Friday 26 April 2013

Ink - Book Review

Ink – Book Review
Amanda sun
YA Paranormal Romance

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…
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!

Wednesday 24 April 2013

A Reckless Magick - Book Review

A Reckless Magick
Stephanie Burgis
Middle Grade Historical Fantasy
(Book #3 in the Kat Series)
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?
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...)

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)
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)
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
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.