Review: Strobe Edge Vol 1 by Io Sakisaka

 

Title:  Strobe Edge Vol 1

Author: Io Sakisaka

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being in love can light up your life… A sweet love story that will warm your heart!


Review: 

When I first read the book blurb above, I thought it was pretty lame.  After reading Strobe Edge, though, I think it very accurately and very succinctly describes this high school romance.  Ninako is shy and reserved, and everyone thinks she and her childhood friend, Daiki will eventually get together.  Daiki makes no secret of his feelings, but he has never voiced them, leaving Ninako, who is kind of clueless, thinking that they are just friends.  After circumstances have her and school heartthrob Ren cross paths several times, Ninako discovers how kind and thoughtful he is, and she falls in love with him.

Strobe Edge captures all of the awkwardness and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.  Ninako falls head over heels for Ren, and who can blame her? He’s gorgeous, and better yet, he is nice.  What a combo!  As her feelings for Ren grow, so does her guilt over them.  She has finally picked up on Daiki’s feelings, and she feels awful about her lack of feelings for him.  She blames herself for leading him on, and though she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, she knows that she has to level with him.  So along with the giddy rush she experiences whenever she sees Ren,  she realizes that her feelings are going to hurt one of her closest friends.

I don’t want to spoil any other plot points, so instead I’ll urge you to give Strobe Edge a try if you enjoy series like High School Debut and Kimi ni Todoke.  This introductory volume will leave you smiling as Ninako slowly begins to blossom, shedding her reservations and allowing herself to come out of her shell.  She knows that her heart will more than likely get broken, but for the time being, she is enjoying how she feels about Ren.  Because she is so sweet, and because she is taking this huge risk, you can’t help but cheer her on.  Will things work out between her and Ren, or is Ninako doomed to heartbreak?  I don’t know, but I can hardly wait to find out!

Grade:  wavering between a B+ and an A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Crash by Lisa McMann

 

Title:  Crash

Author: Lisa McMann

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

If what you see is what you get, Jules is in serious trouble. The suspenseful first of four books from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode…and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.


Review:

Crash arrived in my mailbox as an unsolicited review copy, and after reading it, I’m glad that I received it as  I never would have picked it up on my own.  Protagonist Jules Demarco keeps having the same horrifying vision.  She sees a snow plow smashing into a building, the building explode, and then seven body bags in the snow.  The crash stalks her relentlessly.  Every time she looks at billboards, the TV, or computer screens, it’s there, playing out in all of it’s fiery glory.  It’s almost like it’s taunting her.  She can’t even close her eyes because all she sees is the unrelenting vision of the crash.  When she sees one of the faces in one of the body bags, she is shocked.  It’s the face of the boy she’s loved since grade school.  On the outs with him because of a feud between their families, she’s determined to somehow stop the accident from happening, all the while doubting her own sanity.  Who would believe her, anyway, when mental illness runs in her family?

Jules’ is a junior in high school, and her life revolves around the family restaurant.  She works there after school and on the weekend, and since she doesn’t have any friends, that’s fine by her.  She and her brother are bullied at school because of the family feud between the Demarcos and the Angottis, a rival restaurant family.  Their families have been feuding for generations, and her grandfather  fell into a depression after the Angottis became more successful and killed himself.  Her father isn’t exactly stable either.  He’s a hoarder, and Jules hates being in their messy apartment.  There are days when her father can’t even find the energy to get out of bed in the morning, so when she starts seeing the visions, she thinks she’s succumbed to mental illness as well.

Wow.  I don’t think I would have coped as well as Jules if I started seeing scary visions of some weird accident that may or may not happen.  The visions terrify her, but she has no one to confide in.  She can’t tell her parents; her mother gets through each day through sheer force of will and a fake positive attitude, and her father can’t be depended on.  She doesn’t want to tell her older brother or her younger sister because she is afraid that they will think she’s nuts.  She is beginning to think she is nuts!  The only thing that keeps her from totally losing it is the urgency she feels about stopping the accident from happening.  She needs to save those seven lives, including the life of the boy she still hopelessly loves. 

I loved the relationships between the younger characters in this book.  Jules and her siblings have each other’s backs, and nothing is going to come between them.  They may bicker occasionally, but they are all in this weird restaurant rivalry thing together.  All of their former friends picked the Angottis when it was time to choose sides, and now the Demarcos are outcasts.  Jules concentrated on keeping her head down and making it through each day unnoticed.  The vision compels her to make a difference, to make waves, and she resists at first.  She is already mocked enough.  But when she finally embraces that there is something that she can do to change the future, she finds it empowering.  She finally confronts her feelings for Sawyer in an emotionally charged rant, and she finally stands up for herself. I loved the scene in the library where she finally fights back against the girls who have made her life miserable.  Jules is a fiercely intelligent young woman, and she shouldn’t have to take any crap from anyone. 

My biggest quibble with the book is the pacing.  Since Jules doesn’t have a life, the vision is everything.  It is everywhere.  It is constantly dissected and picked apart, and frankly, after 200+ pages of that, I grew weary of the vision.  That impatience with the crash being played out again and again and again diminished some of the suspense.  My other complaint? The entire time I was reading, I was craving a pizza.  And I don’t even like pizza!

Grade: B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Catherine Hemmerling, Author of Taming Her Forbidden Earl and Giveaway!

Catherine Hemmerling is visiting the virtual offices today to chat about her book, Taming Her Forbidden Earl.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Catherine Hemmerling] I am a tall blond woman with a wicked sense of humor and a love of telling stories.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Taming Her Forbidden Earl?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Taming Her Forbidden Earl is a sweet love story wrapped around an intriguing case of smuggling and blackmail. You will meet fun and intelligent characters and one detestable villain. There is danger and conflict; flirting and sexual tension; sarcasm and witty rejoinders … and a couple of meddling mothers. If you are looking for a book that will keep you interested until the very end, this is the one for you!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters
for the story?

[Catherine Hemmerling] The concept is basically Charlie’s Angels meets Jan Austen. I loved the idea of strong intelligent women being the heroes in a time period where most women were seen and not heard. The idea to use an actual historic event as the catalyst for the story was just a way to keep me honest to the time period. No flights of fancy with creative revisionist history, for me. Besides, the best stories always start with a grain of truth, don’t you think?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Hannah?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Smart, pretty, stubborn.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If William had a theme song, what would it be?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Wow, great question! “One is the Loneliest Number” springs to mind immediately. He is so afraid of getting close to people he pushes them away. Eventually (with the help of Hannah) he realizes that life is better with friends, family, and love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Hannah won’t leave the house without.

[Catherine Hemmerling] A book. Much like me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in William’s pockets?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Lint (there is no way William’s valet would allow such a thing!), a lost wager note (William would never bet if he didn’t intend to win), his hands (William would never need to keep himself from fidgeting by sticking his hands in his pockets; more likely he would have his arms crossed and eyebrow raised).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is William’s greatest regret?

[Catherine Hemmerling] His estranged relationship with his brother.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Interpersonal relationships. I love to observe those around me. What makes people laugh, cry, empathize, or vilify? Learning these things and building my characters from real emotions and reactions allows me (and hopefully you readers) to identify with what my characters say and do. I am also inspired by history, nature, great literature, and the laughter of children.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Catherine Hemmerling] Diet Dr. Pepper, silence, something to write with (pen/paper, computer, typewriter, etc.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Catherine Hemmerling] I was pleasantly surprised by the Hunger Games trilogy. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Catherine Hemmerling] The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Catherine Hemmerling] I have recently begun dating again and am really enjoying it. I also like to design jewelry, paint, knit, and play Words with Friends (a game you might think I would excel at … you would be sadly mistaken, but I keep trying!).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Catherine Hemmerling] The easiest way to connect with me is through my website, www.catherinehemmerling.com or by email, ch@catherinehemmerling.com. I love hearing from my readers and will happily respond to any question or comment.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

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About the book:

Everyone knows William Bredon, the earl of Pembroke, has a reputation as a captivating rogue, determined to never marry until his duty to produce an heir requires it. So when he invites Lady Hannah Rochester to dance, Hannah vows to keep her distance. But the undeniably gorgeous William, with his dark humor and seductive gaze, draws her in nonetheless.

Of course, Lady Hannah is not completely what she seems, either. A member of the dowager Lady Lancaster’s Garden Society, she secretly spends her days solving mysteries and uncovering intrigues, and when she brings William into the fold, a sinister plot develops that brings the two closer together. William’s protective nature ensures he remains by Hannah’s side, but he will not surrender his anti-marriage stance.
Can intrigue, passion, and maybe even a little bit of scandal reform the most notorious of rakes?