Ink by Amanda Sun

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Holy rats how did it get to be Friday?!

It’s been ages since I reviewed a book, but when NetGalley offered a YA by an author I met through Miss Snark’s First Victim, of course I had to snatch it up. Well, as much as one can “snatch up” an ebook. They’re not very, ya know, physically there. Still readable, though! And this one was. Very readable.

The set-up: After the death of her mother, Katie Greene goes to live with her aunt in Japan. She feels marginalized as a gaijin, or foreigner, because of her blond hair and clumsiness with the language and social norms. Much of that discomfort takes a back seat when she meets Tomohiro, the bad boy whose drawings are a little more than two-dimensional.

Main character’s goals: Throughout the first half of the book, Katie wants to get back to North America – a place where she knows the language and feels comfortable. Her more immediate goal, however, is figuring out Tomohiro and what causes his drawings to be so unique.

My reaction: I was insanely curious how the author would handle juggling the language. It’s an English book, but most of the dialogue happens in Japanese…but it’s in English. And it totally worked. Sun strategically placed Japanese phrases and exclamations so that I’d remember the speech was happening in Japanese…without having to read (or know) Japanese.

And hello! What a gorgey cover!

Of interest to writers: Setting. Setting setting setting. This relates to the dialogue in part – I was able to feel a part of things when I was included in the language, but even more engaging was the total immersion in another culture and place. Katie’s the perfect gateway character to the setting, because it’s new to her as well.

Bottom line: A unique & edgy paranormal with a sweet, believable romance. And blossoms raining down from cherry trees.

To visit Amanda Sun’s blog, click here.

SilverReminds me of: Silver by Talia Vance, for its unique take on an old mythology.


Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

The set-up: Andi has been too busy grieving and losing herself in her guitar music to take the time to start the thesis required for graduation from her private school. When her dad discovers how bad Andi’s situation has gotten, he whisks her off to Paris (poor Andi) to make her get to work (Paris, but with homework? Really, this time, poor Andi).

Main character’s goals: Andi wants to go back in time, to save her brother. The loss of him is too much for her (she escapes into her music and her antidepressants), it’s too much for her mother (she escapes into her painting and periods of catatonia), and it’s too much for her father (he up and leaves the family). I would say at the start of the story, Andi doesn’t have much of a goal, but once she’s in Paris her goal is to get back to her mother. Then she finds an old diary, and strange things happen.

My reaction: This was a book to savor. I wasn’t rushing through it, trying to reach the end, but I did want to hang out with Andi for awhile, hear what she had to say. And I’m still divided as to what really happened (we have a bit of an unreliable narrator going, what with the substance abuse, so the last half of the book is…a little different. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more).

Of interest to writers: I really have a hard time with epistolary novels. If you want to incorporate a diary, or letters and notes or emails, then you had better do it well. Otherwise, I will hate your book. Aim for what Donnelly has done in Revolution, or what Jaclyn Moriarty does in The Year of Secret Assignments. For an example of what NOT to do…[] That is the sound of me biting my tongue. I am trying to be kind here. If you really want to know what I read recently that had a sucky diary thing going, send me an email.

Bottom line: So. This book is awesome.

To visit Jennifer Donnelly’s website, click here.

Reminds me of: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.


Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

The set-up: The set-up: High school soccer star Jake has to use his magic numbers to get through the week before the final soccer game of the year – the state championship.

Main character’s goals: Jake wants, no needs to win Saturday’s soccer game, because he believes if he does, he won’t need “the numbers” anymore.

My reaction: The whole time I was reading, I was worried. Would Jake help his team win the match? Would he beat the numbers? Would his secret come roaring out at the worst possible moment?

My other reaction: I used to make up equations (usually very simple) ones, for the numbers on digital clocks. Example: 11:24. 1 + 1 + 2 = 4. It would bother me if I couldn’t get them to work, and I’d toy with them, trying to square things if there was a 2, or do division or combine digits…luckily, my being “bothered” if it didn’t work didn’t translate into freaking out.

Of interest to writers: Study this for keeping the tension up in your writing. Look at how sections and chapters are ended, how there’s always something to worry about. I’m feeling tense just remembering Jake’s story. Study the first pages – that right there was tense. Even if I’d wanted to put the book aside to do something else, I couldn’t have.

Bottom line: Clear a day to read this one, you won’t want to put it down. You’ve gotta wait until tomorrow, May 3rd, though – that’s when it’s available for sale.

INTERVIEW WITH HEIDI AYARBE AND COMPULSION GIVE-AWAY COMING UP!!! This Friday or next! Stay tuned! Exciting! Lots of exclamation points!!!

To visit Heidi Ayarbe’s website, click here. To read my review of her previous book, Compromised, click here.

Reminds me of: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I’m going for the obvious connection, here. Boy protagonist, a little numbers-obsessed.


The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Why, oh why did the Internet eat my book review?

I shall have to start again, but I warn you, I’m not quite as excited to do this a second time.

The set-up: Lennie’s used to following her older sister, Bailey, around. Bailey has all the experiences with boys and doesn’t seem afraid to live. Then Bailey dies, and Lennie doesn’t know where she fits in the world anymore.

Main character’s goal: The goal changes, but without giving too much away I can say that at one point Lennie’s goal is to ignore one boy – the boy who lets her feel her grief for her sister’s death without getting swallowed up by it, and pursue the second boy – the one who is all light and happiness and helps her feel that she’s moving on from Bailey’s death.

My reaction: I thought the love triangle was done exceptionally well, and the characters were incredible, larger-than-life people. Even Bailey, who died before the story begins, is full and flawed and fabulous. The writing itself was lyrical, and I wondered how much of it was the author trying to be artistic and how much was truly Lennie’s voice. However, that was my writerly self wondering, and my readerly self kept saying, “Shut up and just enjoy the prose, you know you like it.”

Of interest to writers: The poems throughout – poems Lennie scribbles on whatever available writing surface there is, and are described as found in various places, like under a rock, or in the margins of Wuthering Heights, well, I enjoyed them and all, but then when I got to the end and ***mild spoiler alert here*** they actually had a purpose in the story line (even if it was a small purpose), I was impressed.

Bottom line: Read it for the beauty of the language, or the deliciousness of Lennie’s conflict, or the roundness of the characters…but just read it.

Reminds me of: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern.

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

The set-up: Socially-awkward Evie likes to stretch the truth as far as it will go. And then just a little bit more. Her childhood friend, Elizabeth, is found dead in the woods, and Evie’s stories start getting her in trouble.

Main character’s goals: I think Evie just wants a friend. The goal is simple, and she never actually says it, but that seems to be what drives a lot of her stories (read: LIES). Even when friendship isn’t a direct or predictable outcome to a lie, she often lies to make people feel better, so she has this desire to please, which stems from her loneliness.

My reaction: Evie’s observations and her voice are just amazing. She’s funny, and self-deprecating. As a teenager, I would’ve been scared of her, because she has this ability to find the nitty gritty flaws in everyone. As a mother, I want to give her a hug and tell her she is loved. Sappy, I know, but that’s what I got, people.

Of interest to writers: Who the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is the antagonist? This is one of those books where I really can’t find a single agent who is really all that terrible, although we do have some messed up people populating these pages (amen, alliteration). Is the antagonist Elizabeth’s killer, or is it Evie’s own issues with telling the truth, or is it her loneliness…or none of the above?

Bottom line: Read it, enjoy it, and think about it long after you’ve finished. Evie’s a character who stays with you.

To visit Katie Williams’s website, click here.

NEW FEATUREBecause my brain is constantly working (fine, spazzing out, whatever) and making new connections, this Reminds me ofnote might seem totally random. It will usually be a book, but you never know. I might write “Reminds me of” something that will have you wondering “what?” and that is fine with me. Feel free to ask why if you’re curious…or better yet, make a guess.

Reminds me of: Brave New Girl by Louisa Luna.


Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

The set-up: After Rose failed to kill her ex-lover, Dimitri, who turned Strigoi (evil vampire) in a previous book, Dimitri sends her creepy-stalker death threat messages. Meanwhile, Rose graduates from the Vampire Academy and goes to the Moroi (nice friendly vampire) Court. From there, everything falls apart. Not the plot, really, although the thread of it winds around, but Rose’s life and handle on the world.

 

Main character’s goals: Rose wants to change Dimitri back from his evil vampire state (think Buffy wanting to save Angel), but failing that, she is determined to kill him (think Buffy wanting to stake Angel).

My reaction: BIG SPOILER HERE, BUT IT ISN’T REALLY A SPOILER BECAUSE THE BOOK DOESN’T EVEN HAVE AN ENDING….Please please please can we just have a beginning, middle, and end in a YA fantasy anymore? Please? I thought this was the last book. Imagine my surprise when instead of a happy ending we are left with Rose about to go to trial for murdering an important Moroi vampire. Imagine the swear words that poured from my mouth in a very un-mommy-like stream. Mmmkay, spoiler over.

Of interest to writers: You CAN write a sequel-begetting ending without cliffhangers. I have seen it done before and done well. Try Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien, for one of my favorite examples, or The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which I have reviewed here and here, respectively.

Bottom Line: I love Rose Hathaway. She’s tough and gutsy and not afraid to call the Moroi queen a “sanctimonious bitch.” Bella Swan would pee her pants even thinking about doing that.

Second Bottom Line: I have had it with YA fantasies not ending. I am now all about the contemporary fiction. Well, after I read the last in the Vampire Academy series.

Monday Maybe-a-Book-Review Day

Okay, so here’s the thing. I could write a book review for today, but I’m not really feeling it. What I am feeling is working on my manuscript, which does, quite honestly, begin to unravel on page 200 (better than page 115, which is how it used to be before my revision marathon, a.k.a. The Great Visit of the Mother-in-Law Who Answered My Prayers for Free Babysitting). The very idea of working on other stuff when the last 82 pages of the story are so flawed…I just can’t do it.

So, the new blog schedule is now going to be “Monday: Maybe a Book Review.” I can’t take book reviews off the schedule permanently because I love books too much – I’ve gotta share these books with the world!

Alas, au revoir, ciao, adios for now. See you Wednesday. My mom’s here to distract the Z-meister today (a.k.a. Another Sucker Grandmother Answers My Prayers for Free Babysitting…uh, just kidding Mom. About the sucker thing, that is), and I plan to take advantage of this opportunity. You’ll thank me when you read my book. Er, I hope.