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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: High school, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. “Where do you buy these?”

barnesnoble cherryhillNJ 300x231 Where do you buy these?

Barnes and Noble at Cherry Hill, NJ.

Eight years ago, the question shocked me: “Mr. Ribay, where do you buy these?”

The student was holding up a book. He had no idea where to buy a book. That was my first year teaching in Camden, NJ and the first time I had ever encountered someone who had to ask this question. But it wouldn’t be the last.

“Umm,” I said, “a bookstore.”

The answer seemed obvious, but later I thought about it further. Had I bought it in a physical bookstore? I probably purchased it online. This eighth grader couldn’t do that without a parent with a credit card. And where was the nearest bookstore? It was in the suburbs, and, again, this eighth grader probably couldn’t get there without someone willing and able to drive him.

Furthermore, the city’s public libraries left much to be desired. They actually closed down completely a few years later, making Camden the largest city in the United States at the time without a public library (thankfully, a couple branches eventually reopened as part of the county system).

camdenfreepubliclibrary 500x375 Where do you buy these?

The Camden Free Public Library

That simple, surprising question actually spoke volumes: Camden, the resting place of Walt Whitman, was a literary desert. It’s not that there weren’t people who still read and wrote, as there certainly were. I knew students who read well above their grade level, inhaling books like oxygen, and then offering profound comments that left me reeling. But the sad truth was that they were few and far between.

Many students in the inner-city do not grow up in literacy-rich environments. They may not have been read to regularly as children. Their houses might not have contained several shelves of books. They might not take regular trips to the library or a store that only sells books.

Eight years later, I now teach high school English at a charter school in West Philadelphia, but this question and its implications have remained in the forefront of my mind. Relative to the nearby neighborhood schools, our students perform pretty well, with a vast majority of each graduating class gaining acceptance to four-year colleges or universities.

Yet our average student still reads below grade level, our top students’ SAT scores are unimpressive, and a majority of our students couldn’t tell you the last time they read an entire book for fun.

I appreciate the complexity behind acquiring language and literacy. But it seems to me that on the whole these are the cumulative consequences of not being surrounded by books and learning to love them. It’s a simple truth overlooked amidst today’s mania for testing: if kids experience the joy of reading, they will read more and become better readers. A student bombarded with practice reading comprehension questions or scripted intervention curriculum for hours a day, year after year, learns only that they hate what they are being told is “reading.”

So, fellow educators, how do you get your students to love reading, to enjoy a book so much that they want to find a bookstore and go buy it? How did you ever get to that point?

share save 171 16 Where do you buy these?

The post “Where do you buy these?” appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Enter to Win a Paperback Copy of Flutura

 

We are giving away three paperback copies of  Flutura (The Alpha Girls Series, book one) from now until April 18th. Book one of The Alpha Girls series introduces you to Alexis, Brittany and Caitlin who have grown up together since birth. Caitlin is ready to become a woman, but she’s fourteen and has yet to experience her first French kiss or her first period. The summer before high school will change all of that.

Caitlin is taken by surprise when Joshua reveals his feelings for her. As Caitlin sorts out her own feelings toward Josh the memory of the kiss she shared with Trick on the beach continues to invade her thoughts.

Good thing she’ll never see Trick again or things could get complicated.

You can also find Larva (The Alpha Girls Series, book two) available now on Amazon kindle and paperback.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flutura by Angela Muse

Flutura

by Angela Muse

Giveaway ends April 18, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


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3. Larva is Live on Amazon

 

Larva Kindle Cover

We are pleased to announce the release of our second young adult book in our Alpha Girls series, Larva.  Book two of The Alpha Girls series follows Caitlin and her friends during their freshman year of high school.

Caitlin has been dating Josh most of the summer, but she finds herself torn between Josh and the new man on campus, Trick. Trick shared a passionate kiss with Caitlin over the summer on a Florida beach, but she never thought she’d see him again.

High school is full of choices. Some more difficult than others.

 


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4. School Spirits - Review


Publication date: 13 May 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 10/13: 1423148495 | 9781423148494
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Keywords: Paranormal, High School, Ghosts, Witches
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Kimberly's Review:

Izzy Brannick is strong and trained to fight monsters. And the one thing she is scared of? High School.

Izzy has been homes schooled her whole life. So when a case requires her to go to high school, Izzy bunkers down, watches a lot of high school television and hopes for the best. But nothing could prepare her for a best friend, a crush and a ghost. A really strong ghost.

Can Izzy's new friends accept who she is and help her defeat this ghost?

I'm a big fan of the Hex Hall series so I was really excited to read School Spirits. Izzy appears in the last book Spell Bound, and she takes front and center in School Spirits. Izzy is smart, strong and achingly awkward. I love how she's never been to a high school pep rally, basketball game. I love how she's learning everything there is to know about high school by watching television. The story introduces us to some "normal" teenagers like her new best friend Romy who is equal parts awesome fun and rainbow unicorn. And sweet Dex who makes Izzy a little bit dizzy.

In typical Hawkins fashion, there's a lot of fun one liners and witty dialogue. There's some romance, and ghosts and witches and danger. But best of all, there is Izzy who is really sweet and a bit sad.

The story moves quickly and while I would have liked more description, more twists, stronger motivations for the characters, I still breezed through it quickly in only two days. Enjoying the ride and wishing there was a sequel I could dive into right away.

It's a standalone after the Hex Hall series, but you should read the series first to fully enjoy School Spirits. I really hope this is the start of a spin off series.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
 


Visit the author online at www.rachel-hawkins.com and follow her on Twitter @LadyHawkins


Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

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5. Review: Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

 

Title: Blaze

Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…


Review:

I have mixed feelings about Blaze.  I loved the protagonist’s voice, but, man, could Blaze do some stupid things.  She frustrated me several times during the narrative, because she was smarter than she acted.  She is so desperate to escape her boring soccer mom life that she builds up a non-existent romance with her brother’s soccer coach.  The reality of their relationship is much more shallow; they have a hookup  in the back of Blaze’s van, and once that’s over, Mark’s interest in Blaze is extinguished.

Blaze is the rock of her family.  Her father has abandoned them to pursue an acting career in New York and her mother works long hours as a nurse, so Blaze is the primary caregiver  for her younger brother Josh.  She shuttles him and his friends back forth to soccer games, attempts to cook, and takes care of most of the household chores.  She has two close friends, and not much of a social life.  And a boyfriend?  Nope, her love life is sadly lacking.  

Then one fateful day, Mark, Josh’s soccer coach, asks for a ride home.  Blaze has been lusting after Mark from afar all season, and she can’t believe that he’s going to be sitting in her car!  Wait, no, her vehicle is the color of crap and it smells like stinky boys.  Ugh! Still, she’s not going to let this opportunity go to waste.  Awkwardly flirting with him, she is quickly smitten.  He’s hot, after all.  Mark even makes her laugh and good-naturedly goes along with the silly games she and her young charges play to pass the time during the long drives rides to the soccer games. 

After giving him a few more rides to games, Blaze has built up their relationship in her mind, and she starts to think that it’s a lot more than it really is.  This frustrated me, because she is not a stupid girl.  She is an intelligent young woman with hopes and dreams who can debate the nuances of the  Marvel Universe with the best of them, but because her family is so dysfunctional, she is looking for something to break the monotony of her rural life.  There has to be something more than being invisible and going to school, and with Mark’s help she’s going to find out what it is.

It’s obvious to the reader that Mark is all wrong for her and that Blaze is in for nothing but heartache.  He’s a class A jerk, and I wanted to shake some common sense into her every time Blaze obsessed about the lack of communication from him.  When they are together, it’s like they aren’t even speaking the same language.  When Mark does her wrong, and Blaze strikes back at him, her life is torn to shreds when he reposts a picture of her that her friend texted to him.  Let’s just say that the fallout makes being a boring soccer mom stand-in seem like the best job in the world.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, with a few reservations.  Blaze is a comic nerd, more specifically, a Marvel comic nerd, and there is a lot of comic chatter going on in her head.  An aspiring comic creator herself, she thinks, eats, and breathe comics.  Because I am a comic geek, too, and I’m familiar with the Marvel Universe (and even the Superman issue that she disses), I felt right at home here.  If you don’t like comics, have never heard of Comicon, and can’t imagine hanging out in a comic shop, you might be a little bored here.

The other thing that irritated me and made me want to fling the book at the nearest wall was the hookup scene with Blaze and Mark.  Blaze, as I have already stated, seems like a smart girl.  She should know that having unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy or a life-threatening disease.  She hardly knows Mark.  By this time in the story, I thought he had proven himself to be a stuck-up, self-centered dirtbag, but my opinion of him certainly does not matter.  Nary a protest is made about the lack of a condom, and in this day and age, that’s inexcusable.  I don’t care how old you are or how badly you want to keep your boyfriend happy.  Ugh!!

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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6. Interview with Cole Gibsen, Author of Senshi

Cole Gibsen is visiting the virtual offices today.  I loved Katana, so I’m delighted that she could drop by to answer a few questions about Senshi, the next book in the series.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Cole Gibsen] I’m a wannabe superhero who loves sewing, comic books, and Chinese food. My nail polish is always chipped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Senshi?

[Cole Gibsen] Senshi is the sequel to my debut novel and ohmigosh, did I have fun writing it. Not only does Rileigh accept the role as a warrior, but Quentin gets a chance to prove his worth, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Cole Gibsen] It was my love of martial arts and Bruce Lee movies that inspired me to write the first KATANA.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Rileigh?

[Cole Gibsen] Fearless, snarky, and stubborn. So I guess that would be fenarkorn. You know, I think we’re on to something here. I’m calling the people at Webster to get this recognized as a word!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Rileigh had a theme song, what would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I wrote the first book I had Rebirth by Skillet playing on loop. There couldn’t be a more perfect song for Rileigh.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Quentin won’t leave the house without.

[Cole Gibsen] His sunglasses. I always imagined him to be very much like me in that respect. My eyes are super sensitive to light so I have to wear my sunglasses at all times or else I have to do the squinty eye thing while I drive which is really no fun.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Kim’s pockets?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A pocketknife—really, why bother with anything less than a sword?

2. Gum—Rileigh makes him clench his jaw enough, no need to add to the strain.

3. Fast food receipt—As focused as Kim is with training, I don’t think he’d eat anything that wouldn’t keep him in optimum condition. Rileigh on the other hand…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Cole Gibsen] Stan Lee. Comic books were my life growing up. And I’m not ashamed to admit I still read them.  My goal when writing KATANA was to see if I could take a comic book concept and put it into book form.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A mug of hot tea.

2. My kitty thinks I need her on my lap.

3. NO INTERNET

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Cole Gibsen] Does comic book count? I just read Amazing Spiderman #700 and the ending, I won’t go into it because it’s a major spoiler alert, made me cry. When you invest so much time into a character, they become almost like family. So when they die, it makes an impact.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I was seventeen I found myself homeless and living out of my car. Back in those days there were no cell phones so my only source of entertainment were the books I checked out from the library that I read in my car with a flashlight. I remember the first book I ever read that really transported me to another world so viscerally was Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I’d loved how this poor girl who suffered and was abused terribly by her father, was able to rise above her past and become so much more than she’d ever dreamed. To this day, that book still haunts and inspires me. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Cole Gibsen] So many things! I like to sew and craft things out of felt. I also play the harmonica and sing in an eighties –themed rock band.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Cole Gibsen] My website: www.colegibsen.com

My twitter: www.twitter.com/colegibsen

My facebook: www.facebook.com/colegibsen

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Senshi from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below.

About the book:

Is Rileigh’s only hope for salvation to team up with her sworn enemy?

Rileigh Martin just wants to do normal teenage things, like go on romantic dates with Kim, her boyfriend and past life soul mate. Although that seems impossible when she’s the reincarnation of Senshi, a fifteenth century samurai warrior. After a ninja ambush leaves her unable to control her ki powers, Rileigh vows to get them under control before her friends lose more than their eyebrows. But when Kim leaves her for his past life betrothed and the other samurai stop talking to her, Rileigh realizes she doesn’t have any friends left to worry about.

As the ninja attacks increase, Rileigh learns that the reincarnated kunoichi, a powerful female ninja, wants to kill her in order to reclaim her destructive powers. Alone and with increasingly unstable powers, Rileigh’s only offer of help comes from Whitley, her sworn past life enemy. Rileigh knows she doesn’t stand a chance against the kunoichi by herself, but Whitley’s sudden allegiance might be hiding a much deadlier agenda.

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7. ‘Maggie’ Author Invites You to See Dreams Come True at Nation’s Largest Track Meet

WICHITA, Kan. – Every year for the past 101 years, dreams have come true at the Kansas State High School Track and Field Championships. The meet’s 102nd running will be no exception, this Friday and Saturday, as more than 3,000 … Continue reading

2 Comments on ‘Maggie’ Author Invites You to See Dreams Come True at Nation’s Largest Track Meet, last added: 5/22/2013
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8. ‘Minutewoman Maggie’ Gallops Toward New England Beach Vault!

One if by land, two if by sea, Minutewoman Maggie is on a fast gallop from Grain Valley, Kansas, to New England Beach Vault 2013. Author Grant Overstake received an email on Sunday, inviting his storybook heroine, Maggie Steele, to … Continue reading

2 Comments on ‘Minutewoman Maggie’ Gallops Toward New England Beach Vault!, last added: 9/17/2013
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9. Maggie Soars to Sunny California for Valley Vaulters Halloween Vault

Storybook heroine Maggie Steele is winging her way West for the fourth annual Valley Vaulters Halloween Vault this weekend in beautiful Murrieta, California. The event, sponsored by the Valley Vaulters pole-vault club will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 … Continue reading

1 Comments on Maggie Soars to Sunny California for Valley Vaulters Halloween Vault, last added: 10/28/2013
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10. Moon Killers (Shadow Series #3) : episode 1

IMG_0507

Happy Halloween! To celebrate I’m releasing a portion of Moon Killers in installments to thank you. So on this All Hallow’s Eve, come sit by the fire with me. Here’s a hot cup of apple cider. Are you all set? Let’s read the first episode of book three of The Shadow Series together…

When something feels wrong, it usually is.

My boyfriend Drew places his hand on my cheek. We’re lying next to each other in the end zone at the high school’s dark, empty football stadium. Blades of grass tickle a warning all along my spine––Drew and I aren’t alone. I rustle in place, trying to shake the feeling that someone is out there in the dark, watching us. Instead, I lose myself in Drew’s gaze, caring and not caring that he’s picked tonight to tell me everything––finally. When he leans in close, I close my eyes, feel his lips on mine and melt in his arms. He kisses me as if he’s lived a thousand lifetimes and discovered only love matters. But he will die. And I will not. Not for a very long time.

Nothing about Drew says he’s just begun his Last Life. Nothing about Drew has changed at all since I took his place as the Shadow Slayer. Girls still swoon over him, especially under the Friday night lights––where he can be found pulling off winning plays week after week. Most girls would die to just talk to him. I can’t believe he’s my boyfriend.

There are two main ways girls like to stalk Drew. After a game, they flock in his wake when he and the other football players make a pit stop at the Snack Shack on their way to the locker room. The girls smile with their hot dogs or hot chocolate hot in their hands, and flip their hair ready for Drew––all dripping with Gatorade––to turn around and instantly fall in love with one of them. And when this fails, their backup plan is keeping a vigil in the football field parking lot with an eye on the locker room door. The boys, fresh from their showers, punch and joke their way to their cars. Said swooning girls walk around in circles, searching for rides they never missed. Most end up lingering by Drew’s baby blue Beemer with a can-you-help-me, I-missed-my-ride bat of their eyes, which can have the affect of bonding opportunistic girls to oblivious guys. Sometimes after a game, I stare at all the hair-flipping, eye-batting, stranded girls and wonder which one will become Drew’s girlfriend now that I’m the Shadow Slayer. Which of them will be the mortal girl he’ll date after me.

I know I don’t have a shot at being Drew’s girlfriend for very much longer anyway, even without the whole have-to-save-the-world-from-the-Shadows thing that will pretty much eat up all my free time for the next five hundred years. I mean it’s inevitable that he’ll wake up one day and be like, oh, ick what was I thinking. It’s not like he’s made me feel he’s doing me a favor by dating me or anything, in spite of our obvious violation of the Hot Factor Doctrine––Drew being a ten and me being a six. It’s way more complicated than the fact that doctrine dictates he should date up at least a few factors especially since there are plenty of female tens here at Oakdale Central High School. No, the reason I won’t be Drew’s girlfriend for long is that he’s mortal now. He’ll want, no make that need, a mortal girlfriend. He’ll need to live a real life. The life he’s dreamed about for centuries. The life he fought for. The life he slayed for. We can’t be together now that I’m the Shadow Slayer. One day soon, we’ll be separated forever. I shiver.

“Roxie, what’s going on?”

“What?”

“I’ve asked you over and over and you…I don’t know…it’s like you’re not even here.”

“I’m here. Now.” I manage a smile even though my heart’s breaking.

His smile fades and he pulls me in close to his chest.

“Will you wear my jersey to school tomorrow for luck?”

I nod. I like wearing his number. Eighteen is my new favorite number. “Sure, you know I will.”

“LT is double tough this year because their backup quarterback Anderson got a shot at starting and even though he’s just a sophomore he’s blowing every other quarterback away. If we’re going to win our division, we have to beat LT.”

It’s strange to hear Drew talking about division finals and beating LT as intensely as he once did about my destiny as Shadow Slayer and how I’d have to battle them. This mortal life is his now. So very different than mine. Being the best quarterback is what matters most to him now. I wish it could matter more to me. But my old life is sort of hollow. I’m in between worlds, not quite here.

The only thing that matters to me is moon killing. It’s the only way I’ll ever be able to gain an advantage over the Shadows. It’s the only way I’ll have a shot at my own Last Life. It’s the only way I’ll be able to save the world.

But, tomorrow’s game against LT is epic. It’s kind of cool how everyone at school, make that everyone in town, wants to beat them. We hate LT. I still don’t know why, it just is. Last year when I was a freshman, I had no idea exactly why we hated LT––Lyons Township High School, the high school a few towns over. And apparently, just being a few towns over is the only reason we need to hate them. It’s weird and doesn’t make sense but our hatred really just boils down to geography.

When you’re in high school you sort of have to accept things like archrivals. Before I met Drew last year, before I found out that I’m the Shadow Slayer, I thought freshman was tattooed on my forehead. Back then it seemed everyone around me knew I didn’t know anything about anything especially stuff I was supposed to automatically know, like LT being the enemy. It took me a long time to figure stuff out freshman year. Most of the reason I wasn’t a total loser freshman year was because Drew was my boyfriend.

to be continued….

Book 1, 13 on Halloween (free)

Book 2, Shadow Slayer

Want to know more about the series? Click here for playlists, dreamcasts, and book trailers

Shadow Slayer, book 2


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11. Maggie Has a Whale of a Time at New England Beach Vault

Maggie Steele had an awesome day at the New England Beach Vault. With sunny blue skies and temps in the 70s, the weather was picture perfect for pole-vaulting at Narraganset Town Beach, Rhode Island, where a brisk ocean breeze boosted … Continue reading

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12. Flutura Gets a New Look – $.99 through 1/17

Flutura Cover 011414

Our young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, has a new look.  Book one is completed and book two will be available this spring so get started with Flutura to follow the story of three best friends.  Alexis, Brittany and Caitlin have grown up together since birth. Caitlin is ready to become a woman, but she’s fourteen and has yet to experience her first French kiss or her first period. The summer before high school will change all of that.

Caitlin is taken by surprise when Joshua reveals his feelings for her. As Caitlin sorts out her own feelings toward Josh the memory of the kiss she shared with Trick on the beach continues to invade her thoughts.

Good thing she’ll never see Trick again or things could get complicated.

This first book will be on sale for $.99 through January 17th.

You can also sign up to hear about our future young adult releases by joining our mailing list.

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13. Review: Limit Vol 1 by Keiko Suenobu

 

 

Title: The Limit Volume 1

Author:  Keiko Suenobu

Publisher: Vertical

In stores October 9, 2012

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mizuki Konno is your typical high school junior at Yanno Prefectural High School. Like many teens her age she is studying hard for college and when she has some down time she likes to fuss over fashion and make-up. While she may not be one of the class elites, Mizuki is fortunate to be on the right side of her class’s idols. But that might not settle well with those who are in a similar academic status but not so lucky with their social lives.

Mizuki really isn’t a bad person. However she understands that she is one of the haves. And even if she only has so a strand to hold on to, that’s much more than the introverts or the socially inept.
On the day of the field trip, Mizuki’s position with the cool kids cannot be better. But now a good portion of her class are now firmly against her. While this "lower" clique may not be united, their hatred is much stronger than their differences. Unfortunately tragedy strikes in the form of a traffic accident. And now the class is split into two new groups…the living and the dead!

Almost the entire class has been wiped out and the five remaining girls are injured and lost in the wilderness. They also hate each other, and in a mix of Lord of the Flies with Heathers these girls begin to assert their wills against each other to try to survive while enacting a new class structure where looks and style is no longer the definition of influence.


Review:

When it comes to manga lately, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  I received this review copy, and wasn’t familiar with the title at all.  I love the cover, though, with the main protagonist standing defiantly, yet a bit battered, and staring boldly ahead.  The cover is very simple and eye-catching, and I immediately sat down to read the book.  Keiko Suenobu is also the author of LIFE, which was being released by  Tokyopop before they shuttered their offices.  I haven’t read any of that series, but after reading Limit, I am tempted to track it down.

Limit is a Lord of the Flies type story.  After their school trip goes horribly wrong and their bus crashes, Kanno and four of her classmates are stranded in the middle of the woods with only their wits to aid in their survival.  With their teachers and classmates dead, the five girls must juggle their fear and panic with their feelings for each other.  This is a diverse group of personalities, from the bullied Morishige, who has the only weapon and is brimming over with hate and resentment, to Kanno, who was part of the popular clique who made Morishige’s life hell at school.  Sakura, the ringleader of the clique, is dead in the bus, and Haru, one of the survivors, isn’t dealing with her best friend’s death very well.  This is a powder  keg of emotions just ready to blow, and only Kamiya realizes that it’s going to take more than luck to survive until they are rescued.  She immediately attempts to use diplomacy and get everyone to work together to ensure their survival, but she’s not having much luck.  There is a lot of resentment and so much ill-will to overcome, that things look bleak for our intrepid cast.

Limit focuses on the complex relationships the girls have formed over the years.  Angry Morishige is delighting in her sudden ascent to the top of the food chain; she’s got the weapon, and she hates everyone enough that she won’t hesitate to use it.  She casts everyone else in the pyramid beneath her, leaving Kanno and Haru to battle it out for the bottom rung of the ladder.  With the weapon, Morishige also controls the meager food supply the girls have foraged from the wreckage of the bus.  After being a bottom-feeder for so long, she is ecstatic to feel some kind of empowerment over the girls who constantly picked on her and made each school day so horrible. 

I thought that this was a great introduction to the series.  I reached the end and wanted more.  The relationship dynamics bubble with emotion and kept me engaged in the book from the first page.  Kanno isn’t an extremely likable character because she always takes the path of least resistance.  She’s a sheep to Sakura’s domineering personality, and once Sakura meets an untimely end, Kanno realizes how meaningless her other relationships truly are.  Avoiding confrontation, kissing up to Sakura, and trying to hold a middle ground so she wasn’t bullied didn’t endear her to her classmates, she is learning the hard way.

I love Keiko Suenobu’s expressive artwork.  I never had to guess how her characters felt as they were maneuvered from one panel to the next.  Emotions are deftly rendered here, and the visuals are as compelling as the prose.  This is a great start to a series that will appeal to fans of conflict driven stories.  I don’t know how the girls are going to reconcile their feelings for each other and still survive all alone in the wilderness, with no food and only a cave for shelter.  I am looking forward to the next volume!

Grade:   B

Review copy provided by publisher

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14. This Week’s New and Notable Young Adult Releases–October 9

There are a couple of big buzz titles this week.  Velveteen, Mystic City, and Valkyrie Rising are at the top of my wish list.  What’s on yours?

Click the covers for the Amazon product page.

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (Oct 9, 2012)

After by Ellen Datlow (Oct 9, 2012)

Samurai Awakening by Benjamin Martin (Oct 10, 2012)

The Bridge by Jane Higgins (Oct 9, 2012)

Bushman Lives! by Daniel Pinkwater (Oct 9, 2012)

Guardian  (A Halflings Novel) by Heather Burch (Oct 9, 2012)

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh (Oct 9, 2012)

The Katerina Trilogy, Vol. II: The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges (Oct 9, 2012)

My Own Revolution by Carolyn Marsden (Oct 9, 2012)

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence (Oct 9, 2012)

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab (Oct 9, 2012)

Paradise by Joanna Nadin (Oct 9, 2012)

Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay (Oct 9, 2012)

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Gonzalez (Oct 9, 2012)

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (Oct 9, 2012)

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson (Oct 9, 2012)

Velveteen by Daniel Marks (Oct 9, 2012)

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton (Oct 9, 2012)

Demon Eyes (Witch Eyes) by Scott Tracey (Oct 8, 2012)

Foxfire (An Other Novel) by Karen Kincy (Oct 8, 2012)

The FitzOsbornes at War (The Montmaray Journals) by Michelle Cooper (Oct 9, 2012)

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15. Review: Paradise Kiss Vol 1 by Ai Yazawa

 

Title:  Paradise Kiss V 1

Author:  Ai Yazawa

Publisher:  Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Yukari is a spirited high school senior in the process of studying for her college entrance exams. Sadly the prospect of subjecting herself to a meaningless dull life leaves her feeling depressed about the future.  In a bout of frustration, Yukari begins to ignore her courses and she begins to hang out with a group of fashion design students. But what Yukari doesn’t know is that this circle is known as Paradise Kiss, and they are run by a pair of young designers already making their mark on the Asian scene. Furthermore, while her life is going to soon change, it will not be due to the elite political or commerce based future her family may have hoped for, instead her life may eventually be set in a world of high fashion, with her strutting down the catwalk as the face of Asian fashion!


Review:

How lovely to see Paradise Kiss back in print after so long!  This series,  Peach Girl, and Marmalade Boy  are directly responsible for my love of graphic novels.  During the hey-day of the US manga craze, there were so many wonderful books being released that it was hard to keep up with them all.  There was also a lot of garbage hitting store shelves, in such an overwhelming wave, that buyers couldn’t keep up.  Then the recession hit, and it was bye-bye to several of my favorite publishers.   CMX’s demise hit me the hardest, because DC’s imprint had licensed some unique titles, and many of the series that I followed were being released by them.  When Tokyopop shuttered, I actually became so discouraged with comics that I started reading prose books again.  Am I bitter that I will never see the end of I Hate You More Than Anyone or Kamui?  Am I upset that Silver Diamond and Demon Sacred were never competed?  You betcha! That’s one reason why I was so happy to see ParaKiss back in print with a new publisher.  This is a timeless story of a high school girl’s coming of age, with fun characters and gorgeous illustrations.  It deserves to stay in print, and since it’s been ten years since it was last published, there is a brand new audience out there just waiting to discover it.

One thing that I love about Ai Yazawa’s storytelling style is how she sprinkles humor into her plot when events get emotionally intense.   There is so much drama, drama, drama, which I love, and then all of a sudden there is this marvelous little blast of humor – either a joke from one of the characters or a humorous visual to ease all of that tension, just a little bit.  It is more evident in NANA (speaking of which, what happened to NANA?), but there are small glimpses in this first installment of Ai Yazawa’s classic romance.  I enjoy the contrast to the heart-stopping tension, and look forward to seeing how she’ll maneuver her characters from emotional trauma to eliciting an chuckle from the reader. 

In ParaKiss, Yukari is a high school senior with a lot of her mind.  She is cramming for her college entrance exams, and she doesn’t have time to get involved with a bunch of weirdos from the local fashion school.  Once she meets charismatic George and is caught under petite Miwako’s charm, she has no choice but to model for their fashion show.  There is so much change in Yukari from the opening chapter,  where she is risk adverse and single-mindedly intent on her studies, to the end of this volume, where she is fabricating lies for her parents so she can spend more time with her new friends in their basement studio.  She is finally starting to assert herself, and to reject her mother’s stranglehold over her.  Finally, there is something that she cares enough about to fight against the carefully planned path her parents have laid out before her.  Is it in her best interests to get caught up in the lives of these creative and impulsive people?  Probably not, but the rush of being with them is intoxicating, and she’s not willing to let it go.

George is so far over her head that I worry for Yukari.  He is jaded and worldly, while she’s lived a very sheltered life.  No friends, no boyfriends, few connections outside of her family.  George is like a blazing torch, and she is drawn, against her will,  to his brilliance.  As I read the book this time around, I sympathized more with her confusion over her feelings for George.  She’s not accustomed to expressing her feelings or hanging out with a guy, and everything that George does sets her world on end.  He is intense and self-confident, and he rushes head-first into everything that life has to offer.  Yukari isn’t prepared for a guy like George, and now that she’s caught his attention, she isn’t sure how to keep it fixed firmly on her.  All of the emotional ups and downs of that first relationship are intensified by George’s vivid personality.  She doesn’t stand a chance against him, and I kept wondering if he was just dicking around with her from the moment he met her.

I love the art.  Ai Yazawa’s delicate, detailed character designs are distinctive and beautiful.  The clothing is also stunning, but how can you possibly have a story about fashion designers and have everybody wearing ugly clothing?  You can’t, and the clothing take on a life of their own.

If you enjoy drama and that pulse-pounding confusion of first love, give this series a shot.  If you enjoy comics with beautiful clothes and beautiful characters, give this series a shot.  If you are interested in manga and haven’t read any of it yet, this is a good, short (3 volume) title to get you started.  It’s still as pretty and as moving as it was 10 years ago.  As always, Vertical’s presentation is top notch, with a new translation and a bigger, bolder trim size than the previous version.

Grade:   B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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16. Interview with Tiffany Schmidt, Author of Send Me A Sign

Tiffany Schmidt is the author of the recently released  Send Me A Sign.  I’m delighted to have her as a guest in the virtual offices today!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Tiffany Schmidt] Former wild-child who blamed all hijinks on imaginary friends. Now: pretends to be a grown up, makes up stories, plays with impish twin sons

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Send Me A Sign?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Send Me A Sign is about Mia, a superstitious high school senior who is diagnosed with leukemia. It’s about the ways Mia struggles with keeping her illness a secret because she doesn’t want it to change how people perceive her—and because she’s not ready to handle the ways it will change her life. In three words, it’s about: Love, Life & Luck.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Tiffany Schmidt] My stories always start with a character – I came up with ultra-superstitious Mia first, then looked for scenarios that would challenge her. Mia is terrified by situations where she’s not in control or there aren’t set guidelines for how she should act—cancer breaks all the rules for expectations. Mia loses control of her own body, and she struggles so much with not being able to predict or shape the way other people react to her cancer. The tension between Mia’s denial of her illness and her paralyzing fear of letting down everyone else drive the story. Throw in the normal, everyday pressures of being a teenager—because a cancer diagnosis doesn’t stop a person from falling in love, fighting with friends, or worrying about disappointing her parents—and you’ve got SEND ME A SIGN.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Mia?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Superstitious. Over-achiever. Anxious.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Mia would never have in her purse?

[Tiffany Schmidt] 1) A compact with a broken mirror. (Though she would always have an unbroken one).

2) A hospital bracelet, medication, or anything that would reveal she’s sick.

3) A penny found laying tails-side-up.

[Manga Maniac Café]  If Mia had a theme song, what would it be?

[Tiffany Schmidt] “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Also “Girls Like You” by The Naked And Famous

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is Gyver’s most prized possession?

[Tiffany Schmidt] His guitar

[Manga Maniac Café]   What are your greatest creative influences?

[Tiffany Schmidt] This changes quite a bit depending on what I’m working on. For Send Me A Sign, I was heavily influenced by music. Gyver’s playlists are woven throughout the book and Mia looks for signs in the lyrics of songs. One of my greatest sources of creative influence was Jack’s Mannequin’s “Glass Passenger” album, particularly the songs that chronicle the lead singer, Andrew McMahon’s, own battle with leukemia.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Tiffany Schmidt] 1) The book’s playlist while I’m writing and silence for revisions.

2) Colored pens. My favorites are Staedtler triplus fineliners. I revise & edit on print outs. By the time I’m done it looks like Rainbow Brite exploded on my pages.

3) Revision Skittles (the rest of the world calls these Crazy Core Skittles). I’ve got a serious addiction, but only allow myself to eat them while revising. The rule is: One Skittle for every page revised.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Every Day by David Levithan. I’m always in awe of the ways David reinvents himself and challenges a reader’s preconceptions with each of his novels and Every Day did not disappoint. I pre-ordered a copy for my sister before I read it because I fully anticipated needing to discuss it when I finished… of course I finished and she’s off in Europe. So now I’m hounding St.Matt to READ IT NOW and making lists of topics I want talk about when he’s done.

[Manga Maniac Café]  If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Tiffany Schmidt] I was a very early reader, so the honest answer is probably The Poky Little Puppy or something by Seuss.

The first time I really remember reading a book and thinking That’s ME – was Super Fudge. I didn’t identify with Peter, I related to Fudge, the kid who managed to find trouble even when he wasn’t looking. I had similar reactions to Ramona and Matilda. My long-suffering mother was thrilled that reading kept me in one place and out of trouble… at least until I finished a book and tried re-creating the characters’ antics.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Tiffany Schmidt] I love to run, kayak, and play tennis, but I’m equally content to curl up in a hammock with a good book and either a Schmidtlet or a puggle (never both at the same time or we’ll all end up overturned). I go through way too much sugar and butter each week, because I’m constantly baking—then mailing out all sorts of cookie & cake care packages.

Oh, and Twitter. I’m pretty darn addicted to that too.

[Manga Maniac Café]  How can readers connect with you?

[Tiffany Schmidt] · Website: www.TiffanySchmidt.com

· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TiffanySchmidtBooks

· Twitter: @TiffanySchmidt

· Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/tiffanyaschmidt/send-me-a-sign/

· E-mail: TiffanyASchmidt@gmail.com

· Mail: Tiffany Schmidt

PO Box 119

Fountainville, PA 18923

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order Send Me A Sign from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

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17. Review: Playing at Love by Ophelia London

 

 

Title: Playing at Love

Author:  Ophelia London

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he’d have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren’t anywhere near ready or he’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.


Review:

When I saw this new Bliss title, I jumped at the chance to read it.  It has my favorite trope – you guessed it – second chances at love.  I just can’t resist that one, so as I settled into my seat for the flight back from OKC, I started gobbling up this book.  It is a sweet romance, with rapid pacing and fun characters. 

Tess loves her job as the show choir teacher at Franklin High.  She loves mentoring her students and pushing them to be the best they can be.  When her job is threatened due to budget cuts, she is on the defensive.  The only way to save her show choir is to take first place at Regionals, and even then, she has to hope that the new football coach, Jack, meets with failure.  If Jack can’t win 4 out of 6 games with the beleaguered football team, his new position will be going down the toilet.  Their rivalry is fueled by Jack’s betrayal when they were teenagers.  As the entire town starts to choose sides, Jack and Tess must decide what’s most important – winning or  falling in love.

I liked Tess, and felt that I got to know her and what made her tick.  She’s appalled to face a ghost from her past, and infuriated when Jack’s football team threatens the survival of her show choir program.  She loves her job, and she needs a paycheck to help keep her parents’ home out of foreclosure.  When Jack comes waltzing back into her life after breaking her heart all those years ago, Tess doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She still hasn’t gotten over his betrayal.  She can’t trust men, and something always drives her away from a serious, steady relationship. 

Jack has always regretted what he did that summer, all those years ago.  Now he has a chance to make up for it, but Tess won’t give him the time of day.  He’s beyond dismayed to learn that his new dream job may go up in smoke, and he can’t believe that his team has to compete with the show choir for survival.  The added conflict to their relationship kept me engaged in the story.  Since one of the programs has to go, I kept wondering how either protagonist would accept defeat.  As the competition began to divide the school, and eventually, the community, both Jack and Tess began to see the damage that was being done as pranks between supporters began to get out of hand.  I enjoyed reading along as they tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to the mess they found themselves in.  As their October deadline approached, they each began to question what was really important in their lives.  As they worked through this dilemma, it seemed that their relationship would take one step forward and two back, but I never felt that the pacing suffered, regardless of all of the new road bumps they encountered.

Playing at Love keeps a flirty tone throughout. I didn’t feel that Tess and Jack’s past was explored enough, but the story kept me entertained through a mechanical delay, a late flight crew, and a layover at DFW.  My one nitpick – I felt that it lacked depth, and the ending was wrapped up too quickly, and too conveniently.  Still, there is a good time to be had by all, and I believe that Jack and Tess won’t squander their second chance at a happy ever after.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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18. Review: Demon Love Spell V 1 by Mayu Shinjo

 

 

Title: Demon Love Spell V 1

Author:  Mayu Shinjo

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

By the creator of Ai Ore! and Sensual Phrase

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works—sort of—but now Kagura is after her!

Reads R to L (Japanese style) for teen plus audiences.


Review:

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Mayu Shinjo’s works.  Her titles usually feature a douche bag uber alpha hero and a timid, naïve heroine.  I usually don’t enjoy reading stories where the hero treats the heroine, his supposed love interest, like crap.  That’s one of the problems I have with Black Bird, though I find myself helplessly flipping through whatever new volumes happen to end up in my hands.  I don’t want to like it, but I do.  Ugh!  Demon Love Spell reminds me a lot of Black Bird, so if you are a fan of Kanoko Sakurakoji, you might want to give this series a try.

Miko is a shrine maiden, and while everyone else in her family can see spirits, she can’t sense them at all.  Disappointed in herself because she has no sixth sense, she nonetheless studied hard to recognize and banish demons.  So while she is familiar with their characteristics and their powers, she can’t see them, which makes carrying on the family tradition unlikely.  Still, she has hopes and she is dedicated to both the shrine and her family legacy.

When an incubus begins to prey on girls at her high school, a moment of high emotion gives her the strength to seal his powers and confine him into an itty-bitty demon form.  Once the most powerful demon, Kagura is now helpless against stronger demons, and he can’t revert back to his former self, a tall, stunningly gorgeous young man who knocks the ladies dead.  He is a sitting duck, and so is Miko.  Since she was powerful enough to seal away Kagura’s powers, all the demons want to kill him and eat Miko to gain her strength.  Eek!  She can’t even see her enemies unless she is holding chibi Kagura!  How can she defend herself against a bunch of big, bad, ugly monsters?  To make matters worse, she can’t remember which spell she used to seal away his powers, so she can’t change Kagura back to his powerful self.  She isn’t even sure that she wants to; he’ll just go back to preying on innocent women and stealing their life essences, anyway!

Kagura can enter Miko’s dreams when she’s asleep, so he steals into them and seduces her in order to gain back some of his strength.  Miko can’t remember a thing in the morning, but she feels a burning sense of embarrassment, and she’s exhausted.  Like she was up all night long.  Which she was, in her dreams, romping around with Kagura.  She begins to question why she is forming an emotional attachment to the perverted demon, and wonders if he has cast a demon love spell over her.  She doesn’t trust him, but she can’t stop her growing feelings for him.

I enjoyed this introduction to the series.  It’s a fast read, it’s brainless, and it’s fun.  Despite some awkward proportions, Mayu Shinjo’s art is attractive, and her guys are hot, hot, hot.  The characters are engaging, and though the plot is predictable, I found a lot to like in the first volume of Demon Love Spell, and I will follow the series for at least a few volumes to see how things work out for Miko and sex obsessed Kagura.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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19. Review: The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

 

Title:  The Space Between Us

Author:  Jessica Martinez

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.


Contains spoilers!

Review:

Oh. My. GOD!  That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us.  The book was not what I was expecting.  At all.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!).  This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her.  She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her.  But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had.  Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.

Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia.  Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal.  She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl.  Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite.  Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out.  Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless.  Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring.  Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.

Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition.  Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp.  She’s pregnant, not a criminal!  She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in.  The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father.  They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school.  Really?!  Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and  have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem?  I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book.  Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them. 

Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north.  She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free!  It’s off to Columbia for her!  Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl.  Argh!  Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior.  She takes her rage out on everyone.  I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on!  You are supposed to be the mature one!  There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her.  But even then, I could still sympathize with her.  It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.

There is a lot of emotion packed into this book.  While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident.  She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family.  The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know.  Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time.  Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming.  Almost too late, really.  Amelia made me so angry!  I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!

When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters.  Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly.  I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction.  That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library

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20. Review: Strobe Edge Vol 1 by Io Sakisaka

 

Title:  Strobe Edge Vol 1

Author: Io Sakisaka

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being in love can light up your life… A sweet love story that will warm your heart!


Review: 

When I first read the book blurb above, I thought it was pretty lame.  After reading Strobe Edge, though, I think it very accurately and very succinctly describes this high school romance.  Ninako is shy and reserved, and everyone thinks she and her childhood friend, Daiki will eventually get together.  Daiki makes no secret of his feelings, but he has never voiced them, leaving Ninako, who is kind of clueless, thinking that they are just friends.  After circumstances have her and school heartthrob Ren cross paths several times, Ninako discovers how kind and thoughtful he is, and she falls in love with him.

Strobe Edge captures all of the awkwardness and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.  Ninako falls head over heels for Ren, and who can blame her? He’s gorgeous, and better yet, he is nice.  What a combo!  As her feelings for Ren grow, so does her guilt over them.  She has finally picked up on Daiki’s feelings, and she feels awful about her lack of feelings for him.  She blames herself for leading him on, and though she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, she knows that she has to level with him.  So along with the giddy rush she experiences whenever she sees Ren,  she realizes that her feelings are going to hurt one of her closest friends.

I don’t want to spoil any other plot points, so instead I’ll urge you to give Strobe Edge a try if you enjoy series like High School Debut and Kimi ni Todoke.  This introductory volume will leave you smiling as Ninako slowly begins to blossom, shedding her reservations and allowing herself to come out of her shell.  She knows that her heart will more than likely get broken, but for the time being, she is enjoying how she feels about Ren.  Because she is so sweet, and because she is taking this huge risk, you can’t help but cheer her on.  Will things work out between her and Ren, or is Ninako doomed to heartbreak?  I don’t know, but I can hardly wait to find out!

Grade:  wavering between a B+ and an A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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21. Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

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22. Giveaway! Win Also Known As by Robin Benway!

 

About the book:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As by Robin Benway? Just will out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US mailing addresses only.

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23. Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

 

 

Title: Also Known As

Author: Robin Benway

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.


Review:

When I saw Also Known As on Netgalley, I immediately requested a copy.  I love YA books featuring spies, espionage, and danger, and this title looked like it had all of that in spades.  Plus, as an added bonus, protagonist Maggie is a gifted safe-cracker.  Seriously, it just doesn’t get any more fun than that!  The first chapter kind of bogged me down, but once I hit my stride, I gobbled Also Known As in just an afternoon.  I didn’t want to put it down, and it had me so engaged in the story that I was able to overlook a few inconsistences that would have driven me crazy otherwise.  This is a fun read, with a confident though in over her head heroine, and an engaging cast of supporting characters.  I really hope Maggie will return for more adventures.

Maggie has been living the life of a spy forever.  Both of her parents are employed by the Collective, and they spend their days trying to make the world a safer place by putting the brakes on gun runners, human traffickers, and other nefarious plots designed to shake up the world order.  Maggie has been cracking locks since she was a toddler, and she fully expects to follow in her parents’ spy footsteps, cracking locks and stealing away with evil doers’ plans to destroy peace and stability.  When she’s given her first solo assignment in NYC, she couldn’t be more thrilled.  All she has to do is befriend Jesse Oliver.  Jesse’s father runs a powerful publishing empire, and he’s planning to run an expose outing Maggie, her family, and the Collective.  If she can’t steal the documents that threaten to ruin her family, they will be in big, big danger.

Now, I’m not even going to wonder why the Collective, a super secret spy organization, is putting an inexperienced spy in charge of saving everyone’s bacon.  Instead, I allowed myself to get sucked into Maggie’s upbeat and very entertaining narrative.  She has all of the confidence in the world, and she is going to make everyone proud of her.  She is going to live up to her legacy and steal those damaging documents!  All she has to do is pretend to be friends with Jesse, and she’s in like Flynn!

Only that’s not how things work out.  As Maggie embraces her assignment, she’s determined to do everything in her power to be successful.  But as she makes friends with a social outcast, and gets caught up in going to school and hanging out with kids her own age, she starts to see that it’s more difficult to pretend that she ever had thought.  And after she and Jesse connect on a personal level, she realizes, to her dismay, that she’s not pretending anymore.  She really likes him, and she really likes her new friend Roux, and she knows her parents are never going to understand her lapse in judgment.  They’ve trained her better than that, haven’t they?

I loved Maggie’s anxiety about hurting her new friends.  Now that she actually has some, she is loathe to lose them.  She is lying to everyone, though, and it’s making her miserable.  Being a teen spy is just not as easy as it sounds!  She can’t let her parents know that she kissed Jesse (and that she’d do it again in a second), or that her friendship with Roux isn’t just for cover.  She is dealing with so many issues that she never considered, it’s no wonder she can’t get a decent night’s sleep!

Also Known As lived up to all of my expectations, and even exceeded them.  The pacing is spot on, the plot never lagged, and Maggie is a fun, likable character, even if she did need to be knocked down a peg or two.  Recommended for fans of Ally Carter.  Check back later today for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As!

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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24. Review: Hysteria by Megan Miranda

 

 

Title: Hysteria

Author: Megan Miranda

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can’t remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn’t charged. But Mallory still feels Brian’s presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past. But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others. In another riveting tale of life and death, Megan Miranda’s masterful storytelling brings readers along for a ride to the edge of sanity and back again.


Review:

Okay, this was a different read for me.  Mallory killed her boyfriend one rainy night during the summer, after he broke into her house.  She isn’t charged because it was ruled to be in self-defense, but Mallory isn’t sure.  She can’t remember what happened that scary, rainy night, and she’s not sure that she wants to.  Unable to sleep without the aid of sleeping pills, she suffers from the emotional trauma that she can’t put behind her.  She feels a dark, heavy presence when she’s alone, and she keeps hearing the ominous boom, boom, boom of Brian’s dying heartbeat.  When her parents send her away to Monroe, the boarding school her dad went to, she doesn’t think things can get any worse.  Boy, was she wrong.

Hysteria is a compelling, character driven story.  There is a steady building of suspense, and you aren’t sure whether Mallory is completely nuts or just suffering from PTSD.  Her escape mechanism when things get too intense for her is to run.  Run as fast and as far away from whatever it is that’s making her uncomfortable.  She runs a lot in this book.  From herself, from her memories, from her classmates.  But mostly she runs from the truth.  What happened that awful night, and why can’t she remember?

I was bewildered at Mallory’s parents’ apparent abandonment.  What the heck?  Their daughter is going through the worst time in her life, and they ship her off to boarding school.  Mallory can barely function because she is so consumed with what she did.  It colors everything in her life, as it should.  She killed someone, and she is being eaten mercilessly by remorse.  What could she have done differently?  Why did she do what she did?  The flashbacks to that night when everything went wrong  are intense and compelling, and kept me wondering how all of the pieces would fit together.  After first I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked Mallory because  she is so emotionally shattered that she comes off as uncaring and indifferent.  As the story unfolds, though, it becomes more and more evident that she is suffering but she has no one to turn to for help.  Her best friend back home isn’t responding to her emails or phone calls, and her parents are emotionally distant.  What Mallory needed was a good shrink, but all she seemed to get was a slick lawyer.  I didn’t get that.  If her parents could afford to ship her off to boarding school, they could have provided her with counseling as well.

Whether or not you enjoy Hysteria will depend on whether or not you like Mallory.  She is one messed up girl, and her coping methods are suspect at best.  Weird things are happening to her, and instead of trying to seek help, she tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  The few times she reaches out to her parents are rebuffed.  When events become too much for her to handle, the authority figures in her life don’t believe her because of her past.  Mallory irritated at times, but I did come to like her, and I wanted her to find peace from her memories and her nightmares. The pacing is a little slow at times, but I found this a hard book to put down.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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25. Interview with Laurie Boyle Crompton, Author of Blaze

Laurie Boyle Crompton is visiting the virtual offices today to chat about her new release BLAZE.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Blaze?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Blaze is a seventeen-year-old comic geek who is sort of stuck in her life driving her younger brother and his friends around in her turd-brown minivan (AKA: The Subatomic Sweatmobile of Doom). She loves drawing comics and is determined to snag her crush but when she does things don’t really go as planned.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] My step-dad has an amazing collection of vintage comics that I had the privilege of reading through as a teen. I became an instant comic geek girl and this was before a lot of the superhero movies came out so there was zero cool factor to my obsession. Besides loving comics in general, I loved the way reading them made me believe in a greater truth. When people weren’t exactly being kind to me it was nice to read about a world where the good guys always come out on top.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Blaze?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Talented Kickass Geek

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Blaze’s locker?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] A notebook that’s not covered in doodles.

A boy band poster.

A vanity mirror.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Vintage superhero comics were a huge influence in writing this book. It was really a fantastic experience to be reading through all these old issues and seeing the ways that Blaze was inspired by the various characters. It was like I was experiencing the comics through her eyes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Time, time, time! I would do it every second of every day if I could, but of course there are basic day-to-day things that need to be taken care of. Thankfully, some of the things I DON’T need in order to write include; clean laundry, home-cooked meals, scrubbed bathrooms and clean floors. When I’m on deadline none of that stuff happens.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] I recently read THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. I know that if I see a movie the odds go down that I will go back and pick up the book (exceptions abound, including WHIP IT by Shauna Cross which was awesome). I’m so glad I did read PERKS first, although I suspect I would’ve picked up the book afterwards anyway.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] I love to be outdoors. Hiking, biking, cross-country skiing – anything that gets me moving through nature. I’m a movie fanatic and also enjoy going for long rides in our Jeep with the top down. The perfect combination of these two is when we take the Jeep to the drive-in during the summer. *sigh* *thinks longingly of summer*

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Twitter https://twitter.com/lbcrompton

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/laurie.b.crompton

Website http://lboylecrompton.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13345957-blaze

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Blaze from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…

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