooh

by Benjamin Hoff
(1982 | 158 p)

"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."


In this classic, Benjamin Hoff explains the principles of Taoism using the most familiar Western symbol of all, Winnie-the-Pooh. Any beginner to the philosophy of Taoism will learn some history of the movement and several basic principles: P'u (Uncarved Block), Wu Wei Wu (Doing without doing), and even the Cottleston Pie Principle. My favorite lesson is about the dreaded Bisy Backson. Hoff describes them thusly: "The Bisy Backson is always going somewhere, somewhere he hasn't been. Anywhere but where he is."

The book is fun and very readable. Hoff intersperses conversations with Pooh, Piglet and the gang with quotes from actual Taoist masters. He also throws in lots of passages from A. A. Milne's classics. This is my third reading of the book. I come back to it every few years for a pick-me-up. It's very much a "feel good" book.

InuYasha: Volume 55

by Rumiko Takahashi, 186 pages

Naraku uses his powers of illusion and his awareness of the companions' motivations to isolate his enemies and cause them as much misery as possible, as their unhappiness only adds to his strength.

Naraku weakens, but he still seems pretty content with himself. What's he up to? And what did his puppet Byakuya just do to Kagome? There's just one volume left....

InuYasha: Volume 54

by Rumiko Takahashi, 184 pages

The final battle is in full swing as Naraku comes into his full power and draws the companions into his miasma-filled spider cloud. There he goes about possessing their minds and bodies and using them against one another, but he has never fully understood the power of bonds of affection and may find that to be his greatest weakness. Nevertheless, he still has Magatsuhi somewhat on his side, and that one's got his own reasons to squelch Kagome and friends.

Near cover-to-cover action, now, as Naraku keeps toying with his adversaries. What does he really want from the Shikon jewel, after all?

LoveCom: Volume 17

by Aya Nakahara, 202 pages

Koizumi and Ôtani didn't meet each other until high school, but, as this final volume of the series reveals, fate has been pulling them together since long before...and will keep them together in the face of whatever the "real world" after high school tries to throw at them.

*sigh* It's the last volume of Love*Com. The kiddos have bickered and mocked and giggled their way through the series, and one imagines they will continue to do so long after the final page is turned. If you need some non-syrupy sweetness and light (and snorts) in your day, read these. I can't even be sad that it's over, 'cause it's just so happy. Banzai! :D

LoveCom: Volume 16

by Aya Nakahara, 183 pages

Graduation day! Koizumi and Ôtani bicker and tease their way through their final days of high school, just as they've done the whole of the preceding year, and fans of the series wouldn't have it any other way. If the two can help their awkward friends with awkward crushes in the process--having a lot of experience in that area, themselves--then so much the better.

Hee hee! This series makes me giggle. It's rare to have such openly happy main characters in a shojo manga. Sure, they have their moments of insecurity and regret, but they always come around in the end. This volume includes a good-sized bonus story, "The Place Where We Belong," about Teppei Koike, the young pop culture idol who plays Ôtani in the live-action film adaptation of the series, and how he and his friend and band partner Eiji Wentz met and followed their dreams.

13th Boy: Volume 5

by SangEun Lee, 183 pages

It's Sae-Bom's birthday and Hee-So begs Whie-Young to bring the girl's stuffed bunny, Toe-Toe, back to life as a special gift. The party is eventful in more ways than one as gifts are given and received, confessions are made, revelations are triggered, and lives are changed.

Oh, things are messier now than ever, but the characters are more aware and honest this time around, so it still counts as progress. Now, if Whie-Young would just come out and explain why he's always so fatalistic--and if Hee-So would stop being so dense when he tries to tell her--things would clear up a little; but everybody has choices to make, so we'll just have to wait and see where the results lead them.

XxxHolic: Volume 13

by CLAMP, 185 pages

Watanuki and Dômeki intervene on Kohane-chan's part when her situation with her revenge-poisoned mother escalates out of control. At the same time, Watanuki's trying to understand and accept the "reality" of his own circumstances and make a determined effort to take control of them where he can.

Aw, lots of much-needed hugs for the shop's newest customer in this volume. Also, the usual endearing grumbling about who's an idiot and what's for lunch. Hee hee.