Monday, June 30, 2014

Author Bio - Naoko Takeuchi

This week, we're getting into some Manga and reading Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi.

If you don't know what Sailor Moon is, well, then you've been living under a rock.  Oooorrr, maybe you just weren't a teenage girl in the '90s.  Lots of Takeuchi's life made it into Sailor Moon.  Usagi's (Sailor Moon's) family actually bear the same names as Takeuchi's family.

Takeuchi also went to school for Chemistry.  She actually got her degree in Chemestry and became a licensed pharmacists: a far cry from the work she did on Sailor Moon.  However, drawing was always a passion for her, what she wanted to do and chemistry was her back up plan.

She started drawing manga at 19 years old, for a company called Kodansha.  It was here that she created Sailor V, which eventually became the launching pad for Sailor Moon.  She worked on many other projects during this time, including The Cherry Project and PQ Angels.

Takeuchi is currently working on the reboot of Sailor Moon, which premieres on Friday, July 5.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review Me Twice - The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

I'm not going to lie: I hate poetry.  Which is no real surprise if you've spent any kind of time on this blog.  And, while I don't hate Tolkien, he's really kind of wordy.  So when you combine a format of reading I hate with an author I don't particularly like, you just give me a book that I hate.

There, I said it.  I hated a book.  I think Tolkien will forgive me.

Really, Tom Bombadil, the character, only shows up in about three of the poems, and I didn't understand what was going on in the other half of them.  I'm sure if I were more immersed in the Tolkien world and lore, I would have enjoyed it more, but I'm not, so it really didn't do anything for me.  There were not characters I could get behind, or even discern, and it all just kind of jumbled together for me.

If you like Tolkien, and you like poetry, then by all means pick up, but this really wasn't the book for me.

I'm so glad that Cassy feels exactly the same way I do about this book. I chose this book for us to read. I don't know what I was thinking; I guess I was having a particularly masochistic day or something. You know now how I feel about Tom Bombadil and I don't think I've been particularly quiet about the way I feel about Tolkien's writing ("not especially fond"). And traditional poetry is really not my favorite thing to read. My brain insists on getting the meter and rhyme exactly right before moving on to the next line, and it is exhausting.

The English major in me kept insisting that, "No, Tom Bombadil is totally in these other poems... he's some sort of weird mystical nature-man, right? Maybe he's the tree? Is he literally a shape-shifter? Does he embody the spirit of these nature elements?" Shut up, brain. Just stop it. Tom Bombadil isn't in most of these poems and you should be happy about that because he's annoying.

I kid you not, these are the most boring poems I've ever read. The first one literally follows this storyline: Tom encounters something in nature that attacks/kidnaps/annoys him; he tells it to stop; it totally does (for no reason other than he's Tom Bombadil); repeat fifty times; he steals Goldberry from her mom and marries her (with absolutely no input whatsoever from Goldberry herself... I can only hope she was cool with that arrangement).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tom Bombadil

I'm going to be weirdly specific today... I'm going to talk about one character from one book of one series by one author: Tom Bombadil, from Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien. He's also the focus of the majority of the poems in the short collection we're reviewing this week.

I hate him.

Tom Bombadil is the reason I put down Fellowship and never picked it back up again. You read for pages and pages and pages and nothing happens. Just this weirdo in the woods faffing about, telling nature not to mess with him (and nature pays attention for some ridiculous reason).

When our ragtag group of hobbits run across him, I feel far worse for them than at any point in the movies when horrible events befall them. Oh, you were captured by orcs? Separated from everybody because you touched the scary crystal ball thing? You're at Mount Doom? Nope, you'll be fine, because you survived a visit with Tom Bombadil; you can do literally anything.

A lot of LotR fans use Tom Bombadil as a metric for "true fans." If you've seen the Peter Jackson movies, you know that Tom Bombadil is nowhere to be found. I have heard of people who were disappointed by this. I have nothing to say to those people.

So I guess I read just far enough to "count" but I still hate the guy, and I can't read anymore of those books. Who knows what other poncy git might show up just like him? I can't risk it.

At any rate, I think I needed to get all of that out before we do our review tomorrow so my feelings about the character (which I shared at a book club last night and discovered that I'm absolutely not the only one who feels this way about the guy) don't taint my review of the poems.

Have you read Fellowship? How do you feel about Mr. Bombadil?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Favorite Book of Poetry

Ellen Hopkins... well, anything is usually my favorite when it comes to poetry.  Mostly because she's the only poetry that I can stand.  But, in the spirit of being a little different, I'm going to choose David Levithan's book, Realm of Possibility.

The book revolves around a few teens and their lives.  But it's moving and poignant in a way only Levithan can be.  Really, what got me the most about this book was his words.  I mean, his writing is spectacular, it's always spectacular, and this book isn't any different.

One of my favorite lines is,"Once time is lit it will burn, whether or not you're breathing it in. Even after smoke becomes air, there is the memory of smoke." And it's a whole book of lines like that, with just incredibly imagery and poetry.

If you're not really into poetry, but you want a poetry book, this is a good one.


Identical. I agree with Cassy that pretty much any Hopkins book is pretty great, but this one really stuck with me. I can't tell you why, because Huge Spoiler, but it's amazing.

Plus it has a shiny silver cover. Which is pretty neat.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Author Bio: J R R Tolkien

This week, we're reading a short story by the classic J R R Tolkien (the "J R R" stands for John Ronald Reuel).

I'm hoping that if you're interested enough in books to be reading our blog, you've at least heard of this man in passing, though I can't blame if you if you've never tackled one of his books... the Lord of the Rings books and all the associated material (there are many volumes chronicling the history of Middle Earth) are dense tomes of high fantasy, and if that isn't your bag, you probably wouldn't like slogging through a Tolkien. Even The Hobbit, written for children, is pretty intense, though much shorter and far more light-hearted than the others.

Tolkien lived January 3, 1892 to September 2, 1973 (13 years to the day before I was born, fun fact). He was born in South Africa (before it was known as such) but moved to England at the age of three after his father's death.

His cousins had a constructed language they called Animalic, which introduced him (in his early teens) to the concept. You might be passingly familiar with Quenya and Sindarin (two forms of Elvish) and some of the other complete, speakable languages from Middle Earth. (On a personal note, I think this was his strongest suit... background, languages, cultures of fictional peoples. I would have enjoyed reading encyclopediae about the world he created, but I have barely the slightest interest in reading about them via his novels.)

At any rate, this guy did more for the genre of fantasy than I'm willing to type up without a book deal of my own.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review Me Twice: Wonder by R J Palacio

I had seen this cover before, but I had never thought about what the book might be about until Cassy selected it for us to review. And I'm so glad she did. It's about a kid, August, with Treacher-Collins syndrome (which basically means that his face looks very, very different from most people's faces) and how he deals with going to school for the first time.

I sobbed at one part this book. (If you've read it, I bet you can't guess at which part.) But I was totally entrenched in it throughout. I cared about the characters... more importantly, I cared about the protagonist. If you've been reading the blog carefully, you might know that I don't usually care about the protagonist; I'm more interested in side characters and sometimes villains. But August is a great protagonist.

And you might also recall that I'm not a huge fan of switching POVs throughout a book, but I love the way it happens here, because the characters are all interesting and unique and real.

I loved this book and I think it has a wide appeal: young people August's age; slightly older people (high schoolers) his sister Via's age; parents, whether they have a child with a syndrome/disorder/issue like August or not; people like me who had only heard of Treacher-Collins syndrome in passing and never really gave it much thought and had to look it up in Wikipedia to remember the name in order to review the book... everyone.

There are some books that just touch your heart, and Wonder is one of them.  Around Christmas, when I bought a pile of books from my job, I put this one on the pile just because I had seen so many people buy it, and so many people rave about it, so I figured, why not?

I love how Palacio shows us the extreme kindness of humans and the extreme prejudices of them all in one go.  And it's not just kids who are the hurtful ones.  In fact, it was usually the parents who were extremely more hurtful than the kids were.

I like, too, that it shows us that despite best intentions, not everyone is perfect.  Via is probably one of my favorite characters, because it shows that despite loving her brother, fiercely loving her brother, she's still affected by his condition, to the point that she needs an out from it.

Like Alex, usually POV shifts drive me crazy, but this one was very well done.  There were POV shifts, but not so many, nor so frequent, that it detracted from the story.  It was a perfect compliment to it.

This really is an all ages book, and it's a fairly fast (though heavy) read.  This is definitely in the top five of favorites for the year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Favorite Coming of Age Story

I know that we just reviewed this, but Fangirl made that much of an impression on me.  I loved Cather's character.  I loved how Rowell used Cather's fanfiction to be a parallel to Cather's life and needs.  I love that, even though the two sisters are twins, they each had to figure out college in their own way.

Rowell's writing always seems to just blow me away (I got my hands on an Advanced Reader's Copy of Landline, and I loved it just as much as the rest of her stuff.)  I think that college is a transition time that doesn't get touched on a lot, because you're supposed to be an adult by that point.  But, the truth is, you're not.  You're still transitioning into adulthood, I mean, that's the whole POINT of college, and I think Rowell really shows that.  She makes a point of comparing Old Life At Home to New Life At College.

Really, if we haven't already convinced you to read this, you really just should.

A lot of YA fiction deals with coming-of-age stories, so I have a lot of favorites that fall into this category: Hunger Games, Harry Potter, even Divergent, but also things like Ashes and Starters. But Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is my favorite book that I like because of its coming-of-age-ness.

It's about four sisters growing up. It deals directly with the fact that sometimes even the closest of sisters grow apart, and that's okay because they're still sisters. It shows quite plainly - but artfully - that people who start off very much the same can turn into entirely different adults... but those entirely different adults can still be friends and family to one another.

I think I like this example of a coming-of-age story because it's so positive. (Okay, if you've read it, you know there are some really unhappy times, but I'm talking about the overall message.) There's conflict and arguments and bad times, but the message is really that it will all turn out okay if you put in a little effort. And that part is important... they use the literary allusion of Pilgrim's Progress to hammer that home, that you need to put forth effort and try to maintain relationships; it doesn't just happen magically.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Judging a Book by its Author

We've all done it.  We've picked up a book with and interesting looking cover and read the inside... only to realize that it's by an author that we hate.

Everyone says not to judge a book by its cover (which is really dumb because the cover is the reason I get interested to begin with and I have read more than a few good books that interested me with nothing more than a fabulous cover), but what about judging a book by its author?

I will give you full disclosure that my post today was inspired by this article.  I do not like Limbaugh in the slightest, and I will never read his books.  Mainly because I refuse to support him in any way, but also because I don't like HIM, chances are I won't like his books either.

I'm the same way about Bill O'Riley (though, I will admit, by displeasure for him is far less than what it is for Limbaugh.)  He has what I call the Killing books out (Killing Kennedy, Killing Lincoln and Killing Jesus.)  I can reasonably say that I will never pick any of these books up.

But it also works the other way for me.  It's no secret that I love Scott Westerfeld and Ellen Hopkins, to the point that I'm even a little blinded to their not as good works.  I rave that everything they write is the best and I will always pick up new books by them.  In fact, I usually buy new books by them.  So the author bias goes both ways.

I don't know if Alex has any authors on her Do Not Read list, but I can bet that if you mention that you dislike anything by Neil Gaiman, she just might cut a bitch. ;)

So how about it, readers?  What author biases do you have?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Author Bio: R J Palacio

Here's a fun fact for you guys... a lot of female authors use initials instead of their first names. Many of them do it because it's hard for women to get certain types of books published (yes, even in 2014).

S E Hinton (The Outsiders) did it. J K Rowling (I hope you know who she is) did it. And apparently R J Palacio did it. I read this week's book (Wonder) assuming that the author was a man. So I guess that says something about assumptions and society and whatnot.

Palacio started off illustrating for book covers, and eventually decided it was time for her to write a book of her own.

She does school visits, is on Twitter (@rjpalacio), and for a long time she was Skyping with fans and readers (but she is currently on hiatus from that).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Review Me Twice: Friends With Boys

There isn't anything specific that I dislike about this book... I just don't seem to care about it. Does that make sense?

Graphic novels, as a genre, tend to have a problem with a lack of character development. You get a few characteristics (at least one of which will be a defining visual characteristic so you can quickly identify everyone on each page) and a handful of them probably get a lesson by the end like with most stories, but that's about all there is to them. You don't get a good sense of them as a person, unless you're reading a really good graphic novel. I don't think this is one of those really good graphic novels.

I felt a lot like this was the first of what is intended to be a series, but I don't see any evidence that it really is. It serves alright as an introduction to characters that could have further interactions, but unless I've got nothing to do for a weekend and the books are stacked up right next to me, I'm not pursuing it any further.

We all must know by now my feelings on graphic novels.  They're just not my particular cup of tea.  Which is fine, and this one is no different.  However, that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.

Maggie is our main character and has been home schooled for her entire life... with three older brothers.  I think that their relationship is really one that's indicative of brothers and sisters.  Yes, brothers can be jerks sometimes, but brothers always come through when you need them to.  Sometimes, they come to your aid even when you DON'T need them too.

I wasn't overly impressed with the artistry (everything had an anime type look to me, which made just about everyone in the book look Asian with their dark hair.  Especially Maggie with her pigtail buns.  I'm not sure if that was on purpose or just her style.)  The book was also kind of hit you over the head with "Be who you want to be and stop conforming."

I liked that Maggie made mistakes and was a very believable high school student.  She seemed to be the most socially awkward person ever, but still made friends.  (And not the Bella Swan amount of friends.)

I wasn't really sure why there was a ghost in the story, and it didn't really have a whole lot of bearing on her life.  It actually seemed to hardly affect her, so it seemed like the ghost was there more to just be like, "LOOK! SOMETHING DIFFERENT!!!".

Over all, the story was enjoyable, but nothing I would write home about.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beach Reads

So, if you're reading this, I'm at the beach (I know; be jealous.)  And I figured there was a good chance one (or more) of you are going to the beach this summer.  So I'm just going to crank out a few books that are fabulous for sitting in the sun with.

I would be doing this list zero justice if I didn't start it off with a romance novel.  Really, it's the first thing that everyone thinks of when they think beach read.  What's more, this is one of the better romance novels out there (as far as these things go.)  You can read our review of it, or just pick up a copy.  After all, why not read a little smut on the beach?  What else do you have to do?

It's very rare these days that you get a book that's just ONE book.  No Sequels, no trilogies, just one.  And while Stargirl does, technically, have a sequel, it was so terrible I couldn't get pack chapter four.  So I like to pretend it doesn't exist.  But Stargirl is one of the best, most touching books about love and high school and "fitting in" that you can find.  It's fairly short, fairly uncomplicated and entirely wonderful.

This book is fun and a fast read.  It's just a bunch of quotes of really odd things Jen Campbell has heard over the years, working at a bookstore.  No plot, no need to pay a lot of attention and you can open it anywhere and start reading, which makes for a perfect beach read.

Sometimes, a little chicklit is all you need.  Confessions of a Shopaholic is funny, ridiculous with just the right amount of romance thrown in to make it a perfect beach read.  You can't help but love Becky Bloomwood, despite all the messes she seems to get into.

What are you reading at beach this summer?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Big Box o' Books Giveaway Winner!

So sorry for the super-late post, everybody!

You may have noticed that the Rafflecopter thing wasn't working, so I had to count up entries myself and use a random number generator to sort out who won, and that person is...

The People Watcher!!!

Congratulations to The People Watcher! Email us your shipping address to reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com and I will ship you a box full to bursting with new-to-you books!

Also, congratulations to Cassy, who had a beautiful, lovely, amazing wedding! Since you guys, dear readers, are the bookish sorts (I would presume), I'll give you a photo I took of one of her centerpieces because I thought they were amazing, and you're likely to agree:

(The little cat is not part of the scenery, that's
for another blog of mine. Multitasking, here.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Review Me Twice - The Dark by Lemony Snicket

This book was absolutely adorable.  I love that the Dark had a persona.  I love that Laszlo is afraid of the dark, but not so much that he's not willing to have it out with the dark.

By making the Dark a character, Snicket shows kids that there's nothing to be afraid of.  The Dark isn't scary or mean and there's nothing to be afraid of.  He just wants to help you out.  Snicket approaches the book in such a way that it helps kids stop being afraid of the dark, but not by shaming them.  He's telling them that being afraid is fine, normal, but showing them that maybe they don't have to be if they don't want to.

It's also beautifully illustrated.  Klassen does wonderful work on this book, like he does with all of his books.

I love Lemony Snicket. I love clever picture books. I love children's horror. I love the illustration style Jon Klassen brings to the table here. And I love the main character of this book, Laszlo, because he's a brave little boy who is going to do what he has to do whether he likes it or not. This is one of those picture books you should read to your kids because you'll enjoy it as much as they do (and it's one that I didn't feel weird about checking out of the library despite everyone knowing I don't have kids to read it to).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Children's Horror

Now, that's a genre you don't hear a lot about: children's horror. Especially when we're talking about younger children. Youth horror typically consists of a funny picture book about a monster learning to tie his shoes or a mysterious "thump" in the night that turns out to be a puppy. But here are some good examples of books that really try to make "children's horror" a respectable genre.

Neil Gaiman really respects his younger readers. He doesn't pull punches just because the audience for a certain book is going to be read by kids. In fact, The Graveyard Book is a huge hit among adults and teens as well. It's just a really well-written book that is readable by kids who are starting to move into chapter books. And the first line is, "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." You just know that's gonna be good.

I wasn't allowed to read Goosebumps as a kid, but a lot of my friends did, and they said they were really scary. I've picked up a few at library sales and yard sales here and there over the years, and they were right; they are pretty scary. And there's so many of them in the series, there's something to scare everyone (clowns, dolls, ghosts, werewolves, zombies, mummies...)

Roald Dahl, I think, is not given enough credit for being terrifying. He had a way of describing things that made them scary enough that you didn't want to keep reading, but fascinating enough that you had to. Personally, I think The Witches was the best example, but the Vermicious Knids from Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator were so compelling, I would pull that book off the shelf and flip straight to their scenes for an adrenaline rush.

I've never read The Tailypo but I have it on good authority (Goodreads reviews, anyway) that it's the kind of picture book that scares you and then sticks with you. (That's how Slenderman is for me. Crops up when you least expect - and least want - it to.)

When the Tripods Came is one that stuck with me. I read it to take one of those Accelerated Reader tests, and then I wound up reading the series because it was fascinating. (I didn't know at age 11 that it was like War of the Worlds with a few key changes.) I'm pretty sure it was my first invasion book, and I'm also pretty sure I had vivid abduction dreams for a few weeks after I finished it.

What books scared you as a kid? Do you still think they're scary?