Favorites – The Asian Edition

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , , |

I thought today would be a fun day to talk about one of my more eccentric passions. I have a habit of finding things I like almost anywhere. The result is that I end up with somewhat conflicting points of interest, but at least it makes me fun to talk to!

So for today, I’m going to introduce you to a few things I read…

A Few of My Favorite Things:

Hana Kimi – I’ll start by saying that this is the first full series of manga that I ever collected. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, manga is the Japanese word for (in a very rough Rae translation) graphic novels. Most manga are in the range of 100+ pages and are divided into two categories: shoujo (for girls) or shonen (for guys). That’s my quick and easy explanation.

This particular manga features Mizuki, a happy-go-lucky, determined Japanese girl from America who dreams of going to the same school as her idol, Sano. Sano is a Japanese guy who has broken many track records with his performances, and Mizuki fell in love with him during a very depressing time of her life. As a result, she works on getting into his school as a new student.

Sounds simple enough, right? Mizuki’s parents allow her to travel to Japan and enroll at Sano’s high school, knowing this is what she wants. What they don’t know, however, is that Sano attends an all-male high school, and Mizuki has enrolled as a male student there. For the 23 volumes of this series, we watch Mizuki attempt to keep her identity under wraps as she lives in the boy’s dorm in Sano’s room and goes about life as a student at this prestigious high school. It’s hilarious and quite entertaining, a very good read.

The Wallflower – This manga is still coming out, but it features Sunako, a very gothic girl who moves into her aunt’s massive mansion where she’ll be taking care of four gorgeous guys. Said gorgeous guys are not entirely sure that they want to deal with this dark and depressing girl whose very presence seems to make lights go out until their landlady (Sunako’s aunt) promises they can live there rent free if they will do one simple task. The task? Turn Sunako into a lady.

The series follows the adventures of the guys as they try to figure out why Sunako turned into such a dark person in the first place, convince her she’s worthwhile, and somehow turn her into a lady before the landlady starts charging full rent. Sunako, on the other hand, just wants peace and quiet while she enjoys the horror movies she’s so fond of.

W. Juliet – This 14 volume series tells the story of tomboy Ito Miura, famous at her high school for her acting abilities, and the school newcomer Makoto Amano, the ultra-feminine girl whose acting seems to outshine Ito’s. The two become friends when Ito protects Makoto from the advances of some of the other male students, and their friendship is only strengthened when Ito finds out Makoto’s secret.

Makoto is a boy cross-dressing as a girl because of his father’s command. In order to not be forced into taking ownership of the family dojo, Makoto has to live as a girl and go to school without having his identity compromised for the entirety of his senior year. If he can graduate high school as a girl, his father won’t force him into being the dojo master and Makoto can do what he loves: act.

So Ito teams up with Makoto to keep his secret. It’s a sweet story full of cute moments and amusing adventures where Makoto’s identity is almost discovered.

I’ll probably do a post later talking about some of my favorite shonen stories as well, but that’s really all I have for today. I’ve got a lot to get done and little time to do it.

Do you have any unusual stories you like? Things that are contrary to what you normally read? Let me know!

-Rae-

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A Few Of My Favorite Things Kiddie Style

Posted on March 15, 2010. Filed under: Books, Children's | Tags: , , |

I’m feeling rather sentimental today. It’s been such a long day, really. My mom’s surgery went very well, and I really appreciate everyone’s comments! It was such an encouragement to me.

So I thought today’s theme would be childhood. It only seems fitting after feeling very young as I saw my mother lying in the hospital bed and after reading the Alice tales. It’s always a good idea to remember those things that brought us joy in childhood, don’t you think? For some reason, as children, we’re pleased by the simplest things.

The same is true for books.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Today’s favorites will be a run down of some of my favorite childhood books.

We’ll begin with one of my all time favorites.

The Monkey and the Crocodile was one of the most adorable stories I read as a kid. Unlike the fable of the same title, this particular book was much longer, had it’s own morals to teach, and featured two fabulous main characters.

The story begins with the king of the jungle, a goodhearted lion, gathering all his kingdom together to pay their taxes. From the greatest to the least, they gathered where he lounged with his lionesses to pay their dues. It’s there that we meet the monkey, a sweet, curious, sneaky, cute little thing who brings two coins and manages to drop one between the king’s toes.

“Oopsie, your Majesty, I woopsied on your tootsie,” cries the monkey in a high-pitched voice. It was always one of my favorite lines. The monkey is a rather loud and talkative sort, you know.

We also meet the crocodile, a nasty sort who sneers at everyone. “Naddle-addle-addle-argh,” he grumbles to anyone who will listen as he tells the king he hasn’t got the money to pay his taxes. The king, a generous sort, offers him time to get the money together.

Being a cunning sort of creature, the crocodile goes directly to the monkey, who happens to owe him money. He demands the monkey pay immediately, which, of course, the monkey cannot due to having just paid his own taxes. After a dangerous ride on the creepy crocodile’s back, the monkey determines the best course of action would be to trick the cruel croc.

It’s really a delightful story, and as the monkey sings at the end of the day (when the crocodile has been rightfully put in prison), the moral to the story is simple: “Forgive and forget, forget and forgive, it’s the best way to love, it’s the best way to live.”

Aside from that story, I also fell in love with Adventures in the Big Thicket by Ken Gire, a book about a group of animals in the big thicket of Texas. It featured some awesome characters, including Hamhock the wild cat and The Bean, a small field mouse of great wisdom.

The book was divided into different stories featuring the various characters, and each story had a Proverb at the end to illustrate the moral. It’s a Christian book, but you can easily lose track of that by the adventures the animals get into.

I remember using this particular book as a speech in high school. We were required to memorize a short story or speech to recite in class. I’m not sure what that taught us about public speaking to be honest as I’ve been memorizing lines to plays and whatnot for years, but either way, I chose one of the tales out of Big Thicket. It was a lot of fun.

Anyway, I’m pretty zonked. I got almost no sleep last night, so while this has been a rather unsatisfying post, I did try.

What enduring children’s tales make your favorites lists?

-Rae-

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Shameless About A Few Of My Favorite Things

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have a wee bit of news before I get into the meat of my post for the day.

First, I have to thank Stacy of The Cat’s Meow for sending me Alice I Have Been. I follow Stacy’s blog, and through that, I won a copy of this book by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin’s debut novel tells the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he shows up as a character in Benjamin’s book. Ironically enough, Melanie Benjamin is also a pseudonym for author Melanie Hauser, who has written two contemporary novels.

Because I’ve never actually read Carroll’s classic, I went out and bought it today. So now I own my own copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I plan to begin reading it tonight.

That said, I finished reading Kathy Tyers’ Crown of Fire tonight, so I’m officially done with that particular series. It’s lovely and well done, but I believe I’ve had my fill of sci-fi for a while. Although I have learned that I tend to increase my book list by two books for each book I finish reading. That, of course, means I won’t be finishing my book list anytime soon. I believe it’s numbering upwards of 40 books now. Granted, I’ve read some, but still–it’s a little excessive to have that many books piled up against the wall of your bedroom.

All right, onto something more interesting!

A Few Of My Favorite Things:

I’m a romance fan. I have been ever since I read my first romance novel back in middle school. Not that I was really emotionally ready for an actual romance novel back then, but my hormones being what they were, I felt like I could take on the world. So I ditched my childish stories that wouldn’t even classify as YA or teen novels in today’s bookstores and began searching for something more along my reading level.

I found Lori Wick. To elaborate, I was searching through my church’s library for some new material because the church library doubled as a school library for the private Christian academy I attended. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be writing a book report (those were the days!) on a book of my choice, so I began looking through the library for something interesting to read. It might have been seventh or eighth grade, but I was attracted to the adult books.

The book I picked was a standalone book of Wick’s titled The Princess, a heartwarming tale of a couple set in a country very much like the United States or England but very much a made-up country. Let me clarify that by saying that this was not anything like sci-fi or fantasy. Wick just chose to create her own country that could have been an island nation set off from the Western United States. In fact, her character mentions visiting New York on a school trip, so perhaps it’s set to the east. Either way, it’s a ‘what-if’ type of story.

Pendaran is a humble kingdom where the prince or princess is required to marry before he or she can assume the throne. There is, of course, a cut-off date for marriage; in this particular story, Prince Nikolai is a widower, having lost his wife two years after marrying her. He mourns her several years after her death.

Unfortunately for Nikolai, the time is rapidly approaching for the fated birthday by which he must be married. Unwilling to go searching for a princess of his own, Nikolai entrusts the task of finding a suitable woman to his parents. They make a request of a good friend to send out feelers among his own web of friends, and lo and behold, they find Shelby Parker.

The daughter of a deaf father and a very capable mother, Shelby knows sign language and regularly translates for her father, who gives motivational speeches about disabilities. Shelby has one brother who is in college, graduated with a nursing degree, leads a ladies’ Bible study, and is an all-around sweetheart.

Running out of time and unable to pursue the topic under any normal circumstances, the king and queen make a decision to approach Shelby directly. After a bit of time and a few letters pass between Shelby and Nikolai, Shelby decides to accept this unusual proposal of marriage. In a very quiet ceremony, the two wed, and Shelby begins a totally new life as princess of Pendaran.

Meanwhile Nikolai, overwhelmed by his grief and the newness of another woman, retreats in the only way he knows how: by making himself unavailable and taking on added appointments to his already busy schedule. The result? A comic moment in the kitchen of the couple’s suite in the palace a few weeks after their marriage.

When he doesn’t even recognize his own wife dining in the kitchen, Nikolai realizes his own grief has driven him too far from someone he should be making an effort with. Thus, he begins attempting to court his lovely, red-headed wife, whose innocence is both touching and refreshing.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but Shelby and Nikolai suffer their fair share of heartache and tragedy before realizing that love can transcend loss and lack of trust.

After having read quite a few romances in my day, I’ll admit it’s the picture-perfect formulaic romance. It follows the regular pattern from a Christian point of view, but it was the first romance novel I ever read, and as such, I have a certain fondness for the book. I’ve read it multiple times over the years, and I’ll probably read it again.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I know this is the happy ending story, but I usually pick up The Princess when I’m feeling a little down and don’t want to read anything new. I crave the comfort of an old friend, and this is, indeed, an old friend.

What about you? Do you have any old friend books you return to time and time again for comfort or escape? Does it change depending on your mood? I know mine certainly does. Let me know what you think. And, of course, I don’t mind if you disagree with me on The Princess; it is, after all, targeted to a rather limited audience!

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House – By Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker

Posted on March 1, 2010. Filed under: Books, Suspense | Tags: , , , |

Well, it’s the first day of March and a Monday, so with no further ado, I’d like to introduce my new series: A Few Of My Favorite Things! I’ll be attempting to add to this every Monday for the month of March, so we’ll see what fun things I can come up with to write about.

The purpose of My Favorite Things is to let you know a little more about my reading style. I’ll be featuring posts on favorite authors and books and maybe even a little randomness on the side. I’m still debating about the randomness. However, for today, I have picked out an appropriate book that I think you’ll enjoy.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Today I’d like to introduce the book House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, not to be confused with the TV show of the same name. I mentioned this book in a post a few weeks ago, and now I’m breaking it back out because it’s a fabulous read. According to the back of the book, it’s classified as general or suspense fiction.

For those who don’t know, Ted Dekker is a Christian author whose focus is on twisting your perceptions. His series of novels have thrilled and excited and horrified readers ever since he started writing, and his ability to completely leave any trace of Christianity out of his writing and yet still get his point across is fascinating.

Frank Peretti is a more established Christian author who’s been published longer than Dekker. Peretti’s specialty is writing spiritually charged novels that use a lot of metaphor and even allegory in order to serve his message. His books are fascinating in ways that make you think and wonder about the world around you.

Together, the two are the perfect authors for this book.

House is the story of two couples, brought together by a killer in the middle of the night. Both have been run off the road in the middle of nowhere on their way home, and they somehow wind up outside of a house-turned-inn. With no cell phone service and no other means of leaving due to slashed tires, both couples find their way into the quaint home where they are greeted by the family that runs the inn.

Meet Jack and Stephanie Singleton, a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks, especially after Stephanie took her wedding band off last month. Jack, of course, was devastated by the loss of intimacy and love that they shared, and Stephanie’s fear drives her moves now.

Alone in the Alabama hotel, the two meet Randy and Leslie, a couple who call themselves “long time associates” but are much closer than mere work partners. Randy and Leslie have also found themselves without tires on the gravel backroad and are looking for the owners of the inn.

When the odd, inbred family finally appears, the chess pieces are all in place for a killer’s deadly game. Betty, the wife and hostess, shows a hostility towards her guests that’s almost palpable as she tells them how stupid they are for coming when the murderer known as the Tin Man is on the loose.

Starting with a power failure and escalating to threats via bricks tossed down the chimney, boards nailed against all possible exits, and a truck rammed through the front door, the foursome finds themselves the pawns in this game. And there are only three rules to the Tin Man’s game:

“Welcome to my house.

House rules:

1. God came to my house, and I killed him.

2. I will kill anyone who comes to my house as I killed God.

3. Give me one dead body, and I might let rule two slide.

Game over at dawn.”

Thus begins Tin Man’s game. Driven by fear and adrenaline, the two couples band together in a fight for their lives as they discover their hosts’ secrets. But their mistake, the one that could potentially lead to their deaths, is going into the basement.

Once all four of them have entered the basement, Tin Man seals them inside, keeping them trapped in a maze unlike any they’ve experienced before. Changing rooms, shifting shadows, circus mirrors that don’t reflect human reflections all lead them down the road to insanity as Jack, Stephanie, Randy, and Leslie while away the hours until dawn.

But this house isn’t normal by any stretch of the word, and its owners are just as dangerous as the Tin Man. When Jack discovers a young girl hiding in the basements named Susan, her appearance seems suspicious: just how did she get down there in the first place? And why does she insist that Jack isn’t really hearing her?

The book follows the game, pacing each chapter by the time of the night. As the couples weather attacking inbreds, they try to figure out just what supernatural forces are taking part in their captivity. But the game ends at dawn no matter what, and for them to survive, someone must die.

It’s an adrenaline-laced adventure for the two couples as they try to survive long enough to get back up to ground level. But once they do, more mysteries and a killer awaits them. And the ending is shocking enough that you probably won’t be expecting it.

It’s one of my favorite books because the psychological thriller has a fabulous plot, well-developed characters, and a powerful, underlying message. It left me on the edge of my seat and kept me reading late in the night as I was too afraid to turn off the lights without knowing how the book would conclude.

In short, I’d argue that this book is just as intriguing, fascinating, and alluring as any on the shelves produced in the general market. The timing is perfect, and the turns of phrase are fabulous.

So, there you have it, one of my favorite things. I’ve read this book through twice and picked through it at random intervals to remember the plot. It’s definitely a book I’ll be keeping on my bookshelves for years to come.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Let me know!

-Rae-

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