Monday, January 21, 2019

Paragraph Manga Review: The Young Master's Revenge Series (Meca Tanaka)

The Young Master's Revenge, Vol. 1The Young Master's Revenge, Vol. 2
The Young Master's Revenge, Vol. 3The Young Master's Revenge, Vol. 4

Title: The Young Master's Revenge
Original Title: Kimi no Koto nado Zettai ni (Japanese)
Author: Meca Tanaka
Volume(s) Reviewed: 4 (complete series)
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 6, 2018 - December 4, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Comedy
Content Rating: Teen (bare buttocks, light bullying)
Format Read: Paperback (purchased)
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Summary (for Volume 1):

Love's revenge can be sweet.

When Leo was a young boy, he had his pride torn to shreds by Tenma, a girl from a wealthy background who was always getting him into trouble. Now, years after his father's successful clothing business has made him the heir to a fortune, he searches out Tenma to enact a dastardly plan--he'll get his revenge by making her fall in love with him!

*          *          *

The Young Master's Revenge is a 4-volume story about the fine line between love and hate, and a boy who straddles it. The story follows a sweet but somewhat sadistic boy whose love for an oblivious but good-hearted girl has become warped after a mortifying childhood incident. After years away he returns to exact revenge on her for his embarrassment, but instead discovers the root of his protective and possessive feelings towards her and must work to become a better person. While some could have a little trouble with the way he initially bullies her, I thought this was a sweet young romance with strong characters, good humor, and an engaging plot drawn in a cute style. The end was a little weepy for me, but otherwise it was a rather adorable happily ever after.

Conclusion: If you enjoy short, lighthearted young romances with fun characters, a little light sadism, and adorable pig dogs, then definitely give The Young Master's Revenge a try! All 4 volumes are available now from VIZ Media.

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, January 14, 2019

Paragraph Review: Ink and Bone (Rachel Caine)

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)
Title: Ink and Bone
Series: The Great Library, Book 1
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: New American Library (NAL)
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Fantasy
Told: Third Person (Jess), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, death, war, intense situations, kissing)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

*          *          *

Ink and Bone was one of those books I really enjoyed but can't put my finger on exactly why. It was just a really good read as a whole: an engaging voice, a strong cast of characters I (mostly) kept straight, vivid settings and description, and an intriguing alternate history and story. If there was one thing that did stand out for me though, it was a lack of foreshadowing. I had little idea what would happen next at any given moment, but I enjoyed it that way as I shared in Jess's surprise, shock, and anguish. It wasn't a light story with its smugglers and book burners and countries at war, but I wouldn't call it a heavy story either. It had the comfortable weight of Harry Potter, an elite society with a full history and world power, and the boy who joins its ranks and discovers the light but also very dark sides of it. The book ended on a complete arc with no cliffhanger, although there is definitely more to Jess's story. Like what came before I have almost no idea what to expect from the next book or the rest of the five-book series, and very much look forward to finding out what happens to Jess and the Great Library in Book 2, Paper and Fire.

Series: There are 5 books in The Great Library series. As of this review, 4 are currently available, with the 5th and last releasing September 3, 2019. You can check out the entire series, along with a few short stories, on Goodreads here.

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, December 24, 2018

Review: Ask Again Later (Liz Czukas)

Ask Again Later
Title: Ask Again Later
Series: standalone
Author: Liz Czukas
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Light Contemporary
Told: First Person (Heart), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (strong underage drinking, some strong language, badly behaving teens, streaking, kissing)
Format Read: Paperback (won)
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Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all...

*          *          *

In a Sentence: A relatively fun but ultimately dizzying prom story with a somewhat sweet romance but serious teens gone wild issues.

Ask Again Later is one book that tells two parallel stories: Heads (prom date: Troy) and Tails (prom date: Ryan). They start out relatively separate but eventually merge at the conclusion into one fateful end.

If this book had just been the Tails story, I probably would've given it 3.5/4 Scribbles. Despite misunderstandings and misdirected jealousy, it was essentially fun with friends that ended in a sweet romance. But then there was the Heads story. The kind of train-wreck I pointedly avoid, it started off bad and quickly degraded into a series of "what else can go wrong to make this night even worse" events escalated by underage drinking (lots and lots and lots of it), stupid pranks, a disturbingly indifferent brother, and some seriously unstable teens that the limo driver really should've called the cops on.

The book started out innocently enough with a playful voice and short chapters, but after the first Heads chapter I was wary. The Tails chapters quickly became a relief from the Heads storyline, but they just weren't enough to save my quickly plummeting rating as the book progressed. Right from the start I had trouble keeping the parallel prom stories separate (I couldn't even remember who was Heads and who Tails), and when they eventually intertwined to share the same chapters it got so confusing that my head ached trying to mentally keep them straight. Not something one is looking for in a fun, flirty contemporary romance.

On the plus side I did like Heart and her diverse crew (even if I couldn't tell a few of them apart). The writing was engaging and, although the story was seriously confusing, the playful voice kept me reading. The romance was complicated but ended sweet, and despite some frustrating miscommunication I shipped it.

If only it had just been the Tails story. *sigh*

Conclusion: Despite the confusing back and forth parallel stories and bad teen behavior, Ask Again Later was an interesting premise with a shipable romance that I would recommend for more mature readers looking for a decent prom story. Due to the older content and language though, I think I'll be passing on any more Czukas stories.

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Nyxia (Scott Reintgen)

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)
Title: Nyxia
Series: The Nyxia Triad, Book 1
Author: Scott Reintgen
Publisher: Crown Books (Random House)
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Thriller
Told: First Person (mostly Emmett), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, attack, murder)
Format Read: ARC (won)
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Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they're willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn't just leaving Detroit; he's leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. 


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden--a planet that Babel has kept hidden--where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. 

But Babel's ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won't forever compromise what it means to be human.

*          *          *

In a Sentence: An entertaining teen sci-fi thriller with an engrossing competition and diverse cast but very confusing description and way too many characters to keep straight.

  • Main character Emmett was one of the best teen male protagonists I've ever read. He didn't swear like a sailor or constantly think about sex as most other teen male protagonists in my reading experience tend to do. He also didn't objectify girls, instead treating them just like the guys, and even when he eventually fell for one he treated her with respect. He was playful and snarky but with a dark streak and quirky anger issues that made him real and relatable. I thrilled at his triumphs and despaired at his losses and became so invested in his competition position that I worried about the scoreboard as much as he did.
  • Although the contest setup was rather Divergent with its shifting scoreboards and somewhat Hunger Games with its deadly consequences, the addition of the mysterious and almost magical Nyxia material was unique and intriguing. The story was strung with dark and exciting twists, some of which I saw coming but generally enjoyed regardless. I especially anticipated the last chapter's twist but it only made the conclusion even more tense and had me literally on the edge of my seat as I read it.

  • I had two great struggles with Nyxia, the first being description. I couldn't picture much of anything for some mysterious reason, which meant I was very confused where the characters, settings, ships, suits, tech, aliens, and pretty much anything else described was concerned. But despite many paused moments of great ponder, my confusion didn't disrupt my reading too much.
  • My other great struggle was the massive cast of characters, the important of which numbered almost 30 by the end. With ten initial competitors plus ship crew, family members, and Emmett's flashback friends, it took over half the book to mostly but never fully keep everyone straight. And then two-thirds into the book, a whole new bunch of characters were introduced, renewing my confusion. Needless to say Emmett was the only one I could recall with any certainty by the end, and I'll definitely need to re-read this book before the second or be completely and hopelessly lost.
  • I also wasn't crazy about the romance. Since Emmett treats the girls just like the guys for most of the book there wasn't even a hint of romance until the last 100 pages or so, and because of this it was a rather bad case of  instalove that felt very rushed and sadly culminated quickly. Given the situation though I guess it was realistic, and for the most part I'll be interested to see how it expands in the next book (especially since it'll be shouldering some serious baggage).

Conclusion: While I couldn't picture much of the description and struggled to keep the characters straight, I did become quite engrossed in the thrilling competition and really connected to the main character. After the "End of Part 1" cliffhanger ending I look forward to continuing Emmett's story in the next book, Nyxia Unleashed, and highly recommend Nyxia if you enjoy sci-fi thrillers.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Alienated (Melissa Landers)

Alienated (Alienated, #1)
Title: Alienated
Series: Alienated, Book 1
Author: Melissa Landers
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Science Fiction Romance
Told: Third Person Multiple (Cara & Aelyx), Past Tense
Rating: Older Teen (heavy sensuality, some language and alien swearing, violence)
Format Read: Paperback (purchased used)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host one of the first-ever L’eihr exchange students, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

*          *          *

In a Sentence: A tense but steamy contemporary sci-fi romance about prejudice and conviction.

I originally read an ARC of Alienated in 2013, but as can sometimes happen I never finished my review. While getting said ARC signed some time later, the author informed me a big change had been made to the final published version and insisted I re-read a finished copy before the second book. I therefore put off continuing the series until I got my hands on a paperback, and eventually acquiring one finally picked it up for a re-read. Because of all the innuendo I almost gave up only a few chapters in (I'd forgotten how bad it was for asexual me), but with the second book now waiting on my shelf I decided to persevere.

Despite the colorful dreamlike cover, Alienated is at its heart a tense story of dangerous prejudice - on both sides. Human racism against visiting aliens is a common scenario, so it was interesting to have the feelings mutual for a change as both humans and aliens assume the worst and badly react accordingly. It isn't a plot I generally enjoy, but Melissa's writing style brought a fun voice to the serious situation and kept me reading even as the tension grew past the boiling point.

Cara was too crass and flippant for me to buy her being a brainy valedictorian, but she was a girl of conviction - once she decided to join the exchange program she never wavered from her commitment, even when it lost her everything - and I admired her for it. Aelyx was arrogant and conceited and negative but fiercely loyal to family, even over his own personal desires - until he fell for Cara of course, but by then she'd become family too so the sentiment still holds. Despite his many faults he grew on me, and although his relationship with Cara was heavily physical I shipped them the second read around.

Conclusion: While the content was a little too steamy for my asexual tastes, it was a tense and relatively engaging contemporary sci-fi. Since the romantic pair should be separated most of the next book, which would keep the physical romance to a minimum (I hope), I might be interested in seeing where the story goes.

Remember: If you're going to give Alienated a try, don't read the ARC, read a finished copy.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss (Kasie West)

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss
Title: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss
Series: companion to Love, Life, and the List
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Told: First Person (Lacey), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (kissing, zombies)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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Fan favorite author Kasie West delivers an effervescent story about chasing your dreams and following your heart, perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Huntley Fitzpatrick. 

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

*          *          *

As I say like a broken record in every Kasie West review, Kasie is one of my favorite authors and I will read anything she writes. That said, Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss was probably my least favorite Kasie book to date.

I really enjoyed Lacey's small part in companion novel Love, Life, and the List and was excited for her to have her own story, but despite being an actress in the middle of shooting a zombie movie I found her surprisingly rather bland. Also, while the book mainly took place on a movie set - one of my favorite settings - there was little to it and we only got a few interesting tidbits offhand. I think both of these problems were due to a serious lack of description: the story all but took place on a minimalist low-budget stage in my mind, or just plain white space - so any location description or character movement stood out awkwardly because there was so little of it.

The biggest disappointment though was a distinct lack of Kasie's signature wit. What little banter there was to speak of mainly happened between Lacey and the love interest, and even then it just didn't click like it usually does. This left Lacey to be little more than a somewhat awkward newbie teen on a film set of much more experienced adults, and sadly that didn't make for a very interesting main character for me.

All that said, Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss was still a signature easy and breezy Kasie West read that I devoured over a weekend. And then there was Donavan, the story's saving grace: he was quiet and serious and I adored his strength and gentle smolder. I also enjoyed the slow build and soft nature of the romance, both Lacey and Donavan focused on their careers but also excited to find happiness in being together.

While I will continue to read Kasie's new books and re-re-read old favorites, I must admit I'm losing the thrill I used to feel about her stories. Hopefully the next one will renew my love.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WoW: HONOR BOUND (Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Honor Bound
Title: Honor Bound
Series: Honors #2
Author: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Savvy criminal turned skilled Leviathan pilot Zara Cole finds new friends and clashes with bitter enemies in the second book of this action-packed series from New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre that’s perfect for fans of The 100 and The Fifth Wave.

Zara Cole was a thief back on Earth, but she’s been recently upgraded to intergalactic fugitive. On the run after a bloody battle in a covert war that she never expected to be fighting, Zara, her co-pilot Beatriz, and their Leviathan ship Nadim barely escaped the carnage with their lives.

Now Zara and her crew of Honors need a safe haven, far from the creatures who want to annihilate them. But they’ll have to settle for the Sliver: a wild, dangerous warren of alien criminals. The secrets of the Sliver may have the power to turn the tide of the war they left behind—but in the wrong direction.

Soon Zara will have to make a choice: run from the ultimate evil—or stand and fight.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: Honor Among Thieves came the closest to being that book written just for me and is one of my favorite reads (and re-reads) of all time (you can check out my review here), so needless to say I'm desperate to get my hands on this exciting sequel!! 

So what book are you waiting on?