Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

Published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iBooks | Google Play | Books-A-Million | Kobo | Chapters | Indiebound

Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.

As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole. - Goodreads

This book has been pitched as a Paris Gellar contemporary YA romance and I couldn't agree more. It's a love-hate rivals romance with a prank war and a frustratingly attractive boy who sparks with the heroine, who's type A and driven. The premise of this book isn't really out there or new, which initially made me wary until I picked up this book and was surprised by how quickly I became invested. Harper is a rather prickly heroine, with her rigid rules and single-minded devotion, but her love for her brother is one of her soft spots. Sterling Lane, the new kid in school, poses a threat in her opinion, and it kicks off some devious pranks that I quite enjoyed.

The pranks were an aspect that was fun and daring to read and imagine, as I was impressed by the ingenuity both Harper and Sterling showed when it came to besting each other. They were clever and fun, while being realistic, and I will say I almost dropped my jaw in admiration at a few of them.

Something I've always found annoying in these types of stories is when the heroine is too intent on destroying her rival that she crosses a line, but is never called out. Why I Loathe Sterling Lane manages to avoid this, and I loved how Sterling is a worthy opponent in that he gives as good as he takes from Harper.

Of course, one of my favorite aspects is the romance. Harper and Sterling have chemistry from the start, but the banter they had was sharp and witty, perfect for antagonistic relationship they shared. Sterling is a charming and arrogant, but it melds well with Harper's self-righteous and earnest nature. Despite his devil care nature, I was pleased by how insightful Sterling was when it came to Harper, and seeing Harper come to terms with that was wonderful. They both crackle around each other, and I can just imagine them getting fired up whenever they either argue or make out haha.

"The two of you are just--bizarrely, diametrically opposite, but that makes you fit together somehow."

Overall if you're looking for a satisfying contemporary YA romance with a love-hate dynamic, Why I Loathe Sterling Lane is sure to please.

My Rating:★★★★
Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best).


Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn't so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid's first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon.
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh


Published: May 16th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires. - Goodreads

Personal Enjoyment Rating: 3.75 stars
Rating of Japanese Rep: 1 stars

Thoughts Regarding the Japanese Rep:

I'm going to put it out there because I sugarcoated this in my initial review, but there is an appalling lack of research in this book. I personally enjoyed the book because I was able to disconnect myself and go into this book knowing it would be this level. I'm not expecting any non-Japanese author to get historical representation right any time soon, and if you want historical fantasy AU type stories, I can recommend a list of Japanese dramas that do it way better.

Historical fiction, and stories based off of actual historical figures, aka period drama type stories are quite popular in Japan, and I've seen a fair number of them. It would be hard to find anyone of Japanese descent who isn't familiar with them, in my opinion, and I will hazard a guess and say that Renee Ahdieh did not watch any to get a sense of what historical fiction set in Japan should contain.

One of the most glaring issues I found in FITM is the naming of the characters. I was able to stop wincing after a while but the modern or ridiculous names were throwing me off completely and for anyone who's familiar with Japanese history, it's going to be off-putting. First of all, Mariko, the main character's name, was quite annoying to see considering how often that name is placed on Japanese characters in US media. It's a contemporary name, and also another thing, girls were rarely addressed by their last name throughout feudal history, and were more likely to be called by a short first name (contrasting to modern conventions of addressing people by their last name.) Surnames were also messy, because they all came from actual historical feudal families, but Also, Raiden and Roku are names of the imperial princes and they're honestly a joke. Raiden means thunder and Roku means the number six, and there is a complete disregard for naming conventions of the time period or the imperial family. I'm not going to go into the other names but let's just say they were also terrible to varying degrees

Also, I was troubled by the inclusion of an imperial family, especially since I consider the imperial family sacred. The imperial family being descended from the sun goddess is part of Shintoism, which is more than a religion but a way of life for the majority of Japan's population, and I felt very uncomfortable about this aspect of the book. The conflicting entanglements of the imperial ruler and military shogunate during feudal Japan is interesting in itself, but I don't really consider the plot in this book to have done it justice.

Back to historical accuracy, I have no idea what time period this book was supposed to be in, because the AU storyline the book takes place in. Feudal Japan covers more than a few historical periods, not that most people care when they set stories in "feudal Japan." I could assume because of Takeda Shingen that it was set in the Sengoku Period but the inclusion of the Heian palace makes the whole thing quite bizarre since they're separated by a couple hundred years.

I loved a lot of the gorgeous aspects seen in the book, like Hanami and the geiko culture (bless this book finally someone who actually uses the terms geiko/maiko instead of geisha and actually gets that classy and exclusive vibe of gion) as well as the attention paid to nature and gilded imperial court. I will say though that this was completely negated by the above things, and I am also slightly confused about how Bushido is mentioned but only as a passing concept and it just seems out of place.

Personal Enjoyment Thoughts:

Renee Ahdieh admittedly has the most gorgeous writing style and the characters she crafted were personal catnip. I'm just throwing this out there, but Okami is my fave; he is my type of charmingly broody character. I also loved how fierce Mariko was, although if you've read TWATD, it won't be a surprise to fans. The romance and plot sold me; I love a good revenge story and love-hate relationships are truly my weakness. I'm actually eagerly awaiting the sequel, despite the guilt I feel over how terrible the rep is, but that's just me lol.

My Rating:★★

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Asian YA Anticipated Releases: May Edition

School has made me neglect Asian YA for a while now, but now that it's May, one of the best book release months this year in my humble opinion, I decided to launch this new feature. I'll be highlighting book releases I think are especially notable each month. Feel free to contact me with future releases you think are valuable as well, I'll try to cover as many as I can.

May is a really strong month for cute contemporaries, the highly anticipated Flame in the Mist aside, which is amazing considering that cute and fluffy reads are much harder to find with diverse books in general, although 2017 is proving to be a strong year for diverse books. Here are a handful of books that you should keep your eye out for, especially because it is Asian-American History Month!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wise Words from Karuna Riazi




The Gauntlet is one of my most highly anticipated reads and if you missed it, the fabulous book released last week. I have some encouraging and inspirational words from the author herself. Enjoy!

Tips on Writing a Middle Grade

Fun fact: The Gauntlet is the first middle grade I’ve ever written. In this life. I never thought that I would be able to write in that voice, be honest and true to it, and plow through an entire draft (and another one, and another one, and I know you’re reading that in DJ Khaled’s voice now, guys) without feeling like I was condescending to or disappointing the audience the book was addressed to.

So, every time someone tells me that I managed to get the atmosphere down pat, that they found Farah relatable or even that I convinced them to consider writing a middle grade too – in the words of my dear friend Heidi Schultz: ONE OF US ONE OF US ONE OF US – it’s nothing less than remarkable to me.

This is all a preamble to say: I am not sure if I am 100% qualified to give you advice on writing a middle grade, but at the same time, I do feel 100% qualified to talk you through the awkward and uncertainty of being a (or thinking that you are a) YA writer with a possible interest in a middle grade project.

Sit yourselves down, my little grasshoppers, and I’ll offer you a list of my top five tips to venture into the world of middle grades:

5. You’ve probably heard this before, but read middle grades! It is a sad and undeniable fact that middle grades are often…not as appreciated as their older YA siblings, which is a darn shame because there’s so much bounty out there on the shelves and middle grades can be just as profound, heartfelt and hard-hitting when tackling tough issues.

Some of my personal suggestions, if you’re new to testing the waters: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen (this is just…a master class in poetic, gorgeous fantasy that easily has YA appeal), Amina’s Voice from my Salaam Reads sister Hena Khan, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu and anything at all from Mike Jung if you really want pure joy in your life.

4. Get to know the experts! Follow their blogs, check out what books they are recommending, read their books without cracking the spines out (that hurts) and pick up on what you love about their voices and what they do with their particular skills.

Disclaimer: If you’re on the fence about writing a middle grade and are not sure if you want to take a project on in the near future, I suggest treading carefully around Anne Ursu – she’s a middle grade whisperer, in that she will whisper in your ear about how wonderful it would be for you to write one until you, incredibly enough, have indeed written one and are about to announce the sale. (True story.)

3. Listen to what the kids are saying. I’m a big sister, babysitter, substitute teacher and a very nosy individual who likes to note down conversations, favorite flavors of bubble gum, opinions on currently airing cartoons and whose little brother likes to eat dirt whenever the opportunity allows. I recommend doing the same. You’ll get a lot of good material, probably some reminders about aspects of your middle grade life that you thought you had already been distanced from, and one or two belly laughs as well.

2. Your style will translate over. Trust me. One of the things I worried about the most in writing The Gauntlet was watering down, or attempting to, my fondness for lengthy descriptions, extended metaphors and a lot of introspective thought. I won’t lie and say that my editor allowed me free rein on that (and with good reason), but at the end of the day, I can still flip through the book and see the areas where those parts of me and my writing still shine through. Your voice is your voice, no matter what you write.

1. Finally, just have fun with this! One of the most marvelous things about middle grades is, to me, how much enjoyment they can pack into a few chapters and how they can keep you snickering hours after you turned the last page. Really indulge your sense of fun and maybe even make a list of all the cool stuff you wanted to see in books back when you were stuffing chapter books in your backpack or browsing the Scholastic Book Fair, and see how much of it you can bring to life now.

Dig deep, smile wide, and see what incredible adventures you can have – and create. Good luck!

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi



When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine? - Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Book Depository
  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dual Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas + You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown. - Goodreads

I was so excited to read this book when I saw my request had been approved, especially because of how fantastic the premise sounded. Political turmoil, especially among royalty, is something I'm always intrigued by. On paper, this book should have worked for me, with its solid qualities, but I found myself only mildly impressed.

The book starts out promisingly with Freya, the heroine, attending the fateful banquet that seals her destiny. I was surprised to find out that she was a scientist, who participates in experiments in her free time. She's resourceful and smart, which I appreciated, and has a level head.

The supporting characters were all warm and likable, though none really stood out to me. First, there's Naomi, Freya's best friend and confidante. Loyal and supportive, the best friend any queen would be lucky to have. Fitzroy, the former king's bastard son. Charming and clever, but with a potential hidden agenda. Finally, there's Madeline, the beautiful perfect lady, next in line after Freya.

The plot was one of the high points and the author uses Freya's scientist nature in the search for what truly happened the night everyone was poisoned. There is also a political undercurrent with those who are unhappy about Freya, and the different agendas that crisscrossed about her were done well. There were a few solid twists to keep me guessing but I admit I wasn't completely surprised by the finale.

The latter third was a tad of a letdown after the promising start, but the ending was well-done and I liked that it was understated instead of cheesy. I almost wish this weren't a standalone, because I felt that this book could have used more fleshing out.

Overall, I liked this book, but not enough for it to have a lasting hold on my heart or memory. I do want to see more political royal drama type books in YA, and that I sincerely hope this is just the beginning.

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the review copy.


My Rating:★★★


Published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Knopf
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war. - Goodreads



Much angstier than I was expecting quite honestly and I hadn't realized (my fault) that the graffiti war would get so intense. Julia is an angry girl and I tend to shrink away from such characters, which is why it took more time for me to warm up to her personally, but I liked how strong she was in her convictions and passions, which was admirable.

Julia's blossoming friendship with YP is my favorite thing about this book, mostly because it's sweet and good, something Julia needs in the face of the lonely situation she's ended up in due to the unfortunate consequences of her actions. Julia is a hard shell to crack, but the way she slowly lets YP in was heartwarming, and I loved the girlfriend moments they had together. Friendships are such a valuable aspect of lives and I love that this book focuses on that, where it's the central relationship in the book, besides family. On a random side note, there's a scene where an apple pie shows up at YP's house and as an apple dessert connoisseur I died at the description.

I will admit I've never read a book that deals with deafness in such a visceral way, and it was an eye-opener. Gardner writes Julia's life so clearly and it definitely made me more aware of living as a deaf or Deaf person, such as the nuances between Julia and Jordyn. I cannot vouch for the rep of the Indian culture either, but from what I've seen from other #ownvoices reviews, it's well-rounded.

I also liked how there were some supportive and nice adults in this book, always good to see in YA. Julia may not get along with all of them, which is all too true of life as a teenager or anyone really, yet they play an active role, which is sometimes difficult to find in books. I particularly liked the way Julia's character growth is seen in her interactions with her interpreter Casey and her art teacher Mr. Katz.

The graffiti war is intense, and while I was intimidated by that, I could also sense the urgency and frustration that bled out of Julia every time she sees the mysterious art being added to her tags. Graffiti is her outlet, and having it hijacked is brutal, and I liked how the plot unraveled the mystery and tension surrounding them.

Also, the art/illustrations that go with this book are perfect. Even through reading an electronic copy, I can say the final hard copy will be so pretty. The art is as gritty and statement worthy as the rest of this book is and complements the writing quite well.

My Rating:★★★

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Airy Thoughts

It's been a while since I posted something here, and I'm partly blaming the lack on school papers to really focus on blogging, and I've also seemingly lost the spark to just review books, which I've kept my book blog as. I've been working on a lot of book blog posts for my co-blogging, so it seems like I have nothing left for here sadly. It doesn't help that YA, the main genre that I want to blog about, doesn't seem to be pulling me in like it used to. I've probably read maybe six books in that genre as opposed to the dozens of romance I've read. It's not looking good for me, so this post is a little change in pace from the lit-heavy posts I've tried to pepper this blog with. It's my version of an online journal, and I hope you'll welcome the change.


I've been really into podcasts recently and subscribed to a handful of them just for fun. It's a really great way to pass transit time, I tend to read ebooks on my phone but I do get carsick quite easily so podcasts are a great alternative to that. I'll list a few I really enjoy, and if anyone's reading, I'd love to hear recommendations as well.
  • Book Riot - The Podcast 
Book Riot is pretty much well known for being the place to read up on all bookish things and so of course, their podcast is quite well-informed as well. It's like my weekly dose of literary intelligence and I've been learning a lot from the hosts. As an amateur who wants to work professionally in the literary world one day, this podcast is great to learn and pick up on the relevant topics.
  • Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is one of my favorite blogs. They cover a wide variety of romance books and I get so many of my guilty purchases (in regards to buying books not in regards to the genre lol) from their weekly deals. I love the romance genre, so listening to Sarah interviewing my favorite authors and finding out all sorts of fun stuff + the billion romance read recs they talk about is so great. Super fun and so recommended.

  • Good Food 
As the title says, this is a foodie podcast. It's run by a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, who is based in LA, so of course, I have to tune in weekly. I honestly enjoy talking and reading about food, so listening to the episodes is a total delight, and since LA is such a rich cultural area, the diversity of the culinary guests each time is refreshing. Jonathan Gold also incorporates current events/political stuff in and ties it into the food topics each week, which is great.


Movies!! My roommate and I have made the most of our break to go see a few of the recent hit movies. For the most part they've been winners, though we were devastated because our local theater stopped playing LEGO Batman before we could go see it, an utter tragedy.

  • Logan was a winner on all parts; seeing as I haven't seen the older X-Men movies (I can't really pass up James McAvoy honestly), I'm sure the emotional impact wasn't quite as strong, but I was tearing up at the end. Laura Kinney is a great character, and honestly seeing her in this movie has made me pick up X-Men comics like the trend follower I tend to be lmao. 
  • Get Out was a movie that I can't say I enjoyed in the pure entertainment sense since it terrified me honestly. I'm never a horror girl and I've seen maybe one or two, but this movie was brilliant. The cinematography was amazing and I had chills from the plotline and the acting was so good especially by the main two. 
  • Beauty and the Beast was a gorgeous movie, just as the trailers showed. I adored the French setting and it did a great job with bringing the classic to life, although I will admit I think the Cinderella live-action was better, but only by a little. I enjoyed the additional backstory and small plot elements added to make the story more believable hah, and I'm sure it'll please any fan of the original. 

I'm a picky person when it comes to reading blogs, and while I do love a well-written review, I seem to have eclectic tastes when it comes to reading them. Sadly, this means I rarely read other blogs, especially since many of my favorite blogs have gone stagnant. On the other hand, I voraciously consume beauty and fashion blogs. The tasteful photos and gorgeous words that accompany the posts that indulge my inner vanity are my new obsession. I also read a lot of food blogs because recipes are so interesting to me and I have a million pinned in hopes that I'll get the chance to make them someday. Both are pure wistful notions in that I wish I could buy all the makeup and skincare as well as make all the beautiful pastries and meals. Maybe one day haha. 


Until next time, wishing you all the best, and forgive the change of pace, spring seems to bring new hope and inspiration for me. 




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cover Reveal: Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

RELEASE DATE: June 6th 2017
PUBLISHER: Entangled TEEN
PRE-ORDER:  Amazon
Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.

As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole. - Goodreads


Isn't this an absolutely adorable cover? I'm dying to read this book and I'm so excited to see that the book has a cover that seems to match the fluffy love-hate duo that it promises!



Author Bio:
Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best).

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn't so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid's first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon.

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