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:★★