Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

Paperback, 377 pages
Expected publication: June 25th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

(info grabbed from GoodReads

Ink is now being resting on my “Disappointments of 2013” shelf.  What stands out about this one as compared to the others it’s shelved with is that there isn’t really anything wrong with the book.  I have a handful of things that I need in a book, that being that a story needs to be coherently written, the plot needs to make sense, and the characters have to be reasonably believable.  And I didn’t have any of those problems with Ink -- the writing is fine, the story goes in a logical direction, and the characters aren’t completely unrealistic in their decisions or personalities.  The big problem I had with Ink can be explained with an analogy: it’s like having nothing but green jolly ranchers your whole life, and then suddenly having a blue jolly rancher.  It’s exciting at first, but at the end, it’s still another jolly rancher.  Ink is another paranormal romance, but with the twist of being set in Japan with Japanese mythology as the magical element.

What really makes Ink a true disappointment for me is that it could have been so good.  The book started off on the right foot, exploring the differences between Japan and life in the United States, and showing it through the eyes of a seventeen year old girl.  Katie as a character came off a little generic at first, but she was bearable.  When the romance started to bud, however, everything went downhill.  That spark from the beginning all but disappears; we’re still in Japan, but the newness is gone from Katie’s perspective.  That perspective was what was making the book stand out in the sea of paranormal romance and the loss of it made the book suffer.

I think I would’ve been happier with the book focusing on the romance, if there had been some chemistry.  I felt nothing when reading the romantic buildup between Tomohiro and Katie.  But these things tend to depend greatly on the person reading, so I can’t honestly say that others won’t appreciate this aspect of the book.  I didn’t; I thought Katie was a bit weird in her courtship methods (stalking) and that there was no insight into what Tomohiro would have seen in her.  She’s not especially witty in their conversations or anything.  The only thing she has going for her is that she’s the intriguing foreigner.  From where I was sitting, I concluded any attraction from Tomohiro’s perspective was purely physical.  I need something more to make my heart skip a beat, but who am I to judge true book love?

Ink was not for me, but it might still be for you.  If you like the paranormal romance genre as a whole and are interested in Japan, you probably will like this book.  To me, it felt incredibly generic.  It’s like Twilight wearing a kimono, but with less sparkle.  I would recommend it to someone who either has read a ton of paranormal romance books and loves the genre through and through, or someone a little newer (who’s not as jaded as me). 

Final Thought: 3 out of 10 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Hardcover, 388 pages

Published July 24th 2012 by HarperTeen 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

Something Strange and Deadly had everything I could ever want in a historical fiction novel: a dynamic heroine, swoon worthy gents, Centennial Philadelphia setting, and zombies.  I don’t think I really have to point out what makes this book special, but just in case you missed it, here again: zombies.  A steampunk zombie novel.  But labeling it so just doesn’t do it justice.

I really liked the addition of magic and voodoo to the story.  Within zombie fiction, there are two main types of zombies that every other classification of zombie fall into, those being biological or demonic.  Biological has become much more common and are in books such as Feed by Mira Grant and movies such as Resident Evil.  Biological zombies happen from a disastrous science experiment or virus causing the condition of being a zombie.  Biological zombies can be scientifically explained and zombification spreads more like a disease.  Demonic zombies are more spiritually based in origins and are a bit more flexible in what they are defined as.  The main thing about demonic zombies is that there is a necromancer or wizard controlling them for his bidding, typically.  In Something Strange and Deadly, Susan Dennard made a story about a girl and a boy while tying in demonic zombies invading Philadelphia and sprinkling some voodoo and the magic of friendship on top.  How can that not be a winning combination?

I’m honestly not a fan of the rag-tag-thrown-together-band-of-friends trope, but it works in this case.  Every character within the group is well defined and has their own quirks that add to the story.  The two main characters weren’t really enough to keep me totally vexed into the story, and the side characters give the story a bit more pizzazz.  The Spirit-Hunters are also the main source of steampunk goodness in the book, so as much as the rag-tag group trope bothers me, it is necessary in this story.  It’s not particularly annoying, I’m just being particularly critical.

One big criticism I have is that the action scenes were not very clear.  I found them very confusing and it was very difficult to follow what was going on.  It’s kind of a huge problem since with any zombie book, action is going to be a big element.  It doesn’t compromise the story itself, but when it comes to getting a bright, beautiful picture with some steampunk glory and zombie gore, well… there was no picture forming in my head.  It was just words on a page.  Imagery suffered a bit in the book -- I felt that there should be more in general and that the setting should have been played up more.  Again, I still really liked this book and am going to attribute this issue to Something Strange and Deadly being a debut.  Hopefully, we will see the author grow and write some fantastic action scenes in the sequel.

Overall, Something Strange and Deadly is a great debut.  It throws a lot of things that haven’t been done together and combines them to form a story that is something familiar and refreshing at the same time.  It is a story that any zombie aficionado won’t want to miss and any historical fiction fan who is curious how zombies could force their way into Centennial Philly.

Final Thought: 10 out of 12 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

 In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling-or dangerous Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper from the clutches of a devious criminal demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves. One false move from Jasper, and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens and tightens. From the rough streets of lower Manhattan to elegant Fifth Avenue, the motley crew of teens follows Jasper's elusive trail. And they're about to discover how far they'll go for friendship. More than ever, Finley must rely on powerful English duke Griffin King to balance her dark magic with her good side. Yet Griffin is at war with himself over his secret attraction to Finley...and will risk his life and reputation to save her. Now, to help those she's come to care for so deeply, Finley must infiltrate the criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much....
Hardcover, 416 pages

Published May 22nd 2012 by Harlequin Teen
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I don’t see why a lot of people like this one less than The Girl in the Steel Corset.  I found the change in setting refreshing and thought it was well highlighted what differences were present between the two places.  It added interest into the sequel for me.  It was something new to explore as we were already familiar with the world Kady Cross had started to build and the characters she had created in the first book.  I think the characters became better defined and I was impressed that relationships grew instead staying stagnant.  The only complaint I have is that there wasn’t enough Jack Dandy, because he was still in London for this book.  Sad face.

I loved seeing more of Finley Jayne and watching her grow into her new, more complete skin.  Her two sides have merged into one and she has to figure out which one is dominant.  Will it be her softer side, or the raging fire or her more destructive side?   Finley spends a good portion of the book cut off from the rest of the group, giving her time to find herself away from Griffin and who he wants her to be.  Maybe that’s part of why this book isn’t as well liked is that it has less swooning and action than The Girl in the Steel Corset.  But still, there is quite a bit of action.  Just maybe not enough swooning.

In The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, we get to see a lot more of Jasper, our rogue cowboy.  He was more of a side character than the rest of the group in the first book and it was nice to get to know more about him and his back story.  I missed his more casual and flippant nature from the first book at first, but it makes sense as to what is going on in the story.  So again, not a criticism or a fault, just a change.  The beautiful thing about this series is how fluid the characters feel -- like real people, they grow and change with circumstances and time.  At the very least, hopefully Jasper will be back to his old self in the next book, The Girl with the Iron Touch.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar was a wonderful continuation of the world I’d begun to love with a new tale to wet my palate with.  I can only hope that the next book will keep me as satisfied as this one did.  I am for sure looking forward to reuniting with a certain criminal rogue back in London.

Final Thought: 25 out of 28 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reviewing in a Sentence (#1)

So I’ve let my “to-review” pile get out of control again.  It’s not like this is new.  However, there are a couple books in it that a review is simply not going to happen.  I have nothing to really contribute or just not enough feelings about the book.  But I thought I should say something, and the result is this: the first in (hopefully) a series of one sentence reviews complete with a toadstool rating.  I’m going to pull five books out of the massive pile of “to-review,” dedicate a sentence to them, and send them on their way to my “done” bookshelf.  And the first group is:

For Darkness Shows the Stars

By Diana Peterfreund

A tender Jane Austen love story with mashed in bits of post apocalyptic science fiction -- how could it be bad?

Final Thought: 500 out of 525 toadstools

Across the Universe

By Beth Revis

I just… I don’t even know; this book was super.

Final Thought: 7 out of 8 toadstools


By Marie Lu

An intense and wonderful addition to the YA dystopian genre, Legend combines a great cast  of characters and a complex plot to form an exciting and unforgettable story.

Final Thought: 4 out of 5 toadstools

Of Triton

By Anna Banks


Final Thought: 6 out of 35 toadstools


Strands of Bronze and Gold

By Jane Nickerson

This one was highly anticipated for me and did not let me down, but did get a little slow and drawn out at times.

Final Thought: 16 out of 23 toadstools

Ahhh I feel so accomplished even though I didn't really do much.  So what do you think?  Want to make your own list of one sentence reviews to lower your pile?  Send me a link if you do your own!  Maybe this will become a monthly thing for me and whoever else needs to lighten their “to-review” stack.

Happy Reading,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: The Truth About You & Me by Amanda Grace

Smart girls aren't supposed to do stupid things.

Madelyn Hawkins is super smart. At sixteen, she's so gifted that she can attend college through a special program at her high school. On her first day, she meets Bennet. He's cute, funny, and kind. He understands Madelyn and what she's endured - and missed out on - in order to excel academically and please her parents. Now, for the first time in her life, she's falling in love.

There's only one problem. Bennet is Madelyn's college professor, and he thinks she's eighteen - because she hasn't told him the truth.

The story of their forbidden romance is told in letters that Madelyn writes to Bennet - both a heart-searing ode to their ill-fated love and an apology.
Paperback, 264 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2013 by Flux 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)
I was very surprised when I reached the end of this book.  Not because of some huge plot twist or a cliffhanger -- nothing like that.  I was surprised because of how much I liked this book.  The fact that it is written in a series of letters (well, really one big letter and then two short ones) had me concerned.  I didn’t think I would enjoy a book written in such a way and I thought there would be a multitude of writing issues.  I was completely wrong -- I love the way this story was told.  The Truth About You and Me is such a fresh and intensely emotional read that any lover of contemporary and/or romance should definitely give it a second (and third and fourth) thought.

Like I said before, I thought I was going to have to trudge my way through the second I read that it was told through letters.  After reading though, I found that this story was much more powerful because of how it is told through a letter.  It is the literal truth from a girl to a man that shared a relationship filled with one sided lies.  Obviously because it is a letter, there was no way to get around it being more tell than show than a regular novel, but I don’t think this really was an issue.  Many times I would get lost in the story, which is usually a struggle when the prose doesn’t paint a proper picture and simply tells the reader what’s going on.  The author’s prose makes up for any shortcomings that did come from the way it is written.

The main point I want to make is how this story perfectly embodies the naivety of a teenage girl who thinks she is in love.  Regardless of whether or not she is actually in love -- that is left up to the reader’s interpretation -- the story is filled with the raw emotion of a young girl struggling with finding herself while being torn between duty and temptation.  Because the story is supposedly written by the main character, we not only see the world as she does, but also only what she wants us to see.  I think how the author played with this idea was brilliant and that the main character’s willingness for deception made for a more interesting character.

I found The Truth About You and Me to be one of the best books I’ve read in awhile, probably the best of 2013 so far.  It is by far my favorite book by Amanda Grace, who I wasn’t convinced before NetGalley approved me for this title that I would ever read again.  This book is not for everyone; it is not a squeaky clean read.  It’s about a good girl behaving stupidly in her own words.  But if you can handle a more adult take on young adult, I suggest picking this one up.
Final Thought: 10 out of 10 toadstools

This review is  also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Notes From My Desk: Neuromancer is for Boys

So I tried to read Neuromancer by William Gibson the other night.  And just… no.  I was reading it not as any part of any semi-official online challenge, but more as a bucket list kind of challenge.  I have a poster in my house that I got from the British Library that shows the history of science fiction through a network of swirling mass of loops.  I love this poster, as I do love science fiction.  Now.  I love science fiction from Now.  The idea I had was to try and read books on this poster, or under the genres of the poster.  Neuromancer is supposed to be a definitive work of cyber punk, so I thought I would like it.  

Yeah, well I shouldn’t have thoughts.

It was gritty and dark, and while that sounds good on the surface, it wasn’t really the kind of book I like to read.  The book delved into futuristic drug use, the main character was a drug dealing antihero of sorts (I think, I really didn’t get that far before I put the book down).  But it made me think about how women/girls rarely seem to come out and directly say they like science fiction.  Is it because this (and star wars/star trek and other masculine shows) are what we think of and associate with science fiction?  Dystopian is a sub-genre of science fiction, but it is well regarded within the female reading community.  So well regarded, that books that are not dystopian and are simply YA science fiction are labeled dystopian (like Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Beta by Rachel Cohn).  

I think we should take back the genre, ladies.  Or just share.  You know, whatevs.  But the fact is that older science fiction appeals more to the male masses.  Sadness.

Final Thought: ??? I dunno, I read twenty pages lol

Happy reading,