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.

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Book Review: “Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy” by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls, #2)

Is it strange that I actually have this whole outfit in my closet? It's all in brown, but that's pretty much the only difference.

Check out my review of the first book, I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You, here or on Goodreads!

Title: Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Ally Carter (needs to come to NY or Boston so I can meet her :D)

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

Maturity Level: YA. There’s definite appeal here, both for the young end of the YA spectrum (13-16) and the older (16+). Some mild violence and kissing, no real sexual content to speak of.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoyed the first book; if you’re a fan of the television shows Nikita, Buffy, or Veronica Mars; if you like well-crafted YA with strong and realistic female protagonists.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you expect a serious spy thriller; you don’t like YA.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Cammie Morgan is pretty tired of excitement. Her Stake-out/Obtain/Then Give Up Boyfriend Operation has left her pretty down, and all she wants is to settle down and continue studying CoveOps. Before she knows it, however, the prestigious “spy school” Gallagher Academy is welcoming a group of mysterious boys—BOYS!—codenamed Blackthorne. Throw in a security breach that Cammie appears to be at fault for, the unclear motives of the Blackthorne boys, and the aforementioned CoveOps training, and you’ve got one hell of a semester.

Oh, and the incredibly handsome, heart-pounding, ANNOYING boy known simply as Zach.

Previously On…: I have to admit, I wasn’t very stoked about this series at first. It looked like pretty typical YA fare—kick-butt girl meets boy, falls sappily in love with him, and slowly falls prey to a terrifying disease that I have termed Badass Disintegration Syndrome (BDS), pulling out her badassery only to save The Boy. I was pleasantly surprised by the first book, which had its fair share of sappy lovey-dovey moments, but also developed Cammie Morgan through her relationships with her friends, mother, and teachers. She also NEVER lost her Badass Mojo, and that definitely carries through into Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy.

Overall: I was very impressed by Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. This particular installment had more spy!plot, less romance, and as always I enjoyed the antics of Bex, Liz, and Macey just as much as Cammie’s. The “progress/case reports” are always fun to read, and I absolutely ADORED the ball!exam and all the scenes it produced. Cammie’s family/past—and her missing father—get a bit of an exploration in this one that I hope to see continued in future books. And I have to say, I like Zach more than I liked Josh—but maybe that’s just my love for snarky dudes showing.

Pros

  • The CoveOps reports.
  • Spies, guys. Girl!spies. At a school for girl spies. WIN.
  • Buffy/James Bond/Veronica Mars references.
  • The romance.
  • The spy!plot.
  • Annnnd the balance between the two. Superb.

Cons

  • Having it all be a test at the end was a bit predictable, but that’s just a nitpick.

Favorite Scene (s)

  • Pg 175: Cammie basically asking Zach out and the dynamic between them.
  • Pg 224: After Cammie has a BAMF moment. “Did you learn that in PE?”/”No. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
  • Pg 226: A forklift is once again used as a deadly weapon J

Favorite Line (s)

  • “Most little girls in England grow up wanting to marry a prince. Bex grew up wanting to kick James Bond’s butt and assume his double-0 ranking.”~ pg 13
  • “Real life in the clandestine services isn’t cat and mouse—it’s cat and cat.”~pg 184

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars.

Final Grade: A-. I will definitely be obtaining the next book very soon—this series is so very fun.

Book Review: “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You” by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #1)

Title: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1) (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Available In: Hardcover (Library Binding), Paperback, eBook for Nook, eBook for Kindle, Audiobook.

Maturity Level: 13 +. Some kissing and light violence, but overall very clean.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy fast-paced, light-hearted stories and/or if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon (the writing style seems very much influenced by his work, and there are plenty of Buffy references).

You May NOT Like This Book if: you’re looking for a serious spy novel ala John LeCarre.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Cameron Morgan is not your average private-school girl. Then again, Gallagher Academy is not your average private school—it’s a spy school, with a curriculum designed to turn out some of the best-trained surveillance agents in the world. So when she meets the incredibly normal Josh, she’s not quite sure how to proceed. Luckily, she has a team of very good friends there to help her sift through his trash, hack his computer, and arrange strategic meetings away from prying eyes. And along the way, Cammie just might learn something about love — and the importance of being true to oneself.

Overall, I thought this book was really fun. It’s a bit like Nikita meets Harry Potter meets Buffy. There are some very good messages twined up in the lighthearted narrative as well, making this a book that I’d recommend to any teenage girl (or, for that matter, any girl ever). The spy element was nicely handled, and I loved reading the descriptions of a typical day at a “spy school”. Throw in a whole load of Buffy references, and I am a very happy reader. It was also a wicked quick read, especially the last hundred pages or so—the sort of book you could finish in an afternoon if you had no interruptions. I’m looking forward to the next book—which, according to PaperBackSwap, is headed my way as of this morning—and I’ll also definitely be checking out Heist Society when I finish with the Gallagher Girls series.

Pros

  • Spy girls. Spy girls are always a plus.
  • Gallagher Academy is kind of like Harry Potter for spy girls. AWESOME~
  • Cammie’s mom. She’s awesome, and I love that her and Cammie have a very close relationship, which is not often seen in YA.
  • Bex, Liz, and Macey. They’re smart, sassy, and they’re great friends. What’s not to love?
  • CoveOps. I would totally take this class.
  • Short chapters make for a fast-paced read.
  • I really, really love the overall message, which is basically to stay true to who you are when you’re in a relationship, not true to what your partner might want you to be. Also, don’t ditch your friends. They’ll be around long after your BF has taken off.

Cons

  • Some of the “mean girls” in this book are pretty flat and stereotypical.

Favorite Scene (s)

  • Pages 87-90, when Mr. Solomon makes his point about what failure in a CovertOps mission would cost you. Very tense, very dramatic.
  • Josh driving a forklift through the wall on page 271.

Favorite Line (s): “Our lies come complete with Social Security numbers and fake IDS, and our truths cut like Spanish steel.”~pg 221 of Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars.

Final Grade: A. Will probably reread, will definitely read next book in series.

Favorite Anime and TV Pairings (of All Time and In No Particular Order)

So, this is in the same vein as my previous post about my favorite book pairings of all time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make a vid this time– cutting movie clips together in my video editor takes forever and an age, and I’ve been working/going to kickboxing/writing all week. My spare time has been devoted to finishing some of the books in my currently-reading stack, and answering correspondence, which really didn’t leave me six hours to edit a vid. I might still do one in the future, depending on how much time I have/what clips I can get my hands on.

That aside, I did gather some pretty pictures for you all, so I’ll just go right ahead with my list. 😀

Nate and Sophie, Leverage

The odd thing is, I don’t even like Nate on his own. I think he’s a whiny, manipulative drunk with power and control issues. However, he and Sophie have one of the most adorable romances currently running on TV, and Sophie brings out qualities in Nate that make him almost likable.

Dean and Castiel, Supernatural

Thing #1: Yes, that is a manip. Good one, no? Thing #2: Yes, I know, guys. Dean’s straight, Cas is asexual, and this pairing is NOT CANON. However, they did make it to the final round of eOnline’s TV Top Couples Tournament, and the writers/directors tend to toss out terms such as “long distance marriage”, “war widow”, and even the incredibly unsubtle and infamous “one in the trenchcoat” comment from season 6. So yeah. It basically boils down to that if Castiel had appeared in season 4 looking like this:

…. Dean would have been on that in three seconds flat, and all of the questionable UST that they already have would have become, well, resolved sexual tension.

(Needless to mention we might have had a girl on SPN who could survive sleeping with one of the bros.)

Alec Hardison and Parker, Leverage

There is one word that is perfectly apt to describe this pairing: cute. Sweet might also be applicable. Just watch this clip and let me know if your heart doesn’t melt.

Shunsui and Nanao, Bleach

These two were always my favorite couple/pairing/enemies from Bleach. There’s not really much overt romance going on between these two, but under all of the fighting and bickering there is a.) a man who cares for Nanao truly and deeply and b.) a girl who is very, very loyal and capable.

Ten and Rose, Doctor Who

They were fun. They had undeniable chemistry that Eccleston and Piper simply didn’t. And I do believe this is the closest that we have ever gotten– aside from perhaps Sarah Jane– to the Doctor having a canon romance.

Which can really be summarized in the following quote: “If I believe in one thing, just one thing, I believe in her.”

Amy Williams/Pond and Rory Pond/Williams, Doctor Who

Just when I thought DW was done giving us tragic and beautiful romances, they threw this one at me. These two love one another in ways that I was starting to think weren’t possible, and they’re also wonderfully fun together. And FYI? I would totally watch this show if it were real. 🙂

River Song and Eleven, Doctor Who

Way too much Doctor Who, I know. But I felt that this one needed mentioning. 🙂 I really do hope to see River back next season.

Buffy and Spike, BtVS

Despite the borderline abusive turn of their relationship later in the series, I identify Buffy and Spike as a couple by this moment, when Buffy is sitting on the steps angsting and the previously highly antagonistic Spike offers her a moment of absolute tenderness that harkens back to the bad, dorky poet he was before he was turned. Plus, they have more sexual chemistry than Buffy and Angel ever did.

 

Willow and Tara, BtVS

Willow and Tara, despite their difficulties, brought out the best in one another. I was profoundly sad when Tara died, because I feel like Tara was The One and The Only for Willow. Willow and Kennedy, Willow and that werewolf guy who’s name I can never remember, Willow and Xander– none of them had the same quality as Willow and Tara, two girls who loved one another so much that they were able to work past their issues with addiction and low self-esteem, and who, in the end, were willing to die and/or kill for one another.

ETA: For some reason, the picture I had for this pair completely disappeared at some point today while I was out running errands. So here’s a new one 🙂

So, who is YOUR favorite TV/Anime couple? Let me know in the comments!

Waiting on Wednesday: “Katana” by Cole Gibsen

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and showcases upcoming releases that we just can’t wait to get our hands on.

And this week’s book is…..

Katana by Cole Gibsen

Publication Date: March 8th, 2012

From Amazon:

Kill Bill meets Buffy in this supernatural samurai tale
Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline gave her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn’t explain her dreams of fifteenth century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger warnings. While worrying that she’s going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she’s harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.
Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana–a deadly Japanese sword that’s also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she’s always been and embracing the warrior inside her.

This is one of a few debuts that I am awaiting rather eagerly.  I just can’t resist a book with a girl and swords on the cover. Also, there are ninjas! And samurai! Plus two spirits in one body and hot martial arts instructors! Yeah, I’m going to have to preorder this one.

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday? Drop me a line in the comments or link back to your own WoW post and let me know!

Book Review: “Paranormalcy” (Paranormalcy #1) by Kiersten White

Title: Paranormalcy

Author: Kiersten White

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

Warnings: PG for mild sexual content, violence, and simulated profanity.

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

Do not make the mistake of judging this book by its cover.

If you were to do that, you might think that this is one of the many shallow paranormal teen romances that make their way out every year, with covers that emulate the Twilight series and heroines who spent the vast majority of their time being pretty for the boys. Evie is definitely a pretty girly-girl heroine… but more in the style of Buffy Summers than Bella Swan.

Evie’s a girl who really likes to think of herself as normal. She loves pink, glitter, and soft soap-operas about high school. Sure, she has a job neutralizing all sorts of paranormal nasties for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, or IPCA. And she might possibly be falling in love with a shape-shifter. And yeah, there’s some faerie prophecy that she just might be a huge part of, the consequences of which could result in the end of the world. But that’s not too out there, right?

Overall, this is an appealing book. It’s got a lot of humour and quirk, and it’s definitely “light reading”, but that should not be mistaken for shallowness, because this book actually has a lot of depth. The romance between Evie and Lend is adorably sweet (rather than sickeningly so) and there are actually some pretty complex morality conflicts tied up into the plot, especially towards the end. The conflict/relationship between Evie and Vivian evokes echoes of the Buffy/Faith days of BtVS, and towards the end, the bits with the souls bore an eerie resemblance to Castiel’s storyline in late season 6/early season 7 of SPN. This book should appeal to fans of BtVS/Angel/Whedonverse, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it MIGHT appeal to certain branches of SPN fandom, because despite her floofy exterior, Evie is one kick-ass chick.

Pros

  • Evie’s attitude. She’s just so quirky. The ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I love it.
  • IPCA. I like the concept, and it was executed nicely as well.
  • The irreverent treatment of paranormals.
  • Lish and her computer set-up.
  • Lend <3. Definitely one of my fav romantic heroes of the year, and a refreshing change from the overbearing Edward Cullen type commonly seen.
  • White’s research was actually very well done, and she weaves little bits of legend in like it’s nobody’s business.
  • Unseelie Vs. Seelie. FOREVER LOVE

Cons

  • Evie’s ditziness. The same thing that attracted me to Evie turned me off to her just a bit; sometimes when her inner monologues came up I’d just roll my eyes, because I knew she was about to go off on some super-bubbly tangent. It wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book, but it was noticeable.
  • Wandering, slightly frenetic plot. I felt like the Seelie Vs. Unseelie concept could have been introduced earlier in the book.

Theme Song: “Everytime We Touch”~ Cascada

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars

Final Grade: A-. Would reread, will definitely read other books in series.