Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stacking the Shelves (4)

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Three ARC’s this week!

Right of Way — Lauren Barnholdt

Viral Nation — Shaunta Grimes

Blue Hearts of Mars — Nicole Grotepas

Fluffy contemporary romance, post-apocalyptic story WITH A DOG OH GOD, and Falling in love with ANDROIDS?! I was sold on all of these and so excited to get them. I’ve finished RIGHT OF WAY already and will post a review soon!

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I’m Not Her — Janet Gurtler

Grabbed this for free in the iBooks store… not sure when I’ll get around to it because I go through long periods of not wanting to read on my kindle… but it was free and sounds really good.

That’s all for this week. Not bad, and thankfully I didn’t spend ANY money!

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

INK

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Title: Ink

Author: Amanda Sun

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: INK IS IN THEIR BLOOD. 
On the heels of a family tragedy, Katie Greene must 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. 

When Katie meets aloof but gorgeous Tomohiro, the star of the school’s kendo team, she is intrigued by him…and a little scared. His tough attitude seems meant to keep her at a distance, and when they’re near each other, strange things happen. Pens explode. Ink drips from nowhere. And unless Katie is seeing things, drawings come to life. 

Somehow Tomo is connected to the Kami, powerful ancient beings who once ruled Japan-and as feelings develop between Katie and Tomo, things begin to spiral out of control. The wrong people are starting to ask questions, and if they discover the truth, no one will be safe.

Review: First… a few things I feel that you must know about me to fully understand how reading this book was for me… and possibly where my review is coming from.

I LIVE IN Japan. I have lived here for over 5 years. I came as a student, stars in my eyes, big dreams, and a scrap of Japanese on my tongue. I lived with a host family in Tokyo and Japan bitch-slapped me in the face. I struggled through homesickness and culture shock (real, deep down culture shock that makes you not want to leave the house because the idea of having to use Japanese is just crushing… not ‘oh wow, in Japan they do this funny thing, that’s strange’). I came back after I graduated to work and lived 45 minutes outside of Tokyo in Saitama, and then got married in 2011 and moved back to Tokyo before my husband’s job transferred us to Ibaraki and now I live in a little town by the ocean in the countryside. 

I’m no ‘Japan’ expert, nor do I think I’m a special snowflake and that ‘My Japan’ trumps all other experiences in Japan… but I do know what it’s like to be a foreigner. A gaijin. And I know how fucking annoying it is when no matter how hard you try to fit in you still get treated like a child when it comes to using chopsticks or eating Japanese food. And the way that Katie was portrayed at times really bothered me. I just felt like she was perpetuating the foreigner stereotype. Eating peanut butter sandwiches and not being able to use chopsticks? Come on. Give her a little credit. I think if she would have struggled with some of the more realistic things that foreigners struggle with (y’all don’t want to stand behind me at the bank, I always have to get help and it’s embarrassing  Don’t even ASK about my post office stories) that would have added a bit more depth to both the story and the character.

SO. From the start I knew that this book and I were going to either click or rub each other the wrong way. I was pleasantly surprised that I DID enjoy the story, and the paranormal elements were very interesting. I had a bit of a problem with the Kami being well know before WWII because… that’s not THAT long ago. I still have old men who make comments about WWII, so I feel that if the Kami had been running around there WOULD be people who remembered them. That might have worked better for me if they had slowly started going into hiding once Japan had opened to the west. Kami running around in the open, public knowledge until the crazies with the blond hair and big noses showing up? That sounds more plausible.

Tomohiro. I am a sucker for the bad boys of anime. And I kept picturing him as every douche bag anti-hero from every anime I ever watched growing up. I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. At one point I even though ‘wow, I wish I had a Japanese boyfriend…’ and then laughed my ass off and told my husband and he was like ‘omg you are so dumb, but it’s too bad you didn’t know me during my yankee days’. ::swoon:: 

Katie… she really got on my nerves. I wanted to sympathize with her. Her mother just died and she had nowhere to go so she ends up on the other side of the world. But I felt like she had adjusted to not only life in Japan too quickly… but the death of her mother as well. Sometimes I just forgot about it. And I felt that she had too. And instead of mourning her mother she turned into a stalker. Because yes, she was stalking Tomohiro and it was ODD. And all of her ‘I can’t live without him/we are connected forever’ stuff made me think of Bella Swan and that is NEVER a character I want to be reading about.

I felt that a lot of the descriptions of Japan were spot on, especially the cherry blossom season portion. Having just gone through the craze of it myself a month ago… I can relate. Everyone is OBSESSED with them. There were times though that I wanted to shake the book and scream JUST USE THE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ENGLISH EQUIVALENT NOT THE STUPID JAPANESE SHORTHAND FOR SOMETHING ENGLISH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Like whenever Katie would go eat ice cream and it was called ‘ice’. I fucking HATE it when my perfectly fluent English speaking friends call it ice. NO. IT IS NOT ICE. Little things like that just took me out of the story and made me want to smack something. Again, I was nit-picking, but I have never in my life said ‘Imma go get some vanilla ice’ (well… that’s probably because I’m lactose intollerant but… YOU GET MY POINT).

And I guess that brings me to the whole language problem. I had a major issue with the idea of them all speaking in Japanese all of the time. I just didn’t see the point. Think about it… it’s a book written in English, but they’re speaking in Japanese, so basically it’s a translation. And if it had honestly been a translation of a Japanese book into English I just… it makes my brain hurt. I was trying to translate their dialogue as I read, from English to Japanese and there is just NO WAY that Katie was THAT fluent. I understand that she had studied before going to Japan and was attending Japanese cram school and speaking Japanese in school but… I just don’t buy it. From my own experience and from seeing my own friends I know that it takes time and that she would have been struggling A LOT more. 

But fine, whatever, so she’s a linguistic genius and is speaking fluent Japanese… then why the hell is she dropping in ACTUAL UNTRANSLATED JAPANESE?! That was baffling. And it felt like overkill. If I didn’t know what those parts said without looking at the extensive glossary (which must be a bitch to flip to on an e-reader) I would have just been done. I don’t see the point for having any of the spoken stuff. Or why Katie would refer to the entrance way as the genkan but then call the shinkansen the bullet train. There are SO many Japanese words that have made their way into the English lexicon that these seemed like incredibly random choices that had no real meaning. The only part where keeping in Japanese words makes sense is during times where you can’t use an English word… like with the kendo and tea ceremony terms. 

I would have liked to have seen Katie learn new words and have the reader learn them along with her. Or have it clear when they are speaking Japanese and English. We are left to assume and in my head, to save my brain, anytime there was Japanese that was the ONLY time Japanese was being spoken. It’s the only way it worked for me.

And my BIGGEST problem with the ENTIRE thing was the use of the word gaijin. For many people this word is not offensive, but for others it is. I personally use it when referring to myself ONLY when I’m with a closed group of friends who also use the word. Some might argue that this is not the same as a racial slur, but I have seen it used as such. Gaijin means outsider and the polite way to refer to a foreigner is gai-koku-jin. When Katie’s teacher referred to her as a gaijin I SCREAMED. If a stranger, or a boss/manager/coworker refers to me as a gaijin I find it HIGHLY offensive and it REALLY bothered me that it was used in such a way in this book. Anytime anyone writes about a foreign country for an audience not familiar with that country they are TEACHING about that foreign country and anyone unfamiliar with this term was basically taught that it’s an okay thing to call a foreigner in Japan and IT IS NOT.

Overall, like I said, I did enjoy the book. It kept me engaged, it made me feel a wide variety of emotions, and I do want to see what happens in the next book. The art in the book was also a nice touch, and that added points to my overall rating.

So my word of advice… read it and picture it like an anime.

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE COVERS OF BOOKS THAT I’VE READ

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of my favorite books and I originally was drawn to it because of the cover. It’s dark and murky, unfocused and terrifying. I actually love all the covers from this series, but this is my favorite, and I’ve actually had a photo from the cover-shoot as my desktop background for the past year.

Days of Blood and Starlight is another favorite. I love that it stuck to the theme of dark eyes surrounded by bright, colorful, sinister masks. It’s a toss up between this and the first cover, but I like the pop of pink over the blue feathers, so that’s why I picked this cover.

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The entire ‘Last Survivors’ Series has amazing covers, and I’m a HUGE sucker for moon images, but the cover of The Dead & The Gone is my favorite because I feel that it properly shows the horror of what was happening in these books. I love how huge the moon looks, and the sick green color makes it  incredibly eerie.

Golden has quickly cemented a permanent place in my heart since I read it a few weeks ago and the cover is freaking AMAZING. If you’ve seen a physical copy (I’ve only seen images, but I’m dying to get my hands on one) it’s accented IN GOLD on the spine and under the jacket. Now, I actually HATE gold (I only wear silver) so this is kinda a big deal for me…

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Not A Drop to Drink has such a simple cover, but if you take in the details it really paints a picture of the story. I LOVE the huge font coming up over the hill, it just makes me feel anxious that someone is coming for the pond… someone evil… I also really like how you can see Lynn on the top of the house.

Under the Never Sky is another favorite that I picked up because I loved the cover so much. The colors are beautiful, the girl looks strong, and what is that crazy power radiating out behind her?! I had to know.

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Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read (and I mean horror-wise, not theme), and I usually avoid horror because I am STILL unable to sleep well if I think about the first (and ONLY) episode of of Supernatural that I ever watched (burning mom on the ceiling D: ). The cover of this was just so deliciously beautifully creepy that I couldn’t resist checking it out tho. (I had to read it with the lights on).

Fragments (and the Partial) series is such a weird series for me because I am hopplessly in love with Samm, so when he showed up (and his freaking BACK no less… his sexy back…) I kinda flipped my shit and yes. I love this cover. Because of Samm’s back. Hmmm… (okay the rest of it is great too. The broken city. The font rising up out of the water… but… Samm…)

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Some of you might wonder why I put Hana Walker’s Half Life 2:46 on here because this cover isn’t really beautiful… but it’s fucking creative! I know the author (and this book is AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING! YOU READ IT NOWWWWWWW) and I know how he made the cover (his kid’s felt markers!). The cover reflects a lot about the story, and that’s what I love about it. Typewriter font for the journalism that failed Japan after the March 11th earthquake, nuclear hazard symbols in the bike tires for the nuclear disaster AND Hana’s broken bike. And if you haven’t figured out that the red sun is from the Japanese flag by now… well get out (no, just joking). This cover is perfect for this book.

Timepiece was not a favorite book (or part of a favorite series) but the covers for the Hourglass novels with the gravity defying girls (and hair) are really just… pretty. And I like pretty.

Do you see any covers that you loved?! What are your favorites?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

CODA

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Title: Coda

Author: Emma Trevayne

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Review: Okay wow. This book had me from the synopsis. Music is a drug. Music is a drug that KILLS you. 

Now, I used to be HUGE into the punk/emo scene back in the early 2000’s. I went to ‘shows’ and moshed in moshpits and loved screamo. I was a ‘your music sucks’ kid. I hated anything that wasn’t ‘my’ music. That all changed when I discovered Japanese pop music and now… I listen to all kinds of stuff. My iTunes is a mix of Japanese, all the scene stuff that used to be my religion, and now even a scattering of rap and hip-hop. I even have a tiny bit of Korean hip-pop.

Music isn’t as integeral to my life as it used to be… but I do get excited about new stuff by my favorite artists (ONLY TWO MORE DAYS UNTIL NEW THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS!!!), and I listen to music a lot. So this book really drew me in and I was able to be properly horrified by it.

This is a perfect dystopian with a fresh twist on how the ‘evil Corp’ controls the citizens. It takes place in a future NYC where we sadly don’t learn much about the war that forced the people into this dystopian society (this was really the only thing that could have bumped my rating down, but the rich prose saved it). I had the feeling that they were kinda the ‘last people on earth’ but not really… just trapped on Long Island. Apparently after the war everyone went there, and medicine was scarce, so they used music to help people get through the pain. One thing lead to another and music was being encoded so it was not only addictive, but it eventually ate through your brain and killed you.

The society had a very dark, edgy feel to it and I imagined the characters to all be a mix of cyber-punks (I read some reviews that referred to them as goths, but the love of neon colors kinda squashed that image for me). I’m not sure if ‘ravers’ are still a thing, but that’s what I pictured these clubs (night clubs where citizens could go and get their fix every night when they weren’t plugging in to ‘track’ at home) to be like… giant raves. 

I loved the characters in this book. The narrators was male, which is very rare in YA (and another thing that draws me towards certain books. I LOVE me a male protagonist). He had a family to take care of, a girl he loved, a group of loyal friends, and… his voice. Which he used to go against the Corp. As any musician should be able to do, he was able to start not only a riot, but a revolution. 

The writing in this is heavy, and beautiful, and a bit slow at times. It took me a little longer than normal to get through this book, but I didn’t mind too much because I was able to savor it. It took some twists and turns that I did not expect, and there were a few emotionally crushing scenes. But everything lead to a very well done conclusion and I cannot wait for the next book.

And I am SO excited for the next book. When I looked up the synopsis on Goodreads I was surprised to see that it’s not a direct sequel  but just a continuation. It’s set in the future, and told from the POV of the narrator’s little sister. Again, a different move than most YA dystopian, but I think it was a smart one. I for one am getting a bit sick of all the trilogies and having to wait years between cliffhangers. 

Anyway, I LOVED this book and highly recommend it so GO READ IT NOW.

 

Stacking the Shelves (3)

I have a Japanese lesson for us all today. Read?

積ん読 [つんどく: TSUNDOKU]  buying books and not reading them.

Because seriously. SERIOUSLY. How did I end up with NINE new books this week? Granted I DID only spend $6 total on them… but OMG SELF WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!

Here’s what I stacked my (virtual) shelves with this week…

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ARCs that I received this week!

Not a Drop to Drink – Mindy McGinnis

The Chaos of Stars – Kiersten White

The Summer I Became a Nerd – Leah Rae Miller

Ink – Amanda Sun

Outcast – Adrienne Kress

I was ECSTATIC to receive NOT A DROP TO DRINK and THE CHAOS OF STARS. Thank you thank you THANK YOU HARPER TEEN. I LOVED THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD (check out my review here!) and I’m very interested in INK. I have thoughts on that already and I’m curious to see what my thoughts are after reading it. OUTCAST was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m already hearing good things about it.

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Purchased (all on sale in the kindle store)

Smart Girls Get What They Want – Sarah Strohmeyer

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know – Sonya Sones

The Madman’s Daughter – Megan Shepherd

Harken – Kaleb Nation

These were ALL ON SALE (hear that self?! ALL ON SALE!) I made a promise to myself back in March that I could only buy ebooks that are ON SALE. Well, this didn’t go so well because I was like ‘SAVE A DOLLAR?! OKAY BUY NOW!’ so now I’m only allowed to buy books that are $1.99 or less. UNLESS it’s like some book that I’ve been DYING FOREVER AND EVER to read. These are all books that I WANT to read and would totally pick up for .99 at a used bookstore. So that’s the logic I’m working with. If I don’t get around to them for awhile well… that’s okay. But I DO want to read them.

So yeah. My strange addiction. What did you guys stack your selves with this week?

ALSO BEFORE YOU GO!  I have some awesome news that I’m going to reveal soon but… for now I would like to announce that I’m going to be hosting my FIRST GIVEAWAY VERY SOON!!! So check back through the next week or follow me on twitter @innocencewalker to keep updated!

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Biking around Saint Paul

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During out trip to Saint Paul my husband was busy for most of the time, but at night we were able to go out for dinner and explore the area. We went to a few parks and down along the Mississippi river (which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel).

While walking around we kept seeing these green bikes (pictured above) EVERYWHERE. There was a little machine next to the set of them (about 20 bikes) and you could rent the bike for the day. It cost like $6 to rent it and then an additional $1 for each 30 mins or so. Since we ride our bikes A LOT back home, he thought this would be really fun and rented us two bikes.

The way it worked was you used your credit or debit card in the machine and got a code that you used to unlock the bike. Then you could return the bike to ANY other station in the area and once it was locked it calculated your time and charged you accordingly. We decided to use them for an hour and rode around looking for a supermarket (we wanted to buy some beer, but everything near us was closed and the bars were expensive). We found a gas station (which my husband LOVED) and got some snacks before riding back over the river.

Originally I was hesitant to use them because I’m so used to MY bike, and I had a hard time getting use to THAT, but he was feeling adventurous and convinced me to do it. I was also worried about getting lost, but in the end I’m really glad that he convinced me. I had a lot of fun.

Red Balloon Bookshop

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During my trip to the USA I spent three days in Michigan and then three days in Saint Paul, Minnesota. While in Saint Paul my husband was presenting his research at an international conference, so I had some free time in the afternoon to do whatever I wanted. What I wanted to do was go to a bookstore…

So I googled the closest Barnes & Nobles and that was… a good 25 minutes away by car. Being carless I wasn’t looking forward to shelling out $30 for a taxi. So I googled a bit more and found… The Red Balloon Bookshop. It was only 8 minutes by taxi from the hotel. So I thought I’d give it a try. 

This place is adorable you guys. It looks like a house from the outside and there’s a friendly, warm, book-loving atmosphere inside. I went at opening time and there were a bunch of moms and small children there for story time. I was a bit worried that it was going to mainly be children’s books, but there was an entire wall dedicated to Young Adult. And there were plenty of new releases to choose from. I spent at least an hour combing over the selection before settling on three books (at that point I’d already bought so many books in Michigan that I was worried about my suitcase’s weight…). I had a nice chat with the booksellers and reminisced about my own bookselling days. 

I could have probably kicked back and read for a bit while I was there, but I wanted to head back to the hotel to meet my husband for lunch, so I took a taxi back and added my books to my pile.

When I got back to the hotel and put my books away I found an adorable bookmark tucked into one of my new books and I’ve been using it ever since. I don’t really have any bookmarks since I read most of my books on my kindle, so I was very pleased to find this.

If you’re ever in Saint Paul, MN drop by the Red Balloon!