Friday, 26 April 2013

Ink - Book Review


Ink – Book Review
Amanda sun
YA Paranormal Romance

Synopsis:
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…
Review:
I truly love all things Japanese, so when I found out this book was set in Japan, it became one my instant must reads. Not only did the story have a refreshingly unique concept that was based upon ancient Japanese myths and legends, but it also gave the reader a brilliant insight into the everyday workings of Japanese language and culture.
The story begins with Katie. Recently orphaned, she has moved to Japan to live with her aunt and facing the trials a new country, a new culture and a new language brings, she finds herself struggling to make a new life for herself. Not only is she a gaijin – an outsider – in her small Japanese town, but after witnessing the school hottie, Tomo, break up with his long term girlfriend she finds her world becoming more and more complicated, when suddenly drawings around her begin to move.
On the surface, Tomo is a cold hearted bad boy with the face of an angel. Yet for some reason Katie keeps running into him. However the more she gets to know him, the more she realises that his cool façade is just an act, because Tomo hides a deadly secret. He is a Kami, a descendant of the old Gods. With the ability to make his drawings come to life, he can create real beauty, except he has little control over his creations and for some reason, the ink is drawn to Katie… and it’s after blood…
I really enjoyed this book. I’m a big fan of manga and Japanese dramas and this book read much the same way. It had an authentic Japanese feel to it and the descriptions were done in a way that made everything very realistic and easy to imagine. I also liked the page drawings that were spaced throughout the story – it added a nice touch to the book.
I liked the characters, especially Katie as you really felt her mixed emotions of being thrown into a foreign culture. Her attraction to Tomo was curious; it was one of those ‘I know I should stay away from him, but…’ kind of romances, which in the end worked out well.
Tomo was also great character, blowing hot and cold, it wasn’t always easy to read his intentions but he had a sharp wit and I couldn’t help but like him. I’m looking forward to seeing how his and Katie’s relationship develops in the next book.
Yet the secondary characters were also interesting too, particularly Yuki’s brother, who I hope we get to see more of in the future. There’s also Jun, who not only looks awesome, but has a whole mysterious thing working for him too. Yet while I think I see a love triangle developing between him, Tomo and Katie, I can’t wait to see what fates going to throw at them next. Then there is Ishikawa, he’s Tomo’s best friend, but one who has ulterior motives. I couldn’t help but like him, even though he was technically a bad guy…however I’m interested to see if that will change in the future. He is definitely a character to watch out for. So overall, I really did like the cast.
Plot wise, I loved how Amanda Sun incorporated so much Japanese culture and myth into the story. It was a paranormal romance, but one set on the realm of ‘what if’ and I like books where it’s easy to imagine such things happening, only hidden from the real world. Yet, while I think there were moments when Katie made stupid decisions and sometimes seemed a little stalkerish, it didn’t really take away my enjoyment of the book. Yes there were quite a few clichés and while this book did have many of the typical YA elements (irresponsible guardians, plenty of hot guys and a deadly love interest) ultimately, I still enjoyed.
So overall, I would say Ink has a unique setting and an interesting new concept that most fans of YA paranormal will enjoy. Bursting with intrigue, danger and romance, Ink will sweep you away. 4 stars!



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Published in the UK on the 25th June 2013 by Mira Ink!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A Reckless Magick - Book Review


A Reckless Magick
Stephanie Burgis
Middle Grade Historical Fantasy
(Book #3 in the Kat Series)
Synopsis:
With just days to go before her sister Angeline’s long-delayed wedding to Frederick Carlyle, the impetuous Kat Stephenson has resigned herself to good behaviour. But Kat’s initiation into the magical Order of the Guardians is fast approaching, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere.

First, Kat must contend with the wretched Mrs. Carlyle’s attempts to humiliate her sister; the arrival of the mysterious Marquise de Valmont, who bears suspicious resemblance to Kat’s late mother; and Frederick’s bewitching cousin Jane, who has Charles Stephenson tripping over his feet. But when a menacing boy with powerful magic starts hunting Kat, a dastardly villain tries to kill Angeline, and the Guardians face a magical robbery that could spell the end of their Order, propriety becomes the least of Kat’s concerns.

Can Kat save her sister’s life, the Order of the Guardians, and England itself before it’s too late?
Review:
This series has been a total blast! Each book has been brilliant and this final volume was no exception. Although I’m secretly hoping that the story may one day continue – for now though I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of Kat’s journey. Truly a pleasure to read.
This story picks up a few weeks after the last book. Newly returned from their holiday in Bath, the Stephenson family are only days away from Angeline’s marriage to Frederick Carlyle. But while everyone else is running around making final wedding preparations, Kat herself is preparing for her greatest test of all – her initiation into the order of the Guardians.
However as usual, nothing ever runs smoothly when Kat is involved. She soon finds herself plagued with mysterious accidents, and ghosted where ever she goes by a strange boy who she is sure, is linked to the disappearance of the Guardians magical portals. Yet when he starts targeting her family, Kat realises she may just be in over her head and time is running out. Can she save her family, secure the future of England and see her sister happily married before it’s too late? Well, you will have to read it yourself and find out…
I’ll say it again. I loved this series. From the very first book I was hooked and Stephanie Burgis has done a marvellous job in creating an original and spunky heroine who girls of all ages will love.
Kat is a young woman of fierce loyalty and has a deep sense of justice. She is smart and headstrong and one of the most marvellous characters that I have ever read. Yet in this final book, we also see Kat begin to mature. She is less brash, biting her tongue to control her temper; she takes responsibility for her actions and begins to make plans before barging into things. It was both enjoyable but bittersweet to see her develop from a young girl into a teenager, but seeing her make this transition really helped to conclude this final book for me.
Yet Kat is not the only character who changes. In this book we see more and more of her family and we get to know each and every one of them very well. We find out about their pasts, their presents, as well as hints of their futures. And for the first time, we get a deeper knowledge of Kats mother – as well as Kats feelings towards her.
The plot is also rich with twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Dangers and intrigues, romance, treason and of course, plenty of humour are all thrown in too. This book has it all, and each of these elements come together and make this into a real page turner that I found impossible to put down.
So overall – simply amazing! This is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend to girls of all ages, particularly those who are tomboys, hooligans and general trouble makers! This is a book for you! If you haven’t already, this is a series that you definitely need to check out. 5 stars!

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

My China Adventure - 3 Months In!


(Chinese New year... Sponsored by Pepsi...?)
 

My China Adventure – 3 Months in!
Ok, so as many of you already know, on the 11th of January this year, I made a rather huge decision. I packed up my bags, got on a plane and moved to China. It is without doubt the best (and scariest) thing I’ve ever done!
So my adventures so far… Well in-between teaching English in my little, off-the-map town, I have managed to pack in some major travelling. I’ve been to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Xian and various other places that I can neither spell nor pronounce. Here are the highlights!




Small Town China
Everyday life here is never dull. There’s always something new and interesting to see, and just when you think you’re getting use to it all, something comes along and takes you by surprise.
For example my first day here, I was woken up at 7am by what I thought was a marching band passing under my hotel window. Turns out it was actually a funeral possession. The fireworks and trumpets are apparently there to scare off the evil spirits that may try to take the dead persons soul. Really though the noise would have kept any sane person away, let alone spirits.
Another shock – people walk around outside in their PJs. I can’t describe to you how strange it getting onto a bus full of people who are wearing nightclothes. It’s like a very strange dream, especially as they all stared at me as if I was weird one (I’m one of only 3 foreigners in my town – which basically makes me a celebrity). There was this one woman in particular who wouldn’t look away from me and all I could think was – “of the two us, you’re the one standing on a bus in padded duck print pyjamas, in your wellies and picking your nose! Look away lady!” (yes, picking their nose then playing with what comes out of it seems to be another terrible Chinese habit – although that’s mostly kids and the over 60s.)
I asked my  colleague if she had padded pjs too and she said she did, but only women and older men could really wear them outside. If a younger man tried he would be laughed at, but only if he wore the pj bottoms as well as the top. If he wore just the top over jeans, that would be considered fine – go figure? And sure enough, two stops later, a guy my age got on the bus in jeans and a padded pj top with Spiderman on it. All I could think was ‘Oh, he must be a real heartbreaker!’
Then there are the supermarkets. There you can buy chicken feet, snakes hang in lines above the butchers shop along with dogs tongues, animal brains, intestines, lungs (lots of lungs) and other various body parts. It looks like something from a horror film… or maybe a witch’s cottage. There are also live fish of every kind. Sadly I didn’t have any pictures but I think your safe using your imagination on this one. I would like to say they also stock normal stuff too but nothing in this supermarket looks normal. The bacon is black, Ham comes in sausage shaped format and there are various fruits and vegetables that I have never seen or heard. Its also impossible to buy Cheese, for that I have to travel 1hour to the nearest city!
Oh and another random fact. All the ashtrays here have coffee inside them - its meant to help soak up the smell of smoke. Strange huh?

(This is where I live)
(on my way to work...)


 
(not far from my flat...)
 

 Shanghai!
Now Shanghai was truly amazing! It just so happened that my trip there coincided with Chinese New Year – It was phenomenal! We spent the entire day in the old part of the city and it was such a great atmosphere. For this, I think I can let the pictures do the talking!
(Its the year of the snake... oh yeah!)

(I love this photo - I think it sums up the atmosphere so well)
 
(Night view from atop the bottle opener)
(The famous bund walkway - hell of a view!)

Hong Kong
This is a very beautiful city and one that truly comes alive at night. These are pictures are from Victoria Peak at sunset, and the light show from across the bay & on the star ferry. There is also my journey on the night bus – think a coach but no seats and instead there rows of tiny bunk-beds. Interesting and cheap, but certainly not the most comfortable way to travel lol.
 (The night bus...)
 (Victoria Peak...)
 (Meat Markets)
 (Light Show...)

 (Sun set at the Peak)

(Everything I brought in Hong Kong - essentials for surving in a small town in China lol)
 
Hangzhou
Without doubt one of the most beautiful places in China. Hiring Bikes, me and my fellow teaches made our way around West Lake and it was gorgeous. Lots of Temples and Pagodas and what’s probably the most stunning scenery you could ever imagine. The city also offers some pretty amazing Muslim restaurants and is a great place to buy souvenirs.

(me, my bike... and my friend Zak) 
 (Tell me this isn't the most beautiful place you've ever seen?)
 (This was pretty to...)
 (Ancient Pagoda, modern day escalator...? crazy!)
(Ancient wood carvings)
Xian
A city full of history. I loved how all the buildings here were mixes of Chinese architecture, ranging from very modern to more traditional styles. Here I saw the Terracotta warriors, Climbed the famous Hua Shan mountain (Ok, I took the sky lift up but hey – there was a lot of climbing to do once you got there!) and witnessed a very spectacular fountain light show. Check it out:
 (Mountain entrance)
 (Leave a lock and a red ribbon on the mountain and your wishes will come true...)




 
So to conclude…
I’m having a blast! Another 9 months to go and I can’t wait to see where this adventure will take me next. I’ve tried to keep this post short – so far my diary of everything is over 20,000 words! However if anyone is interested in my adventures, let me know in the comments and I’ll start making regular (and most likely overly detailed) updates on what I’m doing, where I’ve been and just the general craziness that is life in China. J
Speak to you all soon
Sarah
XxX
P.S
As this is a book blog, you are probably wondering how China has affected my reading. Honestly… I have only six actual books with me! It’s so sad! Thankfully my Kindle has been my life saver, along with my mum, who is kindly posting out my “I need them now!” books.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey - Book Review

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey
Mary Hooper
YA Historical
Synopsis:
Kitty is living a happy, carefree life as a dairymaid in the countryside. The grand family she is employed by looks after her well, and she loves her trade, caring for the gentle cows and working in the cool, calm dairy. And then, of course, there is Will, the river man who she thinks is very fond of her, and indeed she is of him. Surely he will ask her to marry him soon?
Then one day disaster strikes: Will disappears. Kitty is first worried and then furious. She fears that Will has only been leading her on all this time, and has now gone to London to make his fortune, forgetting about her completely. So when Kitty is asked to go to London to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice, the latest novel by the very fashionable Jane Austen, Kitty leaps at the chance to track down Will. But Kitty has no idea how vast London is, and how careful she must be.
It is barely a moment before eagle-eyed pickpockets have spotted the country-born-and-bred Kitty and relieved her of her money and belongings. Dauntingly fast, she has lost her only means of returning home and must face the terrifying prospect of stealing in order to survive - and of being named a thief ... 
Review:
I always enjoy Mary Hooper’s books. I find she’s one of those authors who are perfect to read when you just want something nice and light to while away a few hours. And I love how her books are full of fact as well as fiction!
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey is the story of a young diary maid. Working for a rich lord, she lives a nice but sheltered country life, and often dreams of the day when her sweet heart Will can finally save enough money to propose to her. However things turn upside down for Kitty when Will disappears without as much as a goodbye.
Certain that he has gone to London to find his fortune, Kitty is furious that he has left her alone to care for his four year old sister. Therefore, when her mistress asks her to go to London, Kitty jumps at the chance – taking Wills sister along with her.
Yet things go downhill for Kitty the moment she arrives in City. Robbed, penniless and with a child to care for, despair hits her when she realises her chances of finding Will are miniscule. Soon branded a thief and thrown in prison, Kitty is only a reassured in her thoughts that things cannot get worse, only the do. Now she is forced to admit that not only will she not be reunited with Will, but she is likely to never see her home again…
You can’t help but enjoy this book. While I thought it got off to a slow beginning, the story really picks up the pace the moment Kitty arrives in London. As misfortune upon misfortune begins to fall upon her, you can’t help but sympathise with her situation.
Kitty is a timid character but she is smart and kind hearted. I was furious by the harsh fate thrust upon and was both annoyed and frustrated by Will’s sister who without doubt, made Kitty’s life infinitely harder. Yet I couldn’t help but turn the pages to find out what happened next.
Set in Regency England, I was also shocked to learn how unfair and corrupt the justice system was back then. I found it particularly interesting how harsh people were to Kitty - simply because they thought she had had a child out of wedlock, but it was also fascinating to read about the state and affairs of English prisons.
So overall a most engaging book and one I truly enjoyed! Historically accurate but not at all boring, it will take you on a journey through the past and give you real insight into the period.
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey is charming, insightful and ripe with history. A very nice read - 4 stars!

*Published May 9th 2013 by Bloomsbury (UK)

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Monday, 1 April 2013

Ballad - Book Review


Ballad
Maggie Stiefvater
 YA paranormal
Synopsis:
When his best friend, Dee, fell in love with a faerie, James realised she’d never feel the same way about him.
Trying to escape into music, James finds himself surrounded by more faeries than ever. Before he knows it, James is trapped in a dangerous game. One where the only way to win is to betray the one you love…
Review:
Ok, I’ll be up front. I LOVE Maggie Steifvater’s books and so far, am a big fan of all her works but honestly… this book didn’t really do much for me. Which is a shame, as I thoroughly enjoyed this books prequel, Lament, but with Ballad I just couldn’t get into the story. I think this was because I had gotten used to James being a secondary character and I didn’t like him as much as a main. Also I had been hoping this book would answer all the questions Lament had left unanswered but unfortunately, it didn’t. This book is James’ story and Dee didn’t play a big part in it.
The story begins with James and Dee’s move to music school. Yet due to recent past events – mostly psychotic killer fairies – their relationship has begun to fall apart and they are no longer the best friends they were. James soon replaces Dee’s companionship with Nualas, a fairy who can bring upon students fame and fortune in exchange for their life’s energy.
Naturally, James declines her offer but Nuala refuses to be ignored so easily. With persistence, she finally breaks through James defences and into his heart as well. She never expects to fall for him in return and intrigued by this human who shuns her, Nuala finds herself wanting to be around him more and more. Yet Nuala is more dangerous and darker than even she herself knows… and her darkness may just very cost James his life…
Despite not enjoying this story as much as I had hoped, there were many things about this book that I liked. Nuala for one is a very interesting character, with a fascinating story, and she certainly helped to make this book interesting.
James’ is also fun to read. I liked his sarcastic sense of humour and witty remarks but ultimately, I missed Dee. I felt like I wanted to know what was happening with her but her character in this book becomes very whinny and other than ‘unsent’ text messages, we don’t really find out much of what’s happening on her side of the story.
However while the plot wasn’t particularly action packed, it did hold my attention. And while I never felt like the characters were in any real danger, the romance between James and Nuala is very sweet to read and is one of the main things that I liked about this book.
All in all, I thought it was a rather average read – mostly I think because Lament gave me high expectations. For this reason, even though this is the second book of a trilogy, it reads well as a standalone and so I would suggest that anyone who hasn’t read the series begins with Ballad. I think you’ll enjoy this book a lot more by reading it first. Lament however is definitely one to check out and I’m still curious to see how the story will conclude in the last and final book. 3 stars!
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