Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Dead Rules by Randy Russell

Title: Dead Rules
Author: Randy Russell
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural
Elements: Ghosts, Spirits
Publisher: Harper TEEN, Harper Collins
ISBN-13: 9780061986703
ISBN: 0061986704
Release: June 21, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Tagline(s): She loved her boyfriend to death.


Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.


But Jana's destiny was fatally flawed. And now she's in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.


Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana's life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.


But things aren't going according to Jana's plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break.



Jana Webster, one-half of Webster and Haynes, is helplessly in love with her boyfriend, Michael. They had a future, they were going places. But now Jana's dead and attending a new school, Dead School. Some say her death was an accident, others say it was murder. But Jana doesn't care about how it happened, she just wants Michael to join her soon. And she'll do anything to get him to her side.

Michael Haynes never expected a harmless joke would result in Jana's death. Neither did he expect the trouble it would cause him. He just wants to move on and move toward his Ivy League future. But other forces won't let him move on, they want him to pay.

Mars Dreamcote wants to save a life after his own death took not only his life, but someone else's too. He was at the bowling alley when Jana's accident happened, and he tried to save her life, but was not able to in time. Even though it goes against his feelings for Jana, he helps her become a Slider so she can go through with her plan to get Michael.

Wyatt is another Slider who was killed when Mars's car clipped his motorcycle when Mars tried to avoid him in the accident that resulted in both their deaths. Wyatt helps Mars and Jana when she wants to contact Michael and when she wants to become a Slider. He also tries to make Jana realize that Michael isn't who she thinks he is. He was also at the bowling alley with Mars when Jana's accident happened. He becomes pretty good friends with Jana by the end of the book.


One theme is Jana's obsessive, if not delusional, love for Michael. She's so in love with Michael that she doesn't see the truth of their relationship. She believes that their love is on par with that of Romeo and Juliet, and that Michael should be so distraught over her death that he'll join her in death. And when she finally learns the truth about Michael she's completely shocked. It's never healthy to mistake obsession for love. Her love may have been true, but she became so blinded by it that she couldn't see the truth.

Another theme that everyone in Dead School experiences is the need to feel alive. The girls use makeup to feel alive, to feel normal. The Sliders use jumping to feel that rush of adrenaline. Everyone wants to feel alive. Whether they are living, or in the case of this book, dead. Whether they are Risers or Sliders. Whether it's frivolous or dangerous. Otherwise, you feel empty and dead---or deader.


The main plot of this book is told from Jana's point of view. Then there are sub-plots told from others---Mars, Wyatt, Michael, Nathan, Sherry---point of view.

I like how the author chose to have the plot involve what's happening on the Planet---from Michael, Nathan, and Sherry's points of view---as well as that of Dead School where Jana, Mars, and Wyatt are.

It was also fun reading about when those two worlds collided. When Jana, Mars, and Wyatt payed Nathan, Sherry, and Michael visits, trying to get them to confess to what they did.

Because of this, I think the plot has a perfect balance between the events happening on the Planet and at Dead School. Otherwise, we'd only be getting two-thirds of the plot.


First there's Dead School, which is actually located on the Planet, but in like a different dimension. Every student at Dead School is, as you know, dead. But while they are in the school, they have bodies. So while they know they're dead, they don't feel that way completely. Students, particularly Risers, are not allowed to leave campus without permission. Although Sliders leave campus all the time to go to the Planet.

The Planet is where the living, well, live. Sliders go to the Planet to go jumping and just feel alive in general. On the Planet, Sliders are able to naturalize---be seen and heard---but Risers aren't able to do that unless they are touching a Slider. So where Sliders are more like ghosts on the Planet---able to move things, touch things, be heard and seen---Risers are like spirits, pretty much can only do what comes naturally---sit, walk, run. etc.

Final Thoughts:

I really liked this book. It was a really fun story to read. I liked being able to see both sides of the story---the living and the dead. I thought it was hilarious when Mars and Wyatt mess with Nathan and Sherry, trying to get them to confess. Mars and Jana are really cute, Michael was just annoying, and Wyatt is just awesome.


Chapter Fifteen, Page 173

Mars knew that love wasn't all red-paper valentines and candy hearts. Love wasn't always joy. Love could be hot-blooded pain down to the bone. Sometimes love was despair. And sometimes love was wrong. Jana loved Michael enough to kill him for it. Jana loved Michael to death.

About this Author:

Randy Russell has believed in ghosts since having to take the trash out at night when he was 12 and being chased back to the house by “something” in the darkness.

The Edgar-nominated author of five published novels for adults, two books of short stories about ghosts, and two volumes of Southern Appalachia folklore, Randy’s first paranormal novel, Dead Rules , was released in hardcover by HarperTeen on June 21, 2011.

Randy is an academically trained folklorist who has collected hundreds of first-person accounts of ghost experiences from across the South. He presents regularly on “True Ghost Stories of the South” based on his interviews of people who have encountered ghosts.

Randy lives outside Asheville, North Carolina, near the end of a shady mountain cove road marked by a sign that reads “No Exit.” Randy thinks this means he will live forever.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Perfect
Series: Impulse #2
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Poetry
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster Inc.
ISBN-13: 9781416983248
ISBN: 1416983244
Release: September 13, 2011
Rating: 5/5

Tagline(s): ~None~


Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never have understood.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins's Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up and grow into our own skins, our own selves.



Cara Sykes, Kendra Mathieson, Sean O'Connell, and Andre Kane all have on thing in common: their expectations for perfection. Whether those expectations are from their parents or self-imposed.

After her brother's failed suicide attempt, Cara ends up on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. But what she finds could shatter her facade of perfection. Cara will have to choose between taking a chance on what she discovered or continuing to live behind that facade and under her parent's expectations.

Kendra wants the perfect face and the perfect body that will take her career from the pageant stages to the model runways. But for Kendra, that perfection comes with a price. A price that could eventually cost her everything. Will she be willing to pay it?

Sean has everything planned around his relationship with Cara. Even getting a baseball scholarship to Stanford. But in order to get there, his batting needs to be perfect. And what better way to ensure that than using steroids? But when things with Cara take a nosedive and his future plans are disrupted, Sean is a little more than upset and decides to get even.

Andre's ancestors struggled from the ground up to be successful, and his parents expect him to be just as successful. But where Andre's passions lie don't exactly fit with his parent's idea of the perfect career. Andre will need to choose whether to follow his heart or a future of discontent.


As the title of the book suggests, a theme of this story is perfection. Perfection that's imposed upon them by others or perfection that is imposed upon them by themselves. The perfect lifestyle, the perfect body, the perfect future, or the perfect career. But perfection comes at a price. Sometimes it's low, sometimes it's high, and sometimes the price is too high. Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre will have to choose whether they are willing to pay the price, no matter the cost. Is perfection important enough to risk everything for?

Though perfection is an obvious theme, as you read you will notice another theme: the absence of love. Cara's parents are distant and don't show much affection toward their children. Because of this, Cara doesn't understand love and doesn't think she could really love anyone. After Kendra's parents divorced, her father payed very little attention to her and her sister, Jenna. That lack of attention has deadly consequences for one of the sister. Sean loves Cara with all his heart, but when Cara doesn't return that love after almost a year together, it sends Sean spiraling downward. And when Jenna can't return Andre's love and he realizes he can't help Jenna before she falls, they break up.

Love is essential. When there's too little or too much of it, it can break us.


Perfect is written in verse. A lot of people would think that a book that's written more like a poem than a novel wouldn't have much depth. But they would be wrong. Perfect has a lot of depth and many powerful messages.

This book addresses many issues that teens face everyday. Sexual orientation, suicide, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, drug use, etc. It shows how they happen and the consequences of them.

The author does an amazing job telling each teens story---their issues, the complications and resolutions of those issues, and the consequences of them---all in verse.

My Final Thoughts:

I love how this book is so powerful. It has a powerful message about real life issues. You would think that a book written in verse would be simple, but it's not. It has a lot of depth to the story. I was so into this book that I couldn't put it down.


Cara Sierra Sykes, Page 1

How do you define a word without concrete meaning? To each his own, the saying goes, so why push to attain an ideal state of being that no two random people will agree is where you want to be? Faultless. Finished. Incomparable. People can never be these, and anyway, when did creating a flawless facade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person who lives inside your skin? The outside belongs to others. Only you should decide for you---what is perfect."

About this Author:

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, and Identical. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin's MySpace and Facebook pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the "only one who understands me", and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Okay, as promised, I was adopted as
a baby and grew up in Palm Springs,
California. I went to a great private
school, where my teachers
convinced me I could become
anything I wanted. I knew from age 9,
when I published my first poem in the
Palm Springs Desert Sun, that I
wanted to be a writer. -Ellen Hopkins

Monday, October 10, 2011

Manga Review: Rave Master Omnibus: Volumes 33, 34, 35 by Hiro Mashima

Title: Rave Master Omnibus: Volumes 33, 34, 35
Series: Rave Master
Manga-ka: Hiro Mashima
Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novels, Older Teen Ages 16+
Publisher: Kodansha Comics, Kodansha USA
ISBN-13: 9781935429739
ISBN: 1935429736
Release: May 10, 2011
Rating: 4.5/5

Tagline(s): ~None~


The planet is on the brink of destruction and Haru must finally face the evil Lucia once and for all.   Haru’s only hope is to enter Endless and fight Lucia on his own turf, but even Haru can’t destroy Endless on his own.  Only Elie’s Etherion is powerful enough to stop Endless and save the planet.  Haru is perfectly willing to sacrifice his own life in order to conquer the forces of evil, but Elie refuses to unleash Etherion until Haru is out of harm’s way.  The future of all humanity hangs in the balance and time is running out.  Will Elie launch Etherion in time to save the human race?  Find out in the final volume of Rave Master!



Since this series has so many characters, for this review I'm only going to go into the three characters most important in this omnibus: Haru Glory, Elie, and Lucia Raregroove.

Haru Glory is the hero of this series, the Rave Master. The greatest quality the Rave Master must have is a pure heart. This quality makes Haru the perfect person for the responsibility of being the Rave Master. Having the title and responsibility of the Rave Master has dealt Haru many blows---physically, mentally, and emotionally---but he would go through it all again if it meant protecting the world and those he loves from the evil that wants to destroy it all. Haru's love for Elie is so pure that no one can touch or destroy it.

50 years ago, Elie was known as the famous dancer, Resha Valentine. Resha was loved by everyone in the kingdom of Symphonia and it's surrounding villages. After a prophecy foretelling the events now happening, told to the King by Master Saga, Resha and the King faked her death so that her Etherion power can be used in the future to stop Endless. Having traveled to the future caused Resha to lose her memory, and she then became Elie. After Elie regains her memories as Resha, she becomes all the more determined to use Etherion to remake Rave and stop Endless.

Lucia is the last Raregroove, the family that was always at odds with the Symphonian royal family, the Glorys. Having seen his mother murdered right in front of him, and then being imprisoned at a young age, has made Lucia a little unstable. Lucia feels it's his responsibility to use Endless to destroy the parallel world and it's crime against time.


The theme of Volume 33 is overall belief in someone and the willingness to fight for them. Haru may be the Rave Master, but it's not because he's the Rave Master that people believe in him. It's because of who he is as a person. He can make the greatest of enemies into life-long friends. He inspires hope in those who have otherwise lost it. And he loves the world and those in it more than anyone, and will do anything to protect it all. Those qualities are what make those around him believe in him and want to fight for him. Everyone does what they can to clear a path for Haru to reach Lucia. Especially Julia, Belnika, Niebel, Let and Musica. They fight two of the Four Demons so Haru can keep moving toward Lucia.

In Volume 34, the theme is overcoming one's own limitations and finding the strength to keep fighting. Let, Haru, and Shuda all reach a point in their respective battles where they feel like they can't continue fighting. Each finds motivation to continue fighting from different sources, whether to their own self-hurt or not. Let finds strength when he chooses to abandon his humanity to transform into the Dragon; Haru finds the strength to stand back up after remembering something his father, Gale, once told him; and Shuda finds strength from his determination to surpass Gale and his promise to protect Haru. Each finds the strength to overcome their limitations and continue fighting from different places, but the important thing is that they continued to fight no matter the cost.

And finally, the theme of Volume 35, as well as the overall theme of the omnibus, is self-sacrifice. I believe that in the final volume, Haru and Elie are the ones who sacrifice the most. Haru, his life; and Elie, her heart. Haru, as I said before, loves the world and it's people so much he risks his life everyday to protect it, even more so in the final battle with Lucia. Elie is more reluctant to use Etherion to stop Endless when things take a turn for the worse, but knows that she must, even at the cost of breaking her heart and losing her memory again.


The main element, I'd have to say, of this omnibus is emotion. We see so much emotion, not only in the words, but in the art as well. That's one of the things I like most about manga. With novels we can only imagine how things are happening, but in manga we can actually see it. I think that being able to visually see the actions and emotions of the characters makes it feel more real. But I think that the emotional element benefits most from the art. Actions are easy to imagine and visualize in your head, but emotion is a little harder. There is so much depth and substance to emotion that it's hard to really comprehend unless you've felt that way before. But the manga-ka's art really brings it all to life. So much so, that sometimes I find myself feeling what the characters feel.
These final three volumes are the start and finish of the final epic battle to save the world. And epic it is. Each battle is a stepping stone to the end where Lucia and Endless wait. As each battle starts and finishes we see belief, determination, friendship, self-sacrifice, and finally love. Each of these combine to make an emotional and explosive final battle. And the final result is a bitter-sweet one.


The Stellar Memory is a place that can rewrite history. It holds the memory of the world, or to be more specific, time itself. Past, present, and future. It's what created the parallel world, by the hand of the last survivor of the original world. And that crime against time is what also created Endless. When Haru realizes that the black sphere they're all fighting in is really the Stellar Memory, he's surprised, but is soon relieved to know that he finally made it there and that they can definitely defeat Endless.
I can't say too much about Endless, where Haru's final battle with Lucia takes place, but I will say that Endless was created to destroy the parallel world and restore history to it's original timeline. Endless grows by accumulating humanity's hate and ambition. It's the most powerful Dark Bring, the Dimension-Destroying Dark Bring, Endless. So I'm sure you can see why the Rave Master and the Etherion-user must destroy Endless at all cost.

My Final Thoughts:

I love manga that have final epic battles. And it was definitely epic. A also like series that have a long running like this one with 35 volumes. The art gets better as the manga-ka draws and draws. This series couldn't have had a better ending. I absolutely loved it!


Volume 33, Chapter 274, Page 62
"I have long wished that I could stand before the Rave Master, and see if his heart is as pure and true as they say. Now I can clearly see that your heart is as pure as the heavens above." 
Volume 33, Chapter 280, Page 176
"You fight for amusement all you want! I'm fighting for Haru! What you're fighting for matters! It matters and I'm gonna prove it!"

Volume 34, Chapter 283, Pages 55-56
"You must believe in your own strength. And set yourself free from your own limitations. I know you can do it. You are my son, after all..." 
Volume 34, Chapter 289, Page 176
"Humanity has been manipulating time and space to create this lie of a world! In God's eyes, that was the ultimate blasphemy!"
Volume 35, Chapter 292, Pages 60-62
"I fight, because I choose to fight! Because I love this world! There are some things worth dying for, Lucia."
Volume 35, Chapter 294, Page 86
"Why do we exist? Are we here to love...or to hate, to create...or to destroy, or is it all completely meaningless...? Maybe 'life' is just the time we kill while waiting for 'death'." 
About this Author:

Hiro Mashima is a Japanese manga artist most known for his fantasy manga Groove Adventure Rave, published by Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine, from 1999 to 2005. The series was later adapted into an anime. However, the anime adaption was cancelled before it could complete the series.