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Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Kaoru Mori's Emma

This is the latest in the Emma series, a manga about a victorian-era maid. One of these days, likely after the 10th and final volume comes out, I'll post on the whole series (which I adore). Here's my GR review, plus a little goody just for you!

Emma Vol. 9 Emma Vol. 9 by Kaoru Mori

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This volume continues to present side stories of the peripheral characters of Emma, among them Erich and his squirrel, the Merediths and their maids, and a trio of opera singers, as well as the story of how William met Hakim.
I almost rated this a 4, simply because it's harder to absolutely love a series of side stories instead of the orig. chronicles of Emma. But the fact is, I love this world. Kaoru Mori is so attuned to her characters and the details. She can tell a story with no words for many panels (sometimes pages) and still keep it clear and entertaining. Her attention to detail amazes me, and her ability to inject subtle humor and outright cuteness. She could manga-up the phonebook and make it intricate and fun for me. And of course, her silly afterword manga is perfect as always. Sometimes I think, as much as I love the books, I love her afterword manga more.
I was very disappointed to find out that there is only one more volume and then she's done with Emma. Don't know what I'll do with myself. Think I'm going to have to move on to Shirley Volume 1.

View all my reviews >>

What didn't go in my Goodreads review:

For those of you who have read any of the Emma series, you may be familiar with the Merediths, and if so, you know that they tend to find themselves in *ahem* adult situations. This installment of the Merediths' story does not disappoint. (woo hoo Victorian manga smut-like awesomeness!)

Review: Tara Bray Smith' 'Betwixt'

Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Betwixt is the story of three teenagers (Ondine, Morgan and Nix) who have always felt different. Ondine is fiercely independent and can’t seem to cry; Morgan has grown up in a trailer park knowing that she is destined for more, and people seem to bend to her will and her beauty; Nix can see rings of light around people who are about to die, and is afraid he is causing it. Over the course of a summer, these three are drawn together as the truth about them is revealed.

Without giving anything away, that is the basic summary of Betwixt. I read this as part of a challenge, and for one task I had to go to the library and pick two books with my eyes closed. The first was excellent (Little Brother, review is here ); the second was Betwixt. If I hadn’t been reading this for a challenge, I would have put this book down after about 20 pages. Actually, I probably would have thrown it out the window. But since I had to read the whole thing, I figured I might as well read it closely and give an honest review. The best way I can think to explain what it was like reading this is to say it feels like it was written by a teenager who is out of touch with what it means to be a teen. The writing was young and amateurish, stunted and weird. There wasn’t a lot of follow through, and Smith tried to hard so keep the “secret” secret that she ended up muddying the story and making it confusing and, at times, near impossible to follow. It was filled with clich├ęs and contradictions, and the characters (who should have carried the story) were flat and boring.

 For all of these reasons, it felt like it was written by someone very young. However, the “young” person writing it didn’t seem to have a clue what being a teen is all about. The dialogue is horrendous. It honestly felt at times like it was written by an alien who had come to earth, learned all of its slang and conversational style from outdated, cheesy sitcoms and movies, and combined them all together. Every character, regardless of age, background, location, etc., spoke the same way, peppering every sentence with “dude”s and “man”s and “bro”s; there was this weird mish-mash of surfer, hippy, gangster and hipster slang, and more often then not, it wasn’t suited to what was going on. The characters’ verbal reactions to things tended to be delayed and then over the top or weirdly out of place. Smith seemed to think if she just tossed in a few curse words and some drug use and sexuality, she’d have the teen base covered.

The plot was loopy and pointless, and the ending highly unsatisfying: perhaps Bray is setting up for a sequel, or maybe she realized after nearly 500 pages that she need to wrap it up, because there is absolutely no resolution. This book is terrible, and I wouldn’t recommend wasting any time on it. There are so many things out there to read, in this genre and otherwise, that is seems a shame books like these are out there, taking the spots of ones with much more merit.

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Alright, that was my full Goodreads review. As I said, I read this as part of the Wild Things Summer Reading Challenge. It was a random book pick with a sort of cool cover, and I don't mind a good fairy story, so I thought I would like it.
Sometimes, when I'm reading a book, not only do I wonder how the author managed to get published, but I mourn a little for the trees that died to bring such a monstrosity to life.
Not quite as bad as the worst book I ever read (Julia Barrett's Charlotte, a completion/murder of Jane Austen's Sanditon), but in the Worst Writing Book-Off, Betwixt takes a solid 2nd.

Done and Done.

Finally finished up the Wild Things Summer Reading Challenge, comprising 25 books. My books totaled 10, 347 pages (according to Goodreads, some of my copies differed), and were, in order of the tasks given:

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  4. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  5. The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
  6. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  7. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
  8. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  9. Betwixtby Tara Bray Smith
  10. Anahita's Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres
  11. Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
  12. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  13. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  14. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  15. Belle and the Beau by Beverly Jenkins
  16. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
  17. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
  18. Madapple by Christina Meldrum
  19. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  20. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  21. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  22. Graceling by Kristen Cashore
  23. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  24. Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
  25. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I reviewed 12 of the books (nearly 1/2, not too shabby):

American Born Chinese
Anahita's Woven Riddle
Belle and the Beau
The City of Ember
The Graveyard Book
Little Brother
The Luxe
Rebel Angels
Thirteenth Child
Wildwood Dancing

and I will be sharing those reviews with you over the next few days, along with extra thoughts on the books and the challenge (I'm gonna call that 'bonus material') that didn't go into my Goodreads reviews.

Today, to get it out of the way, I'm going to start with what may be the worst book ever written, Tara Bray Smith's Betwixt...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Best. Library. Day. Ever.

Went to my library branch (Dorsch) today for my book club meeting, and I had the best stuff waiting for me:

  • Emma, Vol 9, which I didn't realize had even been written yet, and which normally takes for-ev-er to get to me through interlibrary loan (for the rest of the series), and which I just requested a few days ago and didn't think I'd see for months;
  • Ella Minnow Pea, which has the coolest title ever, and which I had forgotten about until someone on GR rated it the other day;
  • Cirque du Freak, which sounds interesting and I've been waiting on;
  • Madame M Presents: Creepy Little Bedtime Stories, again, awesome title, should be good fun;
  • Bitten, which I've already read, but am rereading for next month's book club;
and, drum roll please. . .
  • Shiver, which if you follow this blog at all (and really, why wouldn't you?), you'll know I've been obsessing about, and which wasn't supposed to come out until Saturday, and which my library didn't even have in the system until suddenly, there it was, waiting for me. (and which I still am hoping to win in Kristen's ALA challenge, regardless of whether I have it read by then.
Seriously, the stars aligned for me today.

Now if I could just finish the Wild Things challenge by tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Waiting on" Wednesdays (1) -- Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

This meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Stop by and see her blog.

Today's book(my first WoW) is a book that caught my eye on Goodreads and I have been obsessing about ever since. Couldn't really say why it's got me turning Golem, but all I know is I wantssss it...

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Year of Books from Better World Books

Every book lover I meet I tell about Better World Books. They are my go to source for books because:
  • They have a huge selection, new and used
  • The used books are donated and gathered from lilbraries, colleges and book drives, saving TONS of books from going to landfills
  • Their prices are great, their shipping is FREE in the US and 3.97 flat rate worldwide. That makes me very happy
  • Best of all, portions of their proceeds go to fund literacy programs the world over. I get to read for cheap and help someone else learn to? Favorite. Booksellers. Ever.
So, to cement their favoriteness in the hearts of their customers, they are having a contest now (which I learned about by following them on Facebook), where if you become a Twitter follower and tweet their contest, you will be entered to win a YEAR OF BOOKS. The winner gets a $20 gift certificate each month for a year. Now, with that you could buy a new book every month and have some $$ left over, or you could save the world a bit, dig through their Bargain Bin section like I do, where things are often 5 for $15, and get 80 FREE BOOKS in one year.

So since I am just darling, instead of keeping this all to myself, I am deciding to share it with the world (the world right now being a whopping 3 followers -- thanks guys!), but I will spread it around elsewhere to, and you can join my in trying to win a couple bokoshelves worth of free stuff.

Go here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kristen (bookworming in the 21st century) has an awesome contest...

And I am in awe of her book blog. So much more ambitious than mine, which I posted on once and abandoned. I really need to get back to it. Anywho, Kristen is having the mother of all giveaways, sharing her ALA wealth, and ohhh, I want to win. But if you want to be my competition, go here:

Kristen's ALA Extravaganza Contest

Just know I will steal Shiver from you...

Also, she has another contest running for Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games...

Catching Fire Contest


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