Book Review: “Katana” by Cole Gibsen

This cover is badass, despite her completely incorrect and impractical grip on those swords.

Title: Katana (Click the cover to add it to your Goodreads!)

Author: Cole Gibsen

Available In: Paperback, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: 16+. Some racy content, violence, vaguely referenced twincest.

You May Like This Book if: you like anime/manga series such as Bleach, Naruto, Ouran High School Host Club, and Rurouni Kenshin; if you were/are a fan of Buffy; if you enjoy reincarnation stories; if you favor action over plot/characters.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t read YA; you don’t like slightly dim main characters; you have a problem with reincarnation plots.

Rileigh Martin didn’t want to start hearing voices in her head. She certainly didn’t want those voices to tell her how to fight. And she MOST CERTAINLY did NOT want a long-dead samurai chick controlling her body. Finding out that she is the reincarnation of said samurai chick? RIGHT OUT.

She doesn’t really mind being able to defend herself from skeeveballs, though. And even though she struggles against it, she can’t really bring herself to mind too much when her new samurai mentor turns out to be Kim Gimhae, hot martial arts instructor… even though the depth of her feelings for him frightens her because they just might not be hers.

I have a feeling that I’m going to catch a lot of flak if I try to argue that this book is great YA literature. In many ways, it reads like a paperback romance novel. Many of the plot points are predictable, and the love triangle is downright laughable and it is very evident early on what is happening. Rileigh’s voice is a little stilted at times—Gibsen just doesn’t have the same easygoing style as, say, Kiersten White’s Evie from Paranormalcy—and the prose is touch-and-go in many places.

And to be honest, I did spend the first fifty pages rolling my eyes at Rileigh because she’s kind of dumb. She’s feisty, for sure, but she just doesn’t have the brain-power to back it up until she really starts to struggle with her dual identity as Rileigh-Senshi. In many ways, this book reminded me of Buffy, and this was one of the not-so-good ways that it did.

But, guys? I just can’t bring myself to hate this book.

Because I usually hate reincarnation stories, but I LOVED this one. The way in which this particular plot element was handled was pretty close to genius. Furthermore, this book was just fun. I really loved the flashback sequences, and applaud Gibsen’s bravery in the whole Michelle/Braden plotline, which is still pretty taboo here and was handled with taste and dignity. Kim makes a good romantic lead, and Quentin a good sidekick (despite his over-the-top and overly stereotypical behavior—in that way, he reminded me a lot of Dante from Illuminate).

(Also, for the record, Rileigh does take a Level in Badass by the end, so all that whining that she does in earlier parts of the book does pay off.)

Overall, I found this book quite amusing, and I’d love to see what Gibsen does next—I have a feeling that she’s one of those writers who will improve with time.

Pros

  • Senshi. I wasn’t really a fan of Rileigh, but Senshi was a badass.
  • The flashbacks were nicely handled.
  • Kim ❤
  • Michelle/Braden. I liked the slightly twincest-y twist on the soulmates concept. Kudos to Gibsen for being brave enough to incorporate this element.
  • Drew and Kim’s bromance :3

Cons

  • Quentin is overly stereotypical, ala Dante from Illuminate.
  • Rileigh is…. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • The love triangle was pretty clichéd. I would have been just as happy if it was just Kim(Yoshido)/Rileigh(Senshi).

Favorite Scene (s):

  • Pg 125-127. Senshi kills things with her “ki” or “spiritual pressure”. It’s totally clichéd but I love it.
  • Pg 209-214. I really liked the deft, tasteful way that the whole Michelle/Braden thing was handled.
  • Pg 251. Love, love, LOVE this scene. So hot. ❤

Favorite Line (s):

  • “You better leave a tip. 30% should keep the Nair out.”~ pg 144
  • “I couldn’t have been more surprised if the President of the United States walked into the café and did his own personal rendition of Lord of the Dance.”~ pg 281

Star Rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars, rounded up for fun factor. :3

Fun Factor (1 being blegh, 10 being ROFLMAO): 8

Final Grade:  B. Amusing enough to make up for its flaws.

Book Review: “Partials” by Dan Wells (Partials #1)

Title: Partials (Partials #1) (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Dan Wells

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook

Maturity Level: Upper YA. Teen pregnancy, a relationship between an older man and a teenage girl, and violence.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy books about plagues; if you enjoyed Cinder; if you like cyborgs and/or genetic engineering; if you enjoy straight sci-fi with no paranormal elements.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you have triggers related to teen pregnancy and/or relationships in which one partner is significantly older/more experienced than the other.

The world of Partials certainly looks, from afar, like an intriguing one. After a war with the biologically engineered Partials, humanity is very nearly extinct. The survivors live on an island, and fight daily against the harsh realities of life in a post-apocalyptic world. To top it all off, the weaponized virus that killed the majority of the population still continues to kill every baby that’s born, forcing the government to take drastic action in the form of pregnancy laws. Kira is a medic. She watches all of this go on every day, and she’s determined to find a cure for the virus—even if that means coming into close contact with the deadly Partials themselves.

My main problem with this book is that it felt like set-up. I feel like the first half could easily have been condensed, and maybe some of the plot points that will hopefully be addressed in the sequel could have made it into this one. I also disliked the “evil evil government” cliché, as well as the creepy relationship between one of Kira’s teenage friends and her boss, a senator.

Overall, though, it was decent. I enjoyed it, for sure, but it just didn’t have any “wow” factor for me. Hopefully book #2 will be a little more engaging.

Pros

  • I love the world, especially the literal “urban jungle” of New York.
  • I happen to think the Partials are a pretty cool concept.
  • Kira’s definitely got some badass qualities.
  • The characters. They all have differing, complex motivations and this flavors their interactions in a very interesting way.

Cons

  • I thought this was a bit mature for YA—I’m not saying that we should sensor YA, by any means, but I think this book would be pretty alienating to the younger end of the YA readership.
  • I’m a little tired of the Orwellian government being so prominent in sci-fi.
  • Marcus is a total douchewad. Was so glad when Kira gave him the boot about halfway through.

Favorite Line (s): “You could get high on his farts.”~pg 41.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 3.5

Final Grade: B

Book Review: “The Only Ones” by Aaron Starmer

This cover kind of sums up everything I love about this book.

Title: The Only Ones (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Aaron Starmer

Available In: HardcovereBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: YA. Some violence and disturbing imagery.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, or The Hunger Games.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you’re not fond of post-apocalyptic tales.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Martin Maple knows a terrible truth. He and the rest of the children who live in the commune that they have called Xibalba were not only left, but Forgotten. All of the adults in the world disappeared on one fateful Day, and the children are now alone.  But according to the animal-whispering “prophet” Nigel, Martin has the capacity to bring them back—and he just might be right.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was very dreamlike and beautiful, if occasionally confusing. The paradox was very well done, and I really enjoyed the wistful, nostalgic finality of the last two pages. Martin was a very relatable main character for me, and I was pretty attached to Darla, Lane, Marjorie, and Nigel as well. The only thing that I didn’t like was that I really didn’t understand why Henry pulled his little stunt towards the end—it didn’t match with his prior characterization and kind of seemed to come right out of the blue.

Overall, this is a lovely little post-apocalyptic tale with a wonderful little paradox woven into it. Starmer’s really accomplished something here, and this book is definitely one of my favorites that I’ve read so far in 2012. Well done, Mister Starmer. Well done.

Pros

  • The Forgotten. Loved all their distinct personalities and the way in which their society functioned.
  • Nigel.
  • Marjorie.
  • Martin’s childhood. I loved that he learned through books—something that I can really relate to. 😉
  • The paradox.
  • The last 2 pages. So lovely.

Cons

  • Henry’s little stunt didn’t make any sense to me.

Favorite Scene (s)

  • Pg 18-20, when Martin is busy learning about the outside world through books. Really struck a chord with me.
  • Pg 58-64. I love this hands-on concept of the Internet.
  • Pg 318-319. Just so beautiful.

 

Favorite Line (s): “I’m sure your kitten is a prodigy.” ~ Darla to Marjorie, pg 245.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars.

Final Grade: A+. Such a lovely book. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Starmer in the future.

Clip from the “Cinder” audiobook!

Hey, guys! This is just a quick PSA to inform you all that Macmillan Audio has kindly allowed me to post an excerpt of theCinderaudiobook, read by the excellent Rebecca Soler! Give it a listen, and if you like what you hear, you can purchase it directly from Macmillan Audio or through Amazon/Audible/etc.

Cinder excerpt is here under the cut! 😀

My 4-star review of Cinder is here.

 

Book Review: “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine #1)

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Available In: Hardcover, Audiobook, eBook for Nook, eBook for Kindle.

Maturity Level: 16+. There’s very little sexual content, but there’s a quite a lot of gore and violence.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy dark, brooding, vaguely Lynchian  settings and time travel.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t like fantasy or YA, or if you’re averse to violence and gore.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Jacob has it all, really. His mother is heiress to a massive drug/convenience store chain, and he’s grown up not really having to want for much. However, the only things from his childhood that he truly values are the times he spent with his grandfather and his stories about strange children and wondrous sights. When his grandfather is killed in mysterious circumstances, Jacob decides to take a trip to the island where it all began, off the coast of Wales, and uncovers a secret that he will fight to the death to protect.

Overall, I was fond of this book, but the one thing that made it nigh impossible for me to get through it sometimes was Jacob’s attitude. He is something of a brat. He whines too much. I felt very little sympathy for him when he ended up in dangerous situations, and at times I had to put the book down because I just couldn’t stand his entitled, superior, slightly emo mentality. He also doesn’t appear to change very much over the course of the story—he simply becomes more dramatic and annoying.

That aside, I really did like this book. The peculiar children, the time loops, and the Lynchian setting are all right up my alley. It would have gotten a full four stars and moved up a letter grade had the MC been more likable, but I still enjoyed it.

Pros

  • I love the photos! I’m a ghost photography buff, so the effects were quite interesting to see. They did break up the flow of the book a little bit, but I didn’t really care.
  • Lynchian setting.
  • Nerdy references to shows such as Father Ted.
  • Miss Peregrine. Who is awesome. ‘Nough said.
  • The peculiar children. Who are awesome. Again.
  • The Nazi-Hollowghast parallels.
  • The concept of the time loops.

Cons

  • Plot is kind of slowmoving—I was over halfway through the book before it really caught me.
  • I really didn’t like Jacob, which made it difficult to connect with him.
  • All adults are jerks here (aside from Miss Peregrine, who can still occasionally be a jerk).
  • Romance was kind of squicky.

Favorite Scene (s)

  • Pg 192-194, when Jacob is just kind of hanging with the peculiar children.
  • Pg 238-239, when Emma and Jacob are exploring the sunken ship.

Favorite Line (s): “We cling to our fairytales until the price for believing them becomes too high.”~ pg 16 of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Star Rating on Goodreads:  3.5 stars out of 5.

Final Grade: B. Might reread, will probably read other books in series even though I feel like this stands better on its own.

Book Review: “Farsighted” by Emlyn Chand (Farsighted #1)

Title: Farsighted (Click on this link or the book cover to add it to your Goodreads!)

Author: Emlyn Chand (You can follow her on Twitter, too!)

Available In: eBook for KindlePaperback.

Maturity Level: Recommended for 13+. Some gore, violence, and kissing, but little to no sexual content.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STRONG OPINIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I’ve been reading a lot of self-pubs on my Kindle app recently, and I have to say that so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the selections that I’ve made. Sure, there were a couple of duds, books that I could only stand about a chapter of— the stereotypical “bad” self-pubs, complete with bad formatting, an apparent lack of any sort of editor, and a definite lack of any real sales potential.

Then, there are books like Angelfall and Farsighted—books that you could totally see showing up on a bookstore shelf and actually being better than 75% of their genre. These are books that have been self-published because that is part of the author’s artistic vision (see this post by  Chand) rather than being self-pubbed because there is absolutely NO CHANCE of a major press EVER accepting them. The latter is what self publishing has become (and also, what people tend to think when they sit down to read an indie); the former is what self-publishing was to begin with and what it should continue to be.

That said, on with the review!

Alex Kosmitoras is an abnormal guy in a depressingly normal situation: his parents are struggling financially, and there’s a bully who seems to have it out for him no matter what. On top of that, he’s blind—and, apparently, able to “see” the future. Simmi is the new girl from India, who is not only the friendliest, most accepting person Alex has ever met, but also has powers of her own. Alex is starting to think that this is actually going to be okay—that he has a shot of being friends with Simmi (and maybe more)—when he starts having visions of Simmi dying in various terrible ways and vows to stop it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It paints a lovely tableau of multiculturalism against a small-town background; as someone who lives in a truly tiny town, I can appreciate this. Chand also manages to twine the paranormal element neatly into Alex’s everyday issues with school, parents, etc while drawing on mythological elements that made the 13-year-old-me-who-read-Edith-Wharton’s-Mythology-obsessively-for-about-a-year incredibly happy. There were points where the pacing seemed a little slow, but there were also times when I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely a book that I’d recommend to people who are tired of the vampire/werewolves/angels that tend to overpopulate YA paranormals.

 

Pros

  • Alex’s POV. I have a weakness for blind protagonists, especially those that are still major badasses. Which Alex definitely is.
  • Simmi. I kind of fell a bit in love with her right alongside Alex, which made her a wonderful romantic lead for the book.
  • Shapri. I might have fallen in love with Simmi, but I would definitely be more like Shapri. I liked how Chand handled her reluctance to admit to her gifts, and I loved that she was not “the bad guy” in Simmi and Alex’s relationship just because she had a bit of a crush on Alex. Nice.
  • The runes and how they connect to the story. I’m actually incredibly interested in runes/tarot, so I loved reading the description of each rune and then figuring out how it connected to the chapter I was reading.
  • Caffeine-assisted visions! I love explorations of how drugs/chemicals would affect theoretical psychic powers.
  • The multicultural viewpoint. ❤

Cons

  • Some of the transitions were a little choppy.
  • Occasionally, Alex fails to take action that moves the plot along and waits for other people to move it along instead. It seems just a little OOC, since he spends the majority of the book being a badass, but it wasn’t enough to disrupt the book entirely, so it’s all good.

Star Rating on Goodreads/Final Grade: 3.75 stars, rounded up for GR. A-. Would reread, will definitely read other books in series.

Book Review: “Mastiff” by Tamora Pierce (Beka Cooper, #3)

Title: Mastiff (Click to add to your Goodreads.)

Author: Tamora Pierce

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook, Audiobook.

Warnings: PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and a few scenes that contain disturbing imagery or concepts. Recommended for 16+, or for “mature” younger teens.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4.5 stars.

Theme Song (according to me, anyway): “Lover to Lover” ~ Florence + The Machine

Final Grade: A+.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, STRONG OPINIONS, AND THE FRANK DISCUSSION OF POSSIBLE TRIGGER SUBJECTS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

It took me awhile to get through Mastiff. This was partially because it is the last book in the Beka Cooper series, and I was really not ready for it to be over. It was also partially because the book itself is rather dense. At 592 pages, it’s a pretty hefty hardcover—but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Three years have passed since Bloodhound, and Beka is now on the verge of receiving her five year badge and engaged to be married to another Dog. When her fiancée is killed in a slave raid, Beka is more than a little conflicted—unbeknownst to her friends, her fiancée was verbally (and, it is hinted) physically abusive towards her, and she had been planning to call the engagement off. Beka’s not the sort to fall into pathos over this, however, and when the king’s son is kidnapped by slavers who may or may not be working under the orders of a group of rebellious nobles, Beka welcomes the thrill of the chase with open arms. Along with Lady Sabine, her old mentor Tunstall, and the frustratingly tricky Master Farmer, Beka finds herself embroiled in a mass of betrayal, brutality, and something that she just might call love.

Overall, I felt this was a very solid end to the Beka Cooper trilogy. I feel that the situation with Beka’s dead fiancée was actually handled quite well; it’s definitely a realistic depiction of how, exactly, strong women end up in relationships that are not good for them. Pierce’s treatment of the difficult topics of slavery and the Shaker-esque noble cults was adept as always. It was a little sad that we didn’t get to see much of Rosto, Kora, and Aniki, but I enjoyed the group dynamic between Beka/Farmer and Sabine/Tunstall just as much. In the end, it was all neatly linked back to George Cooper and led right into the beginning of the Alanna series.  Nice!

I did have a few quibbles about the book, mostly focused around the plot twist at the end, but I’m going to go into those at length in my pros and cons section to avoid spoiling anybody.

BEYOND THIS POINT, THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED.

Pros

  • Master Farmer. He’s raised my expectations of men sky-high now. He’s tied with Numair  as my favorite mage ever. Basically? I love him. ❤
  • The group dynamic between Tunstall, Sabine, Farmer, and Beka. They made such a good team ❤
  • The noble cults were intriguing to read about, even though I would definitely agree with Beka about the followers of the Gentle Mother.
  • Sabine as a wildmage. I like that the wildmages are even acknowledged  at this time, though we know they are not properly studied until Daine comes along later.
  • Achoo and Pounce ❤ For a little while there, I thought that Achoo was going to die, and when it looked like that was imminent, I started crying and just couldn’t stop until she was healed a few pages later.

Cons

 

  • Tunstall 😦 While I feel the plot twist was executed fairly well, I really did not see this coming. To be honest, I would suspect Sabine before Tunstall, and to find that he really was the traitor… it broke my heart, really, it did. And with little to no lead up for it, it really was a nasty shock. I feel that some hints along the way would have been appropriate, but then again, it was a plot twist, so I don’t really know what to say.