Owl and the City of Angels: Review, Interview & Giveaway

For today’s stop on the OWL 2 blog tour, I’ll be sharing my review of Owl and the City of Angels and an interview I did with the author, Kristi Charish. There’s also a giveaway to win both books in The Adventures of Owl series, so be sure to check that out!


1435524220523Owl and the City of Angels

Kristi Charish | 4/5 Stars

Release Date:

Ebook – October 5, 2015 | Trade Paperback – March 1, 2016

Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster CA)

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like.

Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.

There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels…


  1. Alix Hiboux aka Owl is this strong, female protagonist who never fails to entertain me. I’ve actually never read a character quite like her! What inspiration lies behind your extraordinary MC?

KC: I love the old Indiana Jones movies and growing up. Over the years, I was always disappointed that in most of the action genre movies, there is a stereotype of an acceptable female protagonist. Unlike Indy, Han Solo, and Rick in The Mummy (another all time favourite) the women never really get to be as bad and selfish as them, partly because the traits that make them such fun are not considered acceptable traits in a woman. Women in film and TV- especially the protagonists are supposed to be likeable (or we’ve been conditioned to think of them that way), and by likeable I mean a woman who shows very specific traits- she can be tough, carry guns, but at the end of the day most of the characters we see are nurturing, empathetic, and often have a character arc that involves finding a suitable romantic partner.

Indy, Rick, and Han didn’t have to do that. In fact, they’re outright scoundrels. They’re not likeable people at all. Folks often say that Indy wasn’t a thief- Are you nuts? He was the worst kind of thief! Often the plots revolved around stealing artefacts from their rightful countries and indigenous populations to give to an American museum (though in some cases he is convinced to leave them as a plot arc- see Temple of Doom) If that’s not tomb raiding under an altruistic guise, I don’t know what is!

The thing is as an audience we accept them as characters because it’s considered acceptable for a man in a story to behave that way. We’ve only recently seen female protagonists breaching that role, to mixed acceptance by audiences. I want to see more females protagonists who aren’t being rescued by Indy- they are Indy.

Owl is also a huge blast to write because she’s a woman who has recently lost everything, despite playing by societal rules that women should be nice and follow the pack (in her case, following the rules in grad school), and in response has said ‘to hell’ with societal expectations. Why should she go out of her way to make herself likeable? It’s never gotten her anything before except scapegoated. For the very first time in her life is embracing her unabashed self and the fact that she doesn’t have to be nice, she can tell people to ‘Fuck off’. Granted, it often leads to some problems, and you’ll probably see Owl testing and finding her limits in future books, but she’s rejecting the idea that a woman needs to be ‘nice’ spectacularly.

So in short, Owl is inspired by wanting to write a female Indy who didn’t fit the ‘typical, likeable, female mould.’

  1. In Owl 2 we get to travel to incredible locations like Syria, Egypt and the City of Angels. What sort of research goes into this? Do you draw back from first-hand experience?

KC: I have six letters for you. Google. Travelling is one of my favourite things to do but oddly enough I haven’t been to any of the locations in the Owl series. Yet. I very much plan on going to Japan and Bali one day.

  1. Trouble always seems to find Owl, whether she goes looking for it or not. As the unseen goddess of your book world, does it entertain you, getting Owl into trouble?

KC: Hmmm. Does it entertain me to get Owl into trouble…yes, but it’s more along the lines that I like writing her reactions to situations that befall her more than anything, so it’s a two parter answer. The more trouble I put her in, the more fun I have writing her reactions.

  1. Did you find any differences when writing Owl 2, versus Owl 1 when you hadn’t yet entered the publishing world?

KC: Well, I had already entered the publishing world- I didn’t write book two until the series was picked up by my publisher, Simon and Schuster (Good advice for aspiring writers out there- don’t write book 2 until you manage to sell book 1). However, I did have to write Owl 2 and hand it in before book 1 came out, so in a lot of ways I was writing in a vacuum. There are advantages and disadvantages to that- On one hand reviews aren’t going to influence your choices, but on the other hand you have NO idea whether the choices you do make will appease fans of the first book.

  1. I see a lot of the time, aspiring writers are studying or have studied science and want to know about that switch from science to writing. How has science influenced your writing? How do you juggle a career in science with a career in writing?

KC: I think more than anything my science background has influenced the way I write. I’ve written before about the similarities between plotting a story or novel and designing and executing an experiment, and I still think it holds true. I think my years in research has given me an edge in plotting- like my experiments, I have most of the plot set out in my head before I sit down to write the book. In writing urban fantasy I think my science background also makes me more aware of fitting my fantastical elements into the modern world- a trickier task than a lot of people think because the masters of the genre- Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Faith Hunter, and Patricia Briggs – make it look easy and seamless.

As far as my science career goes? Haha- it’s actually on hold as I now have a schedule of ~3 books a year for the next couple years. Having said that, who knows what will happen with the series and my career in the future so I may very well be back in a lab one day. 

  1. You also have a second urban fantasy series, Kincaid Strange releasing from Random House Canada in May 2016. What’s it like having two different series by two different publishers at the same time?

KC: Short answer: it’s awesome! I love switching between series when I’m writing it means that when I get fed up with one character and plot, I can go off and work on the other one. There is certainly a lot of time juggling involved when writing two series but I think once you reach a certain level in writing and publishing you really do have to treat it as a career and not a hobby. I sit, set a timer, and write.

  1. I heard you’ve contracted two more OWL books: Owl and the Electric Samurai and Owl and the Tiger Thieves. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your experience with this? Did you query these two novels at the same time?

KC: I have! And Thanks! I did query both novels at the same time (meaning I had synopsis written out that my agent passed on to my editors), but that is incredibly common in a series like Owl. It helps my editors know that I know where the series is going for the next few books and that I have a plan (I do!).

  1. Now that we’re on the subject, what’s next for Owl? I’m dying to know about this “electric samurai”.

KC: Here is the tentative back cover blurb for The Electric Samurai;-)

The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural under wraps. They’re also responsible for ruining the promising archaeology career of one Alix Hiboux. Needless to say she’s still a little sore on that.

In keeping with their goal to derail Owl’s life, the IAA has opened a bounty on World Quest, the online RPG that uses supernatural dig sites in game and is much, much more than it seems. Strong-armed into joining the hunt, Alix needs to find the notorious gaming duo before the rest of the bounty hunters pick up the trail, one of whom is already two steps ahead of her. And if you think for one second he isn’t a supernatural, Owl has a bridge to sell you.

Finding the gamers won’t be easy since every clue points to them hiding out in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La… well, that and the last time Owl and the game designers spoke the conversation didn’t exactly end on a great note…

Meanwhile, undercurrents of supernatural politics are running amok in Tokyo, dragging Owl, Rynn, and Nadya into a deadly game of wits with an opponent who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The cost of loosing? All out civil war between two powerful supernatural factions.

Not only does Owl need to save the World Quest designers from themselves she needs to stop the Electric Samurai from unleashing the supernatural in all its unabashed, violent glory onto the streets of Tokyo. And then there is the small matter of her online friend Carpe and a certain spell book…

AZ: I love that “Owl has a bridge to sell you” bit. I cannot wait to read this.


Review:

I first came across The Adventures of Owl in a Simon & Schuster CA Tumblr post of the cover [Owl 1]. I stopped scrolling for a moment and went, “interesting cover”. Later on, I came across it again on social media and decided I better check it out from the library. Months later when I finally got to read it (it took awhile to come in at my library), I felt like Owl and the Japanese Circus was written for me! I’m a huge The Mummy fan so it had everything I liked in an adventure novel – strong heroine, action-packed scenes and supernatural creatures. Side note: the naga is a new favourite of mine thanks to Charish.

I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of Owl and the City of Angels and am happy to say it was just as entertaining as Owl 1. There’s something about the writing, maybe it’s the dialogue, that has me feeling like I could read it again and again, and never get bored. Most of the places Owl visits I’m unlikely to go, at least in the same context so I love that I can picture everything perfectly in my mind. The reader experiences an epic adventure through Owl.

In Owl 1 Charish showed the reader strong, compelling characters and it’s no different here. Most of the characters are consistent with how they were portrayed in Owl 1, but there’s still character development going on. Alix (Owl) and Rynn are together before the novel begins, but they’re still working out issues in their relationship. They used to date in the past, before Owl 1, but these same issues were some of the reasons they broke up. Alix doesn’t necessarily lie about what assignments she’s on for Mr. Kurosawa, but she doesn’t exactly tell the truth either – especially if she doesn’t follow the original plan. This is extremely frustrating for Rynn, and I think these trust issues stem from Alix’s days as an archaeology grad student. Then there’s Nadya, Alix’s best friend, who’s kind of like that voice of reason. I love this balance of a love interest and a best girlfriend – both characters are equally important to Alix. I can’t stand when there’s a female protagonist without one good female friend she can call on for advice etcetera.

The world-building is phenomenal! When it comes to the supernatural world, you can always expect Charish to create some sort of original twist. I think my favourite examples are the vampires. They use pheromones to attract their victims (and get them addicted) and smell like rotting lily of the valley. Alix has known a vampire named Alexander (and his Paris vamps) since she entered the supernatural world and not on pleasant terms. Alexander is always an amusing character and I love when Alix’s cat/sidekick Captain – a vampire-hunting cat breed – comes into the equation. Along with the action, there’s plenty of humour in Owl 2.

We see old characters from Owl and the Japanese Circus as well as meet new characters, which makes for a fascinating group. The moment I started reading Owl 2, I was waiting for an appearance from Alexander because like I said, he is hilarious! Captain plus Alexander equals a priceless moment! A new character Owl readers will love is Artemis Bast, introduced by Rynn to Alix to help with her new assignment – finding a treasure of the Syrian City of the Dead. He’s a very carefree, laid back character – in a way the opposite of Rynn. I love when Alix interacts with him because of the contrast of personalities.

I absolutely loved that Alix’s past, particularly her days as an archaeology grad student, were brought up and weaved into the plot. I always got the sense that although Alix had moved on from the past, she’d never had closure. She was always running from her past. Owl 2 gives Alix the opportunity to confront her past and move on without regret. Charish did a similar thing in Owl 1 re: Rynn, but here I felt like it happened on a bigger scale. Another intriguing thing about the plot, Charish doesn’t give her protagonist an easy way out. When the going gets tough, Alix fights back, no matter how human she is. The great thing about the plot, the reader see’s just how human Alix is and how easy it is to forget about important details.

There were a couple of things I disliked. I went into Owl 2 with really high expectations (loved Owl 1!) so when I didn’t immediately get into it, that was upsetting for me. When I did get into it, it was smooth sailing but I kept thinking about how easy it was to get into Owl 1. Furthermore, I loved the plot and thought it was original and engaging, but ultimately enjoyed the plot of Owl 1 slightly more.

All in all, Owl and the City of Angels is a compelling sequel and I can’t wait to read the next couple of books in the series! I recommend anyone with a craving for adventure to pick up this series, you won’t regret it. When you’re traveling to places like Egypt, Syria, and the City of Angels through Owl and thinking how can it get better? BAM! Charish surprises you with a plot twist or a very charming, vampire-hunting cat. P.S. Captain is my favourite character.

I received an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author: 

Kristi+FB+HS

Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. She’s also a co-host for the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast.

The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.

Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists. Visit her website.


Giveaway:

Kristi has been kind enough to offer one copy each of Owl 1 and Owl 2 (physical or digital). This giveaway is US/Canada only and ends November 6, 2015 at midnight EST. Winner must respond within 48 hours of being contacted or a new winner will be chosen. Do not take entries for something you haven’t done, you will be disqualified. Good luck!

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Book Review: Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

17404295Ice Like Fire (SLA Book #2)

Read my review of Snow Like Ashes here.

Sara Raasch

4.5/5 Stars

Release Date: October 13, 2015

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

Review:

Ice Like Fire is the sequel to Snow Like Ashes and author Sara Raasch provides us with a better view of Primoria as well as greater problems for our favourite characters to solve. Ice Like Fire has a different feel when compared to SLA, I think due to the writing and theme. This novel doesn’t carry that middle-book syndrome and in a way stands out on it’s own as a sequel. It’s not a standalone so don’t go reading this before SLA, but it’s a satisfying sequel.

The main characters do a lot of traveling in this novel and I loved that we get an in-depth experience of Summer, Yakim and Ventralli. Summer was my favourite, mainly because of the landscape and Raasch is really talented at describing the kingdoms. It was easy for me to imagine everything Meira observes. All of these kingdoms are corrupt, Summer more blatant than the others and Meira struggles with that. On top of those struggles, she’s gone from Meira the soldier to Meira the queen in basically a night so she has a lot of conflict to solve within herself. An intriguing aspect of this journey, Meira learns that just because a conduit is someone’s birthright doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve or even know how to use that power. It’s for this reason that Meira connects to and looks up to Ceridwen, the Princess of Summer as a sort of remodel. She’ll never have magic, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to save Summer, even from her own brother, Simon.

The POV is split between Meira and Mathor and what’s great about this is that I get to know Mathor on a deeper level. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really care too much about him in SLA and while I didn’t hate him, I wouldn’t have cared if he died. Now I’m more involved in him and can better understand him as a character. Something important to note – Meira’s POV is first person present tense while Mathor is third person past tense. I didn’t realize this at first so this played mind games on me. I do agree this was better for their individual voices, but this change in writing did contribute to that different feel to SLA. Another thing I disliked was the way a particular character was taken. It was a total 360 compared to how they were portrayed in SLA. It just didn’t seem realistic to me.

Something that was really fascinating for me were the relationships between characters and just how significant that conflict was for the main cast. Before the start of this novel, Meira and Mathor’s relationship is already broken, both not having seen each other for months. Mathor is really upset by this and hopes building back Winter for Meira can help fix it. During the novel, Meira and Theron’s relationship is slowly breaking mainly because of their standpoint on magic. The chasm can give magic to everyone, but Meira doesn’t believe this should happen. She’s thinking about the decay that’s spreading across Primoria when there’s only 8 conduits. Theron thinks there’ll be more good than bad so both are working towards their own goals. I always love reading conflict like this because it makes an epic fantasy world all the more realistic.

I did have trouble putting a face to some of the minor characters. I remembered the characters but not necessarily who was who so a little re-introduction would have been great. For the most part, this novel felt different from SLA which wasn’t a bad thing, but I loved that in the last 20% or so I got that similar feel to SLA. This was great for wrapping up ILF.

So as a final point I loved Ice Like Fire, but did have some minor issues with it. I do recommend this novel and cannot wait to read book three! From the sort of things that were revealed at the end, I’m really excited for the next book but also nervous. There’s going to be a lot more conflict happening! You don’t want to miss out on this action-packed sequel to Snow Like Ashes.

I received a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneA Darker Shade of Magic (ADSOM #1)

V.E. Schwab

5/5 Stars

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

Review:

I adored A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab! I instantly connected with the main character, Kell and found the writing visually gorgeous! I didn’t have any expectations for this book, though it had been on my to-be-read for awhile now. However, I must have read something about the book that left the impression I wouldn’t like the writing and was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. I loved catching all the details of the worlds – yes worlds – Schwab shares with us. Most importantly, I could feel the differences of the four Londons and that just because a London exists in the same space doesn’t mean they’re not worlds apart.

The POV is split between Kell and Delilah Bard aka Lila, but I’d say there’s more POV chapters with Kell. For this reason, I consider Kell the main protagonist and it was huge for me to instantly connect with him. I connect better with female protagonists and so prefer reading books with them. I was thinking to myself why was it so easy to connect with him and came to the conclusion that maybe I’ve never come across one that was believable to me. As well, when the POV’s change I can definitely read a difference in character when it comes to dialogue and thoughts. This can be difficult to attain because of that lingering similarity between character voices. Schwab is exceptional at writing relatable characters.

In this book there exists four worlds Kell can travel to, though we only experience three of them: Red London, White London and Grey London as Black London was thought to be destroyed a long time ago. These colours haven’t been chosen randomly and the reader experiences that. Through Kell and Lila, I could really see the differences and learned the importance of remembering each London is vastly distinct. I have to be honest, White London seems like a very scary and bleak place to live, even when compared to Grey London, a world without magic.

Kell is an Antari, a world jumper or magician able to travel between worlds and belongs to Red London. The only other Antari in existence is Holland, who comes from White London and their relationship is strained, both having dangerous secrets of their own. I loved that in this book, magic comes with a price and Antari must sacrifice blood and pain when world jumping. Another intriguing fact, these worlds exist on top of each other so when traveling to White London, you must already be in Red London. If you want to go to Grey London, you must be in Red. You can’t travel to Black London from Grey or Red, you need to be in White. This made the plot all the more difficult for Kell and Lila and interesting for the reader.

I can’t wait to pick up the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows and find out what’s next for Kell and Lila. Schwab is a master of secrets, so I hope one particular piece of foreshadowing I picked up on is revealed in book #2. There’s a lot of dark elements in A Darker Shade of Magic and I loved every moment of it! I recommend this title to readers wanting a darker fantasy, with incredibly original worlds and intricate characters.

Book Review: Shadow by Amanda Sun

17185049Shadow (The Paper Gods, #0.5) – this is a prequel novella to Ink, book #1 in the Paper Gods series. Read my review of Rain (The Paper Gods, #2) here.

Amanda Sun

5/5 Stars

Release Date: June 1, 2013

Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

Purchase: Amazon | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo | iBookstore

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Meet two teens whose worlds are about to change forever in this paranormal Young Adult novella, a prequel to Ink by debut author Amanda Sun…

Katie Greene’s worst nightmare comes true when her mother dies, and she’s devastated to learn that she will have to leave the only home she’s ever known. Desperate to find where she belongs, she must decide if she has what it takes to start a new life across the ocean.

For Yuu Tomohiro, every day is a nightmare. He struggles to control his strange ability, and keeps everyone at a distance so they won’t get hurt—even his girlfriend, Myu. At night, a shadow haunts his dreams, and a mysterious woman torments him with omens of death and destruction. But these haunting premonitions are only the beginning…

Review:

I loved the writing in Amanda Sun’s Shadow! In this particular context, I feel it really shined because of the way it focused on the detail and emotion. This is a prequel novella to Ink and was perfect for providing backstory on Katie and Tomohiro. I would say maybe one third to one half of the time we’re in the heads of the two and experience their thoughts, worries, joys in a most direct form. I loved that not only was it in first person, but it alternated between both Katie and Tomohiro! The reader gets to see Tomohiro in a new light.

It’s through Tomohiro that we get closer contact with the mythology of The Paper Gods world, somewhat differently than we did in Ink or Rain. I believe it being in Tomo’s POV allowed this. The ways we come into contact with the mythology was my absolute favourite part of the novella and I hope to see more of this in Storm. In addition, it fits with the title! Tomo is noticing all these shadows and having strange dreams related to the ink.

I’d recommend reading Ink and then this novella just because of the way it’s set up. There’s no spoilers so you can read Shadow then Ink, but I feel you’ll enjoy the backstory more. Plus, it was fun spotting all these references to Ink! With this novella the reader almost gets a meet-and-greet with the two main characters of The Paper Gods and I’ll be going into Storm (The Paper Gods, #3) with a new appreciation of Sun’s characters.

Book Review: Rain by Amanda Sun

18134013Rain (The Paper Gods, #2) – this is the sequel to Ink. Disclaimer: I would suggest reading Ink (or at least a summary on Goodreads) before reading this review as there could be something you might consider a spoiler. I’ve tried my best to exclude any major ones.

Amanda Sun

5/5 Stars

Release Date: June 24, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She’s started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can’t imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she’s fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She’s flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo’s dark ancestry, as well as Katie’s, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.

Review: 

When the first book in a series is a 5-star read, there’s always the fear that the sequel won’t live up to the same expectations. I’m happy to say I loved Rain even more than Ink! Our two main characters, Katie and Tomohiro are finding new conflicts to solve almost everyday, and at that more types (which will be explained below). This novel definitely represents the title: it’s raining ink!

As I mentioned, Katie and Tomohiro have a lot of problems to solve – both on a large and small scale. There’s the main one – trying to find a way to control the ink in Tomo while avoiding the Kami, all with dangerous agendas of their own. However, there’s also the relationship of Katie and Tomohiro. The two are officially dating, but it’s not exactly peaches-and-cream. I find situations like this incredibly intriguing because of the decisions the characters choose to make. Depending on who you ask, the point of a novel is to have a protagonist in an undesirable situation. Every one of their actions will have a ripple effect and it’s up to that character to decide if that effect will be positive or negative. Basically, when the going gets tough how does that character overcome it.

I love Sun’s writing! There’s something about it that appears visually beautiful to me, even graceful. Sun always makes a point to immerse the reader in Japanese culture and language. The opening chapter of this book has Katie and Yuki, a friend from school, getting ready for the Abekawa Hanabi festival and it was wonderful to imagine the beautiful yukata (summer kimono) Katie was wearing and all the activities going on. I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan so these are the kind of things I yearn to read.

Sun also includes Japanese phrases which both introduces the reader to the language but also helps the reader remember for the majority of the novel, the characters are speaking Japanese. Now that we’re on the subject, although Katie’s Japanese is improving there are still some challenges ahead. Since she’s decided to stay in Japan indefinitely her teachers are harder on her about improving her kanji (Japanese writing) which even native speakers can find difficult to read. As well, the language barrier between Tomohiro and Katie remains. Something as simple as “ow, ouch” Katie finds difficult to translate from English, which really puts things in perspective.

I feel the plot has grown immensely from Ink, and we see more of the mythology – which is a huge plus in my book because I live for fantasy! It seemed like there was some new twist revealed on almost every other chapter. Additionally, the characters are traveling more in order to resolve some of their problems. Not only are we reading about other parts of Shizuoka, but we’re visiting shrines and even Mount Fuji. Sun is showing different parts of Japan while still adhering to the plot.

For delving deeper into the fantastical elements of The Paper Gods world and having the protagonists face greater obstacles, I give this book five stars. There are some epic fight scenes that have me speculating just how much more outstanding the finale of this series will be. I’m impatiently awaiting for the chance to read Storm (book #3). I strongly recommend this series to anyone wanting to read powerful writing and diverse characters.

Shrinking the TBR Pile

IMG_9118So I have this really bad habit of buying books and never getting to them until maybe months or years later. I realized there’s just three months left of 2015 and with the new year, comes all these amazing 2016 books I’m dying to read! Before that happens, I really want to cut down on my to-be-read pile so I feel a little less guilty about starting those 2016 releases. I’ve decided to challenge myself to a really focused monthly reading challenge. Emphasis on the focused. What sort of challenge will I be adopting for October? I’m only going to be reading books I’ve bought or received* in September.

Here they are:

Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch (eARC)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Anne and Henry by Dawn Ius

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda (ebook)

Air Awakens by Elise Kova (ebook)

Fire Falling by Elise Kova (eARC)

The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot (ebook)

*Some of these are review copies I’ve received from the publisher or author so I’m using a loophole to read them this month. Also, you’ll notice in the picture Shadow and Bone and Tonight the Streets Are Ours are library books, but the authors’ are doing a book event mid-October so I want to read them beforehand.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?