Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Manga Review: Mixed Vegetables, Vol 1

January 12, 2010 1 comment

Mixed Vegetables CoverMixed Vegetables: Volume 1 of 8, by Ayumi Komura

Hanayu Ashitaba is the daughter of a famed pastry chef, but her dream is to become a sushi chef. Knowing that she will break her parents’ hearts if she doesn’t continue their work, she plots to marry Hayato Hyuga, the son of a sushi chef, in hopes of achieving her goal.

(No Spoilers)

It’s been a while since I’ve even stepped into the manga section of the bookstore, but I’m really glad I did this past week. The great thing about manga is that they’re just so relaxing (or at least the series I read are) to read, and it’s nice to have a break from the heavier reading that I’ve done lately.

Mixed Vegetables has apparently been out for about a year or so, but it was new to me. As a fan of practically every food show on tv, I really liked how food-centric it is. Since Ashitaba is a student at a culinary school, a lot of the storylines in this first volume revolved around preparing for cooking exams, designing cakes, chopping vegetables, etc. The food was drawn beautifully, as were the characters. Artwork is really this manga’s strongpoint.

What I did find lacking was the story in general. For a first volume, I thought there was a real lack of conflict, especially in comparison to other first volumes I have read. Issues and storylines were too quickly resolved. Also, sometimes I had trouble following exactly what was happening in the scene. I’m not sure if this was just a bad translation, or if this is just how it is. But overall, the story lacked depth, and I finished the manga feeling a little unsatisfied.

I am unsure if I will pick up the next volume of this one. I definitely want to find out what happens, but with eight volumes total, the storyline will really have to get better before I invest in more of the series.


On a side note, I’ve been thinking about how mysterious the manga section of the bookstore used to look to me before I started reading them myself. There were so many different series and I really had no idea where to start. I’m in no way an expert on the subject, but I’m hoping to do a post on “How to Start Reading Manga.” So stay tuned!


Book Review: The Mango Season

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment


The Mango Season
The Mango Season

The Mango Season, Amulya Malladi; Fiction; B&N

For some reason, I’ve been craving books about India and Indian culture lately. I stumbled upon The Mango Season and decided to try it out, especially after seeing all the glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon.


In The Mango Season, Priya, born and raised in India, has been been living on her own in the US for the past seven yeras. Now, at twenty-seven, she’s visiting her very traditional and conservative family in India to tell them some very unwelcome news: she’s engaged to and has been living with an American man, Nick. Since her parents intend to arrange her marriage to someone Indian, Priya struggles to find the right time to tell her family.


Overall, this book was disappointing. The characters were all so stereotypical that it was really hard to believe that this was written by someone who was Indian herself. The main character was unlikable and pretentious. I also had a hard time believing that someone who moved to the US when they were twenty could turn into such a bad tourist in her home country.

Mostly, I didn’t appreciate that Priya never attempts to understand the other side of things, especially when it comes to the issue of arrange marriages. From page one, the author presents the main character as completely right in her views, and everyone in her family as completely wrong and backward. Every woman in the book who goes along with an arranged marriage is shown as a victim that the reader should feel sorry for. The novel would’ve been a perfect opportunity for the author to explore the positive aspects of arranged marriage, something rarely discussed in Western literature. Unfortunately, it makes the book seem very one-sided and adds nothing new to the arranged marriage debate.

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

September 27, 2008 1 comment

Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella; Fiction

Confessions of a Shopaholic was a surprisingly delightful read. They say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but in this day and age of calculated marketing, it’s not a stretch to assume that a cover that looks like this book’s will be a certain kind of book. On the contrary, Confessions… was a quick but thoroughly enjoyable read, both smarter and better written than others I have read in the so-called “chick-lit” genre.

From the Publisher: Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is that she can’t actually afford it—not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank—letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read—and they’re getting ever harder to ignore

The most surprising part of this book was how much I liked the characters. At first, I was worried that Becky’s constant obsession with shopping and her detailed descriptions of clothing and outfits would become annoying. Instead, Kinsella crafts her character in such a way that she always remains endearing and adorable. I think this is because Becky knows she has a problem, but her issue is that she just can’t find a way to fix her problem. She always finds a way to justify buying a new scarf, or a new notebook…something we all can identify with. I even loved Luke Brandon, the “love interest or is he?” in the book, who could really be a jerk at times. Of course, at this point I’d already seen the movie trailer, and so I kept imagining Hugh Dancy during these scenes, so maybe that’s why I just couldn’t hate him :D.

The book is from the UK and set there as well, so I wasn’t familiar with many of the shopping references, like names of stores or designers.  I also had to keep making mental calculations, converting Becky’s spendings from £’s to dollars. I guess it’s standard to leave money amounts in their original form, and I understand why, but how much things cost really matters in this book, so at times it was a little awkward.

I picked this book up after seeing the trailer for the movie (trailer below), starring Isla Fisher. I think the movie looks really good, although it clearly differs from the book a bit (which I’m totally okay with…i think expecting the film and book to be identical, for any book, is a bit ridiculous). I think the actors are well-suited for their parts, particularly Hugh Dancy as Luke (and I’m not just saying that because he’s incredibly handsome…really…). We’ll have to wait a while to see though…the movie doesn’t come out until February.

But back to the book…there are four more or so in series. Even though I really enjoyed this first offering, I don’t really feel an immediate need to run and get the others. Everything was wrapped up really well here, and I don’t really think one sequel was necessary, letalone four. Reviews I’ve read all say that the first one is the best of the lot, so I don’t think I’m going to miss anything if I don’t read the rest.

Here’s the trailer for the Confession’s film:

Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

September 22, 2008 Leave a comment

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly; Fiction

For a while, I’ve been in a sort of reading dry-spell…many of the books that I’ve read were either likable but unmemorable, or just disappointing. I was starting to feel like I was just being cynical, and looking for things not to like in every book I picked up. But then I read The Book of Lost Things.

From Barnes & Noble: High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother. He is angry and alone, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in his imagination, he finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a land that is a strange reflection of his own world, populated by heroes and monsters, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book… The Book of Lost Things.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is my favorite book that I’ve read so far this year. This is really a book lovers book, and as a book lover myself, I felt that it’s strongest theme was the influence that reading, books, and stories in general can have on your life. As a lifelong avid reader, I’d like to think that the books that I’ve read have shaped how I look at the world. David’s imagination, the world he falls into, and his outlook on things were heavily shaped by the stories he read.

Most, if not all, of the characters that David meets are largely influenced by fairy tales. Some of the influences are more direct and recognizable. In one of the most humorous moments, we meet Snow White, who is nothing like the charming Disney princess, but instead ravenously hungry, unbelievably overweight, bossy, and irritating. Her dwarfs, who call each other “comrade” are actually the ones behind the apple poisoning incident, and talk of “rights and liberties”. There were several characters whose influences were a bit ambiguous to me. In particular, one storyline seemed almost identical to the plot of the movie Penelope, and I was surprised to read in the author’s notes that it was actually based on Beauty and the Beast.

About the author’s notes: I was surprised to find that the last 100 pages or so were the author’s notes about the fairy tales referenced in the novel, as well as the original versions of those stories. It was very interesting to read about the author’s influences and why he made certain choices with his interpretations. I wish more novels would include notes like that, because I found them really interesting to read.

From reading other reader reviews, it seems like this is either a book you love or you hate. I personally loved it. It was very poetic at times, dark and gruesome in the right places, just as traditional fairy tales are. It wasn’t overly preachy with its ideas, which I appreciated. This is a bit of a stretch, but it reminded me a bit of Big Fish, so if you enjoyed the film or book, you might like this one, too.

“I think I’ll go to Boston, I think that I’m just tired…”

September 7, 2008 1 comment

How I feel right now.

I am back at school as of Wednesday and it is very unpleasant indeed. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy so early in the semester. Before this year, the first two weeks at least were pretty laid back. I thought I’d be proactive this year and use those two weeks or so to get really ahead. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to just get what’s assigned done.

-I’ve started reading Don Quixote for my literature class, Major European Novels. I have to read thirty chapters by Tuesday, but I’ve been reading for hours and I’ve only read fifteen chapters. I don’t know why I’m reading so slowly. In any case, I’m really enjoying it. It’s so different from what I expected though. My only exposure to Don Quixote has been seeing bits of the ballet…so I was thinking it was about some gallant guy and his adventures. I had no idea that Don Quixote was actually a fifty-year-old man who is either completely mad or the biggest science-fiction/fantasy nerd of all time. Either way, he apparently imagines that he’s a knight, attacks a windmill he thinks is a giant, etc….it’s hilarious, but really not what I expected. Fun fact!: John Lithgow played Don Quixote in a 2000 tv movie. That would’ve seemed like really weird casting before I read the book, but I think it works.

-One of my classes is Artificial Intelligence. The work so far is all programming which is really easy, but the lectures and material is pretty out there. A lot of the things we’re talking about remind me of this awful class I had in high school called Theory of Knowledge. On the first day, the professor continuously called on people—by NAME—no small feat as there are probably 100+ people in that class. He even called out people and said “You didn’t preregister for this class, did you?”

– Intro to EECS II focuses exclusively on Electrical Engineering apparently. All I’m going to say about this class is that I’ve only had one lecture but I already want to crawl under my bed and hide for the rest of the semester.

-Intro to Algorithms: A class that I’m so far understanding and enjoying. The professor does not call on people randomly and there are lots of programming assignments, so I am pretty happy. My TA is also really nice.

Completely unrelated to school, but last week I went to the Hilltop Steakhouse outside of Boston. It was featured on one of those Food Network shows about Best Steakhouses or something…so here’s two pics:

Huge cactus sign outside

Huge cactus sign outside

Biggest steak i've ever eaten..i have an "after" picture, but there's not much left to show

Biggest steak i've ever eaten...there's an "after" picture but there's not much left to show 😀

Why the Midnight Sun leak was a genius move

September 4, 2008 7 comments

Update: You can directly download the Midnight Sun partial draft from Steph. Meyer’s site here.

Although the news is not exacty new, I thought I’d throw my two cents in about the Midnight Sun leak controversy.

For those of you not in the “Twilight” know, Midnight Sun was going to be the fifth book in author Stephenie Meyer‘s wildly popular, vampire-centered “Twilight” series. Although the storyline recently ended with the just-released and unbelievably controversial Breaking Dawn, Midnight Sun would’ve mirrored the events of the first book in the series, except told from the perspective of Edward, the vampire, instead of the main character Bella. This might sound boring to someone who hasn’t read the books, but for fans, it was a much-anticipated treat.

This past week, twelve chapters of Midnight Sun found itself illegally online, allegedly leaked by one of the few people that Stephenie Meyer had given a copy to. Many fans rushed to find and read the leak, while others stayed loyal to Meyer. In the end, though, Stephenie posted an emotional message on her website, including her own link to the twelve chapters, and noting that her sadness over the leak had put Midnight Sun “on hold indefinitely” (on the main page of her site).

Some people have called the leak a marketing scheme, even going as far as accusing Stephenie of being behind the leak herself. I’m not so sure I would go that far, but in this day and age nothing would really surprise me.

In my opinion, though, it was a genius move.

The Midnight Sun leak may have, at least partially, rejuvenated the Twilight franchise in the minds of a faction of embittered Twilight fans reeling over their dislike of Breaking Dawn, myself included (my review). While it can’t heal the wounds caused by the fourth book entirely, Midnight Sun made me almost forget everything I hated about Breaking Dawn, and made me remember everything I loved about the Twilight series in general. It renewed my interest, and I suspect a lot of other fan’s interest (one other at least), something that was desperately needed to ensure the upcoming movie‘s success, or at least it’s likability. There’s nothing worse than a movie adaptation and cynical fans, ready to jump on every minor indiscretion they find in the film, and well-practiced from harping on Breaking Dawn.

I’ve read the released Midnight Sun draft. I guiltily searched for the leaked version, only to realize that Stephenie Meyer had made the draft available on her website, so I read it with a semi-clean conscience. While clearly a rough draft, I loved every minute of it. Hearing things from Edward’s perspective, whose thoughts are both humorous and surprisingly cynical, was so cool. I really like the third and fourth books, New Moon and Eclipse, but I’ve always liked the first book Twilight the best. Midnight Sun let me meet the characters all over again, in a place where I liked them best.

I really hope that Stephenie Meyer decides to continue writing Midnight Sun. I can understand how she feels though, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t want to finish it either. I’ve read some suggestions that Meyer make the entire thing available for free on her website when it’s finished, but I don’t really think that’s fair to her. As far as Midnight Sun‘s sales go, I don’t think the leak is going to hurt. The leak was a teaser…albeit a really BIG teaser…but it left me wanting more, and I’m willing to pay to get more. I’m sure many people agree with me on that point.

I really haven’t been too happy with Stephenie Meyer recently, but Midnight Sun has made me remember that, Breaking Dawn aside, I really enjoy her books. I wasn’t exactly happy with the way she talked about Breaking Dawn critics, but if I put myself in her position, I’m not sure I would have reacted any differently. Breaking Dawn was her baby (heh…), and although I don’t exactly appreciate some of the comments she’s made, I have to respect her defense of her work and her loyalty to her original ideas. It does at least say something about her, that she stuck with her original plot line, despite probably being well-aware that some people weren’t going to like the direction she took the story. I’m really looking foward to her future work, even if it doesn’t include Midnight Sun.

Book Reviews: Mirror Mirror, The Looking Glass Wars

August 26, 2008 Leave a comment

Today I’m bringing you a double review, two retellings of fairy tales.

The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor; Young Adult, 400 pages

The Looking Glass Wars is a retelling of Lewis Caroll’s Alice stories, with the premise that Lewis Caroll was inspired by the real Princess Alyss Heart, but got everything wrong, including the spelling of her name. Princess Alyss of Wonderland is celebrating her 7th birthday when her evil Aunt Redd invades Wonderland, murdering Alyss’ parents. Alyss escapes to England, where she is adopted by the Liddell family. As she grows up, her memories of Wonderland begin to fade…but the people of Wonderland haven’t forgotten about her, and need her now more than ever.

Don’t you hate books that have such an awesome premise, but then completely fail in the execution? That’s exactly how I felt after I put this one down. The book started out great, and I was really excited to see how Beddor would reinvent and twist the classic tale. Unfortunately, the book didn’t really go anywhere.

I do have to give Beddor credit for coming at this story from a completely unique direction. The best kind of retelling keeps many elements of the original story (enough to make you excited when you spot them) but changes them enough so that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Whether you’ve read Lewis Caroll’s stories or just seen Disney ‘s version, you’ll recognize the inspiration behind most of the characters (Hatter Madigan, for example) but will be excited to see how Beddor uses and reinvents them here. All of the characters had a lot of potential, but they were never fully developed. Alyss was likable enough, but even at the end I didn’t know very much about her, or any of the other characters really. This ambiguity made it hard for me to understand where the character’s were coming from.

While I applaud Beddor’s approach, I really feel like he could’ve gone further with it all. I’m trying to avoid the “If I had written this…” trap, but it all felt very cheesy at times, when it didn’t need to be. The book had some great sci-fi elements (particularly with the description of the card soldiers [see the cover above]), and I think the book could’ve been stronger by embracing its science fiction tendencies. Unfortunately, these few elements were bogged down by mind numbingly boring battle sequences and too many “Off with their head”‘s.

The story starts off slow, and it seems like things are going to pick up when Alyss is transported to England, but like all things in the book that were almost great, these scenes are skipped over as the story suddenly leaps ahead in time.

In summary, The Looking Glass Wars was not necessarily bad, but it was slow-moving, boring, and unmemorable, and I will not be reading any more in this series.

Rating:2 / 5

Mirror Mirror, by Gregory Maguire

Mirror Mirror, by Gregory Maguire; Fiction, 304 pages

Mirror Mirror is a retelling of the classic fairy-tale, Snow White. Bianca lives a quiet life with her father, Don Vincente, on their farm in the hills of Tuscany, until the wicked Cesare Borgia and his sister, the vain Lucrezia, arrive. The siblings send Vincente on a seemingly-unachievable quest, leaving Bianca to be “cared for” by Lucrezia. Driven by jealousy, Lucrezia plots Bianca’s demise.

First, a little background on my history with this author: When Wicked, the author’s most popular work to date, was first released, my high school librarian raved about it, and suggested I read it. I couldn’t even make it through the first third of the book (and it’s unusual for me to not finish a book that I’ve started, no matter how much I hate it). I love nothing more than a good retelling of a classic fairy-tale, so I bought Mirror Mirror because of its intriguing premise, and I was hoping it would help me figure out why every one was so crazy for Gregory Maguire.

Unfortunately, it fell completely flat for me. I had to really force myself to finish this one without skimming. The story didn’t go anywhere surprising. The plot was nearly identical to that of the classic story, only differing in the minor details, particularly by casting historical figures as the villains. This led to a lot of uninteresting background that felt more like filler than worthwhile additions to the plot. Unlikable heroes, a very weird portrayal of the seven dwarfs…I could go on and on.

If you’re a fan of Wicked or any of the author’s other works, you might like it. However, if you’ve never read any of Maguire’s works, I suggest you try out Wicked to see if its your cup of tea before moving on to this one.

Rating:1 / 5

If you’ve read either of these books, please let me know what you thought of them!