Saturday, June 18, 2011

"School of Fear" by Gitty Daneshvari

339 pages

Madeleine is deathly afraid of insects. Theodore is terrified of dying and his loved ones getting hurt. Lulu is extremely claustrophobic. Garrison is petrified of water. Each of these preteens lives in a different part of the world, but they all have one thing in common: their fears are taking over their lives. In desperation, their parents send them to the super-secret School of Fear, run by the eccentric Mrs. Wellington. When the kids arrive, they realize that her unconventional teaching methods will either drive them crazy--or, just maybe, work. If they can survive, that is.

Although the plot is predictable, I still loved this book. The characters, despite their various neuroses, are charming and made me laugh. I like that there several different types of people represented among the kids--a shy bookworm, a jock, a popular kid, and a nerdy one--because everyone is afraid of something. I think this is a story that kids and adults alike will be able to relate to.

“Beautiful Darkness” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

503 pages

This sequel picks up right where "Beautiful Creatures" leaves off (if you haven't read that, you probably want to stop reading this review to avoid spoilers). Ethan Wate has fallen in love with a girl named Lena who introduced him to the mystical world of the Casters, who are constantly struggling to balance Light and Dark. Each Caster has special powers and is claimed for Light or Dark on his or her 16th birthday, but at the end of "Beautiful Creatures," the forces struggling to pull Lena in different directions created a battled that killed Lena's beloved uncle Macon and left her unclaimed. Now, in "Beautiful Darkness," Lena is pulling away from Ethan. At first he gives her space because he knows she's still hurting from the loss of Macon. Soon, however, it becomes clear that there's more to Lena's behavior than he thought. A handsome young Caster named John appears and seems determined to get closer to Lena, while her Dark cousin Ridley returns and Ethan doesn't trust her. Ethan realizes that Lena is getting closer and closer to Darkness as time goes by--and that his late mother was much more involved in the Caster world than he knew.

I feel like "Beautiful Darkness" jumps around a lot, almost like the authors made things up as they went along. That said, I did enjoy the story. I think the plot is a bit weaker than that of "Beautiful Creatures," but it still kept me interested from beginning to end. I think I stayed into it because I really care about the characters, particularly Link, Amma, and of course Marian the Librarian. They're so warm and funny that I can't help loving them, but they make mistakes too so I can relate to them. The end of the story is a cliff-hanger, so I'm anxiously waiting for the next book, "Beautiful Chaos," which is supposed to come out on October 18.

The chosen one

By: Carol Lynch Williams, 213 pp.

In the mind of a 13 year old girl who lives within a compound of a cult, I felt her pain, her excitement, her fears, her sadness, and her love in this well written novel.

Kyra Carlson has been chosen to marry her 63 year old uncle. She has her eyes set on a 17 year old boy named Joshua Johnson. However, she is told to have feelings for another that is not your chosen husband is a sin and very wrong in their community, and calls for punishment.

Kyra has 22 siblings between one father and three mothers. She loves her family so very much!

Kyra's Mother Sarah is six months pregnant and very ill so Kyra helps her mother cook, clean, and raise her younger siblings (which is a duty of all the daughters anyway).

This strong young girl has to fight for what she believes is right, not what her family and community thinks is right.

Kyra is beaten, humiliated, and forced to marry her uncle Hyrum Carlson. She has to decide what she should do. She wants to escape. Can she get away without hurting her family? Can she get away without being killed by the "God Squad?" If she is able to get away, where will she go?

She has been offered a ride to town by the book mobile driver, Patrick, who comes once a week to loan her books that she is not allowed to read per her community Prophet. So to be able to read these books that she borrows, she hides them in her favorite secret tree and reads on her free time after her chores are done.

To find out more of Kyra's story, read "The Chosen One" by Carol Lynch Williams.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Parents Were Awesome

Edited by: Eliot Glazer, 220 pp.

Stories turned in by great writers and/or stories by individuals who submitted and won in order to be honored and accepted in this book.

There are stories from (of course) Eliot Glazer, Jamie Deen Paula and Jimmy Deen's son), Laurie Notaro, and many, many more.

Stories that will make you laugh, cry, and reminisce of your own awesome parents!

Also I think a couple of the stories remind me of how I was at raising my own kids (I don't know if that is good or bad ~ lol).

Some parents are people we have all heard of and some we are just now getting introduced to in this comical and fun book.

get lucky

By: Katherine Center, 272 pp.

I learned about Katherine Center from reading another book titled My Parents Were Awesome editing by Eliot Glazer. In Glazer's book, Center has entered her story of how her parents were awesome and I really liked her writing so I looked for books written by her. I am glad I did, too. She has an expertise on writing. She gives you a "feel good" feeling when you read her work.

In get lucky, Sarah Harper lives in New York, but has been fired from her job and decides to go home for Thanksgiving and hang out with her sister for awhile. Before Sarah can tell her sister, Mackie, about her getting fired from her job, Mackie tells Sarah her bad news - that she is still (after trying for six years) unable to get pregnant. So after contemplating this, Sarah decides to do something nice for her sister for once instead of her sister always taking care of her. Sarah becomes the surrogate mother for Mackie and Clive, Mackie's husband by using Mackie's eggs and Clive's sperm.

How this all turns out is absolutely different than I had thought it would from in the beginning of my reading. get lucky is cute, funny, sad at times, and a terrific hilarious read! Even Library Journal says, "[A] thoroughly enjoyable girlish romp."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

2011/397 pgs

About the Book: Emerson Cole sees things. People that just appear that no one else around her seem to see or hear. She's tried everything to make them disappear and be normal, but the people keep appearing. When Michael Weaver, a member of an organization called the Hourglass arrives, he tells Emerson that she isn't the only one who sees these visions of people and that she belongs to a special group of people with special powers and abilities. Michael also claims that Emerson has a power that he needs to save his mentor and without her, the Hourglass and their future is in trouble.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: It's hard to write a good synopsis for Hourglass because it's a book that has several twists that are better left uncovered while reading. Hourglass is a book I think most people would categorize as Science Fiction, but I'd give it to readers who say they shy away from science fiction because there's so much more. There's mystery, romance, humor, adventure-I think it's a book you could book talk to a wide range of readers and find something to hook them on.

Emerson is a great main character. She's snarky, funny, and she says what's on her mind. She's the type of character that I would want to be friends with and hang out with in real life. She has a steamy connection with Michael and the romance between the two a nice subplot to the story. I do think that the romance between Michael and Emerson was a bit too lust at first sight, but part of me could also brush that off because of the electric connection shared between them thanks to their powers and abilities. Or maybe I just thought Michael was crushworthy enough I didn't care! At times the book is a bit romance heavy, which might be a turn off for some readers, but readers who stick with it will be rewarded with a great mystery storyline as well.

The story is engaging and kept me interested and reading. There's a lot about the Hourglass that reminds me of X-Men, so I hope we get more books that feature the other members of the Hourglass because I want more of their stories. Emerson and Michael are great leads and the supporting characters are interesting, I just wanted them more fleshed out.

This is a book that is leading up to a sequel. While it's not a cliffhanger ending and some things are resolved, there are still many things left unanswered. I'm eager to read more about the Hourglass!

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

2011/320 pgs

About the Book: Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is one day to herself. So Amber takes off to the beach is search of her one perfect day-the day before her world comes crashing day. There she meets Cade, another teen in search of a perfect day. Amber is instantly drawn to Cade and they decide to spend their perfect days together-no talking about the past or the future-just now. But Amber and Cade have secrets-and Amber is noticing that Cade's secrets seem dark and that he's living this day as if it's his last.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I will try not to say anything about the plot for this book, because I think not knowing anything makes the book that much better. I went into this book not really knowing what it was about-just that it was by Lisa Schroeder, who I think is fantastic. I really think part of the wonderfulness of this book is going in blind and discovering Amber and Cade's secrets along the way. So give yourself that treat when you read it!

Lisa Schroeder again writes an emotional novel in verse. Amber and Cade's journeys are heartbreaking and honest. I kept finding myself what I would do in their situations. Honestly, I hate sequels (for the most part anyway) but this is a book that I would eagerly gobble up a second helping for! I want to know what happens next, how they handle each journey and path, what was the outcome of their decisions? I didn't want this book to end.

I will admit that it took me awhile to get into this book-I think partly because I didn't know what to expect. But not knowing ended up making this book that much sweeter, so stick with it and discover the gem that awaits.

I'm a bit annoyed that every time I would think-"hey, this book reminds me of this book or movie" it would be mentioned on the next page! It was a bit fun though-Ms. Schroeder knew the comparisons and acknowledged them in the story in a creative way.

If only perfect days like this really happened! But instead we can read about them and get lost in Amber and Cade's story. A sweet, memorable story about hard choices, confusing paths, and perfect days. Another winner from Lisa Schroeder!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Demon Sacred: Volume 2

by Natsumi Itsuki, 184 pages

After the return of Mika, the mysterious "man" who helped their mother raise them before her death, Mona and Rina cooperate with him to draw in and tame K2, another supernatural being like Mika, to help them in their efforts to save Rina before the Return Syndrome kills her. Unfortunately for K2, he shares a face with a wildly popular celebrity idol--whom Mona happened to be thinking of when she tamed him--so he can't go about in public without being "recognized" and causing a commotion. When the girls go out to meet the real Keito as an unrelated favor to a friend, they give K2 strict instructions to stay home. Unfortunately for them, K2 isn't very good at following orders. Complications, unsurprisingly, ensue. Meanwhile, Shinobu's got his own secrets, both from the girls and from his corporate research lab employers.

This second volume flows much better than the first, having gotten all that awkward exposition out of the way earlier. Mika's a little scary and K2's kind of adorable. Mona and Rina are still clearly teenagers, but have to play mom to immature K2 (despite his millennia of existence). And poor Shinobu's trying to help, but things are only getting more complicated as his charges multiply and his control of the situation weakens.

I've gotten sucked into this now, so I'm hoping someone picks up defunct Tokyopop's relinquished English language license soon!

Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth: Volume 4

by Jake T. Forbes (story), Chris Lie (art), and Kouyu Shurei (cover art), 199 pages

Remember Labyrinth? Edgier than usual Muppets? David Bowie as the glam rock Goblin King? Those creepy Fire Gang things that play basketball with their own heads? It freaks me out a little, but I loved it when I was in junior high. Return to Labyrinth is, as you might guess from the title and cover, an original English language manga sequel to the movie. I thought it sounded cool. But then I read it. :(

While that cover art might look somewhat snazzy and like a good fit for the style of the movie, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the interior art, which is far less realistic and attractive. The latter is excessively screentone-heavy and cartoonish, and the flat, awkward characters often look like different people from one panel to the next. The Muppet characters lifted from the film are much more detailed than the others and almost look as though they were drawn by somebody else. And The Goblin King, Sarah, and Toby are boring fuddy duddies and not at all cool. As for the plot itself (in which Jareth passes on his King status to a teenage Toby as part of a scheme to re-trap Sarah and avoid his end of a bargain with another character), it isn't bad, when you can decipher it; but between the unclear storytelling, especially in the first volume, and unhelpful art, that can be a challenge.

I think if someone else had drawn this four-volume series, it could have worked out better along with some minimal story and dialogue tweaking. But as it is, the art is totally wrong for the story, characters, and atmosphere expected by fans of the film (who one assumes are the target audience in the first place). I remember when I cracked open the first volume and realized the cover artist was not the same as the story artist--I was a little offended as well as disappointed. Truth in advertizing, people! It's a comic book! I oughta be able to judge at least a little by the cover, no? Grrr. Arg.

Black Butler: Volume 5

by Yana Toboso, 176 pages

Let the curry battle begin! Sebastian uses Ciel, Soma, and the house staff as guinea pigs as he employs trial and error to make a curry that can beat Agni's. But who will have the final say at the competition?

I know Ciel is sick of curry long before the competition's conclusion, but it still makes me hungry. :) And watching an increasingly surprised and irate Sebastian counter too-honest-for-his-own-good Agni's repeated attempts to turn himself in makes me giggle. The silly clearly outweighs the dark in this volume, although there are definitely hints that the next one may swing some distance in the other direction. I mean, there's a circus in town. With clowns. Gothic, Victorian clowns. How is that not scary?!

Karakuri Odette: Volume 6

by Julietta Suzuki, 192 pages

Robot Travis wants to "marry" Odette, but his fellow robot Grace is jealous and takes matters into her own hands while their ambitious creator plots to acquire Odette's technology through whatever underhanded means necessary. But nobody bothers asking Odette what she wants. Robots trying to marry her or steal her head concern her less than do matters of her own teenage robot heart. With her friend Asao's graduation coming up, Odette struggles with her status as a non-human and worries about the future. Change is scary, even for robots.

Aw, Odette easily evading and completely ignoring the flailing mad scientist with a gun as she mopes over Asao's latest thoughtless comments is funny, sweet, and so indicative of her personality. And Asao verbally blowing her off as he rushes in to "rescue" her anyway is just as indicative of his. I almost got the sniffles over Travis and Grace's situation with their "Papa" and wanted to hug Odette's Professor Yoshizawa when he steps in. I don't know what the future holds for all of them, but with such strong bonds and strong personalities, it can't be all that bad.

Part of me is quite happy with the way this final volume turns out, and part of me is still pouting over its being the final volume. There's so much more for Odette to learn, so much more I'd like to see her through along with her friends and family. This series easily could have been twice as long without losing its charm, and while this volume itself doesn't feel too rushed, its role as the conclusion to the series does. But this is all there is, so I'll just have to deal and be happy there's any at all.

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness, 579 pages

Diana Bishop is a witch. But not by choice. She has spent most of her life since the age of seven trying to bury that part of herself, focusing instead on seeing what she can achieve on her own, non-magic-assisted merits. To that end, she has studied diligently, earning a graduate degree in history, focusing on the history of alchemy as a turning point when science and magic at last went their separate ways. And that is how she finds herself in Oxford University's hallowed Bodleian Library, carefully examining some old alchemical manuscripts one minute and face-to-face with a vampire (who also has a doctorate) the next. So one of the manuscripts may have felt a little...tingley and...bespelled. And so what if it opened for her, despite its magical locks? Why is she suddenly having to fend off not just one suspiciously curious vampire but a host of other bloodsuckers, spellcasters, and dotty geniuses (a.k.a. daemons)?

A Discovery of Witches is a quite enjoyable contemporary adult fantasy--when it reads like an adult fantasy. The protagonist is a strong, intelligent, powerful woman who can call up whatever she wants from the bowels of the Bodleian...and make sense of it all! How cool is that? But then, as Jen H. warns in her review, it all goes a wee bit Twilighty* (there are even sparkles, I kid you not). Diana pines and sleeps a lot, especially when her "shadowed man" is out of the picture. It's Bella all over again. But then, thank goodness, she wakes up and starts figuring out how to kick some baddie backside. After discussing this with fellow staff who've read it, we decided that when Diana is with her books or on a mission, she's an adult; and when she's wallowing in romance, she reverts back to being a teenager. The novel's first-person narration makes this contrast even more noticeable (and frustrating). I hold out hope that the next installment will give us more of the grown-up Diana and less of the angsty teen. There are other Twilight parallels, but to say more would be spoilery, so we'll leave it at that and see where (and when) the next book takes us.

The alchemical history is fascinating, as are the depictions of life on and around Oxford's campus. And I love Diana's family home back in New England (it has a bit of a mind of its own and isn't afraid to give anyone a piece of it). Given that the author is a history scholar, herself, I look forward to seeing how she brings yet more of that knowledge into the story.

*No offense to Twilight fans. I read and enjoyed the whole series (minus a few things from book four). I just also enjoy making good-natured fun of it. :P

XxxHolic: Volume 16

by CLAMP, 180 pages

As payment for his own wish, Watanuki has vowed to wait, never leaving the shop, never aging, until he can see Yûko again. In the meantime, he takes over ownership of the shop (and, so, the granting of wishes and the dangerous business of receiving appropriate payment). Mokona and Maru and Moro are about again, keeping him company and helping keep up the shop (and, in the case of Mokona, helping him consume the saké supply). Kohane comes to visit and, one presumes, so does Himawari-chan. And of course Dômeki comes by most days (and nights, as well) to keep an eye on him and eat his cooking, but it seems he's waiting and watching for something, too.

It's so sad to watch Watanuki grieve and wait, stubborn and pitiful at the same time. He's all alone on the cover this volume, with Yûko on the back at a 1/4 profile mostly obscured by her hair and umbrella--symbolism! The time jump of a few years threw me for a few panels, and I wish we could have seen how Watanuki's early experiences at determining payment for wishes went instead of just hearing them referred to in vague, past tense terms. But I'm glad he's not alone. He'd better not revert to not caring about his own well-being, or we're going to have words!

Somehow, I psychically started reading these at just the right time to have them line up perfectly with my reading of the major concluding crossover events of Tsubasa, which was quite cool. But I've finally caught up to the English language releases, so now I have to wait for the next one to come out in September.... Gah!

Skip Beat!: Volume 23

by Yoshiki Nakamura, 185 pages

When Kyoko's costar, Chiori, lets her anger take over and bullies Kyoko offset, Kyoko decides to use her new character's persona to push Chiori into examining herself and playing right into Kyoko's (or, really, Kyoko's character Natsu's) hands.

Sheesh, I feel sorry for the poor actress playing the part of the girl getting bullied by Natsu and friends.... Chiori and Kyoko both are just a little too into their roles for the comfort of some. And the bit at the end, where Ren and Sho finally make brief appearances, cracks me up. Kyoko is so clueless.... (hee hee hee heeee)

V.B. Rose: Volume 11

by Banri Hidaka, 194 pages

Ever curious, Ageha pesters her boyfriend Arisaka about how he and his best friend, the irrepressible Mitsuya Kuromine, met and became friends. Mitsu is only too happy to spill all the embarrassing details. Only he gives away a little too much about his long acquaintance with their friend and colleague Tsuyu, whom he's always mercilessly teasing. Ageha senses romantic drama and goes to Tsuyu for her half of the story, only to find that it may finally be coming to an end.

The boys are so cute in their precociousness. And Mistu's attachment to Tsuyu is sweet in childhood and, now that we know the details, bittersweet in adulthood. If he doesn't want it to stay that way--or get even sadder--they're both going to have to get over their fatalistic attitudes before it's too late.

Demon Sacred: Volume 1

by Natsumi Itsuki, 192 pages

For the last fifteen years, the world has been combating Return Syndrome, a rare (though less so all the time), mysterious, frightening illness that causes its victims to physically regress toward childhood until they die. Normally, the disease progresses so quickly that victims don't even know they're sick, leaving behind nothing but a pile of clothing where they once stood. But fourteen-year-old Mona's twin sister Rina is one of the lucky ones. She has been slowly getting younger for years and now has the body of a nine-year-old. Mona can only hope that the slower progression gives their guardian, Shinobu, a scientist at a corporate research lab, enough time to find a cure before it's too late.

Although this first volume is very exposition heavy with characters spouting lots of artificially informative dialogue (why didn't she just make it part of the narration?), the story itself is engaging and different. As the girls' history is revealed and a face from the past resurfaces, the characters and the supernatural aspects of the story prove intriguing enough that the reader starts to think she might be able to overlook the clunky moments. The attractive art is a little old-school in style, with lots of whipping lines and strand-by-strand hair details.

I've read an impressive (and oh so sad) short space drama by the same author, so I'm willing to stick around a little longer and see what she does with this somewhat less-dark supernatural one.