Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Koshka's Tales Stories from Russia

Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia
Written By: James Mayhew

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 77 pages
Publisher: Kingfisher Books (October 1993)
ISBN-10: 1856979431
ISBN-13: 978-1856979436

Vonze: 4 out of 5

Bet you didn't know that March 22nd to 28th is World Folk Tales and Fables Week! It's to encourage people to explore the lessons to be learned from folk tales, fables, myths and legends from around the world. So, I picked the childrens' book Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia.

Koshka's Tales begins as a lonely tsar searches for a wife. He looks all over his kingdom, until he decides to marry one girl out of a group of three sisters. He picks the youngest of the three sisters, because she promises she will give him strong, golden haired sons. Well, of course, her sisters become jealous and plot to ruin her with the help of a cannibal witch. Each time she gives birth, her sisters steal her children away and give them to the witch. Until, finally, she realizes something is up and hides one of the babies up her sleeve before her sisters can find him. But it's too late, the tsar is furious that something keeps happening to all the babies. So, he puts her in a coffin and casts her into the sea.

Therein lies what I disliked about this story. Why didn't the tsaritsa (or queen) just show him the baby she hid herself? Why didn't she tell him? But then, I guess, we'd have no story.

The tsaritsa ends up on an island with the son she hid up her sleeve. There they meet a story-telling cat named Koshka, who is tied to a tree. Koshka tells them many stories, making the book a series of tales within a tale. Out of Koshka's tales, I enjoyed The Snowmaiden and The Tale of the Firebird, Tsarevitch Ivan and Grey Wolf the most. Everything works out in the end and all the stories have good endings.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed learning more about Russia in the process. However, the story did start out slowly, yet, got better. I feel that the book's target group, 5 to 8 year olds, might be a little too young to appreciate these tales. The illustrations were beautiful, but many of the pages were seventy-five percent text. I'm afraid a young child might lose interest, unless their family is connected to Russia in someway or the child already loves folktales.

Review: Marmalade Boy, Vol. 1

Marmalade Boy, Vol. 1
By: Wataru Yoshizumi

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 202 pages
Publisher: TokyoPop; illustrated edition edition (April 23, 2002)
ISBN-10: 1931514542
ISBN-13: 978-1931514545

Vonze: 4.5 out of 5

Book Description: "Talk about dysfunctional! Miki is horrified to learn that her parents have swapped with another couple, and that all four now plan to live under one roof. But when her new stepbrother, Yuu, shows up, he appears to be just the one to ease her mental anguish... that is, until she sees the bitterness beneath his cool exterior. The strange romance that follows would make any love triangle seem ordinary by comparison."

Okay, sometimes I do feel bad about my family...my parents divorced when I was a kid and my dad had two major relationships afterwards, before he passed away. My life has been complicated by my parents' lives. However, I would not trade places with Miki's character for anything!

At the beginning of Marmalade Boy, Miki, a Japanese high school student, is shocked to learn her parents are divorcing. What's more, they both plan to get married again right away...to the Matsuuras, a couple they met on vacation. Miki's mom plans to marry Mr. Matsuura and Miki's dad plans to marry Mrs. Matsuura. And if that wasn't freaky enough, they're all cool and friendly about it. In fact, they decide it would be best for Miki and her future step-brother's sake if all they live together as one BIG happy family. Miki is the only sane one, who is completely opposed to the idea. Comedy ensues.

I found this aspect of the story to be hilarious. Miki is a sweet girl, but the way she freaks out is classic.

This volume sets the stage for a love triangle between Miki's old crush and her future step-brother. The plot was funny and kept me guessing. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next volume.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In My Mailbox (Mar. 22-29)

Wow, this week was a MAILBOX BLOWOUT!! Would have had this posted sooner, but I had technical difficulties with the pictures yesterday.


From Rex Robot Reviews I won:

From paperbackswap.com I got:

Oshie bought me:

Bought these at a library sale:

Got these from library trades:

It was a great book week!!!

Pick Your Publisher Contest!!

Hey everybody! Just wanted to give you the heads up about a great contest going on at The Undercover Book Lover.

You could win a pack of books from your favorite publisher, including: Scholatic, Penguin, HarperTeen, Egmont and many more!

Hurry and check out the Contest!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Vol. 1

Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Vol. 1
Written By: Ellen Schreiber Illustrator: REM

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN-10: 0061340812
ISBN-13: 978-0061340819

Vonze: 2.5 out of 5

Book Description: "The absolute last thing goth-girl Raven and her vampire boyfriend, Alexander, need is another hitch in their nighttime-only romance—but dark trouble hovers on the horizon when Raven and Alexander discover four freshly dug graves filled with empty coffins. When a crew of sketchy vampires takes up residence in Dullsville's lonely graveyard, Alexander finds this motley bunch led by his very own blood-sucking cousin, Claude Sterling. Shocking! Claude and his creepy crew can only spell out more problems for the pair, especially when Raven finds them in daylight in the very last place she could ever imagine. What could Claude and his invaders be doing—or searching for—in Dullsville?"

A few weeks ago, I sat down and read this book in one sitting at Books-a-Million. Oshie and the family were still shopping and I was bored. Now, as a long time vampire fan, I'm not too hard to please. I like nearly all vampires, from Dracula to Vampire Hunter D to Lestat to Nosferatu to Blade to Edward. Yet, I was disappointed in this manga. I have not read the novel version of Vampire Kisses. I admit that I might have enjoyed the manga better if I had read the novel. The manga didn't seem to recap events that probably happened in the novel, for example, explaining how the main characters met and how they fell in love. So, I just had to guess at what happened and accept the characters for the way they behaved in the manga.

The manga version of Raven's character made her seem like a shallow air-head. It seemed like she was either gushing or whining throughout the story. I wasn't buying that she was gothic. Maybe I'm biased, but goth should be more of a state of mind than a fashion statement. Raven seemed like a cheerleader whose favorite color was black. She was too happy and bubbly. Yes, she did hangout in a graveyard, but in my opinion, she never would have been there if it wasn't for a hot guy. That's not goth, it's wannabe.

Alexander, well, I don't even recall much about his character. Other than he was good-looking, rich and super-nice. Not threatening at all. Take away his fangs and he's just a good-looking rich guy whose favorite color is black.

I did enjoy Rem's artwork. The scenes and characters were well drawn.

Overall, this manga does not stand alone well if you haven't read the novel version.

Monday, March 22, 2010

In My Mailbox (Mar. 15-21)

Last week I got busy reading the Hunger Games 1 and 2! Reviews to come later. Also, Oshie and I went to Momocon in Atlanta last weekend! Momocon is a free fan convention for people who like anime, manga, comics and video games. I got a good deal on some interesting manga titles and a webcomic in print format.

From momocon:
Red String by Gina Biggs (first cover pic below)

From paperbackswap.com:

Oshie bought from B&N:

It was a great book week for us!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Just wanted to spread the word about a great giveaway that will blow you away!

La Femme Readers and A Good Addiction have teamed up to thank their followers with a contest we've all yearned for, begged for and dreamed about.

Check out the awesome books you could win!!

In My Mailbox (March 8-14)

I didn't get as much in my mailbox this week as I did last week. =( I actually sold a few books on Ebay to make money I can use at MoMoCon at Georgia Tech next week.

Here's what I did get though!

From paperbackswap.com I got:

From Borders, Oshie bought:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rex Robot Reviews Giveaway!

Hey guys!

Just wanted to let you know about a cool giveaway going on at Rex Robot Reviews until St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). You could win the following:

Original Sin (Seven Deadly Sins)
Covet (Fallen Angels, Book 1)
Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy
*Fred the Mermaid, Book 1-3*
*House of Night, Books 1-4*
Real Vampires Have Curves (Glory St. Clair, Book 1)
The Awakening (Immortals, Book 3)
*Vampire Kisses: 1 & 2*
*Queene of Light (Lightworld/Darkworld) 1 & 2*
School's Out - Forever (Maximum Ride, Book 2)
The Accidental Werewolf (Accidental Friends, Book 1)
Blue Bloods
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)
Night World: The Ultimate Fan Guide
Evermore: The Immortals
Wicked 2: Legacy & Spellbound
Small Kingdoms
The Lovely Bones
The Death of Methuselah and Other Stories
*Books listed w/asterisk are available to the 1st place winner only!

Go check it out!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In My Mailbox (Mar. 1-7)

This week I won a signed bookmark from Karen Kincy! Her new book, Other, comes out July 1st, 2010. Be sure to check out her site at KarenKincy.com. I'm looking forward to reading more about pookas!

I bought Oracle of the Ages, it's the true story of a local fortune teller who was portrayed by June Carter Cash in the movie "Murder in Coweta County."

And I also bought Catching Fire, cause if the first one is as good as everyone says it is (I'm just now reading it, lol), then I'm sure I'll wanna have the second one right away.

From paperbackswap.com, I got:

It was a good book week!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle
Written By: Diane Wynne Jones

Reading level: Young Adult
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (August 7, 2001)
ISBN-10: 006441034X
ISBN-13: 978-0064410342

Vonze: 4.5 out of 5

Book Description: "In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter. After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls. The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning. In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?"

Ok, let me just say to begin with that I really love the Hayao Miyazaki film based on this book. Since I live in a rural area, I wasn't able to see it in theaters, but I rented it as soon as I could. Now, Oshie and I own a copy. When I found out that the film was based on a book, I put it on my long to-read list. I finally got around to reading it a few days ago.

This was a quick and very enjoyable read for me. I know that, normally, books are better than their movies, however, was I shocked that the film did not follow the book very closely. Miyazaki, apparently, added and deleted things at will. I still love the movie, but the book had a much richer and deeper plot.

Sophie Hatter doesn't expect much to happen in her life because she is the eldest of her two sisters. When her father dies, she is left with his hat shop to run. Sophie creates wonderful hats, but she has a problem standing up for herself. When a rude costumer comes in complaining about a hat, Sophie decides she has had enough. However, unluckily, Sophie picked the wrong person to stand up to. The costumer is actually the Witch of the Waste, who puts a spell on Sophie, transforming her into an old woman. Knowing that she can no longer stay at the hat shop, Sophie decides to go out and seek her fortune. Yet, this is easier said than done in an 90 year old's body. When Sophie sees Howl's Moving Castle outside of her town, she decides to rest there for the night. However, things are not what they seem inside the castle and Sophie gets caught up in the curse placed on the wizard Howl.

I could put Howl on a list of my favorite character's ever. He's a flamboyant, wise-cracking, lovable coward. I found myself frequently laughing at his lines in the book.

All and all, Howl's Moving Castle was a fun fantasy read. The only thing I disliked was the lack of action until the end of the book. The majority of the story has the main character, Sophie, wondering and waiting around for things to happen.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed The Princess Bride, The Never-ending Story, and, of course, the movie Howl's Moving Castle.

Review: Take the Risk

Take the Risk
Written By: Ben Carson M.D. and Gregg Lewis

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; First Edition edition (January 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0310259738
ISBN-13: 978-0310259732

Vonze: 4 out of 5

Book Description:
"You can find our culture's obsession with avoiding risk everywhere, from multiple insurance policies to crash-tested vehicles. But is ducking risk the most productive way for us to live? Surgeon and author Dr. Ben Carson, who faces risk on a daily basis, offers an inspiring message on how accepting risk can lead us to a higher purpose."

I gotta say that Ben Carson is a really inspirational guy. He grew up poor in Detroit and Boston during the 1950s and 1960s, before African Americans had the same rights and opportunities as whites. His mother was thirteen when she married Ben's father. They later divorced and she was left to care for Ben and his brother on her own, often working multiple jobs while secretly checking herself into mental hospitals. Meanwhile, Ben struggled with school, he was teased because people thought he was stupid. Seeing that Ben and his brother's grades were failing, their mother prayed about it and decided to restrict their tv time to three shows a day. In addition to their homework, she also had her sons read two extra books a week and write a report to her. Secretly, she could not read herself.

In the end, her hard work and pushing Ben to read more paid off. Ben Carson is now a top, world famous brain surgeon. His life story, Gifted Hands, was recently turned into a made-for-tv movie. I watched Gifted Hands last year and was very impressed. When I noticed that Ben Carson had written a book on taking risks, I decided to check it out.

About half the book is biographical information about Ben Carson and the risks he had to overcome to be a doctor and the risks he takes as a doctor. A quarter is dedicated to good, common sense advice on taking risks in your own life, and another quarter lists risks we have in our society. I could have done without the last quarter, because I feel like Ben got on a soapbox at times.

However, overall, the book had good advice and was inspirational. It feel it would be a great book for someone interested in going into the medical field (like Oshie!).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cool Giveaways!

Here's a list of cool giveaways that are currently going on!

Steph Su Reads is having a Unsung YA giveaway. You can win: Good Girls by Laura Ruby and Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

A Book-Lover's Review
is giving away Bleeding Violet.

A Lush Budget Production Tales of a Ravenous Reader is giving away:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Captivate by Carrie Jones
Chronicles of Vladamir Todd (2) books
Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

In Which a Girl Reads is giving away a book of your choice!

Just Blinded Book Reviews
is giving away Wake and lots of swag.

Sea of Pages
is giving away Magic Under Glass.

The Book Resort is giving away a Song PRS600!! And a copy of Forget-Her-Nots.

La Femme Readers
is giving away an ARC of Siren.

Addicted 2 Novels is giving away:
-Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
-Lock And Key by Sarah Dessen
-Looking For Alaska by John Green
-The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols


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