Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Roadside Assistance by Amy Clipston

Rating (Out of 5): ~1.5
Publisher: Zondervan

 A review copy provided by Goodreads First Reads Giveaways.
Goodreads Synopsis:

A very bumpy ride.

Emily Curtis is used to dealing with her problems while under the hood of an old Chevy, but when her mom dies, Emily's world seems shaken beyond repair. Driven from home by hospital bills they can't pay, Emily and her dad move in with his wealthy sister, who intends to make her niece more feminine---in other words, just like Whitney, Emily's perfect cousin. But when Emily hears the engine of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, and sees the cute gearhead, Zander, next door, things seem to be looking up.

But even working alongside Zander can't completely fix the hole in Emily's life. Ever since her mom died, Emily hasn't been able to pray, and no one---not even Zander---seems to understand. But sometimes the help you need can come from the person you least expect.

I won this online, and it actually sounded good. Emily sounded like she was going through some stuff, and even though I know nothing about cars, I find it interesting when I read a book with a girl who likes them, mostly because I like tomboys and that's how entertainment type things tend to make tomboys. With a boy hobby. And, of course, I missed the one sentence that portrayed that this book was going to be about religion. I should have payed more attention.
So, the books about Emily, who, along with her father, has to move in with her aunts family after her mother dies. She's feeling upset about her mother, not close with her father, and like everyone is criticizing her. And then she meets Zander, who likes cars and goes to church and is, like, the cutest boy at her new school (or whatever. This is pointed out a couple of times, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes). But Emily is also having trouble connecting with God, as she feels that he has abandoned her and no one knows how she feels, and of course she can't talk to anyone about it. Even though there are two people at her church, as well as her father and aunt and cousin and Zander who want to help her.
Okay, first off, I'm going to start with the religious part. (Just to let you know, I am not religious. And so that it probably why I did not like this part of the book. Maybe, if you are, you wouldn't mind it as much.) A lot of this book focused on religion, and how Emily can't talk to God anymore, and so obviously he has abandoned her after her mother died, because what other solution could she get? But, oh, wait, [Spoiler] maybe God's actually been there all along and she hasn't noticed? Despite the fact that she ignored the signs beforehand, and when Zander told her, and only when Jenna from church suggested it, not much different than Zander had (only maybe without personal experience and more as a third person point of view). And so maybe actually she's having a hard time because she doesn't have her garage sanctuary anymore where she could clear her head, but obviously he has been there all along.
God, I could not stand this. It was the same thing, over and over and over again. She can't feel God's presence anymore after her mother died, and so he has abandoned her. And even though several people have tried to talk to her, she feels that they are being pushy, and that of course no one understands what she's going through, and no one besides herself has ever been unsure of their religion. It's all her. She's so different from everyone else. Poor Emily.
I could not stand Emily. For a while, I didn't mind her. But then she got all whiny about everything that I mentioned above, and I was almost disgusted. It was all about her and yada yada yada. Whatever, Emily. And it's stated a while in that she doesn't let people in, that she is keeping herself miserable. Which, while a bit true, I don't think was as fully blown of an idea as it could have been. And she isn't a tomboy. Yea, she likes cars and doesn't wear dresses or heels or makeup. Whatever. She's dramatic and overreacts to everything; she's way too emotional.
The car scenes weren't bad. There aren't a whole lot of them, at least not described. They were mostly for her to be around Zander, maybe her dad, and by herself. And they weren't overdone with technical terms or anything. I mean, yea, some parts were named, but that was mostly it.
I did like Zander. He was a happy-go-lucky guy, and I like them. And him and Emily's banter was pretty fun. But then he got all 'pushy' about God, and even after he told Emily the same things as Jenna, he totally agreed and was like 'what, really?'. Although I think that was more bad writing than bad characterizing. And, despite his chemistry with Emily, the romance wasn't very good. Or, it wasn't described very well. Because, it doesn't matter what anyone says, describing kissing as their lips brushing against each other, is not going to give me butterflies-in-the-tummy. Now, granted, I do read smut novels (which, you know, has full blown stuff), but I've also read lots of young adult novels with good romance. But lips brushing against each other does not equate to kissing; there is more to it than that. And just stating that, with no more description, is not, in any way, a good make out scene. I was very disappointed by this, because I'd hoped there would at least be some good romance with Zander, since I liked him.
Plus, [Spoiler!] they have a fight over half way through the book. Emily overreacts to this thing that she hears about him and her cousin, and then goes on to think that he really only thinks about her as his 'witness tool', as a way to God, a good thing to do at the church, maybe even something for her cousin. While I had never heard of this before, at least not called this, I got gist of what she meant. And I still did not quite understand. Because, do people actually do that? Use people to get closer to God or whatever? Why would someone do that? Really, it mostly sounded like the stupidest excuse to push someone away.
And, then, the fight. The fight was stupid, as I said above, and then it just kept going. [Spoiler!] They just kept talking, being all 'is that what you really think of me?' 'well, I guess that's it then' 'yea, I guess it is'. My god, it was ridiculous. I mean, it could have been done much more dramatic or overblown, or at least with a big exit, but instead they just kept talking. I guess, like they were hoping the other would stop it or something. But there was just too much. I was like, get on with it already.
And then after the fight? Emily practically gives up. He won't look at her, so obviously he hates her and there's no hope. We get, like, one scene of her trying to talk to him about cars, where he won't give in, and so she give up again. Except, of course, to pray to God to bring him back to her. She has to go lean on God to do it for her instead of actually trying to talk to him about what happened.
We don't get a lot of Chuck, Emily's uncle, but we see her aunt and cousin quite a bit. Her aunt, Darlene, a bit like her Grandma, is always telling her that she should wear better clothes and do something with her hair and wear make up and all that. And she makes Emily feel like a charity case, which is uncool of her. And then they excuse it by saying that she wasn't being a good Christian, and she's going to stop. Um, yea, that's one way to explain it. And we see a lot of Whitney, her cousin, who is a bit awesome. She's a little spoiled, which is to be expected, and she's a cheerleader, but she's also a good girl, and nice. Emily misjudges her, and even when she finds out that she's nice, she doesn't do a whole lot to get closer to her. And Emily's friend, Chelsea, is pretty cool. We heard of her friend from school, Megan, and they exchange texts every once in a while, but we barely see or hear from her in the book. That seems a bit like a missed opportunity.
But Emily just isn't a very good friend. She doesn't listen to Chelsea, she pretends to listen to distract herself at one point, and she makes very little effort to support Chelsea, or comfort her, because she doesn't understand and she's jealous that she has a mom while hers has died. She has great people around her, these two being good examples of a friend, and she completely ignores it.
I've stated this several times, but that's pretty much all Emily thinks about. She's just so different from everyone. She has a weird hobby, cars, which everyone will think is weird, and no one understands how she feels after her mother passed away or now that she's second-guessing God. She's just all alone in the world. And it drove me crazy.
Oh, her dad. Her dad doesn't talk to her enough, which I think is a little true. He should have made more of an effort to go through her mother's death with her, instead of avoiding talking about it. But Emily should also understand that it isn't bad of him to want to talk to a counselor, or the pastor, about it. Because, really, there are some things that parents can't talk to their kids about, like kids can't talk to their parents about everything. (She makes a huge deal about this, and then it like, 'oh, it's alright, I overreacted' at the end. Um, yea, you overreacted about everything.)
And her dad seemed fine with taking things from his sister. Yea, it's nice of them to take them in and pay for everything, but I would think he'd be a little uncomfortable with it, especially since it made Emily feel like a charity case. (And at the end? After [Spoiler!] Emily has blown up at her aunt already, and then assumes she hates her? She suddenly feels bad about it, and now feels grateful for all that she's done. When did she realize this? She didn't, that's when. It just came out, because she felt bad about how she said it the first time, like everything else that's spoken at the end.)
Also, the last part of the book annoyed me. It happened way too fast. [Spoiler] She has a huge 'breakthrough' over whatever with Jenna after making a scene, and then she makes up with Zander, and then something happens to her dad. The whole scene with Zander didn't work, and neither did most of the making up scenes with her dad. Because suddenly, with no reason as to why, they understand what they did wrong and are sorry about it. She didn't have some big epiphany, and we never saw Zander have one either. And the thing that happened with her dad? Seemed like a cop-out to bring things to a close, something big for her and everyone to make up. It was lame.
And Clipston was a bit repetitive. A couple of the phrases she used several times, and I can't remember any that were new to me, or that were used with much of a flourish to make them refreshing and not like I'd heard them before. And, there weren't a whole bunch, but there were several spelling mistakes, or several where a word was missing. A bit more than there should have been.
And I had a terrible time getting through it, since I know I have several other books that are so much better that I could have been spending my time reading instead. And mostly it was because of the religious parts (and Emily), because there was so much of it. And it was always Sunday. Maybe they'd do something for the weekend, she'd hang out with Zander some, or maybe some time would pass, and then it would be Sunday, again. It's always time for church in this book.
Maybe I'm a bit bitter, since I could not wait to get done with this book. And I am not a church or religious person, so I'm sure that is also biasing my judgment. But it was still badly written. It was just bad, okay? Not for me, obviously.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Manga Review: Papillon, Volume 4, by Miwa Ueda

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: Del Rey
Volumes: 8
Goodreads Synopsis:


Ageha used to live in the shadow of her pretty, more popular sister, Hana. But those days are gone! Now Ageha is confident, independent, and dating her hot guidance counselor, Kyû-chan. Everything is going great. That is, until Hana seeks help from Kyû-chan. Will she succeed in stealing Kyû-chan’s heart?
I've been trying not to put these reviews too close together, but I want to be able to read the next one, so here's volume four.
So the last one ended with 'Ageha' and Ryusei kissing. Ryusei freaks out a little and then they talk and she sweet talks him and they kiss some more before she reveals that she's actually Hana. (I totally guessed right.) (But, Hana was very good at being Ageha, which is a little weird. Because Ueda usually draws her as pretty obvious around guys, and while she was a little more 'seductive', or something, she was still very good as Ageha.) This has Ryusei freaked out, because he doesn't know how to act around Ageha and he's avoiding Hana. He talks to one of Hana's ex-boyfriends later, after moping and not knowing what to do with himself, and finds out that it's something that she's done before, and apparently does a lot. So he goes and freaks out on Hana, saying that she set herself up for it and won't open herself, and that he has feelings too, and all that. While Hana is talking to Hayato, and they do some more talking.
Previously to this, Hayato and Ageha have made up, and kissed, because she doesn't want to lose him, and he knows how upset she is about it now and all that. Anyway, so Hayato and Hana start hanging out more. She's talking to him about her problems, and how Ageha always seems more appealing after a while to the guys that she goes out with, which is why she pretends to be her, as she wants someone to only like her. Ageha starts wondering what going on with them, since they are around each other so much, even after school. Plus, she has this friend who can 'smell' it when people have just had sex, and she can smell the same scent on both of them. This is a little weird, but it mostly only pushes Ageha to overreact, and make a scene about them being around each other and having sex behind her back. The both of them resolve this for her, talking about this cologne that her friend smelled. This is a common occurrence, it seems. Ageha wasting time worrying about something before overreacting and then whatever it is being solved in a couple of pages. And she never seems to understand that she could just have asked about it instead.
Okay, anyway, so Hana and Hayato are still hanging around each other quite a bit. He has previously covered her from glass shattering, and then near the end he pulls out of the way of an oncoming car, after saving her from some pushy guy. And then she wraps her arms around him, wanting him to hold her. (This is ridiculous, because she totally should have seen the cars moving around on the road. They were moving before she started crossing it. Is she stupid, or did she want him to save her?)
And that's it for this volume.
This is terrible. And it's not getting any better. It's pretty much the same amount of terrible as it was from the beginning. And if I didn't already have the next one (the omnibus), then I probably wouldn't read it. (I think that might be a lie. Because, despite how terrible this is, I don't mind reading it. It is horribly stupid, and yet I can't seem to stop.)
Ageha isn't any better. We've got more insight into Hana, but I don't really feel sorry for her. She's pretty much done this to herself. Hayato I'm unsure of. Ryusei is still pretty pathetic, but I still kind of like him. Ageha's friends are alright, but we've only seem a little bit of them. Their family is alright. It's all pretty much the same. Which isn't a particularly good thing, but at least it's not worse, right?
Also, I'm still wondering if Kodansha is going to publish the next one. I will probably talk more about this on the next volume, since it is the last one released.

Review: Amplified by Tare Kelly

Rating (Out of 5): 3.5
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Goodreads Synopsis:

When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . .

In this fresh new novel by critically acclaimed author Tara Kelly, Jasmine finds out what happens when her life gets Amplified.

This was also not really what I was expecting. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, though. There was just more to the story than I was thinking there would be.
It's about Jasmine Kiss, who's just been kicked out by her father because she refuses to go to college before pursuing music. So she moves to Santa Cruz, where her car breaks down, and she joins a band who want to perform, only she has stage fright. And she moves in with the majority of the band, which are all male.
Jasmine was alright. She isn't the brightest, and she really needs to grow up some more. She does some lying and some other things that aren't the smartest, but she does some growing up, and she doesn't give in, even if it's tempting. And she wasn't immature, or stupid, but she needed more experience. She wasn't ready to be out on her own yet, and by the end, I still didn't really feel that she was ready. Also, she says things without thinking about them, a lot.
I did like the band. Or, most of the band. Felix is big and girly but still straight. Veta, the singer, is gay and kind of psychic and pretty awesome. Bryn is quite a jerk, but he warms up to Jasmine some by the end of the book. Sean can be mean and still fun, and I liked him with Jasmine. They fool around some, which was nice, and even though the ending left things open for them, it still promised things were going to happen, and for some reason, I still liked it.
Also, I liked Veta and Sean's family. Their sister was cute, and their mom was sweet. I feel like the fact that Jasmine didn't have a great family life but that she has friend with good ones could have been expanded upon, though.
Their competition, were jerks. Teddy seemed like he could have been alright, while Amy was a total biotch. I did not like her, at all, didn't see what Sean did, and would have enjoyed it if Jasmine and her got into a fight. It should have happened. Dave was also a jerk. And Luna's Temptation seemed alright. Nile was a jerk, and Zia was really odd, but in a good way.
I didn't particularly like her dad. He was a bit of a jerk, and I don't feel that things were completely solved between them by the end. They just don't communicate very well, and I don't see a lot of things getting better for them, but it is on the path to getting better, so who knows. He did push her to do things on her own, though, which was good.
Her best friend, Jason, was adorable. We only saw him a couple of times, which was disappointing, because I really liked him and it would have been nice if we got to actually see him interact with her instead of only over the phone. And to meet his boyfriend.
Oh, if you didn't notice, this book was very friendly to gay people. (As there are two, one boy and one girl. Plus a girly boy that's still straight.) And it's pointed out casually, like, that's cool, whatever. I thought this was awesome.
And, as I mentioned above, there was more to the story than I'd expected. She does something stupid pretty early in the book and then it came back to her around halfway through, and after that, she really did have to prove her worth to the band. This, while I'm unsure if it was a good thing, because it was terrible how bad she messed up (cringe-worthy, that's how bad it was), it did help her grow up some. She worked harder after that to stay.
So, while Jasmine made me cringe with some of the things she did, and while it ended kind of openly, I still really enjoyed the book.
Oh, one thing that really bothered me. Jasmine is kind of going poor, as she only has so much money saved up and spends most of it on where she's staying, and then has to pay for her car, which is a lot. And her dad refuses to pay for anything (which is jerky, but understandable). So how does she have a cell phone throughout the whole book? There's never any mention of her paying for it herself, and I don't see why her dad would be paying for it for her. It's never mentioned how it's paid for, and this bothered me, because she has it from the day she leaves her dads place to the end of the book. So she would have been paying for it on her own before she abruptly moved out or her dad was paying it while she lived somewhere else, but wouldn't pay for anything else? I don't understand.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Stranded by J.T. Dutton

Rating (Out of 5): 2.5
Publisher: HarperTeen

Amazon Synopsis:

My best friend, Katy, says a person with a sparkly two-part name like Kelly Louise should be guaranteed a little glamour and excitement and not be forced to move back to Mom's middle-of-nowhere hometown—now the center of a media frenzy since a farmer found an infant in his cornfield. (It just slipped from some mystery mother's body without anyone noticing.)
But Baby Grace shadows every hair flip, every wink, and is keeping me from losing my virginity, despite my dynamite new boots. Even Katy doesn't have any more good advice. The one boy around who rates anywhere near acceptable on the Maximum Man Scale only has eyes for my cousin, Natalie, who only has eyes for Jesus.
But Natalie has a secret.
Everyone is so busy burying the truth about Baby Grace, they can't see who they're burying alive.


[Contains forewarned spoilers]
I've had this waiting on my shelf for a while, and finally decided to read it. And It took me a while to get through it. It's not what I was expecting, in a mostly bad way.
It's about Kelly Louise, who has been forced to move with her mother to Heaven, a town in the middle of nowhere to live with her grandmother and cousin, for reasons her mother won't explain. She doesn't fit in with anyone in town, she misses her best friend Katy, and before she moved there a baby was found dead in a corn field, which she finds out to be [Spoiler!] her naïve, church going cousin Natalie's.
First of all, I went in with the impression that the baby was still alive, which [Spoiler!] it wasn't. That was disappointing. And I wasn't expecting Kelly Louise to be the way that she was.
It's in her point of view, and she isn't a brat or goody-two-shoes like Natalie. She's a bit out there with the way she thinks, which can be fun, and is how she is with her friend Katy. But no one in Heaven is like her at all. Except maybe Kenny, only he is in a different, rebel boy way. But the thing that bothered me about her, is that her thoughts always seemed to be all over the place. And I don't really know how to explain this, because it also kind of wasn't. She could still be talking about the same thing, not like she would start thinking about one thing which would lead to another, but it still felt all over the place. Maybe like she would be thinking about something, but then in the same paragraph talk about what people were doing around her. I don't know, but it was hard for me to read.
Which is disappointing, actually, because at other points, I didn't really mind some of the things that Kelly Louise thought about. Some of it was entertaining, even.
Natalie, also, I did not like. She was a goody-two-shoes around everyone, but she went off and did something with a boy (who I will not spoil, but who is also a bit of a jerk,) but won't fess up about it to anyone. She confesses to Kelly Louise's mother, but won't explain. And I honestly don't believe how it all happened. ([Spoiler!] I mean, really? She didn't know what was happening all the way till she went into labor? That's ridiculous. And just stupid.) She is a stupid liar and I do not like her.
Her grandmother, while strict and way too clean, I didn't mind. And there are parts of Kelly Louise's thoughts where she actually admires her, which was something that doesn't happen very often. And that was nice.
Her mother, I wasn't too big a fan of. She wasn't always there for Kelly Louise, but went to help Natalie very quickly, and then is out with guys all the time. And then she makes a big show of trying to control Kelly Louise while not being around for her much. That was totally lame.
There was very little romance in this book. Kelly Louise wants some, but is having a hard time getting any. (That sounds a little crude, and immature. Sorry 'bout that.) She crushes on one boy (who's a bit of a jerk, and is mentioned above,) then does some stuff with Kenny, who's an immature boy in a bad situation, but I could see potential of him actually becoming nice. But even the stuff between them wasn't very romantic. Or, he wasn't very romantic.
Also, while there are some religious parts to the book, because they go to church, there isn't too much of it. And Kelly Louise doesn't 'find god' or anything. I was glad it wasn't overpowering, or a main theme in the book.
The ending, wasn't very good. [Not major, but spoilers!] Things happen with Natalie, and Kenny moves, and Kelly Louise and Katy aren't really talking anymore (which is lame). She stays in Heaven, but I don't really see her getting close to anyone there. And her mom meets someone, who's brother is her principal, who is pretty awesome. But we never really see her getting closer to her mom and the guy, or things getting better for her or Natalie. It's all mostly summed up in the last chapter, which I didn't really like.
And I came out of the book, wondering what, exactly, I'd gotten out of it. (Not to say that I usually get a lot out of the other books I read, because I know they aren't all full of life lessons. I just enjoy them more than I did this one.) Wondering why I wasted so much time on it, really. So, yea, I wouldn't say I enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher, Volume 3, by Izumi Tsubaki

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: VIZ Media
Volumes: 12+

Goodreads Synopsis:
Mafuyu is the ideal yanki chick—no-nonsense, take-charge, and hard-hitting. But when she gets expelled for being a delinquent, her mother, fed up with her daughter’s wayward ways, sends Mafuyu to an isolated school far off in the country.

Mafuyu is heading home for the weekend to get some much-needed TLC. But neither her mom nor her hometown seem to be in the mood for a warm welcome. Trying to walk off the weird feelings, Mafuyu and some of her old East High comrades are caught in a trap set by the gang from West High! Can she help her former friends without compromising her fresh start?

It's taking me a bit to get into this series. I read The Magic Touch, and actually enjoyed it. And I like Tsubaki's humor, but for some reason, the story's moving too slowly or the subject (being a delinquent and fighting) isn't as interesting or something. Although, there isn't as much romance in this one as in the other one, which might be a part of it.
It's about Mafuyu, who has been sent to a new school because of her delinquent tendencies (as her mother doesn't like them), and she has promised not to do any of the delinquent type of things anymore. But then she can't help herself from saving a boy, but then later decides to wear a bunny mask to hide her identity. And she meets the guy, Takaomi, who's now a teacher, who got her into fighting in the first place.
In this volume, Mafuyu decides to go back home during a break and visit her mother (really, though, only because she's broke and wants a home cooked meal). And she gets to see her old friends from school, the delinquents that followed her. She ends up getting in some trouble with them, and she realizes that she isn't the leader anymore, which is sad, but they're awesome and sweet to her nonetheless.
But I really liked seeing the delinquents from Mafuyu's old neighborhood, especially the number one and two that follow her, and I hope that we get to see more of them.
That takes up most of the volume, except for the last two chapters, in which Mafuyu gets a little freaked out by her horoscope and then locked out of the house and has to stay with Takaomi, who turns out to be her neighbor. This isn't exciting in the way that I want it to be, but funny in the way that Tsubaki makes all of it. And then the last chapter focuses on Mafuyu and her new friend Hayasaka, who are the only members in the Public Morals Club, have to go talk to the student council to try to get it officially made a club. They don't know about this bet that Takaomi and the principal have, or why they are supposed to wear masks when speaking to the student council president. This is an interesting chapter, and opens up to some obvious problems that are going to come up with the president, and probably Takaomi and the principal as well.
I don't want to spoil too much, but it was good. And I liked it, and will probably be getting more interested in it as I read more. I should, at least, since I am enjoying it and I did like her other series. Her art work isn't amazing, or more like, it can take some getting used to. It's very sharp. But I'm used to it, so I don't mind it anymore.
I'll probably be reviewing the next volume soon, as I already have it and now only have to read it.

Manga Review: Shinshoku Kiss, Volumes 1 & 2, by Kazuko Higashiyama

Rating (Out of 5): ~3.5
Publisher: TokyoPop
Volumes: 2
Goodreads Synopsis:

From the co-creator of tactics!Be careful what you wish for! Kotoko Kashiwagi is an aspiring doll maker who dreams of one day making dolls as life-like and beautiful as her idol's, the popular yet mysterious doll maker "Fool." She'd also like nothing better than to meet him, but when she does, the circumstances are nothing like she imagined! First off, he's kidnapped her. Second, he's kissed her hand, and third, he's informed her she's going to become his servant

Kazuko Higashiyama's dazzling tale of a doll maker who just might get what he wishes for comes to stunning conclusion!When Yuta wants Kotoko to use her encroacher to make a doll of a certain street artist, Kotoko ends up falling for one of Yuta's creepy comrades, Fuyu. Fuyu also has an encroacher, however, and tells Kotoko that he'd like to show her STAR. On the way, Kotoko realizes two things: Takuto is a living doll, and she has memories of STAR from her childhood.

I've been thinking about who to review books that I've already read (as I'm new to reviewing but have read a lot), including two-shot series like this one. I don't want to do them volume by volume, as I've already read them and would have to re-read the series in order to write about them well. I've thought about not reviewing them at all, but I want to. And so I've decided to review them together, if they're about two volumes like this one. (So, you know, tell me what you think of me doing it this way, whether you like it or not.)
So anyway, it's about a girl, Kotoko, who wants to make dolls but isn't very good at it. She enters a contest and doesn't win, but is ends up meeting a famous doll maker, the creator of 'Fool', and is forced into an odd situation of working for him. He teaches her more about dolls and how to get better at making them, and she meets several other people in the industry.
In the second novel, we find out more about 'Fool''s doll 'Star', which has made men go mad, and some other (kind of creepy) things related to 'Fool'. Like about his helper, Takuto. (Although, really, 'Fool' is a bit creepy all on his own.) And I like Takuto and Kotoko together, but the ending for them, and the series altogether, was a little weird. It's not bad, not really, but I'm still a little unsure what to think about it; what I think about it.
I didn't mind Kotoko. She wasn't dumb, but not as smart as some, and maybe a little too curious in things that she shouldn't be in. The art is really pretty. And the story was interesting (while maybe a little weird), and it moved along pretty well. We got a good idea of who each character was, even with such a short amount, as well.
This was a good, short, series (even if it was also odd and I'm unsure of the ending). I haven't read any of Higashiyama's other series, including Tactics, and probably won't, unless there's one that I'm unaware of that has been completely published over here. (If there has, go ahead and tell me.)

Review: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Rating (Out of 5): 4
Publisher: Puffin
Goodreads Synopsis:

Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today's bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

This is probably my favorite Christmas story that I've read. At least, when it comes to young adult books. (But, to be fair, I haven't read or watched all that many Christmas stories.)
It's an anthology of three short stories by three different authors, all taking place near Christmas in the same town during a snow storm (blizzard?).
The first story is by Maureen Johnson, who I am a fan of. I haven't reviewed any of her other books, but I have read most of them (all but Devilish and her newest), so I was expecting to like her story. And I did. It's about Jubilee, who dislikes her name (because it comes from a piece in this Flobie Santa Village thing that her parents are obsessed with, which is awesome, not only because her name is neat, but also because I liked seeing the Christmas Village thing mentioned and about how people go crazy over it). She's taking the train to her grandparents (right?) when it gets stuck from the snow, and then she meets Stuart and has to stay with him (and his mother, who are both Jewish). This story was cute, and fun (as is all of Johnson's books, like her), and Stuart was sweet.
The second one is John Green's. I've read his other books as well (and watch him on Youtube), so I knew what to expect from it. It's about a boy and his two friends (one a girl and one a boy) who decide to take an adventure to a restaurant in town during the storm. This one was fun, and it has the whole best friends to more thing going for it as well. It was fun, and had Green's normal humor to it as well.
The last one was by Lauren Myracle, and I didn't know what to expect because I hadn't read any of her other stuff. It was actually better than I'd though it would be. It was about a girl, who's a bit selfish but works to overcome it. She's supposed to get a little tea cup pig for her friend, and she's missing her boyfriend who she's having problems with but still likes and doesn't know how feels. It was actually a bit fun, and I liked the boy.
I enjoyed all of the stories, they were fun and very entertaining. I also liked all of the connections, since most of the characters know each other (as they live in the same town and go to the same school) and we see glimpses of them in each story, as well as a good ending with them all in the last story. And there's just enough romance for each story, but it was mostly a (really) good, funny, Christmas read.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Review: Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, and Carly Phillips

Rating (Out of 5): ~3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Goodreads Synopsis:

Get ready for a holiday season you'll never forget with three of today's most sensational writers who know what every woman wants for the holidays. You'll believe in Santa all over again with these seductive stories from:
Mayhem ensues under the mistletoe as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, only to find herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game--in the arms of a sexy secret agent. . .

Two dedicated coworkers with a lot of secrets (and fantasies!) between them must plan a Christmas party side by side--and discover a love worth celebrating--in this steamy office romance.

A "mistletoe moment" begins when a no-nonsense lawyer intent on seducing her boss meets his twin instead--after giving him a scintillating kiss that leaves him begging for more. . .

I've been debating on whether or not to review a book like this, and this one in particular, because it's not a ya. It's an adult romance, and it includes smut. (So, um, yea, mature readers only and all that.) I enjoyed it, though, and it's a Christmas story, so I decided to.
The first story is by Jennifer Crusie, called 'Hot Toy', was probably my favorite. But I like Crusie's stories, and she usually has pretty good openings, as this one did. It's about Trudy, who is trying to find a specific toy for her nephew, one that is almost impossible to find, on Christmas Eve. She runs into a guy that she had a few not-so-great dates with. It turns out that she finds the toy with some codes that the government needs from Russia, and there are several complications as things move forward. And there isn't much smut in this story, only some kissing, but Crusie usually doesn't have much. It was good, though, the swoon. And I liked it, as I already said. Trudy was fun, and stubborn like Crusie's characters usually are. And It's sweet how far she goes for her nephew, and her relationship with her sister is nice, but her sister alone is fun.
The next story by Lori Foster, is called 'Christmas Bonus'. It's about a girl who gets her father's business after he passes away, but she doesn't want it, she wants to be a writer, and has already published some things. And she likes one of the men who worked for her father, who was going to take over the business had her father not left it to her in his will. You can tell where this is going, I'm sure. There were some smutty scenes in this story, which I was looking forward to, since Foster's stories are usually very steamy. And I kind of liked the characters, but some of the scenes just weren't as good as hers' usually are. I'm not really sure why, but they didn't flow or the characters weren't as good or something. (Oh, but the guy did think a little too highly of romances when he first reads the girls story, which I thought was giving them a little too much credit.)
The last story is by Carly Phillips, called 'Naughty Under the Mistletoe'. This one was alright, maybe a little better than Foster's. It's about a girl who decides that she's going to seduce her boss, but then ends up kissing his twin brother instead. The characters were actually a bit fun, and the story was pretty good. Better than the other stories of hers that I've read. But there were some good swoon-like, kind of smutty scenes.
None of these were bad, although some of them were better than the others. These were good, smutty, holiday stories.
(As a sidenote, tell me if you would like me to do more review of these type of stories, because I have been reluctant to, but can very easily.)

Manga Review: The Missing White Dragon by Park Young Ha

Rating (Out of 5): ~3
Publisher: Infinity Studios
Volumes: 1

Goodreads Synopsis:
The Missing White Dragon is a wonderful compilation of the most popular Asian folk tales and select portions of history, retold with an exotic touch of romance. Reading this book not only introduces fans to the culture of Asia, but it also gives readers insight to the bedtime stories Asian parents often tell their children at night. In essence, this beautifully written anthology shows fans the influential stories Asian children hear just as Americans children would be told fairy tales such as Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel & Gretel.
I kind of just stumbled upon this at a used book store. I'd heard of Infinity before, but not of this artist or manga. It looked pretty, though, and from the small description on the back, sounded interesting. I didn't realize until later, though, that it's read in the American way (you know, left to right instead of right to left), but it didn't give me as much of a problem as I thought it would. Because, usually, when I read a manga American style, I get all messed up because I'm used to reading it like the Japanese do.
So, this book has five short stories. They're supposed to be Asian folk tales with a romantic twist, but I don't know any Asian folk tales, so I'm going to assume that they are.
The first one, 'The Missing White Dragon', is about a boy and a girl, the boy a human from a high family and the girl a demon, who are arranged to be married. Neither wants to go through with it, and in order to break it off, their fathers decide that they can try to find the missing white dragon statue. They find it in the girls purse, as the boy gave it to her as a proposal after she saved him ten years ago. They're surprised at meeting each other again, and after the marriage is called off, continue to see each other.
This story was pretty cute, but was mostly just alright. Young Ha art is pretty, although sometimes her characters get a bit too exaggerated. I did like how the girl was drawn, though, especially her cat-like eyes.
The next story, 'Hannya', is about a master physician, a girl, who feels like she stole the position from her older brother, who got killed when she gave him a job. She's letting a boy stay with her, who turns out to be the eater of nightmares. And she keeps having nightmares about her brother hating her and wanting revenge. So, he saves her from letting the nightmare kill her and from her self-hate. This story was just alright for me, not amazing. The girl bothered me during the big nightmare scene, actually, because she goes off on her existence and hating herself, and I don't like that stuff.
The third story, 'Dispel Magic', is about a girl who wants to do dark magic, and the boy she's always trying things on. He ends up doing a spell that turns her into a half-puppy, and they have to visit a magician to find out how to change her back. They end up confessing to each other, and the spell breaks.
The fourth story, 'The Romance of the Crying Thunder Sword', is about a girl who steal the crying thunder sword from her father, who was going to sell it, and meets a boy from heaven that controls thunder, and they help a fox demon save his wife. The sword knows her as it's wielder and apparently the boy knew her from a past life, and whatever. Some of the technical things with the boy were a little unclear, but the story was mostly alright.
The last story, 'A Magician's Proposal', is about a magician with no money that has summoned a fairy in an earlier time as his assistant, and the magician tries to court a princess with no luck. The fairy saves him, and she likes him but hasn't told him. And the magician is not getting it and apparently goes after another princess for money. The magician wasn't very smart, but the fairy was, so there's that, at least.
These stories weren't all that impressive, but they weren't bad. The art, at times, was very pretty and almost delicate. But at other times it's a little messy and sometimes blurry. And some of the over-exaggerated points bothered me, with the wide eyes and everything, it just seemed a little dumb. But the author says at one point that it's her debut, and there's obvious potential, so hopefully she got better? I'm assuming she did, because I haven't read any of her other stuff and probably won't get to (unless something else has been published by her and I'm unaware). Oh, also, the thing that bothered me most, would have to be the translations. There were a lot of mistakes in it, and it made it almost hard to read a couple of times.
Also, the stories didn't seem all that folk tale-y, which is why I doubted that it's based off of Asian folk tales. But I don't know any folk tale (at least, I don't think so,) so it's very possible that these are folk tales, and since it says so on the back cover, I'm going to assume that they are. But it makes me wonder how the original tale was told, as they seem a little far off and more character based than as if someone were telling a story.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Manga Review: MeruPuri, Volume 4, by Matsuri Hino

Rating (Out of 5): 4.5
Publisher: VIZ Media
Volumes: 4

Goodreads Synopsis:
All high-school freshman Airi Hoshina ever wanted was to someday live in a cozy home with a loving husband, and find joy in the little things in life. As a result, she makes it her daily mission to get to school on time because school legend has it that the longer one's non-tardy streak is, the better boyfriend one will find. But just when her daily routine is working like clockwork, an occurrence of fairytale proportions threatens to disrupt her grand plan.
This one starts off with Airi in the dangerous, locked off building, where she meets up with Raz. Aram is hurrying to catch up to her, and he runs into Mariabel and Jeile on the way, and Jeile helps him break in. Raz is being a jerk to Airi, like always, but he gives her the box, which she is unable to open with her strength alone. But she proclaims that her and Aram's love with be able to move past this, and if they can't, then it's not worth it. But Aram breaks in, and she kisses his chest, over the symbol that resembles hers, and he gets his memories back. There's some fun words exchanged between them all, as well. Oh, and Aram officially asks her to marry him with a flower in hand.
In the next chapter, Airi is trying to learn some magic. She has to learn to be able to pass back into her world, since her own mirror broke, but she's having trouble with it. She's not understanding it, and the other girls are jealous because Aram is hanging all over her and following her to class. They do make a scene after the girls call her out. But the best part of the chapter is when Jeile has to tutor her, and him and Aram fight over her. They are just adorable.
The next chapter mostly focuses on the two officially stating to the kingdom that they are married and that no one can do anything about it. And we meet Jeile's fiance. Jeile is against it, and he's also engaged to Lei's twin sister, and when coming into account his first meeting with Lei, this is hilarious. Next, Airi has to do a trial for Aram's mother, in which she has to go back home and find a ring that her great, however-many, grandmother left. Her and Aram and Jeile look all over for it, and Airi finds it in her mirror from a curse, and she gets to meet her as well. This is a cute little scene. We also see Lei, who has been pretending to be Airi in the human world while Airi has been stuck. Least to say, Lei is not happy about it.
Chapter twenty-one focuses on several things. It first shows Lei and Aram's mothers relationship. They have an odd one. Aram's mother, all on her own, though, is odd. She's a bit sadistic, and likes seeing her kids being tortured a little, and she scares Airi (which is understandable). Lei, though, has feelings for her, and she tortures him because of it, while no one else knows. Next it shows Raz, who gets to leave the kingdom because he fulfilled his agreement with Aram's mother, but then he gets sucked into a thing and stuck in the human world. He was summoned, we find out, by Nakaoji's little sister, who wants Nakaoji killed (which is very fun). Nakaoji isn't fazed, and we find out later that he descents from some guides who help people from the other side when they get to the human world. And apparently Chrisnelle, the traitor that Airi descends from, was also a guide. This is interesting, and I wish that we'd have gotten to see more of Nakaoji and what he knows. It has me intrigued, and now I can't know anymore.
Anyway, then it focuses some on Jeile. It shows him and Maruru, his fairy, and Nei, his fiance. (At least I think her name is Nei. It's mentioned in the author notes on the side, but I don't remember ever being formally introduced to her.) And we see some of his past, when he first met Maruru, and was put down because of it, but he had to show that he could do anything. Nei doesn't seem to mind that he has a special fairy, or that he has several other women that he has given flower names. Although she's a little unemotional, like Lei is. But she seems to really like Jeile, and when Maruru fully grows into herself, becoming full size, they both share him. This is a little weird, but not too surprising, and I don't really mind it. I wouldn't mind seeing more, actually. But I just love Jeile, a little bit.
And then there's a short story explaining Raz's situation in the human world with Nakaoji.
In the final chapter, there's a cute scene between Aram and Airi, and they go out on a date. (Sidenote: I love her dress in this scene. I am jealous and want to steal it from her.) It's Aram's seventeenth birthday, and there's a ceremony because he has now become eligible royaly, or whatever, and his marriage to Airi is announced. And we see Jeile with his wife and two kids, where he gives them a present in which Aram turns into a little kids in the dark.
One thing that bothers me about this is the age difference. It's pointed out that Airi is twenty and Aram is seventeen, but that doesn't seem as big of a difference as it was when they first met. Am I wrong? I don't know why, but this is still bothering me. Also, is Airi just going to live as long as everyone else in Astale now that she's there? Because she shouldn't be as slow with it as they are, unless they did something, right? Um, whatever, I guess.
Then there's a cute little story where Airi has messed up a spell and Aram finds her and helps her fix it.
I love this series, and I want more. But that's alright, I guess. I like Airi and Aram together. I like Jeile, all by himself and with other people. I'm interested in Nakaoji now, and I'm also a little intrigued by Raz and what's going to happen with him, and Mariabel, although reluctantly. Oh, and Lei and Aram's mother. They're so odd, and I wouldn't be surprised if something did happen between them. But I would want to read it, as well as what the King thinks of it all. As I was saying, I love all of the characters and I want more of them. And Aram is adorable. He's sweet and innocent, for most of the time, and he blushes so easily. He's so cute.
And there's so much to the story, even though it's a short series. I don't think that it got that much attention, either, which is a shame, since it's so good. Hino's art is awesome, as are her characters and story. There are so many cute scenes and lines in this series. Even though some things bothered me, I still love it.

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Rating (Out of 5): ~3.5
Publisher: Knopf Books (Random House)

Goodreads Synopsis:
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.
I got this and read it around the time it came out, which was last year. I've read their other books and enjoyed them, and I enjoyed this one as well.
I seem to have a hard time differentiating Cohn and Levithan's characters. I know that they're different people, and I know what's happening with both, but their voices tend to mix in my head. So I'm not really able to say which of the two that I preferred.
Anyway, Dash finds a moleskin notebook in Strands (which is a big bookstore in New York, and it is amazing,) that has instructions in it. We find out later that Lily's brother made it and placed it in a particular spot in the store for a person to find, a person for Lily. Dash decides to follow the instructions, and then proceeds to leave the book for the owner, Lily, to find and follow his instructions. And thus starts the passing of the notebook.
I like all of the sightseeing in the book. The two are familiar with New York, as they live there, and do lots of dares before passing the notebook on. And they leave it in lots of different places, which is fun. They don't actually meet, face-to-face, till a bit into the book. And because of that, a lot is focused on them on their own, and their families and friends, and the dares. I especially liked the scenes in Strand, the beginning mostly, because I love Strand and I like how it's pointed out that the customer service isn't amazing.
I didn't particularly like the ending. It left things hanging, and while I see the reason, I still don't like being left hanging. Although I wasn't really expecting a big romantic scene, since I have read their other joint books, and they don't have big romantic scenes in them. More would be nice, but the characters and stories are good enough without them. But I just like lots of romance, so I'm biased.
I did like this book, although I could have liked it more. It's still a good Christmas read, though. There's quite a bit of family time, mostly with Lily, which is nice. All of the sightseeing and adventures are fun. It's a fun holiday read.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Manga Review: The Story of Saiunkoku, Volume 2, by Kairi Yura and Sai Yukino

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: VIZ Media
Volumes: 18

Goodreads Synopsis:

Shurei Hong, destitute but of noble birth, has always dreamed of working as a civil servant in the imperial court of Saiunkoku, but women are barred from holding office. The emperor Ryuki, however, refuses to take command, leaving everything to his advisors. Shurei is asked to become a consort to the emperor to persuade the ne’er-do-well ruler to govern.


For some reason, I'm having a hard time getting into this series. It's just a little too slow, or something. I'm starting to like the characters, but the story moves slowly. But it's also a historical story, and I'm not too big a fan of history, even if it is fiction.
In this volume, Shurei finds out that Ryuki actually know more about what she's been teaching him than she thinks. When she demands to leave, Ryuki locks her up in his room. Even though this is really a terrible thing to do, it's actually quite funny. And Ryuki didn't know that she was a stand-in and was only staying there temporary. It's adorable how much Ryuki likes her.
And then Shurei's poisoned and kidnapped, and Ryuki has to rescue her. Ryuki has to make a deal in order to get the antidote for her. After she wakes up, they talk some, and when Shurei is saying goodbye to everyone, Ryuki kisses her and confesses that he likes men and women, (because Shurei was under the impression that he only slept with men,) to which Shurei is outraged.
And then there's a small side story about Shurei, her father, Seiran, and food. It's about when Shurei and her father first take in Seiran and Shurei's mother has just recently died. It's a cute, sweet little thing.
There were other parts in the volume with the other characters, more serious parts that I'm having a hard time with. I can't seem to remember who's who, or what's going on with all of them, why they're doing what they're doing. And some of them seem interesting, I just don't seem to remember them, and I don't think I've seen enough from several of them. I'm starting to like Shurei a bit more, and Seiran is interesting, but I haven't seen enough of him, gotten enough of his character yet, either. But I do really like Ryuki. He's adorable, and fun, and he likes Shurei and it's cute how they always argue with each other, and he refers to himself (sometimes, not always) as 'we', and he actually knows what he's doing and can fight. I like him most. But all of the other characters, and the history, is making it hard for me to read.
I'm going to continue the series, but I hope that it gets more exciting, and lets up a little on the history and background parts. I just don't enjoy them, and I do want to get into this series. But for now, it's just alright (aside from Ryuki, because I kind of love him).

Review: Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

Rating (Out of 5): 2.5
Publisher: Little, Brown
Goodreads Synopsis:

The worst thing about having it all is having to deal with it all-the good, the bad, and the just plain weird. Like seeing more of my dad when he's on the cover of Business Week than I do in person. Like the surgeon whose schedule was too jammed with professional ballplayers to deal with my busted up knee...until he heard who my parents were and miraculously his calendar was wide open. Like the pseudo boyfriend who was more in love with my last name than with me.
Everybody thinks Syrah is the golden girl. After all, her father is Ethan Cheng, billionaire, and she has everything any kid could possibly desire, right down to a waterfront mansion, jet plane, and custom-designed snowboards. But most of what glitters in her life is fool's gold. Her half-siblings hate her, her best friend Adrian's girlfriend is ruining their friendship, and her own so-called boyfriend is after her for her father's name. When her broken heart results in a snowboarding accident that exiles her from the mountains—the one place where she feels free and accepted for who she is, not what she has—Syrah must rehab both her busted-up knee, and her broken heart, and learn that she's worth her weight in real gold.

I didn't particularly enjoy this book.
It's about Syrah, who hurt herself while snowboarding. She doesn't really feel at home with her family, and everything isn't perfect even if her family has lots of money. She's dealing with her family, and then she makes a new friend who volunteers at a hospital with all of the little kids. Plus, her friendship with Age isn't working because of his girlfriend, plus she has a boyfriend that doesn't really want her.
First, I didn't really like Syrah. She seemed to complain, or think, about things a lot without doing anything about them. Like with her mother, for example. Her says things that bother her, but she never does anything about it. This is one of the things that really bothered me. Some of it might be because I could relate to the not doing anything, but I didn't really sympathize with it.
There wasn't much romance, either, and it wasn't very exciting. I did kind of like the scenes in the hospital with the kids. Also, I don't really care for snowboarding, but it didn't take up as much of the book as I expected it would.
So, I didn't particularly care for this book. Mostly because of Syrah, I think, 'cause I just didn't really like her.