Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fruits Basket Vol. 11 by Natsuki Takaya

Main Character: Tohru Honda
Location: Japan
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy

Akito is the walking definition of emotional abuse. We've had hints before, but now we see him in full force. He has a "talk" with Kyo, telling him again that it's his fault his mother killed herself, that no one will ever love him, that he will soon be locked up for the rest of his life because he is such a monster.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Akito then comes to visit Tohru and tells her that she is a meddler and is not welcome. He reveals that he is not a member of the Zodiac, but its god--the one who, according to the old stories, created the Zodiac and chose the animals. He wants to control all the Sohma family members and keep them close. Just by her very presence, Tohru is showing them that there could be another life, and so he needs to get rid of her in order to keep control.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fruits Basket Vol. 10 by Natsuki Takaya

Main Character: Tohru Honda
Location: Japan
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy

Fun times at the summer house. Kisa and Hiro join them.

A flashback reveals the relationship between Shigure and Mayu. She was best friends with Kana, who was dating Hatori. Mayu is also in love with Hatori, but keeps her feelings hidden to avoid hurting her friend. She starts dating Shigure and the four often go out together. Then Akito started meddling and broke Hatori and Kana apart.

Akito shows up and demands that everyone come to see him--all except Kyo because the cat is excluded from the Zodiac. Whenever Akito shows up, things get very ominous.

Oh, and Yuki tells Tohru that he loves her. And he kisses her. Sigh.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

+ Anima Vol. 3 by Natsumi Mukai

Main Characters: Cooro, Husky, Nana
Time period: Undetermined
Genre: YA Manga, Fantasy, Human/Animal Hybrid

Cooro helps a young man use his glider to save his family when rain washes the road out and medicine needs to get through. Our little gang is given shelter by a blacksmith and his ward, Margaret. Interesting tidbit--she used to be a + Anima (a deer) but now that she has a home and feels safe, her deer aspect vanished. So being a + Anima is not a permanent thing?

Anyway, good old Igneous (the commander from the previous volume) shows up and demands that the blacksmith repair all the swords for his company. The blacksmith refuses--he hasn't had anything to do with swords since he rescued Margaret. Then Cooro has an idea, and the swords are all tranformed into tools such as knives and axes.

Nana becomes convinced that Husky is really a girl, so he finally strips off to convince her. Of course, he makes Cooro strip off too. Finally, the group encounters Rose again at a hot springs which is supposedly haunted. A buffalo + Anima was injured and has been coming to the healing springs at night. Now that he has been healed, he agrees to go on his way.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Giving Up the Ghost by Sheri Sinykin

Main Character: Thirteen-year-old Davia
Location: Louisiana
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Ghosts

When Davia and her parents go to the old plantation house at Belle ForĂȘt to take care of Great-Aunt Mari, Davia expects to see Tara. What she finds instead is an old, neglected house which is downright spooky. Great-Aunt Mari has moved out of the old house--can't handle the stairs anymore--and has been comfortably furnished with a hospital-style room in the old stables. Uncomfortable with the dying old woman and worried about her own mother, who has just recovered from cancer, Davia is easy prey for Emilie, the nineteenth-century Creole ghost who refuses to leave her old home.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Main Character: Will, the Ranger's Apprentice
Time period: A medieval-like era
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy
Series: The Ranger's Apprentice #1

The characters are what makes this series so enjoyable. Will, the apprentice of the series title, is instantly likeable, but I really liked the treatment of Horace. Instead of making him a rival and a thorn in Will's side for the entire series, he develops from a braggart and a bully to Will's true friend before the novel is half over. I also liked the adult characters. Halt, the ranger who takes Will in, is a bit of an Aragorn figure, outwardly stern but inwardly caring. Baron Arald, the man who has taken in the orphans, and Sir Rodney, the Battlemaster who recognizes Horace's natural talents, are good men and good leaders who know just how to nuture these young men.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Main Character: Conner, Risa, and Lev
Time period: Not too distant future
Genre: YA Fiction, Dystopian Society

WOW! This book is a stand-out! Set in a not-to-distant future in which teenagers between 13 and 18 years old could be "unwound"--taken apart for organ transplants--three young people fight to stay alive. It's told from multiple POVs so we see the events through the eyes of Conner, Risa, and Lev, as well as some of the other kids and the few adults who interact with them. There is a scene which depicts an "unwinding" which is just terrifying in its matter-of-factness.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley

Main Character: Erec Rex
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: Fantasy, Dragons
Series: Erec Rex #1

A 12-year-old boy in foster care is thrust into an exciting and dangerous adventure when his mom disappears. It turns out that (unbeknownst to him) Erec comes from an underground world where humans are still in touch with their magical sides.

It is inevitable that any book of this type will be compared to Harry Potter, and there are some parallels--Erec gets involved in a series of contests to choose the next kings and queens of the land; there is a horrible little bully and his followers; one of King Piter's AdviSeers is a stern man that Erec assumes (without any real proof) is the villain orchestrating the strange accidents. But these similarities are not necessarily signs that the author is copying the Harry Potter formula--rather that Harry Potter used many of the same fantasy archetypes. Where this book falters is in creating this magical world, which never comes to life in the way that Hogwarts did. It is more akin to the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo--pleasant enough to want to read the next volume, but not likely to excite to massive fandom.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws by Shane Berryhill

Main Character: Chance Fortune
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Superhero

There are a number of humorous superhero books available for young readers now--this subgenre seems to really have grown since the release of The Incredibles. This book is geared to a slightly older audience, and has the intriguing trick of making the main character someone who has no superpower at all. Like Batman or Doc Savage or the Phantom, he has gone through many years of rigorous training, both physical and mental, to achieve a certain level of superhuman abilities, but that is not enough to gain him entrance into the Burlington Academy for the Superhuman. However, when he changes his name to Chance Fortune and claims that his superpower is good luck, he is accepted into the school. Though it may seem that he is at a disadvantage, he soon becomes the leader of his team, mainly because he has grown up without a superpower to depend on. His teammates may have psychic abilities, or the power to shoot lightning from their eyes, but Chance is the one who sees how they can combine their powers and work together to defeat the other teams in competition.

The middle section feels a bit rushed--a lot of time is spent on coming to school, making friends, building the team and winning their first competition, and then we jump to the end of the school year and the final competition against the team of school bullies. Still, there were some very enjoyable moments and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau

Main Character: Claire
Location: Mexico
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Magical Realism

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did I was caught in its spell, much as the main character, Claire, is caught in the spell of her grandparents' remote home in Mexico. Claire has grown up without knowing her Mexican parents, but when she turns 14, she receives a letter inviting her to stay the summer. At first she dismayed by how very different it is from the home she's used to--from the airport there is a long bus ride, and an even longer walk when the bus slides down the mountainside--but as she listens to her grandmother's stories and explores the countryside, she begins to realize some things about herself, like her love of nature and desire to heal, as well as an awakening ability to sense the future.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Thief Queen's Daughter by Elizabeth Haydon

Main Character: Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme--"Ven" for short
Time period:
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy
Series: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme #2

I am enjoying this series. The first one did a good job of introducing the situation and characters, and this one takes that introduction and runs with it. Ven remains a likable fellow, as does Char, who remains faithful to the captain's order to watch out for Ven. We learn a bit about Ida's background and she becomes a much more sympathetic character because of it. There's even some softening of her prickliness as she begins to learn that there is some value in making friends.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

Main Character: 12-year-old Emily Windsnap, half-human, half-mermaid
Location: the Ocean
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: J Fiction, Fantasy, Mermaids
Series: Emily Windsnap #1

Despite living on a boat by the ocean's shore, Emily has never learned to swim. More than that, she has never been totally immersed in water--the boat is so small that there's only room for a shower. So she's very excited when she enrolls in swimming lessons. She's a natural in the water--until she feels her legs seize up. Claiming a cramp, she's excused from the rest of the lesson, but she finds herself now afraid to go back into the water. Finally, Emily learns the truth--Emily's father was a merman and Emily will have the form of a human on land but a mermaid in the water.

As it turns out, liasons between merpeople and humans is strictly forbidden by Neptune, King of the Sea. Emily's father has been imprisoned, and her mother's memory of him has been erased. When Emily begins to explore her true nature, she knows she must do whatever she can to bring them back together, even risking Neptune's fury.

This is a very sweet, light fantasy series for young girls.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist by Liz Kessler

Main Character: 12-year-old Emily Windsnap, half-mermaid, half-human
Location: the Ocean
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: J Fiction, Fantasy, Mermaids
Series: Emily Windsnap #3

Emily's teacher is terribly excited--King Neptune is coming on a royal visit! All the mermaids are sent out to find pretty stones, gems, gold, and other adornments to present to the king when he arrives. Emily is mostly hoping to escape his notice, since he is still not happy with her parents and their merman/human alliance. Unfortunately Emily's offering turns out to be a significant diamond ring--not only for it's size and beauty, but for it's personal meaning. It turns out that Neptune himself once fell in love with a human woman. They exchanged rings, one diamond and one pearl. But she disappeared and Neptune believed that she abandoned him which led him to forbid any such alliances again.

The sight of the diamond ring causes Neptune to go into a rage and send Emily's boat out into the ocean, far away from anything familiar. They are lost in a cloud of mist and Emily knows that the only way she can get them back home is to get to a castle on the island they can see far away in the mist.

I managed to read this series out of order, but even without having read the first book I was able to get into this one right away. Now I'm going to have to seek out the rest of the series.