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: “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.

Waiting on Wednesday: “The Unnaturalists” by Tiffany Trent

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

  Title: The Unnaturalists (Click this link for Amazon, the cover for Goodreads.)

  Author: Tiffany Trent

  Expected Publication Date: August 14th, 2012

  Summary from Goodreads:

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

  Why I’m Waiting: I have a weakness for steampunk, and this looks like it’s going to be phenomenal. I love that the MC is kind of a historical anthropologist/librarian, and that Nikola Tesla was involved in the original creation of New London.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Feel free to comment below/link me back to your own WoW post and let me know!

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.

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!