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Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Just Another Manga Monday: Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka

It is time to say farewell to one Ninako and Ren.

Strobe Edge is now over.

Since I haven't reviewed the books as I finished reading them, I decided to give a brief synopsis of Volumes 7 through 10.  Warning!!  There are spoiler alerts.  

 Here is how the story unfolds:

In Volume 7, Ninako is over the moon because the new school year has started and Ren is in her class. The class is all abuzz with the break-up news of Ren and Mayuka.  Ando is trying to taunt Ren into admitting his feelings for Ninako.

It is time for the class trip and the girls and boys have to pair up for the field trip. Realizing the girls will descend on him, Ren asks Ninako and Sayuri to join him and Yu.  Ando and Manabu are with Tsukasa’s group, so Ando is really annoyed about it.

Daiki is no longer in their class and Sayuri sees one of his classmates hanging on him. She witnesses what looks like Daiki kissing the other girl and she runs.  Yu catches up to her and we find out that Yu is her ex-boyfriend who broke up with her to date another girl.  Daiki clears up the misunderstanding, though.

Ninako still has feelings for Ren, but she realizes she can’t tell him. They are good friends and he seems relaxed around her, often smiling.  She’s afraid that if she tells him and he turns her down again, she will not be able to be close to him anymore.

At the end, we find that Ando’s ex-girlfriend has transferred to their school.

In Volume 8, Ando’s ex approaches Ninako and asks her is she likes Ren. Ando warns her to stay away from Ninako.

Ninako realizes if she doesn't tell Ren how she feels she can remain close to him, however, she will also have to watch while he falls in love with someone else.

Ninako tells her girlfriends that she really does still like Ren and that she wants to be his girlfriend.

Ren tells Ando that he is in love with Ninako.

Ninanko gets volunteered to assist with the Cheerleading for the Sports Festival and Ando volunteers to be near her. Although he knows Ren loves her, Ren hasn't admitted it yet to Ninanko.  Ando feels it’s no over until it’s over and things could change. So he clings to hope.

Ando’s ex-girlfriend approaches Ninanko and tells her that she is the reason Ando and Ren aren't such good friends anymore and Ninanko realizes Ren is the friend Ando was talking about losing. And she realizes Ando is the friend Ren was talking about being in a fight with.

Ando asks her again what he can do to get her to love him.  She tells him she’s not in love with Ren anymore, but that she can’t return Ando’s feelings.  She understands the friendship between Ando and Ren is important to both of them, so she decides to give up on Ren for both their sakes.

Since she feels she can’t tell anyone, she ends up telling Toda who is in charge of the Cheerleaders for Block B. They seem awfully chummy which now has Ren feeling a little panicked.

In Volume 9, Ninako finally confesses to her friends that she likes Ren.
Ren decides to confess to Ninanko, after the sports festival, but he’s afraid she might have fallen for another guy.

Ando’s ex-girlfriend, who transferred into their school is in the sports festival.  Even though she used Ando to get close to Ren in middle school, she confesses to Ando that she is actually in love with Ando, but he doesn't believe her.

Ren and Ando compete against each other to get Ninako’s attention.
Ninako decides she is going to tell Ren how she feels…again.
Ren tells her he wants to meet up with her after work so he can confess to her, but as Ando is walking Ninanko to the train station he gets beats up by some thugs while protecting her.

When Ren does finally confess, she can’t bring herself to accept him after what Ando went through.  She doesn't think it would be right.
Then in school she starts avoiding Ren because she just can’t face him.

In Volume 10, Ando has been thinking since he got beat up that Ren and Ninako are dating, having no idea she turned Ren down.

Ando decides to confront Ninako about it and tries to guilt her into going out with him.  He acts like a jerk to her and kisses her to force her to confront her feelings.  She realizes she was just protecting herself and she still loves Ren.  Ando makes the ultimate sacrifice and gives up on her telling her to go get Ren.

Ninako chases after Ren and finally catches up to him and she makes a very teary eyed confession.

In a bonus chapter, Ren learns that Ando kissed Ninako before they started dating and Ninako and Ren go on their first date.

What I liked about the series:
Well, it was predictable enough regarding the main characters. I rooted for them from the beginning, as I should.  So, I was not disappointed with the outcome.  I really liked the tangle of interpersonal relationships and who liked who.

It is a pretty standard plot of girl likes boy but boy is dating another girl.  What really made me enjoy the story was the characters.

Ninanko was just so charmingly clueless and naive, but she also cared so much about her friends that she was willing to give up everything she wanted if she could make other people happy.

Ren was really likable as the most popular boy in school.  He seemed unapproachable, but that was just covering up an underlying vulnerability that Ninanko uncovered.  It was adorable to watch him blushing and acting very unsure of himself. 

Ando was probably the funniest character in the series.  Sure, he was determined and persistent in his pursuit of Ninanko, but he was also really comical and often over the top.   He was a complex character in that he felt betrayed by his ex when she used him to get to Ren.  And while he hated Ren for it, he secretly missed their friendship.  Being in the same class allowed him to be open with Ren, at least about how much he couldn't stand Ren, but he was also keeping all his feelings on the table so there would be no misunderstanding on Ren’s part.  

And in the end, who really made the sacrifices?

This was just a really sweet story of first love with a cast of likable characters.  If you’re a fan of series like Kimi ni Todoke or Lovely Complex, you should enjoy this one as well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - July 13. 2014

This week I decided to try something different. I decided to post my STS the shelves earlier in the day rather than closer to midnight where I invariably start to yawn the jaw-breaking yawns and have to bag the attempt in favor of going to bed. I have this issue where the yawns are so big and frequent that it makes my eyes water and it is difficult to concentrate on anything I am trying to do. The only thing that helps is sugar or my strong peppermint Ice Breakers gum. On a Sunday, night, though, if it happens, I have no recourse but to try to go to sleep. It's been happening a lot lately. So, I figured I would take the afternoon to do book things, chores and bike ride be damned. We'll try this approach on for size and see how it fits.

Since I was unable to post last week due to above issue, here are the books I've picked up over the last two weeks.

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Books Purchased:
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin

Rain (The Paper Gods) by Amanda Sun

William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doeschler

Dream Boy by Mary Crockett

Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen - I was unable to get the ARC at BEA this year which was a great disappointment.  So, I immediately had to pre-order the book.

The High Druid’s Blade: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Kindle Books Purchased:
Boomerang (Part One: Chapters 1 - 19) by Noelle August – Free eBook

First Kiss (Heavy Influence #1) by Ann Marie Frohoff – Free eBook

One Hundred Names: A Novel by Cecelia Ahern – Publisher eBook Daily Deal

The Twilight of the Gods, and Other Tales by Richard Garnett – Free eBook

Foresight (Gods of Fate Book 1) by Sherry D. Ficklin

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson – Publisher eBook Daily Deal

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy – Free eBook

Manga Purchased:
My Little Monster Vols 1 & 2

Negiho Vol 1

xxxHolic Rei Vol 1

Say “I Love You” Vol 2

Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) Vol 19

Dengeki Daisy Vol 14

Demon Love Spell Vol 6

Phantom Thief Jeanne Vol 3

Sweet Rein Vol 3

Arata: The Legend Vol 18

Kamisama Kiss Vol 15

That's it for this week.  TTFN!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Book Description (From Amazon):
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Reminiscent of Before I Fall, Elizabeth Norris's Unraveling blends realistic coming-of-age issues and heart-stopping romance with something just a little bit more. In this case, a gripping science fiction world.

Unraveling's heroine, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner, is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother.
And that was before she died...and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. The more Janelle tries to figure him out, the more she starts to believe he's connected to a case her father is working on. The one where people are dying of radiation poisoning and the body count is rising. The one that involves a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction. If Janelle wants to stop the clock and save the world, she has twenty-four days to uncover Ben's secrets--and keep from falling in love with him.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris, comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

My thoughts:
Historically, I have not been a dystopian kind of gal. I never went in much for the end of the world or futuristic societies. I always liked my fantasy to be of the Epic variety, preferably with elves and dwarves and magic. Still, last summer at BEA 2013, one of the book offerings was Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris. I did not manage to pick the book up. And since I am very acquisitive by nature, the fact that there was a book I was looking for and couldn’t get my hands on made me want it more. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the book was the second in a series. Well, that was problematic anyway.

But I found myself at the local bookstore and they had Unraveling in stock, so I sat down in the café and opened the book to read a sample, to see what it was all about.

The book opens with a chapter title of 24:00:14:32. Cryptic. And it begins at the beach. I grew up a Jersey Girl, and no, not the Snookie variety. The beach was my second home, so now the book has my attention.

Janelle is our heroine and she is a lifeguard at the local beach. She has been dating Nick who is Mr. Popular, but his ex, Brooke, seems to have an issue with that. As Janelle makes her way to her car at the end of the day, she finds slander painted on her car in bright neon pink and her tires are slashed. No need to guess the culprit. It is pretty evident by the death glares she was receiving from Brooke.

Taking her phone, she starts walking, calling her best friend to pick her and her brother up at a friend’s house. But before she hangs up, she hears her name called and then the sound of screeching brakes.

Now you might wonder what is so dys about this topian. It starts off sounding very normal, just a pedestrian summer beach read, but it is so much more.

Chapter two, named 23:23:57:07, is only three paragraphs long,
Chapter three, 23:23:57:06 is only two pages and we find that Janelle has been run down by a pick up truck that came out of nowhere and she thinks she’s dead.
Chapter four, 23:223:56:49, is a little over a page and we find someone is with Janelle, talking to her and trying to keep her aware and conscious.
Chapter five, 23:23:56:42, are the recollections of some of Janelle’s memories and is a little over a page.
In Chapter six, 23:23:56:40, we find that the voice tethering Janelle to life belongs to a boy from school named Ben. She is alive, but she is absolutely certain she was dead and that Ben brought her back to life. And that is where the mystery begins.

While I am not a fan of the mystery genre, I must admit I like trying to figure things out and this book kept me guessing. The varying lengths of chapters made it a really fast read too. I would read a chapter that was two pages and figure that it was too short and read another. What I found was that with so many really short chapters, I just kept wanting to read until I hit a longer chapter to use as a stopping point. It pretty much kept me reading long hours into the night.

The chapters not titled, but counting down, intrigued me as well. What was the countdown for? What is the significance? How is it all related to Janelle and to Ben? I needed to answer those questions. So, I kept reading.

We find Janelle’s father works for the FBI and she learned analytic thinking from him. Though warned against it, she feels compelled to investigate. She wants to find out about the driver who hit her and where he came from, not to mention trying to unravel the mystery of Ben and how he saved her. But is she really prepared for the answers she’ll find and will she discover the truth in time?

Without trying to give away plot points, there is death, destruction with a little bit of spacey stuff thrown in. It may seem like a mild-mannered story, but it ended up being a thrill ride of adventure. The book is fast paced and as pieces of the puzzle fit into place, we find more puzzle pieces still to fit. The story becomes ever more entangled with so many plot twists it’s no wonder I have a stiff neck. Whiplash perhaps?

This is one of those stories that is very rich in detail. We find a complete world where the characters are three dimensional. There is depth to the background and very minute details which add up to a world I can see with my mind’s eye, as if I could step into the pages of the book and see the story unfold. The characters are complex and flawed, but their strength shines through their vulnerability. The odds are stacked up against them and time is running out, but they never give up hoping and fighting to live another day. Their fears were very real as they struggled to survive.

If you’re a fan of survival stories or Sci Fi, do yourself a favor and just read a few pages. If you are like me, it will only take a page or two to get you hooked. I promise the read is worth it.